Last night (Sat., Aug. 20, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ventured to Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah for UFC 278. In the main event, a rematch between Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards would decide the future of 170-pound gold. Before those men threw down, the title pictures at Middleweight and Bantamweight were affected by the pivotal bookings of Luke Rockhold vs. Paulo Costa and Jose Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili. Excellent match ups, recognizable names, and divisional implications — what more is there to ask for?
Let’s take a look at the best performances and techniques:
Pressure And Pace And Insanity
For about 24 minutes, Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards 2 wasn’t terribly different from the first fight in the grand scheme of things.
Way back in the first fight, Edwards defended takedowns well for a round. Then, the pressure and physicality of “The Nigerian Nightmare” got to him, and the takedowns grew easier and easier. By the end of the fight, Edwards was worn, having a miserable time in bottom position.
The pattern was repeating in the second bout. Edwards’ takedown in the first round was awesome, and he showed some slick scrambling on the mat early overall. Overall, however, Usman showed his championship resolve by completely ignoring that strong start and powering right through to get his game plan going.
Edwards just doesn’t like to fight in the pocket. Whenever Usman pushed forward, Edwards would concede ground, and it put him in bad positions to wrestle. Continually trying to work out of bad positions is exhausting, especially when dealing with a talent like Usman. The champion took over like he usually does, looking as good as ever.
Then, suddenly, Leon Edwards’ perfect left high kick was expertly set up behind a same side cross. It wrapped around the champion’s skull and sent him to the canvas, completely unconscious.
Despite appearances, Edwards didn’t give up, and now he’s a champion.
Rockhold Takes A Courageous Stand
At 37 years of age, Luke Rockhold really had no business being in the cage with Paulo Costa last night.
Rockhold’s body is worn down. Rockhold clearly showed up in incredible shape and absolutely put considerable work into this training camp and weight cut, but he was still tired in just a few minutes. That’s the result of a body that’s simply tired, especially when compared to a top contender in his prime in “Borrachinha.” Rockhold’s left kick is one of the nastiest weapons in Middleweight history, and now he has to cover it with a wrap due to injuries. Can the symbolism be more fitting?
None of that stopped Rockhold from trying. Right away, he dove into the fray and stuck Costa with a hard shot. When the Brazilian fired back, Rockhold tried to wrestle and wound up on his back. By the time Rockhold returned to his feet, the gas tank was empty.
That didn’t stop Rockhold either. There was a glorious moment in the second where he let a series of left kicks fly into Costa’s mid-section. They didn’t sit him down, but Costa didn’t like it one bit! Even better, Rockhold muttering “F—k you” immediately before cracking Costa with an overhand was perfection. The ex-champion rubbing his battered, bloody face into Costa’s eyes in the closing seconds of the fight? Well, that was the cherry on top!
By all rights, one of Costa’s haymakers or body shots should have shut Rockhold down. Instead, he managed to show off his undeniable fighting spirit, a trait that carried him to Strikeforce and UFC gold alike. Even though those days are passed, Rockhold still got to gut it out one last time.
The Machine Slowly Advances
Merab Dvalishvili isn’t going to get a title shot off that victory, but defeating Jose Aldo in any fashion remains a remarkable accomplishment. As for Aldo, it’s a disappointing end to what’s likely his final shot at a title run, and I wrote more on that right HERE!
Pudilova Dominates Yanan
I don’t know how this fight ended up on the main card, but Pudilova at least made it fun by putting an absolute beating on Yanan.
On the feet, Pudilova seemed a touch faster, but her advantage on the canvas was unexpectedly massive. She chased that edge quickly, and refreshingly, she was really aggressive from top position. Pudilova took the back twice and threatened the choke, but when Yanan gave up mount instead, Pudilova abandoned the submission game. Instead, she released a massive flurry of elbows that very effectively forced the referee’s hand!
Alex Romanov Is Not That Guy
We all want new Heavyweight prospects, so it’s easy to get excited when a new face shows some potential. When Romanov debuted by throwing everyone through the air and finishing them quickly, who didn’t get excited?
There was a warning sign, however. Juan Espino kept up with his wrestling, and once Romanov tired a bit, he looked far more regular. Since he won that decision and followed up with a better victory, the MMA world willingly ignored the aforementioned red flag.
Marcin Tybura revealed those flaws yet again and had the experience to actually make the most of them. After getting tossed for a round, the tide began to shift in Tybura’s favor. His front snap kick continually dig into Romanov’s belly, sapping the big man’s conditioning further. Suddenly, it was Tybura landing the better shots and actually winning the wrestling exchanges.
Credit to Tybura: it’s not easy to perform well after getting smothered for five minutes. As for Romanov, there’s still potential, but he’s reached his ceiling until he can refine his kickboxing form, improve his cardio, or ideally — both!
- Tyson Pedro defeats Harry Hunsucker via first-round knockout: Pedro did what he was supposed to do. He entered as a 7-1 favorite and looked the part, stunning Hunsucker with a clean jab pretty much right off the bat. Then, he did a nice job of lining up a fight-finishing snap kick to the mid-section right away to lock down the early finish. I don’t want to make too much of this, because it was completely expected, but Pedro did his job in there — and that’s all he can do!
- Amir Albazi defeats Francisco Figueiredo via first-round rear naked choke: Albazi is very much proving himself an overlooked contender at 125 lbs. Figueiredo gave him some good looks, establishing a powerful left kick and showing off some improved defensive wrestler. Albazi’s ability to continually chain takedowns from within the clinch proved overwhelming, and he did great work from top position. His first takedown resulted in some majorly heavy ground strikes, while the second saw him immediately take the back and score the strangle. Great performance!
- Victor Altamirano defeats Daniel Da Silva via first-round knockout: Da Silva started this one with a bang! The Brazilian dropped Altamarino with a big right hand and landed some serious follow up shots, leaving his opponent fairly stunned. While still hurt, Altamarino answered back with a nasty liver shot, sending Da Silva to the canvas! When Altamarino gained top position, he really poured it on, standing over his opponent and dropping shots until Da Silva wilted beneath the onslaught.
For complete UFC 278: “Usman vs. Edwards” results and play-by-play, click HERE!