For all of the backlash surrounding the last minute move from Las Vegas to Inglewood, UFC 232 turned out to be a hell of an event. Whether one loves or hates Jon Jones, he’s good for the sport as he draws eyeballs. Turning in a masterful performance, Jones methodically picked apart Alexander Gustafsson, battering the Swede with powerful punches on the ground until the referee had seen enough. However, as awesome of a sight as that was, it proved to be secondary next to Amanda Nunes wresting the crown of the most dominant female in the MMA world from longtime ruler, Cyborg Justino.
Clearly the biggest winners of the evening, Jones and Nunes have plenty of questions to answer about their immediate future – particularly Jones – now is the time to take a step back and recognize what it is they’ve accomplished. Unfortunately for others, it’s also time to recognize where they’ve come up short…
Jon Jones: I get that many are going to point out Jones’ tainted test results. It’s worth pointing out. However, the UFC went out of their way to make sure Jones was able to fight at UFC 232, picking up and moving the event to a different state on short notice. I get the UFC benefitted from making the move, but Jones is coming out ahead too. Do you notice I haven’t even mentioned his performance in the cage yet?
Even though he didn’t look his sharpest, Jones still handled Gustafsson with ease. At no point did Gustafsson put Jones in any danger, while Jones picked apart one of the few competitors who had not embarrassed themselves against Jones. While the optics leave us wondering how Jones will screw up this reign – he always finds a way to do that – let’s also take a moment to appreciate Jones ability to methodically pick apart an opponent. For all of his unique physical gifts, Jones’ intellect has always been what separates him most from the pack.
Amanda Nunes: Let’s look at the names of victims that have fallen to Nunes prior to UFC 232: Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko (x2), Raquel Pennington, Germaine de Randamie, and Sara McMann… all title holders or title challengers at some point. Impressive, right? Now add Cyborg Justino to that list. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say Nunes’ claim to being the best fighter in WMMA is completely solidified. It is difficult to know where Nunes goes from here as there isn’t a clear contender at bantamweight and Cyborg is the clear option should Nunes look to defend her newly earned featherweight crown. Where does Nunes go from here? While this isn’t an easy question to answer, it should be the last thing on Nunes’ mind at this point. Now is the time to soak in the well-deserved adulations coming her way.
Michael Chiesa: It was far from a flawless performance as Condit caught Chiesa in several bad spots. What mattered in the end is Chiesa survived and was the one to elicit a tap out of his opponent rather than being the one tapping. The kimura he slapped on Condit wasn’t an easy submission to finish, proving Chiesa may be better suited for welterweight combat than many of us thought. Granted, Condit isn’t a large welterweight, though it isn’t like Condit is a walk in the park either.
Corey Anderson: My thoughts were that Anderson’s chin wouldn’t hold up as it historically hasn’t against heavy hitters. For all of Ilir Latifi’s imperfections as a striker, he’s a hard hitter. And yet, Anderson was still standing at the end of 15 minutes despite eating some heavy shots. I don’t dare go so far as to say Anderson has fixed his problems with his chin, but whatever changes he has made to absorb damage seems to be paying off. While it may be more attributable to the lack of depth at 205 than Anderson being a phenomenal fighter, he’s realistically a fight away from challenging from the title.
Alexander Volkanovski: Early in the second round, it looked like Volkanovski was going to suffer his first setback in the UFC as Chad Mendes briefly floored the Aussie. From that point forward, the momentum was in favor of Volkanovski. Despite feeling Mendes’ power, Volkanovski continued to stay in his face. Mendes faded and Volkanovski’s continued offense forced the Team Alpha Male representative to give in to the assault late in the second. The win effectively launches Volkanovski into title talks, all the more likely given Holloway has already turned away most of Volkanovski’s competition for the top spot. Now knowing how Volkanovski’s chin can hold up, it’s going to be fun to see just how far he can go.
Petr Yan: Yan was one of the worst kept secrets when he came into the UFC. He’s no secret at this point, overwhelming a game Douglas Andrade, beating him to a pulp over the course of two rounds. Yan has people already talking about him fighting the elite of the division… and being competitive with them. The fact that he called out John Lineker and that doesn’t sound ridiculous after Yan’s third UFC fight is quite the feat.
