*This was originally posted on December 6, 2021
After a week off, the UFC was back in Vegas with UFC Vegas 44. The action was non-stop with some wild finishes, thrilling comebacks and a couple of wins for some true UFC legends. All of the bouts from UFC Vegas 44 are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of the night: the BLÜ BONUSES. As a special bonus, BLÜ also covered all the action from BFL 70 (included below the UFC action).
Vince Morales def. Louis Smolka by TKO in the 1st Round
The fight was dead-even for as long as it lasted… until Smolka got SMOKED (apologies for the pun) out of nowhere by a massive hook early in the 1st round to get his first KO in the UFC. A great performance by a promising young prospect.
Claudio Puelles def. Chris Gruetzemacher by Submission in the 3rd Round
This one was a back and forth fight that started off close with Gruetzemacher edging ahead on the feet and Puelles clearly winning the fight on the ground. Then the tides turned with Gruetzmacher possibly edging ahead on the cards with some ground control of his own. But after getting the fight to the ground again, Puelles locked in a scary knee bar and got the late 3rd round submission win.
William Knight def. Alonzo Menifield by Unanimous Decision
For a fight between two MASSIVE light heavyweights, the first round stayed clear of a lot of standup fighting and instead was spent on the ground and along the fence. Although Knight started to slow down, Menifield was in deep trouble at the end of the first round and was rocked a couple times throughout the fight. That being said, Menifield was very clearly the more skilled fighter, Knight simply possesses that unbelievable power. But after 15 minutes, to the surprise of many (most of Twitter, the analysts and myself), William Knight managed to win the decision.
Cheyanne Vlismas def. Mallory Martin by Unanimous Decision
They may have made it to the final bell but it wasn’t the closest fight. It was more of a showcase for how far Vlismas has progressed; she used her unbelievable pace and impressive boxing skills to pick Martin apart and win an easy decision.
After looking this impressive, the next stop has to be somewhere in the top 15. Someone like Angela Hill or Virna Jandiroba would be great, entertaining matchups for her. We also mentioned the future for ‘Loopy’ Godinez recently; this would be another great fight for both of them. Both of these women have a well-rounded skill-set and set a great pace.
Bryan Barberena def. Darian Weeks by Unanimous Decision
This one was dead even every second of the fight. On the feet, both fighters were setting a crazy pace. Weeks sprinkled in some takedowns here and there but couldn’t manage to do anything with them. The judges could’ve seen this either way but ended up giving the unanimous decision to Barbarena.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Manel Kape
Both of these fighters were on the verge of breaking into the flyweight rankings and were coming off of 1st round wins in their last trip to the octagon. Their record in the UFC was identical with two decision losses followed by a 1st round finish. Kape came in slightly younger and with a slight reach advantage of 2 inches. From what I had seen of both of these fighters, Zhalgas seemed to be a more well-rounded fighter who was more well-versed on the ground while Kape stayed on his feet. It seemed like an exciting and close fight, but because of his skillset, I thought Zhumagulov would take the win by a decision or with a late submission.
Zhumagulov by Decision
If you weren’t awake before, this fight would’ve given you that jolt of energy you needed. Every moment of this fight was electric with both fighters having some great moments. Zhalgas seemed to be edging ahead the slightest bit but then he got dropped by a quick combo from Kape. Right after that, Kape swarmed him against the fence and peppered him with some of the fastest punches I’ve ever seen.
Manel Kape def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov by TKO in the 1st Round
Before the fight I wasn’t sure how Kape would be able to handle someone as well-rounded and tough as Zhalgas, but he certainly proved himself worthy of the challenge. There’s no way he won’t be fighting a ranked contender next. Obviously not someone near the top like he wants, but someone like Tim Elliott, Tyson Nam or Sumudaerji would make sense. As for Zhalgas, don’t let the result fool you, he was putting up a great performance; he’ll be a top 15 contender soon too.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Maki Pitolo vs. Dusko Todorovic
Although both of these men were promising young prospects, they’ve also both been on a losing streak recently. There wasn’t much separating these two; their records were similar, they had an almost identical reach and were almost the same age. Based on the fights I had seen, I said that Dusko was slightly more well-rounded, but that this fight was a coin toss. I leaned towards Todorovic based on what I had seen, but also said that Pitolo had that classic Hawaiian toughness and wouldn’t be finished.
Todorovic by Decision
Pitolo started pressuring right off the bat with some crisp standup. The fight then moved to the ground with Maki trying to sink in a fairly deep submission, but Dusko ended up getting on top. He then used that position and his wrestling advantage to get in a dominant position and land some massive ground and pound to end the fight in the 1st round.
