Jalin Turner punching Jamie Mullarkey at UFC 272 | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Get a unique rundown on all the trophies that should have been handed out at UFC 272 with Dayne Fox’s Unofficial Awards.
UFC 272 came and went, leaving a bit of an unsatisfactory feeling. Not that the card ended up being bad, but it was missing that extra element PPV’s tend to carry with them. It wasn’t the lack of a title fight; plenty of cards featuring a title on the line have missed that extra intangible too. Perhaps it was the domination in the main event by Colby Covington that left the supposed blood feud between himself and Jorge Masvidal feeling manufactured. Typically, when you hate someone as bad as they say, you fight stupidly. Covington’s performance was cool and calculated. The end result was fully satisfying.
Whatever it was the main event was missing, it was hardly the first time that has happened. Many times, the undercard makes up for it. Not this time. The undercard wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t a fight that fans could point to and say that fight would headline a Fight Night card barring injury or illness. There was drama in the co-main between Rafael dos Anjos and Renato Moicano, but it was the wrong kind of drama. Moicano endured a brutal beating, resulting in wondering if the referee was going to stop it. The same could be said of Bryce Mitchell’s walloping of Edson Barboza. Perhaps the element that was missing was a competitive fight near the end of the event…
Regardless, there were plenty of story lines to follow. We’ll touch on them with my Unofficial Awards.
Biggest Jump in Stock: Umar Nurmagomedov was the largest favorite on the card, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him come out on top of Brian Kelleher in a dominant manner. It was the ease he dominated, doing seemingly whatever he wanted to the grizzled veteran that captured the attention of viewers. The biggest problem for Nurmagomedov was the same thing that plagued his cousin, Khabib: he hasn’t shown up in the cage enough, this being his first fight in 14 months. Regardless, when Nurmagomedov fights, he reminds us all just how good he is. I think it will take one more fight, but don’t be surprised if he’s fighting a ranked opponent in his next contest.
Biggest Fall in Stock: Full transparency, I picked Barboza to win. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Barboza looked solid for the first two minutes when he was landing some solid low kicks. Nothing went right from that point on. Mitchell grounded Barboza for the rest of the contest, bloodying up Barboza in a manner that few saw coming. It could very well be that Mitchell is just that damn good, but I can’t help but believe Barboza isn’t the fighter he once was. The commentary team was bringing up that Barboza might be depleting himself too much to get to 145. They may be onto something, but it could also just be that Barboza has hit a permanent decline.
Start Typing a Resume: He’s a favorite of the brass, so I’m not so sure Alex Oliveira is at the end of the line. After all the organization thought enough of him to put him on the main card. However, four consecutive losses is something few are able to survive… unless your name is Sam Alvey of course. Oliveira’s saving grace is the UFC has been given a murder’s row during that losing streak. Perhaps he’ll receive an actual step down in competition instead, but the prediction is the UFC will cut him loose.
There’s reason to believe Greg Hardy isn’t going anywhere either, but I get the feeling he has finally reached the end of the line. The former NFL All-Pro has progressively grown more doughy, indicating he isn’t putting forth the effort into his training that he previously was. I have a hard time believing the UFC hasn’t noticed either, especially given his recent results are three consecutive losses. As of late, he hasn’t been worth the controversy his presence creates.
Kennedy Nzechukwu still has all sorts of untapped potential, but it isn’t hard seeing the UFC having run out of patience with him. A lack of aggression cost the monstrous light heavyweight against Nick Negumereanu, a problem he has frequently had. A lack of depth at 205 helps Nzechukwu, but it’s no surety it’ll keep him around as it was his second loss in a row.
Devonte Smith is in a similar situation to Nzechukwu: despite some earlier UFC success, a lack of activity has resulted in consecutive losses. Smith’s situation could be worse than Nzechukwu as lightweight has no shortage of talent to step in and replace him if so desired. Then again, Smith’s performance was far better than Nzechukwu’s. It’s a hard call.
Saved Their Job(s): Had L’udovit Klein been scheduled to face Smith from the beginning, I’d say he most definitely saved his job. However, Klein stepped in on short notice, leaving me to believe he would have been granted some additional leeway had he lost. Regardless, it was a great performance from Klein, returning some of the hype he had lost during his two-fight losing streak. Even if he didn’t save his job, Klein did restore some of his hype.
