The UFC held its final card on Fight Island on Saturday with UFC on ESPN 14. The main event featured the return of former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. After a devastating knockout loss to Israel Adesanya resulting in the loss of his title, Whittaker returned to the cage about nine months later. In his return, Whittaker faced off against former welterweight title challenger Darren Till. Till challenged for the welterweight title in 2018 when he faced the champion Tyron Woodley at UFC 228. After losing to Woodley by second round submission, he faced Jorge Masvidal in UFC Fight Night 147‘s main event. He lost his second straight that night as Masvidal finished him by knockout in the second round. Till then made the move up to middleweight where he quickly picked up a split decision win over former interim title challenger Kelvin Gastelum.
Whittaker and Till put on a close fight that lasted all five rounds. But due to Till injuring his leg in the second round, Whittaker was able to pull ahead from that point. When the decision was announced, Whittaker had won three out of five rounds on all the judges scorecards. With the big win in his return to the octagon, Whittaker keeps himself in the title picture but it will probably be a while before he can face Adesanya again.
UFC on ESPN 14 Standout Performances
In the co-main event, two legends of MMA faced off for a third time in their careers. Meeting for the first time nearly fifteen years ago in PRIDE, Mauricio Rua won the first meeting against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by unanimous decision. The pair met again ten years later with the UFC as Rua raised the score to 2-0 with a unanimous decision win at UFC 190. In their third and final meeting, each man put it all on the line. In what was Nogueira’s last fight, he fought until the very end. But when it was all said and done, Rua had won the third meeting, this time by split decision.
With action packed decisions and impressive finishes, the UFC’s final card on Fight Island delivered. Full of action from top to bottom, it is time to determine the five standout performances. In order for a fighter to make this list, their performance must stand out among their peers. This could be quick finishes, flashy knockouts, great submissions, dismantling an opponent, or providing an all-around exciting fight. Along with every performance will be a look at what could potentially come next for each fighter.
#1 Fabricio Werdum
def. Alexander Gustafsson via Submission (Armbar) at 2:30 of Round One
Former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum lost his title to Stipe Miocic back in 2016. Since then, he has put together a record of 3-3. He started with a decision win over Travis Browne before losing a decision to Alistair Overeem. After the loss to Overeem, he put together two straight wins over Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura. Following his win over Tybura, Werdum was matched up in the main event of UFC Fight Night 127 against Alexander Volkov. His win streak was snapped that night as Volkov finished the former champ by fourth round knockout. After that loss, Werdum was suspended for two years after a failed USADA test. He made his return earlier this year at UFC 249, losing a split decision to Aleksei Oleinik. He looked to snap his two fight losing streak as he faced a former title challenger at UFC on ESPN 14.
After two straight finishes to top fighters in the light heavyweight division, Alexander Gustafsson announced his retirement. The first of those losses was in a vacant light heavyweight title fight as he took on Jon Jones at UFC 232 in a rematch of their war in 2013. Jones defeated Gustafsson for a second time, this time finishing him by TKO in the third round. Following his loss to Jones, Gustafsson took on Anthony Smith, who was fresh off a loss of his own to Jones. The two met in the main event of UFC Fight Night 153 as Smith handed Gustafsson his second straight loss, submitting him in the fourth.
In the first round, Werdum utilized his leg kicks early while Gustafsson moved around looking for combinations. Just over a minute into the round, Werdum grabbed a hold of Gustafsson’s leg as he fished for a single leg takedown. But Gustafsson defended well and ended up on top of Werdum. However Werdum never let go of the leg so he continued working for a takedown. As he kept a hold of Gustafsson’s leg, Gustafsson landed some hard hammer fists before they got back to their feet.
But Werdum was quickly able to trip Gustafsson and take his back. Immediately after taking Gustafsson’s back, Werdum began setting up an armbar. Gustafsson was able to defend the submission at first, as he turned to be face down on the mat. Unfortunately it would not take long for Werdum to turn him over once again and lock in the armbar, forcing a quick tap from Gustafsson.
With a big win over a former two-time title challenger, and snapping his two fight losing streak, Fabricio Werdum has fought out his contract. It has been reported that he will test out free agency and not immediately return to the UFC. As for who his next opponent could be, in whatever organization he chooses, he has listed Fedor Emelianenko as someone he would like to face. Emelianenko is currently signed with Bellator so Werdum would have to make the jump there where Ryan Bader holds the heavyweight strap.
