Photo Credit: Chris Unger of Getty Images
*This was originally posted May 8, 2022*
It was a strange weekend for the UFC this week. It all started Friday with the champ, now “former champ”, Charles Oliveira missing weight by half a pound after it was well known that there were issues with the scales, telling fighters they had made weight when, in fact, they hadn’t. We then heard in the broadcast that ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone had to pull out of his fight with Joe Lauzon due to food poisoning from some tacos. Then, in the event itself, we saw FIVE split decisions in 14 fights, the weirdest one being the title fight between ‘Thug’ Rose and Esparza. In a strange turn of events that nobody saw coming, the women turned in what was likely the worst, most uneventful title fight in UFC history, barely landing 30 strikes for both women throughout the 25 minute affair only to have the champ lose her belt. Strange events aside, we were treated to some absolutely LEGENDARY performances from Michael Chandler and the king of the 155s Oliveira. We also saw Andre Fialho notch another impressive win and campaign for his placement on the next PPV in just a month’s time. Finally, we also saw ‘Loopy’ Godinez, Tracy Cortez and Brandon Royval turn in impressive performances of their own. All of the bouts from UFC 274 are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of the night: the BLÜ BONUSES. As a special bonus, Unified MMA 44 (as seen on UFC Fight Pass) is also covered below.
Journey Newson def. Fernie Garcia by Unanimous Decision
These guys came in and wanted to start the night off with a BANG. Newson came in with spinning attacks and kicks all over the place. Garcia wasn’t throwing as many flashy strikes, but he landed a pretty crisp combo. Newson then began to throw in the wrestling that we all expected. Garcia managed it well though, getting up fairly quick. It was a tight first round with Garcia landing the better combos and Newson notching the takedown. Newson came out just as heavy in the 2nd Round, throwing BIG combos, and landing some HEAVY shots on Garcia. With all that overwhelming offence from Newson, he clearly won the 2nd Round and likely found himself up 2-0 on the cards. After making this fight a striking battle for 2 rounds, Newson switched it up and grabbed himself an easy takedown to open the 3rd Round. Garcia got up quickly, but it still loomed large on the cards. Finally, to really put a cap on the fight, Newson landed a BOMB and a WILD spinning kick, stumbling Garcia twice. In the end, it was a fairly decisive decision win for Journey Newson. The judges agreed, scoring it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Newson.
Lupita Godinez def. Ariane Carnellosi by Unanimous Decision
In classic Carnelossi style, she opened the fight back walking straight into ‘Loopy’ with some combos. Sadly for her, that played into exactly what Godinez wanted. She took Carnelossi down and smothered her with her wrestling for the entire 1st Round. During that time she let loose some ground and pound here and there, always moving forward towards a submission. Just as the 2nd Round opened, it wasn’t ‘Loopy’s’ wrestling that was the problem, it was her striking! In one of the first exchanges, she SMOKED Ariane with a big one, giving her the spaghetti legs. From there, she used that situation to drag Carnelossi to the ground and smother her with her wrestling again. For over a minute, Godinez was on top with a DEEP submission attempt. With two rounds spent almost entirely on the ground with ‘Loopy’ on top, it’s clear that she was 2-0 on the cards and maybe even snagged a 10-8 round in there somewhere. Less than 10 seconds into the final round and Godinez had already SLAMMED Ariane straight into the canvas. She managed to get up for a few seconds but was quickly slammed AGAIN by Godinez. For the third round in a row, Godinez controlled Carnellosi for the entire round, threatening submissions and some HUGE ground and pound. This was just a WILDLY impressive performance by Godinez.
With this fight, Godinez moved from the exciting young prospect to a potential ranked contender. She looked fantastic in her other fights, but this fight was so dominant with her wrestling that it’s hard to imagine that the women ranked 10-15 in the strawweight division can stand up to her. I was already convinced we would see ‘Loopy’ break those rankings, but now I’m thinking we could see it even sooner, perhaps even this year.
