Is there a viable challenger for Charles Oliveira? How will Rose Namajunas rebound?

MMA

A 14-fight card at UFC 274 produced some huge wins, implausible motion, memorable knockouts and a lackluster co-main occasion sandwiched between two wonderful bouts. Jeff Wagenheim and Carlos Contreras Legaspi react to the pay-per-view and provide up their largest ideas on the night time.

Massive battle nights headlined by championship bouts sometimes present readability. However what UFC 274 delivered as a substitute was contradiction.

On Saturday night time in Phoenix, Charles Oliveira stepped into the cage as UFC light-weight champion. He then choked out Justin Gaethje within the very first spherical — and walked out of the Octagon as ex-champ.

The rationale for that mixed-up circumstance was that Oliveira had missed weight on Friday, leaving the UFC to remove his title the second his battle with Gaethje started. What that caused, on the conclusion of the battle, was an empty feeling that one thing was lacking — no “And nonetheless!” announcement by Bruce Buffer, no belt being wrapped round Oliveira’s waist by Dana White.

And but one factor is plain: Belt or no belt, Charles Oliveira is the very best 155-pound fighter on the planet.

That grew to become evident through the 3 minutes, 22 seconds that the battle lasted. Oliveira wobbled Gaethje within the opening minute, however moments later Gaethje dropped him with a punch. Then Gaethje dropped him once more. However anybody who was pondering this was the start of the tip clearly had not been watching Oliveira currently.

The 32-year-old Brazilian was harm badly a yr in the past in Spherical 1 of his battle with Michael Chandler for the then-vacant title, however Oliveira got here out for the second spherical and instantly clipped Chandler, then completed him at 19 seconds of the spherical. Seven months later, Oliveira needed to persevere by way of a tough begin towards Dustin Poirier earlier than choking out his challenger in Spherical 3.

This time Oliveira, his face marked up by the vicious work of Gaethje, scored a takedown halfway by way of the spherical and shortly seized again management, placing him in place to sink in a rear-naked choke for the thirtieth end and twenty first submission of his 33-win professional profession. Contained in the Octagon, he has 19 finishes and 16 submissions — each UFC information.

If solely there have been a robust grappler within the division who may have the ability to deal with Oliveira’s floor recreation. Too unhealthy Khabib Nurmagomendov is retired.

That may simply depart the job as much as Islam Makhachev, a Nurmagomedov buddy and teammate who has been known as Khabib 2.0. The 22-1 Makhachev has been working his manner up the light-weight hierarchy, and his emergence could not have come at a greater time. — Wagenheim


Ought to Tony Ferguson actually have confronted Michael Chandler?

Early throughout battle week, once I was plotting out the UFC 274 bouts that were must-see, I additionally famous a pair that I suspected is perhaps laborious to look at. One which I picked out ended up not taking place, after Donald “Cowboy” Cerrrone took sick on Saturday, sparing us from the potential of seeing him lengthen his six-fight winless streak in a manner that may make us cringe. The opposite battle I chosen did go on and was certainly troublesome to look at — however not essentially for the rationale I anticipated.

I feared that Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson could be a painful show of what occurs when somebody at or close to the highest of his recreation (Chandler) faces a fighter whose profession has been fading (Ferguson, who was coming off three brutal losses). It might get ugly quick, I assumed.

However then Ferguson got here out for the light-weight bout and harm Chandler immediately. Early on, Ferguson regarded fluid and harmful and clearly aggressive within the battle. Perhaps I used to be improper about this reserving?

Or not.

Within the opening seconds of Spherical 2, Chandler threw a straight proper kick up the center, and when the ball of his foot related flush on Ferguson’s chin, the battle was over instantly. Ferguson fell limply on his face, unconscious, and lay there immobile for a number of moments. Even after he got here to and was helped to his ft, Ferguson nonetheless regarded dazed.

Was this scary knockout a direct byproduct of Ferguson being pale, his reflexes too gradual to guard him and his chin now not capable of face up to impression? Or was this simply one thing that would occur to anybody, even a champ or prime-of-career fighter? Nobody is aware of for certain, however I will simply say this: It was the kind of ending I used to be envisioning as a chance for Ferguson and Cerrone once I expressed concern over their bookings.

“Cowboy” and “El Cucuy” are legends of MMA. Each have delivered numerous thrills and wonderful moments through the years. Nobody is asking for these end-of-career guys to be shut down solely, however matchmakers want to acknowledge the place each fighters are of their careers earlier than sending them into the cage collectively.

Throughout a UFC run highlighted by a 12-fight successful streak, Ferguson was breathtaking. However now when he fights we’re left to carry our breath. — Wagenheim


Namajunas-Esparza: A title battle in contrast to another

“I am the very best! I am the very best!”

That was the mantra Rose Namajunas mentioned aloud, quietly and resolutely and time and again, as she walked out to the cage for the co-main occasion.

I ponder what mantra she had for the lonely stroll again to the dressing room as a former champion.

Namajunas, to be truthful, has proven herself to be the very best strawweight on this planet these previous few years, with two reigns as champ and a number of victories over former champs Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Zhang Weili, in addition to a win over one other titleholder, Jessica Andrade. However on Saturday night time she was not the very best — or not less than she opted to not present us her finest.

Carla Esparza was booed after getting her arm raised and having the belt wrapped round her waist. She did not deserve that response. She had moved ahead throughout a lot of the battle, however Namajunas saved her distance and refused to interact. Esparza achieved little over the 5 rounds, it is true, however little is best than nothing, and that “nothing” is what Namajunas confirmed till the very finish of the bout, when it was too late.

Two questions linger: First, was this the worst title battle in UFC historical past? It is definitely a contender. Esparza landed simply 30 important strikes, the fewest in a choice victory in a UFC title battle within the promotion’s trendy period. However hey, Esparza is primarily a wrestler. Namajunas, however, is called a slick striker. She related with simply 37.

“It is laborious to search out somebody who does not need to battle,” Esparza mentioned within the Octagon after the bout.

That results in the second query popping out of this battle: What can we make of Namajunas? Why did a fighter who had stood her floor towards a number of extra harmful foes dance across the Octagon for the higher a part of her 25 minutes in there with Esparza? I do not know that there is a severe reply, however are you aware who ought to have recognized that reply because the battle unfolded? The Namajunas nook. From what I might hear of her coaches, nobody tried to mild a hearth and get Rose to battle like Rose.

Namajunas is an enigma, a lot in order that this dud of a efficiency does not sign a demise. The following time she’s within the cage, she may seem like a world beater. Which is what she typically regarded like… again when she was a champion. — Wagenheim


Francisco Trinaldo, younger at 43

If you wish to understand how deep the UFC light-weight division is, simply check out the unranked veteran Francisco Trinaldo. He went all-out towards Danny Roberts — who was approaching a two win streak — to shut the prelims at UFC 274 and light-weight up the Footprint Middle.

‘Massaranduba’ earned his 18th victory contained in the octagon with a whole placing efficiency and had Roberts in bother greater than as soon as through the battle. He is one of many many gatekeepers that the division has and he is definitely at all times a enjoyable fighter to look at, continually in search of the knockout end. Trinaldo has defeated Bobby Green, Jim Miller and John Makdessi.

At 43 years outdated and with over a decade preventing for the promotion, he is standing with a 5-1 document in his final six fights. Like Andrei Arlovski, who can also be stacking wins towards fighters that most likely weren’t even coaching when he signed with the UFC, Trinaldo is not displaying indicators of slowing down and desires to make some recollections for his 5 yr outdated son. And tonight was a very good one. — Legaspi

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