UFC Vegas 55: What We Learned
UFC Vegas 55 was another successful UFC event from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main event was a closely contested fight between Holly Holm and Ketlen Vieira. Michel Pereira and Santiago Ponzinibbio also got into a three-round slugfest in the co-main event. The rest of the card proved to be entertaining as six of the eleven fights ended before the final horn. This included four knockouts or technical knockouts and two submissions. Overall, several fighters had impressive outings at UFC Vegas 55.
Ketlen Vieira is a legit contender at women’s bantamweight
It is pretty fair to say that Ketlen Vieira did not beat Holly Holm. A large portion of media outlets scored the fight for Holm. Do not let that overshine Vieira’s performance. She showed a lot of skills throughout this fight that legitimize her ability to fight for the belt at 135 pounds. First off, her striking has continued to improve. She displayed some of these improvements against Miesha Tate but having success on the feet against Holly Holm is what stands out. Vieira landed a lot of powerful strikes that were doing damage throughout the fight. Her grappling will continue to be a mainstay in her game as well. She almost finished Holm with a standing rear-naked choke in round two.
Vieira does still have some flaws that she will need to improve on if she wants to become a champion. Most notably, she can not let opponents hold her up against the fence. Holm had over ten minutes of control time in the clinch. In addition, Vieira has to be more active with her hands. She has proven that she has the power and ability to land. She just has to be more willing to throw. Thankfully for Vieira, these both seem like mindset and fight IQ issues. This makes these issues easier to fix since she already has the required skills. Overall, despite benefiting from poor judging, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Vieira’s future.
Holly Holm has lost a step at age 40
Coming in there were questions about how Holly Holm would look at age 40. Well, it appeared that Holm was a bit slower. This was clear when Holm entered to throw combos on the inside. Entering boxing range was not a problem but at the end of her combos, she was staying in range too long which resulted in her getting hit by Vieira. In comparison to her last performance against Irene Aldana, this was a steep decline. Aldana is a better striker than Vieira but Holm was able to get inside and back out without getting hit against Aldana. This explains why Holm focused on getting control time in the clinch. Her best chance to win this fight was by controlling Vieira up against the cage and limiting Vieira’s offensive opportunities. In all fairness, she did this well. This may have just been an off night for The Preacher’s Daughter but because of her age, there is a reason to be concerned.
Michel Pereira continues to impress
At UFC Vegas 55, Michel Pereira earned his first ranked win after he defeated #14 Santiago Ponzinibbio. This marks Pereira’s fifth straight win. Ponzinibbio is no slouch and this win proved that Pereira deserves a number next to his name. Pereira has shown a lot of growth and maturity over his five-fight streak. As his competition has improved, the wild and flashy strikes seem to be a thing of the past. Instead, Pereira is using that energy to bounce around the cage while blasting his opponents with a long right hand and powerful kicks. If that was not enough, his work to the body is truly impressive. Thirty-eight percent of Pereira’s landed strikes were to the body of Ponzinibbio. This is led by a great teep kick and an array of other weapons. Pereira is not flawless as we need to see an improvement in his cardio but he is going to be an exciting fighter at welterweight for years to come.
Chidi Njokuani is going to be a problem at middleweight
Chidi Njokuani has two fights in the UFC. He also has two first-round knockouts in the UFC. His knockout of Dusko Todorovic at UFC Vegas 55 came after he landed a vicious elbow in the clinch. The decorated kickboxer is showing that he is an elite striker at 185 pounds. The biggest question regarding Njokuani will always be his grappling. Todorovic was able to get this fight to the ground but Njokuani showed off his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt as he was able to get deep on a choke attempt that almost finished the fight. After Todorovic was able to escape the choke, Njokuani did a great job of working back to his feet which led to his thunderous elbow. Njokuani is a couple of wins away from ranked competition but he is surely a fighter to keep an eye on.
Chase Hooper is improving
In a preview for UFC Vegas 55, I mentioned that I was interested to see if Chase Hooper was able to sure up some holes in his game. In his fight with Felipe Colares, Hooper left me quite surprised. Over his eleven-month hiatus, it was clear that Hooper put in work trying to better his striking and wrestling. That is not to say Hooper looks like prime Anderson Silva or Khabib Nurmagomedov but his improvement is noteworthy. He landed some good strikes on the feet. Possibly even the best of his UFC career. He was also much more efficient in getting his opponent to the ground which allowed him to use his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This eventually wore on Colares which allowed Hooper to earn a TKO victory. The 22-year-old Hooper still has a lot of work to do but it was nice to see that he is making an effort to improve his overall skills. Furthermore, he still has a lot of physical growth to do which should come in the next couple of years. If Hooper can fill out his skinny 6′ 1” frame and continue on his current road of progression he may eventually crack the top-15.