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Fight of the year? Six unanswered questions from UFC Orlando

Does Thompson vs. Holland deserve consideration for best fight of 2022? That and five more questions that demand consideration coming out of UFC Orlando.

Will we see Rafael dos Anjos vs. Connor McGregor in 2023?

Before Conor McGregor became a UFC champ-champ against Eddie Alvarez in November 2016 the then UFC featherweight titleholder was scheduled to face UFC lightweight kingpin Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 196. That bout fell apart in late February of 2016 when a foot injury knocked Dos Anjos from the matchup. Nate Diaz replaced Dos Anjos on that card, defeating McGregor via second-round submission in a welterweight scrap.

We’re closing in on seven years since the Dos Anjos vs. McGregor fight booking and it seems as if the ex-lightweight champ has yet to let the idea go.

In the aftermath of his UFC Orlando win over Bryan Barberena, Dos Anjos told UFC commentator Daniel Cormier, “I wanna call out Conor McGregor. Seven years ago, I earned this fight beating Donald Cerrone. He came up a division, we were supposed to fight, I broke my foot (and the fight got cancelled), but now here I am.

“He has a couple of months to clean his body of all this shit that he is taking, and I will see you in July!”

There are several fighters angling to meet McGregor when he returns to action, but Dos Anjos is the only one of those who had a fight booked against the former two-division UFC champion.

What was Dan Miragliotta thinking?

In one of the stranger moments in an already strange sport, referee Dan Miragliotta seemed to wave off the main event fight between Stephen Thompson and Kevin Holland after an exchange against the cage with 1:57 left in the round. However, seconds later, Miragliotta signaled a time out instead for an accidental low blow.

The above happened after the veteran ref also paused the Darren Elkins vs. Jonathan Pearce fight earlier in the evening, so the doctor could look at a cut near Elkins’ eye. He then restarted the bout on the feet instead of with Pearce on top inside Elkins’ guard near the center of the Octagon.

Both incidents caused some confusion for the UFC commentary team—and I’m sure, for fans in the arena and those watching the broadcast.

Will corners follow the lead of Bob Perez?

Kevin Holland went to his corner after the fourth round of his bout opposite Stephen Thompson and plopped onto his stool. Holland then held up his gloved right hand and told his coach Bob Perez, “Take this off me.”

Perez immediately turned and told referee Dan Miragliotta the fight was over. He then allowed the cageside doctor room to tend to his fighter. What Perez did not do was try and talk his injured fighter into “toughing” it out, nor did he mention that Holland just had “one more round” to go. Instead, Perez listened to Holland and decided to wave off the fight.

Fans and media praised Perez for his actions on Saturday. Hopefully other coaches and corners will take note of that and we’ll see more corner stoppages in MMA. I don’t think that will happen, but if I’m wrong, I will be ecstatic.

What’s going to happen at heavyweight?

The last we heard, the UFC was looking to book heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou against Jon Jones in the main event of UFC 285. That booking is far from a lock as the UFC and Ngannou have not come to an agreement on a new contract. Barring that, there was some discussion of Jones vs. Curtis Blaydes for that event for an interim strap. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the UFC matchmakers penciled in the name “Sergei Pavlovich” into that spot following UFC Orlando.

The 30-year-old Pavlovich picked up his fifth straight first round KO win on the main card f Saturday’s ESPN event, bloodying and collapsing Tai Tuivasa in 54 seconds of violence. Pavlovich was the No. 5 fighter in the official UFC heavyweight rankings heading into his matchup against the No. 4 ranked Tuivasa.

Blaydes is ranked higher than Pavlovich, but his wrestling-heavy style has never seemed to be a favorite of the UFC matchmakers and that could cost him in this case.

Fight of the year?

There were a lot of “fight of the year” comments thrown around during and after the main event contest between Stephen Thompson and Kevin Holland. I’m willing to forgive those who got caught up in the moment and changed their minds about those accolades upon further consideration on Sunday or Monday. However, those who remain adamant that the Thompson vs. Holland fight deserves consideration for “fight of the year,” allow me to explain why I have hesitations.

Once the fight moved beyond the first round, it was not all that competitive and a lot of that fact had to do with Holland agreeing to fight on Thompson’s terms. Holland is a good mixed martial artist, Thompson is an outstanding striker. By limiting his chances to get the win to forgo everything but striking, Holland cheated himself—but rewarded the fans.

Was the fight one of the more entertaining fights of 2022? Sure, but that entertainment came because Thompson dominated Holland over three rounds and picked him apart on the feet. When I consider a “fight of the year,” I want it to be both competitive and entertaining. I don’t think the main event of UFC Orlando did met both of those criteria for the duration.

Where was the UFC?

On Friday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended James Krause and the UFC informed fighters who continue to work with Krause’s Glory MMA that they will not be eligible to compete for the UFC while investigations continue into betting irregularities surrounding a fight Krause coached at UFC Vegas 64.

That no one from UFC management was on hand to answer any questions from the access media at the event was noticeable. While I’m sure, with the ongoing investigations, that the UFC is limited on what it can answer regarding the situation, the promotion could have at least had someone in Orlando to give what updates it could.

With UFC 282 taking place this week in Las Vegas, the promotion needs to address any questions and the UFC access media needs to ask those questions. For starters, the credentialed UFC media should ask what changed between November 11, when White gave the below answers and December 2.


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Official UFC 282 Fight Poster: Blachowicz vs Ankalaev

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Meanwhile, in UFC 282’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, we get the massively popular ‘Paddy the Baddy’ UFC Lightweight Liverpool sensation (19-3) vs American Jared ‘Flash’ Gordon (19-5) in their first Co-Main bouts. These bouts will be preceded by an exciting Middleweight barnburner between Darrin Till and Dricus Du Plessis, in a must-see barnburner.

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