*This was originally posted November 7, 2021*
For the second week in a row, the UFC put on one of the best cards of the year with UFC 268. The prelims treated us to 6 finishes in a row, while the main card gave us a fight of the year candidate and two incredible title fights. All of the action, along with the results of my predictions and my BLÜ BONUSES can be found below.
Ode Osbourne def. C.J. Vergara by Unanimous Decision
We started off the night with a great, back and forth standup fight. Osbourne seemed to be slightly ahead early because of his extra bit of experience and recent improvements in his training. After the final bell, the decision could’ve gone either way depending on how the judges saw it.
Melsik Baghdasaryan def. Bruno Silva by Unanimous Decision
There was a clear difference in experience and power here. Baghdasaryan used those clear advantages, never stopped moving forward and used his power to nullify anything Souza may have had for him. It definitely wasn’t the most exciting fight; it was just an easy decision win for Melsik.
Dustin Jacoby def. John Allan by Unanimous Decision
We saw another close standup fight here. Of course, since Jacoby is the much more experienced striker, he looked a lot stronger and more accurate than his opponent. Yet again, not the most exciting bout, but it was a good, short-notice decision win for Jacoby.
Chris Barnett def. Gian Villante by TKO in the 2nd Round
This one started off a tad boring like the previous prelims but then the whole arena (and Twitter) exploded as Barnett got a WILD spinning wheel kick finish and then landed a front flip celebration. This was an EASY choice for a BLÜ BONUS. It’s also nice to see another fighter with some personality; we need more fighters like that.
Ian Garry def. Jordan Williams by KO in the 1st Round
Ian Garry came into this fight as a huge favourite with a lot of hype. It started off a bit rocky for him, but at the end of the first round he proved he was worthy of the hype as he landed a big first finish in his UFC debut.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Nassourdine Imavov
Edmen has had a rough time recently with two losses in a row against Brunson and Hermansson. But let’s not forget, those are two of the top contenders in the division, plus, Edmen was undefeated before his Brunson fight. Imavov is considerably less experienced in the UFC with 2 wins in 3 fights. That being said, his last fight was a TKO win over Ian Heinisch just a couple months ago. In a 3 round fight, I thought it would be closely fought and Edmen would use his experience to grab a decision win.
Shahbazyan by Decision
We certainly saw a closely contested bout, this time with a lot more action and excitement. Both fighters had their moments on the feet and on the ground, but Imavov seemed to edge ahead of Edmen in terms of output. It just seemed like Edmen kept getting stuck in horrible positions on the ground. He showed toughness but, ultimately, Imavov was just too much and he got a decisive TKO victory in the second round.
Nassourdine Imavov def. Edmen Shahbazyan by TKO in the 2nd Round
Edmen now finds himself in a tough position. He’s 3 losses down and is now likely out of the middleweight rankings. Let’s not forget that he’s only 23 years of age, so his career is just getting started, but he’s going to have to prove to everyone, including Dana White , that he deserves to stay in the UFC. As for Imavov, it’s likely that he’ll be facing someone in the top 10 of the division. Uriah Hall or perhaps even a tougher competitor such as Hermansson is likely what’s next.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Phil Hawes vs. Chris Curtis
I featured this bout because Phil Hawes is never one to miss. Also, this seemed to be a somewhat mismatched fight. Phil Hawes had yet to lose in the UFC with wins over Imavov and Kyle Daukaus. Because of the vast differences in the quality of competition, Hawes made a clear betting favourite here and I even predicted that he would get a finish.
Hawes by Finish
The fight started off exactly how everyone expected with Hawes easily outclassing Curtis in every department. Then, out of nowhere, Curtis landed an absolute BOMB on Hawes and that was it. It’s possible Hawes might’ve gotten too confident and reckless and didn’t respect Curtis’ power. Whatever it was, Curtis showed he’s here to stay and even earned himself a BLÜ BONUS for being the Most Valuable Fighter of the night.
Chris Curtis def. Phil Hawes by TKO in the 1st Round
Bobby Green def. Al Iaquinta by TKO in the 1st Round
On paper this was set up to be one of the closest fights of the night. In fact, I even gave Iaquinta the edge because of his experience. However, right away we saw that Bobby Green was just way too much for Al. He controlled the fight for as long as it lasted and got an easy first round finish.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #3
Andreas Michailidis vs. Alex Pereira
On the one side, you had a fairly new UFC fighter, Michailidis with 1 win and 1 loss in the UFC. But on the other side was Glory Kickboxing champion Alex Pereira. Although he had minimal MMA experience (3-1), his kickboxing record is impressive. I thought this is one of those cases where the UFC gives a potential new star (Pereira) an easier fight. I said Pereira would use his immense kickboxing experience to finish Michailidis early in the fight.
