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4 Positives & 3 Negatives From UFC Fight Night: Vicente Luque vs. Rafael dos Anjos

On Saturday night, the mixed martial arts leader returned for its latest event, UFC Fight Night: Vicente Luque vs. Rafael dos Anjos.

After consecutive cards on the road in London, Salt Lake City, and Nashville, the promotion was back on home soil this week for another show from its Apex facility in Las Vegas. But as is always the case, the low-key environment didn’t necessarily mean disappointing action, and a number of fighters and matchups looked set to prove as much inside the Octagon.

That included in the main event, which saw perennial welterweight contender Vicente Luque return from a year-long layoff and brain health scare to share the cage with his fellow countryman, former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. “RDA” wasn’t the only notable veteran present, with featherweight fan favorite Cub Swanson also making the walk again to face Hakeem Dawodu in the night’s co-headliner.

With the likes of highly touted strawweight prospect Iasmin Lucindo, top 15 light heavyweight Khalil Rountree Jr., and lightweight finisher Terrance McKinney also competing, the UFC’s latest card certainly had the potential for some enthralling action.

But did that come to fruition? Let’s find out with all the positives and negatives from UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. dos Anjos.

1️⃣3️⃣ fights on the menu for this #UFCVegas78 card!

Who's leaving tonight with a finish? 👀

[ B2YB @TXChainSawGame ]

— UFC (@ufc) August 12, 2023

Negative – Easy & Lazy

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve specifically attributed the Apex as a negative for an event. I think it’s time…

Perhaps because Saturday’s card followed trips to The O2, the Delta Center, and the Bridgestone Arena — or maybe due to the fact that Apex cards are just inexcusable at this point — the latest instance of MMA in a silent warehouse felt especially frustrating.

By now, the reasoning is fairly obvious. Like many questionable decisions, a priority on finances is seemingly keeping the UFC attached to the Las Vegas venue. To be frank, it’s the “easy” and “lazy” way of doing things — not my words, Dana White’s.

And as White stated back in 2021, his organization should be thrilling sold-out arenas across the globe, bringing its product to new regions and nations. Instead, the UFC has visited just seven countries other than the United States since March 2020, just one of which marked a first-time trip.

To put things into perspective, here’s a portion of the schedule from 2019:

August 31 – UFC Shenzhen (China)September 7 – UFC 242 (United Arab Emirates)September 14 – UFC Vancouver (Canada)September 21 – UFC Mexico City (Mexico)September 28 – UFC Copenhagen (Denmark)October 5 – UFC 243 (Australia)October 12 – UFC Tampa (United States)

And here’s part of the schedule to come later this year:

September 16 – Noche UFC (United States)September 23 – UFC Vegas 79 (United States)October 7 – UFC Vegas 80 (United States)October 14 – UFC Vegas 81 (United States)October 21 – UFC 294 (United Arab Emirates)November 4 – UFC São Paulo (Brazil)November 11 – UFC 295 (United States)

That’s four straight events in Las Vegas, three of which take place at the crowd-less Apex, followed by returns to Brazil (already been in 2023) and UAE (hosted shows at frequently throughout the pandemic).

Easy, lazy.

Image: Zuffa LLC

Positive – Zombie, Thug, Monster

The twister gang has expanded, with a zombie and a thug being joined by a monster — because apparently only those with badass nicknames are allowed to do it…

Prior to Saturday’s event, the twister sat as one of the rarest submissions in the promotion’s history, with just “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung and “Thug Nasty” Bryce Mitchell finding success with the brutal and contorting hold.

In a memorable moment during the UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. dos Anjos prelims, Da’Mon Blackshear joined elite company by becoming only the third fighter in history to utilize a twister for the win.

Under four minutes into the first round, “Da Monster” worked to twist Jose Johnson’s body in an unnatural way. Having done so effectively for the tap, Blackshear has now followed a winless two-fight start to life in the Octagon with back-to-back triumphs, adding his name to the history books in the process.

While not a pivotal matchup in the context of a division, the wild and rare nature of this finish alone made it one of the night’s biggest positives.

Da Monster with the TWISTER!!!! 🌪️🌪️🌪️

Da’Mon Blackshear gets the sub in R1! #UFCVegas78

— UFC (@ufc) August 12, 2023

Negative – Weeks’ Weak Scorecard

In the third fight of the night, promising strawweight prospect Jaqueline Amorim got on the UFC board in style, utterly dominating Montserrat Conejo en route to a third-round TKO win.

The writing appeared to be on the wall instantly, with the 28-year-old Brazilian imposing her will on the ground with tight submission attempts and ground-and-pound from top position. She replicated that superiority by putting on another beating in the second frame.

In terms of judging, there should have been little debate over 10-8 scores for both rounds. In fact, Brendan Fitzgerald’s mocked 10-7 suggestion isn’t as far off the mark as a standard 10-9 would have been.

With that said, what on Earth went through the head of Tony Weeks?

While both Ron McCarthy and Junichiro Kamijo shared the same view with 20-16 verdicts in favor of Amorim through two stanzas, there was the absence of even one 10-8 on Weeks’ scorecard.

