I’ve given a pass to many events that featured a subpar undercard that was bolstered by a tremendous main event. Even though the main event of UFC 237 delivered, I still can’t give a pass on the event. Not only did too many contests on the card underwhelm, it was the contests that featured name value that especially underwhelmed. Alexander Volkanovski’s win over Jose Aldo felt anticlimactic. Though Jared Cannonier beat Anderson Silva fair and square, leg injuries deciding a contest tends to leave a sour taste in the mouth of observers. So while Jessica Andrade saved the event from being a complete disaster for the Brazilian fans, I still can’t believe many went home happy.
Jessica Andrade: Andrade was losing about 80% of the fight up until the slam that gave her the title. Nonetheless, she produced one of the most violent KO’s in recent memory and entered the annals of UFC history in the process. I don’t care how much of the fight she was losing beforehand, she walked out with the gold and that will almost always be enough to make one a winner. To her credit, Andrade did settle down in the second after a rough first round, leaving it possible she could have taken a decision had the contest continued that way. I’m not sold on her having a lengthy reign given the possibility of a rematch with Namajunas – who still seems to be improving – and the seeming inevitability of Tatiana Suarez’s impending title reign. Regardless, Andrade is the current queen.
Jared Cannonier: Remember the controversy surrounding Chris Weidman’s second victory over Silva? The one where he broke his leg? Many were claiming the victory was fluky. Cannonier is going to get a lot of the same criticism Weidman got, despite the kill shot coming from a brutal low kick that landed in the perfect spot from Cannonier. I understand there is still some confusion about how much the victory tells us – Silva is 44 after all – but it needs to be treated as the clear cut victory it is. Let’s not forget Cannonier was winning before the stoppage. I was opposed to Cannonier dropping to 185. I have no problem saying I was wrong.
Alexander Volkanovski: Much like Cannonier, I fear Volkanovski may not get the credit he deserves for his win over Aldo given how flat the contest was, but Aldo has won contests when he hasn’t looked his best. Volkanovski neutralized the greatest featherweight champion the sport has seen. No, it wasn’t an epic slugfest where he outpointed him or a definitive KO or submission. What it was – aside from difficult to watch – was a clear cut win. Name another fighter who would pass on that outcome against Aldo. I’m still waiting…. The win should launch Volkanovski into a title fight with Max Holloway. Given Volkanovski’s ability to adjust to his opponents, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him emerge as the new champion.
Laureano Staropoli: I underestimated the Argentine. I understood he was a volume striker off his contest with Hector Aldana, but Thiago Alves represented a big step up from Aldana. At least I thought he did. While Alves has certainly declined more than I thought heading into this fight, Staropoli improved more than I thought he would from that contest. Maybe it’s time I start to look at Staropoli as a legit prospect rather than a cursory prospect….
Irene Aldana: It wasn’t a perfect performance – Aldana allowed Bethe Correia to get inside her reach in the second and third rounds – but it was a clear indication of progress. The first round saw her keeping Correia at the end of her jab and she finished the contest with a slick armbar after slipping off Correia’s back. You get the feeling Aldana will never fully iron out all the wrinkles in her game, but she’ll always be exciting it part because of that. Given the shallow nature of the division, Aldana isn’t very far away from a title shot.
Ryan Spann: There was a lot to like in Spann’s decimation of Rogerio Nogueira. He may not have submitted the Brazilian legend, but he did get him down and put him in a sticky situation. Then he proceeded to land a couple of nice combinations before putting him down with a vicious uppercut. Nogueira isn’t what he once was, but he can still put down his opposition as he proved against Sam Alvey. Spann passed with flying colors.
Thiago Moises: Many jumped off the Moises bandwagon after getting drubbed by Beneil Dariush, forgetting how good Dariush is. Moises put together a complete performance against Kurt Holobaugh, scoring takedowns, landing various kicks, and winning the clinch battle. There wasn’t a lot of flash to it, but it was the type of performance analysts look for. I got a feeling the Moises bandwagon regained a few followers.
