It seems as if the jury is in on 23-year-old Erin Blanchfield and the verdict is that she is ready to face the top of the UFC women’s flyweight division.
Blanchfield has yet to do anything but win since she joined the UFC in September 2021. The former Invicta FC competitor moved to 5-0 with her second-round submission win over former UFC women’s strawweight champion Jessica Andrade in the main event of UFC Vegas 69. Known for her submission skills, Blanchfield showed growth and confidence in her striking game before she locked up a rear-naked choke to end Andrade’s night at the 1:37 mark of the second round.
Following her victory, Blanchfield called for the winner of the upcoming matchup between flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso. That bout takes place on March 4 and the UFC should strongly consider Blanchfield as the next 125-pound title challenger.
Before the main event, UFC Vegas 69’s main card delivered three straight lackluster bouts, which was disappointing because the main card opener, a lightweight scrap between Jim Miller and Alexander Hernandez, was a bout worthy of consideration for “Fight of the Night” honors.
Read on for the winners and losers from UFC Vegas 69, which took place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and streamed on ESPN+.
Erin Blanchfield: Erin Blanchfield made her UFC debut in September 2021. Since then, she has fought — and defeated — progressively tougher opponents. During that time I’ve been beating the drum that the UFC matchmakers had no reason to rush her up the flyweight ranks because of her age. My thinking was — and I stress WAS — that at 23, the UFC should give the young up-and-comer time to mature and develop. However, following her submission win over Jessica Andrade in the main event of Saturday’s fight card, it’s time for me to put that opinion to rest.
Blanchfield looked excellent in defeating the favored Andrade, who was coming off a one-sided shellacking of Lauren Murphy in January. Blanchfield’s striking was on point during the first round of Saturday’s scrap and once she got the takedown in the second round, she wasted no time in becoming the first woman in nearly seven years to defeat Andrade via submission.
I don’t know where Blanchfield’s ceiling will be in the UFC’s flyweight division, but I’m fairly certain it is far higher than her current spot as the No. 10 ranked fighter in the official UFC flyweight rankings.
Marcin Prachnio: Marcin Prachnio’s game plan to kick the hell out of William Knight’s legs paid dividends, as he coasted to a win after landing 63 significant leg strikes.
Jim Miller vs. Alexander Hernandez: Jim Miller had success early with his pressure and striking, but as the fight wore on, Alexander Hernandez was able to use Miller’s pressure and aggression against him and that allowed Hernandez to take over the fight. To Miller’s credit, he never took his foot off the gas, which might have been to his detriment, but Miller, throughout his long UFC career, has always been a fighter who looks for a finish as we found out when he nearly found the submission in the closing seconds of the third round.
As for Hernandez, he needed this win to help his confidence. He performed well in a tough fight and dealt with adversity without folding.
Nazim Sadykhov vs. Evan Elder: This was a good lightweight scrap to close out the prelims. Nazim Sadykhov and Evan Elder put on a fast-paced striking battle. Sadykhov appeared to be the more powerful striker, but Elder’s ability to use angles to limit Sadykhov’s ability to find counters was impressive.
The fight ended with a nasty cut in a bad location above Elder’s eyebrow. With that outcome, I wouldn’t be against the UFC matchmakers running this one back at a later date.
Cageside doctor: The cageside doctor who did not hesitate to stop the Nazim Sadykhov vs. Evan Elder matchup deserves credit for making the right call. That cut was in a horrible spot. Had the fight continued, any strike landing above Elder’s right eye would have only exacerbated the damage.
Mayra Bueno Silva: The biggest favorite on the UFC Vegas 69 fight card, Mayra Bueno Silva cruised to a submission win over Lina Lansberg. The 31-year-old is on a three-fight winning streak since she moved back to 135 pounds.
Bueno Silva is confident on her feet and patient and a scary fighter on the mat. After her win, she called for a top-ranked opponent. Her victory over the No. 12 ranked Lansberg was not competitive. With that, if Bueno Silva is up for a big test, the UFC should give it to her.
Jamall Emmers: Despite being inactive since August 2021, Jamall Emmers outworked and outclassed the favored Khusein Askhabov in their featherweight scrap.
