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UFC 270: Ngannou vs. Gane - Unofficial Awards

Get a unique rundown on all the trophies that should have been handed out at UFC 270 with Dayne Fox’s Unofficial Awards.

UFC 270 is in the bag and there is no shortage of drama from the event. Francis Ngannou proved himself to be a true mixed martial artist as he utilized wrestling to ground and control Ciryl Gane for several rounds of their five round title fight. The true drama there is only just starting as Ngannou has made his displeasure with the UFC well known and it’s expected he’s going to do everything in his power to ensure he never has to fight for the organization again. If he does, expect him to be paid far more than what he’s currently contracted to make. However, in terms of in-cage action, it’s hard to top the drama produced by Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. Figueiredo may have secured a unanimous decision victory – and the championship title – but he only did so by the skin of his teeth. Several rounds were close enough to go either way, but by awarding the bout to Figueiredo, it pulled their trilogy to 1-1-1 with a fourth contest likely on the way to settle things once and for all. Good news for fans, bad news for any UFC flyweight in the top five of the rankings.

While those were the primary storylines of the event, there was plenty of other notable developments for UFC 270. To touch on them briefly, here’s my Unofficial Awards....

For an audio rundown of the event, click here.

Biggest Jump in Stock: There were a lot of impressive performances on the night that saw a large swath of competitors improve their stock significantly. Even Ngannou, the baddest man on the planet, experienced a big jump in stock given he won on the strength of his grappling. But the most startling performance came from Said Nurmagomedov subbing Cody Stamann in less than a minute. It wasn’t just that Nurmagomedov submitted Stamann; he hurt him on the feet before that as well. Plus, it was the third first round finish for him in his five-fight UFC run. It’s possible Nurmagomedov gets a top ten opponent next.

Biggest Fall in Stock: In some ways, the easy answer is Stamann, but losing the way he did wasn’t a huge surprise for many. On the other hand, no one expected Gane to lose a decision to Ngannou. It was about as open-and-shut of a case that if the heavyweight title fight went the distance, it meant Gane was going to win. Instead, Gane revealed a porous fight IQ on the mat, likely costing himself the win with some questionable decisions. Given Gane comes from a striking background and no one had seem him in an adversarial position on the mat yet, it shouldn’t have been the surprise it was to everyone. However, it exposes a big chink in his armor. Gane should remain near the top of the division for a long time, but he doesn’t seem like the shoe-in to win UFC gold someday as he would have had he suffered a flash KO loss.

Best Newcomer: There was a LOT of competition for this spot – eight fighters made their debuts – but it’s hard to argue against Victor Henry. The newcomer was the biggest underdog on the card, fighting against the respected Raoni Barcelos. It was a close contest – a reasonable case could be made for both combatants in all the rounds – but Henry’s pace exhausted Barcelos, leaving the Brazilian looking tired at the end of every round. That was probably the clincher for Henry, the judges awarding him every round on every card. Given Henry is 34, here’s hoping the UFC gives him someone at least knocking on the door of the official rankings. Michael Morales and Jack Della Maddalena deserved an honorable mention for this spot as well.

Start Typing a Resume: It was no secret Stamann looked like he was on shaky ground entering the event. He’s not a particularly exciting fighter – he doesn’t have a finish amongst his UFC wins – and entered on a two-fight losing streak. Well, now it’s three. Stamann’s losses are understandable and there’s plenty of names still on the roster he could beat, but it isn’t always about who the best are for the UFC. If that was the case, Katlyn Chookagian wouldn’t be a free agent. Entertainment value features into things and Stamann is low value in that department.

It’s possible Silvana Gomez Juarez is on the chopping block as well. Her ground game has proven to be an absolute mess, getting subbed in the first round in both her UFC contests. If she were a youngster with the potential for huge strides to be made, I’d say she’s probably hang around. But at 37 with a career that started back in 2010? She’s probably long gone.

Saved Their Job(s): I’ll have a bit more on the performance of Matt Frevola a bit further down, but it’s easy to believe he was going to be cut loose if a third consecutive loss were to materialize. Frevola fought like he was well aware of that possibility. Typically an aggressive fighter anyway, he came out with the aggression dial turned to 11. It could have been disastrous for him had the fight left the opening round, but Frevola ensured it didn’t.

