Originally published at UFC 274: Charles Oliveira stops Justin Gaethje, Carla Esparza wins title
UFC 274 Report: Carla Esparza defeats Rose Namajunas to win Strawweight Championship, Oliveira stops Gaethje in round one
By: Eric Marcotte
On Saturday night, UFC 274 took place from the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The card was set to be headlined by UFC Lightweight Champion, Charles Oliveira, attempting to defend his title against Justin Gaethje, but after missing weight by 0.5lbs on Friday morning, Oliveira was stripped of his UFC Lightweight Championship, leaving the title vacant. This marked the first time that a UFC Champion has ever lost their title as a result of missing weight, and while the bout remained on the card, Oliveira would be ineligible to win the title back against Gaethje, regardless of the fight’s outcome. Still, this changed nothing for Justin Gaethje, who made championship weight, and thus would still become UFC Lightweight Champion were he to beat Oliveira here. This was not the only title bout on this card, however, as the co-main event featured UFC Strawweight Champion, Rose Namajunas, facing Carla Esparza, as Namajunas attempted to avenge her 2014 loss to Esparza. Esparza and Namajunas were the finalists of the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter, and Esparza submitted Namajunas in the third round to become the inaugural UFC Strawweight Champion. Esparza would go on to lose her title to Joanna Jędrzejczyk, who Namajunas would eventually unseat to begin her first run with the UFC Strawweight Championship. It was a long road back to a title shot for Esparza, but after five consecutive wins, it was announced that Esparza would finally get her shot, and the rematch was set for this card. This card also featured the return of Tony Ferguson, as he attempted to get back in the win column against former (three-time) Bellator Lightweight Champion, Michael Chandler.
Notably, the main card was supposed to kick off with a fight between fan-favorite fighters Donald Cerrone and Joe Lauzon, but Cerrone was forced to withdraw from the fight hours before the card due to what was identified as a non-COVID related illness.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier. Performance of the Night bonuses was awarded to Michael Chandler and Andre Fialho. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Brandon Royval and Matt Schnell. The announced attendance for this event was 17,232, with a total gate of $6,127,962.13.
*Journey Newson def. Fernie Garcia by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Loopy Godinez def. Ariane Carnelossi by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
*C.J. Vergara def. Kleydson Rodrigues by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Tracy Cortez def. Melissa Gatto by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Andre Fialho def. Cameron VanCamp by KO at 2:35 of Round 1
*Blagoy Ivanov def. Marcos Rogerio de Lima by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Brandon Royval def. Matt Schnell by guillotine choke at 2:14 of Round 1
*Macy Chiasson def. Norma Dumont by split decision (30-27, 30-27, 28-29)
*Francisco Trinaldo def. Danny Roberts by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-26, 30-27)
*Randy Brown def. Khaos Williams by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Ovince Saint Preux def. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
*Michael Chandler def. Tony Ferguson by KO at 0:17 of Round 2
*Carla Esparza def. Rose Namajunas by split decision (48-47, 49-46, 47-48) to win the UFC Strawweight Championship
*Charles Oliveira def. Justin Gaethje by rear-naked choke at 3:22 of Round 1 (UFC Lightweight Championship remains vacant)
JOURNEY NEWSON (9-3, 1 NC, 135.5) VS FERNIE GARCIA (10-1, 135.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Both fighters were having difficulties finding their range early. Newson attempted to close the distance, but Garcia put him on the retreat with a lighting fast combination of punches. Garcia defended a takedown attempt from Newson and landed a solid right hand upon separating. Garcia was landing the better shots during their brief exchanges in the pocket, and I thought he took this round based on damage. 10-9 Garcia.
The fighters exchanged kicks throughout the opening minutes of the second round. A left hook from Newson rocked Garcia slightly, but he quickly recovered. Newson really seemed to be pulling ahead in terms of output as the round progressed, landing numerous kicks to the body and lead leg of Garcia, and I scored this round in his favor, despite a late surge from Garcia. 19-19.
