Lando Vannata recorded his first victory since 2016 in the UFC 234 co-main event, seemingly bringing one of the oddest runs in UFC history to an end.
You’d be forgiven for assuming that Vannata was a man in danger of having his status as a UFC fighter taken away from him after going 1-3-2 in his first six fights.
But when the time came for him renegotiate, Lando was perhaps in a better position than most fighters riding win-streaks.
In his first six outings, he managed to take home three Fight Of The Night bonuses, recorded a KO Of The Year contender for 2016 by nearly decapitating John Makdessi and on top of that, gave top lightweight contender Tony Ferguson one of the toughest, if not the toughest, fight of his career to date.
Not to mention that the best fight of the lot, his UFC 230 draw with Matt Frevola, missed out on earning Fight Of The Night despite being an instant classic and a far better fight than Weidman vs. Jacare – the bout that took home the award.
Simply put, Lando Vannata is unmissable TV.
And boy can he fight.
The problems with his run in the UFC to date have stemmed from a combination of his sheer recklessness at times – times that have showcased him at his most creative – and being consistently matched up with guys who had an inhuman ability to recover from the damage he is able to inflict upon them.
There was always the sense amongst those in-the-know that Vannata would eventually refine himself enough to be a very big problem at lightweight. At 26, time is certainly on his side and in his UFC 234 showdown against Marcos Mariano, we saw a fighter whose decision-making was on point.
Completely dominant from start-to-finish, Vannata did everything right and in some ways, deviated somewhat from the penchant for violence that saw him stunted to a certain extent in recent years.
Lando Vannata (10-3-2) snaps a four-fight winless skid via the arm of Marcos Mariano. A first-round kimura does the trick, a rare submission for the "Groovy" one. He has finished nine of 10 triumphs, eight in the opening frame. #UFC234 pic.twitter.com/77AT77CSdR
— Bulgogi Jones (@Hamderlei) February 10, 2019
The question now will be whether Lando can adapt his game. Something needed to change. It’s all well and good when you’re earning a cult-following due to your incredibly entertaining style but it really isn’t a stretch to say that Vannata could have won each and every one of those five fights he failed to record a victory in.
To those who have no idea what I’m talking about, I’d urge you to go back and watch Lando’s career from his UFC debut on short-notice against Tony Ferguson up until his most recent win at UFC 234.
Even in his trio of losses, he was well and truly putting on a show – hurting his opponents badly before either a mismanagement of energy or a lack of focus on the ultimate goal saw him slip up.
Tony Ferguson, David Teymur, Drakkar Klose.
All streaking contenders who are very much on the upper-tier of the lightweight division and all guys who Vannata was able to look very good against.
It’s odd because, of course, there are fans out there who cannot look past his record and to be honest, it’s understandable.
He hasn’t set the world alight in the fashion that many had predicted he would when he first burst onto the scene back in 2016 and yet, I would argue that we’re witnessing something very unique and truly special with this guy.
Lando Vannata is a fan favourite who you can count on to put on a show but make no mistake, with a few tweaks and a bit of fine-tuning, this guy can absolutely make a push into the division’s title-picture.
Things could well be getting groovier at 155lb, folks! Keep your eye on this guy.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena