UFC Vegas 26:
UFC Vegas 26 (also known as UFC on ESPN 24) took place this evening inside the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas—but the final version of the card had some late alterations to it in the final day before showtime.
Fights Called Off:
Originally slated to be a 12-fight card, the final version of this event had its slate trimmed to nine bouts after three fights on the card were postponed, including one postponement on fight day:
Ben Rothwell vs. Philipe Lins [Heavyweight]- postponed after Lins took ill.
Ryan Benoit vs. Zarrukuh Adashev [Flyweight]- postponed after Benoit failed to make weight, with Benoit struggling to keep his balance on attempts to make weight.
Amanda Ribas vs. Angela Hill [Strawweight]- postponed after Ribas entered COVID-19 protocol due to a positive virus test.
In the case of Ribas vs. Hill, the UFC is currently aiming to reschedule the bout for an upcoming event.
Of the nine bouts which made up the reduced card, three ended in stoppages, resulting in a stoppage rate of 33.3 percent on the evening.
Since Jan. 16, the UFC has now presented 182 fights, with 78 ending in stoppages, resulting in a 42.8 percent stoppage rate for the promotion.
Dating back to Jan. 15, Sports Drink has now seen 407 MMA fights, with 209 ending in stoppages, making for a 51.3 percent stoppage rate all told.
The Fights Themselves:
Christian Aguilera vs. Carlston Harris:
Only three prelims took place on Saturday night, beginning with this Welterweight fixture between Christian Aguilera (14-8) and Carlston Harris (16-4), which got started at just past 6:30 p.m. ET.
Although both men were level in strikes for as long as this fight lasted, Harris was able to zero in on an anaconda choke, forcing Aguilera to tap out inside the first round for the first stoppage of the night.
Co-Featured Prelim: Junyong Park vs. Tafon Nchukwi:
Your co-featured prelim took place in the UFC’s Middleweight ranks as Junyong Park (13-4) took on Tafon Nchukwi (5-1).
This one started out as a stand-up battle, with each man matching his opponent’s efforts nearly shot-for-shot.
Nchukwi delivered an illegal blow (groin shot) late in the opening round, but it was ruled as an accidental, unintentional foul by the official, with Park allowed five minutes to recover, as is standard procedure for any illegal blow, yet he was able to continue.
Park landed the crisper shots throughout the opening round, but Nchukwi responded late with a kick to the body.
Unfortunately, he was the victim to a second groin shot from Nchukwi in as many rounds during round two, resulting in another pause of up to five minutes for Park to recover.
Upon further review, referee Chris Tognoni deducted a point from Nchukwi’s column on the scorecard amid the second foul, meaning that Nchukwi would need a finish in the rest of the fight to win.
Nchukwi responded by trying to dump Park for a takedown but Park was able to fight it off.
Park nearly locked in a guillotine choke at the death of round two, only for Tafon Nchukwi to be saved by the horn.
In round three, with Nchukwi needing a finish to win the fight, Park dumped him and secured ride time from top control—followed by a second takedown later in the round, taking mount and landing ground and pound shots to soften Nchukwi up for a possible submission.
He continued to rain down shots, including elbow strikes, down the stretch, bloodying Nchukwi in the process.
In short, Park did everything but land the finish in round three, giving him a much deserved victory on the scorecards after 15 minutes (majority decision,) with one of the three judges calling this fight a draw, while the other two judges scored in Park’s favor.
I could easily just say that Tafon Nchukwi lost the match after the second groin shot—but I won’t.
Junyong Park’s fortunes turned for the better after the second groin shot of the match in round two.
When a fighter falls victim to two low blows in two rounds, he has to make his opponent pay for striking him below the belt.
The price tag that Junyong Park gave Tafon Nchukwi read these three simple words:
PAID IN FULL.
Featured Prelim: Ludovit Klein vs. Michael Trizano:
Your featured undercard bout pitted Featherweights Ludovit Klein (17-3) and Michael Trizano (9-1) against one another.
The movement of both fighters told the story in the first round, as although Klein was able to be the aggressor in the early going, Trizano took a more patient approach for his offensive prowess, faking him out with the occasional strike attempt to throw Klein off with timing.
Klein was able to establish separation after scoring a takedown of Trizano late in the opening round—and dumped him again late in round two, with Trizano landing some body shots as the round closed.
Trizano and Klein traded vicious shots at the start of round three, with Trizano scoring a jab to set up another right-handed punch.
He attempted a mounted guillotine late in the round but Klein was saved by the horn before he could lock it in.
Michael Trizano took this fight (unanimous decision) after 15 minutes to close out the undercard.
Phil Hawes vs. Kyle Daukaus:
Main card action at UFC Vegas 26 began with this Middleweight contest between Phil Hawes (11-2) and Kyle Daukaus (10-2).