Newson took Garcia down less than a minute into the final round but lost his position as he attempted to take Garcia’s back. Newson remained the busier fighter on the feet, and while Garcia seemed to be packing a bit more power behind his shots, he fell far behind in terms of activity, and Newson was doing a good job of avoiding Garcia’s biggest shots. Newson rocked Garcia with a spinning kick in the fight’s final minute, which was more than enough to secure the round. 29-28 Newson.
WINNER: Journey Newson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
While I thought Garcia started the fight off strongly, Newson improved as the fight progressed, and he was hurting Garcia with his bigger shots by the end of the bout. Newson last fought in September of 2020, so he was facing a fairly sizeable layoff coming into this bout, and perhaps it took him a round to shake those cobwebs off, but his performance throughout the final two rounds was as strong as I’ve seen from him in the UFC. Newson technically earned his first UFC win with this performance, as his first-round stoppage victory over Domingo Pilarte was overturned to a no-contest following Newson testing positive for Marijuana.
ARIANE CARNELOSSI (14-2, 115.5) VS LOOPY GODINEZ (7-2, 115) – STRAWWEIGHT
Godinez secured an early takedown, where she attempted to work for a choke from the left side of Carnelossi, who was chasing after a single leg. Eventually, Godinez worked her way to the back of Carnelossi, before transitioning to half guard, where she landed some strong ground and pound strikes while attempting to set up an arm triangle. The submission didn’t come, but this was a very dominant round for Godinez. 10-9 Godinez.
Godinez rocked Carnelossi with a combination of strikes just moments into the second round, and she proceeded to take Carnelossi back down with a double leg, where she quickly took her opponents back. She lost the position, but later in the round she secured half guard, where she continued to overwhelm Carnelossi with ground and pound strikes while threatening submissions constantly. Godinez attempted an arm triangle from half guard, but could not secure the submission, and Carnelossi escaped before time expired. 20-17 Godinez.
It took Godinez less than ten seconds to take the fight back to the ground. Carnelossi rolled for a leg at one point, but the attempt was easily avoided, and Godinez continued to dominate the action from top position. Carnelossi made it to the final bell, but she took a beating throughout this round, and was slammed back down hard every time she made it to her feet. 30-25 Godinez
WINNER: Loopy Godinez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Godinez dominated every second of this fight, and upon the reading of the scorecards, it made me ponder exactly what a fighter needs to do in order to earn a 10-8 round. She controlled every minute of every round, did a great deal of damage, took none in return, and threatened finishes. If that doesn’t earn you a few 10-8’s, I am unsure what does. Regardless, Godinez clearly won this fight, and this was an extremely impressive performance. Joe Rogan was ready to give her a title fight on the spot, and while that is an insane overreaction, I definitely think this was the type of performance that will earn her a ranked opponent in her next outing. Godinez is now 3-2 in the UFC.
KLEYDSON RODRIGUES (7-1, 125.5) VS C.J. VERGARA (9-3, 1 NC, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Vergara pressured forward, as he attempted to back Rodrigues into the cage. Rodrigues was able to counter strongly despite moving backward and proceeded to take Vergara down with just under four minutes to work. Vergara worked his way back to his feet but was hit by a powerful body kick upon separating. Rodrigues was landing some big shots; however, Vergara’s chin was very strong, and he continued to pressure forward despite the damage accumulated. 10-9 Rodrigues.
Vergara landed a huge body kick to begin the second round, and easily reversed a takedown attempt from Rodrigues, where Vergara began to land damaging ground and pound strikes from the guard of Rodrigues. Eventually, Vergara was able to transition into full mount, where he postured up and began to throw down brutal ground and pound shots, but just as things were looking especially bad for Rodrigues, he scrambled into top position, and landed some great shots of his own before time expired, including a powerful spinning backfist. 19-19.
