Marvin Vettori was the bigger man. After a week during which Paulo Costa declared he was not going to make the middleweight limit for Saturday's UFC Fight Night main event, and the fight had to be moved first to a 195-pound catchweight, then to the 205-pound light heavyweight limit, the drama ended up being outweighed by a performance in which Vettori won over fans in several ways.
First, simply taking the fight at 20 pounds above the scheduled limit was admirable, considering the huge stakes. Vettori was just four months removed from a deflating experience in which he was outclassed by 185-pound champion Israel Adesanya. How Vettori fared this weekend would have long-term consequences for the Italian's hopes of remaining near the top of the division.
He assured himself of a spot on an upper rung of that ladder with his performance in this fight. He was in control for much of the 25 minutes, absorbing the biggest shots that his powerful opponent could throw his way and continuing to move forward. Despite being hit with thudding kicks to the body and head on several occasions, Vettori did not take a step backward until the final round, when Costa, clearly aware that he needed a knockout, came at him with everything he had left.
Surprisingly, there was a considerable amount left in the tank for the burly Brazilian, which makes one wonder if stamina concerns might have been the reason he did not cut weight. Only one of his previous 14 bouts had lasted beyond the second round. This time, although his mouth was wide open by the second round and he appeared ploddingly slow at times, Costa continued to throw with power until the end of Round 5. Not having to dehydrate himself in a sauna during fight week produced a surprisingly more resilient version of Costa.
The weight-cut fiasco probably also had a bit of mind games behind it. Vettori has shown himself to be a bit of a hothead over the years, and the Costa team knew it. Why not get him so angry in the prefight that he would come out and brawl -- just the type of fight that would favor Costa?
That plan -- if indeed it was a plan -- did not work out so well for Costa. Vettori fought with discipline, moving forward the whole time and hitting Costa again and again -- he had a 190-139 edge in strikes -- but never appearing to throw with full power or wild abandon. He walked down Costa and picked him apart with poise.
Then, when the decision was announced, Vettori walked over to Costa and offered a halfhearted handshake. The bigger man, indeed.
And at that point he took to the microphone with a self-satisfied look on his face. Speaking to the extra 20% that will be in his check, deducted from Costa's purse for missing weight, Vettori said, "I get to buy myself another watch with his money."
Talk about having the last word.
In both the first and second rounds, Dawson followed his tried-and-true formula: He went for a takedown right away, got Glenn to the canvas and secured position to keep the fight there for the rest of the way. He didn't inflict much damage, but he was in control to the horn both times.
In Round 3, Glenn turned that formula upside-down, fending off a couple of takedown attempts before putting Dawson on his back midway through the round. Once on the canvas, the fight played out differently this time, with Glenn dropping punches and elbows to soften up his opponent for a head-and-arm choke in the final minute.
The horn sounded with no tapout from Dawson, but he was wobbly as he tried to get up. Glenn pointed at him, suggesting the fight should have been stopped. Referee Mike Beltran did not agree, but two of the three judges scored the round 10-8 in his favor, resulting in a pair of 28-28 cards to go with one 29-28 card in favor of Dawson for a majority draw.
Dawson, who is 27 and from Lee's Summit, Missouri, kept his unbeaten UFC run alive, but barely. He came in having won nine in a row, the past six in the Octagon.
Glenn, a 32-year-old from Des Moines, Iowa, has a win and a draw since returning from a 2½-year hiatus.
In her first appearance in 13 months due to a knee injury, Clark grappled her way to an easy decision over Edwards. Just about the entire bantamweight fight took place on the ground, as Clark had her way with takedowns and ground control. All three judges scored it for Clark, by scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
In the brief amount of time the action was standing, Edwards appeared to get the better of it -- especially in the third round, when she landed several good combinations in the opening moments. Clark responded by simply moving aggressively forward, securing a clinch and dragging Edwards to the ground.
A former flyweight, Clark, of Australia, has found some footing at 135 pounds. She is now 2-1 since moving up a weight class.
The first time the fight went to the canvas Caceres went unwillingly, thanks to a hard punch from Choi. A point deducted from Choi soon afterward for an illegal knee affected the Round 1 scoring, for sure, but the brief time on the canvas set a tone. Caceres was going to have to watch out for power punches coming his way.
😂 fight fans from the couch always know better. I'm glad Caceres wasn't severely compromised after that illegal knee. 5 in a row! Putting the division on notice that he's still game for greatness! #UFCVegas41— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) October 23, 2021
The next time the two men went to the canvas, in Round 2, Caceres was safely in control. He had climbed on Choi's back while they were in standing position, had him wrapped up in a body triangle and was clamping on a rear-naked choke. Almost as soon as they hit the mat, Choi tapped out at 3:31 of the round, giving the 33-year-old Caceres his fifth straight victory.
Choi, who is 28 and from South Korea, saw a three-fight winning streak come to an end.
Trinaldo managed to edge out a split decision despite suffering a point deduction in the third round because of an accidental low kick. Two judges scored the bout for Trinaldo 29-27, while a third had it 29-27 for Grant.
The fight was a bit slow, as neither welterweight was able to find consistent offense. Trinaldo's best work came in the final round after the point deduction, when he took Grant to the floor and moved to full mount. Beyond that, it was mostly a standup affair with Trinaldo relying on the left hand and Grant looking to counter with the right.
Trinaldo, of Brasilia, continues to get it done at age 43. He has won four of his past five. Grant, of New York, has now lost two of his past three.
