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UFC 244: Masvidal vs. Diaz - Winners and Losers

Here are the real winners and losers from an eventful evening in the world’s most famous arena.

Anyone who watched the entirety of UFC 244 will know what an awesome event it was. There were several back-and-forth contests. There were even more brutal finishes. Statements were made, title shots were called for, and badass mother f*ckers were crowned.

However, the event was ended on a bit a down note as the highly anticipated main event between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal was stopped by a cut on Diaz very few believed warranted a stoppage. In fact, I’d say the only person who believed it warranted a stoppage was the doctor who recommended it to Dan Miragliotta. Thus, Masvidal got to have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson strap the belt around his waist and be declared the BMF champion in a lopsided contest. It was a good moment for Masvidal, one most felt was well deserved. Despite that, it also felt tainted. Nonetheless, it was a good night to be an MMA fan.


Jorge Masvidal: Tainted or not, Masvidal looked like the BMF he was crowned. There wasn’t a single point in the contest when he didn’t look like he was in control. He knocked Diaz to the ground with strikes on several occasions, he took Diaz to the ground when he wanted too. Even when Diaz scored some significant offense, Masvidal reacted with a smile every time. It was a badass reaction. It’s safe to say Masvidal not only swept the three scorecards up to the point the fight was stopped, but he probably had at least one 10-8 round in there. The win should launch Masvidal into superstardom, high enough that he might be the best money fight for Conor McGregor if the Irish superstar can ever sort out his legal issues. It’s unknown if Masvidal would give a damn about fighting for the welterweight title, but he could probably do that again. Or he could do the rematch with Diaz, though I don’t think too much would change from what happened here. Regardless, Masvidal has put everything together at the right time.

Stephen Thompson: There were a lot of questions about whether Thompson was still an elite welterweight heading into his contest with Vicente Luque. Justifiably so given he had one win in his last five contests. However, Thompson made an emphatic statement, battering a game Luque over the course of three rounds to take a decisive win. Even if he didn’t get the finish, it was a slap in the face of those who say Thompson lost his killer instinct – I was one of them – as there were several occasions where Luque was thisclose to being finished, the Brazilian’s intense toughness being the only thing that saved him. At 36, it’s questionable whether Thompson can make another climb to the very top, but he’s still a dangerous threat.

Vicente Luque: Yes, he took an intense beating at the hands of Thompson, but he also proved he can hang with the best of the division. There will be many people who forget Luque hurt Thompson significantly in the first round in light of how the rest of the fight went down. They shouldn’t forget it. Even as Luque endured a hell of a beating, he never went away. Thompson pieced him up bad enough that Luque struggled to threaten towards the end of the contest, but he was always in Thompson’s face. Even with the loss, Luque is here to stay with the best of the division.

Derrick Lewis: Is there a person out there who picked Lewis to win by decision? If you did, good on you because I don’t know anyone who did that. His battle with Blagoy Ivanov was one of the most brutal slugfests I’ve ever seen, leaving everyone wondering how the hell both men were standing, particularly Ivanov. I had heard reports that Lewis was in the best shape he’d ever been coming into the event and I’d have to say it appeared to be true. I worked out well as Lewis retained his early explosiveness into the second round, allowing him to land enough volume to take the decision. It wasn’t the type of performance that launches Lewis back into title contention, but it does show clear indication that he’s improving.

Blagoy Ivanov: Even though he lost, Ivanov proved he is one of the toughest SOB’s walking this planet. The shots he ate from Lewis would drop a full-grown elephant. Ivanov may have been rocked from some of Lewis’ heavy artillery, but he never hit the canvas from one of those shots. He had several takedowns too and came close to securing some submissions. Unfortunately for him, Lewis muscled out of the attempts that probably would have finished off most other mortal men, but that’s Lewis. Ivanov may not belong with the elite of the elite, but he’s undoubtedly a top ten heavyweight.