Biggest WOW Moment: While UFC 272 was a solid card, it was short on jaw-dropping moments. I’m not trying to throw shade on Jalin Turner and Kevin Holland as their stoppages were lifting fans out of their seats, but the moment that had me sitting with my mouth wide open was Nurmagomedov’s utter dominance of Kelleher. It’s rare when a fighter has such incredible hype and not only lives up to it, but shatters it. At this point, it will either be the career highlight of Nurmagomedov or it will be the moment when his ascension to the throne truly began.
Worst Referee Performance: I can’t remember the last time I called out Marc Goddard for a poor performance. Not that he hasn’t made mistakes in the past, but ever since the retirement of John McCarthy, a strong argument could be made he’s the current standard of refereeing. After allowing Moicano to continue despite eating an incredible amount of damage, his reputation has taken the first severe hit I can remember. After Moicano was badly hurt in the third round of his fight with dos Anjos, everyone watching was waiting for Goddard to step in and call it… and he didn’t. They expected the fight to be stopped at the end of the third when Moicano struggled to get to his corner. It wasn’t. Then when the doctor said the fight could be reasonably be stopped after the fourth round, Goddard allowed him to come back out. Moicano took a lot of unnecessary punishment as the end result proved to be the same: a loss. I don’t expect to criticize Goodard again any time soon, but this was a surprising blotch on his record.
Most Water Tread: This was a card full of performances that didn’t produce much ground covered. Covington remains the best welterweight in the world not named Kamaru Usman. Dos Anjos didn’t improve his position in the rankings with his win over Moicano. Rodriguez is still sitting in the position to potentially wait for Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza to settle their score for the title. Nothing has changed with their status from where it was heading into the event. However, if there is anyone that is treading the most water, I’d say it’s dos Anjos given it seems a strong likelihood he’ll be fighting his originally schedule opponent, Rafael Fiziev, once they reschedule it. Covington and Rodriguez are at least guaranteed to be moving on with new opponents.
Best Short Notice Fighter: Klein has had two UFC fights where he stepped in on short notice and two where he had a full camp. In a turn of traditional wisdom, Klein has won both of his short notice bookings while dropping both of his fights where he had a full camp. However, rather than look at it as Klein is better off fighting with minimal preparation, I think the better point is Klein should consider fighting up at lightweight rather than continue to slim down to 145 pounds. He didn’t get the finish in his win over Smith, but he did go 15 minutes effectively, showing more stamina than Smith. Regardless of the lesson to be learned here, it’s certainly an odd statistic.
Most Emotional Moment: I hate pulling world events or politics into my articles – people turn to sports to get away from those things – but it’s impossible not to feel something for the Ukranian people at this time. Given the UFC is a very worldwide sport, there are several fighters on the UFC roster from Ukraine, including Maryna Moroz. The circumstances in her homeland turned her into a sympathetic figure, overshadowing the bad blood between her and her opponent, Mariya Agapova. Moroz dominated the fight from opening to close, bullying Agapova on the ground before finding the submission in the form of an arm-triangle choke. The true emotion came in Moroz’s post-fight interview, Joe Rogan giving her all sorts of leeway by allowing her to take the microphone. It was clear she was on the verge of tears, even before she proclaimed she was trying not to cry. Here’s hoping the best for Moroz, her family, and all those in Ukraine protecting their way of life.
Most Overlooked Performance: After the way Turner bullied a tough Mullarkey around the cage, I fully expected there to be more buzz about him after the event. Either I missed it or it didn’t formulate for some reason. Turner looked good in his previous performance against Uros Medic, but Medic was also a young prospect who had yet to be pushed. Mullarkey is a hardened veteran who has been in the cage with some of the best and had his moments. Not that Mullarkey wasn’t giving his all, but it’s hard to recall any notable moments out of him against Turner. Instead, Turner put Mullarkey away. Not only did it prove to be Turner’s fourth consecutive win, all those wins came well before the final bell. I still worry Turner won’t be able to make the cut to 155 for the entirety of his career, but while he still can, he might as well see how far he can go.