Aljamain Sterling defended his bantamweight title with a sensational performance while a new king was crowned in the lightweight division. The former champ, Oliveira put up a solid fight, but he was no match for the wrecking ball that is Islam Makhachev.
Perhaps the biggest story of the night though, the ‘Suga Show’, Sean O’Malley grabbed one of the biggest UFC upsets of the year with a split decision win over former champ Yan. Statements were also made by top ranked UFC contenders Beneil Dariush, Manon Fiorot and Belal Muhammad, all very close to a title shot.
All of the bouts from UFC 280 are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of the night: the BLÜ BONUSES.
Karol Rosa def. Lina Länsberg by Majority Decision
The ladies started off slow, then, out of nowhere, Länsberg landed a BOMB that dropped Rosa on her back. Amazingly, she recovered quickly, then moving the fight along the fence. Even though Rosa was the bigger fighter, Länsberg was the one dominating along the fence. After getting controlled for a bit, Rosa managed to overpower Lina and throw her into the canvas for a beautiful takedown. With half the round spent on top, Rosa definitely could’ve saved the round, but Länsberg’s early knockdown loomed large in an otherwise slow round.
Rosa didn’t want to leave anything to chance in the second, launching herself straight into Länsberg for an EASY takedown. She absolutely dominated Länsberg for the entire round down there; sadly, she landed a HARD illegal knee. Unfortunately for Rosa, a point was taken away, possibly putting her down 19-18. Knowing she needed to get some work done, Länsberg came in and got her clinch game going along the fence. Rosa reversed her from there, then letting loose some hellish combos. With that late onslaught and some more dominant grappling, I’d have given the round to Rosa. With the first round a toss-up, I might’ve scored it as a tie. The judges weren’t sure about that round either, scoring the fight 29-27, 29-27 and 28-28 in a rare, majority decision.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
Muhammad Mokaev vs. Malcolm Gordon
Another week, another Canadian UFC fighter getting fed to a rising contender. Mokaev was still undefeated at 7-0 going into the weekend, dominating both of his UFC opponents with his relentless grappling. Gordon is a decent grappler, but Mokaev is similar to Albazi who submitted Gordon in the 1st Round of his debut. With Mokaev’s relentless pace and seemingly endless cardio, I figured Gordon would likely get finished at some point, probably early.
Mokaev by Finish
Both of the guys exploded early, throwing lightning combos at each other. Knowing he couldn’t let Mokaev run over him, Gordon was the one pressing forward a little harder with his striking. It was going well, then Mokaev got his game going, dragging Gordon to the canvas. From there it was Mokaev’s realm, maneuvering for submissions and chipping away with some ground and pound.
With a dominant round in the books, Mokaev was clearly up 1-0. Gordon got his striking going early once again, trying to keep Mokaev off of him. Gordon was throwing out some WILD combos, but was then taken down again. After a few minutes of ground control from Mokaev, Gordon actually managed to reverse him. Even more surprising, Gordon closed the round on Mokaev’s back, locking in a rear naked choke! Still, with all that control, I’d have scored it 20-18 for Mokaev at that point.
The final round opened the exact same way with Gordon running in, then getting dragged down to the ground. Then, just like the end of the second, Gordon somehow managed to take Mokaev’s back. From there he was fighting hard for the submission. Mokaev defended well, getting Gordon off of him and standing back up. From there he stole back the momentum, putting Gordon flat on his back. With less than a minute left, Moakev finally managed to lock in a submission and it was all over as Gordon tapped to a NASTY armbar.
Muhammad Mokaev def. Malcolm Gordon by Submission in the 3rd Round
He’s been calling for top 10 guys on his quest to be the youngest champ in UFC history, but he just isn’t there quite yet. He’s clearly got the talent, the mindset and the determination, but a true top 10 contender would’ve absolutely mangled Gordon. That being said, someone on the edge of the top 15 would be a great, well-deserved opportunity; he’s just going to have to take it a little slower than he likes.
Armen Petrosyan def. AJ Dobson by Unanimous Decision
Dobson grabbed the early momentum, landing a couple of crisp jabs and throwing Petrosyan down to the ground. The fight moved back to the fight quickly though, then slowing down to a chess-match of a striking battle. It was back and forth from there with both men having their moments on the feet. With more activity, I’d have probably given the round to Petrosyan.
