Last night (Sat., July 8, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) remained in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 290. Featuring two title fights atop the card, UFC 290 was one of the more stacked events of the year. Better yet, it lived up to the hype, as from the first bell, the fights were exciting and finishes were plentiful. It was very likely the best card of the year, featuring elite and fun moments throughout.
Let’s take a look at UFC 290’s standout performances and techniques:
Volkanovski Follows The Edgar Game Plan
It’s been six years since Frankie Edgar pummeled Yair Rodriguez from within his guard to score a second round doctor stoppage. In all those years, no committed wrestler has every really tried to replicate that gameplan.
The Australian patiently pressured his foe toward the fence, then thoroughly wrestled him for two full rounds. He didn’t do anything too eye-catching from top position in that time, but consistent work with punches and elbows left Rodriguez bloody and far less dangerous.
By the third, “The Great” was confident. He was happy to strike with Rodriguez, who was still fast, but no longer had his usual otherworldly speed. He took some kicks in the process, but that was a fair trade for the massive right hand that sent Rodriguez backwards. After stunning “Pantera,” Volkanovski’s finishing sequence was really gorgeous. The body shot, reload, uppercut, takedown sequence? Masterful. Then, he poured on the punches from top position, never allowing his foe a moment to recover (watch highlights).
Ladies and gentlemen, that right there is the best fighter on the planet.
Pantoja Guts His Way To The Title
Brandon Moreno seemed to defend his title in round two. Sure, the champion was dropped in the first, but Alexandre Pantoja scored those heavy shots at the expense of his gas tank. He was tired in the second, and Moreno absolutely lit him up. Stiff jabs, doubled up hooks, huge right hands — he battered the 33-year-old challenger.
There’s no logical reason that Pantoja would be able to bounce back, but he did. In fact, he arguably won every round afterward. Somehow, Pantoja continually renewed his energy reserves no matter how many times his dial hit “Empty,” and he was able to fire clubbing combinations and wrestle to the back for the remainder of the fight.
He had to walk through fire to do so, but Pantoja more than earned his title.
Du Plessis Obliterates Whittaker, Critics
Dricus du Plessis has been continually beating good opponents, prior to the UFC and since he joined the roster. Yet, his victories are continually written off. “Still Knocks” has a chaotic style, but that doesn’t mean it’s mindless or ineffective.
Nobody can discredit Robert Whittaker. He’s one of the most accomplished Middleweights of all time, and he’s been fighting at an incredibly high level. He’s consistently great and never fails to show up. As such, du Plessis doubters face a conundrum, because the South African manhandled Whittaker en route to a second-round knockout.
More than usual, du Plessis did show his craft. In the first few minutes, he struggled with Whittaker’s speed and intercepting punches, as well as his footwork. However, he managed to throw Whittaker to the canvas in the final minute of the round, and the fight changed drastically. From top position, the wildly strong du Plessis cut Whittaker open and attacked the neck.
The exchange clearly took a physical toll on “The Reaper.”
In the second, Whittaker’s feet weren’t quite as fleet. Du Plessis’ was timing his kicks well early, but he landed even more to the body and legs. Whittaker kept slowing, and du Plessis’ clubbing shots wobbled his knees and made him even slower. Without that quickness edge, Whittaker was a sitting duck for du Plessis’ heaviest swings (watch highlights).
I don’t know that du Plessis beats Israel Adesanya, but he’s one of the most elite Middleweights in the world. Put some respect on his name and style.
Dan Hooker Turns Back The Clock
Dan Hooker fought really well last night.
Jalin Turner is massive, has smart kickboxing, and nasty athleticism. His ability to put together short, crushing combinations in the blink of an eye is scaring. There’s no way to dance in the rain without getting wet, but Hooker really did a great job of making the most of his experience.
From early on, Hooker went to work with his kicks, and he established his jab as a counter. Turner’s speed meant that he still landed the best shots in the first, but slowly, Hooker’s more methodical work began to take effect ... until a picture-perfect high kick crashed into Hooker’s jaw in the second!