Pereira by Finish
As mentioned, there were a lot of questions going into this fight with such unusual circumstances. The main question was if he could deal with being controlled along the fence or on the ground. The first round made it clear that he still has a lot to work on in that department if he wants to compete with ranked fighters. That being said, he showed he can handle grappling against a true MMA fighter. At the start of the 2nd round we saw why he’s so feared in the kickboxing world as he landed a MASSIVE flying knee right at the start of the round.
Alex Pereira def. Andreas Michailidis by KO in the 2nd Round
If the UFC is smart, they’ll give Pereira a couple more fights before handing him someone ranked. He’s clearly got the standup skills to deal with anyone, but unless you’ve got the necessary base in wrestling and grappling, it’s hard to make your way into the rankings.
Main Card Action
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler
This is the first of the 3 highly anticipated main fights of the night, this one with huge implications in the lightweight division. Both fighters came in off of title shot losses; Gaethje losing to Khabib, Chandler to Oliveira. This one was a toss of a coin to me. Both fighters have a similar reach, both fighters carry a lot of power on the feet and have a great game on the ground. I said this one would come down to whoever showed up and performed better on the night. I leaned towards Chandler because I believed his style of fighting favoured a decision.
Chandler by Decision
This fight was everything it was hyped up to be and more! Every second of this fight was pure violence and chaos. I gave Chandler the edge in the first round, Gaethje clearly won the second round with a knockdown and the final round was a complete coin toss. The real winners here were MMA fans everywhere. In the end, they gave the unanimous decision to Gaethje.
Justin Gaethje def. Michael Chandler by Unanimous Decision
Gaethje said if he doesn’t get the title shot that “we riot”. I agree! After losing to Khabib and now beating the previous title challenger Chandler, it’s clear he deserves another shot. The only other contender who seems to have earned it is Islam, but I believe he needs to fight another top 5 contender before he gets that shot. For Chandler, he’s shown that he’s a massive star. He consistently puts on bonus-worthy performances. I haven’t seen anyone say this yet, but I think it’s obvious and would be an unbelievable, violence-filled night…he should fight Conor. They’ve both lost two in a row, they both love to give the fans what they want; this fight needs to happen!
Shane Burgos vs. Billy Quarantillo
Burgos has looked strong in the UFC so far with only 3 losses, all to top contenders in Kattar, Emmett and, most recently, Barboza. Quarantillo had only lost once in the UFC and that was late last year to Gavin Tucker. This is another situation where I believed experience would reign supreme. I thought it would be closely fought and last the distance, but that Burgos would edge out the decision.
Burgos by Decision
After seeing that last fight, this one had no reaction from the crowd. If this had been any other night, the crowd would’ve gone wild and it probably would’ve fetched a Fight of the Night bonus. It was a wild 3 round standup affair with both fighters landing HUGE shots. After Burgos landed a flurry of devastating calf kicks, he started to edge ahead on the cards. In the end, the fight broke the division’s record for combined strikes landed and Burgos got a close decision win.
Shane Burgos def. Billy Quarantillo by Unanimous Decision
Burgos is still very much a contender in the featherweight division. Most of the fighters in the division are tied up with other bouts, so he’ll either have to wait or fight someone near the bottom like Mitchell, Yusuff or the newly ranked Alex Caceres.
Frankie Edgar vs. Marlon Vera
Before the fight, Edgar was ranked 8th and Vera was ranked 13th. For a long time, Edgar fought the featherweight elite; he’s got recent losses against the Korean Zombie, Holloway, Ortega and Aldo. But now he’s moved down to bantamweight and is looking like a top contender. Vera had a slightly better record as of late but nothing special. He beat Davey Grant by decision which is nothing crazy and he “beat” the Suga Show, Sean O’Malley, but it was the flukiest win I’ve ever witnessed in my life with Sean taking a misstep and injuring his own ankle. While Vera had some obvious edges, such as his age and possibly a couple inches of extra reach, the experience of Frankie Edgar loomed large. I thought this one would last all 3 rounds and Edgar would take the win with his extra experience.
