Two title fights headlined UFC 268 and although neither of those belts changed hands, the Welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington and the Strawweight scrap between champion Rose Namajunas and ex-champ Weili Zhang did not wrap things up in a tight bow in those weight divisions.
In addition, there are questions to be answered about UFC veteran Frankie Edgar as well as UFC newcomers Ian Garry and Alex Pereira.
Let’s dig into some of the big questions that remain open in the aftermath of UFC 268, which took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The pay-per-view portion of the event streamed on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPNews and ESPN+.
Is Ian Garry for real?
Ian Garry had a lot of hype behind him entering his UFC debut. The 23-year-old was 7-0 with five stoppage victories and a recent stint as Cage Warriors champion. He was a heavy favorite over Jordan Williams ahead of their Welterweight contest. Williams, who was fighting in his third UFC bout, showed his young opponent no respect in the early going and had some success with his striking. However, when he overextended himself, Garry made him pay, nailing him with a perfect counter that ended the fight with one second left in the first round.
The young Irish fighter showed a great deal of confidence in his UFC debut, but it’s far too early to declare him a star in the making — that’s not to dismiss his talents, Garry could very well be a future star; but he’s still incredibly young, and he is still developing. Is he someone to watch and monitor? Yes, Garry is that.
Is Edmen Shahbazyan done in the UFC?
Shahbazyan should be done in the UFC — for now. The 23-year-old opened his career on an 11-0 run with UFC wins over Darren Stewart, Charles Byrd, Jack Marshman and Brad Tavares to name a few. Those wins, and the fact that Ronda Rousey manages him, earned him a fair share of attention. But he lost his third straight fight at UFC 268 and the young man needs to take a step back, reset and work on developing as on overall fighter. The UFC is not the place to do that.
Shahbazyan needs to work on things outside the UFC. At 23, he has plenty of time to develop in another promotion and become a more well-rounded fighter. He should opt to do just that.
Will the UFC give Alex Pereira time to develop?
Alex Pereira has become known as the “guy who knocked out Israel Adesanya in a kickboxing bout.” He is that, but he’s more than that. He is a former two-division Glory kickboxing champ.
Pereira picked up his fourth MMA win and first UFC victory on Saturday with an impressive flying knee stoppage of Andreas Michailidis in the second round of their middleweight matchup. The 34-year-old is a very good striker and someone 185-pounders should fear on the feet, but we’re talking MMA here and as we know, a striker can be elite and still struggle in the MMA game. Which begs the question, is the UFC going to give Pereira a chance to develop a well-rounded fight game before throwing him into the deep end of the middleweight division?
I’m not sure. The UFC can give champions from “outside organizations” a tough path.
Why the focus on stats above scoring criteria?
The UFC commentary team sometimes struggles with messaging. UFC 268 was another one of those nights. The commentary team has a tendency to focus on numbers during the broadcast and that is frustrating. There’s a reason the judges don’t get the numbers from a fight when they are scoring. Those numbers are meaningless. Nowhere in the criteria are the number of strikes, takedowns or control time cited.
The UFC commentary team needs to be more responsible, especially during pay-per-view events where more “casual fans” tune in. The desk needs to help them understand what is going on inside the octagon as well as what the judges are looking for when scoring. Citing numbers without discussing the scoring criteria does not help those fans. In fact, it ends up muddying the waters and confusing many.
Will Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo get the credit they deserve?
Had Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler not delivered a fight of the year contender in the pay-per-view opener, Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo would have been one of the big topics of conversation in the aftermath of UFC 268. Instead, their spirited bout, which saw them set a record for combined strikes landed in a three-round UFC fight, got short shrift on Saturday night. These two deserve more attention for the war of attrition they took part in at UFC 268.
What’s next for Frankie Edgar?
Frankie Edgar looked good in the early going of his bout with Marlon Vera, but over time, the 40-year-old slowed and his movements became predictable. When that happened, Vera took over the fight and eventually blasted Edgar with an ‘Anderson Silva-like’ front kick to bring the bout to an abrupt finish.
Edgar said he is not thinking about retirement. If he wants to continue to fight — and he has fights on his contract — the UFC will allow him to do so. However, Edgar, who has more octagon time than any fighter in UFC history, should expect to be matched up against opponents who the UFC thinks can use Edgar’s name to vault them into contender status. That is to say, Edgar, if he fights on, will not get any favors from the UFC or its matchmakers.
Is Carla Esparza next in line?
Carla Esparza had a solid case to make that she should have been fighting Rose Namajunas for UFC Strawweight gold at UFC 268, but the UFC decided to book the champ against Weili Zhang in a rematch. With UFC president Dana White saying it’s never a good idea to wait for title fights, I won’t be shocked to see Esparza watch another fighter get a shot at Namajunas’ title.
Was that a takedown in Round 3 of Usman vs. Covington?
As much as Daniel Cormier wanted it to be... based on wrestling scoring — that was NOT an MMA takedown for Covington.
Where does Colby Covington go after UFC 268?
I’m not sure where Colby Covington lands after UFC 268. He called out Jorge Masvidal, who is booked to face Leon Edwards at UFC 269, and Dustin Poirier, who is fighting for the UFC lightweight title on that same card. I think if Covington had been a little busier over the past two years, (three fights with two being losses to Usman) he would be easier to book. I think Covington is going to regret not staying more active between his two bouts opposite the champ.