The first UFC PPV event of the year had a hitch or two, but it was overall a success. Two new champions were crowned, making it an eventful evening. Unfortunately for the Brazilian crowd, one of their countrymen, Deiveson Figueiredo, dropped his belt in the process of concluding his quadrilogy with Brandon Moreno. The other Brazilian fighting for gold, Glover Teixeira, endured a hell of a beating at the hands of Jamahal Hill, coming up short in his bid to regain the light heavyweight strap. Teixeira retired after the contest, making him the second legendary light heavyweight figure to retire on the night, following Mauricio Rua, better known as Shogun Rua, out the door.
Those were the biggest happenings at UFC 283, and there’s sure to be plenty of articles coming out about those over the next several days. However, there were several other happenings from the event that occurred that deserve a level of attention. We’ll touch on those with my Unofficial Awards....
Biggest Jump in Stock: Given I reserve this spot for combatants who’ve previously made appearances in the organization, the most obvious choice will have to settle for Best Newcomer. In fact, it eliminates probably the top three candidates, at the very least. Regardless, while it wasn’t a shock Hill won the light heavyweight title, the manner in which he did so indicates he could hold that belt for a long time. Using a simplistic approach of basic strikes, Hill managed to overwhelm Teixeira. Given Teixeira’s loss of speed over the years, that wasn’t the biggest shock. No, that would be the effectiveness in which Hill managed to stay on his feet. Sure, he wasn’t perfect in that endeavor, but Teixeira didn’t have many chances to work from the mat, where he had his biggest advantage. Hill got a late start in the sport, meaning it’s conceivable – even likely – we haven’t seen the best version of himself going forward. I wouldn’t go so far as to predict a Jon Jones-like reign, but it would be impressive if he could even approach half that.
Biggest Fall in Stock: It’s tempting to put Gregory Rodrigues here, but I think he just got caught. Paul Craig was another one who crossed my mind, but I don’t think anyone was really surprised by the ultimate outcome. Thus, the logical pick in my mind is Figueiredo. The Brazilian didn’t have the same level of energy in his previous contests with Moreno. Given Figueiredo slowed significantly in the first two contests, that’s saying something. Figueiredo did maintain his power and opportunistic nature, allowing him to threaten with a couple of submissions. Otherwise, he was flat. Thus, while their quadrilogy will always be remembered fondly on the whole, it can’t be denied that it ended on a less than fulfilling note.
Best Newcomer: If you watched the card, you already know who is sitting in this spot. Ismael Bonfim not only delivered an emphatic win, he did it against an opponent many think is going to be a future contender. Bonfim delivered an early contender for KOoTY when he delivered a flying knee to Terrance McKinney. Paul Felder called it one of the most impressive debuts he’s ever seen. I can’t help but agree. Look for the UFC to get a big push going behind Bonfim, especially if they make a point of trying to get back to Brazil multiple times this year. It should be noted his brother, Gabriel Bonfim, secured a win in less than a minute in his own debut. I wouldn’t want to call them the next version of the Nogueira brothers yet, but they got off to the right start if they want to achieve those lofty heights.
Saved Their Job(s): I’m not convinced the UFC was sold on Ihor Potieria. I am convinced they were doing everything in their power to give Shogun a win on his way out the door. If they thought that little of Potieria, I have little doubt they would have been willing to cut him loose had he come up short against the retiring legend. Fortunately for Potieria, he clipped Shogun towards the end of the opening round. Capitalizing when he saw Shogun on skates, Potieira showed the UFC might want to give the youngster a bit more time to develop. He doesn’t look like a future contender, but he does look like he has the skills to develop into a mainstay.
Start Typing a Resume: I don’t see how the UFC can squeeze any more credibility out of Shamil Abdurakhimov. The Russian heavyweight hasn’t won a fight since 2019, owning one of the most bogus rankings heading into the event. I think there are still fights the 41-year-old can win, but he doesn’t have the same weight to his name that Andrei Arlovski has and Arlovski is already fulfilling the role of gatekeeping veteran. Maybe Abdurakhimov has some of that Sam Alvey magic up his sleeve....
I’m not as sure that Warlley Alves will be handed his walking papers as I am about some of the others, but Alves has now dropped three of his last four. Granted, he isn’t losing the dredges of the division, but I don’t think anyone will disagree that he’s underperforming given his talents. Now 32 years old and creeping up on his nine year anniversary on the roster, it feels safe to say Alves is what he is... and he’s undoubtedly disappointing.
The only thing that has kept Zarah Fairn on the UFC roster was that she was a legit featherweight. Thus, she’s been brought out of the cobwebs every now and then to give the UFC’s next target to fight Amanda Nunes for the featherweight title a W to add legitimacy. That’s a terrible thing for me to say, given it makes Fairn look like a bum. But she’s 39 and this was just the 11th MMA fight of her career. She doesn’t have a long term future. To be fair to Fairn, she did put on the best showing of her career. That said, it wasn’t enough and Fairn now drops to 0-3 in the UFC.
