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411’s UFC Fight Night Report: Smith Outclasses Spann

September 18, 2021 | Posted by Robert Winfree
UFC on ESPN+ 50 Image Credit: UFC

MAIN CARD (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
#6 Anthony Smith (205.5 lbs.) vs. #11 Ryan Spann (206 lbs.)
Devin Clark (206 lbs.) vs. Ion Cutelaba (205 lbs.)
Mandy Bohm (125.5 lbs.) vs. Ariane Lipski (126 lbs.)
Christos Giagos (155.5 lbs.) vs. #14 Arman Tsarukyan (155.5 lbs.)
Tony Gravely (135.5 lbs.) vs. Nate Maness (135 lbs.)
Antonio Arroyo (186 lbs.) vs. Joaquin Buckley (184.5 lbs.)

Tafon Nchukwi (204.5 lbs.) vs. Mike Rodriguez (202 lbs.)
#12 Pannie Kianzad (136 lbs.) vs. Raquel Pennington (135.5 lbs.)
Rong Zhu (158 lbs.)* vs. Brandon Jenkins (155.5 lbs.)
JP Buys (136 lbs.) vs. Montel Jackson (136 lbs.)
Sarah Alpar (126 lbs.) vs. Erin Blanchfield (125 lbs.)
Carlston Harris (170 lbs.) vs. Impa Kasanganay (170.5 lbs.)
Heili Alateng (136 lbs.) vs. Gustavo Lopez (135 lbs.)
Hannah Goldy (125 lbs.) vs. Emily Whitmire (125 lbs.)

Hello everyone and welcome to 411mania’s LIVE coverage of UFC on ESPN+ 50. I’m Robert Winfree and I’m your host. This card isn’t especially compelling on paper as it very much feels like filler ahead of next weeks UFC 266. But we’ve got a relevant light heavyweight bout in our main event, former title challenger Anthony Smith looks to get back into the title picture when he takes on rising contender Ryan Spann in Spann’s first UFC main event. While the winner isn’t going to be the next title contender, they’re probably only one win away depending on a few variables. The only other fight of note is the rising contender Arman Tsarukyan, who has looked quite good but could use a statement performance tonight and is positioned well to do so against Christos Giagos. Beyond that, Joaquin Buckley is in action, as is Pannie Kianzad. We’re really hoping this is more compelling in practice than on paper.

UFC on ESPN+ 50 comes to the world from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. On commentary we have Brendan Fitzgerald and Michael Bisping. As for the rules, Nevada uses most of the newer ones except the downed fighter definition. Nevada does have the use of instant replay including a replay official out of the cage who can call for a review and the fight can be restarted after the use of instant replay if that’s applicable. Also keep in mind the Apex is hosting the smaller 25 foot diameter cage.

Emily Whitmire has gone 2-3 in the UFC and currently finds herself on a two fight losing streak, she needs a win rather badly just to get a bit of job security. Hannah Goldy has gone 0-2 in the UFC and could easily be cut from the promotion if she goes 0-3 tonight. The odds are with Whitmire at -125 to a +105 comeback on Goldy.

Women’s Flyweight Bout: Hannah Goldy (5-2, 125 lbs.) vs. Emily Whitmire (4-4, 125 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Whitmire is an inch taller and has two and a half inches of reach advantage. Both women with some feinting early, then probe with kicks. Some leg kicks are traded. Goldy forces a clinch, and gets hit with a trip takedown and has to scramble to get her guard. Whitmire stands free, then goes back into the guard. Goldy regains her feet and they resume clinching. Some knees from Goldy but Whitmire hits that same trip into half guard this time. Whitmire gets caught in full guard, then passes back to half guard and lands a few punches. Goldy gets her guard back and tries to get up but is too slow and Whitmire gets her back. Goldy quickly turns and gets half guard but is still on the bottom. Bit of an up kick from Goldy but Whitmire gets back on top in her guard again. Armbar attempt from Goldy, her legs are in position, she fights to extend it and Whitmire verbally taps out as it extends.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Hannah Goldy via Submission, armbar, at 4:17 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Ms. Goldy for her work this evening. Mic time for Goldy, she feels good and finally feels like she’s able to show off her ground skills. She really wanted to have fun this time out.

Fairly standard stuff from Goldy, she’s able to trap the arm of Whitmire and then swivel her hips to get the legs in position. From there Whitmire isn’t able to get to her feet and try to step around and release pressure before Goldy can extend the trapped arm. Fun little detail, look at the other arm of Whitmire, it’s trapped under the threatened arm and further limits her defensive options as well as raising the fulcrum point.

Gustavo Lopez has gone 1-2 in the UFC, those losses somewhat mitigated by coming at the hands of Merab Dvalishvili and Adrian Yanez but he still needs a win tonight just to get his UFC record to the .500 mark. Heili Alateng has gone 2-1 in the UFC but he is coming off of that loss and he’s trying to avoid his first UFC losing streak. Alateng is a slight -130 favorite to a +110 comeback on Lopez.

