Originally published at UFC Fight Night Report: Max Holloway defeats Yair Rodriguez by decision
UFC Fight Night Report: Max Holloway defeats Yair Rodriguez by decision
By: Eric Marcotte
The UFC returned to the Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday afternoon, for their first Fight Night event of the month. The main event featured a high-profile matchup at featherweight, with the division’s former champion, Max Holloway, facing Yair Rodriguez, who was returning from a two-year absence. Despite no longer holding the championship, Holloway remains one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and following his masterful performance against Calvin Kattar, a win against Rodriguez would certainly put a third fight against Alexander Volkanovski within reach. The implications for a Rodriguez win here were largely the same, as a victory over Max Holloway would all but guarantee Rodriguez a shot at the championship. The co-main event featured a bout in the heavyweight division, with Ben Rothwell facing Marcos Rogério de Lima.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Brendan Fitzgerald, Michael Bisping, and Paul Felder. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Khaos Williams and Andrea Lee. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez.
*Da Un Jung def. Kennedy Nzechukwu by KO at 3:04 of Round 1
*Rafael Alves def. Marc Diakiese by guillotine choke at 1:48 of Round 1
*Cortney Casey def. Liana Jojua by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Sean Woodson def. Collin Anglin by TKO at 4:30 of Round 1
*Andrea Lee def. Cynthia Calvillo by TKO at 5:00 of Round 2
*Joel Alvarez def. Thiago Moises by TKO at 3:01 of Round 1
*Yadong Song def. Julio Arce by TKO at 1:35 of Round 2
*Khaos Williams def. Miguel Baeza by TKO at 1:02 of Round 3
*Felica Spencer def. Leah Letson by TKO at 4:25 of Round 3
*Marcos Rogerio De Lima def. Ben Rothwell by TKO at 0:32 of Round 1
*Max Holloway def. Yair Rodriguez by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)
KENNEDY NZECHUKWU (9-1, 205) VS DA UN JUNG (14-2-1, 204.5) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
These guys were just standing right in front of each other, throwing strong singular shots around the other’s guard. Jung was connecting at a higher rate here, and eventually, he rocked Nzechukwu badly with an elbow. Jung recognized that Nzechukwu was hurt, and he proceeded to just march forward, throwing elbow after elbow, until Nzechukwu finally went down, unconscious.
WINNER: Da Un Jung by KO at 3:04 of Round 1
As the commentary team repeatedly mentioned, Nzechukwu has often been a slow starter in his fights, and Jung did not give him the time to get comfortable here. Once that first elbow found its way through Nzechukwu’s guard, Jung just kept throwing it, and the finish came moments later. Jung clearly has some serious power, with this marking his 11th career knockout. Da Un Jung is now 4-0-1 in the UFC.
MARC DIAKIESE (14-4, 156) VS RAFAEL ALVES (19-10, 155) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Alves caught Diakiese with a kick that landed low, just seconds into the fight. After the fight resumed, Alves knocked Diakiese back with a jab, threw a flying knee, and then proceeded to lock in a guillotine choke as Diakiese attempted a takedown. The submission was locked in tight, and Diakiese quickly tapped out.
WINNER: Rafael Alves by guillotine choke at 1:48 of Round 1
This was a bit of a strange fight, with Diakiese refusing to touch gloves at the beginning, the low blow seconds into it, the quick finish, and then finally, Alves picked up the doctor in celebration afterward. Alves talked about sleeping on a park bench, and sparring partners filming his training footage and sending it to Diakiese’s camp after the fight, so there was clearly a lot going on here. Despite all the oddities in this short fight, this was an impressive finish for Alves, who immediately capitalized after stunning Diakiese with that jab. Alves is now 1-1 in the UFC.
CORTNEY CASEY (9-9, 125) VS LIANA JOJUA (8-4, 128.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Jojua missed weight by 2.5lbs and was fined 30% of her purse.
Casey landed a front kick up the middle, as well as a quick one-two early in the first round. Casey was finding a home for her right hand repeatedly, and the effects of the shots were beginning to show on Jojua’s face. Jojua did not find a ton of success throughout this round, but secured a takedown late, ending the round in top position. 10-9 Casey.
The second round was a slower-paced version of round one. Casey was still landing the better shots but wasn’t throwing with the power she was in the previous round either. Jojua had moments in which she was able to back Casey up, but just didn’t seem to know what to do at that point. Once again, Jojua ended the round with a takedown, but too little, too late. 20-18 Casey.
Jojua’s corner told her she needed a finish to win this fight, which was accurate advice in my mind. Unfortunately, she didn’t really fight with any more fire in this final round, and when she did shoot for another takedown, Casey was able to defend the attempt. Casey landed more strikes throughout this final round, and I scored the bout 30-27 in her favor.