C.J. Vergara def. Kleydson Rodrigues by Split Decision
These guys came in explosive! Both guys were throwing some quick combos with Vergara landing the better ones, but Rodrigues stole the momentum with a fantastic takedown. It took a minute, but Vergara got up and went back to throwing his combos, relentlessly moving forward. It was tight with both men landing some BIG strikes, but Rodrigues may have clinched it thanks to the takedown. The 2nd Round was a completely different ballgame; this time Vergara was the one who found himself with a takedown. He never really seemed to threaten a finish, but Vergara spent the whole round on top, letting loose some ground and pound and working to get into a position to grab a submission. Amazingly, just as the round was ending, Rodrigues flipped over to the dominant position, forcing Vergara to get up. At this point, it was likely 1-1 on the cards. The 3rd Round started off close but took a slight turn after Vergara was dropped to the ground. From there though, Rodrigues somehow managed to take Vergara’s back. Vergara got out of it, but, even though he was tired, Rodrigues got back into the dominant position and managed to take him down a couple more times throughout the final few minutes. It was razor thin because of the opening round, but I had it 29-28 for Rodrigues. The judges were split, scoring it 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 for C.J. Vergara.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
Tracy Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto
Both these women are young, very talented rising contenders on HUGE win streaks. They’re both the future of the flyweight division and I think they’ll both be ranked within the next couple of years. For this week, we needed to figure out who was farther along in their journey. Cortez has been in the UFC since 2019, grabbing her contract on the Contender Series. Going into this one, she’d won all 3 of her fights including one over another promising prospect: Stephanie Egger. Gatto hasn’t been around as long, making her debut last year, winning two fights with two finishes. Her most recent win was a body kick over Sijara Eubanks, extending her undefeated record to 8-0-2. Physically, there was nothing really separating these two; the only differences came in their recent history. Cortez has looked good, but all of her UFC wins had come in decisions and she hadn’t had a statement win yet. Gatto, on the other hand, had two VICIOUS finishes with a broken arm stoppage in her debut and a body kick TKO over Eubanks. I said it’d be an entertaining, close matchup, but I thought Gatto held an edge thanks to her extra finishing ability.
Gatto by Decision
Cortez started off the fight ahead, taking Gatto down to the ground right away. After controlling her for a couple minutes, she let Gatto up, but that may have been a mistake as Gatto followed that up by taking Cortez down herself. Impressively, Cortez actually managed to reverse positions and ended up on top again. Although Gatto still looked very dangerous, thanks to all of Tracy’s control time, Cortez took a clear 1-0 lead on the cards. The 2nd Round started off pretty even with both women throwing out some good strikes, but Gatto landed the heavier ones and took Cortez to the ground and took her back. From there she threw some HEAVY ground and pound and threatened a dangerous armbar. Sadly for her, Cortez slipped out of it, finding herself on top and throwing some ground and pound herself. With that late reversal, it’s tough to score the round, but I thought it was likely 1-1 after 2. Gatto came in hot with another takedown to open the 3rd Round but was reversed again, finding herself on the bottom once again. Gatto kept threatening submissions, but Cortez was just banking control time to win on the cards. The judges agreed, scoring it 29-28 for Cortez.
Tracy Cortez def. Melissa Gatto by Unanimous Decision
It wasn’t really the most flawless performance, but to shut down Gatto’s offence and use her fight IQ to win the decision with her control time is very impressive. Undefeated in the UFC, it seems likely that we’ll see Cortez fight someone in the top 15 sometime soon.
Andre Fialho def. Cameron VanCamp by TKO in the 1st Round
Both men took it slow to start this one. Surprisingly, the heavy underdog, VanCamp, was the one who had the first big moment, stumbling Fialho with a BOMB. Maybe getting a little too excited with his momentary win, VanCamp made a mistake, rushing in on Fialho and getting clipped by a MASSIVE hook. With that much power, that was it with Fialho grabbing the quick first-round win with a devastating TKO win.
Blagoy Ivanov def. Marcos Rogerio de Lima by Unanimous Decision
These big guys came in hot, throwing caution into the wind. Both men were landing some decent strikes, but it was de Lima who was landing the MUCH heavier shots. Although Ivanov was getting hit pretty good, he pushed through and ended up getting some clinch control along the fence. Ivanov started off the 2nd Round with some more control time but kept getting hit with some heavy, heavy strikes from de Lima. As the round went on, de Lima started to slowly tire out, leaving Ivanov the opportunity to land better combos and shoot for takedowns. Just like the other rounds, Ivanov came in heavy, landing some big combos. The rest of the round was really just a lot of clinchwork along the fence for both men. With a VERY late takedown though, de Lima may have just barely scraped ahead on the cards. The judges ended up scoring it 29-28 for Blagoy Ivanov.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Brandon Royval vs. Matt Schnell
Here we had another exciting flyweight matchup, this time between two top 10 brawlers. Royval ranked 6th after losses to top contenders Moreno and Pantoja and won his last outing in a tight, split decision against another ranked contender, Bontorin. Schnell, although he fought his last one at bantamweight, is ranked 9th here in the flyweight division. Just like Royval, he fought Bontorin in his last bout; sadly, it didn’t work out as well for him, losing by decision. Despite his rankings, he hadn’t had any noteworthy wins before this fight, plus, he didn’t have any wins over currently ranked contenders. I knew this was going to be a close one and I was sure we’d be seeing the final bell. Although I figured Schnell was going to put up a good fight, it seemed like Royval held a fairly clear edge thanks to his history. Plus, both of their last fights were against Bontorin; Royval won and Schnell lost. MMA math doesn’t exist, but if it did, it’d tell you that Royval was going to win.
