Monday, August 15, 2022

8 Positives & 3 Negatives From UFC 275

Pay-per-view fever has been present in Singapore for the past week, and it culminated in the much-anticipated UFC 275 event on Saturday night.

After three consecutive cards held at Las Vegas’ Apex facility, the UFC returned to the road on June 11 for its sixth PPV of 2022. And with its trip across the world, the MMA leader brought with it a host of exciting names and matchups.

Heading the stacked card were two title fights, the first of which pitted dominant women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko against the latest challenger to her rule, Taila Santos. And in the main event, veteran light heavyweight titleholder Glover Teixeira looked to record the first defense of his reign against knockout artist Jiří Procházka.

With a rematch of 2020’s Fight of the Year between the returning Joanna Jędrzejczyk and former champion Weili Zhang providing a blockbuster appetizer, as well as entertaining names like Andre Fialho, Jack Della Maddalena, and Brendan Allen in action, the event promised to mark Singapore’s first UFC PPV in style.

So, did it deliver as many had expected? Let’s find out with all the positives and negatives from UFC 275.

Negative – Going, Going, Gone…

Friday morning saw a journey from worry, to serious concern, to confirmation of what had been feared: a canceled main-card fight.

In one of the most intriguing bouts set for UFC 275, rising flyweight Manel Kape was scheduled to face top-10 contender Rogério Bontorin. Not only was it an important bout in the context of the division’s title picture, but judging by Kape’s recent performances, it was set to be an entertaining one.

But ahead of the weigh-ins, an episode of Road To The UFC displayed a four-fight main card, with the absent pairing being Kape vs. Bontorin. While the optimists among us prayed for the explanation to be a simple graphics error, a rumor that the Brazilian had been taken to hospital crushed that hope quickly, and left most fearing the worst.

Soon after, we had confirmation. “Weight management issues” had forced Bontorin out, and the often cruel MMA Gods had struck UFC fans down once more.

Not only was the omission of this fight on Saturday night a negative for the fans, but also for two flyweights who had made the long trek to Singapore, which undoubtedly also came with an increased level of preparation.

Here’s hoping it gets rebooked for the coming months, but for now, the failed pairing was one of UFC 275’s few low points.

Negative – Anthony Dimitriou

There are only a certain number of terrible scorecards that can be forgiven until a discussion about one particular judge is needed. At UFC 275, that judge was Anthony Dimitriou, and his bizarre scorecards began right from the off.

The first fight of any card is always important. Why? Because it sets the tone. The opener at UFC 275 saw Hong Kong’s Ramona Pascual share the cage with Panama’s Joselyne Edwards. The positive here was that the pair went hard from the start and put on an entertaining bout to start the night.

But while two 29-28 scorecards for Edwards were understandable, Anthony Dimitriou’s 30-27 was unforgivable. The second round was close and the third saw “La Pantera” on top after finding a second wind, but the first? The first was Pascual’s, without a doubt.

The opening frame was fairly even on the feet entering the final minute before two hard left body kicks had Edwards reeling against the cage. While the Panamanian managed to stay on her feet, even with some more brutal knees, it was clear that she was hurt, further evidenced by some desperate level changes.

I’ve found the recent debate surrounding judging to be largely flawed, with most criticizing results that are entirely justifiable per the scoring criteria (see the reaction to the UFC 275 co-main event for an example). If anything, the controversy has cemented the main issue, which is that most haven’t educated themselves on how fights are judged, something that was even on display in comments made by long-time UFC color commentator Joe Rogan last week.

But there’s no denying that judges do often turn in bad scorecards, and this 30-27 is a prime example. Fortunately, the result itself was by no means wrong, so the damage was limited. Nevertheless, it wasn’t good.

The same judge had a similarly strange scorecard in the Kyung-ho Kang versus Batgerel Danaa bout later in the night, scoring what appeared to be relatively clear first round for the Mongolian in favor of the Korean.

One is bad and two is horrendous, but three flat-out wrong scorecards in the space of one preliminary card? That’s concerning.

Dimitriou completed the hat-trick in the memorable featured prelim, which pitted featherweights Joshua Culibao and Seungwoo Choi against each other. The judging for this shouldn’t have been hard: one and two for the Aussie, three for the Korean.

The fact that Dimitriou scored the first for Choi, a round that saw him knocked down multiple times and on the brink of being finished, is frightening, and after the previous two scorecards he’d turned it, confirmed in my mind that he simply can’t have an understanding of the scoring criteria.

Thankfully, none of his crazy scorecards cost a deserving victor the result. Even so, the lesson appears to be: don’t risk taking it to the scorecards when Anthony Dimitriou is Octagon-side.

Positive – Silvana Gómez Juárez.

There aren’t many words to describe this finish. Nasty, it was just nasty.

