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UFC Fight Night 161 on Saturday in Tampa, Florida, and its stacked lineup crept up on everyone. It featured back-and-forth wars, a “Knockout of the Year” contender and prospects losing their undefeated records. Here are five lessons we learned from the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s latest visit to The Sunshine State:
1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk still resides among the elite.
Jedrzejczyk entered the headliner after suffering three losses in her previous four outings. It seems as though some observers glossed over the fact that all three of those defeats came in title fights, as she lost to Valentina Shevchenko and twice to Rose Namajunas. However, Jedrzejczyk showed against Michelle Waterson that she could still take it to another level and remains one of the best female fighters in mixed martial arts. Waterson, who stepped into the Octagon on the strength of a three-fight winning streak, was a game opponent and offered multiple submission attempts, but it was not enough to spring the upset on Jedrzejczyk. The former champion displayed stellar takedown defense and connected on 180 significant strikes during the five-round contest. Jedrzejczyk came through with a throwback performance and put on a striking clinic across 25 minutes to net the unanimous decision. The weight cut did not seem to have any effect on her despite pre-fight rumors to the contrary. A shot at regaining the strawweight title from current champion Weili Zhang seems inevitable for Jedrzejczyk, and it would not be all that surprising if she was installed as the betting favorite.
2. Cub Swanson has some fight left.
Many felt the result in the co-main event was a foregone conclusion. Swanson was on a four-fight losing streak, while Kron Gracie -- who opened as a -265 betting favorite -- was the hyped undefeated prospect with jiu-jitsu royalty in his blood. The stakes could not have been any higher for Swanson, who risked losing his spot on the UFC roster with another setback. However, he beat the odds and handed Gracie his first loss under the promotion’s banner. “Killer” utilized fantastic footwork and head movement while also furiously attacking Gracie’s body, which became a significant factor in their three-round war. While Gracie put up a considerable fight, all three judges scored the fight in Swanson’s favor, awarding the Californian his first win in over two years. It was an emotional moment for the 35-year-old featherweight mainstay, who showed there was still plenty left in the tank.
3. Gracie, Mackenzie Dern Have Work to Do
Gracie and Mackenzie Dern lost their undefeated records in performances that showed they have much work to do if they want to achieve their long-term goals. The two jiu-jitsu black belts failed to impose their game on their respective opponents and were ultimately outstruck in decision defeats. Gracie showed plenty of resilience, but he was unable to trouble Swanson on the feet and his two attempts at pulling guard went nowhere. As for Dern, she was completely outclassed by Amanda Ribas, who stuffed all six of her takedown attempts and was superior in the standup exchanges, with a 54 significant strike differential. Dern’s striking remains limited, but that did not stop her from winning her previous two bouts. However, against top-level fighters, she will not be able to get away with being one-dimensional.
4. Niko Price knows how to entertain.
When we think of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC, talk turns to Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson, Yoel Romero, Donald Cerrone, Justin Gaethje and others like them. However, Price should be on the list. “The Hybrid” delivered just the second upkick knockout in UFC history in his first-round stoppage of James Vick. It also marked the second time that the creative Price had knocked out someone while on his back, as he first accomplished the feat against Randy Brown at UFC Fight Night 133. Add in the fact that none of the 30-year-old’s 10 starts inside the Octagon have gone the distance, and the time has come for Price to be considered a must-see attraction.
5. Vick needs some time off.
Vick suffered his fourth loss in a row, and three of those setbacks resulted in his being knocked out. His welterweight debut against Price did not go well, and even though he has to cut less weight at 170 pounds, the move will not help his chin unless he takes the proper amount of time to recuperate. Following a knockout loss to Gaethje, Vick returned to action in less than six months. After getting finished by Dan Hooker, “The Texecutioner” returned less than three months after hitting the canvas. If he wants to get back in the win column, he needs to take a significant break away from the Octagon. Otherwise, his downward spiral will almost certainly continue.