Royval by Decision
Schnell wasted absolutely no time, walking straight into Royval with some WILD combos. Schnell used that to get the first big moment of the fight, dropping Royval to the canvas. From there, both men were scrambling all over the cage, but it was Royval who grabbed the dominant position, snuck his arm around Schnell’s neck and made him tap with both hands.
Brandon Royval def. Matt Schnell by Submission in the 1st Round
It was looking a bit sketchy for Royval for a second, but he ultimately proved how dangerous he is and why he’s been near the top of the division for so long. In the press conference, Dana White was asked about the quadrilogy between Figueiredo and Moreno and it seems like that won’t be happening soon. That frees up Moreno for THIS rematch with Royval. In their first encounter, in a bizarre sequence of events, Royval’s collarbone and shoulder either snapped or were dislocated to the point where he couldn’t use that arm. With incredible skill on both sides, this rematch would be a treat.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #3
Macy Chiasson vs. Norma Dumont
Although these ladies fought at featherweight this week and tend to compete here, they were also both ranked at bantamweight going into this weekend. Ranked 10th after losing by submission to Pennington in her last, Chiasson won TUF on Season 28 and found herself at a record of 7-2 in her career. You may remember Dumont from what most refer to as the least entertaining main event of 2021. Thankfully, she was on the winning side of that matchup, plus, it was her threatening offence and forward pressure that led to Ladd not throwing anything. Before that, she had just beaten one of the best female featherweights in MMA, Felicia Spencer, by decision. Like most women’s fights, I figured this would be a close matchup that ends in a decision. Chiasson had a slight reach advantage of 5 inches, but Dumont still seemed to hold a fairly clear edge thanks to her experience. With wins over Ladd and Spencer, it made sense that Dumont should have been able to overwhelm Chiasson with her power and pick her apart in a decision.
Dumont by Decision
Just like most of the other fights of the night, the women started off quick with some blistering combos flying from both sides. It was dead even, but Chiasson may have looked better to the judges thanks to some heavier strikes and a late takedown. Chiasson kept her momentum going into the 2nd Round, pressuring Dumont with her striking and pushing her along the fence. Dumont came in with a vengeance in the 3rd Round, running straight at Chiasson and landing some HUGE combos. Sadly, that was short-lived as Macy recovered and pushed Dumont along the fence. It wasn’t the most exciting win, but thanks to all that control time, it was pretty clear Chiasson had taken the edge on the cards. Two of the judges agreed, scoring it 29-28, 28-29 and 30-27 for Chiasson.
Macy Chiasson def. Norma Dumont by Split Decision
Francisco Trinaldo def. Danny Roberts by Unanimous Decision
Roberts’ plan was clear from the beginning: move around as much as possible to avoid Trinaldo’s offence. He was doing a decent job, but whenever Trinaldo got close, it was looking BAD for Roberts. Using that style, Roberts was moving in and out of range with his strikes and likely took the opening round. Roberts couldn’t avoid Trinaldo’s offence at the start of the 2nd Round, getting SMOKED, stumbling around trying to get away. From there he clipped him again and dragged Roberts down to the ground. It took Roberts a few minutes to get back up, but he succeeded and threw a flurry of HEAVY shots at Trinaldo, trying to steal the round back. The 3rd Round was more like the first; it was dead even… until Trinaldo landed another HUGE bomb, melting Roberts against the fence. It was a razor-thin decision, but I’d say that thanks to those huge moments on the feet, Trinaldo edged ahead 29-28 or maybe even 30-27. The judges agreed, all giving Trinaldo the win on the cards.
