Last night (Sat., May 20, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned home to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 73. A last-minute main event between Angela Hill and Mackenzie Dern was added to bolster this card, which stood out as the only match up between ranked athletes of the night. Safe to say, it wasn’t the most high-profile event of the year, but per usual, there were a handful of incredible knockouts throughout the evening.
Let’s take a look at UFC Vegas 73’s standout performances and techniques:
Dern Brings The Aggression
Mackenzie Dern is still a work in progress, but she took a big step forward last night. More physically strong than ever, Dern pushed a brutal pace for 25 minutes without issue, overwhelming her foe from bell-to-bell.
It’s simply unfair to the rest of the Strawweight division that Dern has real power. Her right hand has been heavy since the beginning of her UFC career, but now she’s intercepting head movement with standing knees? Ridiculous. Dern basically had Hill out on her feet twice, but rather than pursue the knockout finish, she opted to wrestle and hunt for the submission.
Given her accolades, that’s an understandable decision.
The great weakness in Dern’s game remains her takedowns, which are abysmal. She’s able to land them occasionally because she’s a strong Strawweight who’s willing to fully commit to her attempts, but the technique is bad. If she can throw knockout punches for five rounds and score top position off the slightest hint of a grappling exchange, does it really matter much?
Dern has a real chance of finishing any Strawweight in the world, right now. It doesn’t matter if her takedowns are subpar or her striking defense is nonexistent — she’s that dangerous.
Hill deserves credit for her will and grit in surviving to see the final bell, but that was a mauling.
Cardio Is King
Anthony Hernandez put Edmen Shahbazyan through hell.
“Golden Boy” looked great early, showing off his quickness and excellent boxing. The second Hernandez was able to force some grappling exchanges, Shahbazyan started looking more human. Hernandez started finding his own shots in the pocket and in the clinch, and the snow ball started rolling.
Once Hernandez got a taste of top control, he never let Shahbazyan off the hook. He kept him trapped in a pit of misery, chaining submission attempts, mat returns, and brutal ground strikes relentlessly. He nearly secured the stoppage in the second, but Shabazyan survived … only to get unceremoniously thrown to the floor and put away early in the third.
“Fluffy” has won four straight in stellar fashion, and he’s more than earned a ranked opponent. Anyone know what Roman Dolidze is up to?
A Successful Welterweight Debut
Joaquin Buckley has a system. That’s not to say it’s a great one necessarily, but he puts out a ton of activity. Buckley is always swinging powerful shots from both stances, and he’s more than happy to use a jump knee or lunging kick to initiate his attack. Hell, he’ll blast a double leg just to do it.
All those athletic movements tend to come at the same speed, which is why he gets countered often. Against a sharp counter puncher in Fialho, however, Buckley was able to walk the line of staying ahead on the volume game without getting creamed in the process. When his opportunities for offense were there, he chased them hard, but he generally did well to stay active without getting hurt.
Suddenly, a well-timed high kick ended the night in his favor. That’s a good read to cap off a successful drop in weight class! I don’t know how much higher Buckley will climb at 170 pounds, but regardless of weight, you should never miss a “New Mansa” fight.
Michael Johnson was dominating Carlos Diego Ferreira.
For about six minutes or so, everything was going perfectly for “The Menace.” Despite being 36 years old with plenty of miles on him, Johnson looked as remarkably fast as ever. He was touching the Brazilian and pulling before Ferreira could get a hand on him — Ferreira couldn’t land a punch, let alone a takedown. Several times, Johnson found his foe’s chin and wobbled his knees, but he did well to target the mid-section too.
It was as good as Johnson has ever looked. Then, without any real shift in momentum, Ferreira detonated a perfect overhand across the chin of Michael Johnson. Johnson went completely stiff and hit the ground hard, utterly unconscious.
Not bad for a jiu-jitsu ace!
Slava Puts On A Show
Viacheslav Borshchev is a great striker, and despite a pair of previous knockouts inside UFC’s Octagon, he hasn’t yet shown his full kickboxing talents inside the cage. His last two fights saw him wrestled by stronger and more experienced Lightweights, so the pressure to perform was on here against Chinese prospect Hayisaer Maheshate.
“Slava” delivered. Maheshate is a solid striker in his own right, a rangy hitter with a mean 1-2 and tricky knees. Borshchev showed his experience and expertise by slowing picking apart Maheshate. As he advanced, he was routinely snapping Maheshate’s head back with the jab, and his ability to attack both legs with funky low kicks was helping him pull ahead as well. He also ripped the body, attacking with both front kicks and switch kicks to the torso.
Near the end of the first, Slava broke the clinch with an overhand that dropped Maheshate. That same punch would drop his foe twice more, but his set up was different each time. Really, Borshchev’s ability to unfurl powerful punches with crisp form in combination was fully on display, and it scored him a beautiful stoppage win.
Oh, and he did it all after a gnarly eye poke.
It’s important to remember that this was just Borshchev’s tenth professional fight. If his wrestling can continue to improve — two stuffed shots last night! — he has the striking to succeed at a high level.
- Gilbert Urbina defeats Orion Cosce via second-round knockout: I’ll admit that I don’t pay the slightest bit of attention to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) anymore — it’s been largely replaced by Contenders Series. Urbina is a recent TUF product, and thus, I didn’t really know who he was aside from vaguely remembering his loss to Bryan Battle. Well, I know now! Urbina showed up shredded to his Welterweight debut, cutting an imposing figure opposite Cosce and picking him apart with long distance strikes. He tore him up from top position in the first, then closed the show with a couple snap kicks to the mid-section in the second. The 27-year-old from Ohio looks very much like the real deal, and I look forward to his next performance.
- Natalia Silva defeats Victoria Leonardo via first-round knockout: Silva straight up outclassed her opponent on the feet last night. She was far more fluid, able to put together fast combinations of powerful combinations that her opponent simply couldn’t match. It didn’t take long for Silva to badly hurt Leonardo, and she easily shucked off the desperation takedown afterward. A swift kick upstairs ended the contest, and Silva has now won nine in a row and three inside the Octagon. New Flyweight contender?
For complete UFC Vegas 73: “Dern vs. Hill” results and play-by-play, click HERE.
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