UFC Calgary felt like an overwhelming success, particularly when compared to the UFC Hamburg card from the previous week. There were a few barn-burners; some resulting in violent finishes, some going the distance. Outside of those great fights, there were some impressive finishes. There were a few meh fights, but none that were absolutely atrocious. Former long-reigning champions got back on track.
One of those barn-burners was the main event where Dustin Poirier officially launched himself into title contention with a decisive – even if somewhat controversial – victory over Eddie Alvarez. Expectations for this card may not have been exceeded, but they were certainly met.
Dustin Poirier: Who would have guessed Poirier would have fought his way into title contention when he made his way into the lightweight division? And yet, here he sits with wins over Alvarez and Anthony Pettis, two former UFC champions. His win over Justin Gaethje – a former WSOF champion – has to count for something. It can’t be argued whether he’s amongst the lightweight elite. He absolutely is. That doesn’t mean he’s getting a title shot next – remember, Conor McGregor’s legal issues are out of the way – but he may be able to sit on the sidelines and wait until he gets next. Things are looking good for the Cajun.
Jose Aldo and Jeremy Stephens: There are a lot of fights that have gone 25 minutes that could pack as much action in as these two did in under five minutes. Stephens appeared to have the former featherweight kingpin on the ropes before the all-time great came roaring back on the strength of left hook to the body of Stephens. Stephens couldn’t hide the pain and Aldo swarmed before getting the stoppage. I’ll admit it wasn’t Nick Diaz-Paul Daley, but it reminded us not just how good Aldo is, but just how much fun Stephens is.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk: I’ll admit Joanna didn’t look like vintage Joanna. However, given she allowed Torres to dictate where the fight took place – mostly in the clinch – and still comfortably won every round, I’d say Joanna had a pretty damn good night. Nobody is anxious to see Joanna get another title shot yet, but she’s back to her winning ways.
Alexander Hernandez: Very few were sold on Hernandez following his upset victory over Beneil Dariush. Sure, KOing Dariush in 45 seconds is impressive, but it had a bit of a fluky feel to it. Talks of it being a fluke can now be squashed. Hernandez beat Olivier Aubin-Mercier on the strength of his wrestling. Other fighters have beat Aubin-Mercier, but not in a wrestling heavy contest. Hernandez may be the next big thing at lightweight. Keep an eye on the youngster….
Hakeem Dawodu: Some may disagree with his place here as his contest with Austin Arnett wasn’t a barnburner. It could be said it did nothing to contribute to his reputation as an exciting heavy hitter. However, Dawodu recovered from his first loss with a measured performance while displaying some real maturity and growth. As he gets more comfortable with this level of competition, the highlight reel KO’s will return.
Islam Makhachev: The Russian didn’t win how we all expected him… but that only made the win all that more impressive. Known more for his physicality – and Makhachev utilized it to get the fight to the ground – Makhachev revealed his grappling chops when he made an adjustment to submit Kajan Johnson. It’s about time Makhachev secures a ranked opponent….
Ion Cutelaba: For all of the flaws of Cutelaba, the dude understands promotion – coming out in Bret Hart glasses and music in Calgary – and calling out Daniel Cormier in a fun manner. It isn’t happening, but he’s marketing himself. Oh yeah, he overcame a dangerous surge from Gadzhimurad Antigulov early before brutalizing the Russian with knees and punches in the clinch. Nice return from suspension.
John Makdessi and Ross Pearson: These two have been receiving loads of flack for being well past their prime. They demonstrated exactly why they are still on the roster, fighting at a blistering pace with nearly 600 combined strikes between them. That’s a solid pace for a five-round fight. This was three rounds. Credit goes to both for putting on a show.
Dustin Ortiz: Ortiz has been in the UFC since 2013, fighting many top names along the way. This is the first time he put together three wins in the organization, two of them first round finishes. Keep in mind, finishes at flyweight are rare. Ortiz shouldn’t be getting a title shot based on that, but he’s closer than he’s ever been before. Keep in mind, Ortiz has yet to turn 30.