Kevin Lee: Whatever changes Lee made to his life following his loss to Rafael dos Anjos, they were all the right changes. Lee came out against Gregor Gillespie looking measured. He didn’t force anything, stayed active with his jab, and let the action play out. Even as Gillespie’s jab was piecing Lee up, he was taking in all the information Gillespie was giving him and acted accordingly. The result was one of the most vicious head kick KO’s in the history of the sport. Not just for the year, but for the history of the sport. It was up there with Edson Barboza, Rashad Evans, and Holly Holm. Lee indicated he’s rededicated himself in the post-fight contest and I can’t say the results in the cage indicate otherwise.

Corey Anderson: The UFC told Anderson he was boring. Told him to go out and beat the next big thing in the light heavyweight division in Johnny Walker. Maybe then they’d think about giving him a title shot. Anderson came out with a fire in his belly, unleashing a fury that no one knew he possessed, beating Walker from pillar to post with a bevy of punches before the referee finally called an end to the action. Anderson refused to get out of Walker’s face after the finish, taunting the youngster. However, we all know Walker was a proxy for the UFC brass. His apology to Walker on Twitter pretty much confirms that. If I could give one sentence to describe Anderson’s performance, I’d say it entertained the hell out of me. Who’s boring now?

Shane Burgos: Midway through the first round, I knew Burgos was going to win. Sure, Makwan Amirkhani was still kicking his ass at that point. But Amirkhani wasn’t able to find the finish by that point and Mr. Finland has a bad habit of fading down the stretch. Burgos tends to get stronger. Burgos worked over the body of Amirkhani with the artistry of Salvador Dali; we could see Amirkhani’s gas tank empty as the time melted away. Burgos became the first to finish the uber tough Amirkhani. It’ll be a crying shame if he doesn’t get a ranked opponent next.

Edmen Shahbazyan: I wasn’t an unbeliever by any means, but the way Shahbazyan trucked over established vet Brad Tavares has me thinking he could be primed for a title at some point. Not a title shot, a title. Shahbazyan is still just 21 years old and has a lot he can still do to improve. Against Tavares, he didn’t go too crazy looking for the finish, showing the perfect combination of aggression and discipline to put away the tough Hawaiian. Even if the UFC takes a slow approach with him from here, he would still have a realistic chance of becoming the youngest champion ever. Maycee Barber, you have got yourself some competition.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik: This is a scary man. I’m not getting the same vibe from him that I did from Francis Ngannou, but it’s close. The first shot he hurt Andrei Arlovski with was a jab. A few shots later – none of them landing with full power – and Arlovski landed face first. A win over Arlovski doesn’t mean what it once did, but the manner in which Rozenstruik executed it boosts his profile significantly. Three UFC appearances, three KO’s. Yeah, it’s safe to say Rozenstruik is one of the hardest hitters in the organization.

Katlyn Chookagian: Chookagian looked sharp early before falling into her usual habits of throwing a lot of empty volume. Nonetheless, it was enough for Chookagian to take the first two rounds over Jennifer Maia and solidify what should be an opportunity at Valentina Shevchenko’s flyweight championship. I didn’t see enough out of her to convince me she’ll give Valentina a run for her money, but it’s more important for her to get the win as there is no one else with a case. I didn’t love Chookagian’s showing, but she did what she needed to do.

Lyman Good: While Good was in danger of losing by wearing himself out from beating on Chance Rencountre – at least according to Dominick Cruz and Joe Rogan – he eventually wore down Rencountre enough to leave him in a bloody pool about midway through the third round. Good is never going to be a contender, but he’s a serviceable test for up-and-coming welterweights looking to test themselves. The way he finished Rencountre solidifies him as a dangerous gatekeeper.

Dwayne Johnson: That was a hell of a reception for the “Brahma Bull.” Even though he’s technically an outsider to the sport of MMA, his superstardom exceeds that of any of the fighters in an arena full of MMA fans. Not bad for a man who built his career off of scripted fighting. Not bad at all.