Bantamweight Bout: Heili Alateng (14-8-1, 136 lbs.) vs. Gustavo Lopez (12-6, 135 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Lopez has half an inch of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going. Both men feinting early, then Alateng misses a few punches. Alateng keeps swinging a right hand, and runs into a right from Lopez before they clinch up and hit the fence. They break without incident and reset. Bit of a right from Alateng. Alateng lands a series of punches, but Lopez fires back with a right of his own then they clinch and break. Neither man is really moving their head once they engage, it’s a potential problem. Alateng lands a glancing right but he’s at the very end of his punching range. Lopez lands a left hook in close. As they’re warmed up both men are a little more fluid with their head movement now. Bit of a left from Lopez. Lopez is cut around the left eye, I can’t quite see where specifically. Both men smother their own punches on an exchange. Lopez lands a left to counter a jumping knee then they feint away the final seconds.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Alateng

ROUND TWO: That cut on Lopez is around the outside of the eyebrow so I don’t think we’re in danger of a stoppage unless it gets worse, but his eye is swelling up a bit. Hard calf kick from Lopez. Alateng misses a couple of looping punches, those might have landed if he’d straightened them out. Another calf kick from Lopez then he checks one from Alateng. Bit of a right from Alateng. Lopez lands another calf kick, those are adding up quickly. They trade rights while circling, Lopez is coming forward for maybe the first time all fight. Both men land lefts. Alateng is able to sprawl away from a takedown attempt then starts landing his jab. Lopez lands another calf kick. Alateng lands an overhand right. Lopez lands another calf kick to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Alateng but a closer one, 20-18 Alateng overall

ROUND THREE: Alateng is pressing forward again, he’s mostly been the aggressor in this fight. Lopez lands a body kick. Alateng lands another overhand right. Lopez with a right, Alateng counters with a solid left hook. Lopez wobbles Alateng with some rights, he’s on the hunt now and gets a clinch then hits a mat return. Alateng wall walks, Lopez is able to land knees to the body and keeps the clinch looking to get another takedown. Alateng keeps grabbing the fence trying to defend, and the ref breaks them up to deduct a point from Alateng. I’m OK with that, he kept doing it and it was pretty significant. They reset in the clinch and Lopez gets him down to a knee and starts looking for the choke. Punches from Lopez now, he’s on the back briefly but Alateng fights up and separates. Alateng tries a single leg, Lopez defends then jumps for a guillotine choke. That choke is pretty tight but eventually Alateng gets his head out and Lopez kicks him off and stands up. Lopez reaches for a single leg but can’t finish it and they start trading in the clinch before breaking. They clash on power hand punches, then just feint away the last few seconds.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Lopez after the point deduction, 28-28 DRAW overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Unanimous DRAW (28-28 x3)

Correct result from where I sit, Alatengheili cost himself that one.

Impa Kasanganay moved down to welterweight earlier this year after being on the wrong end of 2020’s knockout of the year up at middleweight and scored a win, he’s trying to get his first UFC winning streak up and running while proving he’s found a good home at welterweight. Carlston Harris is on a four fight winning streak including a successful UFC debut earlier this year, he’s looking to extend that streak here and solidify himself as a rising prospect in the division. Kasanganay is your favorite at -120 to an even +100 payout on Harris.

Welterweight Bout: Carlston Harris (16-4, 170 lbs.) vs. Impa Kasanganay (9-1, 170.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Harris has an inch of height and reach advantage, he’s also 7 years older. Both men come out swinging, neither lands clean but they’re not playing around. They both miss rights, then Harris gets a clinch on the fence. Kasanganay spins free, then they trade punches again. Bit of a right from Kasanganay, Harris counters with a body shot. Harris blocks a right then lands a right hand. Kasanganay lands a body kick. They trade rights in close, but Harris has wobbled Kasanganay and looks to finish. Harris gets Kasanganay down and moves to the back then unloads with punches until the ref stops it.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Carlston Harris via TKO, punches, at 2:38 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Harris for his work this evening. Mic time for Harris, he notes he finally got to show off his boxing skills tonight then puts over his various trainers. He’s happy to have won and is here to stay. To close he thanks everyone cheering for him in his native Guyana, and his sparring partners then talks us through the finish.

The punches from Harris are nice, but watch the way he gets inside wrist control on the far arm of Kasanganay because that wildly limits the options Kasanganay has and helps open up the finishing flurry.

Erin Blanchfield brings a three fight winning streak into her UFC debut, she’s hoping to make a good first impression on the UFC audience. Sarah Alpar had a three fight winning streak snapped in her UFC a year ago when she was stopped by Jessica-Rose Clark, now she’s trying to rebound from the loss and get that all important first UFC win under her belt. Blanchfield is a heavy favorite at -380 to a +300 comeback on Alpar.

Women’s Flyweight Bout: Sarah Alpar (9-5, 126 lbs.) vs. Erin Blanchfield (6-1, 125 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Blanchfield has three inches of reach advantage and is 8 years younger. Southpaw for Alpar, who comes out swinging. Both women land some punches then trade leg kicks. Blanchfield lands a combination in close and is backing Alpar up now. Body kick from Blanchfield lands, then a right hand as Alpar tried to clinch. Blanchfield lands a combination, she’s got Alapr up on the fence and is landing on her consistently now. Elbow from Blanchfield as they clinch, then one as they break. Alpar keeps trying to hang on but Blanchfield is working knees and elbows as they break. Blanchfield lands a hard body kick, she’s landing almost at will now. Alpar lands a left hand. Another left from Alpar, then Blanchfield lands a combination of punches. Blanchfield’s pressure is getting to Alpar already. Another clinch on the fence, they jockey for position then Blanchfield gets a trip takedown into side control. There’s some serious swelling around the right eyebrow of Alpar. Blanchfield is looking to pass to full mount, winds up in 3/4 mount and lands some short punches and elbows to the head of Alpar. Alpar gives up her back, Blanchfield gets one hook in and keeps laying in blows. Alpar keeps scrambling and gets half guard back. Blanchfield lands body blows, then transitions to hitting the head as well. Alpar kicks Blanchfield off, and Blanchfield lands leg kicks standing over her as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Blanchfield

