Song Yadong after his UFC Vegas 50 win over Marlon Moraes. | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
The real winners and losers from UFC Vegas 50
A fight card that began with five consecutive finishes ended with a 25-minute light heavyweight slog.
A forgettable matchup between two top-six ranked light heavyweights, Thiago Santos and Magomed Ankalaev, brought an entertaining fight card to a grinding halt on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. In a contest where neither fighter looked eager to engage the other, Ankalaev handed Santos a decision loss.
Prior to the headlining matchup, rising bantamweight star, Song Yadong, took another step up the 135-pound ladder as he used his fast and powerful striking to put away former UFC title challenger Marlon Moraes in the first round.
Song Yadong: Team Alpha Male might have themselves another contender in the UFC’s bantamweight division in the 24-year-old Song Yadong. Yadong showed speed and especially power in finishing former title challenger Marlon Moraes in the first round with a one-punch knockout. Yadong was ranked No. 14 in the division in the official UFC rankings prior to UFC Vegas 50, while Moraes checked in at No. 10. Expect Yadong to jump in the rankings and in the eyes of the UFC matchmakers after his devastating win.
Sodiq Yusuff vs. Alex Caceres: Sodiq Yusuff and Alex Caceres put on an entertaining featherweight fight on the main card of UFC Vegas 50. Caceres did a good job with his movement and counters, but it was the kicks and aggression of Yusuff that carried the day, giving Yusuff his first win since January 2020. Yusuff had been out of action since an April 2021 loss to Arnold Allen. As for Caceres, the decision loss to Yusuff ended his five-fight winning streak.
Khalil Rountree Jr.: Khalil Rountree Jr. threw the majority of his strikes against Karl Roberson with fight-ending intentions. Rountree’s power — and more importantly, his aggression — earned him a second-round TKO victory.
The stoppage gave Rountree his first back-to-back wins since he stopped Daniel Jolly and Paul Craig in 2017.
Drew Dober: Drew Dober withstood the onslaught Terrance McKinney threw his way in the first couple of minutes of their lightweight scrap and came back to finish the fight via strikes. Dober is not someone to be trifled with. He might have been on a two-fight losing skid ahead of UFC Vegas 50, but those losses were to Brad Riddell and Islam Makhachev. This was a win Dober needed and a reminder that while he might not be ranked in the 155-pound division, he’s not a fighter to overlook.
Alex Pereira: Alex Pereira came into UFC Vegas 50 with a lot of hype. He looked good in his middleweight contest against Bruno Silva and showed that he is progressing in his takedown defense. Outside of that, I think Pereira needs a fair amount of additional time inside the octagon before he’s ready to face a ranked opponent. Don’t forget, Pereira is still just 5-1 in MMA and three of those fights came in 2016 or earlier.
Bruno Silva: Bruno Silva gave a strong effort against Alex Pereira. Silva is normally a fairly reckless striker, he was less reckless in this outing and he showed a lot of heart and toughness in giving Pereira a bit of a test.
Javid Basharat: Javid Basharat had an outstanding UFC debut on Saturday. He delivered an exciting and gutsy performance in going the distance for the first time in his career. Despite his bout opposite Trevin Jones being the first time he went into the third round, Basharat never took his foot off the gas and never stopped going for the finish.
Damon Jackson: Damon Jackson is in his second stint in the UFC. He went winless in three fights between 2014-2016 before he rejoined the promotion in 2020. Jackson is 3-1 in his second run with the promotion. Jackson earned his second UFC submission win on Saturday by defeating Kamuela Kirk.
The 33-year-old asked for a top-15 opponent for his next outing.
Miranda Maverick: The 24-year-old Miranda Maverick bounced back from two decision losses to get herself a submission win over Sabina Mazo. Maverick showed a developing striking game to go with her grappling skills. Maverick is still developing — and at her age she has time to do so — but she is a fighter to keep an eye on.
Also noteworthy about Maverick is her confidence and comfort on the microphone, which is something the UFC brass should pay attention to.
Cody Brundage: Cody Brundage was on the wrong side of the striking of Dalcha Lungiambula, but he remained focused and cognizant of his position and when he found an opportunity to pull guard and lock in a guillotine choke, he earned the tap to get his first win in the UFC.