Main Card Action
Randy Brown vs. Khaos Williams
Originally, the main card was set to be opened by ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and Joe Lauzon, but sadly, Cerrone ended up having to pull out due to food poisoning. Instead, we opened up the main card with these two explosive welterweights. Since joining the UFC in 2016, Brown’s gone 8-4 with losses to Belal, Niko Price and Luque. After losing to Luque in 2020, he turned it around with an incredible 1st Round finish over Alex Oliveira and a decision win over Jared Gooden. Khaos joined the UFC in 2020 and has had a BUSY schedule with a 4-1 record here. He may have lost in a decision to the beast, Michel Pereira, but he also grabbed highlight-reel finishes over Alex Morono, Alhassan and Baeza. Physically, both of these men are unreal and are very similar. The only advantage that I saw is Williams’ statement wins over Morono, Alhassan and Baeza. I said it’d be a close bout with a LOT of fireworks, but I thought Williams would edge ahead with his extra power, maybe even grabbing a finish.
Williams by Decision
The first couple of minutes were fast and furious, filled with attempted combos from both sides. Although there were a lot of strikes thrown, not too many of them landed. The first to land was Williams, landing an absolute BOMB, stumbling Brown and dropping him to the ground. Thanks to that, Williams likely found himself at an advantage. Brown started to finally get some slick combos going in the 2nd Round, but the difference in power was still clearly in favour of Khaos. Using his movement and his length as weapons, Brown may have avoided enough of Khaos’ strikes and landed enough of his own to take the 2nd Round. Brown kept all those slick moves going into the 3rd Round but ended up getting dropped again with Khaos ending up on top. Brown got up and landed some big strikes of his own, but with some late clinch control and big strikes along the fence, it seemed as though Khaos may have just barely taken the decision. The judges were split once again, scoring the fight 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 for Brown.
Randy Brown def. Khaos Williams by Split Decision
Ovince St. Preux vs. Mauricio Rua
‘Shogun’ Rua is one of the legends of the UFC light heavyweight division, joining all the way back in 2007. He’s lost to everyone from Lyoto Machida, Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen, to Jon Jones, Gustafsson and Anthony Smith. In his most recent trip back into the Octagon, he was a victim to Paul Craig, getting finished in the 2nd Round back in 2021. St. Preux (OSP) also has a storied UFC career but has moved between heavyweight and light heavyweight, losing to Jones, Teixeira and Reyes, as well as Rothwell and Boser. Their histories are almost identical, what separates them is OSP’s history at heavyweight. That told me he probably has a bit of extra power. The most noteworthy point about this matchup: they had already fought each other. Back in 2014, they met and OSP used that power to grab a 34-second KO. Considering their history and OSP’s heavyweight power, I thought we would be treated to another finish from St. Preux.
St. Preux by Finish
This one started off VERY slow with neither man wanting to take the first move. The shots were few and far between, but OSP likely took the lead thanks to his jabbing body kicks. Halfway through the second round, the crowd was starting to boo. getting bored with the lack of action. The booing continued into the third, almost drowning out the minimal commentary from the panel. They even started to turn on the flashlights on their phones they were so bored. Honestly, I had absolutely no idea who won the fight; neither man did much of anything to put themselves ahead. If I had to pick, I’d have given it to OSP because of his continuous body kicks.
Ovince St. Preux def. Mauricio Rua by Split Decision
Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson
On the one side, we had the man who took the UFC by storm last year: Michael Chandler. He entered the UFC early last year, taking on one of the top contenders at the time, another fan favourite, Dan Hooker. After getting a highlight reel KO in that fight, he went on to fight for the vacant belt against Oliveira. He had won the first round of that fight but ended up getting finished in the 2nd Round. He then took on the title challenger tonight: Justin Gaethje. This ended up being one of the fight of the year contenders; he had lost most of the fight, but never quit and made it entertaining as always. Ferguson is similar, always wanting to put on an insane fight for the fans. His 12 fight win-streak came to an end after losing to Gaethje in the first event since COVID-19 lockdowns started. Ever since then he just hadn’t been the same. After getting absolutely mangled by Gaethje, he lost to the champ, Oliveira, and then Dariush. This was an EASY choice for a potential Brawl of the Night. I said it’d be an explosive fight with non-stop offence from both sides. While I said it’d be an insane brawl, it just seemed as though Chandler held all the cards here. Chandler has been WAY more impressive recently and they’re evenly matched on the ground, but he seems to have more power and more refined stand-up skills. Thanks to those slight edges, I thought we’d see a repeat of Gaethje vs. Ferguson with Chandler mangling Ferguson’s face with his stand-up skills and avoiding his submissions. Since we’re talking about 2 of the most durable fighters in the UFC and this fight was 3 rounds, I said the safe bet was a decision.
