On a night full of impressive performances, the UFC chose to award some of its budding stars for their efforts.
UFC Vegas started with four straight finishes, any number of them bonus-worthy on a normal night. Yet the event — numerically UFC on ESPN 9, which seems to matter little these days in the confusion wrought by the coronavirus pandemic — was far from ordinary. With chaos unfolding around the United States, the fights that unfolded Saturday were some of the best of the year.
Perfectly worthy of bonus money was Chris Gutierrez, who secured just the 10th leg kick TKO win in UFC history. Yet he was shut out, passed over perhaps by another history maker: Mackenzie Dern. Dern became the first female UFC fighter to win a bout via any form of leg lock. That came in the first fight of the event’s main card, when Dern forced the tap from Hannah Cifers, who found herself caught in a tight kneebar.
Dern’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu credentials are well known to MMA fans. Still, that particular submission was a thing of beauty.
So too was the performance of main event welterweight Gilbert Burns. Burns endured, with grace, a fair amount of trash talk from ex-champ Tyron Woodley in advance of the showdown Saturday. Woodley proclaimed he would drag Buarns into deep waters. Called him a “sacrificial lamb.”
He was no such animal at UFC Vegas. Instead, he was a bull, marching forward at all times, leveling Woodley early in the first round, and rocking him several more times throughout the fight. In the end, Burns — a former lightweight — showed zero issues with his cardio, and kept the pace up bell-to-bell. Woodley, not to take anything away from the performance of “Durinho,” appeared stuck in first gear.
Fight of the Night for Saturday’s card, held at the UFC Apex, went to newcomer Brandon Royval and former flyweight title challenger Tim Elliott. The pair put on a spirited bout full of exciting transitions, with Royval eventually finding the submission in round two. Afterward, he downplayed his performance, upset with what he felt was a “bad” showing. And disappointed that without a bonus-worthy showing, he’d be heading to work Monday morning.
The UFC felt Royval’s showing was worthy of an extra $50,000 after all. Although in the process, they may have overlooked a fan-friendly, wild scrap between Spike Carlyle and Billy Quarantillo, which was the pick of many for Fight of the Night.
All four bonus winners will take home an extra $50,000 for their efforts at UFC Vegas. With no fans in attendance at the Apex, there is no gate to report.