Saturday’s UFC Raleigh event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in North Carolina, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at PNC Arena.
Gilbert Burns is one of the most underrated fighters in the sport when it comes to bringing a finishing mentality to every fight, whether on the feet or the mat. So when Herbert Burns earned a UFC contract on last summer’s Contender Series, that was music to my ears because two Burns brothers in the UFC are even better than one. And Herbert proved to be just as finish-minded as his big bro, as he scored a highlight reel knockout of Nate Landwehr. Now just get them both on the same card, and let the fireworks commence.
Michael Chiesa fought a disciplined, nearly perfect fight against former world champion Rafael Dos Anjos on Saturday night. When it was over, a welterweight contender was born, and while he lost some bouts earlier in his UFC career thanks to some recklessness (not to mention a rough weight cut) at this point of his career, he appears to have found that balance at 170 pounds where he’s fighting smart and still chasing finishes. That’s a dangerous combination.
One of the hardest working fighters in the game today, Angela Hill is finally starting to see some daylight in the Octagon, as her fifth fight in less than a year last Saturday produced her second straight stoppage win and her first two-fight winning streak in the UFC. And while all those numbers are nice, the best part of the whole equation for “Overkill” is that her fight game is catching up to her work ethic, and that makes her a threat to the entire strawweight division moving forward.
Take away Alex Perez’ November 2018 loss to Joseph Benavidez, and the Californian has won ten fights in a row since 2016, and that’s an impressive run any way you cut it. Leave the Benavidez loss in and winning 10 of his last 11 is still something to talk about, even if the low-key Perez won’t be screaming it from the rooftops. Instead, he calmly goes about his business, and if you give this student of the game the slightest opening – like Jordan Espinosa did – it’s game over. Following his win in Raleigh, Perez spoke of a bout with unbeaten Askar Askarov. Sign. Me. Up.
Unbeaten if Francis Ngannou never came into his life, Curtis Blaydes proved once again Saturday night why he is one of the elite heavyweights in the world, one who could very well be fighting for a title by the end of 2020. And yes, his wrestling and ground-and-pound attack are what many look out for, but as his TKO of former world champion Junior Dos Santos proved, his hands are nothing to dismiss, and if he hits you, he can hurt you, and if he hurts you, “Razor” gets you out of there. Looks like the rest of the year is going to be an interesting one for Mr. Blaydes.