Dusko Todorovic def. Maki Pitolo by TKO in the 1st Round
Main Card Action
Alex Morono vs. Mickey Gall
Alex Morono just recently won an exciting decision over Zawada and got a 1st round TKO over ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone earlier this year. Mickey Gall has also had a couple of exciting fights recently with a 1st round submission over Jordan Williams earlier this year and a decision loss to Mike Perry in 2020. Both fighters had a similar resume and had been around the UFC for a while, but Morono seemed to be improving at a much more impressive pace and had been more active. Since they were so evenly matched and Gall doesn’t normally get finished, it seemed likely that Morono would come out ahead in a decision victory here.
Morono by Decision
Here we saw another closely contested bout. Gall was trying his best to keep up with Morono and had a few exciting moments, but Alex just kept slipping and landing shots of his own. Morono was just a bit ahead in most of the interactions which led to a unanimous decision win.
Alex Morono def. Mickey Gall by Unanimous Decision
After his recent performances, Morono seems to have proven himself worthy of fighting someone in the top 15. I don’t believe he’s ready for anyone in the top 10, but someone like Salikhov or Li might be appropriate. As it stands though, Morono seems to be in one of those strange positions where he can beat everyone outside the top 15 but would have a hard time beating someone ranked.
Brendan Allen vs. Chris Curtis
This bout featured a ranked contender, Brendan Allen, and a rising contender that shocked viewers just a month ago with a 1st round TKO victory over Phil Hawes; a performance that earned him my MVF BLÜ Bonus for the month. Allen had won 5 of his 6 fights in the UFC with his only loss being to top contender Sean Strickland. On Curtis’ side, he had that impressive win over Hawes last month and a few wins just before that in other promotions, but had a spotty record outside of the UFC before that. I said that Curtis definitely had a chance to win this fight, especially after his win over Hawes, but the safe bet had to be Allen. Allen is almost 10 years younger and had a much more impressive resume inside the UFC. And since Curtis was so tough, I anticipated a decision but said an Allen finish was certainly plausible, especially with those ground skills.
Allen by Decision
The first round could’ve gone either way with both men showing some great skills on the feet. In the second round, after landing some big body shots, Curtis clipped Allen, swarmed him and ended up getting his 2nd TKO win as a huge underdog in the past month.
Chris Curtis def. Brendan Allen by TKO in the 2nd Round
After two performances like this now, it can’t be denied that Curtis has earned a spot against someone in the top 15. Someone like Shahbazyan, Weidman or Imavov would make the most sense. Anyone above that like Holland, Gastelum or Hall would likely be too experienced and skilled. But hey, he’s surprised us a couple of times now; maybe he really could fight someone like Gastelum.
Clay Guida vs. Leonardo Santos
It’s always an entertaining matchup when the veteran Clay Guida is involved. He lost a paper-thin decision in his last bout to Madsen, but many (including myself) believe he won that fight. We don’t have enough time to go through everyone he’s fought before that, but with a record of 36-21 he’s pretty much fought everyone. As for Santos, even though he’s been in the UFC since 2013, he hasn’t faced anyone of real interest except for Kevin Lee. Normally, Guida would be the older man, but in this case we saw that Santos is on the other side of 40. That, combined with Guida’s immense experience and incredible performance against Madsen, had me leaning towards Guida. And because we’re seeing 2 veterans, I didn’t think we’d be seeing any finishes, but either of these men are capable of locking in some dangerous submissions.
Guida by Decision
The first round of this fight was one of the wildest rounds of the entire year as Santos dropped Guida and beat on him for 2 minutes straight without stopping. Everyone watching this fight had to have thought the fight was already over at that point. But Guida, with his classic unbelievable stamina and chin, weathered that storm and ended the round on top. Still clearly gassed, Santos was taken down early in the second and Guida got a sick, sick submission in a thrilling comeback victory.
Clay Guida def. Leonardo Santos by Submission in the 2nd Round
Jimmy Crute vs. Jamahal Hill
Both of these men had a great record; Crute sat at 12-2 while Hill sat at 8-1. Both fighters were also coming off of losses to top contenders with Crute losing to Anthony Smith and Hill losing to Paul Craig. There’s two difference-makers here. First, Crute seemed to have fought the more skilled fighters in his career; this is always important when you see two closely-ranked fighters. Next, Crute also seemed to be a much more dangerous force on the ground. With that in mind, I leaned towards Crute. If he could take Hill down, I was confident he could get a finish; otherwise, I thought he’d likely get the decision win with his control along the fence.