Chandler by Decision
After that lacklustre display from Rua and OSP, these two men LIT UP the entire arena. It was dead even for the first couple of minutes with both men getting a couple of good strikes in. Ultimately it was a HUGE takedown from Chandler that stole the opening round. He took Tony down and held him there for half the round, letting loose some dangerous ground and pound. The 2nd Round opened up and all hell broke loose as Michael Chandler landed a NUKE of a front kick to knock Ferguson out COLD! For the first time in Ferguson’s UFC career, he was out cold, fully asleep for almost a minute. Another absolutely sensational performance by Chandler!
Michael Chandler def. Tony Ferguson by KO in the 2nd Round
Michael Chandler said it best, a 5 round rematch with Oliveira or Gaethje would light up an arena and would make the most sense in terms of the title. If not, just like he said, Conor is the fight that everyone wants to see. He said he wants to do it at 170, but I think he’d be wise to keep it at 155. As for Ferguson, he may be on a losing streak, but this is the best he’s looked since fighting Gaethje; he got some great shots in and was doing well, he just got caught with the front kick. The UFC is adamant that he won’t be cut for a while, he’s a legend and is still surely a top 10 fighter. Nobody’s mentioned this matchup yet, but I think Hooker would be something we might want to see. They’re both going through a rough patch, they’re both extremely tough and exciting, why not set that one up? If not, a lot of people were mentioning someone like Gillespie who’s trying to get up the rankings. Whoever he’ll be fighting, it’ll likely be next year after such a devastating KO like this one.
Co-Main Event (Strawweight Title Fight)
Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza
Finally, we had another women’s title on the line (it’s been a while). The champ, ‘Thug’ Rose, entered the UFC through TUF season 20 back in 2014. Funny enough, she lost her debut to none other than Carla Esparza. Since that loss though, she was almost flawless with a split decision loss to Kowalkiewicz and a devastating, somewhat flukey, KO via a slam from Andrade. Outside of those losses she’s got 2 wins over Joanna and, of course, two wins in her last over Zhang Weili in 2021. One interesting fact, she’s been in 4 other rematches (Torres, Joanna, Andrade, Weili) and she’s gone 4-0 in the 2nd fights. As for Esparza, as I just said, she ended up winning TUF 20 over Rose. Since then she’s also done fairly well, sitting at 8-4 heading into this one with losses to Joanna, Markos, Gadelha and Suarez. Heading into the week she was on a 5 fight win streak over top contenders like Waterson, Rodriguez and Xiaonan. There was no doubt that this would be a VERY close matchup, likely going all 5 rounds. Physically, they’re almost identical except for the fact that Rose is 5 years younger. That being said, there were a few reasons that had me leaning towards Rose. She had the better record, her two losses were pretty shaky and she’s been looking VERY strong, skilled and determined recently. You had to also keep in mind that Rose was 4-0 in rematches; it may not sound that significant, but it means she learns and comes back stronger every time. I said that Rose may get a finish in there, but I suspected we’d see a decision at the end of this one.
Namajunas by Decision
I predicted a close, 5-round fight; little did I know, it would be the closest, most uneventful title fight in UFC history. The opening round was a complete throwaway with an abysmal 3 strikes thrown on each side. How a judge would score that, I have no idea; I’d be scoring it 10-10. The 2nd Round was exactly the same with neither woman making any kind of move. Esparza threw a quick takedown out there but was quickly denied. FINALLY, in the 3rd Round, the action started a bit with Esparza almost getting a takedown and Rose landing a couple strikes. Even still, there was nothing at all to really solidify the round for either woman. In the 4th, the fight slowly started to pick up with Esparza notching a couple of short takedowns. This was the only round that seemed to have a clear winner. In the final round, Rose FINALLY did something… a takedown with 10 seconds left in the fight. Nobody on the planet could have predicted what the judges were going to score the fight. After the most uneventful, boring title fight in UFC history, the judges had it 49-47, 48-49 and 49-48 for the new champion Carla Esparza.
