What mattered most at UFC 282 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight musings …
5. History for Raul Rosas Jr.
[autotag]Raul Rosas Jr.[/autotag] had about as perfect an octagon debut as one could hope for as he completely overwhelmed and submitted Jay Perrin inside the first round.
The poise and execution from Rosas (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) was very impressive, and at 18, he became the youngest person to ever compete and get their hand raised inside the octagon. It’s a feat that may take years to be broken, and he showed he belongs on this stage.
Before we get too crazy and buy into his claims of being the youngest champion in company history, we must note Perrin isn’t exactly the sternest barometer of future greatness. Perrin has never won a fight in the UFC, and he’s struggled in all three of his bouts with the promotion.
That said, Rosas handled him exactly as he should’ve. It was one-sided and Perrin was never in the fight, so it was a great first step. Rosas’s journey through the UFC is going to be one of the most fascinating stories to follow over the next few years, and I can’t wait to see how far he goes.
4. Ilia Topuria is a problem
[autotag]Ilia Topuria[/autotag] offered arguably his most impressive octagon showing to date when he pretty much dominated Bryce Mitchell from start to finish, putting away the grappling standout by submission in a rather stunning outcome.
Coming in, the idea from most analysts would be that Topuria (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) would give Mitchell all the problems on the feet, but have some difficulty on the ground. It turns out he was better at both, which is quite the statement for the undefeated surging featherweight contender.
Topuria needs another solid step up after this one. He is clearly quite a talent, and there’s no doubt more and more ranked fights are ahead for him at this point.
3. Devastation for Darren Till
This feels like it’s rock bottom for [autotag]Darren Till[/autotag]. His losing skid was extended to three fights with a third-round submission loss to Dricus Du Plessis, and it’s hard to know exactly where he goes from here.
It’s been more than three years since Till (18-5-1 MMA, 6-5-1 UFC) had his hand raised inside the octagon, and that fight was a debatable split decision over Kelvin Gastelum. Other than that, his middleweight run has been a disaster.
After a long layoff due to injuries, Till went to Thailand for his training camp for this fight in attempt to turn the tide. He sacrificed seeing his newborn baby and was completely dialed in for a long stretch. It didn’t materialize for him inside the cage, however, and that’s got to be very depressing.
I don’t have an answer of how to fix this for Till, and judging by his post-fight reaction on social media, he doesn’t, either. If he did indeed tear his ACL again, then we’re not going to see Till for some time. Regardless, Till just doesn’t look like the same, confident fighter who made a run to a title shot when he was fighting at 170 pounds. And it’s hard to say whether he can ever get that back.
2. A legitimate robbery in Las Vegas
If you’ve followed this column for any notable portion of time, you would know that I repeatedly – and I mean repeatedly – have said close fights are not robberies. This is one of the instances, however, when I am prepared to walk that stance back.
I do think Jared Gordon legitimately was robbed of a win against [autotag]Paddy Pimblett[/autotag], who somehow came out with a unanimous decision in their lightweight co-main event.
I will give myself a bit of leeway in sharing that, at the time of this column, I have not seen the broadcast version of this fight. I was cageside, and because of that was only able to witness the fight from my singular angle on press row. But I somehow think that makes the judging even more egregious, because the judges were not too far from where I was placed, and they somehow brutalized the scorecards.
It seemed pretty clear to me that Gordon won, at minimum, Round 1 and Round 2. I wouldn’t be mad if you gave him Round 3, either, but the judges were all over the map. In a more advanced sport, this would be a time when all three of the men sitting cageside deciding this fight should be forced to explain themselves, because this felt like one of the worst high-profile decisions of the year. But we know commissions don’t hold judges accountable, so that’s not going to happen.
For Pimblett, it’s whatever. He got lucky here, and he’ll go on with even more haters than he already had coming into this fight, especially given how he reacted afterward in dismissing any suggestion the fight was even remotely close.
Most of all I feel bad for Gordon. He was screwed out of a career-changing win and screwed out of half his paycheck. We’re gonna call this one a robbery.
1. The fallout of the split draw
Ever since Jon Jones relinquished the belt, the UFC light heavyweight has been in shambles. So in reality, we shouldn’t be all that surprised by the latest twists and turns in the landscape of what was once the promotion’s marquee glamor division.
After Jones departed to make his still-awaited move to heavyweight nearly three years ago, there has been no consistency. Dominick Reyes seemed like he was going to be the next man, but then he got knocked out by a late-30s Jan Blachowicz. Then Israel Adesanya failed in his bid to overtake the division before Blachowicz was submitted by a 40-year-old Glover Teixeira.
It seemed like Jiri Prochazka might be the guy after he won a Fight of the Year contender with Teixeira to claim gold in July, but then, of course, he suffered a horrific shoulder injury that’s going to put him out for more than a year.
So that’s how we ended up with Saturday’s main event between Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev for the vacant strap. Ankalaev seemed like a guy who could be the next torchbearer for the weight class, but nope. We got a split draw result, leaving the belt vacant in this total crapshoot of a situation. The fight wasn’t great, either, so that wasn’t exactly motivating for the UFC to immediately run it back.
Now we end with a makeshift title booking of Teixeira vs. Jamahal Hill for UFC 283 next month in Brazil. It kind of worked out for the UFC in the sense that it needed another title fight for that card in Rio de Janeiro, but the whole thing is just weird and feels extremely cobbled together, because it is.
Hill certainly has the potential to be a sellable champion for the UFC, and him beating Teixeira would be the optimal outcome here, in my opinion. But there’s so much possibility for things to go wrong. What if Teixeira wins then decides to retire in his home country? What is Hill – who is fighting on short notice – misses weight and wins the fight? Both situations would lead to another vacant belt.
Hopefully the worst of this rollercoaster is over, and some stability is around the corner.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 282.