Last night (Sat., Dec. 10, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 282. I don’t know if this event quite reached “cursed card” status, because the end result was still very fun, but things certainly didn’t go according to plan. Fight after fight fell apart in the final two weeks, most notably the planned main event title clash between Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira. Fortunately, the Light Heavyweight title was still up for grabs ... even if neither of the original two combatants were part of that equation.
Still, a title fight, Paddy “The Baddy” and plenty of top prospects does not make for a bad night of combat. Let’s take a look at UFC 282’s best performances and techniques:
In a roundabout way, a split draw between Magomed Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz kind of feels wildly appropriate here (see scorecard here). The first round was very competitive. I saw Blachowicz landing the cleaner blows upstairs, taking some very hard body kicks, and starting his work on the calves. It was an ultra close round.
Blachowicz crippled Ankalaev in the second and third, left him hopping around on one leg. Then, Ankalaev dominated the fourth and fifth, making Blachowicz look fairly inept on the canvas. That’s a fairly even split: one really competitive round, four clear-cut ones. Big picture, each man clearly won similar amounts of the fight.
Still ... Ankalaev probably won the first. The fifth was probably a 10-8 round. He probably should’ve walked away with the belt, but small margins are the furthest thing from safe in mixed martial arts (MMA).
Confession: I don’t really have a problem with Paddy Pimblett getting the nod over Jared Gordon. He had some big moments, and there was a whole lot of nothing going on along the fence for long periods of time. That’s a recipe for getting the judges’ nod as often as not, even if Gordon’s left hook was the most consistent blow of the fight.
Regardless of your feelings on the judging (see scorecard here), this should serve as definitive proof that “The Baddy” just isn’t that great. He’s not going to make ground on the Lightweight Top 15 without a massive jump in skill, which is hugely unlikely seeing as he’s been a professional fighter for such a long time.
At some point soon, Pimblett is going to hit a hard wall.
From Athletic Standout To Hard-Nosed Veteran
Santiago Ponzinibbio used to just overwhelm people with speed and power. When he crashed forward with that 1-2, it caught opponents off-guard time and time again. Heck, he knocked down Gunnar Nelson with a lightning jab!
Since injures and illness kept him out of the cage for most of three years, that’s no longer the case. Indeed, 36 years of age is not terribly old for Welterweight, but it’s clear that Ponzinibbio is no longer able to simply crush his opponents. His durability has fallen off a bit, and his right hand just isn’t as quick as it used to be.
As a result, Ponzinibbio has been forced to prove his toughness time and time again since returning to action, and the Argentinian is not lacking! He was down on the cards last night, getting hurt every time Alex Morono’s right hand connected. Still, Ponzinibbio was able to bite down on his mouthpiece and push the action late, scoring a tremendous come-from-behind win.
Du Plessis Overwhelms
I wrote an entire piece of Till (read that HERE), but I also wanted to give the winner his due.
Du Plessis is relentless. He absolutely emptied his gas tank hammering away at Till’s forearm in the first round, and there was so little left in the second. That didn’t stop him from going toe-to-toe with Till and even landing a takedown. Then, in the third, du Plessis caught his second wind, took down Till, and just manhandled him for the finish.
I mentioned it in my preview, but du Plessis reminds me of Jiri Prochazka in his approach. He’s so wildly offensive that it sometimes produces ugly, confusing fights, but good luck trying to fight cleanly against “Stillknocks.” He’s dangerous, and he has the athleticism to force opponents into his chaotic style of combat.
Two Undefeated Contenders Collide
Ilia Topuria beat the life out of Bryce Mitchell last night, and he looked like a future champion in the process. The 25-year-old is just remarkably talented, a fully well-rounded fighter with incredible athleticism.
Topuria’s right hand is so sharp. Admittedly, he does love to throw it like a fastball sometimes, and it’s less technically crisp in such cases, but still ... Topuria can CRACK! Several times in the first round, Topuria just unfurled his right so cleanly that Mitchell never saw it coming as a fist crashed into his jaw.
Near the end of the first, Topuria really realized that Mitchell had nothing for him. He’d already landed several home run shots in the stand up, but credit to “Thug Nasty,” he toughed those out. But, it was clear that Topuria didn’t respect the threat coming back his way.
He just started battering Mitchell. Any time Mitchell came within range, Topuria exploded forward with full power punches. Mitchell was getting chewed up and started taking bad shots, allowing Topuria to flip him to his back and lock up a quick submission.
Rosas Jr. Lives Up To The Hype
At just 18 years of age, Raul Rosas Jr. dominated in his UFC debut.
