If every event featuring a live audience is going to be as awesome as the last two UFC PPV’s, we can’t get live audiences into every event soon enough. UFC 261 leaped to the top of the heap as far as event of the year goes, but UFC 262 is providing it strong competition. There were several memorable moments and the crowning of a new lightweight champion when Charles Oliveira caught Michael Chandler off-guard with a heavy hook after enduring a hell of a beating in the opening round. While that was the most obvious happening for the evening, there were plenty of other memorable moments. Let’s get into it:
Biggest Jump in Stock: It may have been a 41-year old version of Jacare Souza, but no one ever thought we’d see anyone submit the former Strikeforce champion. Andre Muniz not only submitted him, he broke his arm, a violent snap being caught within the audio of the cameras. I have my doubts Muniz’s goal was to cause severe damage in the process of fighting a legend, but those type of finishes tend to resonate in MMA fandom, which will give him a level of notoriety that he could have only dreamed of. Notoriety is rarely an accurate form of how good a fighter is, but it sure as hell does a lot to add zeroes to their paychecks.
Biggest Fall in Stock: While Jacare certainly deserves consideration, his stock was already down considerably. Not that Tony Ferguson didn’t see a sizeable fall in his stock this past year, but there was still enough hope for the former interim lightweight to remain a relevant figure going into his contest with Beneil Dariush. Following the conclusion of their contest, that hope has been extinguished. For the second consecutive contest, Ferguson not only dropped a very one-sided contest, he got caught in another cringe-inducing submission that 99% of other fighters would have tapped too. It proved Ferguson is still tough as nails, but that appears to be the only thing left from his heyday. His body is slowing down and his unorthodox stylings can’t keep up with its decay.
Best Newcomer: Tucker Lutz was the only newcomer on the card, but you wouldn’t have guessed that watching his fight without any prior knowledge. The debutant put on a veteran performance, finding a consistent home for his left hook and nailing some well-timed takedowns to stall any momentum from Kevin Aguilar. Reviews were mixed on his future upon his entering the organization, but he can be assured they are skewing towards the positive at this point.
Start Typing a Resume: I was shocked to see Kevin Aguilar was hanging around after three losses in a row. Even though his fourth loss in a row was competitive, it was his fourth loss in a row. Aguilar isn’t getting another opportunity to snap that streak in the confines of the UFC.
The UFC is showing a shorter leash with their DWCS alum, cutting several after just two UFC appearances. Given the lack of competitiveness shown by Jamie Pickett in his two losses, I feel confident he’ll be on the chopping block. Given how hard he worked to get into the organization, that’s a huge bummer.
Saved Their Job(s): It’s easy to see Lando Vannata being on the chopping block if he was unable to get past Mike Grundy. Fortunately, the former darling of the MMA world put together the most complete performance of his career. Stuffing takedowns, putting together lengthy combinations, and getting back to his feet very quickly on the few occasions. Had he dropped the fight, it would have only been his second loss in a row, but it would have brought his UFC record to 3-6-2. Hard to see him coming back with a record like that.
I mentioned the UFC was cutting DWCS alumni with two losses. Jordan Wright did have a UFC win on his record, but it would have been two consecutive losses against less than reputable competition. Fortunately for Wright, he obliterated Pickett in a hurry and will live to see another paycheck coming from the UFC.
Never Seen That Before: Some may believe the strange ending of the Edson Barboza-Shane Burgos took away from the contest, but I think it added to it. Barboza landed a hard two-punch combination that appeared to hurt Burgos, but Burgos was still there… until he wasn’t. Burgos was standing for about three seconds before stumbling backwards, collapsing in an unconscious heap. Delayed reactions aren’t completely unheard of, but the ones that come to mind are typically body shots. For instance, Cub Swanson planting a hard hook to the body of Oliveira all the way back in 2012. This was off some punches to the head. It was like Barboza found the shut down option for Burgos brain and there was the typical delayed reaction that comes when one clicks on that option for their computer. It was the damnedest thing….
