- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
What mattered most at UFC on ESPN 21 in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight musings …
1. Derek Brunson deserves respect
[autotag]Derek Brunson[/autotag] may not have the most exciting style anymore, but this man knows how to win when he gets inside the octagon. He's proven that much to be true time and time again en route to what's now a four-fight winning streak after beating Kevin Holland by unanimous decision. Seemingly gone are the days of Brunson (22-7 MMA, 13-5 UFC) throwing caution to the wind. That approach once did get him four consecutive first-round knockouts, but it also led to his demise when he clashed with an opponent who knew how to evade his attacks and counter with accuracy. It's hard to counter any strikes when you're on your back, though, and in getting his hand raised Brunson landed six takedowns and logged nearly 17 minutes of ground control. Was it the most entertaining approach? No, it wasn't. But it was undeniably effective. Brunson has been finding ways to win since he joined the UFC roster in December 2012. His racked up 13 wins in the middleweight division, and at this point only Michael Bisping (16) and Anderson Silva (14) have more. That's fairly remarkable. Is Brunson going to be able to take this run all the way to UFC title? At 37, that seems like a tough task, especially when he's already lost to the top two of the division – champion Israel Adesanya and former champ Robert Whittaker – by first-round knockout. Brunson deserves to at least be in the discussion of title contention, though. And after winning his past three fights as the betting underdog, who are we to say it's impossible for him to get there? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY5ZM6L7yvk
2. Did 'Big Mouth' get too loud?
[autotag]Kevin Holland[/autotag] didn't win his main event. However, that didn't stop him from being the leading narrative coming out of the card because of his non-stop talking in the fight and between rounds. UFC president Dana White said post-fight that he thought Holland (21-6 MMA, 7-3 UFC) had a "mental breakdown" in the octagon, and likened the situation to boxer Oliver McCall's collapse in his rematch with Lennox Lewis in 1997. That seems like quite an excessive comparison given McCall started crying in the ring during the bout with Lewis and was hospitalized months later with a mental illness, but it's White's opinion. In fairness to White, he was cageside for Holland vs. Brunson. Perhaps he saw and heard things the cameras or microphones didn't pick up on during the broadcast that helped lead him to that analysis of Holland. Watching from home, though, it didn't seem like this was a man who was collapsing before our very eyes because the moment was just too much. Instead, it felt like Holland bought into his "Big Mouth" hype to an excessive degree, and turned it up to 100. The lead-up to the fight saw social media clips of Holland's previous in-fight talking go viral, and it may have entered his headspace to get more of those moments, and suddenly went overboard. There's also the fact that Holland's wrestling just wasn't where it needed to be against someone of Brunson's caliber. Holland definitely had opportunities to win this fight, especially when he hurt Brunson in the second round. It was frustrating to watch, because more patience and focus instead of constantly jawing might've changed the outcome. The balance of how Holland conducts himself in the octagon is something he'll have to reflect on, as it may prevent him from reaching his full potential. It already did in this fight. Holland made it clear post-fight that he has no intentions of changing his ways, and while that's all good if it's what he wants for himself, he should also know there's some who won't take him seriously. [listicle id=596912]
3. The wrong side of history
Coming into the event, [autotag]Cheyanne Buys[/autotag] and [autotag]JP Buys[/autotag] were looking to make history as the first married couple to get UFC wins on the same night. It went the opposite in reality, though. JP opened the night by taking a rough second-round TKO loss to Bruno Silva. A few hours later, he came to the octagon to corner his wife Cheyanne, who lost, as well, in being controlled by Montserrat Conejo to a unanimous decision, mostly via the headlock position. It wasn't the fairytale night the couple was no doubt hoping for. However, at least the silver lining they can take out of it is the unique experience of it all. Even though they both came out with losses, it's something they'll get as a memory for a lifetime. And perhaps they'll get a chance to redeem themselves down the line.
4. Macy Chiasson's improvements
[autotag]Macy Chiasson[/autotag]'s return to the octagon from a 13-month layoff was a triumphant one as she outpaced and outworked Marion Reneau to a unanimous decision. After winning "The Ultimate Fighter" and getting off to a 4-0 start in the octagon, Chiasson run into his first obstacle in Lina Lansberg back in September 2019. That fight showed the hype might've been a little too much at the moment, and she's only fought twice in the 18 months since. Chiasson beat Shanna Young back in February 2020, and now she's got through a tough, veteran name in Reneau. It wasn't the perfect performance, as she didn't get a finish and also lost a round, but it was one that afterwards saw Chiasson preach patience. That was definitely something noticeable in her performance, and showed Chiasson isn't just the over-aggressive fighter anymore that cost her a loss. If she can continue building on that under noted coach Sayif Saud at Fortis MMA, then good things are ahead. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IAWpMRz-yk
5. Grant Dawson's memorable move to 155
In the spirit of March Madness, [autotag]Grant Dawson[/autotag] hit a buzzer-beater for the ages when he TKO'd Leonardo Santos with just one-second remaining in the third round of a competitive lightweight fight. After starting his UFC run at featherweight, Dawson (17-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) decided to jump up to 155 pounds after some tough weight cuts and misses. He got no cake walk in his division debut, as he drew Santos (18-4-1 MMA, 7-1-1 UFC), who is 15 years his elder and had not lost since May 2009. It seemed at times that run might continue at Dawson's expense, but then the prospect left nothing to chance. Santos foolishly left his guard down in the closing seconds while Dawson was postured over him, and he was met with a flurry of ferocious hammerfists, ending the fight at the 4:59 mark of Round 3 to tie the record for second latest stoppage in a three-round UFC fight. It was a heck of a way for Dawson to introduce himself to a new division. But as he admitted post-fight, the performance showed he has much to work on. That's true if he wants to climb to the very top of the mountain, but being the first to beat Santos in more than a decade isn't a bad way to start. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdup4QIZPrk