Rodrigues was looking very tired by this third round, but he was still throwing with power. A jumping knee to the body from Vergara hurt Rodrigues, however, Rodrigues was actually able to take Vergara’s back as the fighters went to the ground. With two minutes remaining in the round, Vergara scrambled into top positon, but Rodrigues quickly reversed back into top position. In the final minute of the bout, they returned to the feet, where they traded punches before Rodrigues recorded another takedown. Once again, Vergara made it back to his feet, but Rodrigues outlanded him throughout the final seconds of the fight. 29-28 Rodrigues.
WINNER: C.J. Vergara by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
This was a very close fight, that ultimately came down to the final round. The early body kick that sent Rodrigues down earned him the nod on two of the three scorecards, but personally, I thought Rodrigues did enough after that point to earn the round regardless. Either way, this was an entertaining bout, as we have come to expect from the men’s flyweight division. Vergara is now 1-1 in the UFC, and this marked the promotional debut of Kleydson Rodrigues, who was a sizeable favourite going into this bout.
TRACY CORTEZ (9-1, 125.5) VS MELISSA GATTO (8-0-2, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
Cortez quickly brought the fight to the ground, where she began to work from the guard of Gatto. Gatto was actively looking for submissions off of her back, and Cortez ultimately choose to return to her feet. Gatto proceeded to secure a takedown of her own, and she was able to take the back of Cortez, but Cortez immediately turned into top position. Gatto continued to look for triangle chokes and armbars off of her back, but Cortez was able to press her into the cage, making that much more difficult for Gatto to pull off. Tough round to score, but I gave the edge to Cortez. 10-9 Cortez.
Cortez defended an early takedown attempt from Gatto in the second round, but Gatto was eventually able to drag Cortez down near the cage and took her back in the process. Gatto attempted an armbar, and it was a solid attempt, but Cortez escaped, and Gatto lost the position in the process. Cortez did not do a ton from top position for the remainder of the round, so I still gave the edge to Gatto, but I can see judges giving Cortez the round as well. 19-19.
Gatto connected with a sharp one-two to begin the final round but was taken back down moments later. Much like the previous round, Cortez was not active with her top position but maintained it for a considerable amount of time. At one point Gatto attempted a kneebar, however, she was unsuccessful, and Cortez rode out the remainder of the round on top. 29-28 Cortez.
WINNER: Tracy Cortez by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
Cortez was not always terribly busy from top position, but she maintained it throughout the vast majority of the first and third rounds, and Gatto was far too content to attempt submissions from her back. Cortez did an excellent job of avoiding Gatto’s submissions and repeatedly turned into top position whenever Gatto attempted to take her back. With this win, Cortez improved to 5-0 in the UFC, and she has won ten consecutive fights since losing in her pro-debut.
ANDRE FIALHO (15-4, 1 NC, 170.5) VS CAMERON VANCAMP (15-5-1, 1 NC, 170) – WELTERWEIGHT
A counter hook from VanCamp wobbled Fialho about ninety seconds into the round, however as VanCamp pressured forward, Fialho fired back, and he was able to relieve the pressure momentarily. As the fighters reset, Fialho landed a counter hook of his own that knocked VanCamp unconscious.
WINNER: Andre Fialho by KO at 2:35 of Round 1
VanCamp definitely got a bit excited after seemingly hurting Fialho earlier in the fight, and started fighting aggressively, resulting in him being caught on his way in by Fialho’s counter hook. This was a strong way for Fialho to follow up on his first-round stoppage victory over Miguel Baeza, and he is certainly living up to his reputation of being a heavy-handed fighter. Fialho improved to 2-1 in the UFC with this win, with that one loss coming in his UFC debut to Michel Pereira.
