UFC 262 post-topsy: A new champ, “El Cucuy” exercised again, and bonus checks
Yesterday, the Ultimate Fighting Championship delivered an exciting night of action inside Houston, Texas’ Toyota Center. UFC 262 delivered a new lightweight champion, several entertaining bouts, and what looks like the endpoint for Tony Ferguson’s run as an elite fighter. Let us take a look at the pivotal moments that helped to define the event, and what may come next for several marquee talents on the card.
UFC 262 post-topsy: The “Do Bronx” Era has begun?
After 11 years and 28 fights inside the famed Octagon, Charles Oliveira is the new UFC lightweight champion of the world. When “Do Bronx” entered the UFC at just 20-years-old, as an unbeaten prospect with 11 finishes already under his belt, he had the potential to be the next great fighter out of Brazil. Yet the road from there to where he is now was long and winding. Filled with highlight-reel wins, but a growing reputation that he just couldn’t win big fights. His early setbacks to Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone forced him to change divisions.
Although he had his moments at featherweight, again, when it came time to overcome the stars their like Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar, and Max Holloway, he seemed out of his depth. A talented fighter who wasn’t likely to fulfill his massive potential as a mixed martial artist. However, following several more difficult defeats and a return back to lightweight, Oliveira finally found himself. He evolved past just a deadly submission specialist and matured into a dual-threat and an absolute demon on the mat. As he took home an array of limbs from talented fighters during a nine-fight win streak leading up to his title fight.
Last night, the various layers of what makes this version of Oliveira the best lightweight in the world were put on display. He showed his poise and toughness as Michael Chandler put him on the brink of falling short in a big moment again. He battled through and showed his grappling gifts, and once again proved that if you do not respect his striking game it will cost you dearly.
The question is, are we in the “Do Bronx” era? He has some fascinating title defense options in former interim champion Justin Gaethje or the winner of the Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor trilogy fight. All three offer serious challenges and each could be the favorite in those matchups. Yet it feels like the Charles Oliveira that exists now is the rare case of an athlete reaching full potential and only getting better. MMA fans may be seeing the rise of a new all-time lightweight.
Should Chandler versus Dariush come next?
Michael Chandler and Beneil Dariush exited UFC 262 from two very different perspectives. Chandler held his head high following the biggest defeat of his career, in the fight he dreamed of for years. Dariush, like Oliveira, is a fighter in the midst of finally reaching his potential and on a tear. Yet with “Benny” likely moving up a few spots in the rankings soon and “Iron” likely to hold steady near his #4 ranking, logically, the two seem like a good fit for each other.
The true decider may be how quickly the new champ wants to return to action, and what are the organization’s plans for Gaethje. “The Highlight” is certainly deserving of a title shot, but if the Brazilian rather play toward a big money fight with McGregor or Poirier, it’s quite understandable after a long career in the sport. If Gaethje’s dance card is free, a bout with Chandler is an easy event headliner. Meaning Dariush may have to look towards competition in front or behind him in the rankings. Bouts with Dan Hooker, former division champion Rafael Dos Anjos or Islam Makhachev are a few intriguing examples.
However, the ring of a Dariush versus Chandler booking feels so right after last night.
The boogieman is dead
We had wondered about it since December. Was Tony Ferguson, the boogieman of the lightweight division, finally dead. After a six-year run of being the other scariest fighter in the division outside Khabib Nurmagomedov, two straight definitive defeats left “El Cucuy” looking diminished for the first time. Last night put a period on any remaining doubt. Ferguson is no longer an elite fighter.
And that’s not something to mourn because it doesn’t mean he can’t still be a good fighter in the UFC. Although at 37, with 31 fights under his belt and 13 years in the sport, his sudden decline from superstar to also-ran is something we have seen many times before. Where the promotion goes next with him will be something to watch. He’s well out of title contention and isn’t headlining events in the midst of a three-fight losing skid.
Ferguson may be heading in the direction of other greats in having to take a few steps back and face some rising talents in the top-15 to prove he still has relevancy in the weight class. And that may offer some fun opportunities for him to showcase the gas he still has left in the tank, or for a new star to be born by adding him to their hit list.
Should we be concerned about Shane Burgos?
The end of the bout between Shane Burgos and Edson Barboza was uncomfortable to watch. Not because he was left bloodied and swollen as the Brazilian blasted him with a plethora of shots that ended the fight. No, not at all. Instead, Burgos was hit with a hook that he seemed to brush off. That was until a few seconds went by and he suddenly lost strength in his legs and fell to the ground unconscious.
It was a scary scene that even color commentator Joe Rogan admitted he had never seen before after calling thousands of UFC fights. Even his opponent was caught off guard by it. “Hurricane” is one of the toughest fighters on the roster and he only has 16 professional bouts after eight years as a prize fighter. However, everyone takes damage to the brain differently, and while he hasn’t had a ton of fights, he has taken a healthy amount of damage recently.
Four fights ago, Cub Swanson landed 129 strikes on him. In his last bout, Josh Emmett hit him 127 times. And last night he received 98 various strikes from “Junior.” Here’s hoping yesterday was just a weird outlier moment of a very slow delay from damage and not a sign of a greater issue that could derail the talented featherweight’s career.
Fighters cashing bonus checks
Four fighters were awarded “Texas size” US $75,000 bonus checks last night. A whopping US $25,000 more than the traditional US $50,000. Those combatants who had memorable performances last night can be found below.
Performance bonus: Charles Oliveira
Performance bonus: Christos Giagos
Fight of the night bonus: Edson Barboza & Shane BurgosJoin the discussion on this topic...