We can’t deny that Charles Oliveira’s career has taken several twists and turns. His missing weight and losing the lightweight title is one of those curious turns. However you want to interpret that, it can’t be denied Oliveira is at another level inside the cage. The former lightweight champion ate several hard shots from Justin Gaethje, getting cut open just minutes into the fight, potentially leaving his vision compromised from blood running into his eye. Oliveira didn’t back down. He knocked Gaethje flat on his back when it looked like Gaethje was poised to take control. As Gaethje tried to scramble back his feet, Oliveira found his back — only after he couldn’t get the armbar — and forced the former WSOF champion to tap.
Oliveira may not be the champion any more, but no one will deny that he’s the best lightweight in the world. In each of his last three fights, Oliveira has faced down adversity and come back to be the victor. He’s almost assuredly going to face Islam Makhachev next, the protege of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Many have already anointed Makhachev as the next champion, but Oliveira has been counted out several times already. Pick against him at your own risk....
Gaethje is unlikely to get another title shot any time soon given how crowded it is at the top of the lightweight division. Plus, Gaethje has acknowledged himself his fighting style leads to a short shelf life. He should still get plenty of high profile fights — perhaps a rematch with Dustin Poirier could be in the cards — but several wins would be needed to get another title fight.
As for the rest of the card....
- There isn’t anything else Rose Namajunas could have done to damage her legacy more than what she did against Carla Esparza. For whatever reason, Namajunas was reluctant to engage with Esparza, resulting in the two of them staring at one another for most of the contest. Esparza landed a couple of takedowns in rounds three and four, which was likely what gave her the edge in the fight. Congratulations to Esparza for regaining her title seven years after she lost it — 2612 days after she lost it, more than doubling the previous record — but it was also won in one of the worst fights in MMA history. She won’t be receiving much celebration for her accomplishment, no matter how impressive it was. At least Esparza’s face will be in good shape for her wedding....
- Tony Ferguson looked like he still had it in him to compete with the best. The former interim champion arguably won the first round with Michael Chandler – at the very least, it was competitive – but had his lights turned out in epic fashion when Chandler landed a front kick underneath the chin. Ferguson had never had his lights turned out in his career before, making the moment that much more surreal. The win returns Chandler to prominence amongst the lightweight elite. It probably won’t get him a title shot – Makhachev is getting that – but Conor McGregor? I wouldn’t discount that. Ferguson appears to be done. Even though he looked like he still had it before the KO, how does the KO affect his mentality?
- The less said about Shogun Rua and Ovince Saint Preux’s fight, the better. The over-the-hill legend was reluctant to traverse the length of Saint Preux. It allowed Saint Preux to pick him apart with a barrage of kicks and the occasional straight punch. It’s possible the UFC could have cut Saint Preux with a loss, but he’ll stay on the roster. The question is whether he stays at 205. With Shogun, we’d all love to see him retire, but it isn’t our call.
- With all due respect to Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone, but Randy Brown and Khaos Williams were more deserving — in the present — of the spot on the main card they took when Cerrone was forced out due to illness. Brown and Williams put on a hell of a banger in which there was no shortage of action. Brown was the more consistent fighter, scoring consistently with his jab and short combinations. Williams came thisclose to securing the win on several occasions, most notably in the first round when he knocked Brown to the mat. Brown survived that moment – and several other moments when Williams clipped him – to outpoint the KO artist.
- Someday, Francisco Trinaldo is going to really begin feeling the effects of Father Time. That day isn’t today. The 43-year-old Brazilian didn’t have an easy time against Danny Roberts by any means, but there was no doubt at the end of their highly entertaining contest. Both rocked one another on more than occasion, but it was clear Trinaldo was in the catbird seat from beginning to end. In a night full of awesome bangers, this was one of the better ones.
- It wasn’t a fun fight to watch, but it does need to be said Macy Chiasson fought an intelligent contest to secure a win over Norma Dumont. Launching kicks and punches at greater volume than Dumont early on, then bullying Dumont in the second. Dumont’s late surge came too little, too late. The win muddles up the shallow women’s featherweight picture as a win for Dumont would likely have secured a title shot for her. Instead, Chiasson, who walked into the fight off a loss to Raquel Pennington, is now the number one contender...?
- Everyone was a winner when it came to the 2 minutes and 14 seconds Matt Schnell and Brandon Royval engaged in their fight. The two of them didn’t waste a second, Schnell bursting out of the gate with an immediate attack. Schnell maintained the attack for most of the fight, coming close to sinking in an anaconda choke. Royval slipped it and found a one armed guillotine that Schnell was forced to tap to. Royval demanded a title shot after the win. While that isn’t happening – not without a bit more work – he continues to establish himself as one of the most exciting fighters on the roster.
- There’s a reason seasoned MMA fans tend to groan when they see several heavyweight contests on a card. Blagoy Ivanov and Marcos Rogerio de Lima exemplified why. The two plodding big men spent long periods of time clinched against the fence doing little, fatigue setting in big time in the second round. Ivanov proved to be the busier of the two, taking a unanimous and forgettable decision.
- It may not be a record, but two first round KO’s in the span of three weeks is impressive. Andre Fialho achieved that when he blasted Cameron VanCamp about midway through the first round of their contest. VanCamp put a scare into Fialho about a minute earlier, but the Portuguese fighter recovered to deliver a thudding left hand that immediately dropped the newcomer.
- Further proof that flyweight is the deepest of the women’s divisions, unranked prospects Tracy Cortez and Melissa Gatto put on a hell of a back-and-forth contest. Gatto continually attacked with submissions while Cortez worked to avoid them and spend large chunks of time in the top position. Cortez’s control proved to be superior, walking out with a unanimous decision. Look for her to fight a ranked opponent in her next fight.
- I know the flyweight division isn’t going anywhere, but flyweight never die. Despite being a heavy underdog and falling behind after a rough opening round, CJ Vergara kept up the pressure and turned the tide on Kleydson Rodrigues to open the second round. The third round was razor thin, but enough of the judges preferred what they saw from Vergara in a hell of a banger early in the night.
- It doesn’t matter how bricked up you are if you can’t stop a takedown. Ariane Carnelossi is a perfect example of that. Despite possessing the most muscular frame at 115, she couldn’t slow the ground attack of Lupita Godinez in the least, resulting in one of the most one-sided drubbings in recent memory from the smaller Godinez.
- It took a bit for Journey Newson to get going, but he showed off his diverse skill set once he did. Whether it was takedowns, his boxing, or flipping kicks in the face of Fernie Garcia, he found enough success in each of those areas to eventually overwhelm the one-dimensional boxing of Garcia, officially giving Newson his first UFC win in the process.