WINNER: Cortney Casey by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Honestly, there isn’t too much to break down from this one. Casey was clearly the better striker, and Jojua just looked lost on the feet at times. Jojua was able to take Casey down almost at will but only attempted a handful throughout the fight, largely towards the final seconds of each round, long after they would have any value. Casey improved to 6-8 in the UFC with this win, snapping a two-fight string of losses.
SEAN WOODSON (8-1, 145.5) VS COLLIN ANGLIN (8-2, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Woodson had a huge advantage in height and reach, so Anglin really had to work to find his way inside. Woodson attacked the legs of Anglin while working his jab to keep Anglin at range. He dug into the body as well, and the work paid off by the final minute of the round, hurting Anglin with a combination of body shots against the cage. Anglin held on for as long as he could, but Woodson just kept attacking the body with combinations, and eventually, Anglin collapsed to the ground, ending the fight.
WINNER: Sean Woodson by TKO at 4:30 of Round 1
Woodson’s bodywork was beautiful here. After chipping away at Anglin with leg kicks and a consistent jab, Woodson realized that Anglin wasn’t reacting well to his body shots, and he just zeroed in on the body, constantly attacking it in combination. Woodson’s frame gives him a significant advantage over almost every featherweight, and he used those advantages to perfection here. Woodson has been solid throughout his UFC run, but I think that this was his most impressive performance yet. He is now 3-1 in the promotion.
CYNTHIA CALVILLO (9-3-1, 126) VS ANDREA LEE (12-5, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Both fighters were working their jabs early. Calvillo was attacking the body as well, while mixing in the occasional hard right hand up top. Calvillo occasionally threatened takedown attempts, and while she wasn’t successful in bringing the fight to the ground here, the threat was giving Lee something to think about. Lee and Calvillo were both landing at a pretty high rate, which resulted in both fighters bleeding from the nose by the end of this round. I gave the edge in round one to Lee, who outlanded Calvillo throughout the round while doing a bit more damage in my eyes.
Lee connected with a strong series of shots to the body to begin round two, which Calvillo didn’t react to well. Lee landed a strong left hand, as well as an uppercut. It felt as though Lee was pulling away with the round, but she threw a right hand that appeared to injure her hand upon connection, which slowed her down a bit. Despite the potential injury, Lee remained a step ahead of Calvillo on the feet, and Calvillo was looking rough by the end of the round.
Before the start of round three, Calvillo told referee Mark Smith that she was done, and the fight was stopped between rounds.
WINNER: Andrea Lee by TKO at 5:00 of Round 2
It is not often that you see the fighter ask for the bout to be stopped, but Calvillo recognized her limits here, which is a difficult thing to do in this sport. Lee looked great throughout this fight, and while I wouldn’t say this was by any means an uncompetitive bout, Lee was really pulling away with it as the fight was progressing. Not long ago, Lee was on a three-fight streak of losses, and it felt as though she may have reached her ceiling in the division, but this dominant win against the five-ranked Cynthia Calvillo will likely move her right into contendership status at flyweight. Lee now has a record of 5-3 in the UFC.
THIAGO MOISES (15-5, 155) VS JOEL ALVAREZ (18-2, 157.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Alvarez missed weight by 1.5lbs and was fined 30% of his purse.
Alvarez connected with a knee to the body, as well as a heavy calf kick to begin the fight. Moises responded with a heavy right hand, which prompted Alvarez to pressure forward. Alvarez threw a series of right elbows that backed Moises into the cage, before catching him with a head kick. Alvarez was really putting a beating on Moises here, just hitting him with shot after shot against the cage, and Moises could only take so much before referee Mark Goddard came in to stop the fight.
WINNER: Joel Alvarez by TKO at 3:01 of Round 1
While back-to-back weight misses are a bad look, this was a fantastic performance from Alvarez, and I think that will overshadow his troubles making weight. I can’t remember a time in which Moises just got steamrolled like this, and this was unquestionably the strongest win of Alvarez’s career thus far. He looked as though he was about two weight classes bigger than Moises, so if making 155lbs is a problem for him, I don’t think he would be at any sort of size disadvantage if he were to move up to 170lbs. Alvarez is now 4-1 in the UFC, and he has picked up stoppages in all nineteen of his professional wins.
YADONG SONG (17-5-1, 1 NC, 135.5) VS JULIO ARCE (17-4, 135.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Song was really loading up with some powerful shots, but to Arce’s credit, Arce was dodging the majority of these big hooks with ease. Both fighters were having a bit of difficulty finding their range, however, when he did connect, it was Song who was landing the better shots. 10-9 Song on my scorecard.
