BJ Penn, eat your heart out.
Back in 2003, Penn and Caol Uno fought to a split draw when the lightweight title had been vacated by Jens Pulver. It was a disastrous enough moment that the UFC ended up discarding the lightweight division for a while. And while this is not going to happen to the light heavyweight division after Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev fought to a split draw for the vacant title at UFC 282 on Saturday night, I figured it would be appropriate to illustrate how much of a disaster the UFC may view this result in hindsight.
It is difficult to dig into the controversy surrounding the UFC 282 main event without getting into the details. Round one was undeniably close. Round two unanimously went to Blachowicz based on him battering Ankalaev with low kicks. Many saw round three in the same light as round two as Blachowicz continued to work over the Russian’s legs, but an argument might be made to give it to Ankalaev based on his work earlier in the round. Rounds four and five undeniably went to Ankalaev as he secured early takedowns and maintained long periods of control. An argument could also be made that Ankalaev secured a 10-8 in the fifth round as Blachowicz delivered no offense whatsoever in that round while Ankalaev delivered some solid ground-and-pound.
Ultimately, even though 22 of the 23 media scores on MMA Decisions went to Ankalaev, there were enough discrepancies in the judges from the general consensus that we ended up with the split draw. Given the other janky scorecards this weekend—Danny Sabatello securing a 50-45 scorecard along with the UFC 282 co-main event—expect calls for something to be done about the judging for the next several weeks.
- Paddy Pimblett can say what he wants about being positive he was going to get his hand raised, but he was exposed by Jared Gordon. The majority of my Twitter timeline indicated the internet believes Gordon should have had his hand raised. Even worse, many of those tuning in to watch Paddy hadn’t heard of Gordon prior to him being matched with the charismatic Englishman. Coming this close to losing to someone many haven’t heard of is bad. Paddy’s brashness in his post-fight interview missed it’s mark too. Pimblett still has plenty of star power, but he needs to be very picky with who he fights next if he wants to maintain his undefeated record in the UFC.
- Anyone else get the feeling we just saw Santiago Ponzinibbio’s last big win in the spotlight? The veteran Argentine was dropped on two occasions by Alex Morono, who accepted the fight on less than a weeks notice. Ponzinibbio did persevere to get the finish in the third round, but he’s also been taking a lot of damage in all his fights since returning from a long layoff. The end feels very close. As for Morono, he’s accepted a LOT of late notice fights over the years. Unfortunately, he can’t win them all.
- Hats off to Dricuss Du Plessis for getting a hard-fought win, but it feels like Darren Till was doing everything in his power to give him the win. After Du Plessis exhausted himself trying to put away Till in a dominant first round, Till fought at a very measured pace, giving Du Plessis every opportunity to find his second wind. Plus, while Till’s takedown defense has never been great, it was terrible. It was revealed that Till tore his ACL during the fight, but that doesn’t help his case either as he’s already considered to be injury prone. Plus, if Till tore his ACL, that counts as damage inflicted. As opposed to this being a coming out party for Du Plessis, it feels more like a nail in the coffin for Till as a top ten fighter, much less an elite fighter.
- If you didn’t know, you know now that Ilia Topuria is a scary dude. Topuria had no fear in walking down Bryce Mitchell, landing heavy artillery in slowly chopping down the confidence of the UFC’s resident redneck before submitting him. So long as the thick Georgian can continue to make 145 – there’s already been indications that will be an issue – I fully expect him to fight for the featherweight title someday. Yes, Topuria is that damn good.
- I’m still worried about the UFC pushing Raul Rosas Jr. to the moon before he’s ready – anyone else remember how Sage Northcutt’s UFC career started? However, his deconstruction of Jay Perrin within a round was very impressive. Rosas has the personality to go with the talent too.
- Anyone else think Jairzinho Rozenstruik was getting tired of the criticism that he’s a boring fighter? He wasted no time in blasting Chris Daukaus, getting him out of there in well under a minute. I have no clue how that plays out going forward, but it certainly was a pleasant shock to the system for Rozenstruik’s reputation.
- Speaking of Daukaus, it’s time for him to start looking at moving to 205. He’s been run over by three consecutive opponents. Sure, it can be pointed out those three opponents are heavy hitters, but it isn’t like the heavyweight division is full of pillow-fisted fighters. If Daukaus is looking at upward mobility for his career, heavyweight isn’t the right home for him.
- The snapping of Edmen Shahbazyan’s three-fight losing streak probably says more about the poor quality of coaching he was receiving at Glendale Fight Club more than anything. Shahbazyan looked like a new fighter after getting away from the much-maligned gym. His win wasn’t a matter of him overwhelming Dalcha Lungiambula with his physical skills either. It was an intelligent strategy. It’s hard to believe we’ve already seen the best of him.
- Chris Curtis played with fire. He allowed the heavy-handed Joaquin Buckley to land almost at will while the tenured veteran got a read on his opponent and waited for the right opening. It did come and Curtis did successfully blast Buckley into la-la land, but how much longer can he take that approach with the miles he has on his body? It is a good win, but it could prove to be a costly win in the long run.
- Despite coming up short against the tireless Billy Quarantillo, the hope here is Alexander Hernandez isn’t turned away from continuing at featherweight. He started out great before fading down the stretch. With a bit more fine tuning of his weight cut, I think he could revitalize his career at 145.
- Not much to say about TJ Brown and Erik Silva. At 35, the debuting Silva doesn’t have the time to grow into something special and Brown, while he can be fun, is just another guy at featherweight who can pick off the lower skilled talents of the division.
- The illegal knee from Cameron Saaiman aside, both he and Steven Koslow showed plenty of promise. Rather than dig too much into the results of their contest, the bigger takeaway is that bantamweight has a lot of young blood worth watching.
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