Sunday, December 5, 2021

5 Questions Answered at UFC Calgary

With a trio of former champions fighting last night (July 28), UFC Calgary was considered can’t-miss TV for fight fans. The event took place in the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Let’s take a look at some of the burning questions that were answered last night:

Alexander Hernandez: One-punch wonder?

Stepping in on short-notice against Beneil Dariush at UFC 222 this past March, Alexander Hernandez shocked the MMA world with a devastating knockout of the veteran fighter. As the fight lasted only 42 seconds, many were understandably uncertain about Hernandez’ abilities as an all-around fighter.

The 25-year-old prospect silenced the critics last night with a unanimous decision victory over Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Aubin-Mercier, carrying a 7-2 UFC record into the fight, was expected to be a tough challenge for the relative newcomer. Although Hernandez was unable to secure a finish this time around, his performance was thoroughly impressive.

Many predicted Aubin-Mercier to hold an advantage on the ground, however, Hernandez had other plans, as he outclassed his opponent on all fronts. Now 2-0 in the UFC, Hernandez has already shown that he’s an explosive striker — more impressively, he’s displayed a relentless work rate and great stamina. His effort last night reminded me a lot of Colby Covington‘s recent performance against Rafael Dos Anjos — non-stop pressure, giving his opponent no space to operate.

Is Jose Aldo still a contender?

Last night, Jose Aldo reminded the masses why he is considered the greatest featherweight of all-time. Since losing the 145-pound championship to Conor McGregor in devastating fashion at UFC 194, it’s been a tumultuous few years for Aldo in the octagon. He rebounded with a strong performance against Frankie Edgar at UFC 200, but back-to-back losses to Max Holloway had many questioning what Aldo has left in the tank.

With his emphatic first-round knockout of Jeremy Stephens, the 31-year-old showed that he is still, without a shadow of doubt, one of the best fighters in the world. If Holloway is unable to return by year’s end, I’d love to see Aldo matched up with #1 contender Brian Ortega.

The sequence that led to the finish was brilliant, however, I was most impressed by Aldo’s ability to overcome adversity early in the fight. He survived a couple of Stephens’ early explosions, including an uppercut that would have absolutely floored most featherweights. Yesterday’s victory marked Aldo’s first finish since 2013. Could we be witnessing the beginning of a career resurgence? Only time will tell.

Who is the UFC’s fourth-best 155-pounder?

Dustin Poirier turned in a strong performance in his highly anticipated rematch with Eddie Alvarez. He seemed to be one step ahead of the former champ all night, before putting Alvarez away with a seemingly endless flurry of strikes.

With talks underway for a title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor — and former interim champ, Tony Ferguson, currently recovering from an ACL injury — I believe that Poirier deserves to be next in line for a title shot. Since moving up to the lightweight division, Poirier has compiled an 8-1 record, with six of those wins coming by way of finish. He’s shown that he is strong in all facets with no real weaknesses. If Ferguson is able to return soon, Poirier vs. Ferguson would make for an excellent title-eliminator fight.

Has Joanna Jedrzejczyk lost a step?

The former strawweight champion competed in her first non-championship bout since 2014. The 30-year-old was excellent as per usual, showing off great takedown defense and her trademark crisp striking against Tecia Torres. It appears that it’s only a matter of time before we see her fighting for the belt once again.

I’d be appalled if the UFC were to arrange a third-straight championship fight between Jedrzejcyzk and Rose Namajunas, but thankfully it doesn’t look like that will happen. The winner of the upcoming fight between Jessica Andrade and Karolina Kowalkiewicz should face Namujunas, with the loser pitted against Jedrzejcyzyk.

Is Matheus Nicolau the flyweight division’s next big thing?

Not if Dustin Ortiz has anything to say about it! After his dominant performance against Louis Smolka at UFC 219, the 25-year-old Nicolau was looking like the 125-pound division’s premier prospect. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contend for the title one day, but for now, he’ll have to get back to the drawing board. He looked good early against Ortiz last night, however, he just couldn’t handle the 29-year-old veteran’s new-found striking power.

With two first-round finishes in his past three fights, Ortiz is riding the momentum of a three-fight win streak and could be on the cusp of a shot at gold. He’s certainly done more than enough to earn himself a top-5 opponent for his next outing.

What are your takeaways from UFC Calgary?

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