UFC 282 went down on Saturday night in Las Vegas, and while it wasn’t the stacked year-end pay-per-view we’re accustomed to, it still featured some meaningful matchups and memorable finishes.
Headlining honors for the card went to a fight for the vacant light heavyweight title, with former champ Jan Blachowicz taking on streaking contender Magomed Ankalaev. Unfortunately, the main event ended in disappointment, with a split draw.
In the co-main event, rising lightweight star Paddy Pimblett took on hard-nosed veteran Jared Gordon in the toughest test of UFC career to date. He passed that test with a unanimous decision win, but most viewers seemed to score the fight for Gordon, with some even calling it a “robbery.“
In the middle bout of the card, long-time welterweight contender Santiago Ponzinibbio turned back the clock with a come-from-behind knockout of short-notice opponent Alex Morono, who replaced the injured Robbie Lawler.
The main card was kicked off by submission wins from two red-hot contenders, as South Africa’s Dricus Du Plessis defeated Darren Till at middleweight, and Georgian-Spaniard Ilia Topuria bested Bryce Mitchell down at featherweight.
Like we said, it was a card full of meaningful fights, even if it was a little short on big names and championship stakes.
Keep scrolling for the matchups we’d like to see when the dust has settled.
The light heavyweight title situation could not be more complicated right now.
Earlier this year, Jiri Prochazka won the title from Glover Teixeira in one of the year’s best fights. He was then slated to defend his belt in a rematch with Teixeira in UFC 282’s original main event but was forced off the card with a shoulder injury so severe that it led him to vacate the title.
When Teixeira refused to accept a short-notice fight with Magomed Ankalaev for the vacant title—hard to fault him for that—the UFC pitted Ankalaev against Blachowicz in a title fight that felt utterly arbitrary from the moment it was announced.
That fight, as we’ve established, ultimately ended with a draw, which further clouded the light heavyweight title picture.
And while most fans were probably expecting the UFC to book an Ankalaev vs. Blachowicz rematch for the title, UFC President Dana White instead announced at the UFC 282 post-fight press conference that Teixeira will fight Jamahal Hill for that honor at UFC 283 in Brazil next month.
Complicated may actually be an understatement.
Whatever the case, Ankalaev and Blachowicz will not be fighting for the vacant belt next time out, so they might as well fight again while we wait for a new champion to—hopefully—be crowned.
Paddy Pimblett picked up another UFC win in Saturday night’s co-main event, but it was anything but convincing, with most fans scoring his unanimous-decision win over Jared Gordon the other way.
One way or the other, “The Baddy” is now 4-0 in the Octagon. While there is ample reason to question his place among the lightweight division’s best, it’s time to give him the chance to prove his mettle.
The UFC will probably give him another favorable matchup—maybe an inconsistent prospect or fading veteran—but we’d like to see him matched up with another rising contender in Grant Dawson.
Nebraska’s Dawson sports an impressive 19-1-1 pro record—comparable to Pimblett’s 20-3 mark—and is fresh off a win over former Olympic wrestler Mark O. Madsen. That was his 10th victory in a row and his seventh in the UFC.
He’s ready for a ranked opponent, but would surely settle for Pimblett, who is easily one of the most popular fighters in the sport.
If Dawson wins, he needs a top-15 opponent. If Pimblett pulls it off, the same goes for him—and we’re all going to have reassess where his ceiling is.
As we’ve covered, the vast majority of viewers believe Jared Gordon deserved the nod against Paddy Pimblett at UFC 282. In fact, you could argue that, were it not for the ineptitude of the cage-side judges, the New Yorker would be riding the biggest and most valuable win of his career right now.
It was definitely disappointing to see a hard-working fighter like Gordon get overlooked like that. We say he should be rewarded like he got the decision win over Pimblett that he deserved.
Our pick for his next fight? Brazil’s Diego Ferreira.
Ferreira is currently riding three straight losses in the Octagon, but contrary to that skid, he long ago established himself as one of the division’s most reliable fighters. He was even ranked on the outer edge of the top 15 for a little while, though he has since lost that position.
He may not be a truly elite lightweight, but he’s very good, and if Gordon were to beat him, it would go a long way to making up for his sketchy decision loss on Saturday. It also looks like a great fight on paper, as both guys have proven to be very well rounded.
After split-decision losses to Geoff Neal and Michel Pereira in his last two fights, 36-year-old Argentine welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio was in pretty dire need of a win at UFC 282.
He ultimately got the victory he sought, rebounding from some early adversity with a third-round knockout of Alex Morono, who replaced the injured Robbie Lawler on short notice.
It wasn’t a perfect win for Ponzinibbio, but it was enough to remind us why he has long been considered one of the best welterweights in the world. It should also be enough to earn him a ranked foe in his next appearance.
Our pick is a clash with No. 13-ranked contender Michael Chiesa who, after a unanimous decision loss to Sean Brady in his last fight, is undoubtedly eager to get back on track.
South Africa’s Dricus Du Plessis was one of the biggest winners of Saturday’s event, defeating former welterweight title challenger Darren Till by submission in a high-stakes middleweight clash.
It was his fourth win in four UFC fights, and it should push the division’s 14th-ranked fighter right to the cusp of the Top 10, where bouts with the division’s best fighters await.
Our pick for his next fight is a showdown with Georgian finisher Roman Dolidze, ranked No. 8 at middleweight, who scored a fortune-changing victory of his own by submitting long-time contender Jack Hermansson earlier this month.
It makes sense from a rankings standpoint, and it seems nearly impossible that the judges would be required, as 27 of the pair’s 30 combined wins in professional MMA have come by either knockout or submission.
The UFC 282 main card opener, a clash between featherweight contenders Ilia Topuria and Bryce Mitchell, stood out among the most anticipated fights on the entire lineup. And it lived up to the hype, as the Georgian-Spaniard Topuria not only out-struck the grappling specialist Mitchell but ultimately submitted him in Round 2.
The win will send Topuria crashing into the featherweight Top 10, where some of the very best fighters in all of MMA await him.
It’s nearly impossible to make bad fights near the top of the featherweight division, so you can really do no wrong when it comes to his next fight, but our pick is a showdown with England’s Arnold Allen.
Allen has long been seen as a future title challenger but was unfortunately deprived of the chance to take a final step toward contention in his last fight when his foe Calvin Kattar was forced out of action with a flukey leg injury.
He’ll still need one more win before he fights for the belt, and a matchup with Topuria ticks all the boxes. It’s a great match-up on paper, and it would make an excellent addition to the UFC’s planned March return to London.
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