The UFC presented its latest show last night in Sacramento, California, and after a pretty slow beginning, things erupted into life in the last three fights, as we got three first-round knockouts to electrify the crowd. Well, kind of – more on that in a second.
Overall, I felt this was a decent effort from the UFC; a couple of the prelims were slow but on the main card, only Karl Roberson vs. Wellington Turman was largely forgettable. And while things ended in controversy, I don’t think anyone could say the show was boring.
Here are the best and worst moments from UFC Fight Night 155: De Randamie vs. Ladd.
#1 Best: Faber is back!
Returns from retirement in MMA usually don’t work out, and the list of names who’ve crashed and burned after coming back – BJ Penn, Carlos Condit, Chuck Liddell, etc – is pretty exhaustive.
I wasn’t too worried about Urijah Faber getting flatlined in his comeback last night given opponent Ricky Simon was neither a red-hot prospect or a top contender right now, but I certainly didn’t expect things to go quite so well for ‘The California Kid’.
Sure, Faber was wobbled by a stiff left hand from Simon in the opening exchange, but moments later he absolutely levelled his opponent with a crushing overhand right that sent him crashing down, and finished things off on the ground with incredible ferocity, literally having to be pulled off by the referee. Simon wasn’t quite unconscious but I’d class it as a good stoppage myself.
Where Faber goes from here is a question mark, but for now at least this was an awesome comeback; the Sacramento crowd understandably went wild for him, giving him one of the biggest crowd pops of the year, and he certainly didn’t look 40 years old.
A fight with Henry Cejudo would be ridiculous right now given there are other fighters ahead of him in the queue and he’s been gone since 2016, but you know what? Cejudo’s out for a while so if the UFC were to match Faber with Aljamain Sterling or Petr Yan with the winner facing the champ? I’d be down with that.
#1 Worst: The early stoppage in the main event
I’m not one to rag on referee performance in MMA; it’s an incredibly difficult job and an incredibly important one too. After all, who wants to be responsible for allowing a fighter to take too much needless damage, and on the other side of the coin, who wants to be responsible for stopping a fight early and robbing a fighter of the chance of a victory?
Last night, Herb Dean unfortunately found himself in the latter situation during the main event.
The fight between Germaine De Randamie and Aspen Ladd was only 15 seconds old when GDR nailed Ladd with an overhand right, dropping her to her knees. It appeared as if she was okay to continue – she took a follow-up shot but lunged for a single leg – when Dean stepped in to stop proceedings. Ladd leapt to her feet instantly and of course, the crowd began to boo loudly in response.
For me, this was an early stoppage, although I guess Dean could’ve been erring on the side of caution after Ladd’s worrying weigh-in – more on that in a second – which would almost have been understandable.
As it is though, GDR didn’t get to finish the fight cleanly and who knows how well Ladd could’ve recovered? It was a disappointing way to end the night for sure.
#2 Best: Team Alpha Male comes up trumps
We’ve been over the great performance of Urijah Faber, but he wasn’t the only member of Team Alpha Male to come up with the goods last night. Four representatives of the Sacramento-based gym were in action in their hometown and all four won, with three of them – Faber included – collecting $50k bonuses for their night’s work.
Josh Emmett picked up another big knockout win – this time dropping Mirsad Bektic with a stiff jab before finishing him off with some nasty ground strikes – and Andre Fili was arguably even more impressive on the prelims, destroying Sheymon Moraes with punches in the first round of what was probably the best performance of his UFC career to date.
Fili finally looks set to make a run at the top of the Featherweight division now – something he’s had the talent to be capable of doing all along.
And while Benito Lopez’s decision win over Vince Morales in the night’s opener was questionable at best – Lopez went down in the first round and it appeared that Morales won at least two rounds – it still whipped the crowd into a frenzy when his name was announced as the victor.
Booking hometown fighters is always a bit of a calculated risk as there’s the potential of a dead crowd should they lose, but it came off big time for the UFC last night.
#2 Worst: Should Ladd have been allowed to fight?
Her fight might only have lasted some 16 seconds in the end, but after Friday’s weigh-in, the big question to me is whether Aspen Ladd should have been allowed to step into the Octagon last night at all. The UFC and the various athletic commissions they work with may preach safety, but I’m not sure that was the case this weekend.
Ladd looked simply awful at the official weigh-in, staggering up to the scale and shaking like crazy while having to use a towel on a hoop to finally make the 135lbs Bantamweight limit. She did claim that she felt fine after re-hydrating, but for someone who looked that ill to be stepping into a professional MMA fight 24 hours later was very worrying.
It wasn’t the first time Ladd’s had weight issues either – she looked ill when weighing in for her 2018 fight with Tonya Evinger, and famously missed weight altogether for a cancelled fight with Leslie Smith.
And who knows – perhaps the weight cut was the main factor behind her going down so easily at the hands of Germaine De Randamie last night? Maybe a move to 145lbs needs to be in Ladd’s future.
#3 Best: Pena is back
One fight that was flying under the radar a little last night was the Bantamweight clash between former Flyweight champion Nicco Montano and the returning Julianna Pena.
Pena actually took the fight on late notice to replace the injured Sara McMann, but there were a lot of question marks around her, as she hadn’t fought since January 2017 and had become a mother in the interim.
The first round looked bad for her too as Montano largely dominated her in all areas, but using her toughness, grappling skill and immense top game, Pena willed her way back into the fight and took the final two rounds away from Montano to take a clear decision victory.
It wasn’t the greatest fight to watch, but it was still a huge win for Pena, who should find herself in instant title contention – it’s easy to forget she was one fight away from a title shot in 2017 before taking her leave of absence – and with no clear-cut title challenger right now at 135lbs, a fight with Amanda Nunes might come sooner rather than later.
At any rate, it’s great to have ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ back.