UFC Vegas 24 Post-topsy: Decisions, decisions and a ‘Reaper’ rising

UFC Vegas 24 was not an event to remember. That isn’t to say it was mired by controversy or lacked a few noteworthy performances, but it was a card that completely filled the content time slot for ESPN. Of the 10 fights on the card, 80% ended with Ultimate Fighting Championship public announcer Bruce Buffer reading the judge’s decisions. This included three split decisions and a technical decision from a knee to the groin. Meaning many of the bouts lacked definitive winners, and most were not fights pulling nominations for the fight of the night. However, bonuses were handed out and major statements were made by a few. Let’s take a look at the notables from the night.

Just give Whittaker the damn title shot

In an era where the UFC often gives automatic rematches to fallen champions, no matter the result, Robert Whittaker somehow was an exception. Despite a middleweight run that easily puts him in the discussion as one of the greats in division history, he was sent to the back of the line after losing his gold to Israel Adesanya, two years ago at UFC 243. Being the humble and soft-spoken elite talent that he is, he took his orders and started a new climb to the top.

Over three wins against top-10 fighters in Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, and last night against Kelvin Gastelum, “The Reaper” showed beyond a shadow of a doubt he is the best 185-pound fighter not named Adesanya. Against Till he outpointed a talented point striker. In Cannonier he derailed the hot streak of a surging talent in the division, and his victory over Gastelum was clear and definitive. The latter of the three will stand out even more, considering Adesanya had a great deal of difficulty overcoming Gastelum at UFC 236. In a fight that left him badly lumped up and damaged. Whittaker had no moments of danger against their shared foe.

Under different circumstances, third-ranked middleweight Marvin Vettori should be the man to challenge “The Last Stylebender” next. He’s earned it with an impressive five-fight winning streak, and his own previous loss to the champ and the subsequent trash talk since is an easy sell. However, in a world that is slowly emerging from pandemic-related restrictions, a championship rematch between the two best 185-pound fighters in the post-Anderson Silva era, at the height of their powers, is a scrap that can sell out any arena on the planet.

Meerschaert and Gravely stood tall in a sea of decisions

There were only two (that’s right two!) finishes on the entire 10-fight card at UFC Vegas 24. So it was no surprise that both those competitors won the night’s individual performance bonuses. First, let’s talk Gerald Meerschaert. The 46-fight veteran was in a bit of a make or broke moment in his 14-year career. Heading into the fight, he had lost 4 of his last six, with the last two being destructive first-round knockouts from Ian Heinisch and Khamzat Chimaev. With his job security possibly on the line, “GM3” did what “GM3” does best, and showcased why he is one of the best middleweight grapplers on the planet. Securing his twenty-fourth win by submission and twelfth in the first round. The win won’t catapult the 33-year-old into the rankings, but it showed why he has stuck around in the promotion for five years and counting.

The other lone finish on the night came in the event’s opener when 21-fight veteran Tony Gravely earned just his ninth career finish via strikes. The Dana White’s Contender Series alum used a pressure wrestling style on Anthony Birchak that kept “El Toro” thinking takedown defense and opened him up for bombs to his top floor. The Virginia native’s pummeling of Birchak was easily forgotten in a wave of decisions throughout the night. However, his performance was deserving of an extra US $50,000 and a fight further up the card in his next Octagon outing.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Outside of the performance bonus winners, a few other fighters progressed their careers forward in important ways. On the main card, Jacob Malkoun and Tracy Cortez scored unanimous decision victories with dominant wrestling. The former absolutely schooled Abdul Razak Alhassan for three rounds during an impromptu Australian wrestling clinic. Justin Kish put up more of a fight against Cortez, however in the end it wasn’t enough to make the decision difficult for the judges. The only black mark on the night for Cortez was her half-pound weight miss the day before and loss of 20% of her purse.

Another notable victory on the card was that of 17-fight veteran Jessica Penne. This was the 38-year-olds first fight back in the Octagon in four years after a controversial USADA suspension cost her 20-months, and a few failed bookings extended her hiatus. Welcoming her back was a strong prospect in Legacy Fighting Alliance strawweight champion Lupita Godinez. The Californian didn’t show many signs of ring rust in scraping out a hard-fought victory that displayed some crafty veteran tactics. Not only did she get her first win since December 2014, but she also ended a three-fight losing streak. The only losing skid of her career.

Bonus checks and apparel paydays

Four fighters were awarded bonuses last night, and apparel payouts were had under the promotions new uniform partnership with Venum. You can find those below.

Performance Bonus Winners: Gerald Meerschaert & Tony Gravely

Fight of the Night Bonus Winners: Robert Whittaker & Kelvin Gastelum

UFC Promotional Guidelines Compliance Pay Total: US $169,5000

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