With a somewhat weaker card on paper, the hope was that we’d get plenty of action inside the Octagon, and to be fair, most of the fighters on show stepped up. Unfortunately for the UFC though, the results of a number of the fights probably didn’t go the way they’d hoped for.
Here are the best and worst moments from UFC on ESPN: Holm vs. Aldana.
#1 Best: Condit picks up his first win since 2015
Former UFC Welterweight champion Carlos Condit had fallen on hard times as of late. Before last night, ‘The Natural Born Killer’ hadn’t won a UFC fight since his 2015 stoppage of Thiago Alves. His five-fight skid definitely suggested that at 36 years old, his time at the top of the UFC’s Welterweight division was over.
Last night saw Condit faced with an opponent – Court McGee – who sat slightly further down the ladder than his most recent foes, but it felt like the UFC were writing him off, too. For the first time in his 11-year UFC career, ‘The Natural Born Killer’ was on the preliminary portion of a show.
Surprisingly enough though, Condit was able to pull through. Sure, he took some heavy shots from ‘The Crusher’, particularly to the legs. But when he dropped the TUF 11 winner at the end of the first round, the fight was only going one way. In the end, Condit cruised to a surprisingly comfortable decision win.
Was it a return to vintage form for the former UFC champ? Well, the Condit of 2011 would probably have finished McGee off, but that’s beside the point. It was great to see ‘The Natural Born Killer’ get his hand raised – and with that, it might be a good idea for him to hang his gloves up on a high.
#1 Worst: The UFC’s Bantamweight plans go up in smoke
On paper at least, it felt like the UFC were looking to use this card to find a new contender for UFC champ Amanda Nunes in the Bantamweight division.
Nunes had brutally dealt with both Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie in 2019. So last night saw both former contenders faced with up-and-comers, with the hope that at least one of those up-and-comers would come through with a win and claim the next title shot.
That simply didn’t happen, though. De Randamie largely dominated Pena on the feet, and despite a good second round on the ground for ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’, ‘The Iron Lady’ then surprised her in the third with a tight guillotine choke to leave her unconscious.
The main event, meanwhile, saw Holm pull out probably her best showing since her 2017 KO of Bethe Correia. Her opponent, Irene Aldana, showed a ton of aggression, but her usually slick boxing game simply looked inadequate against a far sharper striker.
In the end, ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ was comfortable for five rounds and simply picked the Mexican apart.
So who fights Nunes now? Well, who knows. Holm is an easier sell than de Randamie, but does anyone really want to see that fight again? Probably not. In truth, the UFC should probably have just matched Aldana with Pena and given the winner the title fight. It would’ve been much easier that way.
#2 Best: Todorovic impresses in his debut
On a show seriously lacking in name value, there was always going to be the chance for some unheralded fighters to shine. And that's exactly what unbeaten UFC debutant Dusko Todorovic did in his Octagon debut.
Sure, he wasn't faced with the most dangerous opponent – Dequan Townsend had gone 0-3 in the UFC leading into last night – but that didn't make his win any less impressive. The native of Belgrade, Serbia, simply bullied his opponent from pillar-to-post, not really allowing him to have any meaningful offense.
In the second round, Todorovic took Townsend down, and from there, he absolutely destroyed him with some seriously nasty ground-and-pound. The win gave Todorovic his first UFC win and took him to 10-0 overall, so he's clearly a man to watch.
How far can he go? Well, it's hard to say given the level of opposition he's faced so far. But a pre-UFC win over rising star Michel Pereira suggests he has some real talent. Hopefully, the UFC pushes him up the ladder for his next fight and brings him back soon.
#2 Worst: The UFC's choice for co-main event backfires
Eyebrows were raised across the MMA world when the UFC chose to showcase a couple of largely unheralded Heavyweights – Yorgan De Castro and Carlos Felipe – in last night's co-main event. The two men had a combined UFC record of 1-2 and had basically stunk out the Octagon in their last two appearances.
Well, the first two rounds of the fight were....okay. The two big men winged heavy blows at each other throughout, and while neither man came close to a finish, it was at least decent to watch. The third round, though, saw the pace grind to a horrendous halt, as both fighters looked exhausted and simply leaned on one another in the clinch for five minutes.
In the end, Felipe picked up his first UFC win, but it'd be hard to find a UFC fan this morning looking forward to seeing either man in action again. The UFC were clearly hoping for a quick knockout in this fight, and that plan backfired badly.
#3 Best: Phillips shines in a fun showcase
While Holly Holm, Germaine de Randamie, Carlos Condit, and Dusko Todorovic all shone on last night's card, the performance of the night probably belonged to rising Bantamweight star Kyler Phillips.
'The Matrix' was faced with a somewhat tricky challenge, as his initial opponent Danaa Batgerel was forced out of the fight on late notice. The UFC replaced him with the UK's Cameron Else, and given 'Camchida' was riding a six-fight win streak, there was definitely an argument that he was an upgrade on Batgerel.
That clearly didn't matter to Phillips. He thoroughly dominated Else, both standing and on the ground, and eventually put the UFC newcomer away with a series of brutal elbows from the mount in the second round.
Bantamweight is an incredibly deep division – arguably the deepest in the UFC, in fact – but after last night, it's hard not to view Phillips as one of the division's better up-and-comers. Hopefully, the UFC can get him back into the Octagon sooner rather than later with a tougher test to see if he can climb the ladder further.