UFC takeaways: Marvin Vettori arrives among the many middleweight elite; debating slams

ESPN’s panel of Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim breaks down the largest tales popping out of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night, together with Marvin Vettori‘s thrilling unanimous choice win over Jack Hermansson, and whether or not the kind of violent slam Jordan Leavitt executed to beat Matt Wiman ought to stay authorized.

Marvin Vettori arrives among the many middleweight elite

Helwani: This 12 months has not been sort to many. It definitely wasn’t sort to Marvin Vettori early on.

However all’s nicely that ends nicely for the fiery Italian.

First, his bout towards Darren Stewart, scheduled for March 21, was canceled because of the pandemic. That was the primary struggle card scrapped due to COVID-19.

His subsequent struggle was booked for April 25 versus Karl Roberson; that was additionally canceled due to COVID-19.

That struggle was then rebooked for Could 13, however was scrapped a day earlier than the struggle after Roberson fell sick.

Three fights. Three cancellations.

On prime of all that, Vettori’s grandfather died this 12 months, too.

The 27-year-old Vettori appeared upset. He appeared annoyed. He was extraordinarily wanting to show that he is a brand new face to look out for at 185 kilos, and he simply could not catch a break.

His first probability to show that time got here in June when he lastly bought his fingers on Roberson. He gained that struggle through first-round submission.

That led to getting booked reverse former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jacare Souza on subsequent weekend’s UFC 256 card, which might have been the highest-profile struggle of Vettori’s profession.

By now, you most likely know that struggle bought scrapped as soon as Vettori took this main-event spot towards Jack Hermansson after Hermansson’s opponent, Kevin Holland, examined optimistic for COVID-19.

This was the spot Vettori craved. This was the second he strived for ever since he misplaced that cut up choice to Israel Adesanya in 2018.

And would not ya realize it, “The Italian Dream” turned his 2020 nightmare into … a dream.

He closed out the 12 months with one of the best win of his profession. Little doubt about that.

Fact be advised, it appeared like it could be one other first-round end for Vettori. He appeared awfully near ending Hermansson with just a little extra ground-and-pound after dropping him halfway via the spherical. However a probably ill-advised choice to go for a submission allowed Hermansson to flee and in the end survive the spherical.

That may have been a small blessing in disguise as a result of it allowed for Vettori to dig just a little deeper and go 25 minutes for the primary time in his UFC profession.

They even made historical past, in line with analysis by ESPN Stats & Data, as a result of the 286 mixed vital strikes in the primary occasion was essentially the most in middleweight historical past and second most at 185 or heavier, behind the 304 vital strikes between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic at UFC 241.

Ultimately, there will be no denying Vettori’s place among the many 185 elite. Vettori is for actual and is a power to be reckoned with.

The perfect half in regards to the victory, at the very least for me? Vettori can cease speaking about that Adesanya cut up choice loss prefer it’s some sort of validation of his place within the division. He would not have to carry it up anymore. Time to maneuver on. He simply beat Jack Hermansson, ESPN’s No. 6-ranked middleweight, and is now on to greater and higher.

Who, you may ask? Effectively, he known as out Paulo Costa after the win (I feel. All of the bleeped-out expletives surrounding the callout made it onerous to make out.).

I like that concept, although Costa appears to have his coronary heart set on Robert Whittaker, which is a struggle I like so much as nicely, and may make extra sense from a rankings perspective.

The winner of subsequent week’s Holland vs. Souza matchup can be an acceptable struggle, particularly if Holland wins, which might imply his 2020 report will likely be 5-0. Heck, Kelvin Gastelum, Derek Brunson and even Darren Till make sense subsequent.

See, once you’re a brand new face in a division the choices are a lot. It is a great place to be in.

However Vettori can fear about all that subsequent 12 months. For now, la vita es bella for Italy’s Marvin Vettori.


Essentially the most spectacular undefeated fighter was …

Okamoto: Man, these guys did not make this choice straightforward. 4 fighters went into Saturday evening undefeated. All 4 emerged the identical method, and all 4 have been extraordinarily spectacular in their very own method. So, so as, from simply very spectacular to ridiculously spectacular, I’d record them as Roman Dolidze, Jordan Leavitt, Ilia Topuria and Jamahal Hill.

In the long run, I could not go in any route aside from Hill, contemplating whom he did it to. Hill completed off Ovince Saint Preux through strikes within the second spherical, and despite the fact that there is not a lot pleasure about Saint Preux — we all know precisely who he’s and is not at this stage of his profession — he is good, and he is a respectable take a look at. And this was his fortieth skilled struggle, twenty third within the UFC.