Warlley Alves: Many had written off Alves as a someone who would never fulfill their potential. After his strategic performance against Sergio Moraes, it might be worth reconsider that opinion. Alves battered and bruised Moraes’ lead leg, making it impossible for Moraes to throw with power late in the fight. Alves then began to tee off, picking up a finish after a flying knee and several hard punches. If Alves continues to fight like this, it isn’t too late for him to become a contender.
Raoni Barcelos: Barcelos looked like he was stuck in neutral in the first round, allowing young newcomer Carlos Huachin to take the first round. Turns out Barcelos was just biding his time. He hurt Huachin early in the second and dominated the rest of the round on the ground, finally securing a stoppage at the end of the round. At 34, here’s hoping he gets a nice boost in competition. His window is limited.
Viviane Araujo: I hate to admit I didn’t know much about Araujo before her contest with Talita Bernardo. All I got was a cursory look at tape on her due to the short notice of her signing. I should have taken more time as she caught me by surprise, using great in-and-out movement to piece up Bernardo before catching her with a HEAVY hook to send her sprawling. Keep in mind, this contest was at bantamweight. Araujo usually fights at strawweight. I think I’d like to see her at flyweight given how she looked not cutting weight, but I’m excited for her future no matter where she turns up.
Stephie Haynes: Though the staff did well overall with the event picks, Stephie did the best, going 10-2, including perfection on the main card. I’ll admit I haven’t been keeping track for too long, but Stephie’s had the most consistent success since I’ve been paying attention. Maybe she knows something the rest of us don’t….
Anderson Silva: There wasn’t much to take out of Silva’s performance even before Silva’s leg injury. He was reluctant to pull the trigger, resulting in a lot of dancing in front of Cannonier when they weren’t clinched up. Then there was the knee injury that has many observers worried it could be a career-ender as Silva is 44. If this injury is severe, does he really want to rehab through it? I won’t speculate on that anymore until he find out the extent of the injury, but it is worth considering. Plus, the loss means Silva only has one win in his last eight contests. I’ll admit he hasn’t received any softballs, but that’s hardly an indication of an elite fighter. This is going to be a continuing theme, but I’d be fine not seeing Silva in the cage again.
Jose Aldo: That was the worst performance I’ve ever seen out of the all-time great… unless you want to count the KO to Conor McGregor. Regardless of how you feel about that, Aldo never opened up his offense, allowing Volkanovski to batter and bruise his leg with kicks while Aldo did next to nothing. What happened to the ultra-violent Aldo we were praising since he lost the belt? That man was nowhere to be seen. Is it possible after a 15-year career that Aldo just doesn’t care anymore? Certainly possible, but it could just as likely have been an off night. Aldo has indicated he won’t be fighting too much longer – it was reported he isn’t likely to fight for the rest of the year -- so we may not get a definitive answer.
Thiago Alves: After Alves’ loss to Staropoli, I have no interest in seeing Alves continue his career. He showed he had something with a strong final round, but do we want these fighters to run their gas tank all the way to empty? He’s been easing his way into coaching anyway and he’s never going to return to his previous levels. I can’t say if a fighter should retire, that’s their call. But I can express my interest in seeing them continue to take damage…
Bethe Correia: Correia deserves a lot of criticism, though much of that – her size, her athletic ability – is out of her control. She also deserves credit for fighting her way back into the contest after not being competitive in the first round. But the missing of weight, her ill-advised takedown… those were things she could control and she didn’t. I’ll admit the UFC hasn’t been doing her any favors in their matchmaking of her, but she only has one win in her last six contests. It’s time the UFC lobs her a softball if they want to keep her around.
Rogerio Nogueira: Many – myself included – were hoping Nogueira would retire after his KO of Sam Alvey. Instead, as most fighters do – Nogueira continued to press his luck. Now, he’s one the receiving end of his third KO/TKO loss of his last four losses. At 42, Nogueira has absorbed an unworldly amount of punishment. I’m sure he could squeeze out another win or two if properly matched up, but I’m not interested in seeing that. I’m hoping the legend is content to call it a career.
