Last Updated on 8 May 2022 8:15 am (UK Time)
On Friday, reigning UFC undisputed champion, Charles Oliveira, missed weight by one half pound. He was given an hour to come back light enough to qualify for the fight and failed to do so. He was then stripped of his belt and the lightweight title was declared vacant. Thus, the only man with a chance to emerge from UFC 274 as the undisputed lightweight champion was the challenger, Justin Gaethje. It was an absolutely stunning and unprecedented turn of events. Nonetheless, as the saying goes, the show must go on. There’s a lot to unpack here. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Oliveira vs. Gaethje
The energy in the arena was electric as both men walked to the octagon. Gaethje grew up just a few miles away from Phoenix, where tonight’s event was held. As a result, he was escorted from the locker room by a stadium full of cheers. Oliveira, on the other hand, was greeted by a chorus of boos.
Within the first few seconds of round one, Oliveira landed an emphatic overhand right that sent Gaethje crashing to the mat. Gaethje responded with two left hooks, each of which put Do Bronx on the canvas. Gaethje continued applying pressure, eventually scoring a big takedown at the three minute mark, Again, Oliveira showed resolved and fought to his feet. He landed an overhand right of his own that sent Gaethje to the mat. He then pounced on his opponent, mounted his back and established the rear-naked chokehold. Gaethje had no choice but to tap out. Oliveira was declared the winner due to submission.
After the fight, Oliveira jogged to Dana White, who was sitting ringside. White could be seen nodding his head in agreement with something Oliveira whispered to him. One can only imagine that Oliveira said something declaring himself to be the best fighter in the lightweight division, even if he is no longer technically the champion. After tonight’s impressive performance, it’s hard to argue with that.
Namajunas vs. Esparza
Rose Namajunas lost the UFC’s inaugural Women’s Strawweight championship fight to Carla Esparza back in December of 2014. Tonight, instead of the belt being vacant, Namajunas entered the bout as the reigning champion, while Esparza played the role of the challenger.
Namajunas was the most cautious defending champion I’ve ever seen. She is known for her striking ability, while Esparza is renowned for her takedowns and grappling. Namajunas never went to her striking, instead choosing to be defensive the entire fight. Esparza, on the other hand, scored takedowns in the second, third and fourth rounds. This was honestly the most inactive UFC fight I’ve ever witnessed. The two athletes received a chorus of well-deserved boos after every round.
At the end of the fight, Carla Esparza was granted a split decision victory. Although Esparza was not as active as I would have preferred, I thought she should have been granted a unanimous decision. She was clearly the more aggressive of the two fighters, and the multiple takedowns she scored were easily the best moments of the fight.
Chandler vs. Ferguson
If you are a viewer of any of the highlight shows, you’ve most likely already seen the best moment from this fight. Michael Chandler’s right kick up the middle, landed squarely on Tony Ferguson’s chin and knocked him out cold immediately. The kick happened within the first few seconds of round two. As soon as Chandler’s foot made impact, everyone in the arena knew the fight was over. It was easily the best moment of the entire night.
Michael Chandler made several call-outs in his post-fight interview. He put the most interesting spin on his challenge to embattled superstar Conor McGregor. He stated that he wants to fight McGregor at welterweight, instead of lightweight, where both of them have usually competed. That is an interesting proposition, indeed; a fight between those two at welterweight would certainly be worth watching.
Rua vs. Saint Preux
Ovince Saint Preux defeated Shogun Rua with a first round knockout back in November of 2014. However, that was over seven years ago; both men are significantly older in fighter years and neither man is in his prime condition. Each man stated that their prior encounter would have no bearings on tonight’s matchup.
Neither fighter was very active in round one; kicks to the mid-section by Saint Preux were the most effective maneuvers employed by either man. Rua had a standout moment of his own in round two when his left jab to the body, followed by a right hook to the head, garnered a reaction from Saint Preux. Unfortunately the pace did not pick up in round three and the fans in attendance began putting their cell phones in the air, in hopes that the display of lights would inspire the fighters to pick up the action.
Ovince Saint Preux was awarded a split decision victory by the judges. However, I could not help feeling that after tonight’s effort, both men should retire.
Brown vs. Williams
Randy Brown and Khaos Williams are two of the most exciting prospects in the welterweight division. This was an action packed fight from start to finish. About halfway through round one, a right hook by Williams sent Brown crashing to the mat. Williams attempted a takedown but Brown was able to avoid the maneuver. Brown bounced back in round two with a nice punch-kick combo that clearly affected Williams.
Brown remained illusive and did a nice job of keeping Williams outside with the jab. However, another right hand by Williams sent Brown to the mat again in round three. Williams had another unsuccessful takedown attempt near the end of the round as Brown proved once again to be solid in his takedown defense.
The judges gave Randy Brown a split decision victory. I have to say I disagree with this decision. While neither man inflicted serious damage, Williams had more impactful moments and stayed on the offensive for most of the fight. Williams was clearly disappointed by the decision; and I have to agree. I always favor the fighter who comes forward over the fighter who backpedals in a close fight. Tonight, the fighter applying the forward pressure was Khaos Williams, not Randy Brown.
Although the lightweight belt is currently vacant, the next championship matchup for the title should be clear to anyone whose been paying attention. Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev have been the two most impressive lightweights in the UFC for the past two years. It is time that those two men met in the center of the octagon and settled the dispute once and for all. The stage is set to put the belt on the line between two of the best submission artists the UFC has to offer. That would be an entertaining bout that no serious fight fan would dare to miss.
The UFC returns to the Apex Center in Las Vegas next week for another edition of Fight Night. The main event of the evening will feature light heavyweights Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakić in a showdown between two of the top prospects in the division. As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis available right here at World in Sport!
Until next time take care of yourselves, and each other.