Saturday’s UFC Mexico event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Mexico City Arena.
It’s nice to be right once in a while. And even though I didn’t make a pick on the Carla Esparza-Alexa Grasso co-main event, I did make it clear where I stood when it came to the toughness and never say die attitude of Esparza. And she showed it all off in digging deep, surviving an armbar 99 percent of fighters would have tapped out to, and earning a three-round majority decision. It was the kind of win that reminded fight fans that Esparza isn’t just a contender at 115 pounds. She’s a former champion who knows what it’s like to get that belt. Now she wants it back.
Irene Aldana has had her ups and downs in and out of the UFC, but when she gets the chance to display her talents in a fight that matches perfectly with her style, she’s something to see and clearly a top-level bantamweight. And while she was disappointed that she wasn’t able to fight a fellow contender in Marion Reneau last Saturday, she showed up, did her job against gutsy late replacement Vanessa Melo and gave a show to her friends, fans and family in Mexico that hadn’t seen her perform on home soil in nearly six years.
If not for Esparza and Grasso stealing the show, the Fight of the Night bonus likely would have gone to Brandon Moreno and Askar Askarov, who reminded fans just why the flyweight division is one of the most exciting in the game. Both fighters were chasing victory for all 15 minutes, and while no one wants to see a fight end with a draw verdict, it was the fairest decision that could have been rendered in a battle where there were no losers.
Paul Craig needed a big win and a big finish against Vinicius Moreira in prelim action at Mexico City Arena. He got both as he showed off his striking game and ground attack in submitting Moreira while also picking up a Performance of the Night bonus. Is Craig perfect on fight night? His 4-4 UFC record would say no, but perfect is boring and Craig will always be a threat to pull off something spectacular for each minute he is in the Octagon, and that’s the greatest job security of all.
Also in the fighters needing a big win category is Texas’ Mr. Peterson, who entered Saturday’s bout against Martin Bravo with a 1-3 Octagon slate. That can make any fighter nervous, and after Bravo had a strong first round, you would understand if Peterson mentally checked out and started thinking about Sunday morning and not Saturday night. But Peterson is a tough kid who earned his spot in the UFC the hard way, so he came out for round two ready to turn things around. A spinning back fist later, mission accomplished.