Saturday’s UFC Vegas 16 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in the “Fight Capital of the World,” it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at the UFC Apex.
1 – Marvin Vettori
In this sport, and in life in general, who dares wins. Marvin Vettori dared to take a short notice main event bout against Jack Hermansson last Saturday, and while it’s simple enough to say he got the victory, this meant more than just another notch in his win column. For the Italian contender, he put his nation on the MMA map in the biggest way possible, delivered a performance that will make him a must see whenever he returns to the Octagon, and he put himself smack dab in the middle of the title race at 185 pounds. Not bad for a night’s work, eh?
2 – Jamahal Hill
Jamahal Hill surprised a lot of people with his win over Ovince Saint Preux last weekend. And it’s not that people didn’t think he had the talent to get the victory over one of the most seasoned veterans in the light heavyweight division; it’s the way he did it and the poise he showed in beating OSP in only his ninth pro fight. Look at the guys who have beaten Saint Preux over the years: Jones, Rothwell, Reyes, Krylov, Latifi, Oezdemir, Teixeira, Manuwa. All fighters among the best in the world and with the experience to match. Hill’s win was his biggest to date, but I think it’s even bigger when you consider the company he’s keeping now.
3 – Jordan Leavitt
As I wrote last week, Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Jordan Leavitt has the personality that could translate into stardom one day. Of course, none of that means anything if the kid can’t fight. Well, “The Monkey King” made a statement in his UFC debut, scoring a slam-induced knockout of Matt Wiman that took all of 22 seconds. If you didn’t know who Leavitt was before, you do now, and you’ll be watching to see what he does next in the 155-pound shark tank.
4 – Ilia Topuria
Ilia Topuria has made a career of submitting his opponents. Then he showed up to Las Vegas and put on a striking clinic against Damon Jackson, using outstanding body work to set up a knockout that ended their bout in less than three minutes. That’s two UFC bouts and two wins for the Georgian, who has made an interesting featherweight division even more interesting heading into 2021.
5 – Louis Smolka
As Louis Smolka approaches the seventh anniversary of his first UFC fight, where do we put him in the great scheme of things? He’s compiled an 8-7 record in 15 bouts in two divisions, was cut, came back, and experienced the highs and lows of life in the Octagon. It’s probably not the way he expected it to go when he debuted in the promotion in 2014, but I can’t help but feeling after every win that the Hawaiian has the potential to make a title run. Saturday’s stoppage of Jose Quinonez was almost his entire UFC career in a nutshell, as he weathered some storms to ultimately come out on top, while being exciting the whole way. Yeah, 2021 should be another year to watch for “Da Last Samurai”