Valentina Shevchenko: She was there to watch Chookagian and Maia do their thing. You think she felt nervous about what Chookagian might bring to their potential showdown for Shevchenko’s belt? Not a chance.


Kelvin Gastelum: Gastelum never seemed committed to his fight with Darren Till. Heading into the event, he seemed more preoccupied with Jared Cannonier than his actual opponent and required some shenanigans to make weight for the contest. Given his short frame, this guy shouldn’t be struggling to make the middleweight limit of 185. Hell, he used to fight at 170! His lack of focus came off against Till as Gastelum never displayed the balls out recklessness that delivered one of the best fights of the year against Israel Adesanya. He was content to trade kicks with the taller Till. While I’ll admit Till’s length was probably difficult to navigate, Gastelum navigated Adesanya’s length while still being able to deliver his. This was a terrible performance from Gastelum. Here’s hoping he can find the same kind of rededication Lee discovered.

Gregor Gillespie: I don’t know how many people are still on the Gillespie wagon, but there aren’t nearly as many as there were before UFC 244. Gillespie didn’t look bad before he suffered that brutal KO. He cut up Lee, even if Lee wasn’t having much difficulty outlanding him. Then that kick came and Gillespie forgot everything that happened in the last week. I can’t help but wonder if Gillespie will consider dropping to 145, though I think that would be an overreaction. This was the first time he fought anyone in the neighborhood of Lee’s abilities and he wasn’t prepared for it. He should have a better expectation the next time he steps in the cage.

Johnny Walker: The higher you climb, the harder the fall. I’m not saying Walker was at the top of the light heavyweight ladder, but he was at the front of the hype train for a LOT of people. Walker took a clean shot from Anderson and was never given an opportunity to rebound. How Walker rebounds from this will say a lot about his mental toughness. Sure, Walker has lost before, but never on such a large stage in such brutal fashion. I’m not giving up on Walker after a single loss in the organization. In fact, my opinion of him hasn’t dropped at all… yet.

Makwan Amirkhani: I didn’t want to put Amirkhani here. I got what he was trying to do when he blitzed Burgos out of the gate. He didn’t have much of a chance to win a decision given his tendency to fade and if he took a measured approach, Burgos would easily outland him. Amirkhani came very close to subbing Burgos. Had he succeeded, everyone would be proclaiming how awesome and explosive he is. As it is, he lost in spectacular fashion, enduring a hell of a beating before Keith Peterson finally stepped in to stop things. Amirkhani may have hit his ceiling, but he’s still a hell of an entertaining watch, which is why I was reluctant to put him here.

Brad Tavares: Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Hawaiian. Shahbazyan never gave him a chance to get established, hurting Tavares early and staying on him until the referee stepped in. Given Tavares was able to go five rounds with Israel Adesanya, this caught many by surprise. Given the amount of damage Tavares took before Shahbazyan finished the job – plus all the damage from Adesanya -- I wouldn’t be the least bit surprise if his chin is severely cracked. Only time will tell as I’m sure Tavares will maintain his gatekeeper status – for now – but there’s reason to be concerned the end of the line could be near.

Andrei Arlovski: Arlovski’s loss to Rozenstruik should have surprised no one. Sure, he had been able to avoid being KO’d in his last nine contests. Arlovski’s chin held up against Tai Tuivasa because Tuivasa is anything but disciplined. Rozenstuik is disciplined as hell. It was a bad matchup for Arlovski from the beginning. I saw several on the internet hoping to see Arlovski retire, but he makes good money. I have a hard time believing this is the last time we’ll see the former UFC champion.

Jennifer Maia: First, Maia missed weight… again. In the process, she’s probably going to be encouraged to move up to bantamweight in the process, especially given she came up short in her attempt to upend Chookagian. What really sucks is this is a fight Maia could have won. She made minimal attempts to get the fight to the mat early, but she found success when she finally did so late. Would the fight have played out differently had she made a better effort earlier? I can’t say for sure, but I do believe she would have had a better chance. Nonetheless, there’s a good chance her flyweight career is over.

