UFC on ESPN+ 14: Biggest Winners

UFC on ESPN+ 14
MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY - AUGUST 10: Volkan Oezdemir of Switzerland celebrates after his victory over Ilir Latifi of Sweden in their light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Antel Arena on August 10, 2019 in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider /Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

UFC Uruguay (or UFC on ESPN+ 14) pitted Valentina Shevchenko against challenger Liz Carmouche in a bout for the women’s flyweight championship. The defending champion Shevchenko continued her reign of dominance, winning all five rounds on all three of the judges’ score cards en route to a shutout decision victory.

Not only did “Bullet” retain her title, but in beating Carmouche she avenged a previous loss to from a bout that took place in 2010. While the bout has received backlash on social media for being “lackluster” by many fans, this does not take away from the dominance of Shevchenko’s win, nor what the win does for her career.  She is a perfect 4-0 since dropping to flyweight and has now successfully defended her title twice.

Adding to her already impressive resume and leaving with her belt likely makes Shevchenko the biggest winner from UFC on ESPN+ 14.  However, there were many other fighters that gained a lot more than just a win on their record when they had their hands raised yesterday.  While all the winners on the card are likely happy to go home with the victory, here’s a look at a few fighters who’s wins for one reason or another hold a little more value than their peers.

Biggest Winners of UFC on ESPN+ 14

Gilbert Burns

Alexey Kunchenko entered his featured prelim bout this weekend carrying a lot of hype.  The Russian prospect was already 2-0 in the UFC with wins over veterans Thiago Alves and Yushin Okami, making him an impressive 20-0 overall and a fighter to keep an eye on.  He was originally scheduled to face fellow up and comer Laureano Staropoli, until a broken nose removed Staropoli from the bout roughly two weeks out.  Lucky for Kunchenko and fight fans, UFC lightweight Gilbert Burns was willing to make the move up to welterweight on short notice.  Things looked promising for the Russian Kunchenko.  He would now be facing a smaller opponent that had little time to prepare, and he should have been the favorite to win.

Apparently, Burns didn’t catch wind of any of this.  Against the odds, he went up in weight and got the job done, earning a hard fought unanimous decision victory.  As mentioned, Burns came in to the bout as the underdog and without a full training camp.  He did it against an undefeated prospect, a weight class above his natural weight. Burns entered with little in his favor, but still emerged victorious, making this win not just a big one, but one of the biggest of his UFC career.  Currently riding a three-fight win streak, this UFC on ESPN+ 14 performance should bump Burns up in the rankings, and open the door to bouts with top-ranked opponents at either lightweight or welterweight.

Volkan Oezdemir

Just two short years ago, Volkan Oezdemir was on top of the world.  He debuted in the UFC’s light heavyweight division in February of 2017 and upset Ovince Saint Preux. From there the momentum didn’t stop, extending his UFC win streak to three with blistering knockouts in his next two outings, all before the year’s end. This put Oezdemir in a position to challenge then champion Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight belt. “No Time” would lose his fight with Cormier by second round TKO.

Fast forward to the start of this weekend, and Oezdemir carried three straight losses (inlcluding the one to DC) into his fight with Swedish powerhouse Ilir Latifi.  Oezdemir’s fire had burnt out before it had a real chance to get started.  Momentum derailed, a fourth straight loss at the hands of Latifi might have resulted in Oezdemir’s release from the UFC.  With the pressure on, he did not wilt.  On the contrary, he showed the same promise he demonstrated at the start of his career that had him labelled as a legit title threat.

In the second round against Latifi, Oezdemir landed a left hook, followed by another hard left.  Latifi lay face first unconscious on the canvas, and Oezdemir walked away the victor, career resurrected.  Not only did he win, but he showed improved striking and patience. Having earned his nickname “No Time” for his fast finishes, Oezdemir took a much more methodical approach to this fight, beating up Latifi for almost two full rounds before stopping him with a well placed hook.  This was not just a win for Oezdemir, but one that likely saved his UFC career.  And if that isn’t reason enough for Oezdemir to be one of UFC on ESPN+ 14’s biggest winners, with a win and momentum back on his side, the devastating KO artist from Switzerland can now start a second journey towards UFC gold.

Vicente Luque

To be considered one of the biggest winners from this weekend’s card, all Vicente Luque had to do was get any kind of win against opponent Mike Perry.  It didn’t matter how.  The win would have earned him a victory in a co-main event assignment, as well as extend his win streak to an incredible six in historically one of the most talent rich divisions in the sport.  Those achievements would have been admirable alone.  But Luque’s win over Perry was no ordinary win.

For three rounds, Luque and “Platinum” exchanged strikes, going back and forth in a war that rightfully earned both participants the “Fight Of The Night” bonus.  Luque, with this performance reaffirmed that he is one of the most consistently fun to watch fighters, pound-for-pound, in this sport.  In 10 wins under the UFC, Luque had finished all his foes before Perry, and I don’t think there was a fan in attendance or watching at home that complained about this bout going the full fifteen minutes.  Just two fights previous to his win over Perry, Luque engaged in another war with Bryan Barberena. Both the Perry and Barberena fights are likely the front-runners for Fight of The Year.

Winning fights in the UFC is important, but establishing yourself as must-see television in the process will only lead to bigger paydays and better opponents.  If it wasn’t clear before, Luque is surely viewed as a fan-favorite now, and with all the momentum he is riding now, should be matched up with a top ten opponent in his next outing. Why not a rematch with Leon Edwards?

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