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Yearly Roundup Part 2

For Part 1 (January - June), click here


Cowboy Cerrone Hangs Up the Gloves

@ UFC 276 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Another month, another legend hung up the gloves, this time Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone.

After going winless in his last six bouts and suffering four TKO losses, it was past time for the legendary Octagon warrior to call it a day, but that didn't make it any easier to say goodbye. Ironically he would take his final fight against someone who had even more fights in the UFC than he did in Jim Miller, holder of the record for most appearances in the organization's history at 40 to Cerrone's 38.

Cowboy Cerrone is of course one of the most beloved fighters in the game and although he never captured a world title, he has been a staple in the top ten of the stacked lightweight division since his days in the WEC and was one of the most active and exciting finishers in the sport.

At UFC 276 he made his final ride to the Octagon in a rematch against Jim Miller, who he had previously knocked out back in 2014.

Cerrone looked good in the first round, his trademark kicks scoring in what was a pretty evenly matched fight between longtime vets.

Early in the second, Cerrone turned to the lead head kick that had scored him a knockout over Miller eight years prior, and even managed to land it (albeit just with the foot) - this time however, he lost his footing for a split second and Miller pounced, seizing an opportunity to get a hold of Cowboy's neck as Cerrone made his way back to his feet.

Like a dog on a bone, Miller latched onto Cerrone's neck with a guillotine and forced Cowboy to submit, earning his revenge and handing Cerrone the last loss of his career.

While it was a feel-good moment for Miller, it was a heartbreaking farewell for Donald, who had entertained the masses for fifteen years and had 48 fights inside the Octagon between his time with the WEC and the UFC.

The MMA legend completed his career with a record of 36-17 (2 no contests) and his name is littered throughout the UFC history books; as of today, he has the third most UFC appearances, is tied with Charles Oliveira for most post-fight bonuses in UFC history, is tied for both second most wins and finishes in UFC history, and has the most knockdowns in the promotion's history among many other accomplishments.

Alex Pereira Murks Sean Strickland, Sets Up Massive Showdown with Adesanya

@ UFC 276 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Alex Pereira's kickboxing rivalry with dominant UFC champion Israel Adesanya resulted in one of the fastest rises in modern MMA history.

The two first met in 2016 as the Brazilian was surging up the ranks in kickboxing, boasting a 13-4 record while the more experienced Adesanya sported a stellar 68-2 resume in the sport. The two took part in a highly competitive scrap that Pereira eeked out on the scorecards even though Adesanya believed he won, starting a rivalry that would eventually span two different sports.

Adesanya would stay ridiculously busy and post a 7-1 record following the loss, while Pereira went 1-1 in the same 11-month span before taking a rematch with Adesanya on a week's notice. Adesanya would dominate much of the fight with his unique and aggressive style, even hurting the granite-chinned Pereira on multiple occasions and taunting his Brazilian rival as he looked to take home a lopsided decision.

None of that mattered however, as Pereira landed his trademark left hook in the third and final round and snatched Adesanya's soul.

It was a brutal knockout and marked the last fight of Adesanya's kickboxing career; while he had already racked up nine MMA wins in China and New Zealand while he was actively kickboxing, he transitioned full time to MMA later that year and quickly earned a call up to the UFC.

He of course would run through the division and capture the middleweight title, posting an 11-1 record with the promotion with the only loss of his MMA career coming by decision to Jan Blachowicz at light heavyweight in his attempt at a second title.

Pereira meanwhile would really come into his own in the kickboxing world, and after a decision loss in a middleweight tournament final at Glory 40, he carved a path of destruction through the Glory middleweight ranks, capturing and defending his middleweight crown five times and earning both an interim and the official light heavyweight Glory title to become a two-weight division champion.

After losing his MMA debut in 2015 in Brazil, Pereira posted two wins in the sport in 2016 before returning to the sport in earnest in 2020 where he lamped poor Thomas Powell with his signature left hook.

That brutal KO was followed shortly thereafter by his light heavyweight title unification where he became Glory's double champ; given his success in kickboxing, his three straight knockouts in MMA, the fact that he was training with Glover Teixeira to work on his grappling, and his history with Israel Adesanya, the UFC signed the kickboxing champion to fight in the middleweight division despite his relatively little MMA experience.

His MMA inexperience was certainly a problem, but with Adesanya running out of fresh faces to beat and in need of a rival that could sell, they took a chance on Pereira and it pretty quickly paid dividends.

With a second round flying knee knockout in his UFC debut last November, and then a thrilling scrap with Bruno Silva which showed he was quickly improving his takedown defense and could beat a decent grappler, Pereira was fast-tracked into title contention courtesy of a contendership bout against Sean Strickland, who was primarily a boxer and touted a six-fight winning streak.

Despite Pereira's massive advantage on the feet, Strickland thought it would be wise to play his "patty-cake, pitter-patter" style of striking with "Poatan" - basically, he keeps his arms out and seeks to catch his opponents punches early before returning fire with a peppering jab, looking to outpoint and bore his opponents to death.

Against a man like Alex Pereira, that shockingly didn't work.

Instead of seeking to mix in takedowns (particularly given that Strickland is a solid grappler and would have held a big advantage there) or at least attempt to do something different against Pereira, Strickland disregarded the threat that stood before him and was quickly dropped by a left hook and knocked flat by the short right hand that followed.

It was a stupidly easy win for Pereira especially given he was facing someone ranked in the top five - but the performance didn't earn Strickland the 2022 runner-up for the Dumbest Gameplan of the Year for no reason.

The UFC had successfully fast-tracked Pereira to a crack at Adesanya, who defended his middleweight title for the fifth time later that night in a dull decision victory over Jared Cannonier. Just like that, the stage for 2022's biggest grudge match was set.

Volkanovski Ends Holloway's Title Hopes, Proves He's the Superior Featherweight

@ UFC 276 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Before Adesanya put on another snoozer in the main event, featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski squared off with Max Holloway for the third time in the co-main event of the evening.

On paper Volkanovski held both wins in the series, but both fights were incredibly close and many felt that Holloway won one (or both) of their prior match-ups, making a trilogy fight viable despite the one-sided results in the series.

In the time since their last meeting Holloway had beaten both Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez in thrilling five round wars to fully earn another crack at his former belt, while Volkanovski defeated Brian Ortega in an epic clash and then dominated the Korean Zombie to keep himself busy.

With both men seemingly so evenly matched after 50-minutes in the Octagon together, another tightly contested battle was expected; the champion however had other plans.

From the opening bell Volkanovski was fighting at a speed that Holloway simply couldn't match, as if his speed dial was cranked up to 11 while Holloway's was stuck at the normal limit of 10.

The champion consistently stuck Holloway with jabs and counters while evading the vast majority of Holloway's attacks, stinging the Hawaiian legend with his more powerful punches as the challenger struggled to mount any meaningful offense in return.

What was supposed to be a hotly contested war became a one-sided masterclass, with Holloway trying to make adjustments to claw his way back into the fight but being shut down at every turn.

It may not have been quite the one-sided drubbing that Volkanovski's previous outing against Chan Sung Jung was, but it was nonetheless a clear and decisive victory for the champion who took virtually no damage over 25-minutes with Max Holloway and shut him out of winning a single round.

To have such a definitive and virtually flawless victory over Holloway is simply unheard of and Volkanovski not only once and for all settled the debate over who the better fighter is, but he put himself at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings as a result.

Amanda Nunes Dominates Julianna Pena to Regain Her Title

@ UFC 277 in Dallas, Texas

When Amanda Nunes lost her title to Julianna Pena back in December of last year, it was easily amongst the biggest upsets in the sport's history.

Not only was Nunes a dominant double champ riding a 12-fight winning streak over the biggest names in women's MMA, but Julianna Pena put it nicely...not that great.

A capable wrestler with solid submission skills, her striking was quite sloppy and over-aggressive and her skills didn't particularly match up well with the champion.

Nunes was a better all-round grappler, shouldn't have trouble stuffing Pena's takedowns, was the far better striker, and carried far more power and athleticism - the only real area which you could give to Pena heading into their first fight was cardio, but given the skill gap, if Nunes somehow didn't put her out early most figured she shouldn't have had a problem coasting to a victory.

The first round went pretty much as expected as Nunes chopped down Pena's legs, easily avoided her takedown attempts, and generally made her look like she didn't belong. She then made the odd decision to follow Pena to the ground and although she remained on top, Pena did make the champion work a bit.

After a rather easy first round, the champion was already tired.

Nunes had of course gassed out in the past, but that was when she came out overly aggressive and was pounding on an opponent and putting all her effort into finishing them early, not after a round where she dictated the pace and met little resistance.

It was then that Nunes' technical flaws reared their ugly head, as Pena, as sloppy as her boxing may be, bit down on her mouthpiece and repeatedly threw hands with the champ, more than willing to take one to give one.

Pena began to actually come out on top of these exchanges almost exclusively due to her use of a dipping jab, which the champion appeared to have no clue how to defend.

Pena's success with the jab bamboozled Nunes enough to allow Pena to land her right hand at will and she began to string together combinations as the champion sloppily tried to exchange, the pace positively melting her defenses.

Pena was then able to ground the exhausted pound-for-pound queen where she locked up a rear-naked choke and made Nunes tap for mercy. Pena did everything she had to do to win, and Nunes did everything she had to do in order to lose; as impressive it was for Pena to pull the upset, it was equally embarrassing a performance from Nunes.

With claims of a poor camp causing her performance, Nunes promised a better result in a rematch and at UFC 277, she took her title back in dominant fashion, even if her striking defense still left a lot to be desired at times.

Rather than learning how to deal with a dipping jab, Nunes...switched to southpaw.

It seems like a bit of an overreaction, but it did work a treat, especially against an opponent that has rather rudimentary striking and attempts the same thing over and over.

Pena kept trying to enter behind the jab, and would eat a right hook from Nunes, who was fighting from her newfound southpaw stance the majority of the fight.

In the second, Pena then got the wise idea to charge in like she had been, but to do so behind a lunging right straight instead of her jab, which simply let Nunes sit her down with a power right hook.

Running out of options, Pena then resorted to...rapidly pumping her hands in the form of sloppy one-twos while literally charging forward; Nunes didn't even need to stay southpaw to deal with that, as she instead retreated before dropping the challenger again, this time with a more powerful right hand from her orthodox stance.

Not content with dropping Pena twice, she scored the third knockdown of the round by timing a southpaw straight as Pena darted in with her jab, which funnily enough she did still manage to land since Amanda didn't move her head offline.

Despite being completely outclassed, Pena showed her toughness and heart by continuing to do everything she could and refusing to back down, and was still able to land plenty of shots of her own even when she was getting rocked by the more powerful and cleaner striker.

In the third and each subsequent round, Nunes opted to take down Pena and enjoy top control, careful not to expend too much energy despite her clearly better conditioning than in their first meeting while still banking rounds. Outside of a few submission attempts that Nunes was able to defend well, Nunes coasted to a rather easy victory to become a two-time bantamweight champion.

Notable Violent Finishes in July:


Nate Landwehr and David Onama Brawl in San Diego

@ UFC on ESPN 41 in San Diego, California

The UFC's last ESPN fight night in San Diego may not have been packed with big names or hotly anticipated match-ups, but it certainly delivered plenty of violent finishes and fun scraps throughout its 13-fight card.

Following a technical and thrilling striking affair between two very promising female strawweights making their UFC debuts in Yazmin Jauregui vs. Iasmin Lucindo, featherweight prospects Nate Landwehr and David Onama threw down in one of the best and most chaotic fights of 2022.

The co-main event flew completely under the radar until it was time for the two to square off inside the Octagon, where their intensity before the fight even began would provide all the hype needed for the ensuing war that would unfold.

The two stood toe-to-toe from the opening bell and both got their shots in on the other, with Landwehr looking to push his usual frantic pace as Onama looked for heavier strikes and counters.

A massive right hand from Onama nearly had the fight over early as Landwehr fell like a ton of bricks to the canvas, with Onama following him to the canvas and furiously trying to finish the fight with ground and pound, only for Landwehr to escape from back mount and wind up on top to begin elbowing his way back into the fight.