Chance Rencountre: When the only thing anyone can talk about following your fight is how durable you are, you’ve had a miserable night. Rencountre is such a non-athlete that he couldn’t take advantage of his huge size advantage to close the distance with Good. Rencountre has already proven there are fights he can win in the organization, but all Good needed was a simple 1-2 combination to thwart any offense Rencountre had to offer. Bad night for the massive welterweight.

Julio Arce: Whether it was the early low kick that hurt his leg from Hakeem Dawodu or giving the hard-hitting Canadian too much respect, Arce never looked quite right. That isn’t to say he didn’t make the contest competitive, but Dawodu felt like he was in control the entire time. The loss also makes it feel like he’s never going to break into the official rankings as Arce should be in his prime right now. If he can’t beat Dawodu, I can’t see him beating anyone with a number next to their name.

NYSAC: I’m blaming the athletic commission rather than the doctor as the commission is the one that assigned the doctor. I get the feeling the doc hasn’t worked many MMA fights as even the most casual of observers has probably seen worse cuts than that on Diaz’s eyebrow that didn’t stop fights. Plus, Diaz fought well over two rounds with the cut anyway. It didn’t appear to be much worse when the fight was stopped than when it first opened.

Conor McGregor: A few years ago, it felt like an impossibility for the UFC to have an event this huge without the former two division champion. Now that the Irishman spends more time fending off negative press than he does promoting fights, the public doesn’t seem to care about him anymore. Given the savvy McGregor showed during his rise, he should have been aware 15 minutes of fame doesn’t last as long as it used to, especially when you aren’t giving the public positive reason to care about you. I’m not saying he can’t come back into relevance, but he has hurt himself significantly with the way he’s handled things the last few years.


Nate Diaz: There’s a lot to rip on with Diaz’s performance. He took several hard shots from Masvidal as the younger Diaz brother struggled to establish his range. He couldn’t get his BJJ going at all either as Masvidal easily avoided Diaz’s grasp. Diaz himself admitted he performed poorly as his training was limited. Whether he was really going to turn it up in the last two rounds we’ll never know, but that’s what he claimed. What we do know: Diaz – even with the loss – is incredibly popular. The crowd was chanting his name on several occasions and they were eating out of his hand in the post-fight speech. Plus, the whole idea of the BMF was his brainchild. Diaz’s stock doesn’t look like it is going to be hurt in the least with this loss. I don’t know for sure if he gets a rematch with Masvidal, but Diaz is sitting pretty. Regardless of who he fights next, it’s going to be a money fight.

Darren Till: All the credit to Till for facing down his fears, recognizing he’s not indestructible, and still walking out a winner. However, he can’t live off his win over Donald Cerrone for much longer. It was two years ago he destroyed the natural lightweight to burst onto the big scene. Since then he turned in a terrible performance in a win against Thompson followed by two lopsided losses. This fight against Gastelum was a win, but like the win against Thompson, it was terrible to watch. Till looks like a great fit at middleweight and is still youthful enough that he shouldn’t be anywhere near his peak. But he’s got to become someone fans want to watch again. As it is, I have zero interest in watching him.

Hakeem Dawodu: Dawodu was disappointed in his performance and so was I. Before y’all start screaming at me, realize if I’m disappointed, it means I think he’s capable of more, so I’m not hating on him. Dawodu has proven before this contest he’s technical as hell and capable of outpointing less skilled opposition. Granted, Arce is the best opponent he has faced and I was impressed Dawodu was able to get back to his feet as quickly as he did following Arce’s second round takedown. But where the hell is the highlight machine he was hyped to be coming in? If Dawodu wants to get a push from the UFC, he needs to pull one out soon, or at least a FOTN performance.

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