Never Seen That Before II: We’ve seen broken arms before. Frank Mir broke the arms of both Tim Sylvia and Rodrigo Nogueira. However, the reaction of Jacare was unlike any that I’ve seen. Sylvia was so full of adrenaline that he didn’t notice his arm was initially broken. Nogueira was visibly in pain when his arm broke. Jacare didn’t show any sign of pain, just allowing his arm to hang there limply while looking at the referee with a look that said “Can you believe that shit?” It was more dismay than anything else. Jacare’s reaction to having his arm broken was mind-boggling to me.
Biggest WOW Moment: There are a LOT to chose from. Muniz breaking Jacare’s arm. Christos Giagos putting Sean Soriano to sleep with an anaconda choke. Andrea Lee tapping Antonina Shevchenko with an armbar. Barboza’s crazy delayed reaction KO of Burgos. Ferguson somehow managing to avoid tapping to Dariush’s heel hook. Then there was Chandler slamming Oliveira to the mat as he was on his back. Or when he had Oliveira on the ropes. However, I’m going to go with Oliveira’s left hook out of nowhere that dropped Chandler in the opening seconds of the second round. It wasn’t the craziest move pulled off on the night, but it was the most consequential moment of the night as it led to the crowning of a new lightweight champion. That pushes it over the edge for me in this crowded field.
Best/Worst Referee Call: I’m not sure how I felt about it as I can understand the perspective for those who favor standups and those who don’t. If push came to shove, I’d probably favor Mike Beltran’s standup of Gina Mazany and Priscilla Cachoeira as Mazany was just laying on Cachoeira. That’s because Mazany didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Cachoeira pieced her up following the standup, securing a stoppage late in the second round. Had Beltran allowed Mazany to stay on top, she probably would have ridden out the round from there and used the time between rounds to regain just enough steam to score another takedown to start the final round. I understand there is no guarantee that’s what would have happened, but it certainly would have been a plausible outcome.
Best Callout: Why do all the callouts happen in the press conferences? Not nearly as many people watch those. And yet, that’s where the fighters always seem to mention who they want to fight. Fortunately, there was one fighter who recognized the best place to call out someone is in the post-fight interview. Christos Giagos asked for an opportunity to face Donald Cerrone for what may very well be Cerrone’s retirement fight. It’s a realistic possibility as Giagos appears to be just under the level of Alex Morono, the last person to put Cerrone down. Plus, Cerrone has still has name value that would boost Giagos’ profile. I wouldn’t mind if Giagos gets what he’s asking for.
See What Extra Incentive Does? The UFC has long defended their policy regarding Performance Bonuses, saying it encourages more exciting performances from the fighters as they strive to pick up the extra money by putting on a show. While I’m not here to trash or support the policy, they did up the amount of money given out in the Performance Bonuses – upping it to $75K as opposed to $50K – and there was a decided uptick in the amount of finishes. Not just finishes either; dramatic finishes. I acknowledge an extended run with the bonuses at that level would be needed to conclude anything definitively, but the results from this one event an indicative that it might be worth taking a deeper look into if these are the results.
Road Less Traveled: Typically, if a fighter claims the UFC title, it comes within their first 10 years after their UFC debut. Even Fabricio Werdum was able to claim the heavyweight title within 10 years even though he had a stint outside the organization. Even Michael Bisping made it under 10 years, it might have been just 20 days under 10 years, but that’s still under 10 years. In fact, only one previous fighter won a UFC title over 10 years after their debut: Robbie Lawler. However, not only did Oliveira join that elusive club, he did so without leaving the organization. Typically, after a fighter has been on the roster that long, they’re considered to be a mainstay as opposed to a title contender. It’s been a long road for Oliveira, but he’s proof that persistence can pay off.
Theme of the Night: I’ve already touched on this, but given the amount of painful submissions applied that were pain inducing, but I’d have to say it was cringy. It wasn’t easy watching Lee’s armbar, Muniz’s armbar, or Dariush’s heel hook. That doesn’t mean it was a bad event – it was a fantastic event – but there are elements of the event I’m not going to be rushing to watch again. That doesn’t mean I won’t be looking it up to show other people who are squeamish, but that doesn’t mean I have to watch.