UFC 222 is in the books. Here are five takeaways from the event:
You are now watching “The Sugar Show”
Prior to Sean O’Malley’s impressive performance at UFC 222, it was already known that he could be one of the most marketable fighters on the roster, however, questions surrounded his level of ability. Although he turned in a spectacular KO on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, I was unsure whether O’Malley possessed the physicality to get the job done on the sport’s biggest stage. The 23-year-old made his UFC debut against Terrion Ware in December. He picked up the decision and showed flashes of his talent, but his performance didn’t exactly prove that he is an elite fighter.
On Saturday, O’Malley was dominant from start to finish — he displayed great composure and proved that he can succeed against high-level talent. Although Andre Soukhamthath is certainly not an elite fighter, he definitely represented a huge step-up in competition for O’Malley. “Sugar” completely outclassed his opponent and did a tremendous job of utilizing his length and reach. He also did a great job of incorporating his top-notch striking techniques to nearly finish Soukhamthath on several occasions.
A new lightweight prospect
One of the biggest underdogs on the card, Alexander Hernandez turned out to be one of the surprising stars of UFC 222. On a card full of anticipated and interesting fights, the matchup of Hernandez vs. #12 Beneil Dariush flew under the radar. Stepping in on short-notice, Hernandez promptly took advantage of his opportunity, crumpling Dariush with a vicious elbow, less than a minute into the fight. I believe that a matchup with Francisco Trinaldo would be a good test for the 25-year-old Hernandez.
Dodson fights like he has a broken right hand
A slightly awkward situation occurred during John Dodson’s post-fight interview, following his split decision victory over Pedro Munhoz. Over the course of the fight, Joe Rogan and the commentary team made several comments about Dodson’s unwillingness to throw a punch with his right hand. Over the course of the fight, it seemed to become increasingly clear that “The Magician” was nursing a hand injury.
All of this speculation led to an awkward situation when Rogan led off the post-fight interview by asking Dodson what was wrong with his hand. Nothing was wrong with Dodson’s hand…
Andrei Arlovski isn’t done yet
Many were ready to close the book on Arlovski’s career, last June, after the veteran suffered his fifth straight loss. Now, Arlovski has picked up two unanimous decision victories in a row and looks to be serious about making one last run at the heavyweight title. Sure, the 39-year-old may have lost much of his explosiveness, but he’s proven that he can still win by executing an effective game plan. With his victory over Stefan Struve, Arlovski is now tied for the most wins in the UFC’s heavyweight division — a very impressive feat. What’s more impressive is that Arlovski’s game continues to evolve — his four takedowns on Saturday night were more than he had executed throughout his whole UFC career up to that point (three).
Of course, Junior Albini and Stefan Struve aren’t quite on the level of some of the fighters who inhabit the division’s top 10, but Arlovski has looked good since joining American Top Team. I’d like to see Arlovski matched up with Marcin Tybura next.
Can Brian Ortega beat Max Holloway?
Although Brian Ortega has been regarded as one of the UFC’s most talented prospects for a while now, I don’t think that many believed he was on the same level as current featherweight champion, Max Holloway. After Ortega’s stunning 1st round KO of Frankie Edgar at UFC 222, the thought of a championship fight between Holloway and Ortega is more captivating than ever.
Heading into his bout with Edgar, Ortega was considered a slight underdog but there were definitely a fair amount of fans and pundits who were predicting that he would be victorious. However, the way he ended the fight was absolutely shocking. It would have been one thing for Ortega to become the first fighter to ever finish Edgar by submitting him, but after knocking Edgar out with a vicious uppercut, Ortega has sent shock waves through the MMA community. With six finishes in six UFC fights now, it’s not far-fetched that some are predicting Ortega to go down as the greatest 145er in history — he’s certainly on the right path.