The insane opening round ended with more momentum swings between the two; ultimately Landwehr carried the momentum he found in the closing seconds of the first into the beginning of the next round and started it off strong, peppering Onama with combinations as the insane pace appeared to wear on Onama, who had taken the fight on about a week's notice.

Though Onama was always firing back, the second round was a massive one for Landwehr as he poured on the volume and exhausted Onama by constantly mixing in clinch work and takedowns that saw him end the round in dominant fashion.

Despite the lopsided second stanza, Onama was far from done and came out firing in the third, determined to claw his way back into the fight. Finding his second wind, Onama turned it into a war once more as the two traded in wild exchanges and both landed plenty of damaging shots. Landwehr then got into playing to the crowd, letting Onama get up after a failed shot and asking the crowd to make some noise.

Landwehr had once again earned the momentum and after some punishing clinch work Onama found himself crumpled against the canvas, but once again Landwehr opted to play to the crowd and let him up rather than pursue the finish on the floor.

Nate "The Train" continued to flirt with danger and play with his food, and while he arguably could have finished his opponent at multiple points, his (admittedly quite stupid) decision to play around in the Octagon led to more entertainment for the crowd that admittedly couldn't get enough of it.

After three chaotic rounds Landwehr earned himself the victory (somehow, one judge scored the fight a draw while the other two cards had the correct and seemingly easy-to-score of 29-27 with a 10-8 in the second) in a featherweight fight that ended up being way more exciting than it had any right to be.

Marlon Vera Rearranges Dominick Cruz's Nose

@ UFC on ESPN 41 in San Diego, California

The main event in San Diego pitted former two-time bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, who had rebounded from the first knockout loss of his career with back-to-back scrappy decision wins, against Marlon "Chito" Vera, who had mounted a three-fight winning streak of his own following a decision loss to a resurgent Jose Aldo.

The clash of elite bantamweights looked promising for the aging vet as Cruz looked sharp early, landing regularly on the slow-starting Vera and even scoring two takedowns en route to a solid amount of control time.

Despite throwing and landing very little in the round, Vera managed to make the round a toss up as he clipped Cruz late in the opening frame (unfortunately I couldn't find any gifs for this fight besides of the finish) and dropped the former champ momentarily. Regardless of the flash knockdown, all three judges scored the round for Cruz thanks to his work rate and domination for virtually the whole round outside of the split second stumble.

The second saw the fight stay entirely on the feet as Chito slowly began to wake up, starting to land his own shots on the elusive "Dominator", but Cruz's output simply dwarfed his own and the former champ was then two rounds up on the hungry contender.

Knowing he had to start picking things up, Vera found his way into the fight in the third, ramping up his pressure and again stuffing all of Cruz's takedown attempts; Cruz still put out more offense, but Vera managed to land the cleaner, harder shots and got himself on the board.

Ultimately though, the scorecards would bear no significance as Chito showed just how quickly his power can transform a fight.

Early in the fouth, Vera dropped Cruz momentarily with a jab as Cruz came forward. Chito continued to mount pressure on the always-moving Cruz, getting him to retreat near the cage.

Timing Cruz's attempt to duck out to Vera's left when he found himself near the cage as he had done several times earlier in the fight, Vera launched a vicious head kick that caught Cruz right in the face and saw him brutally faceplant into the floor.

Luckily for Cruz only the foot connected, yet even still the kick ended his night early and gifted him a rather painful nosejob.

The brilliant knockout over the former bantamweight king extended Vera's impressive streak to four and has cemented his status as one of the top contenders for the bantamweight strap in 2023.

On the other side of things, the disappointing result marked just the fourth defeat of Cruz' lengthy career and only the second time he has ever been stopped by strikes. The 37-year-old hasn't yet announced whether he will be coming back or retiring, but given his extensive history of injuries and stable commentating career, it may mark the last time fans see Cruz inside the Octagon.

Luke Rockhold Retires in a Bizarre Yet Thrilling Scrap Against Paulo Costa

@ UFC 278 in Salt Lake City, Utah

It wouldn't be a Paulo Costa fight if some weird shenanigans didn't occur either in the cage or in the buildup to the fight, and for the final walk of his MMA career, Luke Rockhold would be subjected to the weirdness that is a showdown with "Borrachinha".

The first weird (or just simply bad) aspect of their middleweight match-up was the fact it took place at altitude, something that has always made for quickly gassing fighters and disappointing fights.

With most fighters not able to train at altitude for the many months it takes to fully prepare for such an activity so high above sea level (and even then their cardio and recovery will never be as good as at sea level), events held in Mexico City, Denver, and indeed Salt Lake City have always featured fighters noticeably tired after the first round (if not within a few minutes) and has led to some particularly dreadful fights as exhausted fighters hang on each other and stumble to the final bell.

Nevertheless, the UFC still goes to these places (and always books at least one poor pair of heavyweights on the card) and the fighters still sign on to fight under less than ideal conditions.

In the fight right before Rockhold and Costa's co-main event, a resurgent bantamweight and former featherweight king Jose Aldo ended his final title run with a dull decision loss to Merab Dvalishvili, with Merab hugging him against the cage and Aldo's already diminished gas tank at 135 being sapped within minutes.

Ironically, after coming in grossly overweight and forcing his prior fight with Marvin Vettori to proceed at light heavyweight, Paulo Costa returned in ridiculous shape for his fight with Rockhold - only to gas out after a few minutes anyway thanks to Utah's lack of oxygen.

When he was fresh, Costa looked like the Borrachinha of old as he walked Rockhold to the fence and hammered him with heavy hooks and thudding body kicks, then surprised many by opting to take Rockhold down and land ground and pound when the former middleweight champ clinched up with him.

What was looking like a one-sided affair was turned around the instant Rockhold was able to work his way up from Costa's mount, with both of the big men gasping for air despite having fought for just three minutes (this is why I, along with many fans, vote for the UFC to never hold an event at altitude again).

Regardless of his exhaustion, Rockhold clawed his way back into the fight with a series of brutal body kicks that were somehow laughed off by Costa, and even landed some heavy punches even though he was consistently fighting off of the fence.

One might have expected the action to have dropped off a cliff as the rounds went on, but the second stanza was a ridiculously fun back-and-forth trading of techniques; one man would find a burst of energy to throw a few shots or go for a takedown, then the other would try their hand at a blitz or a fight-ending technique.

