While no one was happy with the PPV price hike at the beginning of the year, it’s hard to say the big shows the UFC has put on this year hasn’t been worth the money. UFC 273 saw one fighter make a finite case as the P4P best fighter on the earth, a rivalry many expected to be resolved only intensified after a controversial decision, and a new front runner for FOTY.
The main event wasn’t the most exciting contest. Alexander Volkanovski did what he does: outclass his opponent in every aspect of the fight. That isn’t to say the Korean Zombie didn’t land a couple of nice shots, but never at any point did Volkanovski lose his composure. For every punch Zombie landed, Volkanovski seemed to land at least two more, plus a kick to the leg. Throw in the occasional takedown and a couple of knock downs for Volkanovski and it was a complete and dominant performance that came to a merciful end with a standing TKO in the fourth. It’s hard to believe there’s anyone outside of Kamaru Usman who can provide a credible argument against Volkanovski as the best fighter on the planet. As for Zombie, at the age of 35, indicated he may be ready to call it a career. If that’s the case, fight fans everywhere owe the legendary brawler a debt of gratitude for the plethora of legendary fights he gave us.
As for the rest of the card....
Main Card (Dayne)
- Aljamain Sterling is a good dude. And yet, he appears to be the most hated man in MMA after securing his upset over former champion, Petr Yan, via split decision. While Sterling executed a highly intelligent strategy of control to take rounds two and three definitively, Yan didn’t appear to be himself. The Russian appeared to be fighting emotional rather than the stone cold assassin he has been in the past. Sterling capitalized on the emotion to score takedowns and avoid the heaviest of shots from Yan. It boiled down to how the judges saw the opening round as Sterling touched up Yan with a variety of kicks and jabs while Yan landed the bigger shots. After the controversial decision was announced, Sterling told his haters where to stick it and called out TJ Dillashaw as the next challenger for his bantamweight championship. As for Yan, he expressed his displeasure with the decision in his post-fight interview. His demeanor indicated this rivalry is not yet over.
- We now know that Khamzat Chimaev is human. Not that he didn’t win. He did. Hell, his stock went up too. But Gilbert Burns gave Chimaev the first real challenge of his career, coming thisclose to upending the apple cart. Chimaev burst out of the gate with his usual energy, only for Burns to largely resist his takedowns. Chimaev settled down some and went to the striking, jumping to a noticeable lead. Burns rebounded in the second round, hurting Chimaev late in the round, perhaps even finishing him if he had just a bit more time. Burns appeared to suffer an adrenaline dump in the early stages of the third, allowing Chimaev to score jabs and straight punches early. Burns nearly stole the round with a series of overhands that found a home, but it was too little, too late for Burns in the eyes of the judges. In the end, both walked away with mad respect from everyone as their fight became an instant classic. He may not have walked through Burns the way he did his other opponents, but it feels safe to assume we’ll see Chimaev fighting Kamaru Usman soon.
- Mackenzie Dern walked out of the event with a split decision win over Tecia Torres, but only by the narrowest of margins. The fight boiled down to a razor thin round one in which Torres landed more strikes, but Dern landed several hard shots that Torres clearly felt. The second round was dominated by Dern with her world-class BJJ and Torres woke up just in time to take the third, spurred by a perfectly timed upkick to the shoulder of Dern. The win gets Dern back on the winning track, allowing her to call for a top five opponent. The loss snapped a three-fight win streak for Torres, but the competitive nature shouldn’t hurt her standing in the least.
- If you didn’t know Mark Madsen was an Olympian, he’ll be sure to tell you. It took a while for him to remember to show that off against Vinc Pichel, but once he pulled it out of his bag of tricks, there was no doubt about who took the decision. The reason Madsen took his time getting to his wrestling was due to the success he found with low kicks early. Madsen’s gas tank began to empty, Pichel turned up the volume which is when Madsen looked to ground Pichel. The strategy worked well enough to keep Madsen’s record unblemished.
- Ian Garry remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over Darian Weeks in the featured prelim. The former Cage Warriors welterweight champion certainly didn’t scintillate like he did against Jordan Williams in his UFC debut, but he showed good takedown defense and finally found his rhythm in the final round. Weeks just was so low output that his successful moments were few and far between and he really never got past second gear.
- Anthony ‘Fluffy’ Hernandez had been out of action since his stunning win over Rodolfo Vieira over a year ago, but he made up for lost time with a very exciting, high energy, nonstop action decision over a game Josh Fremd, who acquitted himself quite well in his first UFC appearance. We saw some heavy strikes exchanged but Hernandez’s ridiculous pace and pursuit of takedowns and chokes really tested Fremd, and he avoided getting finished and even had a fightback of his own in round two. Eventually Fremd did get worn down and the final round was sealed by Hernandez to secure the W. Anthony could seemingly fight for hours and not be spent! What a great battle this was and I’m looking forward to seeing Fremd with a full camp and proper time to prepare for his next bout.
- Raquel Pennington stepped up on short notice and handed Aspen Ladd another loss in what was a pretty fun scrap. ‘Rocky’ had the greater volume and the far greater accuracy on the feet, but Ladd did have her moments. It was curious that Ladd opted to fight out of southpaw and kickbox for two rounds before finally going to her wrestling when it was too late. Pennington got the 29-28 nod across the board and called out fellow one-time women’s bantamweight title challenger Sara McMann for a #1 contender fight.
- Team Alpha Male coach Mike Malott faceplanted Mickey Gall with a wicked counter left hook to cap off an exciting three minutes and change worth of fighting. It’s the first losing streak of Gall’s career and it’s a dream UFC debut for Malott, who announced to the crowd that he’s donating his entire show purse to Team Alpha Male boxing coach Joey Rodriguez, whose 15-year-old daughter is battling stage 3 lymphoma. The link to donate to the GoFundMe can be found here.
- You do not want to grapple with Aleksei Oleinik. Jared Vanderaa got baited into it and paid the price. He thought he could submit Oleinik after he took his back, but he lost the position, gave up his back, and if it ain’t the Ezekiel choke it’s the scarf hold that does it for the 44-year-old. Oleinik gets his 60th pro win and does it in some style.
- Piera Rodriguez overcame a slow start to eventually outwrestle Kay Hansen and take a unanimous decision in her UFC debut. It wasn’t a particularly entertaining contest but Rodriguez did well to take those last two rounds and perhaps send Hansen out of the promotion on her third consecutive loss.
- Julio Arce put on a fantastic display of calm counterstriking and effective footwork in the face of the pressure and wild offensive style of UFC newcomer Daniel Santos. Arce soundly outstruck Santos, who struggled to hit Julio cleanly and found himself getting jabbed up and in round one he was wobbled by a head kick. A good win for Arce, although the one negative for him was missing the bantamweight limit.