The UFC Vegas 24 prelims produced several exciting fights and many more electric fighters to watch throughout their budding careers. The prelims got started with a cracking finish from Tony Gravely, and there were several more to follow. These fighters put on quite a show and made a splash on national television.
Bantamweight Tony Gravely (21-6-0 2-1 UFC) put everyone at 135 pounds on notice when he starched veteran Anthony Birchak (15-8-0 2-4 UFC) in the second round via left hook and hammer fist, after previously dropping Birchak in the first. Things got a little slippery for Gravely in the first after he landed that knockdown, as Birchak capitalized on Gravely rushing in and sunk in a tight guillotine.
Ultimately, Gravely had a Houdini-esque escape from his opponent’s choke and once more landed heavy shots from Birchak’s back towards the end of the round. By the beginning of the second, Gravely was up 10-9 on the judge’s scorecards, but it could have easily been close to a 10-8 with the way the judges score. He then snuck in a clean left hook, dropping Birchak, and ended the fight quickly with vicious ground-and-pound.
Regardless, Gravely put an exclamation point on his fight, and set his sights on the top 15 at bantamweight. For this reason, a fight with Adrian Yanez or even Song Yadong makes perfect sense if the UFC wants to find fighters to watch at 135 pounds.
Gerald “GM3” Meerschaert (32-14-0 7-6-0 UFC) announced his presence yet again in the middleweight division with a lightning-fast submission finish over Bartosz Fabinski (15-5-0 3-3-0 UFC) just two minutes in. The fight began as a fast battle on the feet, but the two grapplers were quick to move to the clinch, either as instinct or as a game plan. Judo specialist Fabinski shot for the takedown early out of the clinch, and GM3 jumped on Fabinski’s neck almost instantly. Fabinski tried his best to get out of it but Meerschaert adjusted the choke, sunk it in, and put Fabinski out cold.
Everyone knows Meerschaert can grapple with the best of them, and he has the skills to prove it: that added up to his 24th submission win in his career, and he became the sole leader in submissions at UFC middleweight with six. He may be a veteran, but this performance proved that he’s one of the many fighters to watch on this card. Even though he’s barely above .500, a top-15 opponent is in order for the American to really prove his mettle as one of the fighters to watch at middleweight.
The Moldovan Alexandr Romanov (14-0-0 3-0-0 UFC) won by technical decision after his opponent Juan Espino (11-2-0 2-1-0 UFC) landed an inadvertent groin strike which rendered Romanov unable to continue. Because the fight was in the middle of the third round, it went to a technical decision. The first round went to Romanov, according to the judges, as did the second.
Romanov came in hot in the first round, landing several takedowns and putting Espino on his back against the cage frequently. Espino did finish the round in mount, but it was not enough time to do legitimate damage to the Moldovan. The second round was more grappling-heavy as Romanov recovered from a Espino knee to take the Spaniard down. Romanov looked fantastic in this round, landing heavy ground-and-pound that almost finished Espino and transitioning to a guillotine. Espino slipped out of the choke and pinned Romanov against the fence to finish the round.
During the beginning of round three, Espino pinned Romanov against the fence and went to the clinch, where he threw a big knee that landed flush to Romanov’s groin. It may have not appeared to be that bad, but Romanov did not get off the ground the entire five minutes, and had to be helped up while the decision was read. He ended up winning, but it was not an ideal performance from Romanov.
That being said, Romanov showcased his striking prowess, as well as his A-plus grappling throughout those first two rounds. If that is a sign of things to come, Romanov should be one of the premier fighters to watch at both heavyweight and the entire UFC.
All of these guys are fighters to watch out of the entire promotion, and they should soon be making waves near the top 15 of their respective divisions. Keep an eye out for these men, as they should soon be household names for MMA fans. Eventually, some of these men may be champions: that’s the beauty of the sport.
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