For the past week, pay-per-view fever has been back in Phoenix, Arizona, culminating with UFC 274 on Saturday night.
As always, the big names were in town, including Joe Rogan back at the commentary desk, mainstream celebrities were involved, most notably with a $550,000 bet placed on Justin Gaethje by Drake, and Bruce Buffer had another classic suit on for the occasion, which might have been his best (or strangest?) yet.
At the top of the card, fans were treated to two title fights, although one had a sizable asterisk attached to it and the other, well, it happened…
As well as Gaethje’s championship challenge against the inevitably-former titleholder Charles Oliveira, Rose Namajunas looked to defend her strawweight gold for the second time, a feat she failed to achieve in her first reign on the 115-pound throne.
Elsewhere, a dream lightweight matchup between Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson threatened to steal the show, while the main card clash between Ovince Saint Preux and Maurício Rua appeared to have retirement implications attached.
Add in the exciting names of Khaos Williams, Matt Schnell, Andre Fialho, and Brandon Royval, and the night had the potential to be a special one. So, did it deliver? Let’s find out with all the positives and negatives.
Negative – Dethroned By The Scale
Who saw this coming?
Where to begin. From a PPV main event being thrown into chaos at the last minute to the tragic end of a once-unlikely reign, Charles Oliveira’s weight miss was about as negative as a moment could be.
On Friday, “Do Bronx” had hearts racing when he didn’t appear to weigh in until late in the day. When he did, he was half a pound over the championship limit at 155.5. Despite another full hour, Oliveira was unable to shed any more weight. As a result, he was no longer the champ the second his fight with Gaethje began.
While the fight still went ahead despite the weight miss, the fact it went from a defense to a normal fight for Oliveira, or a title eliminator, was a disappointment. Having developed from a mid-level fighter to a world champion in incredible fashion, to have the belt taken from him on the scale was a tragic way for it to end.
Even if he wins it back, the Brazilian will always have the stain of being the first UFC titleholder to lose gold by missing weight.
Of course, there has since been some confusion regarding the scales, and should more come to light regarding an apparent decalibration, that could prove to be a huge negative of the event in itself.
But for now, we had got 18 fighters on weight and the commission maintaining that fighters are responsible for the scales they use outside the officially allocated one.
What a mess.
Negative – That’s The Hat Trick
Holy fight-day cancelations, what is going on?
Remember in 2021, we had a string of consecutive bone breaks/dislocations? Starting with Chris Weidman’s leg break at UFC 261, fans witnessed horrible injuries at five consecutive PPVs. After Weidman, we saw Ronaldo Souza break his arm at UFC 262, Jamahal Hill dislocate his elbow at UFC 263, Conor McGregor break his leg at UFC 264, and Victoria Leonardo suffer an arm break at UFC 265.
I’m not one for superstitions, but it’s starting to feel like 2022’s answer for last year’s injury curse is a fight-day cancelation curse…
First was Alexandr Romanov vs. Chase Sherman at UFC Vegas 52, and then Carlos Candelario vs. Tatsuro Taira fell through hours before their scheduled card-opener at UFC Vegas 53. Now, completing the hat trick with perhaps the most painful of all, an illness for legend Donald Cerrone saw his collision with fellow veteran Joe Lauzon ripped from fans’ viewing during the broadcast.
Anyone else nervously looking at next weekend’s card?
Positive – “Loopy” Levels Up
Not much is more exciting and enjoyable to watch than a memorable finish or FOTY-worthy barnburner. But one thing that comes close is a complete shutout and masterclass. At UFC 274, that came courtesy of Lupita “Loopy” Godinez.
Not many have dealt with imposing power quite like Godinez did in the second fight of the night. The Mexican shared the Octagon in Arizona with Ariane Carnelossi, whose 14-2 pre-fight record comprised of nine knockouts and just two defeats, an MMA debut submission setback to Amanda Ribas and a doctor’s stoppage against Angela Hill in her first UFC outing.