For Hill to not simply beat him, however beat him convincingly, and set up vary the way in which he did, struggle as disciplined as he did … despite the fact that he was favored to win, it was an eye-opener. He is been combating professionally since solely 2017. This was a extremely composed, nuanced effort from him.

I nonetheless thought-about rating Topuria’s knockout of Damon Jackson (one other veteran) larger — it was that fairly and considerably surprising from a gifted grappler — however in the end, you possibly can’t deny what Hill did on Saturday. I didn’t see such an intensive efficiency coming from him on this struggle.


The kind of slam Jordan Leavitt executed ought to(n’t) be banned

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Jordan Leavitt wants solely 12 seconds to prime Matt Wiman through slam-KO and his celebration is epic.

Raimondi: Jordan Leavitt unleashed a hellacious slam knockout of Matt Wiman that put Wiman to sleep on influence. Wiman’s head bounced off the canvas. Leavitt used his proper arm to actually drive Wiman’s head and neck into the mat. It was a visceral sight. Wiman was twitching briefly instantly after the slam, although he finally was capable of go away below his personal energy. Nobody needs to see stuff like that, however the argument that slams — or perhaps a sure sort of slam — ought to be unlawful is invalid.

First off, slam knockouts occur very sometimes — simply 12 instances within the 27-year historical past of the UFC. Second, nearly each single a type of slams was a counter to what the opposite individual was doing. On this case, Wiman jumped guard and wrapped his legs round Leavitt’s waist. At any time, Wiman may have launched that place and gotten his ft below him. However he selected to not — and confronted the results. And that is simply what this sport is, proper? It is harmful. Knees and shins to the pinnacle are completely authorized and occur in nearly each struggle.

If you happen to take away the power to slam, that may imply extra fighters leaping guard or holding onto submissions too lengthy, like how Rose Namajunas did when she was slammed and knocked out by Jessica Andrade of their strawweight title struggle at UFC 237. Namajunas may have launched her kimura submission grip at any time and guarded herself. However she selected to not, and that price her the crown. A slam is an efficient counter to these methods. And the specter of a slam knockout is sufficient to act as its personal deterrent, therefore it occurs solely about as soon as each two years or so.

Dominick Cruz made a great level through the broadcast, although. He mentioned strikes to the again of the pinnacle are unlawful, so why would slamming somebody on the again of his or her head be authorized? That is honest, and Cruz has experience. However once more, the onus is on the fighters to not put themselves in weak positions. It is a struggle, in any case. “Defend your self always” is an actual factor. Spikes or pile drivers — when a fighter drives their opponent’s head into the canvas when the opponent has no management — are unlawful, as they need to be. However slams? Quinton “Rampage” Jackson‘s slam of Ricardo Arona is without doubt one of the most iconic finishes in MMA historical past. What number of issues can we take away earlier than an MMA struggle ceases to be a respectable struggle? This is not Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Slams ought to keep. And fighters like Wiman ought to be cautious of defending themselves in these positions.

Wagenheim: MMA is the concussion enterprise. We’d not wish to acknowledge that, as a result of it could actually douse our fandom with a chilly bathe of harsh actuality. However it is a sport the place the purpose is to break an opponent, with the largest bull’s-eye usually affixed on the opponent’s head.

Knockouts are riveting. Knockouts are revolting. I do know a whole lot of lifelong sports activities followers who cannot carry themselves to observe MMA, and its fight cousin, boxing, particularly at a time when video games like soccer are taking measures to minimize the violence. Even these of us who watch fights each weekend can really feel conflicted. Typically a end makes the center go thump-THUMP. Typically a end brings a queasy feeling to the abdomen.

Jordan Leavitt’s slam KO of Matt Wiman did just a little of each for me. Leavitt confirmed maturity past what is perhaps anticipated of a fighter making his UFC debut. Wiman, who had made 17 earlier journeys contained in the Octagon, inexplicably put himself in jeopardy. That is the place the battle lies. Wiman was partially accountable for the slam that rendered him unconscious.

Nonetheless, a sport that bans strikes to the again of the pinnacle merely can’t enable a maneuver that targets that space of the physique in a fashion much more harmful than a typical punch does. Leavitt used his forearm to immobilize Wiman’s head, which made the slam gruesomely impactful, extra so than most of the punches that draw rebukes from referees. However even a unique kind of slam endangering the again of the pinnacle, such because the one Jessica Andrade used final 12 months to dethrone Rose Namajunas, is just too harmful for this sport.

Go forward and accuse me of attempting to show MMA into contact soccer. And do not ask me to attract the road on the exact level the place competitors veers too far into brutality. However those that set the foundations want to handle essentially the most harmful features of this sport with widespread sense and consistency earlier than somebody felled by a concussive end doesn’t get again up.

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