Another weekend is in the rear view mirror, as is another carnage-filled UFC event. With dozens of takeaways to choose from, here are five significant learnings from UFC 268.
1. Usman handled his business (again), Colby remains delirious.
Usman was and is, just better. He’s better than Covington, he’s better than the entire welterweight division, and now, he might just be better than everyone else on the UFC roster. While he didn’t finish Colby like he wanted to, he did add to his resume (now 15-0 in the UFC) and legacy. He’s entered the G.O.A.T. conversation and could very well be the best active pound-for-pound fighter alive right now. It’s astonishing that he continues to look better and better with each fight that passes. The striking, the jab, the takedown defense, the cardio; it’s all improved. He’s the complete package.
But Colby didn’t go quietly. He had moments late in the 3rd round and practically owned the 4th. However, ultimately, Usman outlasted him once again.
Though there was plenty of bad blood leading up to the fight, the two did embrace in the octagon and swapped words of mutual respect (referee Dan Miragliotta had to separate the two and tossed in a “you can kiss later” punchline). They’ll never be friends, but like Usman iterated, when you spend that much time with an opponent in the octagon, the respect just comes.
Colby clearly thinks the two still have unfinished business:
While Usman (thankfully) is looking toward bigger, and currently better things in the near future:
But let’s be real. Colby hasn’t exactly been a high volume fighter the past couple of years. He’ll now need to put together some kind of win streak to get another title shot. Despite the words that come out of his mouth.
2. “Thug” Rose is indeed, “the best” of the women’s strawweight division, but Carla Esparza is waiting in plain sight.
“Thug” Rose Namajunas’ “I am the best” mantra was cemented when she took the belt from Zhang Weili back in April 2021. In the rematch, she was able to best Weili again and retain her title. Indeed, the best in the women’s strawweight division. There are some up-and-comers, some new, some that have managed to hang around and be relevant, in the division that’ll be gunning for Rose, but she’s clearly the class of the division.
At this moment, Carla Esparza is the woman that presents the next big challenge for Rose. Esparza, a 24-fight veteran, has already claimed victory over Namajunas back in December 2014. The fighters have changed a lot since then, but there’s at least some history to draw upon. She also comes in with a 5-fight win streak over some very impressive names (Alexa Grasso, Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez, Yan Xiaonan). That’s a fight I want to see. These two ladies fought so long ago that Rose Namajunas actually had hair. Now let’s see the 2022 version of this fight for a championship belt.
3. Gaethje and Chandler was everything we expected.
Bombs, bombs, a few takedown attempts, and more bombs. That’s what we expected, and that’s exactly what we got from two of the most free-wheeling, high octane, spring-loaded strikers on the roster (they’re both incredible wrestlers too, but where’s the fun in that?). This fight, which the UFC decided to open the main card with (brilliant move), was an absolutely W.A.R. And how this thing actually went the full three rounds is beyond me. I would have (but didn’t) bet my house that this fight would not get to the judge’s scorecards. Gaethje ultimately busted Chandler up enough to get the decision, and the two shared much mutual respect afterward.
With the win, Gaethje essentially locked himself into a title shot against the winner of Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier, who fight next month. For Chandler, he loses his second in a row and is now 1-2 since joining the UFC, so it would make sense that he take a slide in the rankings. Although, he’s fought Dan Hooker, Oliveira, and Gaethje so far in this three rights, so mad respect is due.
4. Alex Pereira and Ian Garry demand that you pay attention.
Never mind the thin 4-1 overall mixed martial arts record, Alex Pereira is a name you should write down. Or, just memorize. Bringing in some heavy buzz, he made his UFC debut tonight and man, did it ever go as planned, courtesy of a vicious flying knee that made Andreas Michailidis see stars:
Ian Garry, another name you might not be familiar with, is perhaps best known for his similarities to one Conor McGregor. He’s Irish, he’s confident, and he’s damn good. And Conor is a fan of his fellow countryman.
Garry said in a post-fight interview, channeling his inner Mystic Mac, that this is “The Takeover Part 2,” which was a nod to McGregor’s “We’re not here to take part, we’re here to take over” speech, in which he invited him to join in the fun. Seeing what he’s accomplished so far (8-0), it’s going to take a legit fighter to put a wrinkle in those plans.
5. It was good to have Joe and Bruce back in our lives.
Say what you may about Joe Rogan when it comes to Covid and his eccentric vaccination beliefs, but when it comes to calling big UFC events, nobody does it better. It’s already been amazing to have the “oooooohhhs” and “aaaaahhhs” of the full, amped-up crowds back at the events, but to have Rogan, Jon Anik, and Daniel Cormier, the best trio in the business, back together for this card was phenomenal.
Likewise for Bruce Buffer, who I think, with the growth of the UFC, has surpassed his brother Michael in popularity and stature. Buffer returned after missing UFC 267 with Covid. Incredibly, prior to that, he hadn’t missed a numbered UFC event since all the way back in 1996, a 25-year run of consecutive numbered events. I guess IT WAS TIME!!!