Guido Cannetti: The 42-year-old Guido Cannetti ended a three-fight losing skid on Saturday with a first-round TKO win over Kris Moutinho. What made the stoppage noteworthy is that Cannetti needed only 28 significant strikes to stop Moutinho, which is a far cry from the 230 it took Sean O’Malley to get the finish against the resilient Moutinho.
Azamat Murzakanov: Azamat Murzakanov did not have a great first two rounds in his UFC debut, but he made everyone forget about the first 10 minutes of the fight when he landed a massive flying knee that put Tafon Nchukwi down and out in the third stanza. As far as statement knockouts go, Murzakanov delivered.
Javid Basharat: Javid Basharat showed his decency in making sure Trevin Jones to get some mic time after he defeated Jones at UFC Vegas 50. The reason was that Basharat wanted to give Jones the opportunity to dedicate the fight, win or lose, to his late friend.
Chris Tognoni: Chris Tognoni had a good stoppage in the Guido Cannetti vs. Kris Moutinho bout. The MMA world is quick to give officials grief, but when they do something well, that should also be noted. Tognoni saved Moutinho from taking unneeded abuse.
Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev: The main event between Thiago Santos and Magomed Ankalaev was not exciting. It was tense as both fighters seemed reluctant to throw more than single strikes.
Ankalaev got the victory and moved his winning streak to eight straight, but it’s hard to see his stock rising from that performance in the shallow light heavyweight division. As for Santos, he is 1-4 in his past five outings and that single win was a dud of a fight opposite Johnny Walker.
Ankalaev will more likely than not get another opportunity to headline a UFC card because of his winning streak and ranking. I’m hard pressed to say the same for Santos who has not looked the same since his loss to then-UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in 2019.
This fight was a weak finish for an entertaining card.
Marlon Moraes: The 33-year-old Marlon Moraes dropped his fourth fight in a row with a loss to Song Yadong at UFC Vegas 50. The loss was Moraes’ fourth consecutive knockout loss and his fight KO setback since 2019.
The knockout that started Moraes’ slide came at the hands of Henry Cejudo in their bout for the vacant 135-pound crown. In 2021, UFC president Dana White said, “In that Moraes fight, Moraes came out and put a beating on him (Cejudo) in that first round. He went back to the corner, made the adjustments he needed to make, came back out, and broke him. Broke Marlon Moraes. Never been the same since. Not only did he break him, I think he ruined him.”
White’s assessment might have been harsh, but Moraes has not been the same fighter since that setback.
Terrance McKinney: I’m not sure if the short notice nature of the fight or overconfidence led to the approach Terrance McKinney used to open his fight against Drew Dober, but his all-out attack did not work out for him. Dober withstood the attack and handed McKinney his first loss since 2019.
The 27-year-old McKinney is a talented fighter with wrestling and striking skills, but he might have bit off more than he could chew in accepting a short-notice fight against an opponent like Dober. McKinney is a fighter worth watching, and I’ll be very interested to see how he bounces back from the Dober loss.
Sabina Mazo: Former LFA flyweight champion Sabina Mazo dropped her third straight bout against Miranda Maverick. Mazo had nothing to offer Maverick, who was much better with her grappling.
Kris Moutinho: Kris Moutinho is two fights into his UFC run and he has been stopped in both outings. Moutinho has shown he can take a beating, but that’s not a route to a long UFC career. The 29-year-old has absorbed 258 significant strikes in 16:40 of UFC action and landed 81.
UFC: We often hear how the UFC is a bastion of free speech and that the promotion doesn’t stifle any of its fighters. Which leaves one to wonder why Javid Basharat could not have an Afghanistan flag on his fight kit or have a flag listed beside his name on his walkout.
Paul Felder: JJ Aldrich attempted a takedown in the final two seconds of her fight against Gillian Robertson. Aldrich never gained control of Robertson let alone move to an advantageous position. Despite the attempt having zero reason to be considered when scoring the fight, UFC commentator Paul Felder praised the attempt.
“That’s such a veteran move,” said Felder. “That’s such a smart approach to fighting. She knew there was almost no time left in that round, she level changed perfectly and got a big takedown… “
Felder was off the mark in his assessment. It was not a takedown, and it was a meaningless effort in relation to the scoring of the fight.