BLAGOY IVANOV (18-4, 1 NC, 253.5) VS MARCOS ROGERIO DE LIMA (19-7-1, 258.5) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Rogerio de Lima quickly threw a kick that caught Ivanov low, so the fight was paused as Ivanov was given time to recover, and Rogerio de Lima was issued a hard warning as well. Rogerio de Lima was landing bombs early, but Ivanov’s chin held up well, and he began to advance around the halfway point of the round. Rogerio de Lima defended a takedown attempt from Ivanov, and opened up a cut in the middle of Ivanov’s forehead. The fighters traded body shots, before Ivanov caught a kick and pressed Rogerio de Lima against the cage. 10-9 Rogerio de Lima.
Ivanov continued to eat some big shots in the second round, but the man’s chin is made of steel. He landed a short-left hand of his own that seemed to stun Rogerio de Lima, and Ivanov proceeded to rush in and press Rogerio de Lima against the cage. Rogerio de Lima broke away, but Ivanov’s confidence was growing, and he started teeing off on Rogerio de Lima against the cage, who was looking rough. It’s possible that Ivanov could have secured a finish here, but he went back to his bread and butter so to speak, pressing Rogerio de Lima against the cage for the majority of the rounds remaining time. 19-19.
Ivanov pressed forward to begin the third round, and Rogerio de Lima shot for a takedown in response. He was unsuccessful, and the fighters were eventually separated after over a minute of inactivity. Seconds after they were separated, the heavyweights immediately returned to the fence. With two minutes remaining in the fight, they broke apart, and Rogerio de Lima focused his attack on the body, which was a smart idea considering Ivanov’s iron chin, and Rogerio de Lima ended the round with a big takedown. 29-28 Rogerio de Lima.
WINNER: Blagoy Ivanov by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
I disagreed with the decision here, as I didn’t think Ivanov did enough in the third round to earn the win, but win or lose, close decisions are always what you get in Blagoy Ivanov fights. This bout had its moments, and I’d certainly rank this highly among Ivanov’s most entertaining fights in the promotion, but whenever Ivanov fights, you know it’s going to go the distance, and you know that there is going to be a considerable amount of time spent wrestling against the cage. It’s largely been a winning formula for Ivanov, and it worked out here as he ultimate had his arm raised. Ivanov’s UFC record now stands at 3-3, and each of those six bouts has gone to the scorecards.
BRANDON ROYVAL (13-6, 125.5) VS MATT SCHNELL (15-5, 1 NC, 125.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Schnell was fighting aggressively to start this bout, and this resulted in some early success, and he quickly dropped Royval. Schnell followed him to the ground but lost his position after attempting a guillotine, and Royval immediately trapped him in a guillotine of his own, forcing Schnell to tap out with both hands.
WINNER: Brandon Royval by guillotine choke at 2:14 of Round 1
This was a very entertaining fight for the short time it lasted. Schnell was looking for the finish from the moment the fight started, and he almost found it a few times, with the knockdown as well as the submission attempts, but he ultimately made a single mistake in leaving his neck exposed while attempting to return to his feet, and Royval immediately capitalized. After the fight, Royval called for a title fight, and while I don’t see that being his next bout, he has certainly re-inserted himself in the conversation.
MACY CHIASSON (7-2, 145.5) VS NORMA DUMONT (7-1, 146.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Dumont missed weight by 0.5lbs and was fined 30% of her purse.
The commentators were very engaged in this fight, as they debated the sense of cutting weight instead of the action inside the cage. Dumont was out landing Chiasson early, but neither fighter was overwhelming the other with activity. Chiasson caught Dumont with a strong left hand after defending a takedown attempt, before Dumont responded with a short combination of hooks. Chiasson successfully took Dumont down right before time expired. I thought this was a difficult round to score, but I gave the slightest of edges to Chiasson, based on perceived damage dealt. 10-9 Chiasson.