Early in round two, Song caught Arce with a head kick and a right hand that froze him on the spot, and Song just went on the attack, throwing wild hooks at Arce until he collapsed against the cage.
WINNER: Yadong Song by TKO at 1:35 of Round 2
This was largely an even-paced fight, however, it was Song who was landing with more power, and he kept throwing that head kick out there until eventually, it landed with enough force to hurt Arce. It was a smart fight from Song, who has largely impressed in the UFC, especially when you take into account his age (23), and the insane level of talent in the UFC at bantamweight. Song is now 8-1-1 in the promotion, and I imagine he’ll be fighting up in the rankings for his next bout.
MIGUEL BAEZA (10-1, 170.5) VS KHAOS WILLIAMS (12-2, 169) – WELTERWEIGHT
Williams was swinging for the fences whenever he let his hands go in the early goings of this fight. Baeza continuously circled the cage, avoiding Williams’s power, but that hesitance didn’t last for long. Baeza finally threw a left hand that got William’s attention, and they proceeded to just throw bombs at each other until they ultimately reset. Williams knocked Baeza’s leg out from under him with a leg kick, but when he tried to capitalize on the moment, Baeza grabbed a leg and started hunting for a leg lock. Baeza was close to finishing it multiple times throughout the remainder of the round, but Williams was able to keep Baeza from fully extending the knee, and landed some solid ground and pound strikes before the round ended. Close round.
A low blow to Baeza brought a momentary pause to the fight. The action resumed, and Baeza landed a number of leg kicks that were clearly having an effect on Williams. Both fighters were throwing some heavy punches whenever they met in the pocket, but it was tough to say which man was getting the better of these exchanges. Baeza defended a takedown late in the round but got caught by another knee that landed low in the process. He was able to continue, and the round reached its end.
Baeza committed to a pair of leg kicks early in round three, but Williams exploded with a flurry of wild hooks, and a right caught Baeza clean, knocking him down hard. Referee Chris Tognoni quickly moved in to stop the fight.
WINNER: Khaos Williams by TKO at 1:02 of Round 3
Baeza protested the stoppage, but I thought this was the right call by Chris Tognoni. Baeza was right to attack the lead leg of Williams, which was giving him trouble by that point in the fight, but he just overcommitted and got caught by a flurry of hooks in the process. Both of these guys are typically entertaining fighters, and while this wasn’t the craziest fight in terms of activity, I thought this was another fun one. Williams improved to 4-1 in the UFC with this win.
FELICIA SPENCER (8-3, 145.5) VS LEAH LETSON (5-1, 145) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Spencer immediately put the pressure on Letson, backing her into the cage. Letson was able to keep on her feet, but spent a significant portion of this round with her back to the cage. With just over a minute remaining in the round, Letson was finally able to get off of the fence, but she ate a number of elbows, and Spencer pushed her right back into position.
Letson found herself right back against the cage, just seconds into round two. Spencer completed a takedown; however, she wasn’t able to hold Letson down for a prolonged period of time. Despite Letson’s success in getting back to her feet, she was less successful in getting off of the cage, and Spencer continued to control the action against the fence. Spencer ended the round with another takedown.
Letson began round three with a takedown of her own, where she began to work from the guard of Spencer. Spencer quickly scrambled on top, and she began to pour on the strikes. For the next three minutes, Spencer just beat Letson down, and with time winding down in the round, she began to really pour it on, and Letson stopped defending herself, resulting in the end of the fight.
WINNER: Felica Spencer by TKO at 4:25 of Round 3
Spencer absolutely dominated the entirety of this fight. This was Letson’s first MMA bout since 2018, and Spencer gave her no time to get comfortable, applying constant pressure from the opening seconds of the fight. Spencer landed an absurd number of strikes throughout the bout, with the unofficial stats recording well over 200 strikes for Spencer by the end of this one. It was among Spencer’s top performances in the promotion, and she is now 3-3 in the UFC.
BEN ROTHWELL (39-13, 265) VS MARCOS ROGERIO DE LIMA (18-7-1, 259) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Rogerio De Lima caught Rothwell with a right hand in one of the first exchanges of the fight, and it rocked Rothwell. Rogerio De Lima proceeded to just swarm him with strikes against the cage until referee Herb Dean finally stopped the fight in an awkward fashion.
