The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 268

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IINovember 7, 2021

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 268

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    UFC 268 went down on Saturday night inside New York City's hallowed Madison Square Garden, and the event was the kind of instant classic befitting its legendary setting.

    In the main event, UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman defended his title with a hard-fought unanimous decision win over his arch-nemesis Colby Covington, who he first defeated with a fifth-round TKO at the end of 2019.

    In the co-main event, we were treated to another rematch, as strawweight queen Rose Namajunas kept her seat on the throne with a split decision win over China's Weili Zhang. Namajunas and Zhang first met earlier this year, with the former winning by head kick KO in just 78 seconds. 

    The other big highlight of the card was an unforgettable scrap between lightweight action heroes Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler, which the former won by unanimous decision. However, fans will also be talking about big wins from Marlon "Chito" Vera, Alex Pereira, Ian Garry, and several others for weeks to come.

    Keep scrolling for the real winners and losers from this dynamite event in The Big Apple. 

Winner: Running It Back

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    The initial response is often negative after the UFC books championship rematches. The two title rematches that topped UFC 268 were no exception to that rule. 

    When they announced that Colby Covington, who was stopped by Kamaru Usman just two fights ago, would get a second crack at the champ, many fans suggested he hadn't done enough to earn it. When it was revealed that Weili Zhang would get an opportunity to reclaim her belt from Rose Namajunas, the same fighter that already flattened Zhang this year, other fans claimed she needed to get a few wins first.

    Those naysayers are bound to be pretty quiet after UFC 268. Sure, Usman and Namajunas retained their titles via decision, but both contests were wildly entertaining and tremendously competitive.

    Each fight was so good that questions about whether the challengers deserved their opportunity were suddenly irrelevant. As a result, the chances of trilogy fights between both sets of champ and challenger seem not only likely but inevitable.

Loser: Storybook Endings

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    When Glover Teixeira captured the UFC light heavyweight title at 42 years of age last weekend, he gave many aging fighters hope that similar triumphs are still achievable. 

    However, storybook endings like the one Teixeira penned are extremely rare. 

    Forty-year-old former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar has been learning that the hard way.

    After a hot-and-cold run at featherweight, Edgar recently dropped down another weight class, landing in the 135-pound bantamweight division. After he defeated ranked contender Pedro Munhoz by decision in his bantamweight debut, he reignited hope for a late-career title win.

    Unfortunately, Edgar has since lost two in a row, both by knockout. First, he succumbed to a brutal flying knee courtesy of Cory Sandhagen in February. Then, on the UFC 268 main card, Ecuador's Marlon "Chito" Vera put him down by a front kick\. 

    It was fun to imagine Edgar getting his hands on a new title in a new division in the twilight of his career, but these things just don't happen that often in MMA.

Winner: The Fast Track

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    Ordinarily, we wouldn't be talking about a fighter that just won their UFC debut as a future title challenger, but there's nothing ordinary about Alex Pereira.

    The Brazilian middleweight made his UFC debut in the final bout of the UFC 268 undercard, shutting the lights out on Greece's Andreas Michailidis with a flying knee in the second round. His dazzling UFC debut comes after a long and impressive career in the Glory kickboxing ring.

    Pereira accomplished many feats as a kickboxer, but arguably his best of the lot is a 2017 knockout win over Israel Adesanya, who now holds the UFC middleweight title.

    Pereira likely has quite a bit of work to do before he earns a middleweight title shot, but the fact that he has knocked out the division's reigning champion before—even if it was in a different sport—almost guarantees that he'll be fast-tracked.  

Winner: Guaranteeing Fireworks

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    The UFC loves billing fights are "guaranteed fireworks." The term usually applies to matchups that look so good on paper that they can't possibly disappoint. Oftentimes, of course, they do. Remember Derrick Lewis vs. Francis Ngannou?

    That was not the case for UFC 268's Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler lightweight fight. The bout didn't just live up to mountainous expectations, it exceeded them.

    We were promised fireworks and got a mushroom cloud.

