UFC 245 was a long event, literally. On the main card, there wasn’t a potentially scheduled round that didn’t see action, including all three five-round title fights. However, that doesn’t mean it was a long night. The main event saw Kamaru Usman successfully defend against ultimate agitator Colby Covington in one of the better matches of the year. The co-main event saw a new champion crowned as Alex Volkanovski outwitted the always tough Max Holloway. And neither of those contests feature potentially the most dominant champion in all of the organization, Amanda Nunes successfully turning away Germaine de Randamie for the second time in her career. Undoubtedly, UFC 245 will be one of the more memorable events in the history of the UFC.
Kamaru Usman: A part of me wants to rip him up and down for being prideful in his slugfest with Covington – where the hell were the takedown attempts? – but Usman was able to get the job done in the very end and did so in one of the most entertaining contests of the year. What more can we ask out of a fighter? Others will declare him a winner for breaking the jaw of blowhard Covington – potentially shutting up the MAGA fan – but much like I attempt to do with Greg Hardy, I’m going to try and stay out of the politics. Even if I don’t believe Usman ignoring the wrestling was an intelligent call, it does make a statement about how far Usman has come in his standup, taking a win a contest where he didn’t secure a single takedown attempt, much less even attempt one. I’d have a strong interest in seeing that fight run back, but I’m sure Usman will have some other business to attend to first.
Alex Volkanovski: While I didn’t see Volkanovski’s win coming, I feel like I should have. He beat Jose Aldo by executing a perfect strategy. Why the hell wouldn’t he do the same against Holloway? He did just that, attacking Holloway’s lead leg with abandon, forcing Holloway to alter his strategy in the second. More importantly, it prevented Holloway from getting into a rhythm, one of the key components to Holloway’s success. Perhaps the most surprising development is it was almost a pure striking match in which Volkanovski was able to dethrone the likeable kingpin. Vokanovski isn’t the youngest champion at 31, but he’s young enough in his career that I anticipate he should continue to get better.
Amanda Nunes: I wasn’t the dominating performance punctuated with a finish that we’ve all come to expect, but Nunes took a clear decision nonetheless to extend her already lengthy reign. I’m sure some will downgrade the performance as de Randamie gave the champ a couple of scares – the head kick in the second, the triangle attempt in the fourth – but it was also impressive to see Nunes make her adjustments. After the head kick, Nunes took the fight to the mat. After the triangle, Nunes was far more aware of her positioning. No, it wasn’t an electric performance, but it did show Nunes’ all-around game. There’s no reason to believe the queen is going to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Marlon Moraes: Moraes is only in this column by the skin of his teeth, all thanks to the judges for scoring the contest in his favor. Sure, many of the same problems he exhibited against Henry Cejudo were still there – such as fading about midway through the second – but he pulled it together just enough this time around to eek out a razor thin decision over Aldo. Moraes set a strong tone by opening with a pair of head kicks, but still needs to figure out how to pace himself if he is to claim gold. Regardless, he maintains a spot near the top of the division and should be a top candidate for any potential injury replacements.
Petr Yan: Did y’all see what Yan looked like after his contest with Urijah Faber? Not a scratch on him. Did y’all see what Faber looked like? Looks like he got in a fight with a lawn mower. Yan pieced up the legend in a way no one else was ever able to come close to doing. Granted, Faber is 40-years old and far removed from his prime, but it was impressive nonetheless. Yan’s bursts of violence came out of nowhere and sent Faber sprawling to the mat on several occasions before the finishing sequence was completed. Many were calling for Yan to face Cejudo next, but if I’m not mistaken, Cejudo is supposed to defend his flyweight title against Joseph Benavidez next. If that’s the case, I’m expecting Yan to face Aljamain Sterling next. That sounds great to me….
Geoff Neal: Mike Perry has been in some serious battles. Danny Roberts, Max Griffin, Paul Felder, and Vicente Luque all engage in brutal warfare with the Platinum one. None were able to put him away with strikes. Enter Neal. The Texan laid a beautiful head kick upside the head of Perry and sent him staggering against the cage before finishing him off with a flurry of punches to the ground. The beauty about Neal’s offense is he doesn’t ever look like he’s overcommitting to his strikes; everything seems to flow organically, violence tending to follow in short order. If you don’t know who Neal is, do yourself a favor and get to know this guy. He may not be far from making himself a star.
Irene Aldana: I went out on a limb when a I picked Aldana. I ended up being right, but not in the way I expected it to happen. Aldana sat down on a left hook and sent the durable Ketlen Vieira tumbling to the canvas in a bundle of flesh. It was a thing of beauty. The contest up to the KO reinforced the idea of Aldana doing her best when she’s moving forward, as did the KO herself. If Aldana can remember that as she plows forward in her career, she could fulfill the title expectations many had for her when she entered the UFC.