And what separates that judge from his two peers? He’s primarily known as a boxing referee. Coincidence? I think not. Whether it was a knockdown or another moment, Weeks was clearly (incorrectly) waiting for something in order to lower Conejo’s digit.

Although that ultimately didn’t impact the result and wouldn’t have had things gone the distance, Weeks’ decision not to reward Amorim’s utter dominance better is a concern when it comes to his ability to discern between round scores moving forward.

#UFCVegas78 Official Scorecard: Jaqueline Amorim (@JacqueAmorimBJJ) vs Montserrat Conejo

Complete Scorecards:

— UFC News (@UFCNews) August 12, 2023

Positive – A Name To Watch

During an electrifying set of prelim fights, one newcomer arguably made the biggest splash.

Saturday’s event marked the arrival of featherweight prospect Isaac Dulgarian, whose undefeated record prior to his UFC signing comprised less than eight minutes of cage time as a professional fighter.

That inexperience wasn’t evident inside the Octagon, however, with “The Midwest Choppa” extending his perfect record with yet another first-round stoppage. He closed out proceedings against Francis Marshall with 12 seconds remaining until the first horn, utilizing brutal elbows from top position to bust “Fire” open and force a stoppage.

With that, there’s a new name to watch for at 145 pounds.

Although it’s difficult to assess how Dulgarian will fare in the later rounds and against better competition, this did feel like a performance we’ll look back on in a year or two as the start of a fast rise toward contention.

Isaac Dulgarian is a problem! What a debut. #UFCVegas78

— MMANews (@mmanews_com) August 12, 2023

Negative – Momentum Killer

You know what they say, there’s nothing like a pair of forgetful middleweight slogs to keep the ball rolling on the main card after seven straight finishes on the prelims.

After non-stop action, the heat was significantly turned down at UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. dos Anjos courtesy of Josh Fremd vs. Jamie Pickett and AJ Dobson vs. Tafon Nchukwi.

Both bouts went the distance — the first to do so on the card — and while a decision certainly doesn’t always lend itself to a lackluster affair, when it comes to big middleweights far down the ladder, it usually does…

This was also very predictable. In fact, here’s what I sent to a colleague earlier this week while discussing the event:

“Two unranked middleweight fights to open the main card is so much pain.”

This begs the question, if I (and just about everybody) can identify that, why couldn’t the UFC have?

I noticed a host of complaints about the ESPN stream failing in the United States at around the time of those two fights. My TNT Sports app in the United Kingdom, meanwhile, worked smoothly.

I’ll let you decide which group of viewers had the better luck…

It's a clean sweep for Josh Fremd tonight 🧹🧹🧹#UFCVegas78 continues LIVE on @ESPN!

— UFC (@ufc) August 12, 2023

Positive – A Young Talent Impresses Again

Make no mistake, the future of the strawweight division is absolutely Iasmin Lucindo.

Like most, I’ve been pretty high on the Brazilian since she debuted in a Fight of the Year contender against Yazmin Jauregui at UFC San Diego a year ago. While Lucindo fell on the losing side of that war, she’s since amassed consecutive wins that may well leave her a victory or two from the rankings.

Her first success came this past April, when the promising prospect put on a striking clinic to outpoint Brogan Walker. Lucindo successfully continued the momentum from that result in a step-up on Saturday night, this time with an all-round performance.

On the feet against Polyana Viana, Lucindo displayed her thunderous power by rocking her fellow countrywoman numerous times with hooks. But when her rival was hurt, the 21-year-old was patient.

That was a trend that she continued when securing top position in the second round en route to an arm-triangle choke for the win. And if there was ever an advertisement for stopping grappling stand-ups, enter Lucindo’s patient jiu-jitsu…

Iasmin Lucindo gets her first finish in the Octagon with an arm triangle 💪

She is the youngest woman on the UFC roster 😳 #UFCVegas78

— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 13, 2023

At the age of just 21, Lucindo’s future on MMA’s biggest stage is incredibly bright. And given all three of her performances inside the Octagon to date, the Brazilian is already a must-see fighter.

Positive – ‘War Horse’

Violence is always better when the source is Khalil Rountree Jr.

At UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. dos Anjos, “The War Horse” continued his fine run of form with yet another highlight reel knockout, this time at the expense of a divisional newcomer.

After a defeat to Marcin Prachnio in 2021, Rountree Jr. bounced back by destroying the knee of Modestas Bukauskaus with an oblique kick and punt-kicking a downed Karl Roberson to the body en route to a TKO.

Although his brutal ways took a brief pause when he outpointed Dustin Jacoby via split decision, Rountree Jr. returned to his devastating ways in some fashion against Chris Daukaus, whom he knocked out with a vicious left hand less than three minutes into the first round.

Moving forward, Rountree Jr. has certainly earned a crack at the top 10 on the back of a four-fight winning run. And given his always violent approach to fighting, a five-round headliner doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

Locked in Khalil Rountree is a scary dude. #UFCVegas78

— MMANews (@mmanews_com) August 13, 2023

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