Tatiana Suarez wasn’t involved in the UFC Vegas 70 main event but it felt like the whole MMA world was watching her return after nearly four years away from the sport.
After vaulting near the top of the strawweight rankings in 2019 off five straight wins in the UFC, Suarez was forced to the sidelines due to a serious neck injury. She never lost hope about fighting again and finally returned on Saturday night where she wrapped up a second-round guillotine choke submission win over Montana De La Rosa while competing at 125 pounds.
By all accounts, Suarez didn’t appear to lose a step after so much time off, which earned her high praise from UFC president Dana White after the event was over.
“She looked incredible, especially with the time off,” White said at the UFC Vegas 70 post-fight press conference. “Everybody knows how I feel about that much time off. Plus the things that she battled personally, physically and then to come back and De La Rosa is bad ass, that’s a legit comeback fight.”
Nothing came easy with De La Rosa constantly fighting her way out of bad positions as Suarez attempted to impose her will on a taller, longer opponent at flyweight.
Suarez still found a way to dominate the fight before pulling off the submission to move to 9-0 in her career overall.
“[Montana De La Rosa is] big, she’s strong, she’s a good wrestler, her ground game is awesome and you know she’s a true fighter. She came in to beat Tatiana tonight,” White said. “Once [Tatiana] got that choke on, too, look how long [De La Rosa] fought that choke impressive too. So this was this is a real fight for Tatiana coming back so it just shows you know where she really is plus she’s shooting a HBO documentary right now.
“So I mean you just couldn’t have a better story than that and the fact that she came in and fought somebody real like a legit, really badass woman tonight. Big deal for her and she won $50,000.”
The performance bonus was probably a cherry on top for Suarez, who was understandably emotional during her post-fight interview as she spoke in the cage for the first time since her win over Nina Nunes in June 2019.
While her fight on Saturday took place at flyweight, Suarez promised that was a temporary home as she looked to get her feet wet in her return to action but her long term plans will take the former Olympic wrestling hopeful back to strawweight.
Where she’ll fit in that division remains to be seen but White acknowledged that there was a lot of attention being paid to Suarez on Saturday night.
“I don’t know [what’s next for her],” White said. “I mean, that’s up to the media, we’ll see where she ends up in the rankings and you know, get a couple more fights under her belt and we’ll see what happens there is no doubt.
“I mean she’s one of the best in the world, that there was a lot of talk on the internet and a lot of hype about her coming back tonight. A lot of people were excited to see her you know, see how she was going to handle you know, adversity again and she came out looking awesome.”