but what matters most UFC Fight Night 221 In The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas? Here are some post-fight thoughts…
Happy Trails, Rafael Assuncao
One of the greatest fighters in UFC history to never compete in a championship bout bids farewell to MMA when (autotag) Rafael Assuncao(/autotag) announces his retirement after a 3rd round submission loss Davy Grant.
Assuncao (29-9 MMA, 12-7 UFC) was never the flashiest fighter or spectacular finisher, but he was a workhorse and knew how to use his skills to his advantage. This allowed him to earn a dozen wins in the UFC bantamweight division during his career, and the only people with more wins in the weight class are current champion Aljamene Sterling and former champion TJ Dilshaw – both of whom Assuncao defeated in Octagon.
It is a shame that Assuncao never got a title shot during his prime, when he had a seven-fight winning streak in the promotion. Unfortunately for him, poor timing, a reluctance to be overly outspoken, and a general difficulty selling his brand led to more obstacles than he would anyone else. But this is only part of Assuncao’s story. He did things his own way and lived up to it from start to finish, and that is hugely commendable.
At 40, Assuncao seems to have chosen the right time to hang up his gloves, and we wish him the best of luck in the next chapter of his life.
mario bautista coming out of his shell
March 11, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Mario Bautista (red gloves) reacts after defeating Cuido Cannetti (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Virgin Hotel. Mandatory credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
(autotag) Mario Bautista(/autotag) continued to garner some more attention around his name in the bantamweight division after quickly dispatching Guido Canetti to extend his winning streak to four.
Usually far from being overly outspoken, Bautista (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) was bolder than ever in the aftermath their first round is over, He made it clear that he wanted to be named in the top 15 and also mentioned a possible fight with former UFC champion Cody Garbrandt.
That’s exactly the attitude someone like Batista needs to adopt if he wants to make real progress at 135 pounds, because there arguably isn’t a tougher division to do right now.
Jonathan Martinez quietly keeps winning
March 11, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Jonathan Martinez (blue gloves) reacts after his fight against Said Nurmagomedov (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Virgin Hotel. Mandatory credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Take what I just said about Bautista and repeat it on (autotag) Jonathan Martinez(/autotag) who earned his fifth straight win a unanimous decision Nurmagomedov said.
After defeating Cub Swanson in his previous contest, Martinez (18-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) earned a matchup with the highly anticipated Nurmagomedov. He can be quiet and awkward when the cameras are on him outside the octagon, but when it’s proving time inside the octagon and the lights are brighter, he continues to show a better version of himself.
Martinez is never going to send the crowd into a frenzy with a bold post-fight or eloquent interview, but he is going to get them out of their seats with some entertaining blows in the bantamweight division.
With five straight wins to his name, Martinez deserves to step up and get it right.
Edit Nikita Krylov
March 11, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Nikita Krylov (red gloves) fights Ryan Spahn (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Virgin Hotel. Mandatory credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
After illness forced him to cancel his originally scheduled main event with Ryan Spahn two weeks earlier, (autotag)Nikita Krylov(/autotag) made his return as the only live performance when he scored a first round submission To extend his winning streak to three matches.
The fight was booked at 215 pounds catchweight, so it technically does not count towards Krylov’s light heavyweight record. However, it still matters that we all know Spann is part of the 205-pound division, and has arrived with some momentum.
It seems like Krylov has been in the UFC forever, because he kind of has. He made his octagon debut in August 2013, and due to some poor performances in his past, he seems to have been consistently overlooked going into many of his bouts.
However, the time has come for everyone to wake up. Krylov has finished his opponent in the first round for 22 of his 29 career wins, and he seems to be overcoming some of his flaws and building on his strengths with each bout. Can he ever become champion? I don’t think the odds are in his favor, but in an open weight class like this where the belt is consistently a hot potato, it’s not impossible.
Friends still fight, says Dana White
It’s been a minute since we’ve had a teammate vs. teammate dynamic like the one going on between (autotag) Aljamen Sterling (/ autotag) and Main Event winner (autotag) Merab Dvilashvili (/ autotag) one sided domination Petr Yan’s.
There is a lot to be learned from the fight itself. Dvilashvili’s (16-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) conditioning and consistent approach were beyond impressive, and he seems to have a stronger “why” to win this one than Yan, even if you look at him to prepare a Don’t like logic. The beef between them pre-fight.
More compelling discussion, however, is the predicament Dvilashvili finds himself in now after recording his ninth consecutive win. Dvilashvili and Sterling (22-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC), who are both part of Team Serra-Longo and have spent years as each other’s primary training partners, were able to avoid getting serious about this conversation. There are walls, but the house has been there.
This is largely courtesy of UFC President Dana White, who put dvilashvili on notice after the fight. White said that if he was going to draw a line in the sand about not fighting Sterling, Davlishvili better think harder, stating that it would be a “really bad idea” that would be bad for him.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I know the ins and outs of Dvilashvili and Sterling’s relationship. Everything I’ve seen both on-camera and behind-the-scenes during the events is real. They consider each other as best friends.
In White’s opinion, Dvilashvili is doing nothing wrong in going behind Sterling’s belt and it should have zero impact on their relationship, but it rarely works out that way. It’s probably not worth the sacrifice for either side, and while he may be troubling White, he’s also jumping the gun.
This isn’t a real conversation yet, and that’s why White should sit on his hands for a while before expressing his frustration. First and foremost, Sterling has a scheduled title defense against Henry Cejudo on May 6 at UFC 288. If he loses, then this whole thing is wrong. If he wins, the UFC has already promised Sean O’Malley his next shot.
Considering that Sterling is capable of getting past O’Malley as well, as well as Dvilashvili’s chances of winning another fight in the meantime, it becomes all the more real. But it is not less than nine months to one year. Then the UFC would have to make an effort in good faith to actually book the matchup.
White may say whatever he wants about Dvalishvili’s position, but the fact is that he has not yet made a sincere effort to dissuade him from it. If all the pieces fall into place and we get to a point where Sterling vs. Dvilashvili is the only sensible title fight and neither man wants to switch divisions, as has been teased, then let’s see if the UFC takes those two makes a good enough offer that they are encouraged to give it more thought.
Until we get to that place, none of this other noise really matters.