While the main card of UFC 174 may have seemed underwhelming for some, the event on Saturday in Vancouver did produce a couple of star worthy performances, as well as a couple of promising prospects enjoying a successful UFC debut.
Honorable Mentions – Jason Saggo, Michinori Tanaka, Valerie Letourneau, Ryan Bader.
3rd Star – Kiichi Kunimoto
Boy did the oddsmakers get this one wrong, Kiichi Kunimoto came into this fight a 4-to-1 underdog against the former TUF Brazil 1 middleweight finalist, Daniel Sarafian, who was making his debut at welterweight. Whether it was a bad weight cut or a poor performance by Sarafian, or a great performance by Kunimoto, “Strasser” was able to dispose of the Brazilian in just under 3 minutes. Kunimoto took down Sarafian and secured the rear naked choke for his 6th straight win and 2nd in the UFC–previous defeating Luiz Dutra–another former TUF Brazil 2 castmate. The submission notched him a $50,000 performance of the night bonus.
2nd Star – Rory MacDonald
Rory MacDonald called this the best performance of his career, and it’s hard to argue. The performance he put on for 3 full rounds against a top contender in Tyron Woodley was more than impressive. His ability to shutdown the offensive game of Woodley, avoid the huge power and the strong wrestling of the former 2-time Division 1 All-American. Defeating the #3 ranked welterweight in the UFC, MacDonald solidified his spot as the current 3rd best welterweight in the promotion. While Rory does not have claim to the next title shot–that honor belongs to the winner of the fight between Matt Brown and Robbie Lawler—he has all the confidence that he is going to become the UFC welterweight champion.
“I’ll be holding that belt very soon, there’s no doubt in my mind.”
1st Star – Demetrious Johnson
Despite winning his last 11 fights, and undefeated in his first 3 fights in the UFC to earn this title shot, Ali Bagautinov did not look like he belonged in the same cage Saturday night as the champion. Demetrious Johnson easily defended his flyweight title for a 4th consecutive time, putting a well rounded performance over 5 rounds to win the unanimous decision. The reigning flyweight division king remained the king with another impressive performance that fans have now come to expect from Demetrious Johnson.
While the former world combat Sambo champion was able to land a couple of takedowns, the majority of them (10) were defended by Johnson, who fought a good portion of the fight in the clinch—where his opponent wanted it. Johnson made it a point to showcase his well-rounded skills by beating Bagautinov inside the clinch, landing his knees to the body and head. The champion pitched a shutout on the scorecards, winning all 5 rounds on all 3 cards, doing so by out-striking Bagautinov 133-36 in significant strikes.