It was not an easy night to be a fan of the combative arts, with fans split between watching UFC Fight Night 116 and Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin. It’s expected most sided with the latter, though those who picked Door No. 1 weren’t necessarily disappointed either.
Justin Ledet picked up his third win as a member of the UFC. Kamaru Usman showcased what sort of power he has in his hands. Gregor Gillespie kept his perfect mixed martial arts record intact. Anthony Smith bounced back after a rough start. Mike Perry did what he was expected to do. Luke Rockhold picked up a dominant win after a 15-month layoff.
FanRag Sports offers its report card for those who earned a raised hand on the UFC Fight Night 116 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.
Justin Ledet: C+
The only man on the main card who failed to win via stoppage, Ledet didn’t exactly wow in his third outing in the UFC. He, like one other fighter on Saturday’s main card, was facing a short-notice opponent in Azunna Anyanwu, but did not manage to pick up the finish.
Ledet picked up the decision (which probably shouldn’t have been of the split variety) thanks in large part to his stiff jab. He kept Anyanwu at bay for portions of the fight, and managed to avoid most of the UFC newcomer’s haymakers whenever he broke through the reach.
Either way, this won’t do much for Ledet’s stock in a division already stocked with big names.
FRS matchmaker: Justin Ledet vs. Dmitriy Sosnovskiy
Kamaru Usman: A+
Usman may color himself the best grappler in the division, but he’s quickly proving to be far, far more than that.
In what was expected to be a stand-up affair based on what strengths the two elite grapplers shared, it was Usman’s right hand that took the spotlight from beginning to end. Sergio Moraes was dropped by a right hand from Usman, surviving intermittently before collapsing to the canvas by another massive straight right hand.
Already ranked in the top 15, it’s doubtful that this win will net Usman a spot in the top 10. It should net him a matchup against a higher-ranked contender, though.
FRS matchmaker: Kamaru Usman vs. Neil Magny
Gregor Gillespie: B
Taking part in what seemed like an impossible pace to keep up early on, Gillespie managed to hold onto his undefeated record following one of the more entertaining contests that took place in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
Both he and Jason Gonzalez sought to make it an early night, swinging at a wild pace before Gillespie sought to take the fight to the ground. He struggled in his first attempt (though still making it exciting by landing a stiff elbow over the top) before eventually securing a big takedown.
The second round started off much like its predecessor, but Gillespie eventually slowed things down after taking the fight to the ground again following a high kick from Gonzalez. It was there that he illustrated his dominance as a grappler, forcing Gonzalez to tap with an arm triangle.
FRS matchmaker: Gregor Gillespie vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Anthony Smith: B
At least Anthony Smith is self-aware: He doesn’t start fast. That’s one of a handful of reasons why his prospects as a middleweight (or soon to be light heavyweight) aren’t through the roof.
Getting absolutely teed up in the first five minutes (and great portions of the second round), Smith bounced back in the final minutes of the 15-minute affair to pull off the stunning come-from-behind win. A counter right hand would seal the victory for Smith, who put the former Bellator welterweight champion away without any sort of controversy.
This now serves as Smith’s greatest career victory to date, potentially setting himself up for bigger matchups down the line as a middleweight. That’s if he decides to stay here, making it clear that a permanent trip up to the light heavyweight division may be a more suitable path for his future.
FRS matchmaker: Anthony Smith vs. Tyson Pedro
Mike Perry: A+
In truth, nothing short of a dominant knockout victory would have sufficed for Perry. Not only was he facing an opponent who took this fight on short notice, but he was taking on a man who often competes in a weight class 15 pounds lighter.
There was no room for error or any space for so-so fighting.
Fortunately for Perry, he wasn’t interested in any of that, picking up a knockout victory just minutes into Round 1. A flush knee to the face put Alex Reyes flat on his back, with a follow-up strike to the face forcing the referee to call this one off.
Perry may be interested in fighting the No. 1-ranked fighter on the planet in Robbie Lawler (and let’s be honest: Who the hell wouldn’t be interested in that fight?), but that’s clearly too much, too soon for a man who’s yet to land on the UFC rankings thus far.
FRS matchmaker: Mike Perry vs. Alex Oliveira
Luke Rockhold: B+
He didn’t make it look easy, nor did he make it look pretty, but Rockhold picked up a noteworthy victory over one of the more unappreciated contenders in the middleweight division. In what initially had the makings for a stunning upset for David Branch, it was Rockhold who came out on top with a dominant finish in Round 2.
As noted, Round 1 featured a decent amount of success from Branch, who landed a strong combination to rock the former champion. He controlled portions of the opening round with strong grappling. But just as Branch had all the momentum going his way, Rockhold took over.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t Rockhold’s striking that netted him the win. Taking Branch down early in Round 2, Rockhold stormed his way toward a full mount before teeing off on Branch’s head, who by fight’s end was forced onto his stomach while absorbing the blows. Branch actually tapped out to end the fight, reminding fight fans that submission via strikes is a thing.
Had the champion not been currently scheduled to defend his title in an unnecessary superfight, a title fight would be in Rockhold’s immediate future. But given the circumstances, it’ll take Rockhold at least one more win before he can hope to share the cage with the champ.
FRS matchmaker: Luke Rockhold vs. Yoel Romero