It may not have been much of a card to support her, but Erin Blanchfield got the chance to shine in the main event of UFC Vegas 69, and she took it—submitting former strawweight champ Jessica Andrade via rear naked choke early in the second round. That’s really the only result of note on the night.
So, is there any reason Blanchfield should fight again before getting a crack at UFC gold? Is Alex Hernandez “back” yet? And is it time to give Mayra Bueno Silva a big step up in the bantamweight division?
To answer those questions—and pretty much only those questions—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
Short notice for Jessica Andrade be damned, this was a huge step forward for Erin Blanchfield just five years into her MMA career, and four fights into her time with the UFC. Andrade hasn’t been unbeatable, but the only fighters she’s ever lost to under 135 lbs have been champions. Given all that then, maybe it’s time to quell the feeling that Blanchfield is being given too much too soon.
In fact, among a contender field of Alexa Grasso, Manon Fiorot, and Taila Santos, it has to be noted that not one of those women have a win that is near as dominant over an opponent as high quality as Andrade. Finishing a former champ still well within her physical prime is a monumental feather in the cap for ‘Cold Blooded.’ It’s almost too bad that Grasso is set to fight for gold next month, because it’s clear who the division’s top contender is right now. Erin Blanchfield vs. the Shevchenko/Grasso winner is the fight we need to see.
Was being willing to jump straight into a main event against a top prospect on one-week’s notice the reason Jessica Andrade got a big new contract? Or was getting the big new contract the reason Jessica Andrade was willing to take this fight? I’m not sure of the answer, but I’m glad either way that ‘Bate Estaca’ got paid for her work. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to think that Andrade losing didn’t just rob us of the most interesting and high profile women’s strawweight title fight available.
Would the UFC be willing to give Andrade a rematch with Weili Zhang coming of this loss? It seems unlikely, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen something like it. Hell, Randy Couture won the light heavyweight belt off Chuck Liddell in 2003, off back-to-back heavyweight losses to Josh Barnett & Ricco Rodriguez. All things considered, I’ll say this makes for a better time to target the trilogy fight with Rose Namajunas, with a title shot on the line for the winner. Both women would have a strong claim to top contender status, even with just one victory.
A badly needed win for Alexander Hernandez, who has seemed to be in a constant state of rebuilding ever since Donald Cerrone put an old-man ass whoopin’ on him. To that end, this was the most convincing victory of his career since that loss to ‘Cowboy’; a truly hard-fought three round battle where he went through plenty of adversity, but dug deep to do damage of his own in every round. Are the problems that saw him lose to Renato Moicano and Billy Quarantillo gone? Probably not, but this win will get him more chances in the thick of the lightweight division to figure it all out. If Drakkar Klose is able to return from injury any time soon, he’s another guy who’s been trying to iron the kinks out of his game for a while now. If he’s not, then Nasrat Haqparast is exactly the right kind of fight for Hernandez to take next. Hernandez vs. Haqparast for the battle of exciting prospects still trying to live up to potential.
MAYRA BUENO SILVA
What’s it take for a woman bantamweight to get off the prelims? That’s three straight wins for Mayra Bueno Silva, including one Fight of the Night showing and now a Performance of the Night as well. She’s wild, fun to watch, and a born finisher from any position.
After the bout she called out everyone from Juliana Pena, Raquel Pennington, and Miesha Tate to Amanda Nunes herself. At the very least she deserves someone in the Tate-to-Santos, bottom half of the top 10 range. Of those options, Pannie Kianzad is the woman coming off a win (over Lansberg, no less) who doesn’t yet have another fight booked. Silva vs. Kianzad is just the kind of booking that could push the Brazilian into the contender’s circle if she can get the W there.
It was hard not to feel like Jamall Emmers was getting overlooked heading into Saturday night. Khusein Askhabov had the kind of record and the kind of pedigree that gets a lot of attention; a clear physical force with a love of violent aggression that Emmers would have to be perfectly on point to survive. The thing is, while it’s happened quietly and with its share of setbacks, Emmers’ game really has improved a lot over the years into a very high-level veteran style. That’s what showed up in the Octagon this weekend, and left Askhabov flailing against a brick wall of Emmers’ defensively responsible counter-punching, wrestling, and forward pressure. The result is a big win for the Pinnacle MMA talent, one that may have even saved his UFC career. As a 33-year-old with tons of experience and a difficult style to crack, just about any fight outside the top 15 would make sense right now. So, I’ll go ahead and say a booking against Andre Fili would be a ton of fun. Throw the man into deeper waters, see if he can swim to the top.
This is the kind of performance the UFC had to be hoping for when they brought Philipe Lins over from the PFL after his million-dollar tournament winning 2018 run. Lins has had 10 cancelled bookings since then, and just four bouts in the Octagon, but seems thoroughly revitalized down at 205 lbs. OSP may not be the fighter he once was, but it was on ‘Monstro’ to prove as much. Which he did, walking through the former interim title contender in under a minute. Khalil Rountree is just coming off a pretty surprising win over Dustin Jacoby from last October, that seems like exactly the kind of test for Lins to see if he can break into the light heavyweight rankings going forward. Rountree vs. Lins would be a ‘don’t blink’ war.
OTHER BOUTS: Zac Pauga vs. Aleksa Camur, Jordan Wright vs. William Knight, Jamal Pogues vs. Mohammed Usman, Josh Parisian vs. Buday/Collier loser, Marcin Prachnio vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu, Jim Miller vs. John Makdessi, Nazim Sadykhov vs. Maheshate, Evan Elder vs. Mike Breeden, Lina Lansberg vs. Julija Stoliarenko, Khusein Askhabov vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan, Ovince St. Preux vs. Alexander Gustafsson, AJ Fletcher vs. Josh Quinlan, Themba Gorimbo vs. Yusaku Kinoshita, Clayton Carpenter vs. Hyun Sung Park, Juancamilo Ronderos vs. Shannon Ross