*This was originally posted on November 21, 2021*
Last week we had a card full of finishes, this time we had a card full of decisions. Sadly, the highly-anticipated fight between McKinney and Ziam was cancelled due to COVID concerns; hopefully that one will be rescheduled before the end of the year. We saw another quick return for ‘Loopy’ Godinez, a great fight between Yanez and Grant and great performances from Taila Santos and Sean Brady. All of the bouts from UFC Vegas 43 are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of the night: the BLÜ BONUSES.
Luana Pinheiro def. Sam Hughes by Unanimous Decision
Pinheiro showed why she was the huge favourite going into this fight. She was always one step ahead in every department, especially in the grappling where she got multiple clean throws to the ground. Hughes showed some momentum later in the fight, but after getting knocked down in the 2nd round, it was just too late for her to recover. After 3 rounds, Pinheiro won a convincing unanimous decision.
Shayilan Nuerdanbieke def. Sean Soriano by Unanimous Decision
The bettors had Soriano as a favourite for this bout, but it was a very closely contested fight. The first round went to Soriano who controlled the exchanges on the feet; the second one went to Nuerdanbieke on the ground. Then, in the third round, Shayilan knew what he had to do and took Soriano to the ground right away. After controlling him down there the entire round, Nuerdanbieke edged ahead on the cards and got the unanimous decision win.
Cody Durden def. Aori Qileng by Unanimous Decision
This fight was VERY close for all 3 rounds. Aori seemed to be better on the feet with his activity and power while Durden controlled parts of each round along the fence and on the ground. The judges saw this fight as 29-28 for Durden; I might’ve leaned towards Aori, but it could’ve gone either way.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
Loma Lookboonmee vs. Lupita Godinez
I brought this one up because this is the 3rd time I’m talking about ‘Loopy’ Godinez since I started BLÜ-FC this summer; she’s also Canadian AND this looked like an interesting matchup. Loma was a promising prospect when she was brought into the UFC in 2019 which is why she was thrown at Angela Hill in just her second fight here. She lost that one but bounced back with 2 decision wins. As for Godinez, she won her first with an impressive 1st round armbar, but lost her second one (a week later) in a decision. Although it should be noted she lost that decision up a weight class. They had an identical record at 6-2, were similar in age and had similar reach. The separating factor for me were those last two fights for Godinez. That submission win was amazing and she even looked good against Carolina in the heavier division that she’s not used to; that’s something that I don’t think Loma could do. Loma is primarily a kickboxer while ‘Loopy’ is very well-rounded. We were likely to see a decision win here because it’s the strawweight division and they tend to have a lot of decisions, but I said that I wouldn’t have been shocked if ‘Loopy’ could use her grappling and get another submission win.
Godinez by Decision
On the feet this was pretty even; ‘Loopy’ used her speed to land a few extra strikes while Loma used her kickboxing experience to land some powerful kicks. The difference-maker here was ‘Loopy”s ground game; when she got to the ground she was in control almost the entire time. At the start of the 3rd she had even sunk in a pretty deep heel hook. After 3 rounds, the judges gave the unanimous decision win to Godinez.
Lupita Godinez def. Loma Lookboonmee by Unanimous Decision
After looking so good against a skilled contender in Lookboonme, ‘Loopy’ has shown that she’s becoming a dangerous contender in the straw-weight division. If she doesn’t fight someone else before the end of the year, she’ll likely get someone in the top 15. Since Loma’s only UFC loss was to Angela Hill and since Hill lost her last one out, this could be a good matchup. Also, both of these women are down to fight anyone at any time; this one could be set up for December and they’d likely both sign.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Rafa Garcia vs. Natan Levy
I featured this bout because it was the first UFC appearance by an undefeated Contender Series alum., Natan Levy. Although undefeated, he was only 6-0 and hadn’t fought this year. As for Garcia, he had lost his last 2 bouts, both of which were this year. This fight was a complete tossup for me; you had Garcia with a questionable record and Levy who hadn’t fought in the UFC yet. From a betting perspective, it made sense to go with the man who was undefeated and had the extra reach: Natan Levy.
Levy by Decision
This was yet another fight that the judges could’ve seen either way; both men landed a lot of shots and a couple takedowns. Both men should be happy with their performances. The judges ended up seeing this one as a unanimous decision win for Rafa Garcia.
