What were the key takeaways from UFC on ESPN 52 in Austin, Texas? Here are some post-fight thoughts.
5. The Slam Knockout Night
The awe-inspiring moments in MMA never cease to amaze, even after more than a decade of dedicated coverage. This was evident on Saturday night when we witnessed something truly unique. Drakkar Klose and Cody Brundage each secured slam knockout victories in consecutive fights. This is a rare occurrence in UFC history, with the only other instance of multiple slam knockouts in a year dating back to 2001.
Deciding who executed it better is tough. Both knockouts happened within eight seconds of each other in the first round, which is astonishing. However, Klose’s victory stands out. He impressively escaped an armbar attempt and immediately incapacitated Joe Solecki with a clean finish.
Brundage’s performance was also remarkable. His victory, reminiscent of “Rampage” Jackson’s famous finish over Ricardo Arona in PRIDE, involved escaping a triangle choke with a slam, followed by several punches. Adding to the emotion, Brundage revealed his grandfather’s death during the fight, making his win even more poignant.
Those who witnessed these 30 minutes of the card live experienced something extraordinary, a feat that may not be repeated in our lifetime.
4. Miesha Tate’s Classic Performance
Miesha Tate impressively turned back the clock with a dominant performance against Julia Avila, marking her first submission victory since her memorable title win over Holly Holm in 2016.
Unlike the fight with Holm, where Tate had to mount a miraculous comeback, her bout against Avila showcased her dominance from start to finish. Tate quickly established control in each round with early takedowns, not giving Avila any chance to gain momentum. She overwhelmed Avila in the first and second rounds, and despite the possibility of winning by decision, Tate displayed a killer instinct to secure a finish.
It was refreshing to witness Tate’s heightened intensity in her performance. However, it doesn’t immediately suggest that, at 37 years old, she’s ready to regain the championship title. We should remember that Avila was returning from a long break and dealing with a serious injury. Even without those challenges, Avila hasn’t shown herself to be a top contender in the women’s bantamweight division.
Tate’s future prospects hinge on her maintaining this high level of performance in her next fights. Consistent excellence could change the outlook on her capabilities at this point in her career.
3. Sean Brady’s Impressive Comeback
Sean Brady faced over a year of criticism after being defeated by Belal Muhammad. Still, he made a powerful statement in October 2022, proving that his first career loss was merely a minor setback. He completely dominated Kelvin Gastelum and secured a third-round submission victory.
Before making Gastelum tap with a late-fight kimura, Brady (16-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) effectively used his grappling skills to control the bout and create opportunities for a finish. It was an impressive performance and a significant way to bounce back from the loss to Muhammad.
Determining exactly where Brady stands in the upper tier of the welterweight division is a challenge. Gastelum is known for his inconsistency among top-level fighters, and it’s uncertain how the weight cut back down to 170 pounds may have affected him. Nonetheless, Brady’s victory was undeniably a promising sign for his future.
With this victory, Brady has undoubtedly positioned himself for a matchup against a top-10 contender in the welterweight division.
2. Kerry Hatley’s Controversial Stoppage Decision
Kerry Hatley undoubtedly deserves to face the backlash and criticism following his questionable decision to allow Bobby Green to endure a severe beating from Jalin Turner before finally calling for a stoppage in the co-main event.
The situation was genuinely uncomfortable to witness, and it’s hard to argue against the assertion that it ranks among the most egregious referee errors we’ve witnessed in recent history, if not ever. Will he be penalized by the athletic commission in Texas or any other jurisdiction he’s planned to work for in the future? Probably not. And there is no aggressive call for such penalties either.
The immediate reaction to Hatley’s perplexing call appeared entirely justified. It was reassuring to hear UFC CEO Dana White express remorse after the fight, and it can be assumed that’s the minimum one can expect at this point. However, one can only hope that this remorse is genuine and that Hatley remains vigilant in his officiating duties to prevent such lapses.
The only way Hatley has managed to gain any level of goodwill in this situation is due to the fact that Green, based on all indications, appears to be in good condition. He was able to get up and leave the octagon without assistance, and he sounded quite coherent in a social media post a few hours after the fight. The discussion would have taken a completely different turn if the situation had taken a more severe turn, potentially even resulting in a fatal outcome.
In light of this, Hatley should appreciate his fortunate outcome and engage in sincere introspection regarding his decision-making during that moment.
1. Arman Tsarukyan’s Arrival
Arman Tsarukyan’s recent comments about Bobby Green may have tarnished his reputation with fans, but setting that aside, his knockout victory over Beneil Dariush is undeniably significant for his career. This performance has showcased the potential many have long seen in Tsarukyan.
Despite some less impressive showings in the past, Tsarukyan’s recent victory suggests he’s elevating his game to match the elite in the lightweight division. This also casts his 2018 loss to Islam Makhachev, which occurred on short notice when Tsarukyan was just 22, in a more favorable light.
The challenge now for Tsarukyan is finding top-ranked opponents willing to face him. While Dariush accepted the fight, it’s uncertain whether fighters like Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, or Mateusz Gamrot (for a rematch) would agree to compete against him.
There’s the possibility of the UFC propelling Tsarukyan directly into a title fight with Makhachev. Still, it’s doubtful Makhachev would see this as a more appealing option than facing Charles Oliveira or Justin Gaethje.
Tsarukyan’s situation is complex, and how the UFC will handle his next matchup remains to be seen. It would be disappointing if he had to settle for a lesser-ranked opponent after such a notable victory.
To find additional information about the card, please visit our event hub for UFC on ESPN 52.
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