UFC Las Vegas: About Saturday’s Action

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 24: (L-R) Opponents Nikita Krylov of Ukraine and Ryan Spann face off during the UFC weigh-in at UFC APEX on February 24, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Discussing the ramifications of the results from Saturday’s UFC fight card at The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, which featured an assortment of bantamweight matchups and compelling pairings

What a Machine!

Merab Dvalishvili drowned Petr Yan in Saturday night’s main event.

From the outset, “The Machine” put a pace on the former champion that he just could not contend with, and he never really let off the gas. He attempted a record number of takedowns, closed up Yan’s right eye, and deadened his lead leg en route to registering the biggest win of his career and securing a ninth straight victory. This was an absolute statement effort from Dvalishvili, who loved every minute of his suffocating, lopsided fight.

And now things get real interesting in the bantamweight division.

Dvalishvili is training partners with reigning champ Aljamain Sterling, and under normal circumstances, would be staring down a championship opportunity next. But Henry Cejudo is returning to face Sterling in April, and “Suga” Sean O’Malley is waiting in the wings, leaving the 31-year-old from Georgia in a precarious position. He’s either going to have to fight backwards in the rankings — perhaps against the winner of the upcoming main event between Chito Vera and Cory Sandhagen — or stay on the sidelines until things clear up at the top of the division.

Whatever he does, one thing is clear: Dvalishvili is a legitimate threat in the 135-pound weight class and it’s going to be difficult for anyone to contend with the pace this dude keeps inside the cage.

Aggressive Volkov is Apparently a Thing

It was a little surprising when Alexander Volkov took the fight to Jairzinho Rozenstruik and got “Bigi Boy” out of there in the first round last time out. But it appears that just who he is now because the Russian heavyweight did the same thing to Alexandr Romanov on Saturday night.

Romanov looked for a takedown right away, but Volkov defended well and snatched up a handful of fence for assistance, eventually breaking free. Once in space, he pressed forward and attacked, sticking front kicks in Romanov’s soft belly and long punches on his head. When Romanov changed levels, desperate to avoid the incoming punishment, Volkov stuffed the shot, climbed to the back, and bombed away on “King Kong,” flattening him out and getting the stoppage before the midway point of the opening round.

This version of Volkov is interesting, because the guy is gigantic and has a wealth of experience, and if he’s going to fight with greater urgency, looking to do more damage early, he could be an interesting player in the heavyweight picture. He’s made consecutive statements in his last two outings, and should get another big assignment next time out.

Krylov Taps Spann in Chaotic Battle

Originally scheduled as a five-round fight a couple weeks ago, Nikita Krylov and Ryan Spann got rescheduled for Saturday, with Krylov needing just over three minutes to secure the finish.

This was a frantic encounter for as long as it lasted, with both men coming out looking to get things done early and each having chances to do so. Spann stung Krylov with a jab out of the shoot before threatening with a guillotine choke, but when the Ukrainian-born veteran escaped, he went on the offensive, out-wrestling the Fortis MMA man before connecting on a deep triangle choke as Spann raced in over-eager coming out of a scramble.

Krylov turned 31 last week and has faced just about everyone in the division at this point, which makes him an intriguing fighter to keep an eye on going forward. He’s good everywhere and the kind of guy that could still surprise some people in the future.

Are You Watching Jonathan Martinez Yet?

You should have been paying attention to Jonathan Martinez for some time already, but the Factory X representative made sure you have no choice after Saturday night as he ran his winning streak to five with a hard-fought victory over Said Nurmagomedov.

The 28-year-old Martinez is a perfect example of an athlete that has been steadily making progress and impressing on his way up the ranks. After losing his debut, he earned consecutive victories, lost a controversial split decision to Andre Ewell, and then earned two more victories. Since losing to Davey Grant, “Dragon” has now posted five straight victories, moving his record to 9-3 inside the Octagon.

I don’t care who you’re fighting: if you’re 9-3 in the UFC, people should be paying attention, and if you’re not, that’s a you problem, not a them problem, because Martinez has been putting in work and the UFC has been giving you plenty of chances to familiarize yourself with the streaking bantamweight fighter.

Pay attention.

Give Bautista a Big Step Up

Mario Bautista has now won four straight, with the last three coming by submission and the last two coming in the first round after the MMA Lab product dispatched Guido Cannetti with relative ease on Saturday night.

While the Argentinian veteran came out hot, Bautista dealt with hit seamlessly, turning to his grappling to toss Cannetti around the cage. After hitting a huge belly-to-back suplex, Bautista laced up the rear-naked choke and secured the tap, ending the fight just over three minutes into the opening frame.

Bautista has been impressive of late and merits a step up in competition next time out. He tossed out the idea of facing former champ Cody Garbrandt next and it’s an extremely smart shout, as he’d likely run through “No Love” in what would still be the biggest name victory of his career.

Whether he gets Garbrandt next or someone else, Bautista has shown that he’s someone to keep very close tabs on in the 135-pound weight class, and if he keeps performing like this, he could find himself in the Top 15 before the year is out.

Entertaining, But Sloppy

Vitor Petrino and Anton Turkalj engaged in an entertaining, but sloppy battle to kick off the main card, with Petrino earning a clean sweep of the scorecards to secure the victory in his promotional debut.

The undefeated Brazilian throws 100mph every time and had Turkalj hurt at different points, but couldn’t avoid falling into grappling exchanges that allowed “The Pleasure Man” to recover and depleted his gas tank. As the fight progressed, the action got more and more sloppy, with each man having positive moments, but making enough mistakes to allow the other to stay in the fight.

