UFC Fight Night 78 had a lot going against it coming into the main card. Not only was it dealing with a crowd of fight fans who were likely more interested in a promised boxing war between Miguel Cotto and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, but they also had to deal with how slowly so many of their earlier matchups were coming about.
Fans were brought into the main card on FOX Sports 1 after having watched two consecutive fights that went to the judges, one of which was predominantly spent on the canvas as Hector Urbina had zero responses to Bartosz Fabinski’s dominant, but testy approach to the fight game.
The remaining fights on the card weren’t much better for the average fan who often seeks the knockout or submission victory to satiate their thirst for action.
Here’s how the fighters on the main card fared:
6. Leandro Silva
An absolutely forgettable fight, and certainly not the way you want to kick off a main card that may or may not be competing with the second biggest boxing match of the year, Leandro Silva vs. Efrain Escudero was a relatively competitive match between two fighters seemingly disinterested in providing excitement. Portions of the fight saw Silva leading the way, while portions saw Escudero gaining dominant position. Neither fighter was ever seemingly hurt in the 15-minutes of competition, leaving fans without a memorable moment for either man.
The Mexican crowd may have not been happy with the outcome, but there was little doubt as to who had the narrow edge in this one. Silva controlled the action when he needed to, but it does nothing for his stock as just another 170-pound fighter on the roster.
5. Erick Montano
Another match between two fighters who found more interest in pressing each other up against the cage and canvas than they were pressing leather into each other’s faces. At this point, this author may be coming off as a biased viewer with no appreciation for the less-desired aspects of MMA, but that’s just it — these are the less desired aspects of MMA. That, and few of these fighters were doing much to improve upon their chances of winning the fight by anything other than a decision. It may win you fights, but it surely won’t win you fans.
In fairness, you have to imagine these guys are likely fighting for their one and only shot at getting into the UFC. For as much as the promotion would like to dip into Latin American countries for talent, it’s become painstakingly obvious the talent just isn’t there. Couple those two ideas and you’ll find yourself understanding why a fighter might be more content with scoring points with takedowns and dominant positions in a clinch than giving Mexican fight fans anything remotely similar to a “Mexican Style” affair.
4. Henry Cejudo
The UFC’s flyweight champion in attendance, Henry Cejudo likely punched his ticket for a shot at Demetrious Johnson’s crown. For as talented as Cejudo may one day be, his likely title shot has more to do with circumstance than it does accomplishment. He is, for all intents and purposes, the last body Johnson has yet to dismantle at 125 pounds. There were few, if any, signs from Cejudo that proved he had the necessary skills to keep it remotely competitive against “Mighty Mouse.”
The former Olympian was without a signature win heading into the biggest fight of his career Saturday night. He’d leave Mexico with no souvenirs to catapult his standing in the division. Undefeated through 10 professional bouts, Cejudo hasn’t finished a bout in his last six tries. Six straight decisions, the last of which was a less-than-thrilling split decision.
3. Enrique Barzola
Taking pride in the fact he trained with such a great wrestling coach at Pitbull Martial Arts Center, Enrique Barzola did just that: wrestle. His TUF Latin America 2 finale opponent, Horacio Gutierrez, came in as the favorite, but seemed to have no answers for Barzola’s top game. The Peruvian fighter used his forward pressure to secure five of nine takedowns, pressuring the Mexican fighter from the top to prevent him from unleashing any of the sort of fight-ending power he’d showed in previous fights.
Barzola did enough to prevent referee Mario Yamaski from standing the fighters up, but it almost felt like it was barely enough. There were no close submission attempts, no ground-and-pound strikes that had the audience in any sort of awe. That didn’t stop one judge from awarding him with a reasonable 10-8 round (seriously, Gutierrez was doing nothing), but that’s the only thing that’s got him ranked above Escudero after Saturday.
2. Neil Magny
An incredibly close fight that could have gone either way turned into Neil Magny’s fourth win inside of the Octagon in 2015, and his ninth UFC win since the start of 2014. He got dropped twice in Round 4 of the 25-minute contest, both times appearing as a near finishing moment for Kelvin Gastelum, but Magny survived.
He peppered his smaller opponent with jabs, often several in a row as he backed Gastelum across the Octagon and often swarmed him with a grappling attack that would have overwhelmed so many others at 170 pounds. Magny’s length, intelligence and cardio could make for some serious problems for several fighters in the top five.
1. Ricardo Lamas
Easily the only fighter on the main card who came remotely close to finishing his opponent, Ricardo Lamas did exactly what everyone expected him to do against Diego Sanchez. Though having a noticeable size advantage, Sanchez couldn’t keep up with Lamas’ speed nor his pace. Ferocious leg kicks were the name of the game for Lamas on Saturday night, and Sanchez was not the better for it.
Forcing his opponent to limp as he hobbled across the Octagon to avoid any more damage to his thighs or calves, Lamas went out of his way to prove he’d not stand idly by and be used as a stepping stone for any fighter in this division. Performances against two of the best in the division — Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes — may have already cemented Lamas’ standing alongside several other talented fighters in separate divisions as a (gulp) gatekeeper at 145 pounds.