Prior to tonight, Josh Emmett had only competed in the main event of the evening one time during his UFC tenure. Unfortunately, the fight that he thought would catapult him into star status in the world’s most renowned mixed martial arts organization, resulted in a disappointing loss. Fast forward four years and Emmett was finally given a second chance to perform in the headline fight in front of a sold out arena. Tonight, the result went in his favor and the world finally got a chance to witness the versatility and skill set that has earned him the respect of his peers for so many years. There’s a lot to unpack here. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Kattar vs. Emmett
Featherweight prospects Calvin Kattar and Josh Emmett each have the reputation of being among the most powerful fighters in the featherweight division. Thus, for the first minute and a half of round one, the two men danced around the octagon, looking for an opening and taking extra precaution to be sure of their attack before throwing a strike. It was Emmett who eventually initiated the attack, however Kattar found success with well-timed counter punching. By the end of the round, there was a visible cut near Emmett’s left eye.
Round two was a pretty evenly match back and forth saga. Both men used the jab and failed to diversify their attack. In round three, Emmett realized that he had become predictable, so he finally decided to employ new maneuvers. He added in body shots and elbows to go with the outside jab he had relied upon in the first two rounds. This resulted in a decent amount of success and his most dominant round of the fight. In round four, Kattar responded with the most impressive moment of the fight, a spinning back-right-elbow that landed directly on Emmett’s left eye. This exaggerated the cut even more and the bleeding intensified.
Round five was intense, as each men knew the scorecards were possibly even. Finally, they threw caution to the wind and began throwing strikes and calf kicks with reckless abandon. The action stayed heavy until the final bell and the two men collapsed into a warm handshake, each smiling, knowing they had laid it all on the line. This was a tough fight to judge; it was very close and each man had defining moments that could be used to support their argument for winning the fight. Ultimately, Josh Emmett was awarded a split decision victory by the judges.Embed from Getty Images
Means vs. Holland
Welterweight prospect Tim Means was not prepared for the speed of his opponent, Kevin Holland, tonight. Since returning to welterweight, after spending a few years at middleweight, Holland is arguably the fastest man in the division. The first round was a clinic of elite jabs and counter punches, conducted by Holland as if he was teaching a Master Class. In round two, Holland connected with an overhand right that sent Means crashing to the mat. He pounced on his opponent, placing him in a tight chokehold and forcing him to tap out. It was an impressive victory for the 29-year-old; if he continues these types of performances his future is very bright.Embed from Getty Images
Buckley vs. Duraev
Middleweight prospects Joaquin Buckley and Albert Duraev each spent a significant amount of time in Las Vegas as amateurs. The city has become somewhat of a hub for aspiring fighters looking to get elite training to catapult them in the next phase of their career. It was during this period of time that the two men first encountered one another, often sparring in the same gym, not far from the Apex Center. It was with these previous experiences in mind that Albert Duraev told the media that he knows Buckley’s tendencies inside the octagon very well and the match would amount to “an easy victory.” Buckley did not take kindly to those words and the two of them have engaged in a heated back and forth ever since.
Within the first minute of round one, Buckley landed a resounding high kick that landed squarely on Duraev’s head. The two men engaged in a game of cat and mouse until Duraev in turn landed a high kick of his own with a little more than two and a half minutes left in the round. Early in round two, Duraev executed a successful takedown, however Buckley quickly fought to his feet. A huge uppercut by Buckley sent Duraev crashing to the mat. Once he was back on his feet, Buckley continued to apply pressure, hitting his opponent with another barrage of jabs that sent him to the mat yet again right before the ringing of the bell.
Before the start of round three, the referee determined that the cut above Duraev’s eye was too severe for him to continue. It was an emphatic stoppage in Buckley’s favor. As it turns out, Duraev’s prediction of an easy victory came true, just not in his favor.
Ismagulov vs. Kutateladze
Lightweight challengers Damir Ismagulov and Guram Kutateladze engaged in a seesaw battle that was fun to watch and difficult to judge. In round one, Kutateladze stunned Ismagulov with a well timed elbow. He later scored a big takedown to establish clear control of the round. In round two, Ismagulov exhibited great takedown defense and prevented his opponent from taking the fight to the mat. He also landed some impressive strikes of his own.
In round three, Kutateladze landed an emphatic strike that sent Ismagulov to his knees. Kutateladze then hit his opponent with a knee to the chest, which in real time looked to come very close to the head. A knee to the head while the opponent is down is an illegal move and could result in a disqualification. Referee Herb Dean called a timeout, thinking the illegal maneuver had been executed, but decided to issue a stern warning instead of deducting a point.
Ultimately, Ismagulov was awarded a split decision victory. This fight was close and tough to call but I personally thought Kutateladze won. He was more affective in both rounds one and three and the momentum was clearly in his favor in the closing moments of the fight. However, it just goes to show, if you want to be sure of victory never leave it in the hands of the judges.
Marquez vs. Rodrigues
Middleweight prospect Gregory Rodrigues hit his opponent, Julian Marquez, with a barrage of offense that proved to be too much to handle. Early in round one, Rodrigues landed an impactful overhand right that knocked Marquez out of his wits. He was essentially out on his feet but somehow found the will to keep swinging. However, Rodrigues saw the opportunity to capitalize on the moment and would not let it slip through his fingers. He landed another vicious right hand, this time knocking Marquez out cold and forcing the referee to stop the fight.
Yanez vs. Kelley
Bantamweight prospect, Adrian Yanez made quick work of his opponent, Tony Kelley, tonight; knocking him out in the very first round. This extends his impressive win streak to nine fights, including all five of his bouts in the UFC. At 28-years-old, Yanez is a potential star who could be on the path towards championship contention if his career continues to follow its current trajectory.
Cowboy Cerrone’s fight against Joe Lauzon was canceled earlier today. There’s still no word on why Lauzon decided to pull out of the fight. However, Cowboy was seen sitting ringside, along with his wife and their two sons, during the fights.
In the post-fight interview, Josh Emmett implored Dana White to allow him to face the winner of the upcoming Alexander Volkanovski versus Max Holloway fight. Although Emmett performed well tonight, I honestly cannot imagine him beating Volkanovski or Holloway inside the octagon. Personally, I’m predicting that Volkanovski will defeat Holloway and retain the featherweight championship; there is a reason he is ranked 2nd in the organization’s pound for pound rankings. However, Emmett made the most of his moment, and if he wants to use a post-fight interview to plead his case, I won’t argue against that strategy.
UFC Fight Night returns to the Apex Center in Las Vegas next week when lightweight combatants Arman Tsarukyan and Mateusz Gamrot meet inside the octagon during the main event. As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis available right here at World in Sport!
Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.