Chiasson circled Dumont, attacking her with jabs and kicks from outside of Dumont’s range. Chiasson pushed Dumont to the cage, where she looked to take her opponent down, but Dumont’s defense largely held up, remaining on her feet for the majority of a round that was spent entirely against the fence. 20-18 Chiasson.
Dumont began the third round with a heavy right hand but was instantly taken down by Chiasson who shot out of desperation. Chiasson did not do much with her control time, but she racked up a great deal of it, holding Dumont against the cage after she picked herself up. With roughly ninety seconds remaining in the round, Dumont landed another right hand that rocked Chiasson, but she just couldn’t maintain any separation and was quickly wrapped back up. The fight went the distance, and I scored it 29-28 in favor of Chiasson.
WINNER: Macy Chiasson by split decision (30-27, 30-27, 28-29)
In stark contrast to the previous fight, this was a very long fight, that was devoid of entertainment value. Chiasson pressed Dumont against the cage for the vast majority of the final two rounds, and Dumont just had no answers for Chiasson’s wrestling. Chiasson was extremely inactive with her control time, but it added up, and there just wasn’t enough activity from Dumont to make up ground. Chiasson now holds an impressive UFC record of 6-2.
FRANCISCO TRINALDO (27-8, 170.5) VS DANNY ROBERTS (18-5, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
Trinaldo caught Roberts off-balance early and proceeded to press him against the cage in search of a takedown. Roberts defended successfully but was caught by an uppercut as they broke apart. Trinaldo swung wildly with a pair of overhand lefts, the second one finding its target. Roberts was getting caught by some solid shots from Trinaldo, and his punches didn’t seem to have quite the same amount of power behind them, but he began to find more success as the round progressed, mixing some kicks into his offense as well. 10-9 Roberts.
Trinaldo rocked Roberts badly with a jab just moments into the round but chose to engage him in the clinch, which gave Roberts time to recover, as rocked as he was. Still, Roberts was not reacting well to Trinaldo’s shots, and he was rocked yet again by a pair of uppercuts. Trinaldo chose to attempt a guillotine choke, and while the submission didn’t come, he was able to secure half guard on the ground. He attempted to transition to the back of Roberts, but Roberts was able to use this opportunity to escape to his feet, and the fighters traded wild shots until time expired. 19-18 Trinaldo.
Roberts began the final round aggressively, but the pace slowed after Trinaldo fired back. They wrestled in the clinch against the cage for some time, with neither fighter gaining a significant advantage. Late in the round, Trinaldo rocked Roberts one more time, but once again, he didn’t really follow up on it, allowing Roberts to recover. Roberts attempted to mount a comeback late, but Trinaldo wrapped him up against the cage, where they remained until time expired. 29-27 Trinaldo.
WINNER: Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-26, 30-27)
Despite being 43 years of age, Trinaldo continues to defy age, and pick up wins against tough competition. Danny Roberts is a hard-hitting, well-rounded fighter, but Trinaldo seemed to have a slight edge everywhere, especially in terms of power. I thought he did enough to earn a 10-8 in the second round, but the judges have not been generous with 10-8’s tonight, and only one judge scored the round the same way. Trinaldo is now 2-1 at welterweight, and he has won five of his last six fights.
RANDY BROWN (14-4, 170.5) VS KHAOS WILLIAMS (13-2, 170) – WELTERWEIGHT
Williams flurried forward with a series of jabs, before catching Brown with a kick to the body. Brown partially landed a head kick, which prompted Williams to push forward and wrap him up in the clinch momentarily. Williams connected with a right hook that rocked Brown, and as Brown went to the ground, Williams attempted to catch him in a D’Arce choke. The submission attempt was unsuccessful, and the fight returned to the feet with two minutes remaining in the round. The fighters traded uppercuts, following an attempted flying knee from Brown. Williams defended a takedown attempt from Brown late in the round, and they spent the final minute or so wrestling against the cage. 10-9 Williams.