Nina Ansaroff: It was a close contest and Ansaroff wore it on her face far more than Randa Markos did, but Ansaroff walked out the victor thanks to an aggressive kicking game. Sure, it was far from flawless. Ansaroff still deserves credit for stringing together three wins in a row, proving she’s more than just Mrs. Amanda Nunes. I may not have liked her lack of a callout, but she is correct in saying she deserves a top ten opponent.
Devin Powell: Whether I believe Powell belongs in the UFC is irrelevant. He had his back against the wall and responded with the performance he needed to remain employed, blasting Alvaro Herrera with a brutal kick to the body to secure an early finish.
Calgary: While this card wasn’t epic, it was certainly very good and far better than the last time the UFC touched down in Calgary for UFC 149. Calgary fans deserved better this time around and they got it. Good on the UFC.
WEC: It has been nearly eight years since the WEC was folded into the UFC. There aren’t many WEC fighters still kicking. Nonetheless, Aldo and Poirier – two of the few remaining holdovers – embodied the WEC NEVER DIE spirit. For those of us with fond memories of the smaller blue cage, this was a hell of a night.
Eddie Alvarez: An illegal knee cost Alvarez a potential victory in his initial contest with Poirier. This time around, an illegal elbow may very well have cost him a victory too. Given the nature of his losses, Alvarez doesn’t appear to be in decline. However, given the logjam at the top of the division, it seems unlikely he’ll be able to work his way into a title shot before his inevitable decline kicks in. Here’s hoping it doesn’t mean it’s the last of the vintage Alvarez performances.
Tecia Torres: What the hell was Torres thinking? More than half the contest was spent in the clinch… an area where Jedrzejczyk excels. I get she was trying to take the fight to the ground, but when it clearly wasn’t going to happen, maybe change things up? Torres looks like she’s forever going to be knocking on the door for a title shot without ever getting it.
Austin Arnett: Outside of short window in the second round when Arnett found a home for his right hand, he did nothing. I know most fighters get three opportunities before the UFC cuts them loose, but they’d be doing Arnett a favor by cutting him loose right now. He doesn’t look like the same fighter he was before getting his crack at the UFC. He needs a confidence boost in the worst way.
Kajan Johnson: Probably the biggest loser of the night as everyone expects Johnson to be cut… if he isn’t already cut. Not because he doesn’t deserve to be in the UFC. No, it’s because of his efforts to get the fighters to unionize. Remember how the UFC handled Leslie Smith? I’m hoping Project Spearhead can be successful. The UFC would rather see it fall on its face.
Gadzhimurad Antigulov: I don’t want to rip on the guy too much as he laid it all on the line, but Antigulov was destined to lose when he couldn’t get the submission in the first two minutes. It also ends any possibility of him making a run up the division. It may have been unlikely in the first place, but there was always that possibility if he could keep winning.
Matheus Nicolau: It’s hard to fault Nicolau. He completely blocked the head kick Ortiz landed on him. It just had too much behind it for the Brazilian to remain vertical, erasing the zero Nicolau had in the loss column. Nicolau has plenty of time to work his way to the top, but no doubt this loss is incredibly frustrating.
Alvaro Herrera: Though I’m sure most readers don’t even know who Herrera is – nor do they care – the dude had a bad night, getting finished for the third time in a row. Herrera never looked like he was long for the world of the UFC. It looks like his time is up.
Jordan Mein: A perfect example of why you keep your trash talk limited. Mein talked about an early finish against Alex Morono before securing a largely non-descript victory. Remember the talk of Mein being a dangerous slugger a few years ago? I don’t know what happened to his power, but it hasn’t been seen in years. Mein may be a solid gatekeeper at this point, but you can’t apply the moniker of action-fighter any longer.
Katlyn Chookagian: To be fair, Chookagian didn’t look bad in her victory over Alexis Davis. Though she came up short on many of her punches, she landed at a far higher frequency than she did in her previous showing against Mara Romero Borella. She deserved the win. However, it wasn’t that impressive. And can someone tell me why the hell she couldn’t call out an opponent? Politely asking for respect doesn’t work in this sport. If you aren’t going to call out someone, strong silence works better.
Randa Markos: Given Markos has gone win-loss-win-loss for close to five years, how can I dock her for keeping up the streak? Some may say she failed to snatch a victory that should have been hers – I can see that argument – it isn’t like she put on a lousy performance. Markos is what she is at this point.