Fight Night Orlando was one of those gems where every fight from the top of the card to the bottom delivered something of substance. Heroic performances and intriguing victories abound from Saturday’s Amway Center spectacle, and here we discuss the biggest storylines.
These are the Fight Night Orlando talking points
Andrade Makes Her Case
Take last year’s epic battle against Claudia Gadelha, coupled with Saturday night’s full three rounds with Tecia Torres, and Jessica Andrade leaves no doubt who should challenge the winner of the Rose Namajunas vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk championship rematch in April.
Jessica Andrade has always been a fierce competitor and interminably tough, but since her own loss at the hands of then-champion Jedrzejczyk, she has seemed to find a different, faster gear. As one Twitter user remarked during Saturday’s bout: “Andrade is like the Terminator, she’s getting tagged but keeps pressuring forward”.
It’s true, Torres was well-prepared and didn’t give her opponent an easy outing, but heavy shots that “The Tiny Tornado” landed never seemed to avert Andrade’s eyes from her target. The 10 takedowns Andrade scored, including some video game-level body slams, set the new strawweight single-fight record, breaking the previous record of eight held by an opponent who might be in her near future: Rose Namajunas.
Unbreakable Jeremy Stephens
Speaking of fighters who seem to have found a new gear, veteran Jeremy Stephens has ratcheted up his trademark savagery into a game plan that has scored him three wins in six months (two within the last six weeks). “Where we going in March?” he said in a post-fight interview, only half joking. “Call me. I’m here to fight. I’m here to move up.”
Stephens said he was in search of a statement win against Josh Emmett to get the attention of the matchmakers, and that’s exactly what he delivered with a brutal, elbow heavy KO in the second round. Couple it with a similar dispatching of Dooho Choi six weeks earlier, and Stephen’s danger posed to the division can no longer be ignored.
At only age 31, Stephens is teetering on the cusp of having the most UFC career fights, first joining the promotion back in 2007. Fast forward 11 years and we’re watching an already wily veteran go next-level with some obvious Top 5 potential. Only a title has eluded Stephens during his enviable UFC run, but after Saturday night, the list of people standing in the way of securing that belt just got a lot shorter.
Max Griffin Arrives
Unconcerned with being the biggest underdog on the Orlando fight card, Max Griffin proved the doubters wrong, bloodying Mike Perry with his first punch and dominating the Orlando resident for the better part of three rounds to spoil Perry’s first UFC fight in front of his hometown crowd.
Perry, to his credit, has a cinder block for a chin and has still never been finished in his professional career. But Griffin’s own pro career, like Perry’s is also littered with first round KOs and an aggressive, downhill style.
“My goal in 2018 is just to be ranked,” Griffin told reporters afterwards. Given another performance like he just had against Perry, and his goals should be well within sight.
Latifi Dominates, Calls Out DC
Speaking of statement wins, it claws Latifi that much closer to his own title bid in the light heavyweight division. And while Daniel Cormier may be moving up to heavyweight for the Stipe Miocic super fight this summer, it didn’t stop ‘The Sledgehammer’ from calling out DC, who was Octagon-side doing broadcast duties.
Steve Latrell is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TheUFSteve