Fight IQ appears to be the biggest issue for Saimon Oliveira. The Brazilian dropped his UFC debut due to him spamming guillotines when he should have been focusing on staying on his feet. In his sophomore effort, Oliveira was spamming spinning back fists, exhausting himself in a hurry. If Oliveira looked like he had a high ceiling, I could see the UFC giving him one more opportunity. At 31 in a division with no shortage of young talent, he looks like he’ll be out the door.
Biggest WOW Moment: Given it was the first official contender for KOoTY, was there any doubt Bonfim’s flying knee wasn’t going to be picked? What made it even more startling as it was watched live is seeing McKinney’s mouthpiece fly out shortly before the knee landed. There were serious concerns some long-term damage done to him. Fortunately, McKinney turned out to be fine, replays showing the knee didn’t land clean on the jaw. Regardless of where it exactly landed, it landed clean enough that McKinney went out like a light.
Beatdown of the Night: Hill made a hell of a run to take this spot. However, anyone who had been watching all night knew, he probably needed to come within an inch of Teixeira’s life to take this spot from Jessica Andrade. It wasn’t the first time Andrade had delivered that type of beating, but I believe it can be agreed that none of them had been at the same level in which she delivered on Lauren Murphy. Murphy’s face was swollen beyond recognition by the end of their three round affair. If Murphy hadn’t been so damned tough, the beating wouldn’t have been so prolonged. Despite that, victim blaming isn’t the right approach to take. However, it isn’t right to blame Andrade either. Her job was to inflict damage until the fight was stopped. The fight wasn’t stopped, so she continued to lay the punishment on nice and thick. Thus, there’s been plenty of criticism launched in the direction of Murphy’s corner and referee Osiris Maia. It makes some sense when these type of things happen on the lower levels of the sport; not everyone involved has the highest level of experience at that level. However, at the highest levels of the sport, it’s hard to believe this type of stuff still happens. Here’s hoping we can stop talking about these incidents sooner rather than later.
Theme of the Night: On a night that saw two new champions crowned, that wasn’t the thing that stuck in my head walking away from the event. Instead, it was impressive crop of talent that made their debuts. The Bonfim brothers are the obvious standouts, but Ferreira and Daniel Marcos also turned in performances that would have garnered a lot more attention had they done so on different cards. Luan Lacerda and Melquizael Costa came up short in their debuts, but they also did so against established talents who once populated the rankings of their respective divisions. I’m not saying they’re future stars, but they showed enough to have me thinking they should stick around for a while. This could be one of the best crops of talent to debut on a single event in the modern era.
Most Reclaimed Glory: There was talk about Johnny Walker being on the chopping block following his fourth loss in five contests early in 2022. Despite his prodigious physical talents remaining at or near their peak, his porous fight IQ cost him time after time. In his last two contests, Walker appears to have settled down and put things together. Against Ion Cutelaba, he took the Moldovan brute to the mat and subbed him. This time around, he waited for Paul Craig to make his move and reacted accordingly, pillaring the lanky Scot on one leg as Craig looked to left him up with a single leg. Walker had the power to hurt Craig in the process, likely launching Walker back into the top ten of the rankings. No one should be talking about Walker as a title contender yet, but he is making the appropriate steps to get back into that conversation.
Most Unlucky Matchup: Here’s hoping Terrance McKinney keeps his head up. With his three first round finishes in his first four UFC contests, many had him labeled as a future star. Unfortunately for him, he was unlucky enough to be pit against one of the most exciting debutants in recent memory in Ismael Bonfim. Unless a fighter is jumping ship from Bellator or PFL, there is going to be minimal hype around them when they make their UFC debut, not in this day and age. Perhaps no hype. McKinney shouldn’t have lost any credibility in the loss given Bonfim’s talent, but McKinney appeared to get assaulted pretty heavily by fans on social media. Before people want to jump down MMA fans in particular, it should be noted all sports fans have a tendency to be harsh against those whom they’ve attached their wagons to. Ask most of the starting NFL quarterbacks. The key thing to remember is the term fan is short for fanatic. The opinions of fanatics should be taken with a grain of salt, especially when they feel they’ve been burnt. McKinney has plenty of big moments ahead of him in his career. So does Bonfim for that matter....
Funkiest Visual: While no one will deny the UFC’s women’s featherweight division is a joke, it did provide a fun contest between Josiane Nunes and Zarah Fairn. Even if she competed at strawweight, Nunes would be short in that division, coming in at 5’2”. On the other side, Fairn clocked in at 5’8”, one of the tellest women on the roster. The visual was only more pronounced with their stances, Nunes fighting with a hunch and Fairn maintaining a tall stance. Though it featured a lot of slop, it was a fun fight to watch, Nunes ultimately coming out ahead.
Bonus Numbers: Teixeira entered the event with the most Performance Bonuses under his belt of anyone on the card, adding his tenth to his ledger when he took home FOTN with Hill. Hill took home his fourth, a hell of an accomplishment given it was just his eighth UFC appearance. To the surprise of no one, Ismael Bonfim took home one of the Performance bonuses – obviously his first given it was his debut – with Jailton Almeida pocketing his second. The longest drought belongs to Shamil Abdurakhimov, the Russian never having won a Bonus in 11 fights since debuting in the UFC in April 2015. Lauren Murphy has also gone her last 11 appearances without a Bonus, but she does have one, winning it in February 2016.