Carla Esparza def. Rose Namajunas by Split Decision
I don’t even really know what to say after something like that. The analysts after the fight said exactly what I was thinking: Rose still seems like the best woman in the division… she just didn’t do anything to show it. She shut down all of Esparza’s offence, she just didn’t put out offence of her own. She was 1/1 on takedowns and landed more strikes, so every time she pushed her offence it worked, she just didn’t throw enough out there. I’m not saying Esparza looked much better, but from my perspective and from the perspective of many, she was at least trying, moving forward and throwing stuff out there with 11 takedown attempts. This isn’t a case of Esparza beating Rose, it’s a case of Rose letting Esparza win. As a champ, you have to BE a champ; you have to prove that you’re the best and that people should be scared to fight you. Rose simply didn’t do that; she proved her defence is amazing but didn’t show the aggression and offensive skill that a champion has. Sadly, because of that, I truly don’t think Rose will get the immediate rematch that she probably deserves. After watching the press conference, it seems as though the winner of Weili and Joanna will fight Esparza for the belt. That means Rose is stuck in an unusual situation. She’s beaten Weili and Joanna twice, so it doesn’t necessarily make much sense for her to fight the loser. The only matchup at the top that makes much sense is perhaps a rematch against Andrade who’s returned to 115 with a statement win over Lemos. They’re 1-1, so it’s not unreasonable for this to be the next step. From there, that would likely produce the next title challenger after Weili or Joanna.
Main Event (Lightweight Title Fight)
Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje
We all already know about the events of this week; due to some strange issues with scales at the weigh-ins, the now “former” champ, Charles Oliveira was forced to vacate his belt at the start of his fight with Gaethje and, if he were to win, could not win his belt back this weekend. Since losing to Felder back in 2017, he’s gone on to grab one of the longest winning streaks in the UFC with 10 wins in a row. The last four were the most impressive with finishes over Kevin Lee, Chandler and Poirier, as well as a decision win over Ferguson. Since beating Lee, he’s seemingly reached a whole new level and truly seems unbreakable. He struggled in the opening round against both Chandler and Poirier, but after that, he quickly turned it around, got his jiu-jitsu going and started to dominate the fight. Gaethje is also a finisher, grabbing more UFC performance bonuses than wins. I mentioned earlier his gnarly win over Ferguson in 2019 and, of course, his convincing decision win over Chandler last year. In between those wins, he was dominated and submitted by Khabib in his final fight. Just like all of Gaethje’s fights and all of Oliveira’s recent fights, this was another matchup that was SURE to bring some highlights. Oliveira held a slight 4-inch reach advantage, but the real differences came in their recent performances and their respective skills. Gaethje likely held an advantage on the feet thanks to his power, while Oliveira held a CLEAR advantage on the ground. Sadly for Gaethje, Oliveira seemed more than capable of handling his offence, while it seemed likely that Gaethje would have serious problems with Oliveira’s ground game. Oliveira submitted Poirier, finished one of the best strikers in Chandler and controlled Ferguson on the ground for the whole fight… NOBODY does that to Ferguson on the ground. I said if Gaethje could push the pace early and throw EVERYTHING at Oliveira, there was a chance he might get a finish, but if this fight moved into the 2nd Round, it was probably going to be ALL Charles after that. I predicted another submission win for Oliveira, copying what Khabib did to Justin.
Oliveira by Finish
Less than 30 seconds in and the arena EXPLODED as they both jumped right in and lit each other up. Gaethje was the first to land, SMOKING Oliveira with a HUGE shot, dropping him to the canvas. With Oliveira’s unbelievable ground game, Gaethje didn’t want to jump onto him. After letting him back up, Gaethje threw some more haymakers and dropped him AGAIN. Just as it looked like Gaethje was going to maybe walk away with an early finish, Charles, in his classic comeback style, stood back up and started landing some HUGE shots of his own. He ended up stumbling Justin a couple times, dropped him and jumped right on top of him. From there, that was it: the fight was in Charles’ world now. He started right away, grabbing Gaetheje’s arm, slipping around to his back and switching to a rear-naked choke. A few seconds later, Gaethje tapped and the belt was officially vacant, waiting for Oliveira and a future challenger.