The two even traded some pretty cool spinning shit, with Rockhold delivering a brilliant 360-roundhouse kick to Costa's midsection and Costa answering by just skimming Rockhold's head with a surprisingly crisp wheel kick.

Both men landed plenty in the tightly contested round, but it was Costa's aggression and higher output that seemed to make the difference, combined with Costa's shots looking like they caused Rockhold considerable pain at times.

One would think that the third round between two exhausted middleweights would have been a chore to get through, but the two warriors still managed to make it more entertaining than it had any right to be.

From a stumble early in the round by Costa providing Rockhold a brief opportunity of top control only to be thrown off like he was a child, to Costa blasting Rockhold against the cage only for Rockhold to sneak in a heavy left of his own, the fight continued to deliver. Just when Costa would start to run away with it thanks to heavy body kicks and his power shots, Rockhold would muster up something to send Costa stumbling back.

A desperate shot from Rockhold saw his face mashed into the canvas midway through the round and Costa sought to ride out the rest of the fight to secure his hard-earned victory, but with less than thirty seconds left on the clock Rockhold managed to reverse the position and end up in Costa's guard.

With Costa locking his guard and holding Rockhold close to prevent him from pulling off any fight-changing offense, Luke realised his opportunity to finish the fight was virtually over as the fight clock neared zero.

In that moment of clarity, he did what any sane person would do - as blood poured from his broken nose, he began to rub his crimson-soaked mouth and nose all over Costa's face in one final act of defiance.

It was simultaneously one of the grossest and funniest things someone has done inside the Octagon and even garnered laughter from Paulo who was on the receiving end of the grotesque "technique".

Costa would ultimately have the last laugh as he picked up the victory on the scorecards, but Rockhold would earn the rabid applause of adoring fans as he announced his retirement from the sport in an emotional post-fight speech with Joe Rogan.

It may not have ended the way he had hoped, but the gutsy and thrilling performance was one hell of a memorable fight and showed off his heart and determination even as his aging body and the Utah air failed him.

It was also an impressive showing considering most expected the sizeable favourite Costa to finish him early given his power and the fact that Rockhold had suffered three brutal knockout losses in his last four outings.

Luke ended his legendary career with a 16-6 record having captured the UFC middleweight title in 2015 in an epic clash with Chris Weidman.

He was also the Strikeforce middleweight champion before Strikeforce was absorbed into the UFC in 2013 and he defended that crown twice, where he also holds the record for most finishes and most submissions for the now defunct promotion.

Leon Edwards Pulls Off an All-Time Great Upset and Comeback KO over Kamaru Usman

@ UFC 278 in Salt Lake City, Utah

Leon Edwards' stunning upset is the kind of fight that will be talked about for years to come, not only for the destructive and unexpected end result but because it unseated a dominant champion that was disliked by many (and for good reason, the guy is one of the most notorious cheaters in a cage that you can find, and has long been suspected of PED usage as well) and in Rocky-esque circumstances to boot.

When the two squared off at UFC 278 for the UFC welterweight championship, Leon "Rocky" Edwards was riding a nine-fight winning streak (ignoring a No Contest due to an eye poke) while the champion boasted a remarkable 15-fight UFC winning streak (if you include pre-UFC fights, his streak was a whopping 19) that was on the cusp of tying Anderson Silva for the longest winning streak in UFC history at 16.

He also held a decision victory over one Leon Edwards from back in 2015, which just so happened to be the last time Edwards had lost in the cage.

Edwards had long been seen as a rightful challenger to the title, but few saw him actually coming out on top against Usman, who enjoyed the status of top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet in many fans' and pundits' eyes.

Leon did well early in their rematch by grounding the champion and taking his back for a large portion of the opening stanza, but as the rounds wore on and the draining Salt Lake City altitude began to take its toll on Leon's endurance, Usman's grinding grappling and clinch game combined with his inhuman gas tank led to Kamaru convincingly picking up the following three rounds.

Although the fifth and final round was playing out largely on the feet, Usman was still getting the better of the English challenger and it appeared destined that Usman would tie Anderson Silva's record winning streak with a lopsided and rather uneventful decision; Leon's long path to a title would end in heartbreak as his championship dreams would fall short.

By the late stages of the closing round, the commentary team had already moved on to talking about what was next for Edwards and the soul searching he'd be confronted with; after all, Edwards would likely not get another title shot anytime soon since he would be 0-2 versus the champion. The writing was very much on the wall - but Leon Edwards was just waiting for the right moment to strike.

Pound for pound. Headshot. Dead.

Leon "Rocky" Edwards truly earned his nickname in the final minute of that fateful night in Salt Lake City, in a moment so perfect that even the finest scenes involving Rocky's Hollywood namesake couldn't hold a candle to it.

Feinting a pawing jab, Leon moved forward as if to throw his southpaw straight behind it, which he had previously done throughout the fight - this inspired Usman to move his head off the centre-line and out of the line of fire, his right hand even pawing toward the middle to parry the punch he was sure was coming.

Except this time, Usman's reaction was exactly what Edwards was counting on. With Usman's blocking arm out of position and his head leaning right into it, Edwards blasted a full power rear head kick that found the champion's cheek completely unobstructed.

The dominant welterweight king was instantly put on ice as his soulless body crumbled to the canvas, his aspirations of beating Anderson's record dissipating into Salt Lake City's exceptionally thin air.

It was as destructive a knockout as it was technically perfect, a brutal and decisive finish that reminded everyone once more that no one is untouchable and that a single moment in a mixed martial arts fight can change everything.

It was the most epic hail mary comeback one can imagine, the finish coming with less than sixty seconds to go in a fight that Usman had easily secured on the scorecards - yet at the same time, it was not some desperate, wild swing that just happened to find its home, it was a perfectly set up and flawlessly executed killshot that not only earned Leon "Rocky" Edwards the comeback of the year, but the bragging rights of scoring the best knockout of 2022 as well to go along with his shiny new belt.

ONE Debuts on Amazon Prime, Demetrious Johnson Takes the Flyweight Crown

@ ONE on Prime Video 1 in Kailang, Singapore

Good ol' Mighty Mouse.