Dobson opened with a heavy exchange once again, but was very much struggling with the activity of Petrosyan. For every combo that Dobson was throwing, Petrosyan was throwing 3 or 4 extra. Finally, Dobson went to get some grappling going, taking Petrosyan down briefly. Petrosyan got up quickly, but seemed to be struggling with some kind of leg injury after that. That being said, he was still probably up 2-0.
Dobson was still looking fairly fresh, but that might’ve been the problem. He wasn’t using that cardio as a weapon. Instead of pushing Petrosyan with his own pace, Dobson was allowing him to be the more active fighter. To give an idea of how lopsided the totals were, Petrosyan was up by over 100 strikes which was doubling Dobson’s output. Dobson’s final round was his best, but it wasn’t enough to win on the cards. The judges ended up scoring it 30-27 for the more active striker, Armen Petrosyan.
Abubakar Nurmagomedov def. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev by Unanimous Decision
Gadzhi opened with a decent combo, but Nurmagomedov quickly responded with a takedown attempt. He managed to shut that down though, locking in a guillotine and landing some knees on Abubakar. After some standup, amazingly, it was Gadzhi that took down Khabib’s cousin. That may have been a mistake though as it allowed Nurmagomedov to reverse him and find himself on top. Gadzhi may have opened the round strong, but it seemed as though Abubakar stole all that momentum with his ground control.
It was Abubakar who opened with the striking first this time, then going for a takedown and pushing him into the fence. Sadly, Nurmagomedov landed an illegal knee that disrupted the action and his position, but no points were taken. Now out in the open, they returned to striking with Gadzhi throwing some BIG combos. Nurmagomedov then went straight back into his grappling, taking Gadzhi down and taking his back.
This led to some WILD grappling reversals on the ground with both men trading the dominant position. Eventually, Nurmagomedov found himself on top of Gadzhi who seemed to be slowing down. Gadzhi was threatening a nasty kneebar to close the round, but it wasn’t enough to steal the round back on the cards.
The final round started a lot slower with both men lowering their pace. Nurmagomedov was the much fresher fighter though, responding to Gadzhi’s combos with a takedown and some beautiful combos himself. At that point, Abubakar was starting to slow down too, but was smothering Gadzhi with grappling. With a late, BIG shot and some more control time, it was clear that Nurmagomedov had earned another decision win. The judges agreed, scoring it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Abubakar.
Nikita Krylov def. Volkan Oezdemir by Unanimous Decision
Oezdemir wasted no time, lighting Krylov up with MASSIVE combos, wobbling his legs over and over. Krylov responded with a desperate takedown attempt, but was easily shut down and was still wobbling a bit. Oezdemir made a couple of mistakes that almost let Krylov grab a takedown, but still stayed standing, ready to land more bombs. Oezdemir wobbled Krylov again… but then it was Krylov who had him backing up!
He was wobbled bad and was then dragged down to the ground. From there, the tides turned as Krylov wrapped his arm under the chin of Oezdemir. Amazingly, he got out of it, stood back up and slammed Krylov into the canvas. It was a WILD round, but I’d have to give it to Oezdemir with those brutal knockdowns and the late recovery.
Krylov opened HARD at the start of the second round, landing some huge combos on Oezdemir. He then switched back to grappling where he dragged Oezdemir to the canvas. It was tough, taking a lot of effort, but Oezdemir returned back to his feet. This allowed Krylov to keep pushing the pace, taking him down once again. At this point, the pace was starting to get to Oezdemir as he was unable to get anything going, evening the scorecards 19-19.
Krylov kept that pace going in the final round, overwhelming Volkan with his grappling. Still drained from the early action, Oezdemir was stuck, unable to get back up and unable to get anything going on the feet either. Another easy round for Krylov, clearly winning on the cards. The judges agreed, scoring it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Krylov.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Makhmud Muradov vs. Caio Borralho
With a UFC record of 3-1, Muradov is certainly Borralho’s toughest fight to date. He opened with 3 wins, but was then submitted by Meerschaert in his last outing. Borralho, on the other hand, is still undefeated in the UFC (and 12-1 in his UFC career), dominating both of his opponents with his grappling. Muradov certainly seemed like he’d be a threat on the feet, but Borralho’s grappling has been unstoppable. Considering the fact that Muradov was submitted by Meerschaert, I predicted Caio to do the same, grabbing another impressive win.