Rafa Garcia def. Natan Levy by Unanimous Decision
Pat Sabatini def. Tucker Lutz by Unanimous Decision
The fight started off close, but Sabatini started to pull ahead with his impressive control on the ground. This continued the remainder of the fight with Sabatini smothering Lutz against the fence and on the ground the whole time. In the end it was a dominant unanimous decision win for Sabatini.
Main Card Action
Adrian Yanez vs. Davey Grant
Just like last week’s card, the main card this week opens up with a bantamweight bout that is sure to bring the action. Yanez only arrived in the UFC a little over a year ago and had already grabbed 3 impressive KO victories. Although Grant had more experience and could have certainly taken the win, it seemed as though Yanez was the safe bet here. Yanez was 8 years younger, had won and finished all of his UFC opponents, while Grant had lost a few already. An interesting note is that Grant had never been finished by punches; he had only lost by submission or decision. But, because of his extra power, I predicted either a late finish or a decision win for Yanez.
Yanez by Finish
This was the wild stand-up display everyone thought it would be. Both men had some great moments; Yanez used his technical skills to pick Grant apart, but Grant landed some huge shots with some unorthodox techniques. After 3 rounds, it came down to how the judges saw the fight. Personally, I could’ve seen this go either way; Grant was left bloody from all of Yanez’s clean strikes, but Grant looked great in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. In the end, Yanez got the tight split decision. A bit of controversy with the scorecards again with a 30-27 card in favour of Grant.
Adrian Yanez def. Davey Grant by Split Decision
The future is bright for Yanez. In such a talent-heavy division, he won’t be able to jump up the rankings too quick, but he can certainly compete with someone on the bottom of the top 15. Somebody like Song or Edgar would be amazing, entertaining matchups that could be fight of the night. But there’s a matchup that seems to already be brewing online: Suga Sean and Yanez in March. Any fight fan would LOVE to watch that fight, but Sean is already fighting at the next PPV and the UFC is likely going to throw him a real, ranked contender soon, especially if he dominates Paiva in December.
Rani Yahya vs. Kyung Ho Kang
On paper, this one was a dead-even matchup between two UFC veterans. The difference here is that Yahya was more active and fought much tougher competition while Kang was on an extended break a few years ago. They were also very similar outside of their records; both fighters preferred submissions over KOs and were close in age. The only difference that stood out was Kang’s edge in reach. This matchup could have gone in either direction, but I leaned towards the experience and activity of Yahya. Kang hadn’t fought since 2019 and won his last two by split decisions. Meanwhile, Yahya had 4 submission wins since 2017 with a draw and a unanimous decision win thrown in. Usually when you see a matchup with two submission artists it leads to a standup fight and a decision.
Yahya by Decision
Although on paper this seemed like a battle of the wrestlers, this ended up being a striker vs. wrestler matchup. Right away we saw Yahya show his gameplan with an early takedown and some ground control. On the feet though, it was all Kang who got two knockdowns and stumbled Yahya on more than one occasion. In the end it was all of Yahya’s ground control that got him the unanimous decision win.
Rani Yahya def. Kyung Ho Kang by Unanimous Decision
Joanne Wood vs. Taila Santos
Wood had gone about 50/50 recently with losses to Lauren Murphy, Maia and Chookagian and wins over Eye, Lee and Lipski. In comparison, Santos was much newer to the UFC and hadn’t fought the same calibre of opponent but had wins over Modafferi, Robertson and McCann, leaving her with an impressive career record of 18-1. Although experience is always important, Santos had a lot of other factors leaning in her direction. She was 7 years younger, had a bit of an edge in reach and had a very clear edge in fitness. All of those small edges, plus Wood’s back-and-forth record, I’m giving the edge to Santos here. Being that all of Santos’ wins in the UFC and a lot of Wood’s losses are by decision, it seemed fair to believe this fight would go all 3 rounds.
Santos by Decision
The fight started off tight but quickly went in favour of Santos. She was faster and more powerful, dropping Jojo twice. It seemed as though Santos would get a KO, instead she sunk in the submission and got the win at the end of the 1st round.
