Perhaps the deepest fight card this year for the UFC with plenty of thrilling bouts took place this weekend. Here’s what happened and what might be next. Results disclosed.
Let’s start at the end. That’s the fight we were all surely waiting for. Two of the world’s most prominent grapplers. Two styles. Two stories of overcoming adversity and poverty. It couldn’t have been more poetic, and the excitement was evident. I thought commentators and fans were counting out the reigning and defending Lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira, favouring his opponent Islam Makhachev. Oliveira is a dominant champion and his resumé speaks for itself. But the pressure that the Dagestanis bring is just on another level. I know many disagree with me on this because I find the Khabib/Islam style boring, yet I am the first to acknowledge it is effective. But we all know exactly the approach Khabib/Islam will take. Shoot for the take-down, pile on the pressure (preferably by the cage), control the opponent, get the neck and crank or squeeze like an anaconda. It works every time.
The hope, for some, was that Oliveira’s grappling would be an effective counter but as we saw, even the veteran grappler was submitted within two rounds. Strikers, grapplers, and everything in between – nobody has quite cracked the code with the Dagestanis. Sure, Islam has a loss by KO, but he was young and his record is still superb. His loss against Adriano Martins will sting especially as his mentor Khabib is undefeated. But he is on the path to becoming another dominant Dagestani Lightweight champion. Volkanovski might be next. McGregor has called him out. Perhaps Tony Ferguson really can solve the puzzle and deliver a Dagestani vs. Whatever we call Ferguson’s style fight. I respect the Dagestani style, but I will applaud whoever manages to dismantle it. It may take a while.
Sterling vs Dillashaw was also a huge draw for fans I’m told, although frankly I took a break at the time and watched it only later. Sterling has been controversial after his first win against Petr Yan due to the latter being disqualified. Yet, I think he has since shown himself to be a deserving champion, and his defeat of Dillashaw further strengthens his claim. Yan fought O’Malley, with the “Sugar Show” winning by a controversial split decision. Many question the judges, including Khabib who scored all rounds in favour of Yan. Yan vs Sterling 3 might be out of the question for now, while Sterling vs O’Malley is looking increasingly likely. Unless Chito Vera gets a foot in first. Or Cejudo. Many interesting fights can be made in the division. At least Dillashaw might be counted out for a while now.
BELAL MUHAMMED AND BENEIL DARIUSH
Two exceedingly interesting fights featured the grudge match between Belal Muhammed vs Sean Brady and Beneil Dariush vs Mateusz Gamrot. The first was a risky move for the higher-ranked Belal who took on a lower-ranked fighter. He was called out and took the fight. He deserves respect for that. I favoured Brady looking at them stepping into the octagon and even through the first round. Belal adjusted, timed his strikes, and TKO’d Brady. Similarly, Darius fought a lower-ranked opponent in the Polish fighter Gamrot. The first round showcased some fun grappling, which is sometimes neglected as a vital part of MMA. This weekend’s event brought grappling to the forefront again. After three rounds, Dariush was unanimously declared the winner, after displaying heart, skill, and true gamesmanship.
What’s next for Belal and Dariush? Belal has called out Khamza, but he seems likely to face Colby in the UK next year. Perhaps Gilbert Burns who is currently just ahead of him in the rankings? As for Darius, some speak of him as a potential contender meaning he could face Islam. I still think it is early, although he has worked his way up the rankings. Perhaps Gaethje? Or the winner of Chandler vs. Poirier?
Sadly, Swedish Lina Länsberg was defeated by Karol Rosa by a majority decision this weekend, meaning she is on a three-fight losing streak. She is still one of the best Swedish women’s fighters and has plenty of possible opponents, perhaps Miesha Tate if she stays in the pool. Chookagian, the number 1 ranked Flyweight lost to Manon Fiorot who claimed one place in the rankings following her win. Had Chookagian won she might’ve been in a position to ask for the much sought-after rematch with Shevchenko. It will have to wait, while Fiorot acknowledged she too has some time ahead of her before she can call out the champion. Alexa Grasso would be a good fight seeing as they both come out of recent wins. But with such a dominant champion in the division, it is hard to see who could convincingly challenge her for the title.
Photo Credit: Craig Kidwell-USA TODAY Sports.Lyssna på det senaste avsnittet av Fighterpodden!