ROUND TWO: Blanchfield immediately returns to forward pressure, this time adding in some longer distance kicks. Stiff jab from Blanchfield. Alpar lands a leg kick. Blanchfield lands a few rights, then tries a head kick but that’s blocked. Another jab from Blanchfield, Alpar is trying but she’s getting hit reliably. Blanchfield lands a combination and they clinch up again, this time Blanchfield gets a clinch takedown into the ride position. Alpar is trying to set up a wall walk, Blanchfield lands some knees to the body. Blanchfield is looking for the choke now, but not having both hooks is limiting her options at the moment. Blanchfield lands a bunch of punches to the head but can’t quite string together a finishing flurry. Apar gets half guard as she moves to her back and starts trying to get up but Blanchfield pushes her flat and away from the fence. Blanchfield is finding some short blows, she’s also trying to set up an arm triangle choke but she can’t get around the guard. Alpar defends the choke, but gives up her back and Blanchfield lays in more punches as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Blanchfield, 20-16 Blanchfield overall

ROUND THREE: Blanchfield is back on the forward pressure right away. Alpar is still trying, but Blanchfield is laying in body kicks now. Blanchfield punches into a clinch and lays in elbows and knees. More knees from Blanchfield then an elbow as they break. Alpar lands a left elbow, but eats a counter right. Body kick from Alpar, Blanchfield is slowing down a bit and is trying to be a bit more tactical. Blanchfield shoots a double leg and gets it into half guard. Blanchfield passes to side control, Alpar scrambles to her knees but is caught in a front headlock position. Alpar scoots to the fence and tries to wall walk but Blanchfield gets to the ride position and drives her back down onto her side and lays in punches. Hammer fists from Blanchfield as Alpar gets to half guard. Blanchfield passes to side control again, she tries an arm triangle but has to settle for the mount, then the back mount and she tees off but wont quite find the stoppage before the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Blanchfield but probably the closest of the fight, 30-24 Blanchfield overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Erin Blanchfield via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-25 x2)

I’m not sure there was any reason for that third round to have happened, that was a whoopin’ from start to finish. Mic time for Blanchfield, she wanted the finish and got close a few times but is happy with the win in her UFC debut.

Montel Jackson has gone 4-2 in the UFC and is coming off of a win, he’s looking to start making the difficult transition from prospect to contender with another win tonight. JP Buys is normally a flyweight and took this fight on short notice, he had a five fight winning streak snapped when he made his UFC debut earlier this year and is now trying to get his first UFC win. Unsurprisingly Jackson is a nearly prohibitive favorite at -650 while the +450 comeback on Buys might tempt a few degenerate bettors.

Bantamweight Bout: JP Buys (9-3, 136 lbs.) vs. Montel Jackson (10-2, 136 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Jackson is five inches taller with eight and a half inches of reach advantage. Southpaw for Jackson, and they touch gloves to get us going. Buys is trying to show the jab and move, he tries a double leg from way too far out and Jackson defends easily. Jackson lands a couple of punches then they clinch and Buys is able to get an inside reap takedown into side control. Buys moves to full mount, Jackson gives up his back trying to scramble up and Buys is after the choke. Jackson is defending so far, and Buys bails to land punches. Jackson stands and shakes Buys off, then gets a standing guillotine and drives Buys into the fence with it. Buys is able to defend that choke but Jackson off balances him and lands some punches then they scramble on the mat and Jackson lands punches from the ride position as they stand. Both men land knees, then punches and Jackson gets a double leg but Buys is on a guillotine of his own. There isn’t much danger of that choke, Jackson breaks his grip and postures up in the guard. Buys thinks about an armbar but Jackson lands hammer fists while defending. Jackson to the ride position and lands punches as Buys wall walks. Some punches and knees from Jackson as they’re clinched until the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Jackson but could go either way

ROUND TWO: The ref gives Buys a hard warning about fence grabbing before the round starts. Jackson is feinting, he lands a one two that drops Buys and he gets on top in half guard. Buys is able to roll under for a kneebar but can’t get it and scrambles up then looks for a kimura but again can’t find it. Jackson moves Buys over to the fence as Buys jumps looking for a guillotine. Buys bails on that as they hit the mat and Jackson passes to half guard. Buys is fishing for a kimura, he’s got the double wrist lock but he’s not really in a position to actually threaten to finish it. Jackson has moved to basically the ride and looks to get his arm free. Some short lefts from Jackson, Buys wall walks but takes a knee on the way up as Jackson retains the clinch. Jackson is good about finding little spaces to inflict damage then they separate. A right from Jackson drops Buys, but he makes him stand back up. Buys tries a single leg but can’t finish it. Jackson lands a left hand and they clinch, Jackson hits a body lock takedown into half guard. Buys is fishing for the kimura again, he’s mostly stalling with it as again he’s not really in a position to threaten with it. The round ends in that spot.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Jackson, borderline 10-8, 20-17 Jackson overall

ROUND THREE: Buys is circling again, Jackson lands a one two. Hard left from Jackson floors Buys, he follows him down and looks to unload but Buys puts up enough fight for him to back up and make him stand again. They clinch and Jackson tries a knee, this one hits the groin and we’ve got a time out for it. Buys takes about 40 seconds then we’re back to fighting. Jackson drops Buys with another left, but again makes Buys stand and resume fighting there. Buys is coming forward but he’s really struggling with the size difference. Jackson gets a takedown into full guard. Things are stalling out here. Buys is fishing for an arm again, Jackson rather easily defends and lands body shots. Buys keeps trying to get this kimura but he wont get too close before the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Jackson but that ending to the round probably cost him, 30-26 Jackson overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Montel Jackson via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)

Mic time for Jackson, he knew Buys would be a tough opponent that he’d have to put down clean and he couldn’t quite find that. They’re really cutting these interviews short, given the number of fights on this card I’m not too surprised.

