The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on Fight Island 8

Tom TaylorContributor IJanuary 20, 2021

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on Fight Island 8

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    UFC on Fight Island 8, the second event of the UFC’s latest visit to "Fight Island," went down on Wednesday morning and afternoon—a definite departure from the norm in terms of scheduling for the promotion. While the card’s unusual time slot likely caused many fans to miss it, it was a pretty fun one when all was said and done.

    In the main event, Michael Chiesa reasserted himself as one of the top contenders in the welterweight division with a lopsided decision win over Neil Magny—the product of multiple takedowns and over 15 minutes of control time.

    In the co-main event, meanwhile, Brazilian welterweight Warlley Alves sprung the upset on the highly-regard Mounir Lazzez with a procession of first-round body kicks that looked like they could have felled an oak tree.

    Other highlights of the card included memorable wins from Matt Schnell, Viviane Araujo, Su Mudaerji, Francisco Figueiredo, Umar Nurmagomedov, and several other fighters.

    But who, in the big picture, really benefitted the most by the time card had concluded? And who really lost the most ground? Keep scrolling for our answers to those questions.

Loser: Extreme Weight Cuts

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    I recently spoke to Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki, who has been fighting and winning at an extremely high level for close to two decades, and asked him for the secret to his longevity. He pointed to the fact that he’s always refrained from cutting a lot of weight.

    Weight-cutting, as any fight fan knows, is a scourge in MMA. The practice, which comes down to dehydrating oneself to gain a size advantage in a weight class that would otherwise be inaccessible, is supremely dangerous. It can also negatively impact performance in the short term.  

    Like Aoki, Michael Chiesa seems to have clued into those realities.

    After years of enduring a brutal cut down to the 155-pound lightweight limit, Chiesa decided enough was enough and moved up to the 170-pound welterweight division, where the cut would be amply less taxing.

    That decision could not have been more fruitful.

    Since migrating to welterweight, Chiesa has looked like a new man. While he was hot-and-cold at lightweight, he's now on a four-fight win-streak. He constructed that streak with defeats of solid foes in Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez, Rafael dos Anjos, and most recently, Neil Magny, who he dominated in the UFC on ESPN 20 main event. 

    It would be unfair to diminish the role Chiesa’s skill played in those wins, but it’s also undeniable that he’s been helped by the fact that he’s no longer dehydrating himself to extremes on the eve of each fight.

    Hopefully, more fighters start to take note.

Winner: Making the Most of the Moment

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    It’s always disappointing when a fighter picks up an impressive win, takes to the center of the Octagon for a post-fight interview, and let's spill the exceedingly tired "I’ll fight whoever the UFC wants next" spiel.

    The UFC roster is jam-packed with fighters eager to set themselves apart from the crowd. So why, when somebody puts a microphone in your hand on an internationally televised broadcast, would you refrain from making a little noise?

    It boggles the mind.

    Thankfully, this wasn’t a problem at UFC on Fight Island 8, as the victors of the co-main and main events both issued big callouts when commentator Daniel Cormier gave them the opportunity.

    First up was Brazilian welterweight Warlley Alves, who defied the oddsmakers and leveled Mounir Lazzez with body kicks in the first round of the co-main event. He made the most of his time in the spotlight by calling for a fight with Nate Diaz.

    Sure, there’s almost no chance Diaz will acknowledge this callout, let alone accept it. He’s not only one of the biggest stars on the UFC roster, but one of the pickiest fighters out there when it comes to accepting fights. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to see Alves shoot for the stars.

    And thankfully, that trend continued at the conclusion of the main event, which saw Michael Chiesa grapple Neil Magny to a decision victory. On the heels of this impressive win, Chiesa issued a sizzling callout of polarizing welterweight contender Colby Covington. 

    "The election is over," Chiesa said roared into the mic, referencing Covington’s unwavering support of outgoing United States President Donald Trump.  "Colby Covington, your schtick is done, I want you next!"

    It remains to be seen if Alves or Chiesa get the fights they called for, but at worst, they gave us something extra to talk about after their impressive wins. In a sport where it’s incredibly easy to be forgotten, that counts for something.

Loser: Vinicius Moreira

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    As I covered in the Winners and Losers article for last weekend’s incredible UFC on ABC 1 card, I try to refrain from handing out Ws and Ls to individual fighters. The objective of these articles is not to regurgitate the results of each fight card, but to identify the winners and losers in the grander scheme.

