UFC on ESPN+ 35, Michelle Waterson, Angela HIll

Michelle Waterson lands a punch on Angela Hill during their fight in September.

UFC on ESPN+ 35: Thoughts and Reactions

UFC on ESPN+ 35 main event a success

Let’s be honest, not many of us were exactly thrilled to hear that Waterson vs. Hill replaced Santos vs. Texeira in the main event slot on Saturday night. However, what took place served as a reminder that names don’t make fights. Here are some thoughts on an action-packed night: 

Waterson and Hill were clear winners of the night

I did not envy the judges assigned to the main event. This decision came down to whether the judges favored strike volume or power. Michelle Waterson was the busier fighter, as she attempted 83 more strikes than Angela Hill. Waterson was particularly active with her side kicks, as she was able to touch Hill with that attack to all parts of the body. However, Hill was able to land slightly heavier punches and also elbows in the clinch. She actually outlanded Waterson in significant strikes, 131 to 128. 

This decision was not controversial; rather it was a close fight in which either fighter could have gotten their hand raised depending on the priorities of the judges. The overwhelming majority of fans and fighters online scored this fight three rounds to two for either fighter, reflecting the back-and-forth nature of the bout.  

But let’s not let this debate detract from the amazing performances from both Waterson and Hill. They provided fans a calculated and technical brawl that left both fighters wearing significant damage. As long-standing veterans of the UFC and former Invicta champions, they allowed the casual viewer a glimpse into what they have been doing for the past several years. 

It’s a great time to be an aspiring UFC fighter

Because the UFC is treating fans with events week after week, there are plenty of matches to be made with a limited talent pool given international travel restrictions. With this comes a certain lack of name recognition on cards, as plenty of fighters are receiving short-notice call-ups for their UFC debuts. Now, there are many opportunities for up-and-coming fighters to steal the show, and this event certainly showcased that. Besides a thrilling main event, several UFC debutants left lasting impressions that will earn them a call back to the Octagon.

Undefeated heavyweight prospect Alexandr Romanov absolutely dominated Roque Martinez in the prelims. He wasted no time in taking Martinez down, and when Martinez managed to scramble back to his feet, Romanov would promptly return him to the mat. From there, Romanov would do a beautiful job of advancing to dominant positions, throwing heavy ground and pound shots, and working for various submissions when they presented themselves. Finally, he was able to secure an arm-triangle choke at the end of the second round for the inevitable victory. Romanov looks to be an intriguing figure in the rapidly-changing heavyweight division as he is looking to stay active and go on to face tougher opposition.

In the very next fight, Kevin Croom made short work of Roosevelt Roberts, snatching up a figure-four standing guillotine 31 seconds into the fight after dropping him with a massive overhand left. Having fought professionally since 2009, it was evident how much this win meant for Croom, as he mentioned on Twitter post-fight that he only had $64 in his bank account the previous week. A Performance of the Night bonus will not only provide a financial boost but also almost guarantees future fights in the UFC.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard an epic Dana White referee rant

When the name of often belittled ex-referee Steve Mazzagatti comes out of Dana White’s mouth, nothing good can come next. Referee Chris Tognoni was in the boss’ crosshairs after a bout between Ed Herman and Mike Rodriguez, in which Tognoni believed that Herman was hit with a knee to the groin when in fact the shot was clearly to the body. The five minutes granted to Herman was the time he needed to recover from the body shot, survive the round, and eventually won the fight via third-round kimura.

White blasted the referee in the post-fight press conference, saying, “I’m telling you, nobody has ever f**ked up more than Mazzagatti, and that was a Mazzagatti moment right there for that guy. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.”

He then went on to discuss the importance of implementing replays. “All you’ve got to do is look at the f**king replay that’s playing 6,000 times while Herman’s on the ground to say, ‘Oh sh*t I made a mistake,” White exclaimed. 

Some injustices were corrected, as White provided a win bonus to Rodriguez, who to his credit handled the whole situation gracefully. Obviously, this whole situation was very unfortunate, but it brought back some classic pink-faced, spit-flying memories. To long-time MMA fans, Uncle Dana’s referee rant was a nostalgic moment that we have sorely missed.

Who’s ready to enter the rankings?

The main card featured two streaking fighters in Billy Quarantillo and Ottman Azaitar. Both are undefeated in the UFC and seem to be close to having a number next to their name. Quarantillo scored an impressive third-round knockout off of a sharp 1-2 combo that sent his opponent stumbling face-first into the canvas. Later on in the night, Azaitar blitzed his way into a first-round TKO stoppage.

With these impressive performances, who looks more prepared to face a ranked opponent?

Both Quarantillo and Azaitar are in stacked divisions, featherweight and lightweight respectively. Though Azaitar is 13-0 in his MMA career with 12 of those wins coming by finish, his fight style can be characterized as a little reckless. He loves to stand in front of his opponents and slug it out, relying on his heavy hands to get the job done. On the other hand, Quarantillo has shown the ability to pick apart fighters more tactfully. In his performance Saturday, he was able to showcase a complete game, as he utlized elbows in the clinch to go along with technical boxing skills. Past fights against the ultra-agressive Spike Carlyle and Jacob Kilburn lead to the same conclusion. Right now, Quarantillo seems to be the more prepared and experienced to take on better opposition. But Azaitar has a high ceiling as well, and hopefully he can see a little more cage time before experiencing a step up in competition.

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