UFC 222 was a card that had little hype behind it. As the event crept closer people began to see it actually had a lot of potential, and it turned out to be a very enjoyable card with a lot of talking points.
The main stories coming out of the event are Brian Ortega being the first man ever to finish Frankie Edgar. He landed an extremely vicious uppercut, lifting ‘The Answer’ off his feet before he hit the canvas. Cris Cyborg made light work of Invicta bantamweight champion Yana Kunitskaya, finishing her in the first round with ground and pound.
The ‘Suga’ show is alive and well. Sean O’Malley dominated the first two rounds against Andre Soukhamthath, before badly injuring his foot in the third round. Soukhamthath somewhat questionably decided to bring the fight to the ground after his opponent couldn’t put any pressure on one of legs, which was definitely a huge opportunity missed for ‘The Asian Sensation’. Mackenzie Dern and Alexander Hernandez made winning starts to their UFC careers. Overall it was successful night for the UFC with all of their young guns coming out on top, and Cyborg avoiding what would have been the biggest upset in UFC history. Now, what is next for the victors from Saturday night?
Jordan Johnson and Adam Milstead opened up the Fight Pass prelims. In a close fight, Johnson definitely did enough to come out victorious, although he only scraped it by a split decision. It was the start of some questionable scorecards throughout the night. Johnson is now 3-0 in the UFC and is definitely worthy of a near top fifteen fighter, if not a top fifteen fighter. Light heavyweight is begging for new talent. I’m not saying Johnson is a new contender, but there’s definitely potential there. A name like Jared Cannonier springs to mind for a potential opponent for Johnson. Cannonier is coming off a loss to Jan Blachowicz in December, and a bout with Jordan Johnson would definitely be a tight contest.
Bryan Caraway and Cody Stamann were next to enter the Octagon during the Fight Pass prelims. In a really enjoyable and even contest, Stamann got the nod with another split decision. You could argue that Caraway won the first and third rounds, but in no way was this a robbery or wrong decision. Both men did enough to win the fight, but the nod was given to Stamann. So what’s next for Stamann? He’s now beaten the seventh ranked bantamweight, so a top-five fighter next? Raphael Assuncao hasn’t fought since November when he knocked out Matthew Lopez in the final round. With Moraes and Rivera booked to fight in June, this match-up could potentially happen? It’ll be interesting to see what the UFC does with Stamann next.
The Fight Pass prelims were rounded off with the last fight of Mike Pyle’s illustrious MMA career. It wasn’t the fairy tale ending Pyle was looking for as Ottow finished Pyle in the first round, via TKO. I’m actually unsure of who Sean Shelby could match Ottow with next. In his post fight interview he didn’t make any call outs, was full of respect towards an emotional Pyle. You could possibly match him up with someone like Mike Perry, which would be a fun fight. But let’s be honest, any fight featuring Perry is a fun fight.
The FS1 prelims were opened up by CB Dollaway vs Hector Lombard. I couldn’t find get hyped for this fight, and after a tentative first round, the fight didn’t make it to the second. Lombard hit Dollaway with two strikes after the bell, leading to the Cuban to be disqualified. Dollaway is now on a two fight win streak, but I’m sure he would have liked to have gotten that ‘W’ in a different fashion. What’s next for Dollaway? I’m not too sure. Either of these fighters’ futures in the UFC is not too bright in my opinion.
John Dodson and Pedro Munhoz were next to make the walk, and it turned out to be a good fight. Dodson came out on top via another split decision. It was a must-win for ‘The Magician’ and he got the job done. Could Dodson vs Lineker 2 be on the cards? Perhaps. Their first fight ended in a split decision in favor of Lineker, and I’m sure Dodson would fancy his chances against the Brazilian.
Alexander Hernandez made quick work of Beneil Dariush in his UFC debut. After a fast paced start he caught him with a left and that was all she wrote. Hernandez took this fight on short notice and he absolutely made the most of his opportunity. He has now beaten the No. 12-ranked lightweight, so who’s next? James Vick is the first name that comes to mind for me. Vick has been calling for a top ranked opponent, but a lot them are now booked. In fact, all of them are. If this does happen, it would be fireworks. The winner would catapult himself right into the lightweight contender mix.
Mackenzie Dern made her debut for the promotion. She and Yoder had a tightly contested fight with Dern getting the nod via split decision (another one). Dern seemed to enjoy every minute of the bout, and a late takedown leading to domination on the ground in the third won her the fight. Her stand up game needs a lot of work. On a technical level, she was below par, but there’s plenty of potential there. Hopefully the UFC doesn’t rush her like it has with so many of their potential stars. Yoder proved a good test for the 24-year-old. Opponents around the same standard would prove beneficial for Dern. It’s the UFC’s job to not feed her to the wolves before she is ready.
Ketlen Vieira took on Cat Zingano in what proved to be a very good fight. Vieira ended up too strong for Zingano, who never gave up and fought her heart out until the final bell. A potential next opponent for Vieira could be someone like Julianna Pena, who is coming off a loss to Valentina Shevchenko. I think the fight definitely makes sense and would be a good test for both fighters.
Andrei Arlovski defeated Stefan Struve in a huge win for the Russian veteran. His career looked all but over just a couple of fights ago, but here he is back on a winning streak. Who is next for ‘The Pitbull’? Mark Hunt is a name that springs to mind. Hunt is coming off a loss to Curtis Blaydes, and this bout definitely makes for an intriguing prospect. The two seasoned fighters would still get plenty of viewers, and I’m sure they would both be more than up to it. The two have never fought, amazingly. Another win for Arlovski in his next bout and he could be a fight or two away from a title shot, but that’s still a very difficult task in the heavyweight division.
Sean O’Malley was a winner and in someways a loser in his second UFC bout. He came out victorious but suffered a seemingly bad foot injury. He gave one of the most memorable post fight interviews to date, lying on the floor getting his foot looked at while Rogan interviewed him. “Sugar” is a star in the making and I am already looking forward to his comeback fight. It’s tough to say who he will fight next as we are unsure of the length of his injury. He is definitely already flirting with a top fifteen though. Maybe someone like Jason Knight could be next.
Brian Ortega is ready for the big time. He became the first man to finish Frankie Edgar in his long career, and he did it in spectacular fashion. That’s six finishes in a row now for Ortega, and we all know who’s next for ‘T-City.’ Max Holloway is who’s next, and according to Holloway on Twitter, it could go down at UFC 226. I am excited and honestly have no idea what to expect in that bout. What a fight it will be though.
The only person I have any interest in seeing Cyborg fight next is Amanda Nunes. Dana White sounded like he was thinking the same in his post event press conference. Watching Cyborg dismantle bantamweights is getting boring. Nunes is a legitimate test for the featherweight champion. They size up similarly and it would probably be the biggest women’s fight in the history of MMA. Let’s hope and pray it happens.
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