Borralho by Finish
Both men were hesitant early, making sure not to make an early mistake. Muradov landed the first big shot, countering Borralho HARD. That didn’t slow him down though, as Borralho countered and eventually grabbed the takedown he was searching for. Caio got his work going from there, moving towards a submission. Sadly for him, he made a mistake and was reversed, spending the rest of the round on his back. With that much back-and-forth action, it wasn’t clear who had grabbed the round on the cards.
The second started off just as even, then Caio found himself locking another DEEP submission. Muradov rolled out of it, still finding himself on the bottom. Amazingly, he managed to reverse Borralho like the first round, raining down some nice ground and pound. With Muradov dominating most of the grappling this round, it seemed tied or with Muradov taking a 2-0 lead.
The final round went the exact same way with Muradov grabbing the takedown and Caio using a guillotine to threaten a finish and find himself on top. This time, Borralho was dominating him, working for submissions and landing some slick ground and pound. Interestingly, the judges gave a clear win for Borralho, scoring it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Caio Borralho def. Makhmud Muradov by Unanimous Decision
Both of these men were impressive in this fight. With such a wide open division, it seems as though both of them will likely find their way into the UFC top 15 within the next couple years. For Borralho though, this win is a clear statement that he should be fighting someone in the top 15 in his next fight.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #3
Belal Muhammad vs. Sean Brady
With both men having a similar style, heavy with grappling, it will come down to size and striking ability. From what’s been shown in their recent fights, I went with Brady for both of those factors. Not only that, it’s usually a safer bet to side with the UFC fighter who’s undefeated.
Brady by Decision
Both men were giving it all early, staying super active. Brady appeared to be getting the better of the exchanges though, landing a couple of nice combos and throwing Belal down with some disrespect. Most of us expected Brady to be the crisper, way more dangerous striker, but Belal was finding the mark early. Brady wasn’t letting him get too far ahead though, opening a small cut on Belal. With all the wild exchanges, this round could’ve gone in either direction. I might’ve given it to Belal though with that pressure and activity.
Belal slowed the pressure down at the start of the round, leading to some beautiful combos from Brady. He was still landing the better shots, but Belal was still keeping it close and staying active. Belal was also showing his grappling prowess, shutting down every single takedown of Brady. As the round was closing out, it was Belal getting busy, stealing the momentum and wobbling Brady BAD.
He smelled blood in the water from there, lighting Brady up on the feet with HUGE shots. Brady was getting wobbled, but was still very much in the fight. Sadly, the ref didn’t see it that way and stopped the fight a bit early. It may have been an early stoppage, but Belal was clearly in control of the fight and heading towards a win.
Belal Muhammad def. Sean Brady by TKO in the 2nd Round
Belal is in a strange situation once again. He’s consistently beating ranked opponents, but they’ve all been ranked below him. There’s also not too many people above him. Usman and Edwards seem locked into a trilogy, Covington might be fighting Chimaev, leaving only Burns without a matchup. That means he’s either going to have to fight Burns or someone below, because I think we all know that the winner of Covington/Chimaev is getting the title shot after Usman. If Belal doesn’t win another fight, the UFC will never give him a title shot.
Main Card Action
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Manon Fiorot
It was a tight matchup on paper, but the size and striking skills of Fiorot loomed large. I figured Fiorot would be able to use those slight advantages to get ahead on the cards and win a tight decision. It should be noted that Chookagian was controlled in her last fight, BARELY beating Ribas who fights down a division. Meanwhile, Fiorot is one of the bigger UFC flyweights, likely more comfortable at bantamweight.
Fiorot by Decision
Fiorot was the one pushing the striking early, lighting Chookagian up. She was landing crisp shots while Chookagian was whiffing on on most of her combos. She started to get more active as the round went on, but Fiorot had likely still taken the round on the cards.
The second round started off just as even with both women throwing out a lot offence. It was tough to see who was taking the lead at that point. Both women were being super active. Fiorot may have been edging ahead with her forward pressure and extra power, but it was dead even.
Fiorot kept her pressure and pace going, but Chookagian was starting to really get back in there and be more active. The rest of the round was more dead-even striking from both women, broken up by a quick takedown from Fiorot. With a slight edge in activity and power, I would’ve given the round and the win to Fiorot. The judges agreed, giving the tight, 29-28 decision for Fiorot.