Biggest Swing in Momentum: The fight between Vanessa Demopoulos and Juarez lasted a total of 145 seconds, but they packed about as much action as is possible in that amount of time. Juarez floored Demopoulos with a heavy right hand. Demopoulos hung in there despite Juarez jumping on her and landing a series of heavy punches before Demopoulos tied her up in her guard to stop the beating. It wasn’t much longer before Demopoulos had Juarez’s arm tied up in her grasp. It took a bit of time before Juarez finally tapped, but it was a short amount of time overall between the time Juarez was thisclose to being declared the victor and Demopoulos actually earning that distinction.

Never Seen That Before: Speaking of Demopoulos, those who know anything about her are well aware of her boisterous personality. A former stripper, Demopoulos thrives with the spotlight on her and couldn’t have been happier to have Joe Rogan interviewing her post-fight. At the conclusion of the interview, she climbed into the arms of Rogan, who supported her with no issue whatsoever. Can’t remember seeing a fighter climb or leap into the arms of their interviewer, but there’s zero surprise Demopoulos was the first to do so for those who are aware of her.

Never Seen That Before II: There have been fights that were just as ridiculous as the action between Matt Frevola and Genaro Valdez. Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard comes to mind. But one that saw as many knockdowns in a single round? Can’t recall that. While Frevola was credited with four knockdowns – the same Josh Emmett had against Felipe Arantes – I unofficially counted six knockdowns. Even if my unofficial count isn’t correct, Frevola did so in 3 minutes, 25 seconds time whereas Emmett had the entire round. Regardless, it was one of the funnest fights I’ve ever witnessed. If you need a fight with no context to show to someone who has never watched the sport, Frevola and Valdez is a great choice.

Greatest Flyweight Rivalry Ever: The rivalry between Figueiredo and Moreno lacks the animosity of some of the more notable rivals in history (Chuck and Tito, Jones and Cormier), but that’s about the only thing it’s lacking. It appears it will have something no other UFC rivalry has ever had: a fourth fight. Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski had a fourth fight, but the final contest came outside the organization long after both were out of their primes. That’s not the case with Figueiredo and Moreno, the two of them looking at their peak in this latest contest. As for other notable flyweight rivalries... well, there hasn’t been others that are talked about as an actual rivalry. There was potential for Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson to create a rivalry with Demetrious Johnson after losing close fights to Johnson, but they were both smashed in the rematch. Johnson slammed the door shut on what could have been the first great flyweight rivalry when he opted to go to ONE championship rather than fight Henry Cejudo a third time after they split their first two contests. It could also be argued Figueiredo and Moreno have saved the division. While I’m aware Uncle Dana decided the division would stick around several years ago, who’s to say he wouldn’t change his mind if the division remained in the sleepy state it was in under Johnson’s reign? There’s plenty of interest in it at this point.

Best Jab: I considered naming Maddalena the best newcomer given his dominant performance, but then I remembered his opponent, Pete Rodriguez, had roughly a round of professional MMA experience coming into the event. Maddalena damn well better be dominating him. Nevertheless, I had to acknowledge his performance and no better way than to do so than pinpointing how he demolished Rodriguez. It took Maddalena less than half a round before he had bloodied Rodriguez’s face, almost solely behind the strength of his jab. Rodriguez finally wilted with two minutes to go in the round, giving Maddalena a dominant stoppage victory.

Worst Fight IQ: I could easily put Gane here, but I think it was more that he was swept by Ngannou than him going for a leglock. Even if that wasn’t the case, I’d still understand what he was trying to do better than what Trevin Giles did. It looked like he had an early victory in the bag when he dropped a debuting Morales in the opening minute. However, after Morales climbed back to his feet, Giles opted to clinch up with him against the fence. Pressing Morales against the fence gave him a chance to regain his bearings, which he did later in the round to secure his own KO finish. The broadcast booth speculated Giles was trying to make a statement with his wrestling. The best statement a fighter can make is getting a win. Giles didn’t do that.

Most Improved Fight IQ: One person who learned how great of a statement a win can make is Michel Pereira. Not to say he didn’t throw some risky strikes – flying knees and a rolling thunder kick made appearances – but he threw them with more calculation than he used to. Remember him tiring himself out against Tristan Connelly due to throwing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and losing? Those days appear long gone. Pereira makes far greater use of fundamental attacks while supplementing them with flash when it used to be the other way around. In the process, he now finds himself on a four-fight win streak and knocking on the door of the official UFC rankings.