In the span of a week, UFC 223 transformed from the best card of the year into a solid nine-fight lineup headlined by one of the most strange and undeserving title fights in the companies history. The cartoonish series of unfortunate events that took place in the build-up to the fights could not have been predicted nor planned for. With that in mind, the UFC’s continued regrouping and recovery during the week should be commended.
The actual fights that took place on the night were phenomenal. Although the card only featured two finishes (one a corner stoppage) the fights were still extremely entertaining. The shortened fight card would have left the Prelims feeling a little light and underwhelming if it weren’t for the exceptional performances from Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Oliver Aubin-Mercier. Both Oliver’s electrifying finish and Karolina’s hard-fought win made for a great lead into the Pay Per View.
Despite a great performance from Chris Gruetzemacher, the Main card opener between Chris and Joe Lauzon was an unfortunate low point for the card. The excessive damage taken by the fan favourite Lauzon made for uncomfortable viewing as the fight progressed. Luckily for everyone watching the highlight of the night came in the bout that followed between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Kyle Bochniak. The fight was an incredible showcase for the skills of Zabit as well as the heart and toughness of Bochniak. It was an incredible fight and would have been worth the price of the PPV alone. The following bout between Renato Moicano and Calvin Kattar has unfortunately been overlooked due to the nature of the fights that surrounded it. That being said, the fight was still fantastic and was another showcase for the currently stacked Featherweight division.
The Co-Main Event was an incredible five round showcase for Rose Namajunas and the Strawweight division as a whole. Although Joanna was unable to completely adjust her game to overcome Rose, she fought admirably and made the fight competitively until the very end. Then came the main event. On just one day’s notice Ragin Al Iaquinta put up one hell of a fight against the most feared grappler in the world. Although Al lost a lopsided decision he can hang his head high knowing he has gained nothing but respect from everyone who watched. This may not have been the most dominant win of Khabib’s career, but it is almost just as impressive as any other due to the circumstances that surrounded it. After a crazy week filled with controversy and countless opponent changes Khabib’s in-cage composure is well deserving of praise.
UFC 223 will live on in infamy, not for the fights that took place but for the ridiculously chaotic events that proceeded them. The fights that did it to fight-night were exceptional. In the end, making the event as a whole more positive than negative.
Fight Of The Night
Zabit Magomedsharipov Vs Kyle Bochniak
This was a fight I had been greatly anticipating since the moment it was announced, knowing that it would be incredible. The thing is, I had no idea it would be incredible in the manner that it was. My entire excitement around this fight hinged on Zabit Magomedsharipov. As a long time admirer of Zabit, I was anticipating this fight solely to see him give another dominant, head-turning performance. For the most part that is what we saw, but this fight was by no means a one-man show.
Coming into this fight I was very familiar with Kyle Bochniak and impressed with what he had done in the UFC thus far. But, I admittedly gave him almost no chance in the fight and considered this more of a showcase for Zabit than a competitive fight. Boy was I wrong.
Kyle Bochniak could not have impressed me more in this fight. He gave the performance of a lifetime, showing an indomitable will and pure toughness in the process. Although Kyle was outmatched skill wise as expected, he fought the perfect fight given the tools available to him. He moved forward, bit down on his mouthpiece and created a winnable fight for himself. By showing Zabit no respect, while also leaning on his durability and toughness, Bochniak created one of the best fights of the year. It would have been very easy for Kyle to become frustrated and accept that he was outmatched, but the idea of backing down never crossed his mind. This was an absolutely incredible fight and I am truly grateful to both Zabit Magomedsharipov and Kyle Bochniak for their effort.
Matches To Make – Winners
Khabib Nurmagomedov – Is now (somehow) the Undisputed Lightweight Champion. The question of whether or not he is the best Lightweight in the world is very much still up in the air. For him to prove himself as the best fighter in the division he must face Tony Ferguson. The only issue with that fight is the ‘curse’ surrounding it that has resulted in four separate unsuccessful bookings of the fight. If the UFC is to follow another path with the title Khabib is left with multiple options including Eddie Alvarez, Kevin Lee (if he is to beat Edson Barboza) and Dustin Poirier (if he can get past Justin Gaejthe).
