Given the main event tends to dictate the success or failure of a card, it feels safe to say UFC 265 will largely pass into oblivion. The one-sidedness of the contest between Cyril Gane and Derrick Lewis didn’t make for the most entertaining contest, though the finishing sequence did make up for it somewhat as Gane put away one of MMA’s most prolific punchers. However, the rest of the card delivered in every way. Jose Aldo turned back the clock against a game Pedro Munhoz. Vicente Luque secured a breakout win with a submission win over grappling ace Michael Chiesa. We even got the standup battle we were hoping for out of Tecia Torres and Angela Hill we were hoping for six years ago. Of course, there were more happenings that will be overlooked, but I’m hoping to cover that with my Unofficial Awards….
Biggest Jump in Stock: There are a number of viable candidates for this spot, but I feel strongest about the performance of Rafael Fiziev following his insta-classic with Bobby Green.Both men pushed an insane pace, peppering each other with punches and kicks over the course of 15 minutes with minimal reliance on distance to avoid the return fire coming at them. It resulted in a disbelief of the amount of damage each could eat without hitting the mat, much less going out cold. It deservingly garnered a FOTN bonus and it could be argued the veteran Green’s stock wen up more than anyone outside of Fiziev.
Biggest Fall in Stock: There are some who would say Lewis is deserving of this spot given he next to nothing in the main event, but only casual observers would make that claim. Those who follow more closely weren’t surprised by the outcome in the least. Though Angela Hill is another one to consider, I’ll slide Casey Kenney into this spot. One of the scrappiest competitors on the roster, Kenney was outworked and outslicked by Yadong Song, a youthful fighter better known for bowling over his competition with his physicality than for his technical prowess. Throw in that it was Kenney’s second consecutive loss and it looks like he’s destined to be no more than a fringe top-15 fighter, flitting in and out of the fringe of the rankings.
Best Newcomer: The only newcomer on the card, Melissa Gatto, was a complete mystery walking into the event given she hadn’t competed since 2018. Now that the smoke has been cleared, it looks like UFC nabbed itself a nice little talent. Gatto showed a fluid ground game as many expected, but the ability to win the striking battle against Victoria Leonardo caught many pleasantly off-guard. Great start to Gatto’s UFC career.
Start Typing a Resume: I wasn’t crazy about the UFC bringing Drako Rodriguez in off the DWCS as I felt he needed more seasoning. After two losses – and not looking particularly good in either one – I feel justified in my line of thinking. Still just 25, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rodriguez work his way back to the organization. But for now, dropping a tentative decision to Vince Morales, I think it’s best for him to see his way out.
I had a feeling it would be Karolina Kowalkiewicz’s last UFC appearance, win or lose, as she has expressed a desire to start a family sooner rather than later. Like anyone, I’m sure she wanted to go out on a win, but that wasn’t happening as she foolishly chose to engage with Jessica Penne on the mat and paid the price for it. In the process, it gave Kowalkiewicz her fifth loss in a row. I’m sure it wasn’t the terms she was hoping for, but it’s a strong be she’s out of the UFC.
Arguments could be made for Jamey Simmons, Victoria Leonardo, and Anderson dos Santos all receiving pink slips, but my guess is they’ll get the benefit of the doubt. Simmons’ UFC debut was not only short notice, it was a weight class up against currently ranked Giga Chikadze. Leonardo fought a chunk of her fight with a broken arm, showing the type of toughness Uncle Dana relishes. Dos Santos is just all-out action and fun, making him an ideal opponent for a debuting DWCS alumni, at least for one more fight.
Also, Ed Herman may have fought for the UFC for the last time, but that would be his own choice as his loss to Alonzo Menifield snapped a three-fight winning streak.
Saved Their Job(s): It wasn’t pretty, but Morales did just enough in the eyes of the judges to take a tepid decision. Unfortunately for him, it was a poor enough performance that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the UFC cut him loose after a single loss after this. At the very least, he’ll need to be more entertaining than he has been.
Manel Kape didn’t help himself out by missing weight, but he saved himself by delivering one of the best flying knees in recent memory to Ode Osbourne. Given he was a hyped signing from RIZIN and dropped his first two contest, he was on thin ice, even without the weight miss. So long as his missing weight was just a blip, there’s every reason to believe he could still work his way into contention as there’s no doubt the UFC would love to promote his finishing abilities in a division not known for finishes.
Biggest WOW Moment: My first instinct would be to go with Kape and his flying knee, but I’m a bit sore about his missing of weight. Not that any of the fighters care about my articles, but I’d like to have some sort of discipline attached to these. Regardless, it’s not like Miles Johns’ brutal KO of Anderson dos Santos is a poor replacement. In fact, dos Santos was carried out of the cage on a stretcher. Conscious and alert, but on a stretcher nonetheless. The win was Johns’ second in a row via KO, both of them exceptionally impressive, especially given he’s a bantamweight, where those jaw-dropping KO’s don’t typically happen.
