UFC Fight Night 42: Grades for Every Main Card Fighter
Long known for churning out some of the finest fighters in the nation, Albuquerque, New Mexico, hosted its first UFC event Saturday evening with UFC Fight Night 42.
UFC brass made sure to reward the locals for their patience, as four out of six main card fights showcased a combatant trained out of Albuquerque's most celebrated mixed martial arts camp, Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA.
In the night's main event, Greg Jackson-trained lightweight sensation Rustam Khabilov faced No. 2-ranked lightweight Benson Henderson, and Diego Sanchez, John Dodson and Erik Perez also carried the New Mexican flag into their respective battles inside the UFC Octagon.
How did these Albuquerque-trained fighters fare on the evening?
Click on, and we'll dish out some grades, recapping everything that went down Saturday night in New Mexico.
Erik 'Goyito' Perez: C-
The main card action did not start well for the New Mexico faithful in attendance, as Erik "Goyito" Perez was submitted by Bryan Caraway in Round 2 of their bantamweight bout.
Perez loves to stand in the center of the cage and throw down, and he found some success employing this strategy in Round 1, but Caraway's powerful wrestling and grappling base eventually took over and halted the bout early in the second frame.
After Goyito attempted a takedown early in Round 2, Caraway quickly reversed position and planted the crowd favorite on his back. After a brief scramble, Caraway took Perez's back and sunk in the fight-ending rear-naked choke, eliciting boos from the audience in the process.
The loss brings Perez's UFC record to 4-2, and both losses came against current Top 15 fighters, showing that his stand-and-trade mentality just isn't going to get it done against the division's best.
He's still exciting and loved by fight fans, but Perez needs to polish his overall game if he wants to take the next step forward in his career.
Bryan Caraway: B+
Bryan Caraway's sole objective inside the UFC Octagon is dragging his opponent to the ground and finding a submission.
There's nothing flashy or fun about his game, but it is working, given his 4-1 record on the big stage. A split-decision loss to Takeya Mizugaki at UFC on Fuel TV 8 stands as his only slip-up.
Caraway's game plan was obvious (as always) against Perez, and it still worked to perfection. That's incredible to me. He's almost totally one-dimensional, but he shows up on fight night and takes care of business time and time again, and that's worthy of praise in the tough, unpredictable sport of MMA.
The Xtreme Couture bantamweight strolled into enemy territory and took out his foe with ease, notching another submission victory and taking the next step toward title contention in the increasingly stacked 135-pound class.
The win was impressive and nearly flawless, and it was exactly what Caraway needed to land a high-profile fight moving forward.
This looks bad for Caraway, and he needs to address the situation and explain his intention as soon as possible.
I'll wait to hear Caraway's side before passing final judgment, but right now that looks intentional and dirty, something that seriously taints an otherwise beautiful victory.
Piotr Hallmann: B-
Piotr Hallmann forced Yves Edwards to tap out for the first time since 2006, so that's a big win for the Polish lightweight.
However, this victory was far from perfect.
Hallmann poked Edwards in the eye twice in the first two rounds, receiving two warnings and zero point deductions. Edwards did a little digging in Hallmann's eye too, poking the night's victor in the second round and causing another break in the action.
After the battle of the pokes concluded, Hallmann took over, pressing the action and grinding Edwards into the canvas for the second half of the fight.
In Round 3, Hallmann took the longtime veteran's back and slapped on the rear-naked choke, prompting Edwards to tap for the first time in 24 fights. That's definitely a colorful feather for Hallmann's cap, but this fight was sloppy and a bit boring, doing little to entertain the crowd for its duration.
That said, Hallmann continued to prove his worth as an aggressive grappler inside the cage, and he will take a stride forward for his efforts.
Yves Edwards: D-
Yves Edwards probably just fought his way out of the UFC, so that alone warrants a low grade.
"Thugjitsu" was 0-2 with one no-contest in his last three fights inside the Octagon, and a submission loss to Piotr Hallmann is not going to do him any favors in making a claim to remain a part of the stacked 155-pound roster.
Despite winning some stand-up exchanges throughout the fight, Edwards gave up four takedowns before succumbing to the rear-naked choke. It was a disappointing finish to an overall disappointing fight.
With a staggering 64 professional fights and almost 17 years of facing high-level competition to his name, Edwards has a serious decision to make regarding his future on the heels of this unfortunate run. He will need to make some drastic adjustments if he does decide to press forward and continue his remarkable career.
Jason High: B
Consider this a pity grade for Jason High.
Getting stopped in the second round by strikes does not deserve a B at all, but the circumstances surrounding High's loss to Rafael dos Anjos were downright awful.
First, High got poked in the eye by Dos Anjos early in Round 2. (Do you see a trend here?)
Then, Dos Anjos blasted High with an overhand left that dropped "The Kansas City Bandit," and the Brazilian peppered away with ground-and-pound in hopes of ending the fight.
The referee jumped in and halted the bout, but several of these "finishing" shots were to the back of High's head, and Kevin Mulhall intervened just as High began working a deep half guard in hopes of reversing his unfavorable position.
High immediately jumped to his feet and complained about the stoppage, apparently even pushing Mulhall in the chest in a fit of rage and disappointment.
It was a terrible way for High to kick off his lightweight career, but he secured some nice takedowns and defended three submissions from a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and proven Top Five UFC lightweight, showing that he deserves to share the Octagon with the world's best at 155 pounds.
