Fight of the Night
Holtzman vs. Miller
Don’t look now, but in a lightweight division bursting at the seams with worthy talent, Scott Holtzman has just won five of his last six fights. Jim Miller wouldn’t make it easy to get that sixth win, but Miller never does.
Like any truly great Fight of the Night, this particular tilt was characterized by the overwhelming sense that either man could end up getting their hand raised at any given moment. In the biggest win of his career to date, however, it was “Hot Sauce” who prevailed by wielding the same type of grit and heart that has made his opponent a legend of the game.
“I don’t think there’s anything more I can say about Jim than hasn’t been said already. He’s a legend, going into the Hall of Fame. I didn’t know if I could win if I’m honest. I wasn’t sure, but my team believed in me. They got me prepared to beat someone like that, someone so special. I’ve had a checkered past here in the UFC, but I think this proves that I belong with the upper echelon of guys.”
Performance of the Night
Jan Blachowicz required only 188 seconds to continue his statement-making romp through the light heavyweight ranks, and seemingly won the sweepstakes to be the next dance partner for champion Jon Jones.
Blachowicz arrived in Albuquerque weeks ahead of schedule to adjust to the high altitude and dry climate of New Mexico. The preparations payed clear dividends. In a near carbon copy of the punch that floored Luke Rockhold at UFC 239, Blachowicz unloaded his “Polish Power” and KOd Cory Anderson, avenging his loss in their first meeting in 2015.
“You promised me on the show, Jon, I am next,” Blachowicz said of Jones, who was in attendance. “Let’s do this. Tell me where and when. Give me the place and time.”
Making your UFC debut on less than two weeks’ notice is commendable. Winning that short-notice fight is impressive. And winning your short-notice UFC debut against a veteran gladiator like Tim Means is borderline miraculous. Yet that’s exactly what California’s Rodriguez did when he ended the night of New Mexico’s Means with a standing guillotine in Round 2.
“I’ve been thinking about this since the first day I stepped into a MMA gym,” Rodriguez said post-fight. “I’ve worked so hard to be here. When I got the call on short notice, I thought to myself, ‘Who am I to turn down the UFC?’ I was going to fight regardless. I feel like Tim Means is a very respected guy and I took him out. I always rise to the occasion, when the pressure is on I perform way better. I believe in myself and my team and I know I can keep showing I belong in there with anyone.”
Around The Card
Merab Dvalishvili officially connected with 12 of his 24 takedown attempts against Casey Kenney, joining Georges St-Pierre, Demetrious Johnson, and Colby Covington as the only fighters in UFC history to land 10+ takedowns in a fight on two or more occasions. His 12 takedowns in the same fight broke the UFC/WEC bantamweight record, 11, set by Dvalishvili himself and Frankie Saenz.
UFC Rio Rancho now holds the curious distinction of being the only event to have two fights on the same card end in disqualification. Even more unlikely, both DQs were the results of illegal knees.
In a fight that he might have won, Michel Pereira delivered an ill-advised knee to a downed Diego Sanchez. The resulting cut on Sanchez’s head and loss of vision awarded the local favorite the victory.
Similarly, Kazula Vargas was well on his way to spoiling the debut of Brok Weaver when a similar action gave the victory to the Dana White Contender Series alum. For his part, Weaver was unhappy, even in victory.
“A win like that is a loss in my book,” he would say backstage. “I hold nothing against Vargas. The knee? Heat of the moment, you know? I’ve been in the moment. I’ve kneed people down. It happens sometimes. I lost tonight. I just got paid good.”