Charles Oliveira def. Justin Gaethje by Submission in the 1st Round
The whole situation is a bit silly and bizarre. We have a CLEAR champion in Oliveira, but because of some technological mishaps, the belt is vacated and Charles didn’t technically defend his title even though he snatched another HUGE win. Like much of the internet, I have a strange feeling we may see Conor McGregor come back and get an immediate title shot. I’m a HUGE McGregor fan, but as an “expert” of this sport now, it seems pretty clear that Oliveira would beat him quite easily and honestly, he doesn’t deserve the shot because he’s lost his last two. I still firmly believe Dariush and Islam is the fight to make for those two. That leaves Chandler and Oliveira likely fighting in ANOTHER fight for a vacant belt. But there’s another name that people keep forgetting in all of this… Rafael dos Anjos. RDA is an absolute monster, there’s absolutely no reason why his name can’t be injected into the mix with Chandler and ESPECIALLY with McGregor. Nobody has any idea what’s going to happen here, but we all know the lightweight division is going to produce MANY more highlight reel moments before the end of the year.
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 3-2
St. Preux (W)
KO of the Night: Michael Chandler
Sub. of the Night: Charles Oliveira
Brawl of the Night: Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje
Most Valuable Fighter
This man is 43 years old and truly still looks like he’s in his early 30s, bouncing around the cage trying to rip people’s heads off. He’s got a dangerous stand-up AND ground game; to have that length of career and still look this good is awe-inspiring and unbelievably impressive.
Other Fight News
Unified MMA 44
Thanks to UFC Fight Pass and Unified MMA we saw another fantastic night of Canadian MMA. The night was headlined by a bantamweight title fight which was defended by Noah Ali and co-mained by an incredible young prospect in Tom O’Connor who grabbed an impressive submission win (and BLÜ BONUS). We were also treated to a fantastic fight between two veterans of Canadian MMA, Tim Smith and Curtis Demarce. Finally, we saw another VERY impressive performance from one of Unified’s best prospects, Ali Charkie, who may be starting to turn heads in the bigger organizations. All the fights, along with the BLÜ BONUSES for the night, are described below.
Nick Leblanc def. Quade Bujold by TKO in the 1st Round
A second into this fight and it seemed like a pretty clear mismatch. Bujold took this fight on late notice, making his pro debut against a VERY promising prospect in Leblanc. Just over a minute in and Leblanc SMOKED him with some huge shots, dropping Bujold on his back along the fence and grabbing an EASY 1st Round win. That being said, for someone who just elevated himself to a 2-0 record, Leblanc looked VERY good.
Chris Chapman def. Dylan Schellenberg by Submission in the 1st Round
Schellenberg came in like a tornado, trying to overwhelm Chapman with his striking. From there, they moved to the fence and eventually hit the ground with Dylan locking in a significant guillotine attempt. Sadly for him, Chapman got out of it and started to smother him in the top position. From one dominant position to another, Chapman then moved to take Schellenberg’s back. From there it was all over as Chapman sunk in a submission attempt of his own and ended the fight in the 1st Round.
Ali Charkie def. Chris Lee Byrne by TKO after the 1st Round
One thing that stood out immediately was Charkie’s size and his technique. He’s a truly impressive-looking fighter and pretty much ruined Byrne’s leg with the first kick. Interestingly, Byrne looked to be the more confident man, holding his hands down, looking for counters and throwing takedown attempts into the mix. As the fight hit the ground though, it was Ali who landed on top, using his strength to keep Byrne pinned to the mat. Amazingly, thanks to those leg kicks, in between the 1st and 2nd Rounds, Byrne had enough and threw in the towel. With yet another amazing performance like that, it’s no doubt that Charkie is starting to turn some heads over in the bigger promotions.
Zack Powell def. Matt Krayco by Unanimous Decision
We saw another big, early moment at the start of this one with Powell landing a CRISP jab, dropping Krayco on his back, and forcing him to use his wrestling. From there he recovered, but Powell pushed forward and dragged Krayco to the ground. Krayco managed to get up but was dragged back down again a couple more times throughout the round. The 2nd Round started off the same way with Powell dragging the fight to the ground and pinning Krayco down for over 3 minutes. Krayco finally got back up and let loose a couple of decent shots, but Powell took him down AGAIN to finish the 2nd Round. Knowing he was down on the cards, Krayco finally got some offence going, throwing out some nice combos and heavy leg kicks. Sadly, Zack kept the wrestling going, keeping Krayco stuck along the fence. Powell never really looked as though he was going to get a finish, but it was a fairly clear decision win for him at 30-27 on my card. The judges agreed, all scoring the fight 29-28 for Powell.
