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UFC Vegas 26 showcases several fighters ascending the ranks

Updated: May 22, 2021

Headlined by a deserving women’s main event, UFC Vegas 26 delivered an array of treats to MMA fans.

Multiple fighters attempted to steal the show with their performances so let’s jump right into it and break down the action.

Rodriguez def. Waterson via Unanimous Decision

Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2) earned her fourth UFC victory in a five-round war with Michelle Waterson (18-9).

Save for the fourth round, where Waterson dominated with ground-and-pound, Rodriguez looked the part of a legit contender in the flyweight division.

She held a 144-100 striking advantage with 125 of those being significant strikes. Her superior hand speed in conjunction with imposing length spelled danger for the smaller Waterson.

The win was never guaranteed, however, thanks to Waterson’s unpredictably accurate karate style. A calf-kick followed immediately by a roundhouse to the jaw stunned Rodriguez in the fifth-round, causing noticeable swelling within minutes.

It was a bit too little too late for Waterson, though, who surely lost rounds one through three and needed a finish.

Rodriguez was calculated when needed, as well as relentless when given the opportunity in a fight she generally dictated.

This should propel her into the flyweight rankings and garner another established opponent.

‘Cowboy’ Falls to Morono in round 1

On short notice, welterweight Alex Morono (19-7) finished Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone (36-16) in round one, just as he said he would.

The record-holder for most wins in UFC, Cerrone has been desperately searching for one as of late. He’s lost five of his last six fights, the lone exception resulting in a draw.

The 38-year-old announced after the fight that he does not plan on retiring yet, but the writing is on the wall.

Morono easily absorbed Cerrone’s early attack before landing some serious blows in return.

A final flurry of punches left Cerrone out on his feet, forcing the referee to intervene and stop the bout.

While ‘Cowboy’ can still hang with just about anyone, it’s becoming evident that the old gunslinger is losing his might.

Magny Prevails as the Underdog Yet Again

As is the case with every Neil Magny fight, it’s a marathon not a sprint; and Magny (25-9) may be the best conditioned fighter in the UFC.

His victory came against Geoff Neal (13-4), who is a great boxer with knockout power, eight of his 13 victories are via (T)KO.

The six-foot-three Magny however used his savvy defensive strategy to keep Neal uncomfortable.

He lures his opponents towards the fence where he controls the distance and then, works effectively from close range.

Neal landed good shots throughout the fight, but every time he gained momentum, Magny countered with a standing clinch or his ever-present jab.

This is a recipe that Magny knows can win fights. He’s in unbelievable shape and told Daniel Cormier after the fight he could be ready for his next opponent by August.

Magny wants to go for the gusto at welterweight, and odds are high we’ll see him in the octagon again this year.

‘All Heart’ Gillespie Breaks Down Ferreira

What. A. Fight.

The first round of this bout was something straight out of a video game. The two fighters never rested a second, exchanging combinations on the feet and endless wrestling.

A play-by-play of their scrambling is just impossible.

Ferreira (17-4) looked to come out of the round on top as Gillespie (14-1) stumbled to his corner after the horn.

However, things changed in round two.

Gillespie, the self proclaimed best wrestler and best conditioned fighter in the UFC, demonstrated why that may be true.

Ferreira seemed to be comfortable defending his shots, but once Gillespie got him down after a minute into the round, Ferreira never got to his feet again.

Gillespie was unhinged in the final minute. He had hooks in for a possible choke, never letting go of Ferreira who was visibly exhausted and unable to find a better position.

Ground-and-pound from the back mount forced the official to stop the fight. An emotional Gillespie was overcome after his first victory since 2019.

On the contrary, Ferreira was crushed to suffer a second consecutive loss and have to work that much harder to climb back up the rankings.

The two exchanged respects after the fight, which is great to see after they both left it all in the octagon.

Phil Hawes Continues His Ascent

At first glance, you may think Phil Hawes (11-2) was a light heavyweight at least. There aren’t many at 185-pounds built like him.

His opponent, Kyle Daukaus (10-2), was on the receiving end of that overpowering frame.

Hawes’ control in this fight progressively grew as the fight went on, save for a combination that left him dazed early in the second round.

Daukaus was the longer and taller fighter, but Hawes was not deterred by his length. His punches kept coming, coupled with textbook takedowns.

An elbow in the second round cut Daukaus and it got worse in the third where Daukaus mounted almost zero offense.

Hawes made it apparent in the post-fight interview, his eyes are on the champion Israel Adesanya.

At 3-0 in the past nine months alone, Hawes is improving rapidly and could one day find himself in the title picture.

Future Hall-of-Famer Daniel Cormier gave him some great advice in the interim, “If you train for the champion, no one else really matters.”


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