More than Petrino getting a win in his UFC debut, this fight should be remembered for the multiple unpenalized fouls and penalties Turkalj committed throughout the contest. He landed a pair of low blows in the opening stanza and grabbed the fence no fewer than five times, including using it to get back to his feet and stuff takedowns. Referee Mark Smith refused to take a point, and while it didn’t impact the outcome of the fight, it’s fights like this that rightfully make people go crazy because there is no consistency from one official to the next when it comes to penalizing fighters for fouls.

I get that officials don’t want to impact the outcome of fights, but the reality is that the fighters are committing the fouls, and not penalizing them has as much of an impact — perhaps more — than holding them accountable and taking a point.

Preliminary Card Thoughts

At least the lumbering heavyweights weren’t on the main card this week.

Karl Williams looked solid in mushing out a win over Lukasz Brzeski, showing superior conditioning and wrestling in collecting a victory in his debut and hand the Polish big man a second straight loss. This was the kind of exhaustive slog that has featured on the main card of many of these Fight Night events, so it’s great to see that these boys were on the prelims here instead.

It honestly should have been positioned even earlier in the night, but for right now, I’ll take this little victory and hope we see more adjustments like this in the future.


Davey Grant pulled a rabbit out of his hat against Raphael Assuncao, turning up the intensity to hurt and submit the Brazilian in the final seconds of the third round.

Assuncao did well over the first 10 minutes to keep things clean and neutralize Grant’s more powerful striking, but the Brit came out looking for the finish in the third and ultimately found it. He hurt Assuncao a couple different times, only to lose a point for multiple fence grabs with less than 90 seconds to go. The deduction prompted even more intensity from Grant, who put Assuncao on the deck with a spinning back fist and locked up a reverse triangle choke to score the win.

This was a wild closing round in what had been a low-key, technical battle. Grant inherits Assuncao’s place as a veteran test in the “Second 30” in the bantamweight division with the win, while the Brazilian officially announced his departure from the sport following the loss.

It was surprising to see them reset on the feet following the point deduction, as it seemed like Assuncao had earned the takedown and was in a control position. We’ll take a look back at it tomorrow and be ready to discuss it in full on the Severe Takeaways on Tuesday with Harry Powell.


Josh Fremd secured his first UFC victory on Saturday, collecting a second-round submission win over Sedriques Dumas, casting a spotlight on the limitations of the recent DWCS grad.

On the feet, each man had some success, but Fremd made the wise decision to wrestle after stinging Dumas and it proved fruitful. While the debuting Dumas was able to work to his feet in the first and scramble free again in the second, he repeatedly left his neck exposed, and Fremd took full advantage, clamping onto a guillotine choke along the fence to snap a two-fight skid.

This is the challenge of signing young, inexperienced talents like Dumas off the Contender Series, rather than giving them developmental contracts, as Fremd was clearly far more polished and well-rounded, and exploited those holes in Dumas’ game. He has upside, but with just seven fights prior to Saturday’s contest — and all of those coming against limited competition — these kinds of results have to be expected in some of these matchups.


If there were any remaining doubts about the bantamweight division being the best in the UFC, they were dispelled on Saturday afternoon, as Victor Henry and Tony Gravely combined to deliver one of the best 15-minute fights of the year midway through the prelims.

Neither Henry nor Gravely are ranked in the Top 15 — they may not even be in the Top 30 if I’m being honest — and yet they showed the kind of toughness, completeness, and overall skill that would make them ranked fighters in so many other divisions, which is why bantamweight stands out so much. You don’t see quality fights like this — ultra-competitive, back-and-forth battles like this — too far beyond the rankings in the majority of divisions, but at bantamweight, it’s an every week thing.

Henry scored the split decision win to move to 2-1 in the Octagon, while Gravely suffered consecutive defeats for the first time in his UFC career, but this was about more than just the result.


Where has this version of Ariane Lipski been hiding?

The 29-year-old “Queen of Violence” turned in her most complete UFC effort to date on Saturday, picking apart JJ Aldrich in a fight contested exclusively on the feet, showcasing the quality striking skills that made her a highly regarded prospect during her days in KSW. Aldrich was a considerable favourite coming in, but Lipski dominated from the outset, scoring the biggest win of her UFC career.

Going into the fight, the broadcast team talked about her switching up her training to work with Amanda Nunes and her smaller faction in South Florida, and if this is what we get from Lipski with that crew, she needs to stay there. Consistency going forward is going to be key, but maybe this will be the start of something from the former KSW champion.


Bruno Silva showed no signs of rust in his dispatching Tyson Nam in the second round after nearly two years on the sidelines.

The speedy “Bulldog” did well on the feet in the first, throwing and landing more than Nam, but it was his efforts in the second that really stood out. A front kick to the mush dropped Nam and when the Hawaiian veteran looked to work back to his feet, Silva attacked a rear-naked choke in transition, securing the choke before worrying about hooks, putting Nam to sleep.

This was an outstanding effort from Silva, who earned consecutive TKO wins in 2021 before missing the better part of two years following ankle surgery. He’s found something that works over these last few fights and is clearly becoming someone to keep an eye on in the flyweight division.


The opener between Carlston Harris and Jared Gooden was a reminder that some dudes just aren’t meant to compete at the UFC level.

Harris dominated all three rounds, earning the unanimous decision win over Gooden, who took the fight on short notice, missed weight by six pounds, and had little offer after a somewhat competitive first round. The 29-year-old “Nitetrain” is now 1-4 in the UFC and is just one of those guys that is best suited to fight on the regional circuit. Harris is a solid veteran presence in the welterweight division who is now 3-1 in the Octagon, and the difference between the two was evident on Saturday afternoon.

E. Spencer Kyte is a veteran MMA content creator based in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He's written for numerous outlets, including FOX Sports and The Province, British Columbia's leading newspaper, and has been a freelance contributor to the UFC website for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter: @spencerkyte.

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