He may not enjoy the same level of attention in the west as he had when he was dominating the flyweight division in the UFC, but he has nonetheless been making bank and showing off his world class skills for the last three years inside ONE FC's circular cage.

After losing his UFC title in a highly contentious decision to Henry Cejudo which ended his record-setting successful title defense streak at an astounding eleven, Demetrious Johnson of course was "traded" to Singapore's ONE Fighting Championship in exchange for Ben Askren, who the UFC saw as a bigger draw.

While Ben Askren was getting embarrassed stateside (he did draw in plenty of viewers at least, and turned Jorge Masvidal into a big PPV draw, so in a business sense the UFC got what they wanted), Johnson would return to his winning ways in ONE, often against far larger competition despite ONE's dubious claim to have eliminated weight cutting. Johnson won ONE's flyweight world grand prix tournament in 2019 and in doing so earned a crack at their flyweight champion, Adriano Moraes.

Johnson's promised title shot would unfortunately be delayed due to the covid restrictions of 2020, but in 2021 when he finally got to square off with Moraes, the unthinkable happened - Mighty Mouse was knocked out.

The loss marked the first time in his 36-fight career that he had ever been stopped in a fight.

Moraes had dropped the longtime flyweight king with a beautiful uppercut as he shot in, then put him out with a knee to the face as Johnson tried to get to his feet and regain his composure (which is perfectly legal over in ONE).

The stunning upset shocked the MMA world and many couldn't wait to see what adjustments Mighty Mouse would make in a rematch.

ONE opted for a slow build to their rematch as Moraes would successfully defend his belt against the unheralded Yuya Wakamatsu this past March at the ONE: X event, which was a card commemorating the ten year anniversary of the promotion; on that same card, Johnson choked out Muay Thai sensation Rodtang Jitmuangnon in a special rules bout, doing very well in the kickboxing round before easily dispatching the inexperienced grappler in the MMA round that followed.

With both men winning showcase bouts on the same night, the stage was set for their big rematch to headline the first ever ONE event (and first MMA event ever) to be broadcast live on Amazon Prime.

The two flyweights did not disappoint as they exchanged both on the feet and on the mat, with Moraes enjoying an advantage on the ground thanks to his notable size advantage over the always-undersized Mighty Mouse.

The frenetic pace however began to play into Johnson's favour as the rounds wore on, and then in the fourth, Johnson delivered one of the most beautiful finishing sequences you'll ever see in a fight.

Johnson perfectly ducked a Moraes left hook before throwing a brilliant right hand that rocked the champion, nearly sitting him down in the middle of the cage. Trying desperately to remain upright, Moraes backpedalled in an almost-squat-like position, with Mighty Mouse patiently following him and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.

When Moraes ran out of room to retreat as his butt hit the fence, Mighty Mouse delivered an impeccably timed flying knee to his chin that put him out cold, his lifeless body left crumpled in a heap beside the cage.

It was an unbelievable finish and a brilliant sequence from the former UFC flyweight king, who not only avenged his shocking defeat from the year prior, but also added the ONE FC flyweight title to his already crowded trophy case.

Notable Violent Finishes in August:


UFC Debuts in France, Ciryl Gane Survives Adversity to Knock Out Tai Tuivasa

@ UFC on ESPN+ 67 in Paris, France

There aren't many places left in the world that mixed martial arts promotions aren't allowed to stage events, but up until 2020, France was one of them.

The European nation was one of the last major countries that refused to allow MMA competition, but after years of political battles the French government officially legalized mixed martial arts and announced they would allow events under the jurisdiction of the French Boxing Federation.

Thanks to covid restrictions, the UFC wasn't able to hold an event in the newly available country in 2020 or 2021, but in September of 2022, the world's biggest MMA organization finally arrived in the city of love.

Of course, there wasn't a lot of love being shown in the Octagon as the fighters provided plenty of violence, knockouts and great fights that night, with the man of the hour headlining the card - Ciryl Gane, the top contender at heavyweight and the first French-born fighter to receive a UFC title shot.

He may have come up short in his championship bid against Francis Ngannou, but in his home country, Gane would not be beaten and he quickly gave Tai "Bam Bam" Tuivasa fits thanks to his long, powerful kicks and sharp lead hand while his movement made him a very tough target to find for the more stationary slugger.

In the second round, Gane's stabbing and constant body kicks really took their toll on Tuivasa, but as the five-fight knockout streak he was on proved, he was one tough customer and refused to back down, with his heart and heavy right hand nearly scoring him a massive upset midway through the round.

The massive shot certainly sat the elusive Frenchman down, but Gane showed plenty of heart in his own right and quickly fought his way back into the driver's seat, continuing his ruthless assault on Tuivasa's midsection that had him nearing a finish of his own.

Leaving the momentary scare behind him, Gane went right back to working the body in the third, tenderizing Tai's tummy and even mixing in a few head kicks for good measure. The always-durable Australian continued to press forward despite the fact that he had largely turned into Gane's punching bag, but late in the round a desperate charge at Gane saw him eat a brutal right hand counter that was able to rock the iron-chinned contender.

Several concussive follow-up shots later, Tuivasa was finally knocked out and Ciryl emerged triumphant to the roar of a delighted Paris crowd.

UFC 279's Fight Week is Filled by Hijinks with Chimaev Weight Miss, Card Shuffle

@ UFC 279 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Nate Diaz is certainly no stranger to fight-week shenanigans, but even by Diaz standards, UFC 279 was a mess. And ironically, Diaz wasn't at the centre of the chaos.

Instead, fight week in Vegas got off to a weird start as the pre-fight press conference was abruptly cancelled right as it was scheduled to take place. The cancelation, as UFC president Dana White would inform the masses, was due to an altercation between Khamzat Chimaev, who was set to take on Nate Diaz in the night's main event, and Kevin Holland, who was scheduled to face Daniel Rodriguez earlier on the card.

Although it was hyped up to be something much worse, the "altercation" was later revealed to essentially just be Chimaev push-kicking Holland in the back while the two were trash talking before a bunch of security and bystanders broke them up. The Diaz crew then appeared and traded insults with Chimaev's team, where a water bottle was supposedly thrown at some point (nothing new for an incident involving Nate) leading the UFC to cancel the entire conference to prevent any further escalations.

This was especially tough news for Li Jingliang, who bought a custom suit to show off at the press conference before his co-main event fight against Tony Ferguson at UFC 279, only for the conference to get canceled and his grand unveiling was left without an audience.

Things would take a turn for the worse on weigh-in day as headliner Khamzat Chimaev weighed in at 178.5 pounds, a whopping 7.5 pounds more than the non-title fight welterweight limit. This led to Diaz refusing to fight Chimaev as he believed he purposely came in heavy to gain an advantage (ironically, Nate's brother Nick changed his last fight with Robbie Lawler to middleweight just days out from their clash to gain a similar advantage), thus leading to the UFC frantically scrambling to re-arrange the card in order to save the event.

Given that Daniel Rodriguez and Kevin Holland's fight was already conspicuously scheduled for a 180 pound catchweight, Chimaev lost his main event slot and was instead matched up with Kevin Holland at the same 180-pound catchweight.

Once again, Li Jingliang, who successfully weighed in for a welterweight fight, was screwed as he lost his showcase fight with Tony Ferguson and was instead matched up with Daniel Rodriguez, who weighed in roughly ten pounds heavier and was spared a rough weight cut.

Nate Diaz stayed atop the card and faced Tony Ferguson in the headliner, which was inarguably a better matchup for both men and made for a more exciting main event for longtime fans. All the men that took new match-ups (other than Chimaev who caused the whole thing) also received a nice bonus from the promotion for stepping up to save the card.

The trio of reshuffled fights started off with a whimper as Jingliang and D-Rod turned in an unfortunately dull fight, and once again Jingliang was screwed. This time it was the judges who took their turn ruining Li's week as they awarded Rodriguez the decision victory despite the vast majority of observers scoring the fight for "The Leech". In fact, the decision was the runner-up for 2022's Robbery of the Year.

In the new co-main event, Chimaev wasted absolutely no time in doing what everyone expected him to do to the famously wrestling-averse Kevin Holland. He grounded Holland quickly and locked in a D'Arce choke shortly after during a scramble, forcing Holland to tap in a little over two minutes in a bit of an anticlimactic performance given the pre-fight spectacle.

The main event at least provided some excitement as fans got to see a dream match-up, even if it was a few years later than dreamt of - this was particularly clear for Ferguson, who once again looked sluggish and lethargic (the first round against Michael Chandler was truly the only time in his last five fights where Ferguson has looked at all like the Tony of old), and although he was landing plenty of leg kicks (which have always troubled the Diaz brothers), it seemed as if Diaz was just carrying the old warhorse until Nate felt it was time to call it a wrap.

That came midway through the fourth round as Diaz began overwhelming Ferguson with volume, forcing him to shoot for a double leg that left his neck exposed. Diaz snatched up the guillotine choke and forced Tony to tap, marking just the second submission defeat of Tony's career with the last one coming way back in 2009 before his UFC stint even began.

Nasty Cuts Highlight a Violent Co-Main and Main Event in the Apex

@ UFC on ESPN+ 68 in Las Vegas, Nevada

The top two fights on this particular UFC fight night were certainly not for the squeamish or anyone that is afraid of a little blood.

In the highly anticipated co-main event, surging Brazilian prospect Gregory "Robocop" Rodrigues took on resurgent vet Chidi Njokuani in a thrilling middleweight clash that delivered fireworks from the opening bell.

Less than a minute into the fight, Njokuani landed a brutal and beautifully timed knee right between Rodrigues's eyes that opened a disgusting cut between Robocop's eyebrows (see above picture, left side).

Somehow, Rodrigues stayed on his feet and threw back, continuing to eat elbows and stinging punches as the gnarly cut slowly turned his face into a crimson mask. Robocop did his finest Terminator impression and continued relentlessly pressing forward however, eventually even dropping Njokuani late in the round to turn the tide.

With the significance of the cut made clear to viewers in between rounds, virtually everyone thought the ringside physician would stop the fight when he inspected Rodrigues in the corner, yet the doctor unbelievably said "fight on" - much to Rodrigues' delight.

Thanks to Robocop's frenetic pace in the opening stanza, Njokuani was running on fumes even if he wasn't the one that looked like he had taken a hatchet to the face. It didn't take long for Robocop to ground the kickboxer in the second and pound him out to cement the comeback victory.

The main event saw Cory Sandhagen take to the cage for the first time since his close decision loss to Petr Yan for the interim bantamweight title in 2021, and had him square off with 24-year-old top prospect Song Yadong, who was riding a three fight winning streak and back-to-back knockout wins.

The early stages of the fight favoured the rising Chinese contender as his powerful boxing proved daunting for the slow-starting Sandhagen, who tried to mix takedowns into his game but was unable to ground the Team Alpha Male standout and instead taken down himself as a result.

The second round saw Sandhagen close the gap and start to score points of his own even if his takedown attempts were still being stuffed at every turn, a brilliant stepping elbow opening up a cut on Yadong's left eyebrow.

The cut may have been bad to begin with, but Sandhagen made sure to make things worse thanks to his repeated slicing elbows, crisp one-two's, and even forearm smashes, his volume increasing with every round as Yadong's began to fade, with the doctor coming in after each round to keep a close eye on Song's lacerated eyebrow.

After four rounds, two of the three judges had the fight even, with Yadong picking up the first two and Sandhagen the last two rounds, while the third had Sandhagen up three to one having only dropped the first; the fifth and final round was therefore set to be the deciding one of the fight.

Unfortunately for Yadong, the doctor had seen enough of Song's skull through his eyebrow and waved off the fight between rounds, the nasty gash above Yadong's eye (see picture above, right side) making it unsafe for him to continue.

It was a bit of a surprise given that the same doctor had somehow allowed Rodrigues to continue just a fight before that, but ultimately, it was likely better for Yadong's health; over the last two rounds, he was taking an escalating beating and Sandhagen was growing stronger as the fight wore on while he was slowing down.

Regardless of the anticlimactic ending, it was an impressive showing and return to form for Sandhagen while Yadong had nothing to hang his head about and will learn from his first main event slot.

Jose Aldo Announces His Retirement from MMA

on September 18, 2022

One month removed from the disappointing decision loss to Merab Dvalishvili that upended his final title run, Jose Aldo retired from the sport of MMA on the same day that his first son was born.