Brown connected with a straight right hand to begin the second round. Williams was having trouble dealing with the jab of Randy Brown, which Brown was utilizing with regularity in this second round. Williams still had the power advantage, however, and he was able to create opportunities for himself by just rushing forward with combinations. Still, this was a solid five minutes for Brown after getting hurt in the previous round. 19-19.
Williams ate a head kick seconds into the final round. Brown was doing very good work offensively and was getting out of range before Williams could respond. Eventually, Williams found his target, however, and it only took one big punch to drop Brown. Williams followed Brown to the ground, but Brown quickly escaped to his feet, and the fighters began to trade wildly as Brown looked to make up ground following the knockdown. Brown seemed to be landing the better shots, however, the finish didn’t come, and the fight went the distance. 29-28 Williams.
WINNER: Randy Brown by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
This was a very close fight, so I was not surprised to see the judges split on this one. The first round clearly went to Williams, and although the second round was close, I think most would give the edge to Brown. Thus, it all came down to the action-packed third round, where Brown won the vast majority of the round, but Williams recorded the knockdown. I narrowly scored it for Williams, but I don’t think anyone can take issue with a scorecard for Brown either. Brown has now won three consecutive fights and had looked very solid throughout this recent win streak.
MAURICIO “SHOGUN” RUA (27-12-1, 205.5) VS OVINCE SAINT PREUX (25-16, 205) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Rua and Saint Preux fought previously in November of 2014, a fight that OSP won by knockout in the first round.
Shogun and Saint Preux traded kicks throughout the first two minutes of the bout, with Saint Preux landing with more regularity. Shogun was doing a decent job of closing the distance, throwing heavy hooks OSP’s way. The pace of the round was fairly slow, and the fans were voicing their displeasure. Saint Preux opened up a small cut on the forehead of Rua. 10-9 OSP.
The pace of the fight did not pick up in the second round, as OSP continued to pick away at Shogun with kicks. Rua had landed a solid amount of leg kicks himself, and Saint Preux was reacting to them, but Shogun was not throwing them quite often enough. The strike count that they aired on the broadcast with roughly ninety seconds remaining in the round, had the strike count nearly identical. 19-19 on my scorecard, but you could really have scored this one either way.
The fans in attendance took out their phones and began to wave their flashlights in the air, assumably in protest of the lack of action taking place in front of them. Saint Preux opened up another cut above the right eyebrow of Rua, and he was causing problems for Shogun with his front kicks to the body. Unsurprisingly, this fight ended up going the distance. 29-28 OSP.
WINNER: Ovince Saint Preux by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
I couldn’t believe that this fight was only fifteen minutes. If 10-10 rounds were actually utilized in this sport, you probably could have argued for multiple 10-10’s being handed out in this fight. Shogun Rua is a legend of the sport, and seeing him booed for the better part of fifteen minutes felt wrong, but this was the type of fight that’s going to draw that reaction from a live crowd. Regardless of the fight’s quality, Saint Preux improved to 2-0 against Rua with this win, and he has returned to the win column after a pair of tough stoppage losses.
MICHAEL CHANDLER (22-7, 156) VS TONY FERGUSON (25-6, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Ferguson knocked Chandler down about a minute into the fight with a left hand, and Ferguson went on the attack as Chandler picked himself up against the cage. Chandler started swinging back with powerful shots, forcing Ferguson to relive the pressure slightly, but he was tagging Chandler with hard shots repeatedly, and Chandler was not reacting well. Chandler changed levels and took Ferguson down with a double leg, but was quickly opened up by a sharp elbow from Ferguson. Chandler was able to posture up and land some big shots, cutting Ferguson open near his left eye, and ending the round strongly from top position.
Just moments into the second round, Chandler landed a front kick up the middle that knocked Ferguson out cold.
