UFC 278 made some huge statements in the last card of August, before we focus our attention on UFC Paris in a two weeks. The biggest statement, of course, was Leon Edwards’ buzzer-beater of a head-kick KO to grab the belt from on of the most dominant champions in UFC history. Some other big statements came from Amir Albazi with a 1st Round submission, Tyson Pedro with a 1st Round body kick TKO and Merab Dvalishvili who dominated one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time.
Finally, in one of the craziest, most unpredictable fights of the year, Paulo Costa mangled a fierce Luke Rockhold. All of the bouts from UFC 278 are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of the night: the BLÜ BONUSES.
Victor Altamirano def. Daniel da Silva by TKO in the 1st Round
Both started with a furious pace, throwing combos all over the place. Altamirano was trying to keep up with the speed of da Sillva, but had already been lit up multiple times in the first couple minutes. Da Silva was throwing BOMBS, dropping Victor to the canvas early. After that though, Altamirano started to make a comeback, dropping da Silva with a body shot. From there it was looking BAD as he started to get shredded by Altamirano’s ground and pound. It was just a matter of time before the ref stopped it, giving Altamirano an impressive come-from-behind victory.
Aoriqileng def. Jay Perrin by Unanimous Decision
Perrin was the aggressive fighter early, taking the action to Aoriqileng. His opponent was patient though, avoiding Perrin’s offence. Thanks to that patience, he managed to counter Perrin and wobble him BAD. From there, Perrin really started to slow down his pace. That’s when Aoriqileng started to shine, picking Perrin apart at a distance. After getting picked apart, Perrin turned towards his grappling for the last 30 seconds, dragging Aoriqileng to the canvas.
The 2nd Round opened with some more crisp striking from Aoriqileng, but quickly moved back to the ground after an awkward takedown from Perrin. Perrin was on top, but Aoriqileng did very well to shut down all of his offence and get back up. Getting a little too reckless again, Perrin was hit by another HUGE shot, getting wobbled again. After a couple more minutes of striking, Perrin decided that was enough and went for another takedown. This time though he was shut down, likely giving Aoriqileng a 2-0 lead.
Aoriqileng started with his striking early once again, stumbling Perrin a bit. As the round went on though, he started to slow down, giving Perrin a chance to get his offence going. Perrin landed a decent takedown, but the exchange ended with them in a clinch along the fence. Perrin closed landing some BOMBS in the last 20 seconds, probably clinching the round on the cards, but any sane judge would’ve scored it 29-28 for Aoriqileng. The judges agreed, all scoring it 29-28 for Aoriqileng.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
Amir Albazi vs. Francisco Figueiredo
Figueiredo has some potential, but Albazi would’ve likely been in the top 10, maybe even the top 5 if he didn’t have all the fight cancellations recently. He’s mauled both of his UFC opponents so far and one of them was someone Figueiredo lost to. Albazi DOMINATED Malcolm Gordon with an early submission win while Francisco lost to Gordon in a decision. Even based on that alone, it seemed pretty clear that Albazi would grab a huge win and likely a finish.
Albazi by Finish
Both men were patient early, but it was Albazi pressuring forward, trying to take the fight to the ground. After a minute, Figueiredo had pulled guard with Albazi firmly in control on top of him. From there, Albazi started to get to work. He was moving forward, trying to land MASSIVE ground and pound. Figueiredo wanted no part of that and got up immediately. He tried to get things going on the feet but was taken down. This time Albazi got his spot on Figueiredo’s back and it was all over as Albazi sunk in a rear naked choke for a 1st Round finish.
Amir Albazi def. Francisco Figueiredo by Submission in the 1st Round
Ange Loosa def. AJ Fletcher by Unanimous Decision
Fletcher was the one pressuring forward early, hitting Loosa with some crisp shots. It was tight but Fletcher was more active, not really letting Loosa get anything going. As the round went on though Loosa was finding his groove, wobbling Fletcher with CLEAN shots. It was a very tight round, but with those bigger shots, I’d have given the round to Loosa.