Werdum and Emelianenko have faced each other once before. Back in 2010 at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum the two met in the main event. Werdum shocked everyone that night as he finished Emelianenko in the first round by armbar, snapping his 28 fight unbeaten streak. If Werdum makes the move over to Bellator, it would not be out of the picture for Scott Coker to make this rematch a reality.
#2 Khamzat Chimaev
def. Rhys McKee via TKO (Punches) at 3:09 of Round One
Ten days prior to UFC on ESPN 14, Khamzat Chimaev made his UFC debut at UFC on ESPN 13. In his first outing, he faced off against John Phillips. After dominating Phillips in the first round, Chimaev finished the fight in the second, submitting Phillips with a d’arce choke. Just ten days later, Chimaev was prepared to make his second appearance on Fight Island. With a win over Rhys McKee, Chimaev could break the UFC record held by Chas Skelly for shortest turnaround win.
Making his UFC debut, Rhys McKee entered the octagon with a record of 10-2 with one draw. Prior to making his UFC debut, he put together three straight wins with Cage Warriors. All three of those wins came by TKO or submission as he defeated Jefferson George and Hakon Foss by first round TKO. His submission win happened in between the two TKO wins as he finished Perry Goodwin by guillotine. He looked to spoil Chimaev’s party and pick up a big win in his UFC debut at UFC on ESPN 14.
The fight began and the two fighters met in the middle with a touch of gloves, and then Chimaev shot for a takedown. He picked up McKee and lifted him across the cage to be near his own cornermen before taking the fight to the mat. From that point on, Chimaev went to work. He began landing hard punches and elbows while looking for submissions where he could. Just over three minutes into the round, as Chimaev was raining down punches, the ref had seen enough.
Chimaev has quickly made a name for himself, going 2-0 in his first two octagon appearances in the span of ten days. And he did so in dominant fashion as he has out landed his opponents 192-2 during those two fights. With the name he has made for himself, it is possible his next outing could be against a notable welterweight. A couple of names that come to mind are Belal Muhammad and Jake Matthews.
Muhammad is currently on a three fight win streak with his last fight happening at UFC on ESPN 11. That night he took on Lyman Good, defeating him by unanimous decision. Prior to that win, he defeated Takashi Sato by third round submission at UFC 242. He also holds a unanimous decision win over Curtis Millender that kicked off his win streak. In his last eight fights, Muhammad has only lost one, dropping a unanimous decision to Geoff Neal. Over that time, he put together wins over fighters like Tim Means and Randy Brown.
As for Matthews, his last fight took place at UFC Fight Night 168 where he won his second straight fight. He defeated Emil Meek that night, winning by unanimous decision. The second win on that streak came at UFC 243 when he defeated Rostem Akman by unanimous decision. He has only lost one fight over his last six, dropping a submission loss to Anthony Rocco Martin. As for his other wins, his most notable came at UFC 221 when he defeated Li Jingliang by unanimous decision.
#3 Francisco Trinaldo
def. Jai Herbert via TKO (Punches) at 1:30 of Round Three
Entering UFC on ESPN 14, MMA veteran Francisco Trinaldo had put together a two fight win streak. Starting just a few months after turning 41-years-old, Trinaldo picked up the first win at UFC Fight Night 164. That night he faced off against Bobby Green, defeating him by unanimous decision. The next win happened about four months later at UFC Fight Night 170 when he faced John Makdessi. He defeated Makdessi that night as he won his second straight by unanimous decision. He looked to make it three in a row as he faced off against a UFC newcomer at UFC on ESPN 14.
Before he made his debut in the octagon, Jai Herbert put together an impressive win streak with Cage Warriors. He made his Cage Warriors debut in 2018 and quickly put together three straight wins. Those wins came over Erdi Karatas by unanimous decision, and Joe McColgan and Steve O’Keefe, both coming by TKO. The win streak earned him an opportunity to fight for the vacant Cage Warriors lightweight title. He would end up winning the title, defeating Jack Grant by third round TKO. In his last fight before making the jump to the UFC, Herbert defended his title, defeating Cain Carrizosa by first round knockout. Herbert looked to pick up a big win in his octagon debut as he took on Trinaldo at UFC on ESPN 14.