Ryan Hall: We all know Hall is a fantastic grappler. He has several grappling championships to prove it. He now has it on his record as being the first – and hopefully only – to submit BJ Penn. It wasn’t just a routine RNC either as Hall scored on an inverted heel hook that had Penn tapping instantly. Hall isn’t ever going to be a contender – he doesn’t seem like he wants to be – but opponents can’t take him lately.
Nathaniel Wood: To be honest, I was lukewarm on Wood when he came into the UFC. His dominance of Andre Ewell is proving me to be a bit of a fool… though many of you are already aware of that. Nonetheless, Wood dominated Ewell on the feet after a shaky opening minute or two before focusing on a ground attack. There wasn’t an area in which he didn’t dominate Ewell. Wood looks like he’s something special.
Uriah Hall: It’s official: Hall’s strategy is to lose every fight for at least the first round before securing a finish. He did that against Gegard Mousasi. He did that against Krzysztof Jotko. Now he’s accomplished the same thing against Bevon Lewis. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize Lewis’ name isn’t on the level with Mousasi or Jotko. But let’s appreciate how awesome Hall’s KO of the promising youngster was.
Curtis Millender and Siyar Bahadurzada: I thought the scrap between these two would be good, but they blew my expectations out of the water. Millender came thisclose to being the first person to KO Bahadurzada while absorbing several bombs from Bahadurzada. Millender’s volume and near finish of Bahadurzada made him the clear winner, though Bahadurzada’s chin and power made sure he was never completely out of the fight. It made for an early FOTN contender and a hell of a boost to Millender’s fortunes.
Montel Jackson: I was of the opinion Jackson was getting his first UFC exposure too soon, that he might end up washing out before needing a second opportunity to make good on his promise. I’m happy to say that isn’t the case. A powerful elbow in the clinch and an opportunistic D’arce choke was all Jackson needed to dispose of one tough cookie in Brian Kelleher. Jackson is on his road to being a difference maker. For the record, I’m aware he missed weight, but I’m willing to overlook that based on this performance.
Douglas Andrade’s Corner: Hats off to any corner that’s realistic about their fighter’s chances going forward in a fight. Andrade had been broken physically and mentally. His corner recognized it going into the third round and called the fight. Big props to them. BIG props.
Alexander Gustafsson: Gustafsson has been very fortunate throughout his career. He caught Jones at the peak of his party days in their first contest, allowing him to be competitive in their contest. He then receives a title shot against Daniel Cormier coming off a loss. Then he gets a chance to claim the title Cormier vacated despite a layoff of 19 months. Keep in mind, Jones had fought more recently than Gustafsson. There’s a good chance his luck has run out. Jones dominated him this time around, likely squashing the possibility of a third contest between the two. Thus, Gustafsson is probably out of the title picture as long as Jones decides to hang around the division. Then again, there is always the strong probability of Jones finding a way to screw things up again….
Carlos Condit: Before I say something that pisses off a lot of hardcore fans, I have to admit that Condit looked more feisty against Chiesa than he has in a long time. His armbar and heel hook attempts were closer than I would have guessed they would be against Chiesa. But here’s what will anger many: I don’t want to see Condit fight any more. I know many will say he’s faced some tough competition over his last ten fights, but a 20% win percentage over his last ten fights is extremely poor. It’s made even worse by the fact he hasn’t looked as competitive in his most recent contests, arguably against the lesser competition over that stretch. If Condit has another avenue for making money – and he seems like a smart guy to me – I hope he exercises that route.
Ilir Latifi: I don’t want to be too tough on Latifi as I believe his strategy was sound going into his contest with Anderson; but that damn gas tank. Latifi blew his wad early looking to test Anderson’s chin, leaving him with no reserves to put forth consistent offense when he couldn’t put Anderson away. It’s conceivable Latifi has climbed as high as he’s going to climb, much to the chagrin of Mookie.