Loose kept that momentum going into the 2nd Round, landing some HEAT early. Fletcher was still there though, taking the shots but firing back with intent. After a while, Loosa decided to switch it up with a HEAVY takedown. Fletcher returned back to his feet fairly quickly though. He kept walking forward straight at Loosa, but he was getting busted up pretty bad. Then, out of nowhere, Fletcher turned it up and brought ALL the heat to Loosa, giving him spaghetti legs. Loosa got BATTERED, losing the round, but he was still in the fight and Fletcher was GASSED. A clear round for Fletcher, but it was anybody’s guess as to how these guys would come out in the final round.
Loosa was clearly the fresher fighting coming back in as Fletcher was struggling to defend himself or even stand on his feet. Loosa could tell Fletcher was done and jumped on him for a finish. He let loose ground and pound from top position for the entire rest of the round. Loosa didn’t have energy to get a whole lot of huge damage, but with Fletcher literally doing absolutely nothing, it may have even been a 10-8 round for Loosa. I’d have scored it 29-27, but the judges were a little more generous to Fletcher, scoring it 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27 for Loosa.
Sean Woodson vs. Luis Saldaña ends in a Split Draw
Understandably, Saldaña was struggling with Woodson’s reach early, getting picked apart at a distance. As the round went on, Saldaña started to land more shots but was still struggling. Then everything changed as Saldaña landed a CRISP jab, dropping Woodson immediately. He dropped him AGAIN right after that, but then controversy ensued as Saldaña kneed Woodson in the face as he was down. The ref stopped the fight momentarily for a replay, taking a point away from Saldaña. That didn’t slow him down though as he kept his striking going. With the point deduction it seemed pretty clear that it was tied 9-9.
Woodson came out hard at the start of the round, taking the fight to Saldaña. He was still doing well though, countering Woodson with some nice shots. That was when Saldaña decided to switch it up, taking the fight to the ground. Sadly that was a mistake as he got caught in a DEEP submission attempt, getting choked for a minute straight by the long limbs of Woodson. Sadly for Woodson, he didn’t get the choke and burned out his arms and legs in the process, making the final round a tough test.
They went straight into the striking again, but switched into the clinch as Saldaña pushed Woodson into the fence. You could tell the altitude was starting to be a problem for both men as they really slowed their output. With nothing really happening in the final round, the point deduction in the first and a DEEP submission from Woodson in the second, it was a complete mystery as to who would take the decision; I’d have scored it an even 28-28 draw. The judges took their time and came to a decision, scoring it 29-27 Woodson, 29-27 Saldana and 28-28 in a RARE split draw.
Jared Gordon def. Leonardo Santos by Unanimous Decision
Similar to the last fight, Gordon was struggling with the length of Santos. They were mostly trading kicks and quick shots early, making sure not to make an early mistake. There wasn’t a whole lot of offence coming from either side, but Gordon turned it up at the end of the round, likely taking it on the cards.
The 2nd Round started the same way with Gordon leading the action and Santos getting backed up. Finally, Santos switched it up with a takedown attempt. He almost grabbed it but Gordon snuck in a fence grab to keep himself up. Thanks to that dirty trick, Gordon not only stayed up, he reversed positions and found himself in the dominant spot.
Nothing changed in the final round with Gordon leading every exchange. Santos went for a late takedown but couldn’t get it going. It was just a clear, dominant win for Gordon, likely ending the career of Santos.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Marcin Tybura vs. Alexandr Romanov
This was clearly going to be Romanov’s hardest matchup to date. Tybura has wins over some pretty high-profile heavyweights, but doesn’t really hold the threat of a huge finish or anything complex enough top pose a problem for a true top 10 fighter. Romanov doesn’t have great striking, but his grappling skills are quite easily in the top 5 in the division. With those skillsets clashing, I figured Romanov would have a difficult time, but that he’d eventually get Tybura to the ground and finish him with ground and pound. Either that or, because of all of Romanov’s control time and damage, he’d win on the cards.
Romanov by Finish
Romanov opened the action early with his classic grappling pressure, managing to suplex Tybura straight into the canvas. He couldn’t keep him down, but Romanov controlled Tybura completely and even slammed him down a second time. It was so dominant that it seemed like a 10-8 round on the cards.