Manon Fiorot def. Katlyn Chookagian by Unanimous Decision
With a win over Chookagian, the number 1 UFC contender, the next step has to be the title shot against Valentina. I still firmly believe Taila Santos HAS TO get that rematch first, but after that, Fiorot will get a UFC title shot.
Beneil Dariush vs. Mateusz Gamrot
This matchup is interesting because it involves two of the most underrated… almost disrespected, fighters in any division. Maybe I STILL wasn’t giving Dariush the respect he deserves, but I said Gamrot should be able to dominate this fight. He’s a constant danger everywhere, but is especially dangerous with his grappling. Dariush is also well-rounded, but he doesn’t have the same intensity, power and finishing ability. I expected a beautiful, technical finish from Gamrot.
Gamrot by Finish
Gamrot tried to rush in with a takedown immediately, but was shut down quickly by Dariush. From there, both men were tumbling and rolling around the canvas, fighting for position on the ground. After some more striking, Gamrot got him down and both men were locking on to each other’s ankles, rolling around the canvas. They went back to their feet but as expected, Gamrot was relentless the entire round and clearly won it on the cards.
Dariush came in looking much better in the second, landing more shots and avoiding an early takedown. Dariush managed to keep that going the rest of the round, landing some HEAVY combos and shutting down all the takedowns of Gamrot. With all that extra output from Dariush, it seemed pretty clear that the fight was tied headed into the final round.
Gamrot came in HOT with a wild takedown, running straight for a heel hook. Dariush shot it down though, countering him with a beautiful head kick. After some more tight striking, Gamrot shot in with a beautiful grappling flurry, but was shut down. After a MASSIVE knockdown from Dariush, he had likely secured the win on the cards.
Beneil Dariush def. Mateusz Gamrot by Unanimous Decision
I’ll admit, I’m truly blown away by Dariush’s performance in this fight. I thought Gamrot was going to roll right over him with his grappling, but his defence held up beautifully. We’ve still gotta see what happens with Chandler and Poirier in November before we talk about another UFC title contender outside of Volkanovski. It seems like ‘Volk’ will be the next contender, leaving the winner of Poirier/Chandler to fight Dariush.
Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley
The safer bet was clearly Yan by decision. That being said, Yan tends to start slow and uses his boxing to pick people apart. The problem with that kind of strategy is O’Malley’s movement, kicks and reach that can be used to keep Yan back. Plus, with one-punch power, Sean only needed to land one crisp combo to change the fight. To make this even tougher, O’Malley fights almost exactly the same as Cory Sandhagen, who was actually picking Yan apart for the first part of their fight. I said if Yan fought like that, “Suga” could have stolen the win… but I had to go with the smarter, safer bet of Yan by decision.
Yan by Decision
Yan walked forward early, pushing Sean into the fence, but neither man landed anything for a while. It was the kicks that started first from both sides. Both men were VERY elusive, bobbing and weaving out of the way. It seemed to be O’Malley that was landing more on the feet with Yan switching it up, throwing out a takedown attempt. O’Malley shut the first one down, but was slammed by the second one. He still managed to get back to his feet quickly, moving back to striking. O’Malley actually slipped onto Yan’s back for a submission too, but the round closed, likely in favour of Yan.
O’Malley pushed forward at the start of the second, ROCKING Yan with a BOMB. He smoked him a couple more times with Yan responding with a beautiful takedown. This time they were in the middle of the Octagon. ‘Suga’ tried to throw out some slick submission attempts, but Yan defended well. From there they moved back to their feet where it stayed even. Yan ended the round on top, possibly stealing another round on the cards.
Once again, O’Malley was active to start the round, peppering Yan with jabs. Yan was responding with a flurry of takedown attempts. ‘Suga’s’ takedown defence was holding up well though. Then, for the second time in the fight, ‘Suga’ landed a BOMB, following it up with a HUGE flurry, cutting Yan open BAD. It was looking rough for Yan, but he was staying in the fight, pushing Sean into the fence. The rest of the round ‘Suga’ had him on the feet, but Yan got his grappling going again, dragging Sean down.
These rounds were close enough that the two MASSIVE shots from ‘Suga’ could have swayed the judges, but I’d have given it to Yan. In the biggest surprise of the night… possibly the biggest UFC surprise of the year, the judges were split, scoring it 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 for the ‘Suga Show’.