Walt Harris and Andrei Arlovski: Harris emerged as the winner only because someone had to win… and don’t give me any crap about it being a draw. Arlovski tried to counter – with minimal success – and Harris went for home runs… with minimal success. It resulted in a crap fight that Zane and Connor will be reviewing on MMA Depressed Us at some point. We’re better off deleting this from our memory.
Douglas Andrade: While his corner prevented a bad situation from being worse, it was still a BAD situation for the Brazilian. Andrade landed a few hard shots, but all his offense was forgotten in the midst of the ass whooping put on him by Yan. At 33, it looks like Andrade is done climbing the bantamweight ladder.
BJ Penn: Remember when Penn was in the debate for being the GOAT. Those of you new to the sport may find that idea to be laughable as Penn hasn’t won a fight since 2010… and he’s had plenty of opportunities to end that streak. This time, we saw Penn get submitted for the first time in his career. Being submitted by Hall is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s yet another image added to our minds that taints Penn’s legacy.
Andre Ewell: Ewell found some funky angles to land some early punches… and did nothing else from there. Wood dominated him for the last ten minutes of the contest. I wasn’t crazy about Ewell’s long-term future when he first entered the UFC. His win over Renan Barao left me wondering if Ewell was for real or if Barao has really fallen that far. I think we have our answer.
Renan Barao: See the above. I have no interest in seeing Barao fight ever again.
Brian Kelleher: It’s hard not to have respect for Kelleher. He never backs down from a fight and he’s tough as nails. However, he took a hell of a beating at the hands of John Lineker earlier this year and all it took for him to hit the mat this time around was a single short range elbow. Is Kelleher losing some of his trademark durability? For the sake of all of us, I hope not, but the evidence is pointing the other direction.
UFC Fans: To be specific, this is in reference to those who had tickets and hotels booked prior to the UFC’s last minute move. I’m sure many missed out on the opportunity to witness a historic event live. Then there are those who still got to see it, but had to spend some extra coin – in addition to dealing with further hassle – in order to do so. I’m hoping the UFC provided some sort of retribution to those fans….
UFC Fighters Paycheck: While the fighters had to put up with the booked flights and hotels the same as the fans, they also had one other overlooked aspect to deal with: state taxes from California. That wasn’t going to be an issue when the fight was in Nevada, a state that doesn’t have an income tax. Ouch.
Cyborg Justino: Cyborg lost a fight she was favored to win. It was a bad night for her. But it wasn’t all bad. Suffering her first loss in 13 years, Cyborg could have reacted badly to being KO’d. Instead, the former champion reacted with grace and class, congratulating the woman who dethroned her as soon as Cyborg came to. When the announcement was being read, Cyborg was all smiles. Losing never feels good and there is no doubt Cyborg was crushed on the inside, but she didn’t let that show. Fans were quick to turn on Rousey for how she handled her fall. Let’s be just as quick to praise Cyborg.
Chad Mendes: I already know many are going to say I’m being soft on Mendes by placing him here rather than the loser’s column. However, it isn’t like Mendes performed poorly. He arguably won a close opening round, floored Volkanovski early in the second, and even scored some takedowns when it was clear Mendes was exhausted. He just couldn’t hold Volkanovski down. I won’t argue if you want to say Mendes is no longer an elite fighter, but he proved he’s at least a shade under that level.
Megan Anderson and Cat Zingano: I’m not going to say Anderson’s win was tainted. She won legitimately. However, the circumstances were incredibly weird as it was a toe to the eye of Zingano that ended the fight. Anderson did look good in the minute the fight lasted, but Zingano was supposed to drag her into deep waters. We weren’t able to see that… and thus didn’t learn what we were hoping to learn from this. I’m saying this contest is largely a wash.
Bevon Lewis: Some may point out that beating Hall until Hall lands the KO blow isn’t the accomplishment it is against other fighters. Nonetheless, Lewis looked good against a durable veteran until he didn’t. Keeping in mind that Lewis has only been a professional since 2015, he has a lot to learn still. This loss certainly hurts, but I got a feeling he’s going to be just fine.