Though he is looking to compete in the boxing ring in the future, Aldo's legendary run in mixed martial arts is amongst the greatest in the sport's history and has many ranking him highly as one of the most skilled and accomplished fighters the sport has ever seen.

His slaughter of the featherweight division en route to his capture of the title back in the WEC days is legendary, and he defended that belt twice before being named the UFC champion when the organization was absorbed into the UFC in 2011; he proceeded to defend his UFC belt seven times, running his total title defenses up to nine before his insane 18-fight, decade-long winning streak was finally snapped by a fateful left hand courtesy of Conor McGregor, his greatest rival who he'd never get to square off with again in the Octagon.

He recaptured his featherweight crown at the historic UFC 200 with a masterclass over Frankie Edgar before suffering a pair of losses to Max Holloway; after a pair of vintage knockouts over Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano, Aldo would fall on hard times as he suffered two decision losses first to future champion Alex Volkanovski, then to Marlon Moraes in his first fight down at bantamweight (although the Moraes fight was a highly controversial decision; so controversial in fact, the UFC treated it as a win and gave Aldo a title shot despite technically losing his last fight).

In what would be his final crack at a title (and at a second weight class to boot), Aldo would perform well early against Petr Yan in an epic bantamweight clash before Yan's pace and power overwhelmed the aging Aldo en route to a late fifth round stoppage.

With talks of retirement looming, Aldo instead experienced a late career resurgence as he defeated three top ten opponents back-to-back-to-back in what should have earned him a title shot; he scored an impressive decision victory over Marlon "Chito" Vera, put on a striking masterclass against Pedro Munhoz, and smashed Rob Font over five rounds.

His well-earned title shot was instead given to the disgraced TJ Dillashaw, but Aldo forged on regardless, taking on lower ranked grinder Merab Dvalishvili which unfortunately took place at altitude and combined with an exceptionally conservative gameplan from Merab, turned the last fight in Aldo's legendary career into a dull and uneventful snoozer.

Aldo finished his hall of fame resume with a record of 31-8 with 17 knockouts and a lone submission; he also holds several records for both the now defunct WEC and the UFC, including most UFC featherweight title defenses and consecutive defenses, most consecutive wins in WEC history, and for being the youngest champion in WEC history at 23 (in fact, Aldo was nearly six months younger than UFC record holder Jon Jones when he captured his UFC title).

Melvin Manhoef Gets Flatlined by Yoel Romero in Retirement Fight

@ Bellator 285 in Dublin, Ireland

September saw another MMA legend hang up their gloves before the month was done, this time featuring one of the greatest "glass cannons" in MMA history, Melvin Manhoef.

UFC fans can be forgiven if they haven't heard of "No Mercy", who despite fighting in virtually every other promotion in MMA at one point or another, never stepped foot in the famed Octagon.

The extremely experienced kickboxer and MMA veteran had found a stable home with Bellator in 2014 and was a staple of the promotion ever since, even fighting for their middleweight title twice.

At the age of 46 and having competed in over 100 fights between kickboxing and MMA, Manhoef finally decided to call it a career and declared he'd be retiring regardless of the outcome of his farewell fight. His final opponent? Yoel Romero.

Romero may be 45 himself, but Bellator certainly didn't do Manhoef any favours in pairing him up with the Cuban freak of nature for his retirement fight, and unsurprisingly Romero knocked Manhoef out in the third round of their fight up at light heavyweight.

Melvin finished his career with a record of 32-16-1 with 2 no contests, scoring an absurd 29 knockouts and fighting to hear the final bell just six times in 51 contests.

Manhoef was a terrifying force on offense that was capable of knocking anyone out cold (yes, that was a young heavyweight named Mark Hunt you just saw getting KO'd) at any moment, but his porous defense and less-than-stellar grappling made him just as likely to be finished on the feet or on the mat at the same time, making him a perfect example of a "glass cannon" in MMA.

With seven career knockout losses (eight really, since he was finished by Alexander Schlemenko but it was overturned following a failed drug test), virtually all of which were just plain brutal, it's for the best that the 46-year-old finally hung up his gloves, especially when you add in his kickboxing career, where he went 38-14 with another eight stoppage losses in the ring.

Unfortunately Melvin followed Marlon Moraes' example of a retirement as he returned to compete one final final time in Japan on December 28, albeit it was in a special tribute event to the late pro wrestling legend Antonio Inoki. He was heel-hooked in less than two minutes, so at least he didn't suffer any further brain trauma.

Following his post-farewell fight, Melvin then re-iterated that he was retired from hopefully that means he's fully retired now?

Notable Violent Finishes in September:


Sean O'Malley Proves He Belongs, Defeats Petr Yan in Contentious Decision

@ UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi, UAE

One of the most highly anticipated fights on the stacked UFC 280 card was a bantamweight showdown between "Sugar" Sean O'Malley and Petr "No Mercy" Yan.

Yan's former championship pedigree and current status as the top contender was a significant step up in competition for O'Malley, who was often fed softballs by the UFC as they sought to keep building the budding star's profile rather than throwing him to the wolves like with most prospects.

Having just lost his belt to Aljamain Sterling who would take to the Octagon later that night, Yan meanwhile took the risky match-up with the much lesser ranked star for the UFC's return trip to Abu Dhabi in an attempt to bounce back and earn a signature win over a bantamweight with a massive following.

Yan immediately showed the step up in levels between himself and most of O'Malley's prior opponents, pressuring the counter-striker from the outset and looking unphased by anything Sean was landing back, which was certainly not the normal reaction when O'Malley landed on his other opponents.

He also mixed in takedowns to offset O'Malley's rhythm; though Yan took the first round on most viewer's scorecards, to O'Malley's credit he was right there with the former champ, stuffing multiple takedowns and keeping up with Yan's pace with strikes of his own to make for a very competitive and close round.

The second round really began to heat up after Sean switched to southpaw and cracked Yan with a long left hand, then even got Yan down to a knee as he looked for a finish. The former champ survived and swung haymakers back, rocking O'Malley with an overhand left which let him set up a takedown to turn the tides back in his favour.