Philipe Lins: Philip Lins stunned Ovince Saint Preux with the first strike he attempted in their light heavyweight scrap. That straight left opened the door for Lins to pressure his opponent with a flurry of strikes. Lins never gave Saint Preux the time and space he needed to recover from that left or mount any defense. The best way to describe Lins’ first-round knockout win would be to call it a thrashing.
With his first-round knockout win, the 2018 PFL heavyweight tournament winner moved to 2-2 in the UFC. Lins has back-to-back UFC victories since he moved to LHW with the promotion.
A.J. Fletcher: A.J. Fletcher carried an 0-2 record into his UFC Vegas 69 prelim bout opposite Themba Gorimbo. Fletcher was well prepared for his opponent’s style, using an elbow to set up a submission win in the second round.
As an added bonus, Fletcher’s first UFC win came on his 26th birthday.
Clayton Carpenter: Clayton Carpenter looked confident in his striking early in his flyweight matchup against Juancamilo Ronderos. He didn’t lose any of that self-assurance when the fight went to the ground. While on his back, Carpenter looked for a triangle choke, an armbar and then when a swept led him to top position, Carpenter secured a body lock and the fight-finishing rear-naked choke.
The 26-year-old Carpenter is a young and solid 125-poinder, but he faced an overmatched opponent in this matchup. I don’t think the UFC needs to rush Carpenter up the flyweight ranks, but he deserves a more experienced UFC opponent in his next outing.
As far as UFC debuts go, Carpenter’s was excellent.
Laura Sanko: In her first color commentary gig on a UFC card that didn’t take place in the middle of the night, Laura Sanko avoided the fate of some of the promotion’s other commentary team members — saying something that took away from the broadcast. While some UFC commentators try to hard to be funny, show that they don’t understand the scoring criteria or let viewers know they did very little research before an event, Sanko avoided those traps. She was well prepared and worked well with her partners at this event, Paul Felder and Brendan Fitzgerald. Sanko deserves to be in the regular rotation of UFC color commentators.
Jessica Andrade: The favored fighter in the main event, Jessica Andrade looked either unprepared or unconcerned with the striking of her opponent, Erin Blanchfield. Perhaps Andrade’s performance against Lauren Murphy in January gave her a false sense of superiority. Whatever the case, Andrade squandered an opportunity to put herself in the title picture at 125 pounds with her submission loss to Blanchfield at UFC Vegas 69.
William Knight: William Knight might have cost himself his UFC job in losing on Saturday. Knight had no answer — and seemingly didn’t attempt to find one — in losing to a man with a history of racking up leg kicks.
Knight left Las Vegas with three consecutive defeats.
Khusein Askhabov: I’m probably not the only one disappointed in the UFC debut of Khusein Askhabov, who entered UFC Vegas 69 with a 23-0 record. I don’t think Askhabov should be written off, but he needs a big bounce-back performance in his next outing.
Ovince Saint Preux: UFC veteran Ovince Saint Preux dropped to 1-3 with the UFC since December 2020 with a knockout loss to Philipe Lins. All three of those losses have come by way of knockout. The only strike Saint Preux landed was an early leg kick.
Juancamilo Ronderos: Juancamilo Ronderos was 4-0 before he joined the UFC as a short-notice fighter in May 2021. All of those wins came with the Warrior Wednesday promotion in 2019. On Saturday, Ronderos fell to 0-2 in the UFC with two first-round rear-naked choke losses. It will be a surprise to see Ronderos, who turned 28 on weigh-in day for UFC Vegas 69, get a third opportunity to step into the octagon.
UFC: I know the UFC and its boosters like to claim that fight cards like UFC Vegas 69 — which is to say low on recognizable names — “always” deliver. That sounds great, but when the majority of UFC Fight Night cards fall into that category as of late, a maybe isn’t enough to tune into ESPN+ (nearly) every weekend. I’d be surprised if many hardcore fans are weighing the opportunity cost of these events and deciding that watching every UFC Apex event is not worth the time, at least not live.
In short, the UFC needs to concentrate on improving the quality of its fight cards.
UFC matchmakers: Sandwiching two light heavyweight fights and a heavyweight scrap between the main card opener and the main event was not the best way to keep fans engaged and interested in UFC Vegas 69.