Saturday’s UFC Rochester event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in New York, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Blue Cross Arena.
1 – Vicente Luque
The welterweight division’s best kept secret better not be a secret anymore after another win (and another finish), this one over Derrick Krantz. No, Krantz, is not Neil Magny (Luque’s original opponent) in terms of status at 170 pounds in the UFC, but he is a tough veteran who had beaten plenty of UFC alums on his way to the Octagon. And he showed up to fight, but with each passing win, “The Silent Assassin” is proving himself one of the best – and most exciting – fighters in the game, with just enough flaws that every bout has the potential to produce a Fight of the Night or a Performance of the Night for the Brazilian. He’s earned a crack at a top five foe, but if those folks aren’t available, how about Luque versus Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos, Santiago Ponzinibbio, Darren Till or…well, you get the idea. Luque against anyone.
2 – Rafael Dos Anjos
A fighter can have all the talent in the world, but sometimes old school experience and grit (and a solid game plan) can win the race on fight night, and that’s just what Rafael Dos Anjos did in Saturday’s main event against Kevin Lee. This was a close and competitive fight, but RDA made all the right adjustments at the right times, and when he found his opening to end the fight in round four, he did just that. It was a beautiful display from a fighter who has found his stride and realized that with the right mindset and strategy, he can beat anyone in the welterweight division.
3 – Ian Heinisch
Long before Ian Heinisch made it to the UFC via the Contender Series, he was on the radar of diehard fight fans and rightfully so, given his talent and compelling back story. And while that back story will always be a part of the narrative, the bottom line is that “The Hurricane” can fight. He came in on short notice to beat a top 15 middleweight in Cezar Ferreira in his debut, and last weekend he took out another contender on a hot streak in Antonio Carlos Junior. The middleweight division is as interesting as it’s ever been in the last year, and in the next year and beyond, you can expect to be hearing a lot from Mr. Heinisch.
4 – Felicia Spencer
All it took was one fight in the UFC and one dominant win over Megan Anderson, and now everything has changed for Felicia Spencer. And that’s a good thing for the former Invicta FC champion, who could be looking at one of two options for her next trip to the Octagon. If featherweight champion Amanda Nunes follows up her upcoming bantamweight title bout against Holly Holm with a return to 145 to defend her second belt, who better than Spencer to step in for an immediate title fight? Then there’s the possibility that Nunes vacates the title or doesn’t want to return to 145 that soon, so a Spencer vs Cris Cyborg bout, either for the vacant title or the number one contender’s slot, is certainly intriguing. Either way, the future is bright for the “FeeNom.”
5 – Michel Pereira
Everyone saw the YouTube clips of Michel Pereira before his Octagon debut and yes, they were spectacular. But pulling those flashy and unorthodox moves off on the regional circuit is one thing. Doing it in the UFC is quite another. But that’s exactly what the Brazilian did against Danny Roberts as he scored a first-round knockout and picked a Performance of the Night bonus in the process. Can he continue to do it against the rest of the killers at 170 pounds? I’m expecting that he will at least try. And while it may not always work, it will be fun to watch his attempts to deliver the spectacular.