Rafael Dos Anjos: B
Rafael dos Anjos bounced back from a combo-breaking defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC on Fox 11 in style, stopping Jason High with strikes at UFC Fight Night 42.
While the victory comes with a big asterisk (as described in the previous slide), Dos Anjos was winning the striking battle to that point, and he was threatening with submissions every time High dragged him to the canvas. In addition, there's no denying the power behind the left hand that kicked off the finishing sequence, so it's not like Dos Anjos did nothing to earn his W.
Now 6-1 in his last seven, Dos Anjos will jump back into the thick of title contention in the UFC's lightweight division. That's encouraging for the 29-year-old combatant.
John Moraga: C
Many fans and critics felt that John Moraga would be completely outmatched on the feet against Albuquerque's John Dodson, but that wasn't the case at UFC Fight Night 42.
Moraga fought a decent fight against the Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA product, but a huge knee at the end of Round 2 from Dodson obliterated Moraga's nose, and the ringside doctor stopped the bout between rounds, awarding Dodson the TKO victory.
However, to that point, Moraga did not look intimidated at all on the feet, and he was outworking Dodson by aggressively pushing forward and keeping "The Magician" on his heels.
One strike from Dodson is all it takes to shut out the lights, though, and Moraga suffered because of this tried-and-tested fact.
Moraga previously got blown out by flyweight champion Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson at UFC on Fox 8, and the loss to Dodson represents another instance of the MMA Lab standout failing to capitalize when the stakes are at their highest.
While he can and will continue to defeat lesser foes, Moraga needs a signature victory against a Top Five opponent if he wants to earn another chance at UFC gold.
John Dodson: B
John "The Magician" Dodson is 125 (or 152) pounds of fun and energy inside and outside of the UFC Octagon.
He's nonstop motion and commotion, crushing foes with powerful strikes and going bananas with the microphone in his hand.
After splitting John Moraga's nose in half and earning the TKO victory at UFC Fight Night 42, Dodson stole the mic from commentator Jon Anik and gave his best Howard Dean impression for the fans in attendance and at home.
He's electric and engaging in every way a fighter should be, and his big knockout over Moraga will almost certainly earn him another shot at the flyweight title in his next outing.
While he did not blitz through Moraga like many predicted and looked tentative and overly patient at times, Dodson got the job done, emerging with the win and a strong claim to the 125-pound title.
Ross Pearson: B+
Ross Pearson did everything he needed to do to defeat Diego Sanchez Saturday evening at UFC Fight Night 42.
He outstruck Sanchez. He avoided the brawl that Sanchez so desperately wanted. He stayed calm and collected and punched "The Dream" in the face repeatedly, giving up zero takedowns in the process.
But according to two judges sitting just feet from the action, Pearson did not win the fight.
There are no words to classify my confusion.
On no planet under any scoring system in any realm of combat should Sanchez have won that fight, and yet two "professional" judges awarded him a victory.
Pearson did everything right in this fight besides finish it, and he was punished for it.
"Never leave it in the hands of the judges," I know. But if judges can't correctly call a fight this obvious, we need to figure out where the UFC is getting these people from and then go elsewhere.
That decision was ridiculous, and Pearson should still get his win bonus and face a Top 15 opponent in the lightweight division next despite the loss on his record.
Diego Sanchez: F
I truly don't think Diego Sanchez knows he lost that fight. He thought it was close.
His wild charges and taunts meant little, really, but to Sanchez, that's how you win fights, right?
He takes home controversial decisions on the regular (see: Gomi, Takanori; Kampmann, Martin), and "Pearson, Ross" becomes the latest entry to this catalog of corruption.
There's nothing good to say about what Sanchez did; he got punched in the face and never mounted any significant offense. That's how you lose fights.
Diego gets an F, and so do the judges for the horrible decision in this one.
Rustam Khabilov: C+
Rustam Khabilov wasn't ready for somebody at Benson Henderson's level, but neither are most lightweights in the world, so not all is lost for the Jackson MMA fighter.
Now 17-2 overall and 3-1 in the UFC, he takes a step back in the division, but he landed five takedowns on Henderson and had his moments on the feet, most notably scoring with a big elbow in Round 1.
Fighting in the championship rounds for the first time in his UFC career, Khabilov fell to two powerful strikes from Henderson in Round 4, and "Bendo" was quick to hunt for the rear-naked choke, finding it with little resistance and ending the night's festivities.
For Khabilov, the loss stings now, but he trains at a wonderful camp, and the future looks good for the 27-year-old Dagestani.
Benson Henderson: A
Do you know how long we've waited to see Benson Henderson finish an opponent?
Four years. Ten fights.
The drought was severe, but Bendo schooled Rustam Khabilov at UFC Fight Night 42, finishing the deed in Round 4 via rear-naked choke.
Up to the finish, this was a classic Henderson fight. Nothing super significant happened, Henderson looked cool and relaxed, and the fight took place on the feet, in the clinch and on the ground.
He looked more technical and more confident everywhere, and Khabilov couldn't keep up for more than 15 minutes, wilting in the championship rounds to the former UFC lightweight champ.
This was the win that Henderson needed to cement his place among the lightweight elite and set up a title eliminator in the near future, and he did exactly what he needed to do in forcing Khabilov to tap with the choke.
While many fans take umbrage at some of Henderson's past decision victories, the judges were not needed here (thank goodness), and Hendo earned what is arguably his most impressive and dominant UFC victory to date.
Well done, Mr. Henderson. Now go fight Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Winner gets a title shot.