Written by: Remi Se
It was an unspectacular night at UFC 219. Fights ended in decisions even when a combatant was dominant and there was very little drama. There was one close fight on the PPV and just one finish. That’s not to say that some stars didn’t make their mark. Khabib made a statement and Cyborg solidified her status with another clear win. It might not have been the most exciting night, but it will have serious implications for 2018. Let’s take a closer look.
Neil Magny outworks Carlos Condit:
It was a clear decision victory for Neil Magny over Carlos Condit. The two were competitive on the feet but fought mainly at the longer Magny’s range. Condit seemed to have some rust as he did not have the aggressive edge that earned him the moniker Natural Born Killer. Some of that was likely sapped by Magny’s wrestling. The decisive aspect of the fight was Magny’s wrestling as he scored 6 takedowns on the night. When Condit opened up or closed distance, Magny would shot. Condit’s takedown defense was an improvement but it was still a decisive flaw in another loss.
Magny has split his last four fights but remains ranked 8th in the division. He’ll need to put together a streak to fend off gatekeeper status. The winner of Kamaru Usman and Emil Meek will have earned a top ten opponent and Magny could use that fight to prove he deserves another crack at top five competition. Condit meanwhile deserves to fight someone that will stand and bang. He didn’t look like the usual Natural Born Killer but some of that was rust and the takedown threat. Whether Cowboy wins or loses his next fight, the two men would make great opponents. Both are fan favorites for their fighting styles which would make them a welcome addition on any card.
Carla Esparza edges out Cynthia Calvillo:
Carla Esparza’s experience may have been the difference in a victory over Cynthia Calvillo. While Calvillo won the first round with a takedown, Esparza secured takedowns and outworked Calvillo in the final two rounds. Calvillo controlled top position for some time in the first round but Esparza erased the lead with a pair of takedowns of her own. Calvillo proved hard to keep down or damage but Esparza did enough to win a competitive second round. The third may have gone to the up and comer but Esparza ended with a desperate flurry that landed some big punches. Each round was competitive but Esparza did just enough to steal the last two and secure a big win over a rising prospect.
Esparza seems poised for an opportunity with a top five opponent, but they all have fights down the line virtually set in stone. The exception is Claudia Gadelha who is coming off of a loss to Jessica Andrade. Even off of the loss, Gadelha would be a huge a test and a step up to the elite of the division for Esparza. That’s the kind of fight that could prove Cookie Monster is ready to get back into the title picture. Calvillo’s next opponent will likely be someone coming off of a loss and Cortney Casey makes some sense. Casey brings a plethora of experience and a well-rounded game that should test Calvillo.
Dan Hooker forces Diakese to make mistakes:
For much of their bout, Dan Hooker and Marc Diakese struggled to establish much rhythm against each other. Diakese landed more volume but Hooker landed the more punishing blows and added a pair of takedowns to the mix. The first two rounds seemed to clearly favor Hooker which forced Diakese to look for a finish in the third. To Diakese’s credit, he rushed out and got after the fight with a will to win. Unfortunately for the young striker, Dan Hooker managed to sink a choke in a scramble. Diakese was caught in no-man’s land as soon as he slipped into Hooker’s grip. Hooker scored the only finish on the PPV capitalizing on the error.
Both of these young prospects should continue to fight tough competition and learn as they continue. Dan Hooker deserves a quality fighter that could line him up for a top fifteen ranking. Of the ranked fighters, Francisco Trinaldo would be an interesting opponent but I’d also love to see Hooker face off with Paul Felder. Felder has looked phenomenal lately and likely deserves his own ranked competition however. Meanwhile Diakese is young but should keep facing quality opposition to develop. A pressure fighter like Reza Madadi would represent a drop off in striking quality but another takedown threat. That’s a winnable fight against a tough opponent.
Khabib makes a statement:
MMA is a “what have you done for me lately” sport. Khabib Nurmagomedov hadn’t fought for a while, but he reminded everyone just what made him such a highly touted prospect against Edson Barboza. Each round started in similar fashion, with Barboza using low kicks to try and create space but Khabib stalking inside. Once the Eagle got a hold of Barboza, he’d take the fight to the mat and there he was dominant. Nurmagomedov controlled position, landed ground and pound then looked for chokes. As Barboza slowed down, Khabib also saw more and more success striking as well. It was a dominant victory but Edson Barboza’s heart is unquestionable. The fight could have been stopped multiple times but he fought back and refused to be finished.
Khabib needs to fight Tony Ferguson for the lightweight title. With Conor McGregor showing few signs of actually coming back, it seems that there are a clear top two lightweights atop the division. Nurmagomedov and El Cucuy have seemed cursed to avoid each other with fights falling through every time they try to face off but maybe that was because they were destined to fight for a title. Barboza meanwhile continues to be always a bridesmaid, never a bride. He was close to a title shot and has continually dispatched top competition. The timing is perfect for him to face Justin Gaethje, pitting grit against technical brilliance. Both are coming off losses to elite competition and they’d be right back near the top with a win. That’s a fight of the night opportunity for two deserving competitiors also.
Cyborg wins clearly over Holly Holm:
Cris Cyborg has long been the best female fighter on the planet in search of an opponent with enough name value to earn more recognition. Holly Holm was a former champion with a win over Ronda Rousey, a perfect dancing partner. Cyborg made her statement loud and clear, winning a clear decision and steadily gaining ground as the fight wore on. Holm landed good leather in the first two and used clinch control to slow down Cyborg’s attack. The Brazilian legend still landed well enough that a clean sweep wouldn’t have been out of the question but the first two rounds were close enough for Holly to steal on judges’ cards. It was in the third, fourth and fifth that Cyborg created real separation with accumulating damage and made herself the clear victor. I had the fight 4-1 but at worst Cyborg won it 3-2 and at best it was a 5-0 rout. Cyborg is the best female fighter on the planet and has an obvious case for greatest of all time.
Cyborg’s next opponent seems obvious, Invicta’s champion Megan Anderson is the best competition in the weight class. It would give Cyborg another opportunity to defeat a fighter that has earned some clout while Anderson gets a shot at the best. Holm meanwhile could return to Bantamweight and face Sara McMann. McMann is a great talent coming off of a tough loss. Holm just fought Cyborg to a competitive decision. Both women have consistently fought the best and they would make for a nice striker vs wrestler dynamic as well.