Edgar by Decision
Following the theme of the night, we saw another tightly contested bout. Edgar used his unbelievable cardio and experience to edge ahead on the cards in the first half. In the second half it was dead even…until Vera landed a spectacular front kick to get the finish.
Marlon Vera def. Frankie Edgar by TKO in the 3rd Round
Frankie Edgar still certainly has a few more good fights in him but he’ll likely be fighting someone unranked in his next fight. As for ‘Chito’, he’s clearly worthy of fighting a top 10, possibly even a top 5 contender. For now, with all the top fighters busy, it’s tough to say who he should fight next. If Merab and Sandhagen don’t fight, I could see Vera getting either of those two bouts.
Rose Namajunas vs. Weili Zhang
Admittedly, I’m still surprised Weili got a rematch here considering she was KO’d in a little over a minute, especially since the division is packed with talent, but we’ll move past that. As I’m sure you already likely know, Rose took the belt from Weili earlier this year by KO early in the first round. Already, that should push everyone in the direction of betting Rose. That being said, I was sure this one would last longer. Considering Rose’s power, her slight edge in reach and the fact that she won the last one so decisively, I expected another finish by Thug Rose. It’s also important to keep in mind that the last fight only happened 6 months ago, there’s not much room for vast improvements in that short of time.
Namajunas by Finish
This was the close fight that we all expected the first time these two women fought. In the first half, Rose still seemed to have a clear edge in power as Weili stumbled after many of Rose’s punches, but Weili challenged her with some ground control. Then in the second half of the fight we saw the opposite with Rose dominating on the ground. After watching all 5 rounds, I don’t think anyone could say for sure who the judges would pick. In the end, it was Rose winning the split decision.
Rose Namajunas def. Weili Zhang by Split Decision
The name that seems to be on everyone’s mind for Rose is Carla Esparza. That seems fair and I’m sure it’ll be another tightly-contested title bout. For Weili, I’m sure they’ll be throwing the top contenders at her. She’ll probably be fighting Rodriguez next after that win over Dern. That’s all good, but what do I wanna see? Why not Shevchenko?! Weili is an absolute beast and is extremely well-rounded, why not go up the division and test yourself there? At the very least she can get a nice payday.
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
This is another title fight that I feel is undeserved. Colby’s last win was a year ago against Woodley who, although I hate to admit it, hasn’t necessarily had the best fighting career since then. In the meantime, Usman has absolutely dismantled top contender Gilbert Burns and given Masvidal his first KO loss in the UFC. I’ve seen all of Usman’s recent fights and his improvement has been remarkable. For Colby, we just haven’t seen that because he hasn’t fought. I think Usman is special; there’s a reason he’s 1st on the Pound for Pound list. He’s dominating fights so much that he’s actually making it look easy. I just couldn’t see Colby winning this fight. I thought this would be a tough fight for Usman and I thought it’d be bloody, but that Usman would still be the champ.
Usman by Finish
Just like the title fight right before this one, this was exactly the kind of fight that the fans were craving. And just like most of the fights tonight, it was a tightly contested standup battle. That being said, it was another showcase for how good Usman truly is. Colby definitely had his moments and most will agree that he won two rounds, but it still somehow seemed like Usman was in control of the situation. Even though he’s easily the least likeable person in the UFC, if you’re a fan of the sport, you have to respect the performance that Covington put on, especially after making it through the second round after a couple of pretty bad knockdowns.
Kamaru Usman def. Colby Covington by Unanimous Decision
Just like the other dominant UFC champs like Shevchenko and Nunes, Usman finds himself waiting for another contender. Edwards should be the first choice if he can get by Masvidal, but other than that, it’s only Luque right now. Of course we all want to see what Chimaev can do, but he’s got at least 1 or 2 more fights against top 5 contenders before he can rightfully enter that conversation…even if all of us would pay to see that fight.
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 3-2
KO of the Night: Chris Barnett
Sub of the Night: No Submissions Tonight
Fight of the Night: Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler
Most Valuable Fighter:
This guy failed to get the contract on the Contender Series 3 years ago, lost two fights in the same night in PFL and found himself fighting a huge betting favourite Phil Hawes. Not only did he rise to the occasion, he smashed everyone’s expectations (and my parlays) and got a first round finish. He’s now cemented himself in the roster; we’ll see him again real soon.