What were the key takeaways from Saturday’s exciting doubleheader featuring UFC Fight Night 229 in Las Vegas and Bellator 300 in San Diego? Here are some reflections following the fights…
5. Drew Dober secures his place in the annals of history
Drew Dober might not be the immediate choice when discussing the top knockout artists in the history of the UFC lightweight division. However, as per the official records, he has now earned that distinction.
Dober (27-12 MMA, 14-7 UFC) quickly ended his 155-pound bout at UFC Fight Night 229 against Ricky Glenn with a series of strikes. This victory not only propelled him out of a tie with Dustin Poirier but also secured his place as the sole record holder for the most knockout wins in the division’s history. This remarkable feat is a significant milestone for Dober, known for his thrilling fights over the years, even though he hasn’t pursued a serious title run.
When compared to Poirier, it’s clear that Dober’s finishes in the category may not carry the same weight in terms of the level of competition and their significance. The record may appear flawed. However, what truly counts are the statistics themselves, and Dober’s punching power has propelled him to numerous impressive victories.
He’ll probably continue to build on this record, and there’s a strong likelihood that he’ll maintain it for an extended period. Among active fighters, aside from Poirier’s eight knockouts, the next closest contenders on the list are Justin Gaethje and Jim Miller, each with six knockouts to their names.
Dober is poised to rightfully claim the title of “Knockout King” for the foreseeable future, and he should wholeheartedly embrace it, as it’s a remarkable achievement.
4. Cris Cyborg should’ve been main event, but still delivers
Cris Cyborg stole the show on a somewhat lackluster Bellator 300 main card. She displayed her vintage dominance with a first-round TKO victory over Cat Zingano, proving that at 38, she hasn’t lost a significant step and would only be defeated by an exceptional performance.
Some tend to dwell on Cyborg’s 51-second knockout loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 232 and use it as a basis to diminish her greatness. This perspective is entirely unjust. That bout took place nearly five years ago, and since then, she has amassed a flawless 7-0 record. It’s crucial to remember that this is the sole stain on her otherwise remarkable 22-year career, a level of sustained success that is truly unprecedented.
In a Cyborg fight, you can always expect a certain level of excitement, which is precisely why she should have been the headliner for Bellator 300. While I understand the appeal of Usman Nurmagomedov (whom we’ll talk about shortly) and acknowledge his youth and potential, Cyborg truly deserved that spotlight. Her presence would have guaranteed an exciting night, sparing the fans from any disappointment, and it’s a testament to her consistent ability to deliver thrilling bouts.
Nonetheless, Cyborg received the recognition she rightfully deserves on this card, reaffirming her status as a formidable presence inside the cage.
3. Could Usman Nurmagomedov become the standout among his family?
The buzz surrounding American Kickboxing Academy for years suggested that while UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov was undoubtedly an extraordinary talent, the true gems in the family might be his undefeated cousins, Usman Nurmagomedov and Umar Nurmagomedov, who were considered even more exceptional fighters.
Delving deeper into the details, those well-versed in the sport often highlighted Umar as the one with the most potential, explaining why the UFC was willing to match him against a fighter of Cory Sandhagen’s caliber so early in his career. Unfortunately, injuries and periods of inactivity have hindered his progress, ultimately providing Usman with the opportunity to take the spotlight.
Was Nurmagomedov’s (18-0 MMA, 6-0 BMMA) five-round dominance over Brent Primus, securing his Bellator lightweight title defense and earning a spot in the 155-pound grand prix final, the most thrilling fight? Not quite. It was a one-sided affair from start to finish, with Nurmagomedov never facing any real threat. This is a recurring theme in most of his fights, as he has yet to drop a single round in his undefeated streak spanning 18 contests.
Nurmagomedov’s remarkable capability to seamlessly integrate striking and grappling poses a significant challenge for his opponents. His kicking skills are already at an elite level, and his fight intelligence is exceptionally high. At the tender age of 25, he stands as a formidable force destined to make his mark in the combat sports world for many years to come.
However, the burning question that occupies everyone’s thoughts is where Nurmagomedov will choose to invest those years. Depending on the direction that Bellator takes in the future, the promotion should exert every effort to retain him. Similarly, PFL should also make a strong case to secure his contract, especially if a sale or merger opportunity arises.
What we all eagerly anticipate for Nurmagomedov is a journey to the UFC. Witnessing how he measures up against the top lightweights would be enthralling, as he could be among the most skilled. While he’ll never face his close friend and teammate Islam Makhachev, there are numerous other intriguing matchups awaiting him. Hopefully, that door will eventually open for him, as it would be regrettable if he were to be recognized as an exceptional talent but had his position questioned due to his competition level.
2. Bobby Green’s feel-good upset raises eyebrows
Bobby Green completely surprised those who strongly favored Grant Dawson in the lead-up to the UFC Fight Night 229 main event by securing a remarkable upset knockout win in a mere 33 seconds.
It’s quite impressive to witness the resurgence of Green (31-15-1 MMA, 12-9-1 UFC) in recent years. Despite his long tenure in the sport, he has consistently maintained his unique fighting style and unwavering commitment to the game. While his career might have appeared to plateau in mediocrity, Green has successfully rewritten his narrative.
I’m not here to argue that a 37-year-old Green is suddenly poised to be a major contender. He did catch Dawson off guard with this victory, but he’s well aware that the challenges in the stacked UFC lightweight division will only intensify from here on out.
Green’s resurgence in the later stages of his career draws interesting parallels to what we witnessed from Jorge Masvidal during his remarkable 2019 run, which thrust him into Fighter of the Year discussions. Both individuals have experienced numerous highs and lows in the sport and have evident imperfections. However, they both seized the right moments and opportunities to elevate their profiles significantly.
Depending on the UFC’s plans for Green, we will discover whether this victory marks the pinnacle of his success or if he can conjure up more remarkable moments. Nonetheless, he has already gifted us with one of the most unexpected upsets in a non-title UFC main event in recent memory, and that’s a remarkable achievement.
1. The ambiguous future of Bellator
As Bellator 300 shared the evening with a somewhat lackluster UFC Fight Night 229 lineup, the chance for the promotion to grab the spotlight and generate positive headlines was readily available.
Regrettably, the fights delivered only average performances for the organization and were far from astonishing. Out of the 16 bouts, nine concluded with decision outcomes, lacking the viral moments that typically ignite social media. As a result, the focus shifted to the post-fight narratives, centered around the state of the promotion and the ongoing rumors of a possible sale to PFL or even the complete dissolution of the company.
To his credit, Bellator President Scott Coker faced the media at the post-fight press conference and openly addressed all the questions thrown his way concerning the situation. While his responses may not have been notably insightful or entirely satisfying, he emphasized that Bellator is a Paramount-operated company. He also acknowledged that, as an executive under contract, there are limitations to what he can disclose.
Upon listening to Coker’s comments and observing his demeanor, there was an unmistakable sense of foreboding for Bellator. Despite it being a significant event for the organization, the overall atmosphere, from top to bottom, conveyed a feeling of closure rather than a pivotal moment on the path to a brighter future.
In the foreseeable future, it appears there will be ample opportunity for fans and media to reflect on the significance of Bellator in MMA and discuss how the company’s uncertain status is detrimental to the sport as a whole. Yet, the predominant impression from the evening, in my view, was the somber atmosphere that enveloped what should have been a joyous occasion.