Cure for Insomnia: The main event played out as many expected: Gane picking apart the lumbering Lewis while maintaining a safe distance. While it’s strategically brilliant, it isn’t an aesthetically pleasing brand that will win over fans. The final minute or so of the fight saw the pace pick up enough so the contest wasn’t a total loss, but that final minute is the only thing that makes the contest salvageable.
Best/Worst Referee Call: There wasn’t one call or another that made or broke any particular fight. The one moment that stood out the most in my mind was when Dan Miragliotta didn’t stop the fight between Gane and Lewis when Lewis indicated he was poked in the eye and asked for a break. The replay was clear that Gane landed a clean punch, and Tan Dan told them to fight on. Ironically, it appeared Gane may have been poked in the eye in the same sequence, but he didn’t seem to want a break.
Best Callout: Kudos to Aldo for recognizing there’s always an opportunity, even for a legend. Aldo asked for another former champion in TJ Dillashaw, a contest that would have been deemed a superfight at one point. It’s plausible Dillashaw might be content to wait and hope for the possibility of getting the winner of Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan, but he isn’t guaranteed that shot. A fight with Aldo would certainly be something fans could get behind, so I think there’s a very good chance of that happening.
Missed Opportunity: Along the lines of callouts, Luque missed an opportunity. Sure, he did call out Kamaru Usman, but he’s going to be waiting a very long time if he thinks that’s happening. Usman is fighting Colby Covington next. If Covington wins, you can be assured there will be a trilogy fight. Even beyond that, Leon Edwards is waiting in the wings and Edwards – unbeaten in his last ten fights – features Luque amongst his list of victims. I understand Edwards isn’t the most marketable, but Luque isn’t any more marketable. Luque should have called out Jorge Masvidal. The winner of the BMF belt is still a big name and it appears the possibility of him fighting Conor McGregor isn’t happening any time soon. However, Masvidal still hasn’t won a fight since 2019 and would do well to secure a win sometime soon. Luque has turned himself into a credible name and Masvidal would be a very winnable fight for him, to the point he very well could have jumped Edwards in the hierarchy. I hate to say it, but Luque basically wasted his callout.
Most Determined: Once the fight hit the mat, Penne was going to go home and put Kowalkiewicz’s arm over her mantle and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. As previously stated, Kowalkiewicz never should have willingly gone to the mat with her, but she was actually doing a solid job defending Penne’s onslaught. Penne wasn’t giving up, continuing to go after the armbar from all sorts of various positions before finally eliciting a tap.
Lazarus Effect: At the beginning of the calendar year, everyone believed Penne’s career was six feet under. She hadn’t won a fight since 2014, nor had she fought since 2017. Now, Penne’s spot on the roster is secure, having won two fights in a row since March with no controversy whatsoever with this win. Her career resurrection has been nothing short of incredible, but will get very little notice in the general public.
Old Guard Remains: Aldo’s win solidified that his move down to bantamweight was worthwhile. Sure, he had looked good in his losses to Marlon Moraes and Petr Yan, but they were still losses. He did rebound with a win over Marlon Vera, but no one is about to mistake Vera for an elite or borderline-elite talent. Disposing of Munhoz in a brutal slugfest over three rounds proved the move was worthwhile. Even crazier in the win was Munhoz was the one flagging down the stretch, not Aldo. In fact, I would say it was Aldo’s most complete performance in years. He may very well still be improving, leaving open the possibility the legend could work his way back into the title picture.
Coming of Age: Menifield’s win over Herman was the first victory attained by Menifield by decision. The explosive puncher suffered his first losses last year as he wasn’t sure what to do if he couldn’t overwhelm his opponent early. His win over Herman assured he learned some lessons from those losses, effectively winning every round of the fight, not needing to resort to survival mode in the final round as most would have predicted.
Accountability in Judging: Fortunately, JJ Ferraro’s atrocious 30-27 score in the Fiziev-Green contest didn’t ultimately affect anything and he did award the decision to who most believe was the rightful winner, but it was atrocious nonetheless. Though we’d all like to see something done with regards to egregious judges’ decisions, it’s reasonable to accept nothing will be done, at least not in the foreseeable future. At this juncture, all I’d be asking for is some sort of accounting of what he saw that led to his scoring the final round in favor of Fiziev. If his reasoning proved to be sound on the accord of a council, he could continue to judge MMA contests. If not, he’s done. Until anything like that is done, we’ll all know the idea of commissions truly having the best interests in the sport is a load of bunk.