Another Saturday night, another successful UFC Vegas card.
A lot of statements were made last night. Pete Rodriguez, Joanderson Brito and Alonzo Menifield all grabbed 1st Round finishes in their bouts. We also saw the impressive young UFC prospect, Tatsuro Taira, lock up a beautiful submission win. Perhaps the most impressive finish of the night, Jonathan Martinez earned an extremely rare leg kick TKO win over UFC hall-of-famer Cub Swanson.
Finally, the night closed with Alexa Grasso dominating on the judges’ scorecards in a hard-fought standup fight. All of the bouts from UFC Vegas 62 are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of the night: the BLÜ BONUSES.
Pete Rodriguez def. Mike Jackson by KO in the 1st Round
Rodriguez was pushing forward early, using a lot of kicks. From there he landed a BIG one to the body of Jackson that dropped him to the ground. He swarmed Jackson, looking for an early finish, but Mike held on. Jackson got back up, but he was still getting swarmed. Rodriguez kept that pressure going and melted Jackson into the fence. A MASSIVE knee later and Jackson was asleep, legs behind him, slumped against the cage. No surprises as the massive favourite, Rodriguez, cashed in the 1st Round KO.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
C.J. Vergara vs. Tatsuro Taira
This bout was to show us who is going to be one of the next ranked contenders. Both of them are young, talented fighters with fairly impressive, but short, UFC careers. What seemed to separate them were their styles. Taira is a constant grappling threat while Vergara is more of a striker. I figured it would be close on the feet, but that Taira would eventually use his grappling to get a finish or a dominant decision win.
Taira by Finish
Vergara pressed forward hard early while Tiara was using his quick movement to avoid the combos. After a minute or so, Taira went in for a takedown and slammed Vergara into the canvas. Immediately, Taira was smothering him, giving him no room trying to fight for a submission. Vergara was defending well, but really struggling with all the pressure of Taira’s grappling. With 30 seconds left in the first though, Vergara managed to reverse him, locking in a submission of his own. In spite of that last exchange on the ground, it was pretty clear that Taira was up 1-0 on the cards.
Taira opened the next round with a HUGE leg kick that swept out the legs of Vergara. Vergara responded with some decent combos, but was eventually dragged to the ground by Taira. With 3 minutes left in the round, Taira was glued to the back of Vergara. From he slipped his arms around the neck of Vergara, really working for the submission. It was DEEP, but Vergara somehow made it out. After fighting for the rear naked choke for a few minute straight, Taira quickly shifted over to an armbar. Unable to defend, Vergara was forced to tap, giving Taira a DOMINANT submission win.
Tatsuro Taira def. C.J. Vergara by Submission in the 2nd Round
Taira is still young at 22, so we’re not talking about the top 15 quite yet. That being said, Vergara is also the real deal: dominating him like that is a real statement. He’s relentless, well-rounded and has VERY good grappling. With a couple more years, he’s undoubtedly got a chance of cracking the UFC top 10 and beyond.
Piera Rodriguez def. Sam Hughes by Unanimous Decision
They started off slow with both women throwing out some probing shots early. Rodriguez broke up the striking with a takedown and was shut down at first, but briefly got Hughes down. With the action being so tight all first round, it was tough to tell who took it on the cards. I might’ve given it to Hughes because of her volume, but it really could’ve gone either way.
After a couple of beautiful strikes from Rodriguez in the second round, she dragged Hughes to the ground. Once again, Hughes got up pretty quickly. This happened a couple more times, but Hughes was defending well and mixing it up with her combos on the feet. Once again, it really could’ve gone either way; I’d have probably tied it up 1-1.
Wanting to switch it up, Hughes was the one who shot in for the takedown at the start of the next round, but was shut down easily. Rodriguez responded with her own takedown, but still couldn’t get anything going with it. As the round went on, Hughes was the one leading the striking exchanges, possibly starting to pull away with the round on the cards. I gave the fight to Hughes, but this is one of those rare fights where either fighter could’ve walked away with a legitimate win. The judges were unanimous, scoring it 29-28 for the undefeated, Piera Rodriguez.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Joanderson Brito vs. Lucas Alexander
This just seemed like one of those fights that’s made to promote a talented fighter. Brito has multiple early finishes in his career, even in the UFC. On the other side, this was Alexander’s UFC debut and, honestly, he’s got a fairly weak strength of schedule by UFC standards. It seemed like it’d be an easy, early win for Brito.
Brito by Finish
Brito was backing Alexander up right away. He didn’t land anything big, instead choosing to throw him around in the grappling. Less than a couple minutes in and Brito was wrapped around Alexander’s back, fighting for a rear naked choke. After clearing Alexander’s neck, he sunk that choke in deeper, forcing Alexander to fall to the ground. As soon as that happened, the fight was over as Alexander was forced to tap before he took a nap on the canvas.
Joanderson Brito def. Lucas Alexander by Submission in the 1st Round
He still hasn’t proven he has full, 3 round cardio, but he’s certainly proven that it’s VERY hard to make it that far against him. I don’t think he’s ready for the callout he made of Dan Ige, but if can make it through someone like that, we’ve got a clear UFC top 15, maybe even a UFC top 10 contender.
Jacob Malkoun def. Nick Maximov by Unanimous Decision
Both guys were throwing out the combos early and it was Maximov who landed the big one first, dropping Malkoun to his knees. Malkoun tried to recover with a takedown. With Maximov’s grappling ability though, he couldn’t really get anything going. After some more striking though, Malkoun used his strength to get a couple of brief takedowns. It wasn’t clear what had happened, but Maximov was showing a lot of pain and was moving around weirdly. I’d have given the round to Maximov, but the damage of Malkoun was a clear problem.
With a clear issue with his leg, Maximov was taken down easily at the start of the second. Malkoun was using his size and strength to control Maximov on the ground. Interestingly, Malkoun let him back up and started to land some CRISP jabs. At this point, with Maximov’s injury, it was pretty clearly an uphill battle for Nick to even stay in the fight.
As expected, Malkoun opened with an EASY takedown, targeting the injured the leg of Maximov. Amazingly, Maximov was still alive and trying to get things going with his striking whenever the fight moved back to the feet. He was trying to get a finish, but really didn’t have power left. With another dominant round from Malkoun, there was no doubt he was going to walk away with the decision win.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #3
Mana Martinez vs. Brandon Davis
This was one of the closest matchups on paper this week. Martinez is fairly new to the UFC and has struggled against fighters on the edge of the rankings. On the other side though, Davis has a lot of experience against tough opponents… but was also cut from the UFC for going 2-5. I went with the statistics on this one: the younger fighter with the slightly more impressive recent history should win.
Martinez by Decision
Both men were trading kicks early, keeping things at a distance. Martinez was clearly the more active fighter, using his movement and output to limit the activity of Davis. As the round went on, Davis was starting to struggle with Mana’s output, getting clipped by a couple of those combos. It was a close round, but Mana earned it on the cards with that extra output.
Davis got clipped again top open the 2nd Round. Davis decided to get the grappling going from there, but was shut down by Martinez. As the round progressed, Martinez started to slow down his output, allowing Davis to land some more shots. Just as it looked like Davis had walked away with the round… Martinez SMOKED him and swarmed in for a finish, dropping him and wobbling him multiple times in the last 30 seconds of the round.
Knowing he was likely two rounds down now, Davis turned up that pressure to open the final round, busting up the nose of Martinez. Martinez started to take the opposite approach, fighting for takedowns for the first time in the fight, trying to run out the clock and avoid damage. Sadly for him, he was really starting to slow down, shifting the momentum towards Davis. Davis then notched the first real takedown of the fight, dominating Mana with ground and pound.
If it weren’t for that late knockdown in the 2nd Round for Mana, we could’ve seen Davis get the win. Instead, it seemed like a pretty clear 29-28 for Martinez. Interestingly, the judges were still split, scoring it 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 for Martinez.
Mana Martinez def. Brandon Davis by Split Decision
Main Card Action
Misha Cirkunov vs. Alonzo Menifield
I don’t like condemning my fellow Canadians to an early finish, but, sadly, it seemed almost inevitable here. Cirkunov had gone 2-6 in his last 8 leading up to this weekend while Menifield has steadily performed well against tough contenders. With Menifield’s power and Cirkunov’s history of KO losses, it seemed likely that we’d see an early finish for Menifield.
Menifield by Finish
There was no waiting in this one as both guys ran in trying to get things going. Menifield ran in trying to land some BOMBS while Cirkunov was shooting in with takedowns. Menifield had the first… and last big moment of the fight, landing a NUKE and a quick ground and pound combo that put Cirkunov on his back. He hit him so hard, Cirkunov was unconscious on the canvas for almost a minute straight. That was an absolutely sensational KO for a soft-spoken, mountain of a man.
Alonzo Menifield def. Misha Cirkunov by KO in the 1st Round
Raphael Assunção vs. Victor Henry
Once again, this seemed like it’d be a fairly one-sided affair. Assunção is a few years older at 40 and had lost his last four going into this. Not only that, he got finished in three of those. On the other side, Henry only had one UFC fight before this, but he dominated a tough opponent in Barcelos. With all that, it seemed like Henry was going to dominate a decision or grab a late finish.
Henry by Finish
Unlike the last fight, these two guys were patient to start. Assunção was taking the early lead, being the more active fighter, even throwing in some grappling. Henry did well to land heavy body shots and the occasional quick combo, but likely dropped the 1st Round thanks to the pressure and damage of Assunção.
Henry turned up the pace and pressure in the second, trying to overwhelm Assunção. After a wild spinning kick that missed, Henry found himself on the canvas with Assunção on top. Henry recovered quickly though, getting back to his feet. Sadly for him, Assunção then caught a kick and made it count with some damaging shots and a beautiful takedown. Unable to recover, the huge favourite, Henry, was likely down on the cards, needing a finish in the final round.
Henry knew he needed a finish in the final round and kept his pressure up. Assunção used that to his advantage, taking Henry down for a brief period. Henry never stopped pressing forward, but Assunção never let Henry get anything going. He would clinch up with Henry and shut down the striking and his momentum. With that he won a clear decision, earning a 30-27 on all 3 cards.
Raphael Assunção def. Victor Henry by Unanimous Decision
Duško Todorović vs. Jordan Wright
These two guys had almost identical journey up until this point. They both made their start on the Contender Series, both have a couple UFC wins and both have hit some rough patches along the way. As always, when there are two struggling, aggressive fighters matched up, either guy could grab the win. It was close, but Todorović seemed like the wiser choice. He’s had closer fights with higher calibre UFC fighters and, although he lost his last one, seemed to be improving.
Todorović by Finish
Todorović ran in for a takedown right away, trying to make this a grappling match. He almost had it, but was actually reversed, finding Wright on top of him. After getting smothered for a couple minutes, Todorović switched to a heel hook, close to locking it in. Sadly for him, that allowed Wright to land some heavy ground and pound. With all that control time and damage from ground and pound, Wright dominated the 1st Round on the cards.
Todorović left all that grappling back in the 1st Round, instead lighting Wright up with HUGE combos. He dropped Wright a couple times, wobbling him all over the Octagon. I don’t know how Wright was clinging on, getting SMOKED by the output of Todorović. Wright went for a takedown, but even though Todorović was slowing down, Duško found himself on top raining down ground and pound. After a minute of that, the ref had seen enough, giving Duško the come-from-behind TKO win.
Duško Todorović def. Jordan Wright by TKO in the 2nd Round
Jonathan Martinez vs. Cub Swanson
There’s a reason these two are set for the co-main event. They’re very closely matched and they’re both exciting fighters. Swanson has the clear edge in finishing ability, coming down from knocking out featherweights. Martinez has been climbing the ranks recently, controlling his opponents to win decisions. Swanson certainly had the chance to grab a KO, but I said, if he couldn’t, it seemed VERY likely that Martinez would win on the cards.
Martinez by Decision
Swanson was using his kicks early, keeping the fight at a distance. Martinez then rushed in, shooting for a takedown after a slip. Eventually he let it go, moving back to striking. After a couple of quick striking exchanges, Swanson was the one who chased a takedown. Sadly for him, he was reversed, then moved back to his feet. Martinez then seemed to find his rhythm, landing some crisp combos on Swanson. It was looking dead even on the cards, then Martinez landed the biggest shot of the round, dropping Swanson with a MASSIVE knee and melting him into the fence. The fight was about 5 seconds away from getting stopped, but Swanson got lucky, making it to the second thanks to the bell.
Martinez rushed in at the start of the second, really going hard for a finish. Swanson was already along the fence, getting ripped apart by the offence of Martinez. Swanson managed to hold on for a couple minutes, then moving back to his feet. He then faced a whole new problem: the leg kicks of Martinez. He landed like a baseball bat, bringing Swanson down to his knees a couple of times with those kicks. After a couple more of those, Cub could no longer stand up and was finished by a RARE leg kick TKO.
Jonathan Martinez def. Cub Swanson by TKO in the 2nd Round
Alexa Grasso vs. Viviane Araujo
Both of these women deserve to be in a future UFC title conversation, but only one of them seemed to be making the necessary changes to get to the belt. Grasso still hasn’t turned 30, plus she’s now developed from a boxer into a real MMA fighter, grabbing a submission win in her last matchup.
If this would’ve been a couple years ago, I’d have worried about her grappling defence against Araujo, but now I figured she should be able to defend and land her strikes. That aside, the fact that this fight was scheduled for 5 rounds heavily favoured Grasso’s style and cardio. With that, it seemed likely she would dominate the 5 round decision.
Grasso by Decision
As expected, Grasso was the sharper striker early, landing crisp combos, moving in and out of range. Araujo was trying to keep up, even threatening a couple of takedowns, but was clearly struggling with the output of Grasso and likely lost the round.
She opened the second pushing forward, but Grasso was still being evasive on the feet and picking her apart. Araujo was then able to move the fight to the ground. She was then finally able to get her gameplan going, overwhelming Grasso, working for a submission. It took Grasso a minute, but she exploded to get back to her feet. Knowing she needed to get some damage back, Grasso pushed the pace to close the round. Even though Araujo got the takedown, with all that output, I might’ve put Grasso up 2-0.
The pace slowed in the third, but it was still Grasso doing the cleaner striking. That being said, this was Araujo’s best round on the feet, landing some good counters on Grasso. After another dead-even round, it was anyone’s guess as to how the judges were scoring it up to this point.
This continued into the 4th Round with both women having almost the same output. Every time one would throw, the other would come back and throw a nice combo. With about a minute left into the round, Araujo switched it up with takedown attempt, but never managed to drag Grasso down. With another close round, the scorecards could’ve been all over the place at this point.
Araujo seemed to land the better combos early in the final round, then went for another takedown attempt. Once again, Grasso shut her down and went back to striking. Just like all the other rounds, the output was almost identical and, really, I had no idea who was taking the win. I’d have guessed Grasso because of the early rounds, but Araujo could’ve stolen it. In the end, the judges scored it 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46 for Grasso.
Alexa Grasso def. Viviane Araujo by Unanimous Decision
Considering Shevchenko has beaten most of the other top contenders, it seems more than likely we’ll see Grasso get that fight soon. It may be her next fight, but she’ll likely have one more first, which she’ll need if she even wants a CHANCE at beating Valentina. More than likely, that will be the winner of Chookagian/Fiorot next week. Let’s not forget that Santos should be getting a rematch soon after “losing” the first one. Lots of interesting matchups ahead for the flyweights.
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 4-1
KO of the Night: Jonathan Martinez
Sub. of the Night: Tatsuro Taira
Brawl of the Night: Mana Martinez vs. Brandon Davis
Most Valuable Fighter
Coming into this one, most people expected him to lose. He was on a 4-fight losing streak, getting finished 3 times. Not only that, he’s 40 and was up against someone who dominated a tough opponent in his last fight. Not only did he win, it really wasn’t even all that close. I don’t know how many more times we’ll see him, but it’s stories like these that build a lasting impression.