The second Rosas Jr. level changed into a single leg, he was in complete control. He shucked his way towards the back, started working in a hook, then eventually fully jumped into back mount. Jay Perrin tried to shake him off the top, but Rosas Jr. alternated between applying heavy hip pressure and attacking the neck to keep Perrin off-balanced. Before long, he snuck under the chin as Perrin moved to stand.
The sky really seems to be the limit for the young talent.
We have been waiting for this level of aggression from Jairzinho Rozenstruik for his entire UFC career. He straight up ran over Chris Daukaus last night, stunning his opponent early with a jab then charging for the finish. Seriously, Rozenstruik is generally willing to open up on a hurt opponent, but he was actually chasing Daukaus around for a majority of their 23-second contest.
I don’t know if it actually means anything for the future, but it was great fun to watch. Meanwhile, it’s been a terrible week for the Daukaus brothers, both of whom have been stopped in the last seven days.
I’m not sure how to feel about Edmen Shahbazyan’s first win in three years.
Dalcha Lungiambula was a clear step back, and credit to him, Shahbazyan did his job en route to the second-round knockout win. He endured some heavy body kicks, answered in kind, and was consistently the sharper boxer. It was a competitive fight, but Shahbazyan eventually found his counters and ended things.
The problem is the 25-year-old prospect looked hesitant. Those three consecutive losses are clearly still weighing on his mind and confidence. Hopefully, a result like this and another good training camp in Las Vegas will move him forward, and there’s still time for “Golden Boy” to live up to his initial hype.
THE ACTION MAN!
Joaquim Buckley has never looked better than in his knockout loss last night.
Right away, it was clearly going to be a battle of volume vs. efficiency. Buckley is the younger, more athletic man. He’s the fighter that’s happy to throw five punches if a single shot sneaks through the guard. Conversely, Chris Curtis is content to block four out of every five, provided he’s occasionally able to sneak a clean counter blow.
That was the dynamic through five minutes. Curtis blocked a lot of shots and landed a few perfect lefts, whereas Buckley threw a ton and won the volume game. The momentum seemed to be shifting in Buckley’s favor, however, as he managed to sneak more and more shots through the guard in the second. Plus, he began to target the body well, which Curtis clearly didn’t enjoy.
Then, Curtis found his moment. Buckley was gaining confidence, threw a kick from too close, and got absolutely creamed by a counter left. Curtis followed him to the canvas and forced the finish quickly, showing off his veteran finishing skill.
Billy Q Does His Thing
I thought Alexander Hernandez’s drop down to Featherweight was looking pretty good through five minutes. “The Great” didn’t appear to have dehydrated himself to an unreasonable degree, and his athleticism clearly remained at 145-pounds. He was picking Billy Quarantillo apart, scoring pretty easy takedowns, and did some major damage from top position.
Conversely, “Billy Q” was kind of fighting like crap in the first. He was trying to force an exhausting pace — spoiler, it eventually worked great! — but Quarantillo was sloppy in the process. He was lunging into punches, giving up easy takedowns, and his scrambling left a bit to be desired as well.
Perhaps he just needed five minutes to warm up. In the second, Hernandez still looked fresh early, but Quarantillo started stuffing his shots and landing heavy punches. All of a sudden, Hernandez was the man backing up, and after one of his deeper shots was stuffed, the momentum fully shifted. Hernandez was in survival mode, desperate for a break, and Quarantillo refused to oblige him.
Instead, he just keep walking him down, dinging his chin with rights, and landing soul-crushing knees to the belly. The onslaught overwhelmed Hernandez, securing Quarantillo his fifth UFC win and fourth promotional finish.
- T.J. Brown defeats Erik Silva via third round arm-triangle choke (HIGHLIGHTS): This was a really fun fight! Both men scored some clean takedowns and landed some really heavy shots. The deciding factor seemed to be conditioning and control, however. Despite absorbing some huge right hands and showing off one hell of a chin in the process, Brown simply maintained control far more effectively after his takedowns. He kept good pressure on the feet as well, and the combination slowly allowed him to take over until he found the submission.
- Cameron Saaiman defeats Steven Koslow via third round TKO: Cardio wins fights! Saaiman started the fight strong, but an illegal knee cost him a point on the scorecards, and Koslow rebounded well in the second. Saaiman fought with a fire under his butt for the final five minutes, and initially, Koslow kept up with his scrambles. A couple minutes into the third, however, Koslow’s gas tank hit empty. Suddenly, Saaiman was absolutely dominating from top position, likely en route to a 10-8 round. Instead, the 21-year-old prospect wisely allowed his foe to stand under a heavy barrage of punches, creating an opportunity to flurry and force the referee’s hand. That’s a smart, well-rounded performance from the young athlete.
For complete UFC 282: “Ankalaev vs. Blachowicz” results and play-by-play, click HERE.