Five big takeaways from UFC 268
Though the year isn’t over yet, the UFC put on its best show yet on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Kamaru Usman and Rose Namajunas stood tall against their formidable rivals, Justin Gaethje is on the cusp of a title shot, and some fighters took a heavier loss than others.
Here’s what we learned from UFC 268.
1. Here comes the new challengers
Kamaru Usman might not have broken Colby Covington’s jaw again, but he shut him up all the same, defeating his hated rival in the main event and leaving no doubt who the better man is.
With Covington soundly defeated, Usman actually has options now that do not include pointless rematches. Vicente Luque has surged into the title picture, but the calls are already growing for Usman to give Khamzat Chimaev a shot. The rest of the welterweight division can fight each other and create some tantalizing matches in the meantime. It’s time for Usman to face off against some new blood.
2. Thug Rose is solid gold
Though Rose Namajunas upset Weili Zhang at UFC 261, nobody could decide who would be better off in the rematch. Namajunas took a lot of punishment from Zhang, but earned a split decision win that should have been unanimous.
Make no mistake, Zhang is a nightmare for anyone in the division, but Namajunas is cut from a different cloth. Even though Namajunas is 2-0 against Zhang, it would not be all that surprising to see a third fight in the future.
3. Gaethje and Chandler show out
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler is a main event bout in itself, but the pair opened up the pay-per-view and stole the show in the process. The crescendo of carnage never slowed down as Gaethje and Chandler beat each other up for the duration of their clash, with Gaethje picking up the grueling decision win.
As the lightweight division continues to deliver in the action category, Gaethje should be in line for the winner of Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin Poirier showdown at UFC 269. As for Chandler, he’d be best suited to get a win under his belt after losing two straight, but there’s not a soul alive that would miss a fight between he and Conor McGregor.
4. The biggest losers face the biggest questions
Frankie Edgar, Edmen Shahbazyan, and Al Laquinta took big losses on the card, and those losses carry a heavy toll. All three were stopped on the undercard, but if anyone needs to take the loss as a wake-up call, it’s the 40-year-old Edgar, who has nothing left to offer. Laquinta, meanwhile, has lost four of his last five against progressively lighter competition, and Shahbazyan suffered his third loss in a row after starting off his career 11-0.
Business is booming in the UFC, and these losses may result in a slew of pink slips being drafted.
5. Alex Pereira has arrived
There was a lot of hype buried on the undercard surrounding the UFC debut of Brazilian kickboxing phenom Alex Pereira. Pereira twice defeated Israel Adesanya in the kickboxing circuit, and if his debut performance is any indication, he will be fast tracked towards a big fight.
An explosive jumping knee made Andreas Michailidis fall to the ground faster than a bag of bricks in the second round. Considering Pereira’s long kickboxing resume, he shouldn’t be dawdling against filler opponents. If a grudge match with Adesanya is what the UFC is building towards, then maybe a bout with Darren Till or Uriah Hall will tell us more about what Pereira is capable of inside the octagon.