Omari Akhmedov: Akhmedov is proof of how far a fighter can go when they’re aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. He didn’t do anything flashy against Ian Heinisch, but he plugged away, consistently countering Heinisch’s pressure and fighting off the takedowns. It almost came apart at the end as Akhmedov was gassed by the final round, but he held off Henishch’s assault to escape with the decision. He’s flown under the radar, but Akhmedov is undefeated in his last six contests. The Russian has earned himself a shot against a ranked opponent.
Matt Brown: Despite spending long moments trapped in Ben Saunders’ triangle, Brown eventually found exactly what everyone expected him to find: a brutal KO. A lot of that has to do with Saunders’ chin being completely disintegrated, Brown was wise enough to search for it and deliver the finishing blow. Despite having to shake off some rust, Brown delivered a violent GnP finish in his return from two years away. That qualifies as a good night in my book.
Chase Hooper: For all the jokes on Twitter about Hooper being a kid – he’s just 20 years old – he did say he was going to the M&M shop in his post-fight interview. Amusing anecdotes aside, Hooper showed a lot of resilience, fighting out of Daniel Teymur’s guillotine choke before transitioning from advantageous position after advantageous position before finally getting the stoppage on the veteran Swede. It’s too early to make any accurate predictions about his future, but Hooper should, at the least, hang around for a long while.
Brandon Moreno: Is there a better example of why the UFC was out of their minds for even considering getting rid of the flyweight division than Moreno? He may still look like a kid, but he doesn’t fight like one, keeping constant pressure on Kai Kara-France with jabs and head kicks. Perhaps the key was busting up Kara-France’s nose as the Kiwi struggled with his breathing from that point, seeming to give Moreno just enough of an edge to take the decision. The win sets Moreno up for a potential #1 contender’s fight – proof of how the UFC gutted the division – something I never would have predicted this early.
Punahele Soriano: Everyone knew Soriano has power. That wasn’t ever the question. It was a question of whether he had any dimensions beyond throwing bombs in the pocket. He sort of answered that by surviving a fun scramble with Oskar Piechota, but also proved it may not matter if he can suck opponents into slugfest he thrives in. His KO of Piechota is the type of stuff fighters dream about in making their UFC debuts as Piechota’s eyes were up in the back of his head long before hitting the mat. I’m still leery of his ceiling, but I’ll gladly shut my mouth with a few more performances like this.
Fans: Whether a fan of Covington or not, fans can’t say they weren’t treated to a hell of a spectacle based on the entirety of the event. Top to bottom, it proved to be one of the most entertaining cards of all time, making it difficult to chose who deserved a $50K bonus. Let me put it this way: Neal, who knocked out Perry, didn’t secure one of those bonuses. No one was surprised by this development because no one disagreed with those who did receive the bonuses in Usman, Covington, Yan, and Aldana.
Colby Covington: Even as I attempt to remove politics from this column, it undoubtedly plays a part in Covington’s positioning in this column. It isn’t so much whether I agree or disagree with his politics, but more that any downfall of his would involve him eating a truckload of crow. Unfortunately for him, that time has come. That’s saying something as it could be argued Usman was the only one who had a definitely better performance from the event. Whether deserved or not, it means few are giving props to his extreme toughness, hanging in there for about two full rounds with a possible broken jaw. It means no one is paying attention to his improved striking, hurting Usman on several occasions. It means he can’t run around with the interim belt while claiming he never lost it. Actually, on second thought, I’m sure he’ll continue to wear his title belt. While I strongly believe a rematch will happen somewhere down the line, I don’t believe it will be immediate.
Max Holloway: I’m the type subscribe the theory of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I get the feeling Holloway had the same thoughts as his strategy for each of his fights for the last little while has been remarkably similar. However, even I know that you’ve got to make adjustments. Otherwise, you’ll get passed up. Holloway was passed up by Volkanovski. The crazy thing about it is he didn’t seem to know it, expressing genuine shock as the cards were read when everyone else in the building knew what the outcome of the fight was. I won’t go so far as to say Holloway’s performance was disappointing – though the outcome certainly was – but it doesn’t feel like a stretch to say it was underwhelming. Nonetheless, I’m expecting he’ll be back ready and roaring to go. The question I have is whether he looks to move up to lightweight or if he remains at featherweight….
Urijah Faber: There’s no reason to question Faber’s toughness ever again. Despite the brutal beating, he was never completely out, the referee stepping in to save him from himself. If I’m being honest though, the referee should have done that much sooner than he did. Faber had some competitive stretches to prove he’s more than capable of remaining competitive with a large chunk of the division, but he’s not an elite fighter anymore and anyone whose been paying attention has known that since 2016. If Faber can accept the fact he’s no longer at that level, will he permanently retire? He said the only reason he came back is to be the best. It’s pretty clear he isn’t.
