Dana White and the UFC continued to do their thing at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi Saturday night. UFC Fight Night 174 was among the biggest slates we have seen in the MMA world in recent memory. It included a whopping seven main card fights as well as eight prelim card bouts.
The headliner saw Robert Whittaker take out Darren Till to potentially set up a title bout against Jack Hermansson.
Though, that’s not the entire story here. Jesse Ronson earned a win in his first UFC bout since all the way back in 2014. Meanwhile, Marina Rodriguez lost to Carla Esparza in a hard-fought fight.
These are among the biggest winners from UFC Fight Night 174 Saturday evening.
Winner: Jesse Ronson with long-awaited return to UFC
Ronson had not taken part in a UFC bout since all the way back in 2014. He had struggled making his way back to the main stage after taking part in lower-level fights heading into Saturday’s match against Nicolas Dalby.
A veteran of the welterweight division, Ronson shocked the masses with a rear-naked choke submission of the heavily-favored Dalby. It really was a sight to behold. We have no idea what this means for Ronson. But it was a shocker given this represented his first UFC bout in more than six calendar years.
Loser: Marina Rodriguez loses first professional bout
One of the best fights of Saturday night pitted this Brazil native against the better known Carla Esparza. The two seemed to be evenly matched heading into the matchup. Esparza hadn’t lost a fight since UFC 228 back in Sept. 2018. For her part, Rodriguez was undefeated in 14 career bouts.
Unfortunately for Rodriguez, she fell to Esparza in a split decision after three rounds. The numbers were pretty even. Rodriguez landed seven more significant strikes. Though, Esparza’s split decision win can be summed up by the fact that she took down Rodriguez five times to zero.
Winner: Robert Whittaker with absolutely huge win
The former champion and headliner is attempting to make his way back into the title conversation. Whittaker needed a win over Darren Till Saturday evening in order for that to come to fruition. In what was a hard-fought bout that went the distance, this Australian came out on top with a unanimous decision victory.
He landed 50 more strikes than his counterpart, including 28 more significant strikes. That made up for Whittaker going 2-for-13 in take-down attempts. It’s possible that he’ll now take on Jack Hermansson. It was a huge win for the veteran.
Loser: Jake Collier loses first fight in over two years
At 264-pounds, “The Prototype” isn’t someone you want to mess with in the Octagon. He hoped to show that to a lesser-known Tom Aspinall Saturday night at Fight Island.
In no way did this go according to plan. Collier was knocked out 45 seconds into Round 1 after Aspinall landed a vicious combo that had the UFC world talking. It was a brutal performance, as Collier noted after the fight. It also represented his first loss since the spring of 2017. Ouch!
Winner: Khamzat Chimaev goes full “Borz” on Rhys McKee
Having won his UFC debut earlier this month at Fight Island against John Phillips, this Swede seemed to be on his way to stardom within the league. That did not change Saturday night against Rhys McKee.
Chimaev remained undefeated in his professional career, moving to 8-0 via a Round 1 knockout. It came from after the dude landed a resounding 57 strikes in 113 seconds. This also represented Chimaev’s second win in different weight classes in two weeks. That has never happened before. Let’s get crazy.
Loser: Peter Sobotta drops second consecutive bout
After winning four of his first five UFC bouts, this Germany native has struggled on bigger stages. That included a defeat at the hands of Leon Edwards during UFC Fight Night 127 back in March of 2018. Making his first appearance in the Octagon since, Sobotta was clearly outclassed by Alex Oliveira Saturday night.
Oliveira came away with a unanimous decision victory in the welterweight bout. He landed 48 strikes compared to 30 from Sobotta. The latter was also 0-for-3 in take-down attempts. Given another big stage at Fight Island, Sobotta came up small. That’s all there is to it.
Winner: Paul Craig dominates with yet another submission
History making. In just his ninth UFC fight, the 32-year-old Craig won via triangle choke submission against Gadzhimurad Antigulov in Round 1 Saturday night. He now boasts the record for most triangle choke submissions in the championship’s history. Think about that for a second.
What’s even crazier here is the fact that 12 of Craig’s 13 professional wins have now come via submission. It also came after Antigulov landed 11 significant strikes compared to Craig’s two. It’s hard to explain just how successful Craig has been in the Octagon when it looks like he’s on the verge of a loss. Saturday night represented that to a T.
Loser: Darren Till just couldn’t finish
Till entered the Octagon Saturday night at Fight Island with an attitude. He exited the bout against Robert Whittaker wondering what’s going to happen from here. Attempting to get back into the title conversation in the middleweight division, Till dropped the bout via unanimous decision.
This isn’t great. Till rebounded from a two-match losing streak to take out Kelvin Gastelum in UFC 244 last November. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be center stage in the middleweight division without rebounding from this defeat. We can eliminate Till battling for the title any time soon.
Winner: Carla Esparza should ascend strawweight rankings
The 32-year-old Esparza entered Saturday night’s bout against Marina Rodriguez on a pretty big roll. “Cookie Monster” had not lost since UFC 228 almost two years ago. That span included impressive wins over Virna Jandiroba and Michelle Waterson. Ranked No. 7 in the women’s strawweight division, Esparza was taking on another top-10 fighter in that of Rodriguez.
In what was a hard-fought bout, Esparza came out on top via a split decision. That’s primarily because she took down her opponent five times compared to zero. I am personally intrigued to see how much Esparza ascends the division rankings.