Crute by Finish
Nothing really to say about this one; Hill landed a bomb to drop Crute. Crute tried to recover with some wrestling but got hit by another MASSIVE hook and got dropped again. A HUGE KO win for Hill. In fact, this was very close to winning the BLÜ BONUS KO of the Night.
Jamahal Hill def. Jimmy Crute by KO in the 1st Round
Hill now finds himself in a strange position; he recently lost to the number 11 contender, Paul Craig, but has now beaten number 13. He could simply skip over Craig and fight someone like Reyes, Oezdemir or Walker OR he’ll be fighting someone on the edge of the rankings trying to make their way up.
Rafael Fiziev vs. Brad Riddell
Before the fight, Fiziev was ranked 14th while Riddell was up in 12th. Not only were they close in the rankings, they were also close in age, close in reach and had the same record at 10-1. This was as close of a fight as you’ll ever see on paper. This was almost guaranteed to be a great fight and was likely to end in a decision. I leaned towards Riddell because he trains at City Kickboxing with Izzy and Kara-France and that gym has been unbelievable this year.
Riddell by Decision
This was exactly as close as we all thought it would be. Both fighters brought the heat and landed big strikes. If it weren’t for the main event, this was lined up to be a contender for the brawl of the night. At the start of the third it was impossible to tell who was ahead on the scorecards, but in the end it didn’t matter as Fiziev landed a highlight reel wheel kick KO to end the fight.
Rafael Fiziev def. Brad Riddell by KO in the 3rd Round
Both of these guys could easily find themselves in the top 10 soon. After this statement win, Fiziev has easily earned himself a top contender. Hooker would be an insane fight worthy of a BLÜ BONUS, same with Ferguson and even RDA. All of those would be incredible fights. As for Riddell, he fought so well he could easily be fighting someone like Hooker, Gillespie or Ferreira too. Both of these guys are gonna be getting exciting matchups next, I’m sure!
Rob Font vs. Jose Aldo
Finally, we ended the night with an incredible matchup between number 4 ranked contender Rob Font and the King of Rio, the legendary Jose Aldo. Font won a decision earlier this year against another veteran in Cody Garbrandt. Before that, he made his way into the rankings with wins over Marlon Moraes, Ricky Simon and Sergio Pettis. As for Aldo, he’s looked as sensational as ever with wins over Munhoz and Vera over the past year. Before that, of course, he lost the vacant bantamweight belt to Petr Yan late last year. Both fighters had an even chance of winning this fight. Although both men were elite strikers, from what I had seen, Aldo was faster and utilized his kicks more. Since this was clearly set up to be an explosive standup brawl, those factors should have given Aldo the edge to win the decision victory.
Aldo by Decision
Just like the co-main, this was the barn-burner that we all expected. Font used his extra reach to pick Aldo apart early with his jab, but then Aldo would land huge power shots to stumble him. As the fight went on, Aldo started to use his famous kicks and some ground control to get ahead on the cards. I thought Font won at least one of the rounds, possibly two, but the judges saw it 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 for the winner Jose Aldo.
Jose Aldo def. Rob Font by Unanimous Decision
After his win, Aldo only had one name: TJ Dillashaw. Honestly, after such a statement win, you can really only talk about a title shot, Sandhagen or Dillashaw. Since the title unification is next for Sterling and Yan, that only leaves Cory and TJ. Either one of those fights would be incredible to watch and would be tough matchups for him. As for Font, he’s probably going to be fighting Merab next since he just beat Garbrandt and he doesn’t really deserve to fight anyone lower than that.
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 3-3
KO of the Night: Rafael Fiziev
Sub. of the Night: Clay Guida
Brawl of the Night: Font vs. Aldo
Most Valuable Fighters
We all know he’s one of the toughest fighters on the roster with other-wordly stamina, but to get smacked around in the first round like that and end up getting a win is truly unreal.
This is the 2nd time in a row he’s proved everyone wrong by getting a BIG KO as a substantial underdog. It takes a special fighter to overcome those odds and a tough opponent like Brendan Allen.
Other Fighting Updates
This was my very first time watching a full non-UFC event and an amateur fight, but trust me, this won’t be the last time. The night was full of excitement with multiple 1st round finishes and a few exciting amateur and pro debuts. All the BFL action, whether it’s amateur or pro, is all covered below.