    That being said, Vinicius Moreira deserves a special nod.

    The Brazilian light heavyweight entered his UFC on Fight Island 8 main card fight with Ike Villanueva with an 0-3 mark in the UFC, having come up short against Alonzo Menifield, Eryk Anders and Paul Craig in his first three fights in the Octagon—all in the first round.

    To be frank, it’s surprising he was even given a fourth opportunity with the promotion. Given that reality, most viewers expected Moreira to fight like his back was against the wall in Abu Dhabi.

    He didn’t.

    Instead, he happily obliged Villanueva—a proven knockout puncher—in a stand-up fight, and despite owning a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt, didn’t attempt a single takedown.

    We all know the old adage about bringing a knife to a gunfight. Moreira didn’t even bring a knife. It was one of the most bafflingly poor game plans we’ve seen in some time, and it almost certainly cost him his job with the UFC.

Winner: The Men’s Flyweight Division

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    There was a time not too long ago when the UFC flyweight division looked as though it was on its last legs.

    After years of struggling to promote the weight class—despite being home of pound-for-pound great Demetrious Johnson—the UFC cut a host of its best fighters, and rumors swirled that the promotion was planning on getting rid of it altogether.

    Those days seem to be long gone.

    Not only is the division now ruled by an incredibly exciting champion in Deiveson Figueiredo, who seems to be catching on with fans, but it’s also jam-packed with talented prospects and contenders.

    Six of those prospects and contenders were in action at UFC on Fight Island 8 and three picked up solid victories. 

    First up, Francisco Figueiredo, the champ’s younger brother, made an impressive promotional debut with a unanimous decision win over Jerome Rivera.

    Next up, in the penultimate bout of the undercard, former bantamweight Su Mudaerji improved to 2-0 as a flyweight, building on the momentum of a knockout win over Malcolm Gordon with an impressive decision over Uzbekistan’s Zarrukh Adashev.

    The final men’s flyweight fight of the night occurred on the main card, where the division’s No. 9-ranked contender Matt Schnell rebounded from a loss to Alexandre Pantoja with a split decision victory over brick-fisted veteran Tyson Nam.

    While none of these three flyweights really dropped jaws in victory, their wins were a reminder that the division, which was so recently on the chopping block, is home to a lot of amazing talent. 

Winner: Family Ties

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    Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    UFC on Fight Island 8 was a big night for the families of two UFC champions.

    In the second bout of the undercard, Umar Nurmagomedov, the cousin of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, made his long-anticipated debut in the Octagon against Kazakhstan’s Sergey Morozov.

    Umar had been waiting to make his debut for some time, having been scheduled to fight Hunter Azure, Nathaniel Wood and Morozov previously to no avail, but finally made it into the Octagon on Fight Island. He did not let the opportunity go to waste, defeating Morozov with a second-round rear-naked choke—his cousin Khabib’s signature fight-ender. 

    Now 13-0 overall, the 24-year-old bantamweight looks like he could conceivably follow in the footsteps of his cousin and capture a UFC title in the future.  

    Interestingly, Umar wasn’t the only close relative of a UFC champ to debut with the promotion on this card. As we’ve already covered, Francisco Figueiredo, the younger brother of UFC flyweight king Deiveson Figueiredo, also made his first steps into the Octagon at UFC on Fight Island 8. 

    Like Umar, Francisco made good on the opportunity, picking up a solid, unanimous decision victory over the game Jerome Rivera. Now 12-3 as a pro, it remains to be seen if Francisco can rise to the top of the flyweight division, but Deiveson has already laid out loose plans to leave the division to clear a path to gold for his little brother.

Loser: The Gainfully Employed

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    UFC on Fight Island 8 began at 9:00 a.m. ET—far earlier than the early-evening start time typical of most UFC events.

    Generally speaking, fans seem to enjoy early cards like this, as it spares them from having to stay up all night to catch the main event. This daytime card, however, was on a Wednesday, meaning that many people with nine-to-five jobs were unable to tune in.

    Granted, in this era of stay-at-home advisories and city-wide lockdowns, work from home in their underwear, and may have been able to do so with the fights playing in the background, but the timing of this card was still a bizarre choice by the UFC.