The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 274

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IIMay 8, 2022

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 274

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    UFC 274 went down on Saturday night in Phoenix, Arizona, and while the card looked like a blockbuster from the early vantage point, it was ultimately saved by a handful of fights on the line-up. 

    Of the 14 fights on the bill, a whopping 10 ended by decision. The co-main event, which saw Carla Esparza defeat Rose Namajunas to win the strawweight title, was particularly difficult to watch. 

    Thankfully, the fights that were good were great. 

    In the main event, Charles Oliveira—who was stripped of the lightweight title after missing weight on Friday—reasserted himself as the division's true king with a first-round submission win over the highly dangerous Justin Gaethje.

    And in the middle bout of the main card, Michael Chandler also reflected well on the lightweight division, weathering some early adversity to score a knockout of the year contender at the expense of fading legend Tony Ferguson.

    It was the kind of night with some big winners and a lot of big losers. Keep scrolling for our take on the action now that it's come to pass. 

Loser: The Whole Weigh-in Debacle

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    When Charles Oliveira flew to Phoenix, Arizona, for UFC 274, he was the lightweight champion. After he missed weight by a half a pound at the card's pre-fight weigh-ins on Friday, he suddenly wasn't. 

    It would have been a disappointing situation under circumstances, but it was made even worse when reports of a serious error on the part of the local athletic commission began to surface. 

    The worst part of the whole situation is that Oliveira ended up scoring an absolutely beautiful win over Justin Gaethje, and he doesn't even have a belt to show for it—all thanks to a half-pound scale fail that might not have even been his fault.

    Rules are important, especially in the high-stakes world of combat sports, but couldn't we bend them, just this once, and acknowledge Oliveira for what he really is? 

    That's the lightweight champion of the world. 

Winner: Telling It Like It Is

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    Carla Esparza's strawweight title-winning split decision victory over Rose Namajunas was objectively terrible.

    The two women share the blame equally. While both are excellent fighters—they wouldn't be competing for UFC gold if they weren't—neither seemed to have much interest in doing any actual fighting in the UFC 274 co-main event.

    It made for tough viewing for fans either sitting on a couch in a living room or on a sticky arena seat, based on the boos that filled the host Footstep Center.

    Commentators Joe Rogan, Daniel Cormier and Jon Anik did not sugarcoat the situation. While all three are UFC employees who are paid to improve the UFC product, none of the three was shy about calling it like it was.

    "It's the stinker of all stinkers," Rogan said in the fifth round. "The dud of all duds."

    The UFC commentators deserve some props for their honesty. It was an ugly fight, and it would have been all the worse if we had to listen to three guys trying to convince us it wasn't.

Winner: Conflicting Feelings

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    When Michael Chandler knocked out Tony Ferguson with a front kick to the face on the UFC main card, most fans were overrun with conflicting feelings. 

    On the one hand, we'd just watched the former Bellator lightweight champion score one of the most incredible knockouts in UFC history. On the other, we'd just seen Ferguson—a man who has already taken far too much damage in the Octagon—suffer the most devastating loss of his career. 

    It's the kind of thing that happens all the time in MMA. Every time a fighter adds to their highlight reel, another must face the eternal embarrassment of seeing themselves knocked silly when that highlight reel runs on ESPN. Every time one fighter wins by knockout, another suffers brain damage. 

    That dichotomy was particularly pronounced in this fight because Chandler's knockout was so incredible and because Ferguson hit the deck with such terrible brutality. 

    We all felt it: excitement for one guy, worry for the other. Being a fight fan can be confusing. 

Loser: Old-School Fans

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    For most truly old-school MMA fans, there were only a handful of recognizable names on the UFC 274 lineup. Donald Cerrone and Joe Lauzon, who were scheduled to fight on the event's main card, were two of them.

    Unfortunately, their lightweight fight fell through at the last minute—after the event had started—when Cerrone had to withdraw with food poisoning.

    That left former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua as the only vintage fighter on the bill, and things didn't go great for him.

    Shogun was in action on the event's main card, taking on Ovince Saint Preux. The bout was a rematch of a 2014 fight that the former champ lost by first-round knockout.

    Shogun performed much better the second time around, surviving all three rounds with his younger foe, but ultimately lost a split decision. While it was far better than the grim spectacle many of his fans expected, it wasn't great either.

    All in all, it wasn't a great night for old-school MMA fans.

Loser: Father Time

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    They say Father Time is undefeated in MMA. That may be true, but he's definitely lost a few rounds recently.

    In the last two weeks, we've seen the two oldest fighters on the UFC roster pick up wins over significantly younger foes.

    Last week, former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, the promotion's oldest fighter at 43, defeated the 33-year-old Jake Collier by unanimous decision.

    This week, in the final bout of the UFC 274 undercard, its second oldest fighter picked up a big win, as 43-year-old welterweight Francisco Trinaldo defeated the 34-year-old Danny Roberts by unanimous decision.

    It seems extremely unlikely that Arlovski or Trinaldo ever end up contending for their division's titles at this point, but the fact is that both of these guys should be losing to the younger, faster opposition they face, and neither is—at least, not consistently enough to warrant one of Dana White's famous retirement talks. 

Loser: The Featherweight Farce

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    In the penultimate bout of the UFC 274 undercard, Macy Chiasson defeated Norma Dumont by split decision in a women's featherweight bout. It wasn't a terrible fight, but it didn't do much to justify the existence of the weight class.

    The women's featherweight division, for those with short memories, was essentially created to give Cris Cyborg a place to fight. Unfortunately, the UFC has never made any real effort to fortify the division by signing new fighters—not when Cyborg was around, and certainly not since she departed for Bellator.

    The division is home to a handful of decent talents, like Chiasson and Dumont, and is occasionally visited by bored bantamweights seeking new environs, but it's really only a few fighters deep. Even the reigning champion Amanda Nunes seems to have forgotten about it, striving instead to reclaim the UFC bantamweight title from Julianna Pena.

    Rather than try to fix the problem, the UFC seems content to ignore the women's featherweight division entirely. The result is fights like Chiasson vs. Dumont that, while occasionally worth watching, serve almost no purpose other than giving the women involved something to do.

    It's time for the promotion to take some decisive action, one way or the other. Either spend some real time and money bolstering the division or cut it all together and let Chiasson, Dumont and their ever-dwindling peers challenge Cyborg in Bellator or Kayla Harrison in the PFL lightweight division.

Winner: The Future of the Flyweight Division

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    Just when it looked like UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko was about to clear out her division, a tidal wave of new contenders crashed down upon it. The champ's next challenger, Taila Santos, is one of those new contenders. Tracy Cortez, who was back in action at UFC 274, is another.

    The Arizona native, who had the full support of the packed Footprint Center in Phoenix, wrestled the formerly unbeaten Melissa Gatto to a unanimous decision win on the undercard. The victory pushed her to 4-0 in the UFC after earning a contract with a decision win over Mariya Agapova on Dana White's Contender Series in 2019. While she is not yet ranked in the flyweight Top 15, it feels like a matter of time before she is.

    From there, it's just a question of where she stacks up among other fresh contenders like Erin Blanchfield, Casey O'Neill, Manon Fiorot and Alexa Grasso. One way or the other, the future of the division looks bright—although things might look a little less rosy from Shevchenko's vantage point because she's the one who will have to fight these women.