Dillon Foerster def. Flint Radatzke by Unanimous Decision
We started off the night with a bloody brawl between two promising amateur fighters. Radatzke had some moments on the feet and a nice shot from the bottom that led to a bloody nose for Foerster, but Dillon’s pressure was just too much and it won him a solid decision win. An impressive amateur debut for Foerster.
Brad Hildenbrandt def. Frank Farroghi by Submission in the 1st Round
This was a HUGE debut for Hildenbrandt who used his wrestling background to dominate Farroghi. He landed countless BOMBS to the body on the ground, then ended the fight with a quick armbar sub. This guy is gonna be big trouble for heavyweights; a heavyweight wrestler who can land high kicks is dangerous in any MMA promotion. He looked so good that I had to give him my BLÜ BONUS for Amateur of the Night.
Sina Maani def. Connor Monahan by Split Decision
This one was a closely contested bout on the feet. Being the much taller fighter, Monahan used that extra reach to pick Maani apart from a distance. But then, after Monahan slipped, Maani landed some significant strikes of his own. In the end, shockingly, Maani managed to convince the judges that he did enough and won a split decision. The announcers, along with myself, saw this as a clear unanimous decision win for Monahan.
Varun Sunder def. Scott Erikson by TKO in the 3rd Round
For two amateurs, this was a quality, well-rounded MMA fight. Erikson almost secured the win with a couple of slick submission attempts and was likely ahead on the cards. When it was all over, the cards didn’t matter because after Sunder got up off the ground, he landed a HUGE knee to the body that folded Erikson and earned him the BLÜ BONUS for KO of the Night.
Ozhan Yalcin def. Caleb Ermine by Submission in the 1st Round
Yalcin showed his gameplan right away and got the takedown at the very start of the round. He followed it up with a pretty deep submission attempt but didn’t quite lock it in. Although Ermine got a nice reversal, Yalcin got back in the dominant position, sunk in another couple guillotine attempts and even lifted Ermine off his feet before getting a slick submission victory in the first round.
Dylan Schellenberg def. Christian Tremayne by Submission in the 1st Round
Schellenberg came in the heavy underdog here with a record of 0-2 against a more experienced Tremayne but he didn’t let that stop him. Dylan came in and landed a couple of big shots, but the real excitement started when he sunk in the guillotine. He almost got it the first time; instead, he got a quick guillotine on his second attempt, getting himself a great first round submission win.
Jayden Martin def. Chester Post by TKO in the 1st Round
Not too much to say about this one. You’ve got a young powerhouse against someone with a record of 8-26. Post didn’t stand a chance as Martin swarmed him right at the start and got an easy first round TKO victory.
Bryce Gougeon def. Rafael Palomeque
Yet another 1st round submission win! Gougeon controlled almost the whole fight with some great pressure on top and even threatened a submission from the bottom. In the end, he got a great submission win later in the 1st round.
Austin Russell def. Gerico Platon by Unanimous Decision
Platon came in right from the first bell throwing some absolute BOMBS and almost got a 1st round finish; but the fight didn’t end there. The 2nd round was back and forth with Russell edging out ahead with his ground control. It was then that controversy overshadowed the fight. At the end of the 2nd round, Platon landed a very clear illegal upkick that rocked Russell. At this point, for anyone who knows anything about MMA, this fight is over and Russell wins by DQ. But it still didn’t end there, in a stunning turn of events, Gerico landed another illegal strike near the end of the 3rd round and got not one but TWO points taken away. Russell would have likely still won the decision without that 2 point bonus (or we may have seen a draw), but since he should have won by DQ anyway, he earned that win.
Serhiy Sidey def. Ali Wasuk by TKO in the 3rd Round
This was by far the closest fight of the night. Neither man was really showing anything extremely special, although Sidey was probably edging ahead on the cards with a bit of extra control along the fence and a bit of extra activity on the feet. In the 3rd round Serhiy landed a few big body shots, Wasuk couldn’t take it and the fight was over.
KO of the Night: Varun Sunder
Sub. of the Night: Ozhan Yalcin
Brawl of the Night: Gerico Platon vs. Austin Russell
Amateur of the Night
You don’t normally see heavyweights with the wrestling capabilities that he has PLUS he had the flexibility to go for head kicks! With a talent set like this, he could be dangerous in any promotion.
Most Valuable Fighters
He got hit with the dirtiest upkick I’ve ever seen, almost got KO’d, got kneed illegally and still somehow managed to keep fighting and grinded to a unanimous decision win.
He came in with a record of 0-2 against a tough tough opponent and ended up getting a 1st round finish.