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UFC 280: Stacked card falls flat as Makhachev cruises to title

Makhachev beats Oliveira at UFC 280

Despite promising so much, UFC 280 from Yas Island in the UAE was a little underwhelming for the MMA purists watching.

The card appeared stacked with enthralling fights, but fate has a way of undoing the best-laid plans. In the lead-up bouts, Manon Fiorot unimpressively bested Katlyn Chookagian over three dour rounds of mostly inaccurate striking. Next up Beneil Dariush showed off his grit, toughness, and ability to switch game plans mid-fight against Mateusz Gamrot in a fight-of-the-night performance, and then Petr Yan got robbed – pure and simple – by a split-decision loss to Sean O’Malley.

Yan won every round with a superior wrestling and grappling game, and O’Malley was as shocked as anyone when his hand was raised. His normal hyper-confidence evaporated in the post-fight interview. The typically brash O’Malley was lost for words. He was expecting to deliver a speech that patted himself on the back for bravely taking on such a fierce warrior in Yan and explaining how he was ready to improve the holes in his game. Daniel Cormier asked O’Malley if he was ready for a title shot. “Ummm, I’ll have to go back, and… errr… watch the tape first, man.”

Perennial UFC villain TJ Dillashaw found new ways to cheat – in this case, the more deserving fighters who should have been taking on Aljamain Sterling for the bantamweight belt. Dillashaw had dislocated his left shoulder 20 times during his training camp, and instead of withdrawing from the title fight, he lied, pretended, pressed on, talked smack, and of course the shoulder popped out again during the first round and he was beaten like a rented mule from that point on. The shoulder was so weak that he was unable to punch focus pads backstage while warming up. Dillashaw is a true MMA villain.

The main event saw Islam Makhachev make short work of Charles Oliveira, culminating in a second-round submission. The Brazilian had no answers to Makhachev’s dominant wrestling and will lick his wounds and presumably plot a possible path to a rematch. As expected, featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski talked his way into the action and Makhachev tried to call the Aussie out post fight, but the pound-for-pound king is too short to be spotted in a crowd of people. UFC handlers had to escort Volkanovski into the octagon, where he could be seen by the newly crowned lightweight champion and the call-out could occur.

Makhachev and Volkanovski shook hands on a deal to fight in Australia for the undisputed lightweight title – a matchup that could end very badly for the diminutive featherweight. Still, the fight will sell like hot cakes, everyone will get paid big bucks, and we will all learn new lessons about flying too close to the sun.

So that was UFC 280. The Dariush victory was a standout, Makhachev proved himself an unstoppable Sambo beast, Volkanovski bit off more than he can conceivably chew, and several brazen robberies were committed.

We now look forward to UFC 281, which will feature Israel Adesanya in a tantalising matchup against his former kickboxing nemesis Alex Pereira.

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