It wasn’t the type of back-and-forth craziness that we’ve come to expect out of Charles Oliveira fights, but the contest between Oliveira and Islam Makhachev proved to be a satisfactory one. Did it live up to expectations? Well, that depends on what your expectations were.
Makhachev pursued takedowns in the first round, spending a large chunk of the round in the top position, avoiding Oliveira’s submission attempts and dealing out plenty of punches and elbows. Oliveira wasn’t broken though, coming out in the second and throwing plenty of hard punches and kicks. Makhachev held his own, avoiding the hardest shots from Oliveira before flooring Oliveira about halfway through the second. Makhachev showed no fear about jumping atop of Oliveira, pursuing an arm-triangle choke and eliciting a tap from Oliveira, crowning a new champion.
Makhachev wasted no time calling for a new challenge, saying he wanted to fight Alex Volkanovski in Australia. Volkanovski then emerged from the crowd to accept the challenge.
For Makhachev, it’s the smartest thing he can to do build up his reputation, as many believe Volkanovski is the current P4P king. I’ve let it be known I’m not fond of double champions as both divisions tend to get hung up, but I’m not the one making those decisions. Plus, we all know what happens once Pandora’s box is open.
Oliveira took the loss as well as can be expected. He asked if he could have next after Makhachev and Volkanovski fight, but the hope here is he’ll have to fight once again given the long list of great fighters in the division.
As for the rest of the card...
- The co-main event was a difficult watch. TJ Dillashaw entered the contest with a compromised shoulder, having had issues with his left shoulder dislocating numerous times heading into the contest. He was able to survive it popping out once against Aljamain Sterling. Sterling didn’t allow him to survive it happening a second time. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see the contest with both at their full capacity as it was an intriguing contest. The outcome did do something many thought would have been impossible: turn Dillashaw into a sympathetic figure. Sterling isn’t at fault for the anticlimactic finish, but I get the feeling his haters are only going to feed off this victory even more. He won the title on a DQ, his first defense was a controversial decision, and now his second defense comes over a very compromised opponent. Still, in this sport, it’s better to be hated than to have everyone feel indifferent. Perhaps the biggest question is how much the UFC knew about the injury. They had to know something a while ago and still sold the fans on a lemon of a fight. They got some explaining to do....
- It’s safe to say Sean O’Malley edging out Petr Yan is the most controversial scorecard on the year. I hesitate to call it robbery as the first and third rounds were very close, but the vast majority of MMA media scored it for Yan. Had he lost, O’Malley might have picked up more respect from MMA fandom as there’s no doubt he put on a gutty performance that proved he deserves to be fighting the elite of the division. With the win, his haters seem to believe he’s being handed everything on a platter. It isn’t going to help things if he gets a title shot next, especially when the likes of Merab Dvalishvili and Marlon Vera – who has a win over O’Malley — would be passed over. The thing is, love or hate him, O’Malley gets eyeballs. Conor McGregor doesn’t warrant so many PPV buys because everyone wants to see him win. In many ways, this is the best result O’Malley could have expected. Yan isn’t hurt by this result in the least.
- It was a closer fight than the scorecards would have you believe, but Beneil Dariush extended his win streak to eight by bringing Mateusz Gamrot’s momentum to a screaching halt. Gamrot caught Dariush off-guard in the opening round by attacking with takedowns at a freakish pace, arguably taking the first round. Dariush adjusted, making Gamrot pay for the takedown attempts with knees and landing the heavier strikes. His perfomance was punctuated with an overhand that dropped Gamrot in the third. The win ensured Dariush would be the highest ranked fighter in the lightweight division who hasn’t fought for the title. Will that be enough for him to get the next title shot after Makhachev and Volkanovski take care of business? I got my doubts, but I wouldn’t say no to him fighting Oliveira....
- Even though we didn’t get the typical result that comes from a Katlyn Chookagian fight — a Chookagian win via decision — we did get the same type of stylistic fight. That’s not good for Manon Fiorot, even though she walked out of the cage with her hand raised. It was a tit for tat contest where the two skilled kickboxers traded punches and side kicks, neither doing a whole lot to separate one another. A late takedown in the third round probably secured what was the tightest round up to that point, showing Fiorot has the fight IQ to challenge for the belt. But she did nothing to create excitement about her meeting Valentina Shevchenko. The announce team floated the idea of Taila Santos getting an immediate rematch. Based on what Fiorot displayed here and Alexa Grasso last week, I think that’s the most likely outcome.
- Are we ready to take Belal Muhammad serious as a title contender yet? Undefeated in his last nine fights, including the last three wins coming as an underdog against top ten opponents, the doubters should be believers by now. Muhammad was neck and neck with Sean Brady through the halfway mark of the second round, both trading at a high pace. At that point, Muhammad began to pull away, laying the punishment on thick on a fading Brady. As the round drew to a close, Brady was no longer defending himself, the referee stepping in for a standing TKO. Muhammad called for either a title shot against Leon Edwards or a fight with Khamzat Chimaev. If he gets one of his wishes, expect it to be the latter.
- The opening round saw Caio Borralho and Makhmud Muradov trade top position, Borralho having a slight edge in volume. The second round saw Muradov with top position for the majority of the round. The third round saw Borralho with top position for the majority of the round. It wasn’t an exciting fight by any means and would be remembered poorly if it wasn’t surrounded by several other fights that were low on aesthetic pleasure. Regardless, it was the third win in a row for Borralho, the Brazilian continuing his ascent up the division.
- The opening round between Nikita Krylov and Volkan Oezdemir sure as hell woke up audiences – whether live or remote – from a slow start, only for the action to slow much in the same manner the rest of the earlier action. Krylov and Oezdemir hurt each other in the opening round before fatiguing down the stretch. Krylov had more in his tank, combining his strikes with continued takedowns to take arguably the biggest win of his career.
- I guess we can say it was admirable to see Gadzhi Omargadzhiev looking to finish the fight given how the card played out, but it ultimately was a bad choice given the technical prowess of Abubakar Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov was able to counter every attempt and usually ended up in the dominant position afterwards. Ultimately, it resulted in a dry, but clear decision for Nurmagomedov.
- There were things to like out of the performance of AJ Dobson, but ultimately the youngster didn’t play to his obvious advantage. Though he scored some takedowns on Armen Petrosyan, he opted to stand and trade with the former kickboxer far more than was recommended. Petrosyan touched up Dobson over the course of the contest, his volume easily making up for the miniscule control advantage Dobson secured over him in the grappling department.
- Things didn’t go as smoothly for Muhammad Mokaev as he expected, but it should be seen as good thing for his long term growth that Malcolm Gordon pushed him in a way he hadn’t previously been. Gordon reversed Mokaev several times, threatening with a couple of subs in the midst of Mokaev’s control-heavy performance. In the end, Mokaev secured a late armbar, ensuring his struggles will largely be forgotten.
- The card kicked off with a women’s bantamweight scrap that saw Karol Rosa come thisclose to giving away a certain win when she landed an illegal knee to a downed Lina Lansberg. The ultra-tough Lansberg insisted on continuing, but not without Rosa being deducted a point. Even though Rosa controlled Lansberg for about three-quarters of the first two rounds – not to mention outstriking Lansberg in the third — Lansberg had a flash knockdown in the first to put a draw on the table. The judges were split, but the majority favored Rosa’s control, allowing the Brazilian to avoid being upset.