O'Malley showed his grappling skills by finding his way back to the feet, but would eventually find himself grounded again as Yan's relentless wrestling paid dividends; thanks to O'Malley's early success, it made for another close round but one that most saw in Yan's favour.

The third stanza was arguably O'Malley's best round as he was able to outland Yan on the feet, keeping a brisk pace with his constant combinations and offensive salvos as Petr was put mostly on the defensive at range. Yan did have his moments on the feet as well, and was able to ground O'Malley on a few occasions, but O'Malleys volume and amount of clean shots landed arguably stole him a close round.

At the end of the very close and entertaining bantamweight scrap, most viewers scored the fight in favour of Petr Yan, but O'Malley's performance showed he was certainly a top five fighter and deserving of the step up in competition regardless. Unfortunately for Yan, two of the three judges scored the fight in favour of O'Malley, crediting Sugar with the first and third rounds and awarding O'Malley the upset.

Ultimately, while most disagreed with the end result, it was a very close fight and a case could be made for seeing either fighter's hand raised at the end of a highly entertaining scrap.

TJ Dillashaw Wastes Everyone's Time, Aljo Takes Two Rounds to Beat a Cripple

@ UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi, UAE

It's one thing for a fighter to enter a fight injured - it's a part of the sport unfortunately, and every fighter typically has at least some minor injury hampering them by the time they step into a cage to earn another paycheck.

It's often a tough call to make, but major injuries that happen right before a fight is about to happen don't necessarily mean the fight will be called off - if the fighter can hide it well enough, or it isn't too dangerous to stop them from competing, they will often opt to tough it out and do their best to win regardless, even if their ability to do so is compromised. After all, it's better to go out and collect a paycheck than to get nothing after pouring months of time, effort, and money into a training camp.

It's an entirely different thing when a major injury happens months before a scheduled fight, but in the case of TJ Dillashaw's title shot against Aljamain Sterling, TJ knew he severely injured his shoulder six months before he would step into the cage and chose to fight anyway, undoubtedly doing even more damage to his shoulder and holding up the division in the process.

His shoulder was compromised to the point of one of his limbs being largely useless, which is why he opted to not partake in the open workouts preceeding his title fight with Sterling - rather than get surgery and potentially be out for a year, TJ instead opted to hide the injury and take one last paycheck before retiring.

Either that, or he was deluded enough to believe that he could beat any elite bantamweight, let alone the division's champion, with only one arm.

Adding to the frustration surrounding his decision to rob fans of a proper title fight was the fact that most fans believe he didn't deserve the championship opportunity in the first place. Dillashaw had won just one fight in the past three years, having been suspended for two of those years due to his infamous EPO usage, with that lone win being a controversial split decision over Cory Sandhagen in the middle of 2021.

Rather than giving someone like Jose Aldo the title shot, who has just as big a name but was coming off of three straight victories over the likes of Marlon Vera, Pedro Munhoz, and Rob Font, the UFC in their infinite wisdom gifted the disgraced cheater a crack at the title instead.

As a result, not only did it rob a legend of his deserved last chance at a title, but it ended up blowing up in their faces as Dillashaw's arm popped out of its socket just moments into the highly anticipated bantamweight title matchup at UFC 280.

With one arm that he couldn't even move properly, TJ could do very little to keep Aljamain off of him, and that ultimately ended up making the fight even more pathetic - the champion, who wasn't exactly the darling of MMA fans to begin with, showed he was extremely lacking in terms of killer instinct and took nearly nine full minutes to TKO a fighter who could only properly use one arm to defend himself.

To put that in perspective, take a look at how quickly the Korean Zombie was finished by Jose Aldo when he was put in a similar situation, with Jung's shoulder popping out of place during their title fight years ago.

Aljamain was presented an opponent who could barely lift his arm to defend himself from the opening exchange and was practically begging to be knocked out, yet chose to cautiously grapple the compromised former champion and took most of two rounds to finally finish him, despite Sterling's ground game being his strongest area.

It was an extremely disappointing championship fight all around and felt like a massive waste of time for everyone that tuned in - perhaps next time, the UFC will think twice before gifting a notorious cheater an unearned title shot.

Islam Makachev Dominates Charles Oliveira for the Lightweight Crown

@ UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Khabib's protege Islam Makachev has been heralded as the uncrowned king by many fans and media members alike for the past few years, though the ten fight winning streak that came on his journey to a title shot was sorely lacking ranked contenders.

After a quick finish over late replacement Bobby Green earlier in the year, Makachev would finally face a top five lightweight - except it wasn't just any top lightweight, but the champ himself, Charles Oliveira.

Technically, the fight was for the vacant belt given that Oliveira missed weight for what should have been his second title defense, an epic submission win over Justin Gaethje; given the issues surrounding the scale reported by other fighters during that weigh-in however, no one in their right mind didn't recognize Oliveira as the rightful champion.

Though Khabib's retirement meant we never got to see what a Khabib vs. Oliveira fight would look like (or a Khabib fight against anyone with world class jiu-jitsu off of their back), the Makachev match-up was the next best thing - Makachev also touted the incredible wrestling and grappling skills possessed by Dagestanis like Khabib, with his ground game focusing more on submissions rather than Khabib's style of ground and pound, while his striking skills were arguably more well-rounded and impressive than the retired champ's.

Makachev wasted no time proving that he wouldn't be afraid to grapple with the UFC's most decorated submission artist, taking down Oliveira on both takedowns he attempted and scoring some light ground and pound while he controlled the champion on the canvas for the majority of the round.

Oliveira is of course no stranger to adversity and clawing his way back into fights, which is what he attempted to do in the second as he looked to land something on the feet that would turn the tide.

Looking to land a right hook following a missed flying knee, Oliveira was instead knocked down by a check hook from Islam, who unlike Oliveira's past opponents was in no way hesitant to follow Oliveira to the floor when he dropped. It then didn't take long for Makachev to sink in his favourite arm triangle choke, forcing Oliveira to tap midway through the second round.

The virtually flawless performance cemented Makachev's claim to being the greatest lightweight on the planet and cut short Oliveira's thrilling title reign - ironically, Oliveira's winning streak ended at eleven, which just so happens to be the number that Makachev's streak was extended to.

Notable Violent Finishes in October: