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UFC 218 and TUF 26 Finale Winners and Losers

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Tim B. takes a look at the best and worst from the weekend’s two UFC events.

The first two UFC events in December were quite a contrast. The first was a throwaway TUF show attempting to prop itself up with a title fight that felt nothing like a title fight. The second was a super-deep card that got zero casual love but absolutely delivered in every way possible.

So, I’m here to point out the biggest winners and losers from these two cards. I haven’t written one of these in a while, so I may be a little bit rusty. At least I have a lot of good material to work with.

Winners

Max Holloway – It’s a little early to call him the greatest 145er of all time. Sure, he just beat the GOAT twice. But even he thinks he needs to rack up more title defenses first. Still though, he fought a great fight and took Aldo out in almost identical fashion to their first go-round – let him gas out, turn up the gas, and overwhelm. Can he do that to Frankie Edgar? I hope we find out soon.

Nicco Montano – She is a UFC champion, and a great story. That belt comes with a lot of accolades, and she took out a bunch of great fighters to win it. Much respect. At the same time though, can you imagine her in there with a Valentina Shevchenko? Or Joanna Jedrzejczyk? It’s one thing to win a reality show tournament. It’s another to face down some scary, scary ladies in an attempt to hold onto that crown. I hope she can hold her own.

Francis Ngannou – Wow. The UFC tried to sell this fight as Ngannou’s first real test on the road to gold, and he sure as hell passed the test. He threw that left hook/uppercut from around his knees, and literally lifted a 247-pound man off his feet and into unconsciousness immediately. Say what you want about Overeem’s chin, but that was undeniably scary and awesome. Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou should sell a whole lot of PPVs.

Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje – Wow again. Just wow. Alvarez showed the heart we all knew he possessed, but he also showed off a chin that we haven’t always seen. He didn’t even get dropped! He always gets dropped! And then The Underground King cracked a jaw many thought was unbreakable. The reason I included Gaethje in here is because the loss will barely hurt him. Sure – first pro defeat. But you know what you’re gonna get from a Justin Gaethje fight – a god damn war – and that makes him an extremely valuable commodity to the UFC. Just think of the matchmaking opportunities for both men. They both upped their stock.

Yancy Medeiros and Alex Oliveira – This is similar to the last entry, on a slightly less relevant scale. How great was this fight? Excuse my language, but these two beat the absolute dogshit out of each other. I’m not sure how either man survived portions of the first two stanzas. The first round reminded me of an old WEC fight between Donald Cerrone and Razor Rob McCullough, a bout not many remember but was absolutely epic, especially early. The second round was a little slower, but ended with a thud as Medeiros landed elbows that made me flinch. Somehow Cowboy survived those, but seemed to actually suffer an injury earlyish in the third. Medeiros won the bout, but that was a top-two or top-three fight of the year, and both men had their values raised from the battle.

Brett Johns – You may have missed the TUF Finale, but you need to go find video of the second calf slicer finish in UFC history. And it came outta nowhere, in the first minute of the fight, against a noted grappler known for leg locks. Incredibly impressive.

Roxanne Modafferi – Sometimes the best people get opportunities, and Roxy is the best kind of people. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t take the title home. She’s an inspiration to everyone that ever suffered a setback or two and persevered, and that made the TUF Finale just a little bit more fun. Nicco won, but Roxy did too. We’ll never stop being fans, Roxy.

Losers

Jose Aldo – He put forth a great effort, and I had him up two rounds. Just like the first fight. But history repeats itself, and Holloway’s strategy ate him up again. He’s lost two title fights to Holloway now, and unless Frankie Edgar somehow takes the title off Holloway and Max doesn’t get a rematch, Aldo is effectively out of the title picture for years. He’s still young, but he’s old in fight years and might be best served by a move to 155 at this rate. Even though Conor’s there.

Alistair Overeem – This was the 11th time he’s been stopped via strikes in his career, and this might have been the most violent instance. He entered the fight as the number one contender, and left as sort of an afterthought. Where does he go from here?

Sergio Pettis – Any path he has going to a title shot will go through guys like Henry Cejudo or Joseph Benavidez. He got his shot at one and was thoroughly rebuffed. Honestly, I can’t see him beating either guy based on where he’s at now in his career, so where does that leave him? On the outside looking in, I guess.

Andrew Sanchez – I really hope it was an injury that caused him to gas as bad as he did against Ryan Janes. Because he had his fight well in hand, and then just ran out of everything. The rest of the fight was ugly, and he really took a step back with a bad loss there.

Drakkar Klose – I don’t fight professionally. I can’t relate 100%. But I thought Klose fought about the worst fight humanly possible against David Teymur. He actually got the referee to buy into his BS for a minute (I’ll get to that next), but being a baby in regards to a guy fighting a smart fight isn’t going to get you anywhere in general. Oddly, counterfighting is still a fully valid concept in MMA, and throwing up your hands in frustration when you’re actually losing rounds to the counterfighter makes you look ridiculous. Teymur fought brilliantly for all three rounds, two of which Klose basically took off because he was too busy with theatrics. When he did try to attack, it was awkward and ineffective because Teymur has been a striker his entire life and he made Klose look amateurish. Teymur is the real thing. Klose needs to reassess what he’s all about.

Herb Dean – I don’t know enough about refereeing to conclude that they peak like fighters, then fall off after a while. But nothing Dean has done lately has led me to believe that he’s still one of the top two or three referees in the sport anymore. First off, he completely screwed up the finish to the Fight Pass bout between Abdul Razak Alhassan and Sabah Homasi. Maybe it was an angle thing, I don’t know. But Homasi seemed pretty good to go despite getting dropped when Dean stepped in to stop the bout. Even Alhassan admitted that he was kind of surprised that it was brought to a close. Then things got stranger when he gave David Teymur a warning for timidity in the first round of his bout with Drakkar Klose. Teymur, a guy that was doing a great job counterfighting and was actually winning the round at that point, got scolded for “taking too many steps back”. Um, that’s called counterfighting. He didn’t get hit, circled, and clubbed his opponent with some solid shots. He was absolutely fighting, and fighting well. But because Klose threw up his arms in frustration, somehow Dean saw fit to threaten to take a point from Teymur for…something. It made absolutely no sense. Luckily, Teymur wasn’t totally thrown off by it and cruised to a victory. But Dean made a terrible impression with his work in Detroit last night.


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