In the beginning of round one, Herbert was able to connect with a couple of hard shots. Just about minute in, Trinaldo closed the distance, landing a nice combination before pushing Herbert against the fence. The two worked in the clinch for a few seconds before Trinaldo got the fight to the mat. Trinaldo landed some good shots on the ground before he started working very hard on a guillotine. But Herbert was able to defend well and got back to his feet. The two were in the clinch again as Trinaldo started looking for another takedown.
With about two minutes left in the round, Trinaldo got the body lock and brought Herbert down again. As Trinaldo held him down again, he landed more hard elbows. Herbert slowly tried getting back to his feet as Trinaldo landed some heavy knees to his body. During the last minute of the round, Herbert landed some hard knees in the clinch and was also able to take Trinaldo down.
Just seconds into the second round, Herbert landed a perfect right hand that dropped Trinaldo. Moments later, Herbert was able to take Trinaldo’s back and quickly began fishing for the choke. Halfway into the round, Trinaldo was able to reverse the position and get on top, but Herbert immediately slipped out and got back to his feet. Once back on his feet, Herbert began landing heavy shots, pouring the pressure on Trinaldo. After the two exchanged body kicks, Herbert slipped and Trinaldo landed a hard left hand as he got back to his feet. With just under two minutes left, Herbert landed another right hand that buckled Trinaldo. During the final two minutes of the round, Herbert continued landing right hands and powerful knees in the clinch. Heading into round three, it seemed that each fighter had one round apiece.
In the third round, Trinaldo opened up with a lot of kicks, landing good inside leg kicks and hard body kicks. Herbert continued to try to find a spot for his right hand as Trinaldo moved forward. Trinaldo also landed some good combinations before he landed a massive left hook that dropped Herbert. Trinaldo stood there as Herbert seemed to be finished but the ref needed more so Trinaldo landed some ground and pound before the fight was stopped.
After a dominant second round from Herbert, Trinaldo came back strong in the third to prove that at 41 years old, he has still got it. The win puts his win streak at three in a row as he looks to move towards the lightweight rankings once again. One fight that seems veery interesting could be a match up with Gregor Gillespie. Sitting at number twelve in the lightweight rankings, Gillespie’s last outing came at UFC 244 last November. Gillespie put his undefeated record on the line that night, facing off against former interim lightweight title challenger Kevin Lee. Unfortunately he would lose his zero as Lee knocked him out in the first round with a perfect head kick. After the brutal loss, Gillespie needs to find a way to bounce back and a challenge against a veteran like Trinaldo could be a good match up.
#4 Jesse Ronson
def. Nicolas Dalby via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:48 of Round One
From 2015-2016, Nicolas Dalby had a brief stint with the UFC. He made his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 67 when he took on Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. He would go on to win his debut, defeating dos Santos by unanimous decision. In his next outing, he faced Darren Till and fought him to a majority draw. After the draw, he lost his next two straight fights to Zak Cummings and Peter Sobotta. He was released from the UFC following those losses and he would then put together a record of 3-1, 1NC with Cage Warriors, winning the interim welterweight title before making his return. Dalby returned to the UFC last September at UFC Fight Night 160 as he faced Alex Oliveira, winning by unanimous decision. He looked to win his second straight against another fighter making his return to the UFC.
Making his UFC debut in 2013 at UFC 165, Jesse Ronson faced off against Michel Prazeres. He lost his debut by split decision, and would then go on to lose his next two straight by split decision to Trinaldo and Kevin Lee. After three straight losses, Ronson was released from the UFC. After his release, Ronson put together a record of 6-2 outside the UFC with various promotions. In his most recent fight before making his UFC return, Ronson faced off against Troy Lamson at BTC 9. He looked to return in a big way as the underdog in his return to the octagon at UFC on ESPN 14 against Dalby.
As the fight opened up, each guy traded body kicks but Dalby landed a good combination of punches immediately after. Each fighter seemed to be utilizing their kicks early on as Ronson landed leg kicks and Dalby going for body and high kicks. Just over a minute into the round, Dalby forced Ronson into the clinch as he landed a couple knees before backing him to the cage. After forcing him back to the fence, Dalby landed a big elbow before changing levels and looking for a takedown. He could not get it right away as Ronson’s defense held up as the two broke apart moments later.