Zhu Rong had a 10 fight winning streak snapped in his UFC debut back in April, now he’s trying to put that loss behind him but he missed weight for this fight adding even more pressure to score his first UFC win. Brandon Jenkins brings a three fight winning streak into his UFC debut, and he’s hoping to extend that here while making a good first impression to the fans. The odds are with Rong at -260 while the +210 comeback on Jenkins might be a tempting value bet.

Lightweight Bout: Rong Zhu (17-4, 158 lbs.) vs. Brandon Jenkins (15-7, 155.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Jenkins is three inches taller but the reach is identical, also Rong missed weight and Jenkins is 8 years older. Jenkins comes out kicking to the leg and body, he lands a few calf kicks as Rong is coming forward. Another leg kick from Jenkins, this time Rong returns it. Jenkins lands a front kick to the face, then tries an inside leg kick but it goes into the groin and Rong doesn’t want to have a break so they basically keep fighting through it. Both men land leg kicks. Jenkins is doing some stance switching now, and both men land leg kicks. Rong lands a left hook. Bit of a jumping knee from Jenkins. Rong with a counter right that lands flush. Calf kick from Jenkins, he’s trying to work his jab more now. More leg kicks are traded, then Rong lands a few punches. Jenkins misses a spinning back kick, Rong lands a right that off balances Jekins and he gets on top. Jenkins looks to wall walk as Rong moves to his back. Rong with some punches from the back, and an elbow as he moves to full mount. Jenkins scrambles and Rong winds up back in the ride position. Jenkins is able to get full guard, Rong postures and stands then lands body punches. Bit of an elbow from Jenkins, Rong fires back with a couple of his own as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Rong

ROUND TWO: Rong forces the issue quickly and gets a clinch after they trade. Rong around to the back standing as they fight for position, but he can’t keep Jenkins down this time. Jenkins gets chest to chest and Rong hits a double leg against the fence. Full guard for Jenkins. Rong lands an elbow. Some rights from Rong, Jenkins is trying to scramble but he’s getting controlled by Rong. Rong with some punches as he looks to pass, and does move to the ride position again. Rong is riding the back and fishing for the choke, but that lack of second hook is allowing Jenkins to keep the scramble. Jenkins to his back and tries to scramble but Rong winds up in full mount and lands elbows but Jenkins sweeps him and lands punches then a knee as Rong stands. Rong with a series of punches along the fence, Jenkins tries to fight back enough to keep the ref from stopping it but Rong is landing solid punches. A one two from Rong lands, Jenkins with a spinning back fist to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Rong but borderline 10-8, 20-18 Rong overall

ROUND THREE: Rong is pressuring forward again and still looking to punch. Jenkins land a body kick, and takes a hard counter right hand. Rong lands a right to the body. Jenkins slips on a spinning back fist, Rong gets on top in full guard. Jenkins kicks free and stands but can’t away as Rong hits a mat return and works from the back. Rong is smothering Jenkins, Jenkins is trying to wall walk but Rong is staying with him and landing some short punches. Jenkins does get up eventually but Rong is on his back and gets another takedown into the ride position. There’s definitely some Khabib influence in Rong’s decision making here. Rong with hammer fists and punches as Jenkins rolls to butterfly guard. Elbow from Rong, and punches to follow up as Jenkins is fighting to stand. More punches from Rong, if he really commits he can get a stoppage here. A final few punches from Rong do get the ref to halt the action.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Rong Zhu via TKO, punches, at 4:35 of Round 3

The Final Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Rongzhu for his work this evening. No interview for Rong.

This is the culmination of a prolonged beating, Rongzhu with some solid control and shot selection throughout in these positions.

Pannie Kianzad finds herself on a four fight winning streak and showing some of the most consistent form of her career, if she can extend her winning streak tonight she’ll be due a fight with someone ranked above her for her next fight. Raquel Pennington has gone just 2-3 in her last five fights but she is coming off of a win, and if she can best the ranked Kianzad here she’ll have her first winning streak since 2016. The odds are with Pennington at -130 to +110 for Kianzad.

Women’s Bantamweight Bout: #12 Pannie Kianzad (15-5, 136 lbs.) vs. Raquel Pennington (11-8, 135.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Pennington has an inch and a half of reach advantage. Both women feinting as they start, Kianzad lands a left hook. Pennington lands a jab and forces a clinch against the fence. Kianzad lands a knee to the body. More knees from Kianzad as she spins Pennington into the fence. Both women with knees to the body while they fight for position. Kianzad gets a trip takedown then lands short punches as Pennington wall walks. They resume fighting in the clinch, Kianzad with knees to the body, Pennington returns them. Kianzad lands an elbow. A knee to the head from Kianzad. Pennington with some knees to the body. Kianzad with a few more knees to the body then short punches. Pennington lands a knee to the body, then tries a single leg but there’s not a lot doing for her. They break, then clinch right back up. Some more knees from Kianzad as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Kianzad

