Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Author: Brice Lourd
There’s no other way to put it; the UFC has saved sports fans during this crazy time. Before the pandemic hit, the only fights I’d ever watch were Conor McGregor solely because he is one of the most entertaining people in sports. Now, I can confidently say that I’ve watched over 100 fights since the first UFC event of the COVID-19 time period, and this past weekend, Dana White put on one of the most highly anticipated fight cards in the history of the sport.
The octagon was brought to Fight Island, which is actually on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, and it was most definitely one of the most impressive sports productions I have ever witnessed. The UFC has had the COVID-19 under control since the start of the pandemic as their testing is efficient and it has worked. The only way Fight Island was going to ever happen was if the testing worked and the numbers were good enough. Both happened and Dana got to watch his latest achievement play out with potentially one of the best fight cards of all time--on paper of course.
The prelims started at 6 PM ET, which is 2 AM in Abu Dhabi, so the fighters had to make huge adjustments in order to fight at their highest energy levels. The prelim fights were solid. The first prelim that really stood out was Makwan Amirkhani versus Danny Henry. Amirkhani won off of an incredible Anaconda submission in the first round, displaying incredible technique and showing that he’s another guy in the highly competitive Featherweight division to watch out for. Adding onto the already exciting fights, the main event of the prelims between Volkan Oezdemir and Jiri Prochazka was exhilarating as both guys were throwing haymakers back and forth. Prochazka, the underdog, ended up with his hand lifted at the end of this one with a powerful overhand right punch to the face that put Oezdemir to sleep. When prelims are exciting, it usually means the night is going to be electric
The first fight of the main card featured the hottest woman in MMA history, Paige VanZant, against Amanda Ribas, an up and coming contender in the Flyweight division. Ribas was a huge favorite coming in at -800. And right when the fight started, it was a no brainer that Ribas was the better fighter in the octagon, landing some strikes and then successfully getting the takedown on VanZant. She eventually transitioned her guard into an armbar attempt, which she eventually locked in and got the beautiful VanZant to tap. It was an extremely impressive performance by Ribas, and I completely expect her to get a big fight soon. She set up her shots beautifully and performed some really good jiu jitsu versus a really solid VanZant.
The following fight was a rematch between Thug Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade. Thug Rose came out wanting vengeance from the last fight where she got KO’d via a vicious bodyslam that had Jon Anik and Joe Rogan going crazy. Thug landed some really good head shots in the first round and definitely looked like the favorite to win after round one. Andrade ended up fighting back and the fight went to split decision in favor of Thug Rose. This was HUGE for Rose as she will definitely get a title shot now against Weili Zhang to take the Strawweight belt. Thug Rose has always been a fan favorite, so when she’s on top, Dana’s happy as he makes more money, and everyone knows Dana LOVES money more than anyone.
The next fight of the night was the first title fight featuring Petr Yan and the King of Rio, Jose Aldo. Many people were initially confused why Aldo was offered the title shot in what was only going to be his second fight in the Bantamweight division. I wasn’t shocked just because I think Dana didn’t have an obvious second fighter for that fight, and Aldo is the most qualified guy in that division for sure with so many fights and wins over the years. With that being said, it ended up being a great fight, and Yan most definitely proved himself to be the best fighter in the division right now. He’s really good all around, but I specifically love his punching combos. He got Jose with some brutal uppercuts and hooks, and eventually Jose couldn’t fight back so the fight was called in the middle of round five. The real question now is who he’ll fight next. In my opinion, Aljamain Sterling most definitely deserves the title shot, but for some reason, Dana doesn’t want to give it to him. It’s probably because Sterling is a jiu jitsu king, and fighters who are primarily strikers are just way more fun to watch. Regardless, Dillashaw is coming back soon, and Garbrandt just won, so this division is starting to become the most exciting division in the UFC.
The second to last fight of the main card was a rematch between the best featherweight of all time, Max Holloway, and the new champ, Alexander Volkanovski. Many thought Holloway won the first time they faced off, and in turn, many people also thought he won the second. Holloway came out extremely strong with an obvious 10-9 score in rounds 1 and 2. Round 3, Volko put up more of a fight, but Holloway won that round 10-9 on my scorecard. Judges thought differently, though. Holloway looked great with some incredible combos, but Volko secured some late takedowns in round 5 that easily could’ve skewed the judges decisions towards a Volko win. People are heartbroken for Holloway, but that’s the name of the game. During the last couple of cards, judges have most definitely been scoring fights based off of the final rounds in my opinion. We saw it in the Barbosa Ige fight, as well as this championship fight. It sucks because it hurts the fighter with strong starts, but there really is no way to fix it. Judges are going to be like that forever.
The main event was the most anticipated fight of the night for sure. Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal against The Nigerian Nightmare Kamaru Usman. The anticipation actually ended up being more exciting than the fight itself. Usman completely dominated, which was no surprise as Masvidal took the fight on six days notice. Usman proved that he is a complete force to be reckoned with in the Welterweight division. In the post press conference, Dana said the next challenger will be Gilbert Burns, the initial challenger before testing positive for COVID-19. This is an extremely talented division, but currently, Usman looks like he’s a level above everyone else.
Overall, I thought it was a solid night of fights. There were really exciting prelims, and the main card fights didn’t disappoint. The only reason I’m saying that it was only solid is because there were no crazy finishes in the main card aside from the Yan TKO, and who doesn’t love to see a big knockout or ridiculous submission. There’s a featherweight fight tonight on ESPN and ESPN+ between Dan Ige and Calvin Kattar, so the Fight Island train keeps going. The UFC continues to dominate the current times, and they have a fan for life in me.