    From the opening bell, the two fan-favorite lightweight contenders traded the kind of skull-rattling strikes that would have separated most other fighters from consciousness. In a miraculous display of toughness and heart, however, both men were still standing 15 minutes later, leaving the cage-side judges to render a decision.

    The judges ultimately scored the fight for Gaethje unanimously, but it was truly the kind of fight with no real losers. Both guys can go home with their heads held high. It was just that good. 

Loser: Glendale Fighting Club

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    Glendale, California's Glendale Fighting Club was once one of the hottest gyms in MMA. The gym's reputation was thanks almost exclusively to the success of former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey who, in her heyday, was not only one of the best fighters in the sport, but its biggest star. Unfortunately, when Rousey crashed and burned after back-to-back knockout losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, the gym's reputation did, too.

    For a brief period, 23-year-old middleweight talent Edmen Shahbazyan looked like he'd be the man to carry Glendale Fighting Club back to its former glory.

    Shahbazyan began his career 11-0—with nine of those wins coming by way of knockout—and was ranked inside the UFC middleweight division's top-15 within his first five fights in the Octagon. Unfortunately, he has since fallen on tough times. After experiencing his first loss at the hands of Derek Brunson in 2020 and giving up a decision to Jack Hermansson in his next fight thereafter earlier this year, he stumbled onto a three-fight skid on the UFC 268 undercard, where he was trapped in a crucifix and elbowed into mush by France's Nassourdine Imavov. The fight was stopped at 4:42 of round two. 

    Suddenly, the man who looked like Glendale Fighting Club's next big star is looking like a flash in the pan. It's certainly possible he'll turn it around—he's still very young—but the current prognosis is not good.

Winner: The Patient Approach

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    Very few people have had a longer road to the UFC than Chris Curtis.

    The 34-year-old middleweight, who has been fighting professionally since 2009, came very close to earning a UFC contract when he knocked Sean Lally on Dana White's Contender Series in 2018, but was ultimately turned away by the show's namesake.

    After a brief retirement, he then spent several years competing for the Professional Fighters League and a number of smaller regional promotions. After winning his five most recent fights outside the UFC, he was finally offered a contract with the sport's biggest promotion this year. He debuted on the UFC 268 undercard against the highly regarded Phil Hawes.

    Despite being pegged as a moderate underdog, Curtis came through in emphatic fashion, stopping Hawes with a counter left hand in the waning moment of the first round.

    It required an immeasurable quantity of patience to make happen, but at long last, he has a UFC win under his belt.

    "Ten years baby," he yelled to the crowd as he exited the cage.

Winner: Irish MMA

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    Bellator 270 went down on Friday night in Dublin, Ireland, and unfortunately, it was not a great night for the home team, as local heroes Peter Queally and James Gallagher were defeated in the main and co-main events, respectively. 

    Thankfully for the entire Irish MMA scene, 23-year-old Irish super prospect Ian Garry was in action on the UFC 268 undercard, and he quickly erased the memory of Queally and Gallagher's losses with a smashing knockout of Jordan Williams.

    The win over Williams marked a successful UFC debut for Garry, and cemented him as one of the hottest prospects in MMA at present. Already frequently compared to former two-division UFC champ and MMA superstar Conor McGregor, he's now 8-0 overall, and possesses all the hallmarks of a future title challenger.

    Time will tell how far he can go, but his stunning UFC debut couldn't come at a better time for Irish MMA.  

Loser: Judging a Book by Its Cover

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    Rising heavyweight star Chris Barnett (22-7) doesn't have the kind of physique that we normally associate with high-level mixed martial artists, but make no mistake: that's exactly what he is. Barnett reaffirmed his status as such on the UFC 268 undercard, when he shut the lights off on retiring veteran Gian Villante with a second-round spinning kick to the dome.

    It was the kind of maneuver you'd expect from a bantamweight, not a 263.8-pound heavyweight, but Barnett evidently didn't get the memo. Anyone who followed the heavyweight before he arrived in the UFC, of course, knew full well what he was capable of heading into UFC 268: he's pulled of a number of similarly dazzling attacks in previous fights. 

    His post-fight celebration—a surprisingly slick flip—was the icing on the cake. He's a classic example of why one shouldn't judge a book by its cover.