UFC Vegas 77: Evan Elder’s Jab and Body Work Carry Him to Exciting Win Over Genaro Valdez

Evan Elder and Genaro Valdez, UFC Vegas 77
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 15: (L-R) Evan Elder punches Genaro Valdez of Mexico in their lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night at UFC APEX on July 15, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Evan Elder returned after a ‘Fight of the Night’-winning show in his last bout, a loss due to doctor’s stoppage, to face off with Genaro Valdez at UFC Vegas 77.

Valdez, an Entram Gym athlete, was still looking for his first UFC win. He had come into the UFC with an undefeated record but lost his two bouts to Matt Frevola and Genaro Valdez. Evan Elder had also lost both of his UFC fights, but one of his bouts was up a weight class on short notice and he was winning the other before a nasty cut forced the doctor to call it off before the final round. A loss here may spell the end of the loser’s UFC run.

The first twenty seconds saw Elder land a counter right hand that dropped Valdez. Elder jumped on a guillotine but Valdez was able to twist and escape. They got back to striking, where Elder landed a nice body kick. Valdez recovered well from being hurt, but Elder seemed to have an advantage in the striking still. Inside leg kicks from Evan constantly knocked Valdez off of his stance and did attritional damage. Body work also served to mix up the targets. The jab of Valdez was constantly pumping out as a range-finder, sometimes marking Elder’s face and setting up the right hand as well. The latter stages of the round were competitive but due to the knockdown in the opening moments it was impossible to score the round anything but 10-9 Elder, surely.

The opening seconds of round two saw Valdez get dropped once again, this time by a jab. However, he did not seem badly hurt, moreso off balance. Elder stayed on the front foot thereafter though, he worked the body of Valdez under the high guard and made Genaro’s nose begin to bleed. However Valdez turned the tables as two minutes into round two he dropped Evan Elder. Elder got back to his feet but got dropped to a knee again. He recovered well but Valdez had gained the upper hand in the round. Unfortunately for him it was brief; his momentum was halted by an inadvertent eye poke. Valdez took about two minutes to recover and when the fight resumed Elder seemed fully recovered, though Valdez was more confident after scoring his knockdown.

The striking was more competitive than the first, but the leg kicks of Elder constantly gave him a bit of an edge as the fight went on. Body kicks and powerful hooking rips also did damage, making a difference as Valdez head-hunted. Elder had a big moment late when he landed a massive step-in knee, which Valdez somehow survived, throwing back massive punches of his own before the bell.

The final round represented only the second third round of Genaro Valdez’s entire career. Again in the opening seconds Elder rocked Valdez with a power jab, though Genaro stayed on his feet. Evan pressed forward hard, pushing Valdez back against the fence and landing well. The toughness of Valdez was a sight to behold, as the jab of Elder swelled up his nose something fierce he refused to back down even a little. He landed right hands too, and was mostly able to get out of the way for Valdez’s returns in the last round. The head movement was a big difference between the two as Elder avoided many blows while Valdez’s head was on the center line to eat every straight punch. Elder did headhunt more in the final round than previously, but he was cleanly out-striking Valdez through four minutes before landing a takedown. However Valdez was fierce off of his back and Elder let him to his feet. The final minute saw Elder really pour it on and hurt Valdez, making a statement before the judges had to render their decision.

When the judges scorecards were read it was no surprise that Evan Elder won on all three. The only surprise may be that he had one 30-26 scorecard while the others were both 29-28.

Official Result: Evan Elder def. Genaro Valdez by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-28)