After two wins in 2021, many expected Saturday night to mark the Brazilian’s arrival in strawweight contention. Instead, she was thoroughly dominated by “Loopy,” who put in the best performance of her career to date at UFC 274.
Not only did she consistently hurt Carnelossi during the short periods on the feet, but she combined powerful shots with beautiful entries, changing The Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” to boom, boom, slam (I’m here all night…).
Godinez is active, always willing to fight, and, judging by her post-fight interview, extremely humble. Seeing her deliver a breakthrough performance on the PPV stage was certainly a positive.
Positive – An Early FOTN Contender
You always want a quality back-and-forth contest early on any card, but especially on a PPV slate. While the opening contest between Journey Newson and Fernie Garcia was entertaining, it was quickly eclipsed by Kleydson Rodrigues and CJ Vergara’s flyweight scrap.
While the first round saw some technical and hesitant striking, proceedings really picked up in the second, culminating with a remarkable reversal from Rodriguez and a flush spinning backfist. Midway through the fight, it had seemed as though Rodriguez was fading, but he found a fifth gear out of nowhere.
Given the third round we were treated to, thank God he did.
The only negative from this one, for me, was the result. This certainly wasn’t a robbery by any means, but I think Rodriguez should have had his hand raised. A point deduction for some family impactful fence grabs from Vergara wouldn’t have gone amiss either…
Positive – Fialho Shuts The Lights Out
In the fifth fight of the night, Andre Fialho brought us the event’s first finish, and in some style.
The Portuguese welterweight squared off against promotional newcomer Cameron VanCamp. Despite being seen as one of the biggest underdogs on the card, “Jumpman” threatened to cause an upset after seemingly hurting Fialho early.
That success was short-lived.
After landing a check left hook on an advancing VanCamp, Fialho loaded up seconds later when the American did the same. This time, the debutant didn’t live to see another day.
Fialho is quickly staking his claim as Breakthrough Fighter of the Year. Despite falling to defeat on debut, the Portuguese native’s efforts on short notice against Michel Pereira certainly didn’t affect his stock.
Now, having knocked out the once-highly touted Miguel Baeza and VanCamp in back-to-back months, it’s clear that Fialho is destined for a place near the top. He’ll seemingly have the chance to further prove that at UFC 275 in June.
Having called for a bout in Singapore post-fight, it seems that a conversation with Sean Shelby and Dana White has secured Fialho a place on the card.
Anyone for three KOs in three months?
Positive – The Royval Reverse
Brandon Royval didn’t just knock on the door of title contention at UFC 274, he smashed through it with an axe.
It’s remarkable to think that when an overweight Deiveson Figueiredo defeated Joseph Benavidez in February 2020 to leave the title vacant, many feared for the future of the division. Now over two years later and the division is thriving with elite and entertaining contenders.
While Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno have held gold, not many below them have impressed quite like Royval.
On Saturday night, “Raw Dawg” added UFC vet Matt Schnell to a list of submitted opponents that includes Tim Elliott and top-five flyweight Kai Kara-France, doing so with a one-armed guillotine. The way Royval reversed Schnell’s own submission attempts was reminiscent of the way in which Vicente Luque trapped Michael Chiesa in a D’Arce choke last August at UFC 265.
The night’s first submission was certainly a memorable one, and one of UFC 274’s biggest positives.
Positive – An Ageless Wonder
When I’m in my 40s, I imagine I’ll be sat wondering how the likes of Randy Couture, Glover Teixeira, and Francisco Trinaldo were able to compete in the cage at such a high level.
At UFC 274, “Massaranduba” looked as good as ever, unloading with powerful hooks and brutal body punches. The man on the receiving end of them was England’s Danny Roberts. While “Hot Chocolate” showed his toughness by surviving to hear the final horn, he’d been rocked a number of times and was firmly beaten in rounds two and three.
Seeing an aging fighter suffer losses towards the back-end of the career while their abilities fall away is always hard to watch, but on the other end of the spectrum, a veteran proving age is just a number is always a positive.