Rose Namajunas – Thug Rose is without a doubt the best Strawweight in the world. With a dangerous line up of contenders waiting to face her, it is going to be intriguing to see how long Rose can remain the champion. The first contender waiting to face her is the always dangerous Jessica Andrade.
Renato Carneiro – Renato Moicano is quietly becoming yet another Featherweight contender. This was a spectacularly impressive win by the Brazilian and one that will earn him a well deserved high profile fight. A matchup with the winner of the upcoming Frankie Edgar Vs Cub Swanson bout will be just right.
Zabit Magomedsharipov – Since his time in ACB, I have been telling anyone who will listen that Zabit is the next big thing and potentially one of the best fighters in the world. I am extremely happy that he was introduced to the wider world of MMA fans on this card and even more so that it was through a memorable fight. For his next fight, Zabit must face a ranked opponent on another high profile card. Josh Emmett will make for the perfect dance partner.
Chris Gruetzemacher – Although this was an impressive performance from Chris Gruetzemacher, it is hard to distinguish whether the fight was due to his skill or Joe Lauzon’s currently diminished state. For his return, a matchup with Marc Diakiese will be a good indicator of where he is at.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz – This was an extremely impressive performance by Karolina. Holding the most recent win over the champion Rose Namjunas has placed her in a great position for a potential title shot in the near future. With Jessica Andrade being the likely recipient of the next shot, Karolina will need one more win to position herself for a fight with the winner. A rematch with Joanna Jedrzejczyk would be the perfect opportunity for her to redeem herself and earn the title shot.
Oliver Aubin-Mercier – This was an extremely impressive win by Aubin-Mercier and the biggest of his career. This fight should propel him into the low end of the top 15. For his next fight, a matchup with UFC newcomer Alexander Hernandez will be a great test for both newly ranked Lightweights.
Matches To Make – Losers
Al Iaquinta – There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Al Iaquinta is an elite Lightweight. The question of how he ranks in comparison to the rest of the divisions elite is very much still up in the air. For his next bout, a rebooking against Paul Felder is the right move for both guys.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk – Having been clearly defeated by the current Champion twice, Joanna is in an unfortunate position after this loss. This may very well be a similar situation to that of Joseph Benavidez at Flyweight. Joanna will most likely be able to defeat almost everyone in the division other than the champion, leaving her as the perennial number one contender. That being said, she should face Karolina Kowalkiewicz for the second time upon her return.
Calvin Kattar – This was a tough loss for Calvin Kattar but will surely be one he uses to greatly improve himself. For his return, a matchup with Jeremy Kennedy would be a great chance for him to reset.
Kyle Bochniak – Although Kyle Bochniak is now 3-2 in the UFC, it is very unlikely we are going to see him cut anytime soon. The performance he gave in this fight was about as impressive as they get, considering the level of opponent he was facing. For his next fight, a matchup with Michael Johnson would be Fight of The Night contender.
Joe Lauzon – After the career he has had, Joe Lauzon will forever be one of my favourite fighters. In this fight, he fought like a complete shell of the man who fans fell in love with many years ago. It is because of my admiration for Joe that I believe it is time for him to consider retirement.
Felice Herrig – Although she was clearly defeated in this bout, Felice Herrig will be able to take some well-needed lessons from this fight and come back better than ever. With some small adjustments in her approach, there is no reason why Felice won’t be able to work her way into the top 5 of the division. For her next fight, a rematch with Tecia Torres will serve as a great rebound for both fighters.
Evan Dunham – Although this was a tough loss for Dunham it isn’t an insurmountable set back for his career. For his next fight he should face fellow veteran Francisco Trinaldo. The matchup will be perfect for both guys at this point in their career’s and will serve as a good indicator of who has one last run left in them.