Kron Gracie made his highly anticipated return to the Octagon against Charles Jourdain at UFC 288 tonight (Sat., May 6, 2023), kicking off the ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main card from inside Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
It’s been almost four years since Gracie last stepped inside the eight-walled cage, a losing “Fight of the Night” performance against Cub Swanson. What’s the Brazilian jiu-jitsu savant been doing in his not-so-secret, on-the-grid Montana lab? Who knows. But, all-action Jourdain — loser of two straight — was willing and eager to find out.
And so, too, were the throng of mixed martial arts (MMA) fans watching ... until they had to actually watch Gracie deliver a truly puzzling performance, refusing to engage with Jourdain on the feet en route to a bizarre unanimous decision loss.
Gracie slinked out of his corner, while Jourdain waited for him to arrive in the center of the cage. He fired a hard overhand right, then a left as Gracie continued to just plod forward. Jourdain landed a nice uppercut that got the crowd on its feet, but Gracie was just looking to close the distance like a weird serial killer. He finally got Jourdain pressed against the fence, but the Canadian did a great job of circling out and tossing Gracie to the canvas moments later. Gracie was stalking Jourdain, hands on his ears, looking to get close without throwing any strikes. Midway through the opening frame, Gracie finally got the fight horizontal with Jourdain in his guard. Gracie finally start to throw punches off his back, with Jourdain just shelling up, not giving the submission expert a limb to latch onto. Jourdain broke free with 60 seconds on the clock, with Gracie butt scooting toward him. Gracie returned to his feet and immediately pressed Jourdain against the fence, but he once again circled out and peppered Gracie with jabs until the round concluded.
Between rounds, Demian Maia suggested that Gracie should start throwing hooks — any conventional punches would be a great idea. Instead, Gracie uncorked a few lazy low kicks, attempting to corral Jourdain in a corner, which he did in about 45 seconds. He jumped on Jourdain like a reverse backpack and eventually the Canadian had no choice but to go back to the ground. Gracie came alive on his back once again, angling for submissions while unleashing elbows and punches from the bottom position. Jourdain did a better job of ground-and-pound, but he was still super careful not to leave any limbs hanging. With two minutes remaining in the round, Jourdain got back to his feet and landed a sweet knee to the mid-section. Nice uppercut from Jourdain, then a standing elbow, as Gracie just buried his head and moved forward. Gracie finally landed a nice left hook before pulling Jourdain down to the canvas once more.
Third and final round and it appeared that the non-plussed Gracie needed a finish if he wanted to go home with a win. And it never came. In fact, Jourdain began to open up more on the feet, drilling the Brazilian with hard shots and knees. Gracie had a super odd gameplan to not really punch Jourdain standing, but he was okay with doing it off his back. And that’s just not going to cut it inside the Octagon in 2023.
Perhaps it was some sort of experiment or personal challenge to win a fight with just jiu-jitsu, but whatever it was, it sucked to watch on an $80 PPV.
Final result: Jourdain def. Gracie via unanimous decision
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 288: “Sterling vs. Cejudo” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.