WINNER: Michael Chandler by KO at 0:17 of Round 2
I’m not overexaggerating when I say this was one of the greatest knockouts in the history of the sport. Ferguson was down for a significant amount of time, which is always scary, but he was back on his feet before the result was announced. It’s tough to put into words what made this knockout so brutal, but perhaps the best way I can illustrate it with words, would be to compare it to the most famous front kick knockout there is, Anderson Silva’s knockout of Vitor Belfort. While Silva’s front kick was just beautiful technique, thrown just as smoothly as you would expect from Silva, this kick from Chandler was just vicious, thrown with pure power, and it resulted in Ferguson falling face first to the ground, unconscious. It was an all-timer finish, and Michael Chandlers UFC run continues to be one of the most entertaining stretches of fights in recent memory. In his post-fight interview, Chandler called for a rematch against Charles Oliveira or Justin Gaethje, but called out Conor McGregor as well, which is a fight I could definitely see getting put together. For Ferguson, this was a very tough loss, especially after such a great first round. He has now lost four consecutive fights, and this marked the first time he has ever been knocked unconscious in one of his professional bouts.
At this point in the broadcast, it was announced that Daniel Cormier would be inducted into the 2022 class of the UFC Hall of Fame. Cormier had a remarkable career in the sport, really making a name for himself after winning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2012, defeating the likes of Bigfoot Silva and Josh Barnett along the way. Upon joining the UFC, Cormier won several fights at heavyweight before moving down to the light heavyweight division, as his training partner Cain Velasquez was the heavyweight champion at the time. He quickly made his mark in the light heavyweight division and would go on to challenge Jon Jones unsuccessfully for the title, a fighter in which had had a historic rivalry. After Jones was stripped of the title in 2015, Cormier would defeat Anthony Johnson to win the vacant belt, and he would go on to defend the title three times. The final chapter of Cormier’s career took place at heavyweight, as he moved up to challenge Stipe Miocic in 2018, knocking the champion out in the first round, and thus becoming one of the few UFC fighters to hold two titles simultaneously. He would go on to defend his heavyweight championship against Derrick Lewis, before ultimately losing the title back to Miocic, and finally retiring in August of 2020 after Miocic emerged victorious in their trilogy fight. Cormier retired with a professional record of 22-3 (1 NC), and some of his most notable victories include wins over the likes of Stipe Miocic, Anthony Johnson, Alexander Gustafsson, Derrick Lewis, Dan Henderson, Josh Barnett, and Anderson Silva.
ROSE NAMAJUNAS (11-4, 115) VS CARLA ESPARZA (18-6, 115) – UFC STRAWWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
This was a rematch of a fight from December of 2014, where Esparza submitted Namajunas in the third round to become the initial UFC Strawweight Champion.
There was not a ton of activity throughout the first round, as Esparza did not want to close the distance, and Namajunas did not want to risk being taken down. A jab from Namajunas left a red mark on the forehead of Esparza, which was the most notable moment of the fight to that point. Cormier stated that the fighters combined for six strikes landed in this opening round. I have no idea how you score a round with this little activity, but Namajunas landed with a bit more power.
Namajunas defended Esparza’s first takedown attempt of the fight. By the halfway point of the round, each fighter had only added one more strike to their overall totals. Once again, this was a round where absolutely nothing happened, and the fighters were showered in boos. Once again, I pity the judges who will undoubtedly be criticized for their respective scorecards here.
Esparza finally succeeded in taking Namajunas down, but she popped right back to her feet. Esparza connected with a right hook, and Namajunas responded with an uppercut about a minute later. I thought Namajunas landed some decent counters as Esparza pressed forward, but I don’t want to overexaggerate their significance either. This was one of the absolute least eventful fights I’ve ever seen.
