In what was the company’s first event since Aug. 5, the UFC returned with a solid night of fights — many of which featured noteworthy finishes.
Leon Edwards avoided an upset. Marion Reneau proved she still has a lot to offer despite her age. Siyar Bahadurzada reminded us we shouldn’t discount fighters making a return from a yearlong layoff. Alexander Volkov officially embedded himself into the UFC’s heavyweight title scene.
FanRag Sports offers its report card for those who earned a raised hand on the UFC Fight Night 115 main card. Grades are determined based on overall performance, method of victory, and quality of opponent. We’ll also look at what should be next for the night’s biggest winners.
Leon Edwards: B
Facing a gritty contender who is known for spoiling the rise of promising prospects in the UFC, Edwards dispatched Bryan Barberena with relative ease at UFC Fight Night 115. He suffered a troubling knockdown in the late stages of Round 2, but managed to win the first and final rounds with surprising dominance as a grappler. Edwards came close to sinking in the rear-naked choke in both rounds, never managing to slip his arm underneath the chin to deprive “Bam Bam” of oxygen.
Edwards has now won three in a row, earning the longest winning streak of his UFC career. He is swiftly realizing the potential more than a handful of pundits identified when the now-26-year-old made his promotional debut in 2014. Currently unranked, we’ll need to see the English striker face a top-15 opponent before bestowing that honor upon him.
FRS matchmaker: Leon Edwards vs. Tarec Saffiedine
Marion Reneau: A
Reneau is 40 years old, but you probably wouldn’t be able to tell with the performance she exhibited against Talita de Oliveira Bernardo in Rotterdam. The savvier veteran struggled in the opening round as a result of Bernardo’s impressive grappling, but the UFC newcomer simply couldn’t keep up after a strong Round 1, succumbing to Reneau’s crisp boxing skills and cardio work. Peppered left and right in the final 10 minutes of the fight, Bernardo managed to survive until the final six seconds of the bout, when referee Kevin Sataki finally decided he’d seen enough.
It wasn’t just Reneau’s striking abilities that impressed us. The 40-year-old fighter also dominated portions of the grappling exchanges, fighting intelligently off her back and nearly sinking in a rear-naked in the final round.
Ranked No. 11 in the division, a win over a young fighter making her UFC debut on short notice likely won’t afford Reneau a trip into the top 10.
FRS matchmaker: Marion Reneau vs. Germaine de Randamie
Siyar Bahadurzada: A-
Forced to remain on the sidelines for all but one fight over the last four years, Bahadurzada picked up the emphatic victory his career desperately needed. Having fought last March in his natural weight division of 170 pounds at UFC 196, Bahadurzada moved up to the middleweight division to reacclimate his body to competing inside the Octagon. Making matters even more difficult, Bahadurzada was facing a younger, taller opponent who had never tasted defeat.
A stiff corkscrew uppercut was the beginning of the end for Rob Wilkinson, who couldn’t recover after being presented with a flurry of nasty punches. He had virtually every chance (and then some) to show he could continue, but to no avail.
Despite his success at 185 pounds, it’s time for Bahadurzada to make his return to welterweight.
FRS matchmaker: Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
Alexander Volkov: B+
A battle among giants in what was the tallest fight in UFC history, Volkov was the last man standing. He was facing the tallest opponent of his professional career, a statement true of any man scheduled to fight a 7-foot Stefan Struve. This was notably different for Volkov, who is often accustomed to being the taller man inside the cage at 6-foot-7.
He struggled at times to deal with Struve’s length, which was expected to be the case since there’s virtually no way to prepare for a man of this height. Yet, despite how revamped Struve’s striking looked in the early rounds of this contest, Volkov’s ability to turn up the pace in the third round left “Skyscraper” in a heap of trouble.
Volkov has now picked up three straight wins since making his UFC debut. He is primed to crack the top five with a more-than-convincing win over Struve.
FRS matchmaker: Alexander Volkov vs. Alistair Overeem