Interestingly, Tybura came in a lot harder the 2nd Round, landing some pretty nice shots on Romanov. Just like some of the early fighters, it seemed like Romanov was struggling with his cardio at this altitude. Tybura then had his biggest moment, dropping Romanov to the canvas and controlling him on the ground.
Tybura came in the fresher fighter, but Romanov started to land some pretty heavy kicks to the body. As the round continued, Tybura started to really put himself ahead on the cards with his extra output. Romanov was trying to grab a takedown but just couldn’t get anything going. I’d have scored it 28-28 because of that 1st Round, but it seemed pretty likely that the judges were going to give Tybura the win. The judges scored it 29-28, 28-28 and 29-28 for Tybura.
Marcin Tybura def. Alexandr Romanov by Majority Decision
Main Card Action
Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker
The odds were by far slanted heavily towards Pedro, but I thought Hunsucker needed to be taken a bit more seriously. Hunsucker has decent power and loves to rush in and cause HUGE damage. He does it well, tagging every single UFC opponent he’s faced. It didn’t work for him at heavyweight because of the HUGE power coming back at him. With this move to light heavyweight, he could have a much better time with that strategy. That being said, I went with Pedro because he’s extremely patient and technical and I thought he’d be able to outclass Hunsucker from a distance and probably catch him on a counter like the heavyweights did.
Pedro by Finish
Surprisingly, Hunsucker took a measured approach to this fight. Sadly, that was his demise as it gave Pedro the chance to land a crisp jab, wobbling him bad. From there he ran in and dropped Hunsucker with a NASTY body kick for the 1st Round finish.
Tyson Pedro def. Harry Hunsucker by TKO in the 1st Round
Lucie Pudilová def. Wu Yanan by TKO in the 2nd Round
Pudilová revealed her strategy early, pinning Wu into the fence. Wu is a lot stronger than she looks though and got out of it quick. They went back to striking, but the fight moved to the ground with a beautiful takedown from Pudilová. She wasn’t really moving towards a finish, but she was doing a good job of shutting Wu down. It wasn’t the most impressive display of grappling, but it was clearly enough to put Pudilová ahead on the cards.
Pudilová worked hard with her distance striking to open the 2nd Round, really shutting down Wu’s activity. Wu was throwing in some decent kicks here and there, but was eventually dragged to the ground once again, this time getting her back taken. She locked in a decent submission attempt, but it was the ground and pound that ended up being the difference-maker. Pudilová started slamming elbows from top position, forcing the ref to end the fight.
José Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili
In my mind, this was one of the closest matchups on the card. Aldo is one the greatest MMA fighters in history and hasn’t really showed signs of slowing down yet. On the other side, Merab has been slowly climbing up the rankings and making statements. With Aldo’s striking, especially his kicks, I figured he’d be able to do enough damage that to win at least two rounds on the cards. Merab’s strategy was clearly going to be wrestling. I didn’t think that Merab would be able to control Aldo for long enough or do enough damage to win on the cards.
Aldo by Decision
Knowing the power on both sides, they both took it slow to start with minimal action from both sides. As expected, Merab went in for a takedown, but Aldo kept his defence up nicely, shutting it down. Unlike his last fight, Aldo went back to utilizing his devastating leg kicks. With Merab leading the action and attempting takedowns, it seemed likely that he grabbed the round, but it was so dead-even that it really could have gone either way.
Merab kept his pace going in the 2nd Round, throwing out some early combos. He rushed in with a takedown after that, but was shut down once again. After some lacklustre clinch strikes from Merab, Aldo managed to get the fight back to the centre of the Octagon and throw a big combo. This sequence repeated itself multiple times with Merab’s takedowns getting shot down. The sad thing is, that was clearly putting him up on the cards.
As expected, Merab kept that wrestling pace going in the final round, shutting down most of Aldo’s offence. After a round of heavy grappling and the occasional combo, it was clear that Merab had dominated the decision. The judges agreed, scoring it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Merab.
Merab Dvalishvili def. José Aldo by Unanimous Decision
Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold
This seemed like a guaranteed way to end the career of Luke Rockhold. He hasn’t fought in 3 years and has been knocked out in most of his recent fights. Meanwhile, Costa has been the scourge of the division, BRUTALLY knocking people out. Costa was so heavily favoured to knock Rockhold out in this matchup that a KO/TKO win for him was at -200 on some betting sites.
