This past weekend featured a lull in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s torrid 2021 schedule, and with Bellator MMA and Professional Fighters League still a little way off from kicking into gear, it was an oddly quiet few days on the MMA front.
However, that doesn’t mean there was nothing going on. Far from it, in fact; Legacy Fighting Alliance was in business, offering up LFA 98, while in Florida, Xtreme MMA reappeared out of nowhere after nearly 12 years with XMMA 8, a card completely packed with UFC veterans. Over in Europe, KSW kicked off its year with KSW 58, featuring a couple of the promotion’s most prized undefeated prospects. As is always the case when men or women enter a cage and stake their health, pride and livelihood, some fighters’ stocks rose while others fell. Here is the stock report for our last UFC-free weekend until April (gulp).
Kyle Bochniak: Bochniak was released by the UFC late in 2019 after three straight losses. He was a victim of timing; a few months later, COVID-19 hit, and a three-fight skid was no longer a guaranteed pink slip. In particular, Bochniak, a reliably fun brawler—hat tip to the Sherdog colleague who called him a "Boston-style, face-first striker," and meant it as a compliment—had come up short against a relative murderer’s row of Zabit Magomedsharipov, Hakeem Dawodu and Sean Woodson, and would almost certainly still be under UFC contract if it had happened in 2020. Instead, he finds himself on the outside looking in, despite probably being better than a third of the UFC featherweight division. As such, he needs wins on the feeder circuit in order to get another look, and that’s exactly what he got on Saturday at XMMA, taking a unanimous decision over Caio Rocha Uruguai. Even better, their three-round scrap was easily the best fight of the night, a reminder of the added value “Crash” brings beyond the mere Ws and Ls.
Josh Fremd: Eryk Anders, Markus Perez, Anthony Hernandez, Ian Heinisch and Brendan Allen. Those are the five men who have won the LFA middleweight title, and if the names ring a bell, it is probably because all five were signed by the UFC within months. By crushing Bruno Oliveira at LFA 98 on Friday, Fremd secured himself a shot at the title vacated by Allen’s departure. If he wins the belt—he still needs to get through the winner of Anthony Adams vs. Gregory Rodriguez, but will be a big favorite against either—expect him to make it six for six, unless his relative inexperience necessitates a detour through Dana White's Contender Series. One of the more intriguing young prospects in the division, the 27-year-old Factory X product is now 7-1 and just hitting his stride. All three of his appearances in the LFA cage have ended in nasty first-round knockouts. Fremd is big, athletic, well-rounded and still improving, and the eye-opening knockout in his first headlining appearance was the right performance at the right time. Coming soon to an autocorrect near you.
James Vick: It is shocking to think that less than two and a half years ago, Vick entered the Octagon as a slight favorite over Justin Gaethje. “The Texecutioner” was 13-1 overall at the time, 9-1 in the UFC, and had he beaten Gaethje that night, he might have been only one or two more wins away from a lightweight title shot. It was not to be: Gaethje flattened Vick, kicking off his own run to title contention while sending the Lloyd Irvin disciple into a tailspin from which he has yet to recover. Vick exited the UFC on four straight losses, three of them clean knockouts, including one at the hands of Dan Hooker, who has otherwise not displayed that kind of one-shot power. It’s difficult to think of another high-level fighter whose chin abandoned him as suddenly and completely as Vick’s appeared to have done. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva or Chuck Liddell, maybe, but they were older, had more fights under their belts and were facing higher-ranked fighters in heavier weight divisions than Vick.
After taking all of 2020 off, Vick returned on Saturday in the headliner of XMMA’s first show since 2009. In Andre Fialho, Vick appeared to have a credible but manageable foe, a suitable first step to stop his career free-fall and begin to turn things around. Instead, he found himself on the receiving end of yet another brutal finish, and the only real difference was that it took Fialho 20 strikes instead of one. While the end was protracted and ugly—it’s impossible not to wince as Vick, without his mouthpiece, takes a dozen flush punches to the face—it might as well have been called as soon as Fialho landed that first looping left. While I am always reluctant to call for fighters to retire “for their own good,” Vick should probably have a good long talk with his family and coaches (preferably not the ones who failed to throw in the towel on Saturday) before deciding what comes next.
Salahdine Parnasse: Any time an undefeated champion loses his “0” and his belt on the same night, it’s clearly a “stock down” moment. However, almost everyone loses sooner or later, and Parnasse is still just 23, with his best years presumably still ahead of him. What is more alarming is the manner of the finish. Facing Daniel Torres in the main event of KSW 58, as one of the most lopsided betting favorites in any title fight in recent memory, Parnasse was wiped out in under two minutes by a picture-perfect…um, that is to say, he walked right into a…well, therein lies the problem. Torres dropped Parnasse with what was likely meant to be a right hook, but ended up contacting the top of Parnasse’s head with the inside crook of his elbow. A clothesline? A “Russian sickle,” as practiced by 1980s pro wrestler Nikita Koloff? Whatever you want to call it, it simply did not look like the kind of strike that would end a fight, and now we are left to wonder if the talented Frenchman was caught in a one-in-a-million collision that generated deceptive kinetic energy, or he has a chin (well, scalp) issue. It’s entirely possible that the former case is correct—and we are likely to find out soon, as KSW will almost certainly book a quick rematch—but that we are even asking such questions about a supposed 8-to-1 favorite is not a great look.