In the second fight of the night, Silvana Gómez Juárez met Liang Na in the center of the Octagon. After just one minute and 22 seconds, “Dragon Girl” was left sleeping on the canvas.

The women’s strawweight division is perhaps the most entertaining female class in the UFC, but even so, brutal knockouts aren’t exactly common. Clearly no one told Gómez Juárez that.

After finding range with a left jab, the Argentine came over the top with a looping overhand right, which connected flush to Liang’s jaw. After that blow sent her to a knee, the Chinese strawweight made the mistake of returning to her feet, where a left and right hook met here, the latter of which turned the lights out.

Having been submitted by consecutive armbars in her last two outings, this was crucial appearance for the 37-year-old. It’s safe to say that not many have rebounded from a losing skid in such an emphatic fashion.

While it perhaps wasn’t the best sight for the Asian fans in attendance, with Niang’s KO loss marking an 0-2 start for Asian fighters on the night, a vicious stoppage is always a positive.

Negative – Why Even Have Rules?

We’ve had one point for the negatives courtesy of some questionable judging, so why not add another for some bizarre officiating?

In last weekend’s Ps & Ns, I made a tongue in cheek comment that fighters should cheat, because why wouldn’t they when there seems to be no punishment for it? That came after referee Mark Smith repeatedly warned Andreas Michailidis for grabbing the fence during an exchange in his fight with Rinat Fakhretdinov.

In the bout between Kyung-ho Kang and Batgerel Danaa at UFC 275, we didn’t even get as much as a warning.

In the second round, Danaa threw a knee to the head of Kang, who was quite clearly a grounded an opponent. How did referee Thomas Fann react? Well, he didn’t.

Despite both fighters acknowledging the illegal nature of the strike and appearing to look at Fann in anticipation of something, the ref had nothing for them. Not a warning, not a stoppage, not a, ‘Yep, that was illegal’, nothing.

Whether it was brain fade, incompetence, or a simple confused understanding of the rules, it was a bizarre response to a shot that was about as clearly illegal as they come.

Positive – The Judges Get It Right

If I’m going to criticize when judges get it wrong, I’ve got to praise when they get it right.

In one of the more notable preliminary bouts at UFC 275, middleweights Brendan Allen and Jacob Malkoun collided. The pair displayed some technical grappling throughout 15 minutes of action, with “All In” having his hand raised after earning the 29-28 nod on all three scorecards.

For me, this was the correct result.

In the first round, the two started by exchanging on the feet. While it was a tentative standup period prior to the first level change, Allen got the better of it, with one uppercut delivered to the chin of Malkoun sticking out the most. When the grappling began, the Australian was able to land a takedown, but through Allen’s defense, he couldn’t offload much offense. The American was then also able to take mount himself with a judo toss that was more impactful than any of Malkoun’s control.

While the second was a less successful round for Allen and a clear one for Malkoun, the third was similar to the opening frame. Although the Aussie was able to control his US counterpart for long periods, he offered very little in the way of offense, and without that, grappling and takedowns are position changes, which aren’t scored per the criteria.

It’s clear that Malkoun is a talented wrestler, but without adding more urgency to his game when it comes to offense, he’s always going to open up paths for his opponents to secure decisions against him.

Perhaps Logan Storley’s controversial title win against Michael “Venom” Page last month has enhanced some false perceptions about control time, because Malkoun’s corner seemed bewildered by the result, which they certainly shouldn’t have been.

Positive – One & Done

Congratulations on UFC debut of the year, Maheshate!

At UFC 275, Steve Garcia ran into bomb, and it didn’t end well for him. For as long as it lasted, the lightweight preliminary fight between Dana White‘s Contender Series alums Garcia and Maheshate was entertaining.

Both men appeared to hurt their opponent early, but it was to be the debutant who delivered the finishing blow just over a minute into the opening frame. As “Mean Machine” leapt in with a fairly nothing left hand, Maheshate brushed it aside and threw one of the stiffest right hands in recent memory.

The power generated from a short distance was remarkable, and it was no surprise to see Garcia brutally face-plant and bounce off the ground unconscious after it connected with his jaw.

I can’t quite believe that Maheshate, now 6-1 in professional MMA, is a year younger than me and is knocking folk out inside the Octagon. While that’s a brief negative for me, this brutal KO was one of UFC 275’s biggest highlights.

Although not quite as angle-changing and step-offish (is that a word?), Maheshate’s debut KO had an element of Ian Garry’s UFC arrival last November, which saw the Irishman step to the right of a Jordan Williams swing and deliver a sleep-inducing right hand.

Positive – What A Fight

Closing out the prelims in style, Joshua Culibao and Seungwoo Choi went to war at featherweight.

There were two tales in this fight: Culibao’s improvement on the feet and Choi’s immense toughness. Not many would have thought that after multiple knockdowns in rounds one and two, the South Korean would find himself with control of Culibao’s back and searching for a late rear-naked choke.

