Luigi Vendramini – D+
With a promotional record of 1-2 leading into his fight with Pimblett, Luigi Vendramini likely needed to score an upset to remain on the UFC roster.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian-Italian lightweight, the upset did not come.
But it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Vendramini was aggressive with his striking output from the offset, even landing a crisp counter left hook that would have dropped a lesser opponent.
Ultimately, while Vendramini was unsuccessful in derailing Pimblett’s burgeoning hype train, his aggression and output made him the perfect foil for Paddy’s UFC bow and it would be nice to see him rewarded with another shot in the big show.
Paddy Pimblett – A-
With his knockout win on Saturday, Paddy Pimblett may well have finished the first chapter of what could be a legendary UFC career.
Looking to be in the best physical condition of his MMA career, Pimblett indulged the small crowd in attendance at the UFC Apex with one of the most hectic one-round debut performance’s since a certain Irishman made a splash in Sweden back in 2013.
Demonstrating the killer instinct that made him so well regarded on the UK regional scene, Pimblett was relentless once he sensed that his opponent was in trouble; piling on the pressure before finishing Vendramini with a barrage of punches against the cage.
The only thing preventing Pimblett from earning top marks is that he still seems to be a little too comfortable relying on his granite chin. Going forward the Scouser will need to shore up his defence as he moves up the rankings in the talent-stacked UFC lightweight division.
Modestas Bukauskas – D
All in all, Saturday wasn’t a great night for British-Lithuanian prospect Modestas Bukauskas. After having to travel to Las Vegas without his father in his corner due to visa issues, Bukauskas found himself facing off against the best version of Khalil Rountree that we’ve seen in the Octagon for years.
After managing to survive his opponent’s initial onslaught, Bukauskas attempted to use his jab to keep his opponent at bay. In the second round, Rountree landed an oblique kick that immediately ended the contest leaving Bukauskas in severe pain.
Now riding a three-fight losing streak Bukauskas’ UFC stint may be in jeopardy. However, even if for nothing other than the way he has reacted to his defeat online, we think he deserves another chance once he has fully recovered.
Khalil Rountree – A
Consistently inconsistent, Khalil Rountree has made a habit of alternating between demonstrating his terrifying potential in one fight and looking distinctly disappointing in the next.
However, fans that tuned in on Saturday were in for a treat as Rountree used his exceptional Muay Thai skills to their fullest potential, battering his opponent with a variety of attacks before finishing with a rare oblique kick stoppage.
Unfortunately, it appears that the online discussion over the morality of his finishing technique has eclipsed just how impressive Rountree’s performance inside the Octagon was. In a relatively shallow light heavyweight division, do not be surprised to see Rountree fighting a ranked contender sometime in 2022.
Sergey Spivak – F
Sergey Spivak deserves credit for stepping in to fight another ranked contender on short notice and keeping the event’s co-main event on the card.
Unfortunately, based on his performance on Saturday, that’s about all we can give him credit for.
Despite having an undeniably impressive UFC record with wins over the likes of, Tai Tuivasa, Carlos Felipe, and Alexi Oleinik, Spivak looked completely out of his depth against Aspinall being significantly slower on the feet and unable to force the fight onto the mat.
Spivak will no doubt rebound from this performance but given the gulf in talent between the very top of the heavyweight division and the rest of the ranked fighters, he will need significant improvements to move towards title contention.
Tom Aspinall – A
In a division where just about everyone has significant power, the one attribute that really stands out about Tom Aspinall is his speed. Despite making just his fourth UFC appearance as he walked out in the co-main event slot, Aspinall did not let the enormity of the occasion affect his performance.
After using the early stages of the fight to gauge his opponent’s reactions, Aspinall then began landing heavy shots whilst negating much of Spivak’s wrestling offence by keeping him moving backwards against the cage. After defending a takedown, Aspinall remained in the clinch position and landed a devastating elbow that forced the referee to stop the fight in the first round.
Despite his impressive performance, after the fight Aspinall remarked that he is happy to continue his measured ascent up the heavyweight rankings with a fight against #12 ranked Blagoy Ivanov next in his sights.
Darren Till – C-
One of the most beloved fighters in MMA, all eyes were on Darren Till as he made his return to the UFC Octagon following more than a year of inactivity.
Unfortunately, it was not the return that so many had hoped for as Till was largely dominated throughout the fight, repeatedly finding himself on the receiving end of Brunson’s takedowns and being unable to get back to his feet.
It’s worth noting that while the fight was not a complete blowout, Till actually appeared to be in control of the action prior to Brunson securing the takedown that ultimately led to the finish, the Englishman suffered from being one-dimensional in his approach, with his offence revolving around setting up his right hand.
As Daniel Cormier pointed out on the broadcast, Till would likely benefit greatly from immersing himself in wrestling before making his UFC return. If the Gorilla could combine his fearsome striking with a more well-rounded grappling game contendership would once again be within his reach.
Derek Brunson – B
Perpetually counted out, Derek Brunson has made a habit during the latest stint of his UFC career of defeating his heavily favoured opponents and Saturday proved to be no different.
With his wrestling as a constant threat, Brunson alternated between landing shots on the feet and scoring takedowns, decisively winning the opening two rounds in the process.
The only knock on Brunson’s performance is that he did appear to slow down slightly going into the third round, briefly allowing Till to work his way back into the fight before Brunson shut down any hopes of a comeback from the Brit by once again dragging his opponent to the mat and finishing the fight by submission.
Brunson’s strength of schedule is undeniable, and he is likely just one fight away from a rematch with reigning champion Israel Adesanya. However, unless he can address his defensive weaknesses it is unlikely that he will capture UFC gold.
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