Tim Smith def. Curtis Demarce by Unanimous Decision
This one was a fight between two veterans of Canadian MMA. Both men looked good early, getting some good combos out. The first big moment of the fight came as Demarce took Smith to the ground for a minute. After that, both men returned to their feet and got the combos flowing once again. It was tough to say who was ahead after the opening round. Demarce did well with his wrestling, but Smith was edging ahead in the striking battle. The 2nd Round opened up with some more striking from both sides, moving into another takedown for Demarce. When they got back to their feet, that’s where this fight really exploded. Both men started landing combos, kicks, knees and elbows, throwing everything at each other. Smith was looking great, stumbling Demarce… but then it was Demarce who poured it on, almost finishing Smith! After the outrageous pace in the first two rounds, the offence started to slow in the final round, but we still saw some decent striking from both sides. As the round went on, it was Demarce who started to steal the momentum with his clinchwork along the fence and another late takedown. It was a tight, tight fight and could have gone either way on the cards. In the end, the judges had it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Tim Smith.
Tom O’Connor def. John Nguyen by Submission in the 3rd Round
O’Connor tried to take the momentum early, pushing Nguyen along the fence. From there though, it was Nguyen that locked in the first takedown, landing on top, and working for a submission. O’Connor got up, but we saw the exact thing play out again with him pushing Nguyen along the fence and Nguyen grabbing the takedown. Notching three takedowns in the opening round, Nguyen kept that going in the 2nd Round with some control time along the fence. As the round went on, O’Connor finally started to get some of his offence going. He got some decent combos and kicks going as well as his clinchwork and a couple of takedowns. With about 30 seconds left in the round, it looked as though O’Connor was going to end it with some HEAVY ground and pound, but Nguyen held on to make it to the final round. With the clear edge in stamina at that point, O’Connor kept moving forward and landed an easy takedown. From there he used his wrestling, moved into a better position and finished the fight with a beautiful rear-naked choke.
Main Event (Bantamweight Title Fight)
Noah Ali def. Gabe Sagman by Unanimous Decision
Both men were slow to start, obviously trying to be careful not to make an early mistake. The first moment came as Sagman got Ali along the fence and dragged him down to the ground. Sagman was on top for most of the round, but Ali wasn’t making it easy, sinking in a pretty deep submission attempt from the bottom. They got up after that but quickly moved back to the ground after another Sagman takedown. Sagman’s wrestling dominance continued into the 2nd Round, quickly taking Ali down to the ground once again. After being controlled for the majority of two rounds, Ali finally got some offence going, stumbling Gabe with some explosive combos. Then, as they were scrambling on the ground, out of NOWHERE, Ali snagged Sagman’s neck and squeezed it with everything he had! Sagman was squirming and rolling around and it looked like Ali was going to take it, but he managed to escape the round. The third round, perhaps because both men were a little weary of each other’s wrestling, was mostly a striking display with both men landing some HEAVY combos, both getting wobbled at some point. Going back to the wrestling, Ali was the one taking the lead this time, maybe even stealing the round with a nice takedown. Catching a second wind, Sagman came in HOT in the 4th Round, throwing some HUGE combos and following it up with a takedown. Similar to the other rounds, both men were scrambling and held the dominant position at some point. After some wild striking on the feet, Sagman shot in for another takedown, where Ali responded with yet another DEEP guillotine attempt from the bottom. At this point, honestly, with this much back and forth action, I had no idea which way this would be scored. In the final round, they moved away from wrestling and straight into striking. It was just as even as most of the other exchanges but led to another takedown from Sagman. Finally, to close out the round, Ali clipped Sagman and wobbled him, but still didn’t get a finish. I couldn’t tell you who I thought won that fight, but the judges ended up scoring it 49-46, 49-46 and 49-45 for Noah Ali.
KO of the Night: Nick Leblanc
Sub. of the Night: Tom O’Connor
Brawl of the Night: Tim Smith vs. Curtis Demarce
Most Valuable Fighter
This man is an absolute beast, he’s early in his career, but he’s looked incredible in Unified and seems to be a likely candidate for an eventual appearance on DWCS, TUF or even straight into the UFC if he gets a few more wins. This was fully on display this week with a rare and DEVASTATING leg kick TKO. All that together, plus the heartwarming appearance of his brother in the cage after the fight, just shows how special this guy is. He picked up his brother out of his wheelchair and carried him into the cage so he could join him in celebrating the win; the act of a true champion.