Decimated by the loss of its main event, UFC 215 wasn’t expected to deliver much as it competed with 208 for the year’s weakest PPV card.
But even without the significance of a historic night after Demetrious Johnson was cruelly denied his shot at breaking the consecutive successful title defence record following Ray Borg’s illness last week, the card still had plenty of pop.
Indeed, the Canadian crowd in Edmonton were treated to some stunning finishes and we pick out the top four storylines to have arisen from the event.
It was tactical, technical and at times a little tedious but Amanda Nunes successfully defended her bantamweight title and made it 2-0 against Valentina Shevchenko in the reshuffled main event.
The Brazilian edged another razor-thin decision against Shevchenko in a fight which saw a women’s 135lbs title fight go the full quota for the very first time.
A far cry from the beatdown she dished out on Ronda Rousey, Nunes was calculated and composed, recognising the challenger is dangerous.
Ultimately, she was safe, conserved her energy and power until deep into the fight and just did enough to squeak the decision, much to Shevchenko’s vexation.
It was a new side to the overwhelming destroyer as Nunes dispelled the criticism of her gas tank with a mature performance.
No-one can begrudge the champ of a more sheltered approach because we know she can throw down and now she moves onto new challengers who it will be hoped do more than Shevchenko to try and win.
Like a Pokemon evolution, former 125lbs title challenger Henry Cejudo levelled up his striking style to that of 155lbs champ Conor McGregor.
In arguably the most impressive performance of UFC 215, Cejudo dismantled Wilson Reis to launch himself into talk of another shot at Demetrious Johnson.
And he did it adopting the wide karate stance made famous by McGregor and Lyoto Machida – the latter playing a big role in his training camp.
It wasn’t just the stance which drew the comparisons with the Irishman, though, as Cejudo’s calm state and oblivious reactions to getting tagged were McGregor-like.
Even the deadpan look on his face was like McGregor and the finish was just as emphatic as he landed a blurring straight right in the second round to finish Reis.
Cejudo talked post-fight about his “evolution” and the Olympic gold medallist in wrestling has certainly developed. Whether it’s enough to avenge the first round KO he suffered to Johnson in April 2016 is a debate for another day.
“I’m coming.” @HenryCejudo
— UFC (@ufc) September 10, 2017
Another standout performer from UFC 215 was former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos who made it 2-0 as a welterweight.
The Brazilian made short work of Neil Magny as he wrapped up an arm-triangle choke in the first frame to get his first submission win since 2012.
RDA gave up a staggering 10-inch reach advantage on Magny, but despite the physical discrepancies, looked not just at home in the 170lbs division but a potential candidate to join the exclusive two-weight champion club. The question now, is who is next for the 32-year-old?
Fortunately, he’s not short of options as the top-10 is littered with killers.
Donald Cerrone, who he decimated in a lightweight title fight, lies ahead of him in the rankings while the winner of Stephen Thompson/Jorge Masvidal at UFC 217 is an enticing prospect also.
There is one match-up which really salivates the mouth, however, and that is Robbie Lawler. Make it a title eliminator later this year and the UFC will have a strong set-up for the division in 2018.
The savagery Jeremy Stephens displayed in repeatedly attempting to dismember Gilbert Melendez’s legs was slightly overlooked because of his opponent’s brave ability to cling on for three rounds, despite huge knots forming on his shins from the ruthless leg kicks.
Like a perpetually swinging axe, Stephens completely dominated Melendez to take a unanimous decision, but we’ve been here before and an impressive victory is usually followed by a disappointing defeat.
‘Lil Heathen’ must deliver in his next fight if he’s to crack the featherweight top-five.
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