Namajunas tagged Esparza with a right hand after a failed takedown attempt from Esparza, as the commentary team questioned if Namajunas agreed to not hit Esparza in the face prior to her marriage next week. Esparza successfully took Namajunas down at one point, but Namajunas popped right back to her feet. The pace did not pick up. The official numbers had the fighters at less than forty combined strikes throughout the entirety of the fight with two minutes remaining in the round. Namajunas defended a takedown attempt from Esparza and landed a big right hand after the break. Barring something drastic happening in the final round, this was an all-time bad fight. 39-37 Namajunas maybe. It could be 40-36 Esparza or 40-40 for all I know.
Namajunas connected with a decent right hand about a minute into the final round, and Esparza responded with a left hook. With ninety seconds remaining, this was still anybody’s round. Neither fighter did much in that remaining time to secure the round, but Namajunas secured a meaningless takedown right before time expired. Mercifully, the fight finally ended. I have no idea how you score this fight. Somewhere between 50-45 Namajunas and 50-45 Esparza.
WINNER: Carla Esparza by split decision (48-47, 49-46, 47-48) to win the UFC Strawweight Championship
Let me preface this by saying I have tremendous respect for just how difficult this sport is, and the immense pressure of simply stepping into the cage, let alone at the championship level. With that being said, this was one of the absolute worst fights in the history of the sport. Neither fighter did anything of significance throughout the entirety of the bout, and if 10-10 rounds were actually utilized in this sport, every round would have resulted in that score (something I believe I’ve said earlier on this card as well, unfortunately). Both fighter’s corners seemed strangely confident that their respective fighter was winning the fight, which was baffling to me, and resulted in no change of strategy for either fighter throughout the bout. I thought that perhaps Namajunas would get the edge based on perceived damage, but as I stated earlier, you could throw absolutely any scorecard at me and I would accept it. Regardless, Carla Esparza is now the UFC Strawweight Champion, and now holds a record of 2-0 against Namajunas. This was a remarkable comeback story for her, after losing her title to Joanna Jędrzejczyk all the way back in 2015. In all likelihood, she will next face Jessica Andrade or the winner of the upcoming rematch between Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Zhang Weili. For Namajunas, this was certainly a tough loss, but she remains a tremendous fighter, and there is no shortage of interesting fights to make for her coming out of this one.
CHARLES OLIVEIRA (32-8, 1 NC, 155.5) VS JUSTIN GAETHJE (23-3, 155) – UFC LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Oliveira missed weight by 0.5lbs, and was thus stripped of his UFC Lightweight Championship, and fined a portion of his purse. He was also ineligible to win the title back in this fight, thus this was only a championship bout for Justin Gaethje.
Gaethje began the fight with a series of hard leg kicks, and Oliveira responded with a right hand that wobbled Gaethje. Oliveira followed that up with another right hand that hurt Gaethje, but Gaethje immediately fired back and dropped Oliveira twice in short order. Oliveira seemed to have recovered, but he was bleeding heavily on the left side of his head. This was quickly becoming a wild fight, and Gaethje was really swinging for the fences. Oliveira proceeded to knock Gaethje down with a hard right hand, and Oliveira followed him to the ground, where he took the back of Gaethje. Oliveira quickly locked in a rear-naked choke and Gaethje was forced to tap out.
WINNER: Charles Oliveira by rear naked choke at 3:22 of Round 1(UFC Lightweight Championship remains vacant)
This was a wild, wild fight while it lasted. Despite the fight only lasting three and half minutes, both fighters were rocked repeatedly, and Gaethje actually dropped Oliveira twice, prior to being dropped himself. Oliveira’s ability to take significant damage and come back to win the fights moments later is remarkable, and he’s now done exactly that in three consecutive fights, against three of the top fighters in the world in Gaethje, Michael Chandler, and Dustin Poirier. He has now won eleven consecutive fights and extended his all-time promotional record for most finishes (19) and submissions (16) respectively. Unfortunately for Oliveira, despite his performance, he has been stripped of his title for missing weight, so the title will remain vacant for the time being. Oliveira will undoubtedly be one half of the next UFC Lightweight Championship bout, and all that remains to be seen is who is next opponent will be.