The highly anticipated UFC 280 finally came to fruition Saturday, Oct. 22 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. UFC 280 saw one of the most loaded fight cards in recent memory, with multiple title fights and former title contenders.
The main event featured Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira taking on Islam Makhachev for lightweight supremacy in a bout that featured two of the best talents the sport has to offer. Styles make fights and these two contenders — being some of the most well-rounded and skilled technicians in mixed martial arts — certainly lacked none.
Makhachev defeated Oliveira via arm triangle in the second round. Oliveira now has a 33-9-0 record and was the former lightweight champion after defeating some of the division’s best. This fight wasn’t close — Makhachev’s pressure was evident and a factor early on. The Dagestani capitalized in the second round after connecting on a hook that dropped Oliveira, Makhachev followed up with a slick submission to end the fight. Makhachev has been poised for the lightweight title and this win over Oliveira cements him as one of the best.
Makhachev matched up well with Oliveira and was undoubtedly his toughest fight to date. Makhachev, a sambo-styled fighter, is most notably recognized for his relationship with the former lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Makhachev has a record of 24-1 and is one of, if not, the best, wrestlers in the UFC. With a win streak of 11, Makhachev has proven he’s a force to be reckoned with.
The only legitimate competitor for Makhachev is the featherweight champion and No. 1 ranked fighter, Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski and Makhachev will likely fight in a major headliner in Australia, the “land down under” — and the notable home of Volkanovski. Fans surely expect these two to clash at some point, likely in 2023, for the lightweight belt.
Now, you’re probably wondering: What’s next for the former lightweight champion, Oliveira? “Do Bronx” finished and wiped out the toughest division in all of MMA, with wins over household names like: Dustin Poirier (and his Louisiana hot sauce), Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson. This loss for Oliveira doesn’t tarnish what he’s done in recent memory after rewriting the “quitter” narrative — one that was formerly associated with his name.
Oliveira will remain at the helm of the 155-pound division for years to come. The Brazilian from the favelas hopes to remind his critics that “the champion has a name, and his name is Charles Oliveira.”
The co-main event featured bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling versus former two-time bantamweight champ, T.J. Dillashaw.
Sterling finished Dillashaw with a TKO win in the second round at 3:44. Dillashaw appeared to have injured his shoulder early on, but regardless, he was no match for Sterling’s wrestling. Sterling was five for seven on takedowns with over seven minutes of control time. Sterling also had the advantage on the feet with 148 total strikes, while Dillashaw only landed 13.
Sterling has proven he’s one of the best grapplers in the UFC — the “Funk Master” boasts wins over: Petr Yan, Cory Sandhagen and now Dillashaw.
This fight did draw in some of the more controversial fighters in the UFC; Dillashaw was coming off a two-year suspension for testing positive for recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO). At age 36, Dillashaw is unlikely to get another title shot any time soon. Personally, I’m not a fan of cheaters, so I have to employ Colby Covington’s phrase “the CEO of EPO” to describe Dillashaw.
On the other hand, Sterling was coming off a major win over the talented Russian Yan. Sterling maintains his momentum with another win over two-time bantamweight champion Dillashaw.
My sleeper fight for this mega card was “Sugar” Sean O’Malley versus Yan. “The Sugar Show” upset Yan in a split-decision victory. This fight was a classic, as both fighters rocked each other at multiple points throughout the three-round bout. The story heading into this fight surrounded O’Malley’s lack of experience in his short UFC career in stark contrast to Yan’s championship experience.
Respectfully, Yan should’ve won this fight, and he was robbed of a chance to reclaim his 135-pound belt. But that’s the name of the game if you don’t finish the fight and leave it up for the judges to decide the victor.
O’Malley is likely in line for a championship fight after besting Yan, who was the top contender in the bantamweight division. O’Malley’s striking is next level, but he’ll need to work on his takedown defense if he hopes to defeat Sterling — the defending champion — in a future matchup.
Nevertheless, Yan is the most skilled fighter in the division — his game poses no weaknesses. “No Mercy” Yan is still part of the upper echelon of the division, so don’t be surprised if he’s fighting for the belt again in a year or two.
UFC 280 was filled with combat violence across the board, but for some reason I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. The card had high expectations, yet didn’t necessarily live up to the hype — injuries and bad judgment plagued the back end of the card. UFC fans have been spoiled this year and this card leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Up next, UFC 281 headlined by middleweight champion, Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya, versus Alex Pereira for the 185-pound belt.