Taila Santos def. Joanne Wood by Submission in the 1st Round
After absolutely dominating the 5th ranked contender, Santos has thrown herself to the top of the division. Realistically, she could be lined up for a title shot since everyone else has already fought Shevchenko. If not, Chookagian or Andrade would be interesting matchups to set up the next title fight.
Michael Chiesa vs. Sean Brady
After his recent first-round loss to Luque, Chiesa was ranked in 6th. With a perfect 14-0 record, Brady was ranked 14th. This matchup could have gone either way. A couple points of difference were Brady’s age, being that he was 5 years younger, and Chiesa’s 5 inch reach advantage. This was likely going to come down to who showed up hungrier and more prepared on the night. Given Brady’s spotless record, his submission skills and Chiesa’s questionable record, I gave Brady the edge here. There was a good chance this fight would reach a decision, but for some reason, maybe it’s the fact that Chiesa was submitted so easily last time, I thought Brady would get a finish here.
Brady by Finish
It was a bit of a strange start to the fight with two eye-pokes from Chiesa, but, after that, both fighters settled into this tight matchup. Chiesa had a couple of moments on the feet by stumbling Brady, but the story of the fight was Brady’s ground control. Although it looked like Chiesa was going to get a comeback finish late in the 3rd round, Brady edged ahead on the cards and won the unanimous decision victory.
Sean Brady def. Michael Chiesa by Unanimous Decision
Brady is saying he wants the winner of Belal and Wonderboy; this would be a fair matchup. Although this would be a terrible matchup for Brady, it may be the perfect opponent for Chimaev. The winner of Neal and Ponzinibbio may be another interesting matchup. In fact, this matchup could also be interesting for Chiesa.
Ketlen Vieira vs. Miesha Tate
Vieira came into this bout ranked 7th, while Tate was ranked 8th. In terms of their record, it was tough to compare the two. Tate clearly had the edge in experience with fights against, Rousey, Carmouche, Eye, Holm and Nunes, but all of these fights were in 2016 or earlier because of her lengthy layoff. Vieira started off her UFC career with 4 straight wins. Since then, she had lost 2 of her last 3 to Aldana and Kunitskaya. There wasn’t much else separating these two other than the fact that Vieira was 5 years younger. This one was a complete coin toss to me. A part of me thought that Tate was back in the UFC and was gunning for the belt, but there was a part of me that thought maybe she was done and didn’t have what it takes to keep up with newcomers like Vieira. I leaned towards Tate because of that experience and because Vieira had lost 2 of her last 3.
Tate by Decision
This fight was as razor-thin as the odds and their records would suggest. Vieira might have edged ahead in the striking department, but Tate was clearly superior in her grappling. That being said, it may have been close on the cards, but it didn’t have to be. Vieira seemed to land clean shots whenever she applied any pressure… but she rarely pushed forward to take advantage of it. She had numerous chances to push forward safely, land powerful strikes and probably get a finish. Interestingly, this was her exact problem in her last fight against Kunitskaya. All that aside, after 5 rounds it seemed clear that Vieira had barely done enough to edge ahead on the cards.
Ketlen Vieira def. Miesha Tate by Unanimous Decision
Sadly, it seems as though we aren’t going to see the Miesha Tate that’s making a title run. Instead, we’re seeing the Tate that simply can’t compete at that level anymore. Although she lost a close decision, it was only close because Vieira made it that way; she was never in danger from anything Tate had. But it’s because of that lack of intensity and killer instinct that tells me Vieira isn’t ready yet for a title fight. She has the potential, she just needs to work on that mindset. What I would like to see is a rematch against Kunitskaya; if she can bring the intensity, she can win that fight. Holm would also be an interesting matchup but she’d really have to improve to compete at that level.
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 4-1
KO of the Night: No KOs tonight
Sub of the Night: Taila Santos
Fight of the Night: Adrian Yanez vs. Davey Grant
Most Valuable Fighter: ‘Loopy’ Godinez
Not everyone can fight 3 times in the UFC in 6 weeks. Not only that, she fought in two different divisions and won two of those fights with a decent showing in the loss. We’ll be seeing Godinez in the rankings soon; I guarantee it. The UFC needs more fighters that show this level of competitive spirit.