Sean O’Malley def. Petr Yan by Split Decision
Now that we’re on the other side of this, with none other than the ‘Suga Show’ taking the win, you have to be talking about a UFC title shot. With Cejudo waiting in the wings, that’s likely the next opponent for Sterling. That doesn’t have an effect on Sean’s chances though. He has to heal up from this fight, then start preparing for heavy, heavy grapplers, because Aljo, Cejudo and Merab are MUCH better grapplers than Yan.
Co-Main Event (Bantamweight Title Fight)
Aljamain Sterling vs. T.J. Dillashaw
All the drama of the past few years for BOTH men aside, this seemed to come down to style and size. Aljo is freakishly massive for 135 pounds, while T.J. (with the help of drugs) made it down to 125 pounds to challenge for that belt. Aljo is also the most talented grappler/submission artist in the division. Using his size and grappling, it seemed like Aljo should have either dominated the decision or snagged a submission win.
Sterling by Finish
The striking was fast and furious right away, but Sterling mixed in a quick takedown. As always, Sterling started to shred him apart with ground and pound. He then took his favourite position, the backpack position, on Dillashaw’s back fighting for a submission. From there it was an absolute massacre with TJ getting ripped by ground and pound, getting brutalized by the relentless grappling of Aljo.
After popping his shoulder back in, TJ kept on trying to get his striking going. Sterling was countering well though, then grabbing another EASY takedown. From there, Sterling started to smother TJ, popping his shoulder out for a second time. Dillashaw managed to get back up, but was really struggling with his shoulder. Aljo took him back down and kept up the ground and pound until the ref called it to a stop.
Aljamain Sterling def. T.J. Dillashaw by TKO in the 2nd Round
We just addressed this in previous fight with ‘Suga’ and Yan. Aljo’s next fight will likely have to be Cejudo or O’Malley.
Main Event (Lightweight Title Fight)
Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev
On paper, there really shouldn’t be much question: Oliveira should have won easily. What made this fight interesting, of course, is the clash of styles. Both men have been submitting UFC fighters that aren’t known for their ground game. The difference headed into this was that Oliveira is also a VERY dangerous striker, grabbing multiple TKO wins, including the one that got him the belt over Michael Chandler. With the ground game possibly a stalemate, the differences appeared to be on the feet. With Islam having minimal striking experience, I had to imagine that Oliveira had a good chance of grabbing a KO for the belt.
Oliveira by Finish
To the surprise of many, Islam was the one who landed the heavy shots on the feet early. From there, it was Charles that moved the fight to the ground. Oliveira threw up a couple of decent submission attempts right away, but was shut down as Islam started to work his own submission. Also to the surprise of many, Charles easily returned back to his feet. Islam got him back down a second time though. From there, Islam dominated the rest of the round, winning it on the cards.
Both came in heavy at the start of the second, clinching up and looking for a takedown. Islam had him pinned against the fence, but couldn’t quite drag him down. That being said, Makhachev was the one landing slick combos, winning the striking battle. Then, just like Charles’ last few fights, he was dropped by a BOMB, flat on his back. Unlike his past few fights though, his opponent followed him down there. Islam used that opportunity to jump on top of Charles and lock in a submission. A few seconds later it was all over, giving Islam a submission and the lightweight belt.
Islam Makhachev def. Charles Oliveira by Unanimous Decision
As discussed following Dariush’s performance, Islam will most likely be facing Volkanovski next. As for Charles, he’s down to fight anyone, possibly even in Brazil in a couple months. In terms of opponents, he may even be the one who faces Dariush or the winner of Poirier/Chandler.
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 2-3
KO of the Night: Belal Muhammad
Sub. of the Night: Islam Makhachev
Brawl of the Night: Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley
Most Valuable Fighter:
He was one of the biggest underdogs on the card, facing the former champ. Even if you don’t think he won, that’s by FAR the most Yan has been damaged in the past few years, including multiple title fights. With this win he’ll be in the top 3 of the division and is already one of the bigger draws in the UFC. How much more valuable can a fighter be? Sky’s the limit for O’Malley.
He may have been the favourite coming into this weekend, but you have to remember how significant a submission over Charles Oliveira really is. Oliveira has the most submissions in UFC history by a HUGE margin and had finished his opponent in each of his title fights. For Islam to submit him in the 2nd Round… he’s probably one of the only people on the planet that could do that. Islam is going to be the champ for a long, long time.