Jay Primetown gives his thoughts on each of the fighters who competed at UFC on ESPN 1 in Phoenix, Arizona. Jay gives his letter grades for each fighter on TheMMA-Analysis podcast which can be found on MMAOddsbreaker.com.

Aleksandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire

Albu: She was taken down early and showed a limited grappling game off her back which resulted in a quick submission loss. Bad loss for Albu. Downgraded from C- to D

Whitmire: She did well to get Albu to the ground and quickly converted that success into a submission victory. A good win for Whitmire who appears to be a capable grappler in this weight class. Upgraded from D- to D+

 

Renan Barao vs. Luke Sanders

Barao: He looked good in the opening round having Sanders hurt at times, but he ran out of gas again after the opening five minutes. Barao is nearing the end of his career and I don’t see a path for him to move up in this division. Downgraded from D+ to D

Sanders: He struggled defending the leg kicks of his opponent in the opening round, but came out firing in the second round. Sanders was landing his punches in the second round and it wasn’t long before he was able to put Barao away and get back in the win column. Grade remains C-

 

Scott Holtzman vs. Nik Lentz

Holtzman: He definitely got the better of the striking, but he was controlled against the fence too easily and gave too much control in the cage. He did well in the third round, but it was too little too late. Grade remains D+

Lentz: He put in a workmanlike performance outworking his opponent with takedowns and control along the cage. Despite being at a power and striking disadvantage, he found a way to win the fight. Grade remains C-

 

Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Andrea Lee

Evans-Smith: Her striking was for the most part ineffective and she was too hittable throughout the fight. She was soundly defeated in this bout and its tough to see her getting wins over any of the top fifteen at this point. Downgraded from C- to D+

Lee: Her variety and combination striking was very good throughout the fight. She beat up Evans-Smith and really made this bout a blowout by the time the final bell rang. Lee continues to perform well and move up the rankings. Upgraded from C- to C

 

Manny Bermudez vs. Benito Lopez

Bermudez: He did what he does best and earned yet another early submission victory. As long as he can get an opponent to the ground, he’s one of the best submission grapplers in the division. Grade remains C

Lopez: He was too easily taken to the mat and he will need to put on some muscle if he’s going to be able to move up in this weight class. Downgraded from C- to D+

 

Jimmie Rivera vs. Aljamain Sterling

Rivera: He struggled throughout the fight to get inside against Sterling. He took a lot of kicks from distance. He defended takedowns well for the most part, but the damage he took in round two took a toll and was a major separation point in this fight. Rivera has had some success in this division, but he’s been exposed by kick heavy fighters. Grade remains B+

Sterling: An excellent game plan from Ray Longo and Matt Serra saw Sterling keep Rivera at distance and not let him get off anything significant from close range. Sterling not only got the better of the grappling, but out landed Rivera in each round as well. This is Sterling’s best win and he’s on closing in on the division’s elite. Upgraded from B+ to A-

 

Andre Fili vs. Myles Jury

Fili: He landed a beautiful jab throughout and did well in round three after being dropped in the second round to win a decision. Fili continues to entertain and is getting better with experience. Upgraded from C to C+

Jury: He had Fili hurt in round two, but other than that he just wasn’t active enough against a fighter who was peppering him with a jab. After a strong start to his career, his skill set has stagnated. Grade remains C

 

Bryan Barbarena vs. Vicente Luque

Barbarena: This was a classic Bryan Barbarena fight. He took a lot of clean punches, but continued to press forward and make this a dog fight. Tasked with fighting a very good fighter, he really put in a strong performance but it wasn’t meant to be as he was knocked out in the final 10 seconds. Barbarena is a fighter who will continue to get fights in the UFC because of his action heavy fights. Upgraded from C- to C

Luque: His opponent just wouldn’t back down, so he took matter into his own hands or in this case knee as he dropped Barbarena with a hellacious knee late in the third round to earn a victory in what was an early candidate for fight of the year. With eight finishes in the UFC, he’s quickly moving up the welterweight rankings. Upgraded from C+ to B-

 

Alex Caceres vs. Kron Gracie

Caceres: This was a terrible matchup for him. As soon as he was taken down, it was only a matter of time before he was forced to tap. Grade remains D+

Gracie: In his UFC debut, Kron Gracie took a page out of Demian Maia’s book by throwing strikes to setup the takedown and from there found a rear naked choke to get a first round win. There’s no denying Gracie is one of the best in sport in the submission department, but his ceiling will be determined by just how refined his striking becomes. Grade remains C

 

Cynthia Calvillo vs. Cortney Casey

Calvillo: She wanted to focus on her striking in this bout. While she was better in that regard, it wasn’t the most sound strategy as she had a significant advantage in the grappling. Calvillo has been solid in this weight class, but I’m still not convinced she can contend against the division’s top five. Grade remains B-

Casey: She did a good job chopping down her opponent’s lead leg, but ultimately struggled dealing with her opponent’s movement. She’s had the opportunity to face top ten ranked opponents, but has always been a step behind in those fights. Grade remains C+

 

Paul Felder vs. James Vick

Felder: A solid all-around performance against a tricky opponent. It took him a few minutes, but he settled into the fight and was able to figure out the range striking of his opponent. Felder combined that with a few spinning strikes that put his opponent off balance to get another good victory. Felder will move up in the rankings and is poised to face a top fifteen opponent next. Grade remains B-

Vick: While his size and stature presents a challenge for opponents, he’s too static defensively and his defensive faults as a striker have now been exposed. Downgraded from B- to C+

 

Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez

Ngannou: In a much-hyped main event, Francis Ngannou proved he belongs in the division’s elite after he put away Cain Velasquez in just 31 seconds for the biggest win of his career. The feared striker has set himself up with either a chance to redeem himself against Stipe Miocic or for a shot at Daniel Cormier. Either way, it will be a big-time main event. Upgraded from A- to A+

Velasquez: The former champion hadn’t fought in over 2.5 years and has been through many surgeries. Even if he makes it to the cage, his chances of suffering an injury during the fight are too high. It took less than 30 seconds for that happen as he was clipped with an uppercut and then his knee gave out as Velasquez was screaming in pain as the referee was forced to step in. At his peak, Velasquez was the best heavyweight fighter of all time, but now injuries have riddled his career. Downgraded from A- to B+