By all rights, the fight should have been over then. Any normal man would have been unconscious. Hooker didn’t even hit the canvas, immediately trying to wrestle and trading back when that takedown didn’t come. As a result of that kick, however, Hooker was now thoroughly behind on the cards, forcing him to turn to Plan B: guts and combinations.
Hooker started to press, and he ran into some really nasty counter shots. However, he kept firing. Turner could slip and return once, but he couldn’t maintain that speed repeatedly. Hooker, meanwhile, ran him into the fence and cracked him a whole bunch of times, nearly finishing the fight in the second via rear naked choke.
The third came down to grit and conditioning. Hooker refused to let the fight escape him, walking through more heavy blows to relentless attack Turner. He nearly finished him a second time, instead riding out top position for the decision win (scorecards here). Hooker may not be the best Lightweight in the world, but he proved here that he’s still an elite Lightweight despite some rough losses in the last couple years.
Nickal Lives Up To The Hype
Sure, his opponent, Valentine Woodburn, was a short-notice replacement. On its own, the win doesn’t mean much. However, the fluidity and distance management Nickal demonstrated was great! He’s already a much better and more dangerous striker than some wrestlers ever achieve, and he’s just a handful of fights into his career.
The future continues to be glaringly bright for the blue chip prospect.
A Ruthless Retirement
Robbie Lawler is a legend, and his retirement was perfect. I wrote an entire article to appreciate the moment HERE!
A Major Strawweight Upset
Yazmin Jauregui has looked incredibly sharp in her previous pair of UFC fights. A high-volume striker with great boxing and a good amount of experience, Jauregui has firmly given the appearance of a future contender. Denise Gomes, meanwhile, has largely been forgettable in her short UFC career.
The 23-year-old Brazilian smoked Jauregui, overcoming significant underdog status on the strength of two right hands. Both landed mightily, felling the Mexican talent badly. Jauregui tried to recover, but repeated hammers from Gomes stole away her legs and stability repeatedly, forcing the stoppage.
The End Of Jimmy Crute?
Jimmy Crute looked pretty bad against Alonzo Menifield last night. He didn’t have much fluidity on the feet, nor could he match his foe’s physicality. His best weapon seemed to be the naked low kick, which was countered numerous times with heavy blows. Even his bread-and-butter, his grappler, failed him, as a takedown without much drive behind it led him right into a nasty guillotine choke (watch highlights).
Credit to Menifield for the win, of course, but it’s been sad to watch Crute fall apart. Ever since he suffered a leg injury in his loss to Anthony Smith, he just looks to be struggling. At 27 years of age, he’s no longer one of the division’s best prospects, a future champion. It’s a real shame, because he’s previously demonstrated all the technical skills and athleticism to really become a player.
Nowadays, it’s gone. Whether that’s due to injury or some kind of mental issue is unclear from the outside, but his clearly worse. If he does continue, Crute needs three fights against unranked foes to attempt to rebuild his confidence.
Jesus Aguilar smashed Shannon Ross with his first overhand right of the feint. A feint of a jab closed the distance, and then he threw a fastball like he was trying to break 100 miles-per-hour. It crash landed directly on Ross’ chin, instantly putting him to sleep.
Flyweight knockouts don’t come much cleaner!
- Vitor Petrino defeats Marcin Prachnio via third-round arm triangle: Petrino out-classed his opponent on the canvas. The Brazilian landed his takedowns without a ton of effort, and he just exhausted his opponent. Prachnio’s bottom game left a lot to be desired, resulting in plenty of wasted energy. By the third, Prachnio was running on steam, most of the power gone for his shots. One final takedown resulted in an easy mount and simple strangle — great work from the Light Heavyweight prospect!
- Cameron Saaiman defeats Terrance Mitchell via first round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Mitchell took this fight on short-notice, and it showed. The Alaskan dove forward, intent on wrestling from the first bell. Immediately, he threw himself into danger, getting threatened by a nasty guillotine choke. He kept the pressure wrestling going, but Saaiman was a step ahead, and Mitchell’s gas tank emptied just a couple minutes into the round. Saaiman smartly advanced position and made the finish look elementary.
For complete UFC 290: “Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez” results and play-by-play, click HERE!