ROUND TWO: Pennington immediately forces a clinch but winds up on the fence. Both women with punches in close then they break. Kianzad lands a combination and Pennington forces yet another clinch. Both women land on the break, then Pennington forces a clinch. Kianzad lands a few punches a they break. Body kick from Kianzad. Pennington lands an inside leg kick and gets another clinch. Single leg from Pennington and she gets on top in the full guard of Kianzad. Kianzad lands some elbows, she’s after a triangle choke but can’t secure it. Pennington passes to the ride position as she avoids a triangle attempt then gets both hooks in as they roll. They scramble and Kianzad gets full guard. Pennington lands a few punches to the body and head. Kianzad keeps trying to work her guard, she’s able to wall walk and they resume clinch fighting. A few knees from Kianzad, then they trade in the clinch as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Pennington, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Kianzad comes out punching. Pennington lands an inside leg kick. Kianzad with uppercuts as they clinch and hit the fence. Pennington gets a body lock but can’t keep it as they fight for position. Kianzad starts hitting the body as she gets Pennington on the fence. Both women land knees to the body. Kianzad lands an elbow as they break, then they trade rights. Pennington lands a right and they clinch again. Kianzad lands a knee to the face. Elbows are traded now, these two are trading everything. They break and Kianzad lands a left hook. Pennington lands a one two, and they clinch again. More knees and an elbow from Kianzad, then she lands a one two as they break. Pennington lands a superman punch and gets a clinch. They trade in the clinch then break. Pennington blocks a combination then they clinch again. They break, then Kianzad lands a right hand. Another right from Kianzad lands. Bit of a combination from Kianzad but Pennington is still pushing forward. Kianzad lands a knee as they clinch, then another one and they break. Another clinch, they brawl in that position for the final 10 seconds or so.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Kianzad but could go either way, 29-28 Kianzad overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Raquel Pennington via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)

I can live with that scoring, I’m not sure my scoring of round three is the best. Mic time for Pennington, per usual the plan wasn’t to clinch but that’s what she did. She was fairly confident in the scoring then thanks all of her coaches for standing by her then dedicates the fight to Suzi Friton, the UFC’s makeup artist who recently lost her battle with cancer.

Mike Rodriguez has a fairly dismal UFC record of 2-4 with 1 No Contest and is currently on a two fight losing streak, he needs a win badly or he could easily find himself looking for a new promoter. Tafon Nchukwi has gone 1-1 in the UFC but he’s coming off of a loss and is trying to avoid his first ever losing streak. Nchukwi is your -120 favorite to a +100 for Rodriguez.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Tafon Nchukwi (5-1, 204.5 lbs.) vs. Mike Rodriguez (11-6 1 NC, 202 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Rodriguez is four inches taller and has five and a half inches of reach advantage. Both men are fighting southpaw. Rodriguez is looking to fight long early, he’s working jabs and front leg kicks. Nchukwi lands a right hook. Leg kick from Rodriguez. Nchukwi punches into a clinch and they start trading knees. Some punches from Nchukwi. Elbows from Nchukwi, Rodriguez returns them. Rodriguez lands a stiff elbow as they break. More long kicks from Rodriguez, Nchukwi punches into a clinch then hits a foot sweep to land on top in half guard. Elbows from Nchukwi as Rodriguez tries to scramble, Rodriguez gets to his knees and Nchukwi is in the ride position. Rodriguez up, and Nchukwi hits a mat return then lands punches as Rodriguez wall walks. Nchukwi lands more elbows in the clinch, he’s working well from this position. A flurry of punches from Nchukwi as they break, but Rodriguez gets to distance. Rodriguez lands a leg kick. A couple of rights land for Rodirguez, then they clinch up as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Nchukwi

ROUND TWO: Rodriguez is trying to work the jab again as they start, he also lands a front kick to the body. Nchukwi is coming forward looking to swing, he lands a few body shots to counter a one two. A combination from Nchukwi mostly lands then they clinch up again. Nchukwi with some body to head punches in the pocket before Rodriguez circles free. Rodriguez lands a left hand. Nchukwi digs a body shot, then takes a leg kick. Rodriguez lands an uppercut, but Nchukwi lands a barrage of hooks then a spinning elbow. More forward pressure from Nchukwi, he punches into a clinch and starts working knees to the body. They break without incident. Bit of an elbow from Rodriguez. Nchukwi lands a left hand. Another clubbing left from Nchukwi will basically close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Nchukwi, 20-18 Nchukwi overall

ROUND THREE: Nchukwi is pushing forward again, but he’s slowing down just a bit. They trade some jabs while circling. Rodriguez with some jabs to the body. Some punches from Nchukwi but he can’t quite land flush. Nchukwi lands a right hook then a left hand. Another combination from Nchukwi, then he punches in close and has a knee blocked. Rodriguez lands a right hook and they clinch again. Some body shots from Nchukwi in close as they break. Nchukwi lands a left hand, but Rodriguez just eats it. Some body kicks from Rodriguez. One two from Rodriguez lands. They trade leg kicks then Nchukwi lands a right hook. Nchukwi punches into a clinch and works knees. Elbow from Nchukwi, Rodriguez lands a knee then Nchukwi lands punches as they break. More body work from Nchukwi, Rodriguez lands a right hook. Another clinch, and Nchukwi gets a takedown against the fence into full mount and lays in some punches as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Nchukwi, 30-27 Nchukwi overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Tafon Nchukwi via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)

Despite running long Nchukwi gets an interview, he says the new body feels great and puts over his supporters and coaches. He says life is kicking his butt and he’s got stuff to handle before returning but he hopes to be back as soon as he can.

