UFC Vegas 44 was an eventful fight card from top to bottom. There were impressive finishes, memorable comebacks and plenty of underdogs defying the odds.
With the event in the books and eyes already turning to the upcoming UFC 269 pay-per-view card — which features two title fights — let’s look back at some of the big questions that remain to be answered following UFC Vegas 44, which took place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas and was broadcast by ESPN as well as streamed on ESPN+.
Does that get shared with the fighters?
If you thought the fighting surface looked kind of busy with the logos of corporations at UFC Vegas 44, you weren’t wrong. By my count there were 16 UFC “partners” advertised during the event in and around the octagon — and that doesn’t count the fight kit sponsors.
If the UFC had a collective bargaining agreement like the one the NFL has with the NFLPA, it would entitle the fighters to a share of that revenue. The current CBA in the NFL has the players receiving at least 48.8 percent of NFL revenue in a 17-game season.
In short, more sponsorship dollars for the NFL means more money for the NFL players. Without a CBA, more sponsorship dollars does not equal more pay for UFC fighters.
Has Manel Kape found his groove?
It was pretty big news when Manel Kape signed with the UFC in 2020. Kape was 15-4 overall and coming off a 3-0 run in Rizin. That run culminated in Kape capturing the Rizin bantamweight title.
Kape struggled to find his groove in the UFC. He wasn’t terrible by any means in his first two fights with the promotion, but he seemed unable to throw his offense into high gear. With that, Kape lost his first two fights under the UFC banner.
Kape put things together at UFC 265 when he scored a knockout win over Ode Osbourne, but he came in three pounds heavy for that contest, which took a great lot of shine off his powerful and nasty flying knee knockout.
At UFC Vegas 44, Kape made weight and overcame a bit of early adversity in thrashing Zhalgas Zhumagulov for another first-round stoppage win.
Kape showed great speed, power and finishing ability once he had his opponent hurt on Saturday. It might have taken him four fights, but it seems as if the 28-year-old Kape has things pretty well dialed in and he looks poised to make waves in the flyweight division in 2022.
Is Jamahal Hill the real deal?
Jamahal Hill bounced back from a nasty loss to Paul Craig with a first-round knockout win over the favored Jimmy Crute on Saturday. Hill has been a pro fighter for four years, but he has showed the poise, power, skill and quiet confidence of a potential future champion. Hill disposed of Crute with ease, scoring the knockout win via four landed significant strikes.
Hill is not a flashy fighter nor does he have an oversized personality, but he is a fighter to watch and like Kape, he could be poised for a breakout year in 2022.
Does Jose Aldo have another title run in him?
Jose Aldo put on a masterful performance against Rob Font in the main event of UFC Vegas 44. The former two-time featherweight champ looked to be behind in the early going of the first round, but Aldo and his power took over the fight with 10 seconds left in the first round. After that, the Brazilian never ceded the upper hand.
Aldo appeared to be on a downward spiral between December 2015, when Conor McGregor knocked him out in 13 seconds, and July 2020 when Petr Yan bludgeoned him to capture the vacant bantamweight crown. But the 35-year-old has righted the ship and seems to be rejuvenated. The win over Font has Aldo on a three-fight winning streak. With that, the question becomes, does Aldo have another title run in him?
I believe the answer is yes. The Aldo we saw face Font looked like he would give any fighter in the 135-pound division a test. I’m not sure Aldo, who was the No. 5 ranked fighter in the official UFC bantamweight rankings ahead of UFC Vegas 44, has what it takes to capture the bantamweight crown at this point in his career, but I think he is good enough to earn himself another shot at that belt.