As the two met in the center again, they both traded combinations before Ronson landed a left hand that dropped Dalby. Ronson immediately began looking for the finish, landing hard elbows before easily passing to full mount. Once there, Dalby quickly gave up his back allowing Ronson to lock up the choke and finish the fight.
After the fight, Ronson made it clear that he intended on moving back down to lightweight for his next outing. He then went on to make a couple of callouts, claiming that he has a problem with taller fighters.
The first man he called out was TUF alum Luis Pena. Pena’s last outing took place earlier this summer at UFC on ESPN 12 when he took on Khama Worthy. In the third round of that fight, Pena would lose as Worthy submitted him by guillotine. With a big win over Dalby in his UFC return, Ronson should not face someone coming off a loss. So that brings in the second callout, Jalin Turner.
Turner last fought at UFC Fight Night 168 earlier this year as he faced Joshua Culibao. Turner picked up the win that night, finishing Culibao in the second round by TKO. Coming off a win, he makes much more sense for Ronson’s next outing.
#5 Tom Aspinall
def. Jake Collier via TKO (Punches) at 0:45 of Round One
Coming into UFC on ESPN 14, Tom Aspinall was making his octagon debut after putting together an impressive three fight win streak outside the UFC. All three of those wins had come by way of KO/TKO. His last two outings were under the Cage Warriors banner as he faced Sofiane Boukichou and Michael Ben Hamouda. He defeated both of them by TKO, finishing Boukichou in round one, and most recently finishing Hamouda in less than a minute. He entered the UFC looking to do the same as he faced a former middleweight and light heavyweight.
Making his UFC debut at middleweight in 2014, Jake Collier lost his first octagon appearance to Vitor Miranda. He would then go on to alternate wins and losses, winning his next outing over Ricardo Abreu. Collier would then lose to Dongi Yang by TKO, then he defeated Alberto Uda by TKO, before losing a unanimous decision to Devin Clark in his move to 205 pounds. In his most recent outing, he faced Marcel Fortuna at UFC Fight Night 120 in 2017, winning by unanimous decision. After dealing with injuries shortly after, he was then suspended for ten months in February 2019 due to a failed USADA test. His return was scheduled for UFC on ESPN 14 as he made the move to heavyweight to face Aspinall.
Both fighters traded leg kicks to open up the fight but as Aspinall backed Collier up, he began landing some hard two punch combos. The pair of fighters eventually circled back to the center again where Aspinall landed a hard knee to Collier’s body, followed by a quick one-two to finish the fight.
After the big win in his UFC debut, Aspinall mentioned one fighter he would be interested in facing next. Fighting on last week’s UFC Fight Night 172, Sergey Spivak impressed Aspinall with his performance. Aspinall thought he looked very good and would like to challenge himself against Spivak. Spivak faced off against Carlos Felipe last weekend as the two fought to a decision. When the scorecards were read, it was announced that Spivak had won by majority decision. Aspinall asked for it, so why not give it to him and let him face Spivak in his next octagon appearance.
The UFC is done on Fight Island with the conclusion of UFC on ESPN 14. That means it is back to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada as UFC Fight Night 173 goes down on Saturday, August 1. In the main event, undefeated middleweight Edmen Shahbazyan faces his toughest match up yet. That match up will be against Derek Brunson who holds big wins over fighters like Ian Heinisch, Lyoto Machida and Uriah Hall. The pair were originally scheduled to meet in the co-main event. The original headliner was scheduled to be a women’s bantamweight fight between Holly Holm and Irene Aldana. However, Aldana tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and was forced out of the fight, promoting Brunson and Shahbazyan. Due to the late notice switch, the main event will only be three rounds.
In the night’s co-main event, Joanne Calderwood makes her return. Originally scheduled to fight for the women’s flyweight title against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 251, the fight would fall through due to the COVID-19. Since then, Calderwood has gotten tired of waiting for Shevchenko to return. So to pass the time, she will take on the sixth ranked flyweight, Jennifer Maia. Maia holds unanimous decision wins over Alexis Davis and Roxanne Modafferi but recently lost a unanimous decision to Katlyn Chookagian. As for Calderwood, she enters the contest coming off a split decision over Andrea Lee. So remember to check back here next week for UFC Fight Night 173’s Standout Performances.
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