With Yoel Romero’s masterclass in Paris on Friday and Trinaldo turning back the clock at UFC 274, this week was certainly one for the old boys.
Negative – Yes, It Was Bad, But Don’t Boo “Shogun”
What was that about Phoenix? There are some names who contribute so much to the sport that they should be exempt from being booed? One of those is Maurício Rua, you psychos.
There’s no way to really dance around it, Ovince Saint Preux vs. Rua was a terrible fight. Low action, low quality, low entertainment. It was particularly disappointing from “OSP,” who was seen as the fresher fighter who had more to give heading into the contest.
Aside from some powerful body kicks, there was little offering from Saint Preux. Considering his run of form and the opponent in front of him, it was a bizarre showing. Ultimately, a lot of the blame goes to the UFC for booking a strange rematch on a PPV main card.
Nevertheless, boos for “Shogun” cannot be excused. Have some respect, Phoenix!
A side negative, how heartbreaking was it to see the joy on Rua’s face when he thought he’d won?
Positive – A UFC Knockout For The Ages
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what to do here. Is this a positive or a negative? Although seeing Ferguson finished like that is sad to see, I can’t in my right mind list one of the greatest knockouts of all time as a negative.
My initial thought was, “F*ck, I missed it.” I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for checking the time a second before Michael Chandler channeled his inner Anderson Silva. Nevertheless, the replays quickly came and showed why I’d looked up to an unconscious Tony Ferguson face down on the canvas.
In the first round, “El Cucuy” looked good, and even dropped the former Bellator champion. At that moment, I thought to myself, “This has to be the time Chandler abandons his need to entertain on the feet and utilize his wrestling.” While he did exactly that to close out the round, that appears to have been a momentary strategy to regain himself.
From there, he wrapped up 2021’s KO of the Year award with probably the most brutal front kick of all time. It was the kind of KO that was not only scary in the way that Ferguson was sent to the ground but scary in how long it took him to regain consciousness.
My biggest concern heading into UFC 274 was a rough fourth consecutive loss for Ferguson. While that’s exactly what happened, what a phenomenal victory for Chandler.
Negative – The Worst Title Fight Of All Time
There were so many things wrong with this. All I can say is thank God Chandler vs. Ferguson delivered something memorable because, otherwise, the UFC 274 main card would have been extremely forgettable up to the main event. How crazy is it to have a KO of the Year contender sandwiched by two stinkers?
The biggest question is, what on Earth was going through Rose Namajunas’ mind? For a champion to lose a belt like that is a big, big stain on her record. She can certainly have 0 complaints about the result.
From her bizarre stare down after round two to her strange taunting in the final frame, not to mention Pat Barry’s apparent pleasure at how the fight was going, it was a completely horrible performance.
I’d be curious how the fight would have changed had Trevor Wittman led the corner efforts, because Barry should feel partly responsible for Namajunas’ defeat. If that’s the performance he was looking for, then he certainly shouldn’t be anywhere near the corner of a champion.
So there we have it. A new champion is crowned. I’m happy for Esparza and thankful that Namajunas lost the title off the back of that display. But while I’m glad “Cookie Monster” will be able to walk down the aisle with no particularly visible cuts or bruises next week, my care for her wedding appearance doesn’t override my desire to see a scrap.
That was the worst fight I’ve ever witnessed live.
Positive – He’s Done It Again
Charles Oliveira overcomes adversity so often that it’s not even adversity to him anymore. A knockdown seemingly means nothing against “Do Bronx.”
Like Michael Chandler last May and like Dustin Poirier last December, Oliveira recovered from early knockdowns, two on this occasion, to secure victory. While “Iron” fell via TKO, Gaethje joined “The Diamond” on the Brazilian’s lengthy list of submission victims.
The negative here, though, is that Oliveira won’t be returning home with the gold in his possession. Whether due to a genuine weight miss or issues with the scale, whatever the reason, it’s an almighty shame that Oliveira doesn’t have another memorable defense added to his reign, which is now over.
The champion has a name and it’s Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira.
What were your positives and negatives from UFC 274?