UFC Vegas 33 didn’t look like the best card on paper when it was initially put together, and that was before all of the cancelations and injuries reduced it to just ten fights.
Fans might not have been looking forward to UFC Vegas 33, but in the end, the show produced some entertaining fights, and some fighters picked up valuable victories.
Will any of these fighters end up in title contention in the near future? With the exception of Sean Strickland, who won the main event, it’s doubtful. However, in the current climate, with fighters being cut every week, any UFC win is priceless right now.
So with that in mind, here are the five biggest winners from UFC Vegas 33: Uriah Hall vs. Sean Strickland.
#5. Melsik Baghdasaryan – UFC featherweight
It’s always hard to fully gage the level of a fighter debuting in the UFC if they do it alongside a fellow debutant, but judging by what we saw last night, Melsik Baghdasaryan is definitely a prospect to watch.
The Armenian, a former professional kickboxer with an MMA record of 6-1, absolutely blitzed fellow UFC newcomer Collin Anglin last night, eventually finishing him off in highlight reel fashion with a second-round head kick.
The kick was phenomenal to watch as Baghdasaryan threw it with no warning and gave Anglin absolutely no time to respond. In many respects, it was reminiscent of the deadly left head kick that Mirko Cro Cop used to surge to fame in PRIDE nearly two decades ago.
It’s obviously early days for Baghdasaryan in the UFC, and given that he’s competing at 145 pounds, one of the promotion’s most loaded weight classes, it’s safe to say that he won’t shoot up the rankings just yet. There are too many question marks around him.
But what we saw last night gave a lot of indications that he’s got the potential to make it to the top at some point. And that alone makes him a big winner.
#4. Jason Witt – UFC welterweight
Purists would probably say that Jason Witt’s wild fight with Bryan Barberena at UFC Vegas 33 was horrible from a technical perspective, and to tell the truth, they’d be correct. Witt fought well during the first two rounds, but the action-packed third round featured two exhausted fighters exchanging with zero defense.
However, some of the greatest fights in MMA history, Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama, for instance, were also sloppy, and fighting isn’t always about technique and skill, it’s also about heart, desire and durability, and both Witt and Barberena showed that in spades.
Of course, when it came down to a decision, Witt secured the victory. ‘The Vanilla Gorilla’ outworked ‘Bam Bam’ in the opening two rounds and build up enough of a lead that he was always going to win unless Barberena knocked him out or secured a 10-8 final round, which many believe he did enough to do, especially considering one judge awarded Witt a 10-8 in the second frame.
The win likely won’t elevate Witt too high up the card, as it only took him to 2-2 in the UFC and he’d lost his last outing by knockout.
However, the quality of the fight suggests that he’s the kind of fighter who could easily carve out a reputation for wild, exciting bouts each time out, similar to someone like Drew Dober, for instance.
And in a promotion that’s willing to cut fighters every week, to have a reputation like that means you’re much more likely to retain your roster spot. That alone makes this win for Witt absolutely priceless.
#3. Cheyanne Buys – UFC women's strawweight
Cheyanne Buys’ fight with Gloria de Paula was always a strange choice for a co-main event, even on late notice, as both women had never won a fight in the UFC and had lost their debuts pretty handily.
However, Buys capitalized massively on the opportunity that was handed to her by knocking out de Paula with a nasty first round head kick.
It wasn’t just your regular head kick, either. Buys caught de Paula as she was attempting to stand, meaning the shot needed absolutely expert timing to land without being an illegal kick to a downed opponent.
It could probably be argued, in fact, that this was one of the most skilled head kicks in UFC history.
And not only did the win net her a $50k bonus, but it should mean that UFC fans are excited to see her next time out and that if her name does appear on the main card of a show, it won’t be greeted with the shrug that it was this time around.
#2. Jared Gooden – UFC welterweight
While UFC president Dana White likes to brag about the fact that his promotion has done an excellent job during the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to putting on shows, it’s also fair to say that plenty of cost-cutting has also been done.
Namely, countless fighters have been cut by the UFC in the past 18 months, meaning that unless you’re a big name or a hot prospect, your job with the promotion isn’t safe when you’re not winning.
And prior to last night, Jared Gooden hadn’t been winning, he’d lost his only two visits to the octagon, although he hadn’t been finished in either. A third loss probably would’ve been the end of his run in the UFC.
But Gooden took a big risk in taking a last-minute fight with Niklas Stolze last night and somehow pulled off a tremendous performance to knock the German out in the opening round. It looked like he decided to throw caution to the wind entirely, and it definitely worked.
Gooden may well lose his next fight and wind up out of the UFC if that happens, but for now at least, he’s bought himself some valuable time and may well end up surprising everyone with a run of wins yet.
#1. Sean Strickland – UFC middleweight
The only fight on the card at UFC Vegas 33 with any kind of potential title implications was the main event between Uriah Hall and Sean Strickland. The two middleweights had been on impressive winning runs coming into the event, and both men were looking to climb into the upper echelon of the UFC’s rankings.
But while Hall was ranked above Strickland, it was ‘Tarzan’ who came out on top of what was a surprisingly one-sided fight.
Strickland wasn’t able to finish Hall, although he did come close in an extremely dominant third round that saw him hurt ‘Prime Time’ with a series of heavy strikes. But that was more down to Hall’s durability than anything else, and overall it was clear that Strickland deserved the win in the end.
Strickland is an interesting fighter in that he’s been in the UFC for almost a decade now, but he’s still only 30 years old. More to the point, he’s got just two losses to his name since mid-2015, and one of them came at the hands of the current pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, Kamaru Usman.
So can ‘Tarzan’ really climb into title contention at 185 pounds? Given that Marvin Vettori was able to, then it’s definitely possible. And this victory should put him in the top ten at least, meaning he was UFC Vegas 33’s biggest winner.