WINNER: Marcos Rogerio De Lima by TKO at 0:32 of Round 1
This stoppage is a bit difficult to put into words, but bear with me while I do my best here: Herb Dean basically moved in to stop the fight as Rogerio De Lima was swinging at Rothwell, making contact with Rogerio De Lima to pull him off of Rothwell. While he was doing this, a rocked Ben Rothwell attempted a takedown, and Herb Dean pretty much decided to let the fight continue. Rogerio De Lima shot Dean a questioning look on the ground, and it was at this point in which Herb Dean decided to actually stop the fight. If none of what I wrote there makes any sense, it’ll take you less than a minute to watch the entirety of this one back. It was another poor stoppage from Herb Dean, whose indecisiveness has become a theme in recent years. Strange stoppage aside, this was the first time Rothwell has been finished from strikes since 2009, so putting Rothwell away so quickly was quite the achievement for Rogerio De Lima here. Rogerio De Lima is now 8-5 in the UFC.
MAX HOLLOWAY (22-6, 146) VS YAIR RODRIGUEZ (13-2, 1 NC, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
The fighters touched gloves to begin the fight. Holloway caught Rodriguez with a jab that sat him down early before Rodriguez backed him off with a strong up kick. Rodriguez connected with a number of right hands early, as well as some lighting quick kicks up the middle. Holloway began to work the body and was finding a home for his jab with consistency. Rodriguez and Holloway exchanged leg kicks, with Rodriguez seemingly throwing with a bit more power. Both fighters landed straight rights that appeared to hurt the other, but Holloway’s opened up a cut on Rodriguez and backed him off momentarily. Rodriguez shot for a takedown in the final minute of the round, but Holloway’s defense held up. Very entertaining round. 10-9 Rodriguez.
Rodriguez continued to attack Holloway’s lead leg in round two and mixed in some heavy kicks to the body. Holloway was clearly investing in the body, which was paying off quickly, causing Rodriguez to drop his hands to guard the body. Holloway began to really turn on the pressure in the second half of the round, but Rodriguez was countering well from the backfoot, sneaking in elbows and leg kicks from creative angles. Holloway threw a jumping knee to the body and avoided a wild elbow from Rodriguez to end the round. 19-19.
Holloway began round three with a flying knee, which caught Rodriguez right in the chest. Rodriguez seemed to slip following a jab from Holloway, and Max immediately followed him to the ground. Holloway landed some strong ground and pound before he started searching for an arm triangle. He didn’t get the submission, but Holloway was able to work his way to the back of Rodriguez. Rodriguez slipped out of the dangerous situation and made it back to his feet with two minutes remaining in the round. Rodriguez started swinging wildly and proceeded to take Holloway down momentarily. Holloway popped right back up before recording a takedown of his own, ending the round on top. 29-28 Holloway.
Holloway cracked Rodriguez with a combination of punches to begin round four. Holloway attempted a standing guillotine choke, and while he was unsuccessful in submitting Rodriguez, he was able to bring the fight back to the ground. Holloway passed the guard of Rodriguez and took his back with two minutes remaining in the round. Rodriguez worked his way back to the feet yet again but got caught by an accidental thumb to the eye, pausing the action. It was determined that the fight could continue, and the round reached its conclusion. 39-37 Holloway.
Rodriguez’s corner told him he needed a finish to win this fight, which was likely the case. Both Holloway and Rodriguez were eating some hard shots here, however, neither man was giving an inch. Rodriguez threw a wild kick that partially landed, but resulted in Holloway taking top position after Yair fell to the ground. Rodriguez scrambled into top position, where Holloway quickly scrambled back to his feet. Rodriguez threw a spinning elbow that opened up a nasty cut on Holloway. Holloway got caught by an eye poke but took very little time to recover. With one minute remaining in the fight, Rodriguez tried to make something happen, but the finish didn’t come, and the fight went the distance. 48-47 Holloway.
WINNER: Max Holloway by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)
This was a fantastic fight. There were a lot of questions about Rodriguez after a lengthy layoff from the octagon, but he delivered one of the best performances of his career here despite the loss. His leg kicks were doing a ton of damage, but he seemed to injure his foot at some point in the bout, and really stopped throwing them. Holloway’s cardio and durability are legendary at this point, and this fight was a great example of both at full display because Rodriguez was landing some shots that very well may have finished the fight against another opponent. Holloway’s work to the body was beautiful throughout this fight, and we got to see a bit more of Max’s grappling in this fight as well, which has been a rarity in recent years. With this win, there is really no shortage of directions to go in for Holloways next bout. He named Alexander Volkanovski, Charles Oliveira, and Conor McGregor as potential next opponents, and it really wouldn’t shock me to see any of those fights happen next. Aside from the champions (and McGregor), there are a ton of fun fights for Holloway scattered throughout the featherweight rankings as well, including the likes of the Korean Zombie, Arnold Allen, and Giga Chikadze, but I do think Alexander Volkanovski will be Holloway’s next opponent in all likelihood.