While Choi’s answer to being repeatedly stunned was perhaps not the smartest (he effectively fought fire with fire), it gave fans inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium a real scrap to cheer for, and certainly a round of the year contender given the second half of the opening stanza.

Aside from one judge’s complete incompetence, everything about this fight was a positive, and sent us into the main card in style.

Positive – Della Maddalena Passes The Test

While Jack Della Maddalena’s UFC debut was impressive, his sophomore outing felt like his breakout one, and a display we’ll be looking back on in five years’ time when he’s towards the top of the welterweight division.

For someone who’s showed some vulnerability to grappling in the past, I predicted that the “Dagestani wrestling test” may have come a few bouts early for the Australian, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Not only did he record another first-round stoppage courtesy of his talented boxing, this time with a vicious left hook to the body, and become the first man to finish Ramazan Emeev in the UFC, but he also escaped what looked to be an incredibly tight choke early on.

There aren’t many better ways for a highly-touted prospect to pass a true litmus test of his potential. Della Maddalena is certainly one to keep an eye on.

Positive – Matthews Levels Up

Welterweight Jake Matthews made it 2-0 for the Australians on the UFC 275 main card with an absolute clinic versus Andre Fialho.

It’s safe to say that heading into this contest, a lot of the attention was on relative newcomer Fialho, who was making his fourth appearance of the year and his third in as many months. But it didn’t take long for Matthews to draw the attention.

In the first round, “The Celtic Kid” looked as good as ever, utilizing his movement and speed to have his way with his Portuguese counterpart. And in the second frame, Matthews simply couldn’t miss, connecting and rocking Fialho at will before eventually knocking him out with a brutal right hand.

Given the shots that Fialho took against Michel Pereira earlier this year, Matthews’ ability to dominate and stop him on the feet was mightily impressive. Having been largely inconsistent in the Octagon, it seems that a period away from the cage has allowed Matthews to evolve into his best form, which is certainly an exciting prospect for fans.

Here’s hoping that the 27-year-old Aussie joins compatriot Robert Whittaker in Paris on September 3.

Positive – A 6th & 7th Worthy Of Following The First 5

There aren’t many words to describe this one. Every now and then, a fight, a moment, or a finish comes that feels truly special. From their walkouts to the first round to the brutal knockout, everything about Weili Zhang’s rematch with Joanna Jędrzejczyk felt special.

Understandably, many were worried about whether a rematch of one of mixed martial arts’ all-time great fights would deliver as the first did. But there’s no doubt that the extra two frames added to this rivalry at UFC 275 were worthy additions to the memorable first five.

On the feet and on the ground, the bout was exciting and had the fans as loud as they’d been all night. In the second, Weili closed the show in style, sending the Polish star to the canvas courtesy of a vicious spinning back fist.

Given how the most recent strawweight title fight played out, this one really had championship feel to it. And with Weili’s display, it wouldn’t be outlandish to call her the best 115lber in the UFC, especially for those, like myself, who believe that “Magnum” did enough to earn the nod over Rose Namajunas last November.

Post-fight, Jędrzejczyk announced her retirement, Now, this isn’t necessarily a positive or a negative, but it’s worth a mention.

Of course, it’s sad to see one of MMA’s greats and a true pioneer for women in the sport end her illustrious career. But on the flip side, the Pole did so after giving fans another remarkable fight, for as long as it lasted. And with her family and business aspirations outside the Octagon, it always seemed like a defeat would mark the end.

While she’s gone out off the back of a defeat, Jędrzejczyk’s performance showed she’s well and truly going out as one of the bests in the game still.

Positive – One Of The Best LHW Title Fights Ever

What a way to cap off one of, if not the, best UFC pay-per-views of 2022. Glover Teixeira and Jiří Procházka went to war in Singapore. It was bloody and brutal throughout and showed the heart of these two elite fighters.

At multiple points, it seemed as if both men were close to being finished. But when one man overcame adversity, as did the other. “Denisa” survived a rough position in round one, while the Brazilian showed a similar display of grit in the third and had somewhat of a second wind in the fourth.

But when a tight arm triangle looked like it might be the end for the challenger, he once again reversed position and finished the penultimate frame on top. And in the fifth, it was Procházka’s turn to survive again, this time after being rocked on the feet. When Teixeira pulled guard looking for a guillotine, the Czech light heavyweight was able to slip out and recover.

Miraculously, after appearing down and out as the pair entered the final minute, “The Czech Samurai” rose, submitting Teixeira via rear-naked choke with seconds remaining. In doing so, Procházka secured his place on the throne in just his third UFC outing.

What a way to finish a memorable main event, a fantastic PPV, and to begin a new era at light heavyweight.

What were your positives and negatives from UFC 275?

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