Negumereanu and Villanueva were standing in the center of the cage, slugging it out barely a minute into their fight, when suddenly Villanueva crashed to the canvas. Negumereanu followed him down to the ground and dropped unanswered punches before referee Mike Beltran jumped in to wave off the bout at 1:18.
Villanueva immediately protested, gesturing that he'd been hit with illegal punches. Replays showed that several shots did land to the back of the head, along with others that were legal. But neither the referee nor the athletic commission immediately reviewed the strikes. Negumereanu had his second win in a row after losing his UFC debut.
The 27-year-old from Romania said he believed his strikes were legal. "Laterally, from the side, that's what I think I did," he said through an interpreter.
Villanueva, who is 37 and from Houston, has lost four of his five UFC fights, all stoppages, including his past two.
Gregory Rodrigues stuns Junyong Park with a series of punches that secure a knockout victory in the second round.
This 185-pound contest turned into an absolute slugfest in the second round, and ultimately it was Rodrigues who was the last man standing.
At the beginning of the second round, Park hurt Rodrigues badly with a left hook and aggressively went after the finish. Rodrigues ended up shooting for a takedown to slow things down, and managed to get Park to the ground twice, but couldn't control him either time.
Once Park was back on his feet, he went right back to work with punches. It appeared he had Rodrigues badly hurt up against the fence but Park might have grown too careless with his shots, and Rodrigues responded with a big combination that backed him up. As Park retreated, Rodrigues hit him again with punches and eventually landed a clean uppercut to finish the fight at the 3:13 mark of the frame.
A former contestant on Dana White Contender Series, Rodrigues has now won four in a row since coming up short on the show in September 2020.
Jones was expecting for this to be his opportunity to finish the job he started in June, when he was in control of a bout against Alan Patrick before an accidental eye poke resulted in a no contest. They were booked for a rematch, but Patrick pulled out earlier this week. Enter Onama, who was moving up a weight class for his short-notice UFC debut.
Jones, who is 26 and from Wales, did succeed in getting his first win inside the Octagon, as all three judges scored the fight 29-28 in his favor, but it wasn't easy. He landed eight takedowns and over 100 strikes, but from beginning to end, Jones got all he could handle from Onama, a 27-year-old Ugandan fighting out of Kansas City, Missouri, who came in unbeaten. Relentless grappling was the difference in a bout in which each man had his moments in the standup.
Ricci, of São Paulo, Brazil, showed off the full repertoire of her game in a 15-minute drubbing of UFC newcomer Oliveira. Ricci landed the harder strikes on the feet and dominated Oliveira in grappling exchanges on the floor. All three judges rewarded Ricci's efforts with 30-27 scores.
Oliveira did well in simply surviving the full three rounds. She escaped from an armbar attempt in the second round as well as a fully mounted position by Ricci a few minutes later. Oliveira came out throwing heavy shots in the final round but fell well short of any type of comeback. Ricci improved to 1-1 in the UFC.
Staropoli overcame a huge reach disadvantage by closing the distance, again and again, but with his primary advantage neutralized, Pickett proceeded to beat Staropoli up in the clinch. Pickett eventually got the fight back to long range in Round 3, and finished strong to secure his first UFC victory after dropping his first two in the Octagon.
The 33-year-old from Wilmington, North Carolina, got the nod on all three judges' cards, by scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. Staropoli, who is 28 and from Argentina, lost his fourth in a row after winning his first two UFC fights.
Former Cage Warriors champion Herbert finally got his hand raised in the UFC Octagon, and he did so in style with an early finish of Worthy. The TKO came at 2:47 of the opening round, after Herbert rocked Worthy with a right hand and head kick, before eventually putting him away with follow-up strikes on the ground. Nine of Hebert's 11 career wins have now come by knockout.
Jai Herbert put the pressure on Khama and was too explosive for him to keep up with #UFCVegas41— Terrance McKinney (@twrecks155) October 23, 2021
The English lightweight was 0-2 in the UFC coming into this matchup; however, both losses came against veteran competition in Francisco Trinaldo and Renato Moicano.
After rattling off seven straight wins, Worthy has lost three straight fights by KO or TKO.
Molina defended multiple submission attempts throughout Round 1 while using top position to punish da Silva with punches and elbows, then came out in Round 2 and immediately crushed da Silva with a right hand followed by a flurry on the mat for the TKO at 46 seconds.
Molina, who is 24 and from St. Louis, won his ninth fight in a row and second straight to start his UFC career. Da Silva, a 25-year-old Brazilian, saw a three-fight winning streak come to an end in his Octagon debut.
Markos, who fights out of Ontario, Canada, picked up her first win in five fights -- and likely saved her spot on the UFC roster -- by out-pointing Souza via judges' scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
The victory was not without adversity, as Markos was forced to fight out of a dangerous rear-naked choke attempt from Souza in the opening round. Markos managed to avoid a tap, however, and won the fight with ground-and-pound and aggressive striking in the final round.
The win snaps a four-fight skid for Markos, who has fought exclusively in the UFC since 2014.
Martinez welcomed Lazishvili, a previously undefeated fighter from Georgia, to the UFC by handing him his first career defeat -- taking control of a close fight in Round 3 to secure the judges' nod on all three scorecards (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Martinez, who is 27 and fights out of Plainview, Texas, got back on track after being knocked out by Davey Grant in May.