That does it for the prelims, but we’re still on ESPN+ for the main card.

Joaquin Buckley has gone 2-2 in the UFC, scoring two impressive knockouts but he’s coming off of a head kick loss and is trying to avoid his first losing streak while salvaging his professional year and reminding fans of his upside. Antonio Arroyo has gone 0-2 in the UFC and needs a win badly as an 0-3 start could easily spell the end of his UFC run. The odds are with Buckley at -190 to a +160 payout for Arroyo.

Middleweight Bout: Antonio Arroyo (6-4, 186 lbs.) vs. Joaquin Buckley (12-4, 184.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Arroyo is five inches taller while Buckley has two and a half inches of reach advantage. Southpaw for Buckley. Both men doing a lot of feinting. Some head kicks are blocked on both sides. Neither man really has a feel for the other yet, they’re just kind of throwing kicks at each other. Buckley catches a kick, gets a takedown but Arroyo kicks him off and regains his feet immediately. Bit of a head kick from Arroyo. Buckley tries an inside leg kick that hits the groin of Arroyo so we’ve got a timeout. Arroyo takes 36 seconds then we’re back to fighting. Head kick from Arroyo partially lands and off balances Buckley. Buckley lands an inside leg kick. Arroyo lands a body kick. Jumping knee from Arroyo partially lands. Buckley slips on a head kick but gets up before Arroyo can secure top position. Arroyo has a head kick blocked. Buckley gets a a clinch off of a failed double leg as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Arroyo

ROUND TWO: Arroyo still working his kicks as the round starts. Bit of a right hook from Buckley then an inside leg kick. Buckley lands a body kick. Some leg kicks now from Arroyo as he’s working to set up his head kicks. Buckley with some more inside leg kicks, those are adding up. Buckley tries a takedown and winds up in a clinch. They break after a knee from Arroyo. Arroyo is starting to switch his stance now. Jumping knee from Arroyo partially lands as they clinch up again. Buckley has a clinch on the fence and is working knees to the body. They break without incident. Arroyo lands a front kick to the body as the last blow of the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Arroyo but could go either way, 20-18 Arroyo overall

ROUND THREE: Buckley is coming forward as the round starts. Arroyo checks a leg kick, then lands a body kick. Buckley with a poor takedown attempt, Arroyo sprawls then spins to his back but can’t keep it and they reset at distance. Both men land lead hand hooks then clinch up again. They break without incident. I think Buckley hurt his foot on one of those kicks, he’s really reduced the amount of kicks he’s throwing. They get close and Buckley lands a right uppercut that lands flush and Arroyo collapses then Buckley with some follow up hammer fists to prompt the stoppage.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Joaquin Buckley via TKO, punches, at 2:26 of Round 3

The Final Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Buckley for his work this evening. Buckley has a very large hematoma above his right eye. Buckley jokes around with Bisping to start his interview, and then asks the UFC to keep Arroyo on the roster despite the loss. He talks us through the finish, noting he got poked in the eye at some point by accident but kept going. He puts over his coaches, then says he’d love to talk some stuff over with Dana White.

Here’s the finish. Buckley lands a clubbing forearm to the head that starts things, then he follows up with a right uppercut that puts Arroyo down. That’s a really nice same side combination from Buckley.

Nate Maness is on a three fight winning streak with two of those coming in the UFC, if he can extend that streak tonight he’ll be a prospect of note in a very stacked division. Tony Gravely has gone 2-1 in the UFC and is on a two fight winning streak, if he can best Maness it will be one of the more impressive wins in his career. Gravely is the -210 favorite to +175 on Maness.

Bantamweight Bout: Tony Gravely (21-6, 135.5 lbs.) vs. Nate Maness (13-1, 135 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Maness is five inches taller and has three inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going. Both men feint early, then Gravely lands a body kick. Some stance switching from Maness then they both miss power hand punches and clinch. A few knees from Gravely then they break. Both men land rights in the pocket. Maness is looking to jab, Gravely forces a clinch but can’t retain it. More Maness jabs start connecting. Both men land rights in close, Maness lands an uppercut and they clinch with Gravely getting a takedown. Maness quickly scrambles back up, Gravely tries to work his front headlock sequence but winds up double legged against the fence. Gravely wall walks and they separate. Another clinch from Gravely and they hit the fence. Both men land body shots then Maness spins free with a knee to the body. Maness lands a right, he’s getting a feel for the timing of Gravely. Gravely forces another clinch and they punch on the break. Gravely lands an inside leg kick then a body kick. Maness lands a few jabs, then Gravely floors Maness with a right hook just at the bell but he can’t find the finish before the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Gravely

ROUND TWO: Maness seems to be a little stunned still, Gravely lands a left hook. Gravely gets close and lands some punches before clinching up. Elbow from Gravely. Both men land knees then they separate. Maness lands a left hook. Maness lands a straight right, then avoids a double leg attempt. Gravely lands a right hand. Maness digs the body, then lands a right that drops Gravely, and he’s able to get on top and unload with hammer fists and punches to force the stoppage.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Nate Maness via TKO, punches, at 2:10 of Round 2

Pretty remarkable turnaround from Maness there. Mic time for Maness, he says that was the first time he’d ever been dropped in his career then says he started working the body and that set up his kill shot. He’d like to fight again before the end of the year, and dedicates the win to a fan of his.