This was a grappling fight in the first round as Daukaus took top position after a Hawes takedown—where the latter attempted a submission.
Later on in the round, the fighters took to the clinch, where they stayed for a good chunk of the period.
Hawes began round two by stunning Daukaus with a combo that hurt him, with Daukaus recovering and taking this fight to the clinch, scoring with a combination afterward.
Later in round two, Hawes stunned Daukaus again with a right-handed shot.
By this point, the viewers watching at home just knew that Hawes was hunting for a knockout, although his effort was tempered by a low blow and a pause to allow Daukaus to recover.
During round three, the contest turned back into a grappling match with Hawes taking top position and landing ground and pound shots to try to soften Daukaus up for a possible submission—strikes which really added up as Hawes was outpacing Daukaus by more than a 2-to-1 clip by fight’s end.
In a recurring theme on this card, this fight went to the scorecards after 15 minutes of action—with Phil Hawes scoring the unanimous decision.
No. 12 contender Diego Ferreira vs. No. 14 contender Gregor Gillespie:
Your first all-ranked matchup of the card took place at Lightweight between 12th-ranked Diego Ferreira (17-4) and 14th-ranked Gregor Gillespie (13-1).
Gillespie scored three takedowns in the opening round, a period where both men created their own highlights.
A tired Gillespie scored his fourth takedown of the fight in round two, taking top position against Ferreira, eventually taking back mount and peppering him with ground and pound shots.
He continued to rain down these shots from top mount to finish Ferreira in the second round for the second stoppage of the evening.
It should be noted, however, that Gillespie exceeded the Lightweight nontitle maximum weight by 4 ½ lbs., and was thus ineligible for any post-fight bonuses on Saturday.
Maurice Greene vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima:
Just a single Heavyweight fight took place on Saturday night in the third main card bout between Maurice Greene (9-7) and Marcos Rogerio de Lima (18-7-1).
This was also the final fight on the card without a ranked competitor.
The fight started with a flurry of strikes from both men, but de Lima quickly outpaced Greene with strikes and took him down.
Greene attempted a submission hold on de Lima, who used his defense to shut the attempt down.
From there, de Lima banked north of three minutes of ground control on top position to give him the opening round.
More of the same occurred in round two, but de Lima landed an illegal punch after the horn to end the period—with referee Herb Dean admonishing him.
Round three featured (you guessed it) another de Lima takedown and more ground control on top position.
Due to prolonged inactivity, Dean finally stood Greene and de Lima up, but this fight was clearly in the latter’s ledger, with de Lima taking it (unanimous decision.)
No. 9 contender Neil Magny vs. No. 10 contender Geoff Neal:
A Welterweight doubleheader preceded your main event—starting with ninth-ranked Neil Magny (25-8) and 10th-ranked Geoff Neal (13-4).
Magny outpaced Neal in round one, with Neal taking Magny down in the second round of the scheduled three, when he picked up the pace.
Overall, Magny outpaced Neal through the first two rounds, landing 58 total strikes to Neal’s 23 as round three began.
During round three, it was abundantly evident that Magny was outclassing Neal, finishing the fight by banking another takedown and winning by unanimous decision.
Co-Main Event: No. 15 contender Donald Cerrone vs. Alex Morono:
The second half of the Welterweight twin-bill took place here in your co-main event as 15th-ranked Donald Cerrone (36-16, two no-contests) battled Alex Morono (19-7).
Morono outpaced Cerrone in round one, bloodying his nose at one point, with Morono landing a nasty right-handed punch to set up a flurry of shots to end the fight (first-round TKO) for the third stoppage of the night.
Main Event: No. 6 contender Marina Rodriguez vs. No. 9 contender Michelle Waterson:
Your final act of UFC Vegas 26 saw a Women’s Flyweight main attraction between sixth-ranked Marina Rodriguez (14-1) and ninth-ranked Michelle Waterson (18-9).
Rodriguez took advantage of Waterson in the early going, outpacing her 7-3 in strikes in the first couple of minutes.
It was exclusively a stand-up battle in round one, with Rodriguez being the aggressor.
She kept up this pace throughout the second round, outlanding Waterson 62-38.
Rodriguez started the third round by landing a serious head kick to Waterson, along with a body shot and a flurry of strikes.
Another flurry of strikes to Waterson followed at the end of the round.
Waterson landed a takedown in round four, taking top mount and landing ground and pound shots, but Rodriguez led the fight going into the fifth and final round.
Round five saw the fight return to a stand-up battle, with each fighter emptying the tank.
After 25 minutes, this main event went to the cards, with Marina Rodriguez winning by unanimous decision.