Mike Perry: I worried Perry might be coming back to soon from his severely broken nose. While he was KO’d, the killshot ultimately had nothing to do with Perry’s nose, though Neal did land a few punches to the schnoz when he was finishing him off. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing though. Is Perry beginning to lose some of the durability that has made him such a cult figure in the sport? Still only 28, the hard-hitter would be well served to take some time to heal up and add some new wrinkles to his game. Otherwise, it’s a strong likelihood he could have already peaked. He is 2-5 in his last seven after all.
Ketlen Vieira: Vieira looked sharper on the feet than I expected her to upon her return from a torn ACL, but that didn’t matter once Aldana landed that brutal hook at the end of the opening round. Viera was out and her designs on a title shot went up in flames in the process. It’s hardly the end of the road for Vieira as she’s only 28. I expect her to come back strong, especially given she should look even sharper know that she’s further removed from her knee surgery. Unless this loss has shattered her confidence, Vieira shouldn’t be going anywhere.
Ian Heinisch: The bloom is completely off the rose for Heinisch. The loss against Derek Brunson made some sense after Brunson fought a smart fight as he’s a superior athlete. Against Akhmedov, Heinisch should have had all the advantages – except for power – and that wasn’t enough for him to get the W. Heinisch just doesn’t know how to disguise anything, allowing Akhmedov to counter everything from a mile away. Heinisch’s doggedness will pick him up some more wins, but he’s got a very clear ceiling.
Ben Saunders: Saunders is a respected vet. He’s been around a long time. He’s won a lot of fights. He’s secured his share of highlights over the course of that long career. The problem is, he’s now on the receiving end of all the highlights of his opponents. He’s lost six of his last seven, five of those losses via KO. As much as I love Saunders, I don’t want to see him fighting anymore.
Daniel Teymur: I wasn’t too crazy about Teymur’s chances of succeeding in the first place – the dude is 5’5” at featherweight – and this loss from Hooper feels like the final nail in the coffin. Teymur had every chance to win when he snatched an early guillotine, but all that was about the only positive he had going for him. With four losses in his five UFC appearances, I can’t see the UFC bringing him back.
Viviane Araujo: I’m not sure what it was that threw Araujo off her game between the first and second round, but she became completely afraid to throw any offense over the final two rounds. I get that Jessica Eye worked over her leg, but I wouldn’t have thought that would be enough to throw Araujo completely off her game, especially when Araujo looked as good as she did in the first round. The UFC is probably a bit disappointed as Araujo showed enough flash that many believed she could be a promotable figure in a division needing them. This loss puts the brakes on that possibility.
Oskar Piechota: I remember being excited about Piechota’s future after his UFC debut. A shaky win followed by three losses in a row has completely erased any excitement anyone had around him. His defense has been nonexistent and opponents have noticed. He’s going to have to make his bones elsewhere at this point.
Joseph Benavidez: Is Joe B ever going to get his deserved title shot at flyweight? After Yan’s impressive performance, no one seems to care whether Benavidez is forced to continue waiting for his chance. Then again, no one said life was fair.
Germaine de Randamie: It’s rare one can arguably lose every round and still have a better than expected performance. And yet, that’s the case for de Randamie. Nunes shredded her takedown defense, but de Randamie showed why she’s such a dangerous striker in addition to displaying a modicum of grappling from the mat. It may not be much, but it’s more than many thought she had. I don’t see de Randamie getting another shot at a belt ever again, but she looks like she could maintain an important position as a high level gatekeeper to the champion.
Jose Aldo: For the first time, I feared for Aldo’s well-being going into his fight with Moraes. He looked terrible in his pictures heading into his contest with Marlon Moraes and despite what Joe Rogan was saying, he didn’t look great in the cage either. The fight opened with the head kicks from Moraes and I thought my fears were becoming reality. Then… everything settled in and Aldo began to look surprisingly good. I would say he looked like himself, but I can’t remember the last time Aldo was a pressure fighter. He fought well enough to secure the win, but the judges saw it the other way. I stated in my preview Aldo could prove to be bantamweight’s new bully. Too my great surprise, that’s looking like it could be true.
Kai Kara-France: No doubt he’s disappointed as he dropped a UFC fight for the first time in four contests, but Kara-France has nothing to be ashamed of. He never backed down from Moreno, making every round close. Perhaps most importantly, along with Moreno, he proved why the UFC was crazy to consider dropping the flyweight division. Kara-France may have hit a ceiling, but he’s guaranteed to bring it every single time. If I’m not mistaken, those are the types of fighters Uncle Dana loves… or at least he says he loves.
Jessica Eye: So much mixed in here. On one hand, that may have been the best overall performance I’ve seen out of Eye in her career. She stuck to her strategy after a rough opening round and it paid off with a hell of a win. Even more impressive given Eye’s tendency to shell up once she hits some adversity. She didn’t, biting down on her mouthpiece and continuing to attack. BUT… she did miss weight by five pounds. That’s not a small amount. This is the first time Eye has missed weight, so she does deserve a little leeway.