Here’s a look at the finish, Maness hits the body to start this off then is able to time a right hand with Gravely’s attempted counter hook. Once Gravely is hurt Maness jumps all over him with accurate ground and pound to force the stoppage.

Oh, if you’re curious here’s the end of the first round to see just how badly Gravely had hurt Maness.

Arman Tsarukyan has gone 3-1 in the UFC and is on a three fight winning streak with that lone loss coming at the hands of top contender Islam Makhachev. Tsarukyan has been gaining momentum in the stacked lightweight division, if he can extend his winning streak tonight he should get a step up in class for his next bout. Christos Giagos has gone 4-2 in the UFC and is on a two fight winning streak, if he can best Tsarukyan it will be the biggest win of his career. Tsarukyan is the biggest favorite on the entire card at -800 while the +525 payout on Giagos might tempt those who bet the long shots.

Lightweight Bout: Christos Giagos (19-8, 155.5 lbs.) vs. #14 Arman Tsarukyan (16-2, 155.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Giagos is three inches taller and 7 years older while Tsarukyan has an inch of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going. Tsarukyan is pressing forward early, both men feinting a bit as well. Both men block rights then Giagos blocks a head kick. Tsarukyan tries a double leg but Giagos is able to smother that and get on top in full guard. Tsarukyan is looking to wall walk, he’s up but they’re still clinched. Bit of an elbow from Giagos as they break. Tsarukyan lands a left hook that drops Giagos, he jumps on top and lays in punches as Giagos crumples against the fence.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Arman Tsarukyan via TKO, punches, at 2:09 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Tsarukyan for his work this evening. Mic time for Tsarukyan, he notes he’s had a lot of decisions and he needed a finish to graduate to the next level of competition. Asked who he’d like next he’d like to fight Dan Hooker, which would be a significant step up for him but I’d watch the heck out of it.

Here’s the finish. Giagos gets his kick deflected and winds up square to his opponent, the timing of Tsarukyan’s punch also moves it over the potential guard of Giagos and clocks him in the temple. From there it’s all over but the shouting as Tsarukyan swarms him with blows to force the stoppage.

Ariane Lipski has gone just 2-4 in the UFC and has been stopped in both of her last two fights, she needs a win rather badly if she wants to become a relevant figure in the division. Mandy Bohm is undefeated coming into her UFC debut, she’ll be trying to make a good first impression on the UFC audience. Lipski is a slight -125 favorite to +105 for Bohm.

Women’s Flyweight Bout: Mandy Bohm (7-0 1 NC, 125.5 lbs.) vs. Ariane Lipski (13-7, 126 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Bohm is an inch taller and has four inches of reach advantage. Both women come out kicking. Lipski is trying to get the hands going as well, she lands a bit of a right. Leg kick from Lipski, then they clinch and Lipski gets a takedown into half guard. Bohm quickly hip escapes to full guard and starts working her guard up. A bit of an elbow from Lipski. Another elbow from Lipski but Bohm is able to kick her off and stand up. Bit of a jab from Bohm. Bohm lands a body kick. Lipski with a punch then a head kick, she lands a combination of punches and they wind up clinched. Some body work from both women as they fight for position. They break and Lipski jabs the body, Bohm might be a a little soft to the body after some of those knees. Lipski lands a body shot, they both then miss right hands as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Lipski

ROUND TWO: Lipski is fighting long again, Bohm circling and trying to find her rhythm. Bohm lands a left. Lipski lands a right that seems to get Bohm backing up. Combination from Bohm lands. Lipski’s pressure is working, they clinch and trade knees then separate. Lipski lands a right to the body, Bohm does not enjoy those body shots. Bohm lands a right. Lipski tries some knees from a clinch but can’t really land them to the head. Both women with knees to the body then they break. They trade rights. Lipski lands a front kick to the body, then a right to the body. Bohm tries a clinch, those body blows are adding up, and Lipski drops her with a right and jumps on top. Lipski moves to side control as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Lipski, 20-18 Lipski overall

ROUND THREE: Lipski is still pressing forward and working the body of Bohm. If Lipski lands a few good body shots she might find a stoppage. Lipski lands a head kick, but Bohm just eats it. Bohm lands a bit of a combination, she’s bleeding from the nose after that head kick. Lipski lands a body kick, then some jabs to the body as well. Hard right from Lipski drops Bohm, she gets on top and unloads with hammer fists and punches but Bohm is able to tie her up in full guard to stop the barrage. Lipski is able to stand out of the guard and makes Bohm stand up. Body kick from Lipski, then Bohm tries to pull guard but winds up just pulling half guard. Lipski with some elbows as she works to set up a pass. Again Lipski stands free and makes Bohm stand up. They get close and swing blows at each other. Bohm lands a head kick, then they trade knees in the clinch as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Lipski, 30-27 Lipski overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Ariane Lipski via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)

That was probably Lipski’s most complete performance, and she gets an interview. She thanks God first and foremost, thanks her coaches and is happy to be able to show off her complete skills. She knew Bohm would try to grapple her, and Lipski worked hard to build her grappling offense because the best defense is a good offense and was able to show that off tonight.