Kurt Holobaugh: Holobaugh is a frustrating case. He clearly has the physical attributes to find success. The problem is he fights with a hyper-aggression that typically sees him walk right into danger. Fortunately for Moises, Holobaugh walked into several takedowns and clinches. Holobaugh has now dropped all four of his UFC contests, none of them being close decisions. He just doesn’t seem to have what it takes to stay in the organization.
Sergio Moraes: Moraes’ performance against Alves perfectly captures why Moraes never climbed to the next level. Despite being one of the best pure BJJ practitioners on the planet – no hyperbole – I can’t recall a single attempt from Moises to take Alves to the ground. Instead, he chose to stand and trade with he more technical striker. Moraes deserved the loss.
BJ Penn: Many have been calling for Penn to retire – and stay retired – for years. Some may have different feelings given the domestic abuse allegations against the former champion, but if you actually care about Penn, the calls for retirement haven’t changed even if Penn looked better against Clay Guida than he has against anyone else in years. I’m sick of talking about Penn at this point as the story has been the same for several years now. So I’ve said all I need to say.
Priscila Cachoeira: Cachoeira has heart and toughness for days. That’s about it. Given she lost to someone who is just as deficient in technique as her is all that needs to be said at this point. Luana Carolina at least had athleticism and the makings of a solid game plan on her side. Cachoeira doesn’t have that, meaning she doesn’t have what it takes to fight at this level.
Talita Bernardo: Bernardo not only had a full camp, she was a full two weight classes up on Araujo. Aside from a flurry late in the second, Bernardo never appeared to have the advantage. Given the controversial nature of her lone UFC win, I’m of the belief Bernardo simply isn’t capable of hanging at the UFC level. Given the shallow nature of the women’s bantamweight division, that’s a scathing remark.
Francisco Trinaldo and Diego Ferreira: Trinaldo made weight, only for Ferreira not to show up to the scales, effectively canceling their anticipated contest. It turns out Ferreira had kidney stones, which few would fault him for pulling out of the fight with. Nonetheless, it’s a disappointing situation for both combatants. Here’s hoping the bout is rescheduled as that contest still intrigues.
Brazil: In contests with Brazilians pitted against opponents from another country, Brazilians went a paltry 3-5. Remember back when the UFC returned to Brazil in 2011 for UFC 134? Brazilians went 8-1 against outsiders in that event. I think the home field advantage has dissipated.
Old Timers: Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, Thiago Alves, Rogerio Nogueira, and BJ Penn all represented the old guard and came up short. Hell, even Bethe Correia could have fallen in that category. To be young again….
Rose Namajunas: Almost any time a champion loses their belt, they end up in the loser’s category. This is one of the rare exceptions. Namajunas easily won the first round and was competitive in the second before eating a brutal slam that put her out. I’m not convinced Andrade is the better fighter. The chances of her getting another shot at the title are extremely high given her age – she’s only 26 – and the likelihood of receiving an immediate rematch appearing good. Further bolstering that argument, Namajunas still appears to be improving. This contest would be further proof of that. She did hint at retirement, but Namajunas has also expressed similar thoughts in the past. I anticipate we’ll see her again and she’ll be better than ever.
Clay Guida: I expected more out of the longtime UFC vet. Granted, Penn looked better than he has in a long time, but Guida should have been able to get a finish late. Perhaps I’m not taking into account the miles on Guida’s body, but he’s been in competitive contests recently. Penn hasn’t. Guida’s not to Penn’s level yet – he did get the win – but it doesn’t look like it’ll be too long before he is.
Luana Carolina: It isn’t hard to see what the UFC sees in Carolina. She has the makings of a brutal clinch game and knows how to follow a strategy to go with solid athleticism. It was enough to get the win over Cachoeira, but she still has a long way to go. She could become a player, but it’s still too early to tell.
Carlos Huachin: Even though Huachin was completely dominated in the second round, his performance on the feet in the first offers hope that he could have a bright future. Sure, Barcelos appeared to just be biding his time, but no one expected Huachin to be competitive at all. I still think he would have been better off marinating on the regional scene, but he may be able to close the distance enough in his experience gap to hang around.