Costa by Finish
Rockhold tried to keep Costa at a distance with kicks, but then went in for a takedown. He found out quick that it wasn’t going to be easy as he got lit up by MASSIVE shots from Costa. Interestingly, it was Costa that actually moved the fight to the ground, sitting on top of him, trying to finish the fight with ground and pound. Rockhold got out of it, going back to the feet, but it didn’t seem like that was going to be any better. Incredibly, Rockhold made it out of the opening round, but he was looking GASSED.
Rockhold opened the next round with a HUGE shot that actually wobbled Costa, but he still looked exhausted and was getting hit pretty hard by Costa. Out of a complete stroke of luck, Rockhold was hit low, giving him a few minutes to recover. It wasn’t just Rockhold that needed a rest though, Costa was looking pretty tired and slow too. That being said, it was a clear 2-0 lead for Costa going into the final round.
Rockhold had a brief moment, getting Costa down to the ground, but he getting hit by these BOMBS. Rockhold had the crowd EXPLODE with a massive shot, but then got reckless, getting dragged down by Costa. From there it just seemed inevitable that Costa was going to run out the clock for the decision win. The judges ended up scoring it a unanimous 30-27 for Costa.
Paulo Costa def. Luke Rockhold by Unanimous Decision
Main Event (Welterweight Title Fight)
Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards
This seemed like it would be one of Usman’s toughest tests as a champion. Edwards was undefeated since his last loss to Usman, grabbing some pretty incredible wins. The problem for Edwards is that Usman has also gotten even better, finishing the likes of Burns and Masvidal. In a decision there seemed to be little doubt that Usman was going to hold the edge, but I didn’t think it would get that far. Edwards basically got finished by Diaz in his last fight. Usman has a LOT more power that Diaz; he finished Burns and Masvidal, but also dropped Colby to the canvas multiple times. It just seemed like a matter of time before Edwards got hit by something big and Usman went in for the kill.
Usman by Finish
Edwards had the only action early, throwing out some kicks at Usman. Usman then went straight into a takedown. Edwards shut it down, but was still dragged down anyway with Usman on top of him. Clearly he’s improved his grappling as he got back to his feet fairly quickly. Then Edwards did something that’s never been done to Usman in the UFC; he took Usman down and managed to take his back. He was working hard for a submission, but Usman was doing very well to defend the finish. It was looking like an easy round for Usman, but with that late grappling, it seemed like Edwards may have won the round.
Usman decided to switch it up in the second, lighting Edwards up with BIG combos along the fence. Edwards was getting some good counters in, but Usman was clearly landing the more significant shots. From there, Usman would regularly throw in some of his grappling to keep Edwards on his toes.
In the 3rd Round, the champion started to show why he’s the Pound-For-Pound fighter of the UFC, dominating Edwards with his wrestling. There’s not much else to say other than he was all over Edwards for every second on the ground.
Edwrads opened the 4th Round with a takedown attempt, but was stuffed and got slammed into the canvas by Usman once again. He managed to get back up but you could tell that Edwards was really struggling with his cardio. Really trying to prove a point, Usman lit Edwards up on the feet, gunning for a finish.
Usman’s dominance continued in the final round, dominating with wrestling and throwing an occasional combo out there. Then, out of absolutely NOWHERE, just as we were getting ready to crown Usman once again, Edwards threw out a head kick and knocked Usman out COLD. Truly one of the wildest comebacks of all time, coming from a CLEAR loss to a late KO win to win a championship.
Leon Edwards def. Kamaru Usman by KO in the 5th Round
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 2-3
KO of the Night: Leon Edwards
Sub. of the Night: Amir Albazi
Brawl of the Night: Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold
Most Valuable Fighter
Leon had a tough time after the 1st Round, but he never gave up. He kept giving it everything, looking for an angle to get something going. Finally, with only a minute left in the fight, he landed a BRUTAL head kick that will be replayed for decades to come. This is proof that if you never give up and always keep trying, there’s always a chance you can live your dreams.