Ion Cutelaba has gone 4-5-1 in the UFC, he’s coming off of that hard fought draw with Dustin Jacoby and hasn’t won a fight since 2019. Cutelaba has a bit of job security given his wild personality and normally exciting fights, but he still needs a win if he has any aspirations in the UFC beyond being an attraction. Devin Clark has gone 2-2 in his last four fights but is coming off of a loss to Anthony Smith, he’s trying to bounce back with a win and avoid his first ever losing streak. Cutelaba is your -150 favorite to a +125 comeback on Clark.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Devin Clark (12-5, 206 lbs.) vs. Ion Cutelaba (15-6-1 1 NC, 205 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Cutelaba is an inch taller while the reach is identical. Both men throw kicks, then Clark gets a takedown but Cutelaba wall walks immediately. Clark starts working the clinch, Cutelaba lands a few knees and they break. Body kick from Cutelaba. Clark lands a calf kick. Bit of a head kick from Clark, Cutelaba just eats it. Cutelaba lands a knee to the body. Clark with another leg kick. Cutelaba feints forward and lands a right that floors Clark. Cutelaba gets on top and lands some punches, but Clark is able to wall walk. A mat return from Cutelaba and he starts working punches from the ride position but Clark is defending well so far. Clark back up again, bit of a kick from Cutelaba as he’s on the back standing. Cutelaba gets a takedown and tries to land punches from the ride position again. Clark fights up again, covers up and then swings back and Cutelaba trips him down into full mount. Cutelaba tries to unload but Clark will defend until the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Cutelaba

ROUND TWO: Clark is still a little unsteady but he’s throwing high kicks and backing up Cutelaba. Cutelaba misses a right hand. A left from Cutelaba lands, but Clark counters with a body kick. Cutelaba with a double leg into full mount again, this time there’s plenty of time in the round to work. Clark tries to set up an arm triangle from his back but Cutelaba is wise to that. Cutelaba postures up and starts firing elbows that Clark has to block. Clark scrambles up and lands a right hand. Cutelaba avoids a wheel kick and tries a double leg but that stalls on the fence. Bit of a knee from Cutelaba as he moves to the back standing. Another knee from Cutelaba and Clark is bleeding from the mouth rather badly. The round ends in the clinch.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Cutelaba, 20-16 Cutelaba overall

ROUND THREE: Clark’s lower teeth got damaged and that’s what caused his bleeding in the last round. Clark shoots a single leg, he can’t finish it but he lands a bit of a head kick as Cutelaba gets free. Single leg from Cutelaba is successful and he gets on top in half guard. Clark starts fishing for a kimura, but Cutelaba gets his arm free and moves into full mount. Cutelaba can’t hold the mount this time and they wind up fighting in the clinch again. Clark tries a double leg but Cutelaba defends and gets his own against the fence. Full guard for Clark, but Cutelaba is squishing him down and landing punches. Cutelaba moves to north-south, then to the full mount. Cutelaba moves into a high mount, but Clark is able to explode and regain his feet at distance. Clark avoids a takedown and counters it to get on top in full guard. Some punches from Clark land but this isn’t going to cut it, he needs a stoppage. Clark lays in lefts and hurts Cutelaba but Cutelaba fights up and gets a takedown into half guard to end the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Cutelaba, 30-25 Cutelaba overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Ion Cutelaba via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-26, 30-26)

Mic time for Cutelaba after that, he says The Hulk is back then puts over Clark and says he wants to fight someone ranked next.

Anthony Smith has gone 3-3 in his last six fights but does find himself on a two fight winning streak with both of those being stoppages, while he’s a bit outside the title picture at the moment a win here could set him up in a title eliminator bout for his next fight. Ryan Spann has gone 5-1 in the UFC and most recently stopped Misha Cirkunov, he’s looking to build another winning streak tonight and if he can do it at Smith’s expense he could crack the top ten rankings and find himself in a much bigger fight his next time out. The odds are with Smith at -160 while a Spann win would pay out at +135.

Light Heavyweight Bout: #6 Anthony Smith (35-16, 205.5 lbs.) vs. #11 Ryan Spann (19-6, 206 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Spann is an inch taller and has three inches of reach advantage. Both men feinting a bit early, the Smith lands a calf kick. Spann checks a calf kick and lands a jab. Both men miss left hooks, then Spann gets a clinch and they break then Smith lands a left hook that drops Spann. Smith gets on top in half guard, he grabs an armbar but Spann rolls through and gets on top then hits a knee to the chest. Spann gets the back briefly but Smith stands up and they break apart. Stiff jab from Spann, then a one two. Smith lands a left hook. Spann is hurt, and Smith lands a few more punches then he gets on top as Spann moves to his knees. Smith into side control, then knees the body as he moves to the ride position again. Both hooks in now for Smith, he lands an elbow as he works to flatten Spann out. Smith gets the choke and forces the tap.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Anthony Smith via Submission, rear naked choke, at 3:47 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Smith for his work this evening. Mic time for Smith, he has to be censored for a bit but I think the jist of it is he’s tired of being disrespected. Asked what he wants next he wants a rematch with Aleksandar Rakic, which has been his stated desire for some time. He talks us through the finish he puts over Spann as doing the right things but he was a step ahead of him. Apparently Rakic tweeted that he’s free in December, Smith responds with “Merry Christmas to me”. While their first fight wasn’t terribly close, I wouldn’t object to the rematch but let’s not pretend Smith vs. Jiri Prochazka wouldn’t be absolutely bonkers.

Well on that note UFC on ESPN+ comes to a close. The 14 fight card was a bit much, but there were a few decent offerings tonight. We’ll be unpacking all of the results Sunday evening on the 411 Ground and Pound MMA Podcast. Perhaps more importantly we’ll be looking ahead to next week when the UFC is back on PPV for UFC 266. That card is pretty stacked with two title fights and a 17 year old rematch between the returning Nick Diaz and former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.