The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of UFC 228

By Anthony Walker Sep 9, 2018
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday brought a welterweight title bout to the American Airlines Center in Dallas, where Tyron Woodley put his 170-pound crown on the line against the unbeaten Darren Till in the UFC 228 main event. With it came some good, some bad and some ugly.

THE GOOD


It’s difficult to narrow down the good of UFC 228. There was just so much of it. From start to finish, fans were treated to an event that will definitely be revisited during our Best of 2018 discussions. With a card that was 13 bouts deep, there was the potential for this show to plod along at an excruciating pace. Instead, we were blessed with nine finishes and genuine suspense when it was time to hand out the $50,000 post-fight bonuses.

Eventual “Fight of the Night” winners Irene Aldana and Lucie Pudilova were likely gathered around a television set at Baylor Medical Center nervously watching as more incredible contests ensued and put their early lock on the extra paycheck in jeopardy. Dual modified kneebars, the kickboxing clinic taught by Geoff Neal, longtime vets Diego Sanchez and Jim Miller stepping out of their Deloreans looking like themselves from a decade ago and Jessica Andrade punching her ticket to a likely second attempt at the strawweight title all come to mind as marquee moments. However, the good award has to go to Woodley.

Woodley put the stamp on his title reign with a furious second-round submission of Till. So much of the pre-fight talk was centered around the Liverpool, England, native making the 170-pound limit and his star qualities. The talk was so strong, especially after Till comfortably came in one pound under the welterweight threshold, that the betting lines changed to place the defending champion as the underdog for the third time in his four defenses.

The story was already told. Till would emerge victorious and step into the spotlight as the successor to the riches left behind by recently retired former middleweight champion Michael Bisping. That story was similar to the one where Robbie Lawler retained his belt to enjoy a massive payday against Conor McGregor. It sounded a lot like the story that saw Stephen Thompson spin kick his way to welterweight glory. Instead, “The Chosen One” has been telling his own version of the story.

In Woodley’s version, challengers jump up to get beat down, as he inches closer to his ultimate goal of being considered the best we’ve ever seen at 170 pounds. While Georges St. Pierre is still the greatest welterweight of all-time, it’s safe to mention the University of Missouri wrestler -- and newly minted Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt -- in the top three.

Unfortunately, UFC President Dana White was a no-show for the post-fight press conference. We were denied the chance to see him take the podium to praise Woodley for a stellar performance and finish with the same enthusiasm he showed in his multiple times throwing venom at his now-dominant champion.

Fortunately for Woodley and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the win means that a fight with former interim champion Colby Covington is still on the table. Woodley may have earned some goodwill from the fans after executing such an overwhelming finish in his return from an action-free affair at UFC 214. That goodwill can go a long way with an unrepentant Covington who is so willing to play the role of heel. While his efforts to get money fights versus St. Pierre and the Diaz brothers fell flat with the UFC, fans and/or the respective targets of his call outs, Woodley’s real money fight could end up being with his fellow American Top Team representative -- if the promotion matches the push it gave to his previous opponents. The upcoming yearly visit to Madison Square Garden is fast approaching. If Woodley came out of the quick victory over Till injury-free, a main event spot on a flagship card against a vocal agitator just might be what he needs to get the respect and big payday he has been seeking.

THE BAD


Remember when you read that nine out of the 13 fights on the UFC 228 card were finished? Well, praise the ever fickle and unpredictable MMA gods. The Texas Department of License and Regulation did a terrible job on the judging front.

The curtain-jerker between Jarred Brooks and Roberto Sanchez seemed pretty clear-cut. A close first round that could have gone either way was followed by clear wins for Brooks in Rounds 2 and 3. At worst, Brooks won a solid 29-28 decision. However, judge Don Turnage saw it 29-28 for Sanchez. Fortunately for “The Monkey God,” Turnage was a dissenting vote and he still walked away with the decision, even if it was wrongfully split.

Texas has not yet adopted the new version of the so-called Unified Rules, which is another source of frustration that will surely be addressed at a later date; its definition of a 10-8 round is not what we’ve grown accustomed to in other jurisdictions. However, there was no shortage of 10-8-worthy rounds at UFC 228.

Sanchez thrashed Craig White at a non-stop and ferocious pace for the entire 15 minutes. Aside from a few upkicks finding their mark, there was very little offense landed against “The Ultimate Fighter 1” winner. Somehow, not a single 10-8 scorecard was to be found. In the absolute mauling that Tatiana Suarez put on Carla Esparza, judge Daniel Mathisen managed to sneak in a 10-8 in favor of the former strawweight champion. Of course, Mathisen couldn’t have intended that and was confirmed to have made a mistake by fellow commission member Greg Alvarez. However, on a night with so many puzzling scorecards, it stands out even more and is a comically symbolic representation of a poor performance from the officials.

THE UGLY


The sudden ousting of Nicco Montano as UFC women’s flyweight champion just feels dirty. A failed weight cut resulted in her hospitalization just hours before she was set to step on the scale ahead of her first title defense against Valentina Shevchenko and led to the cancellation of their co-main event. Before the smoke could clear, White informed the public that Montano was being stripped of her title and Shevchenko would compete for the vacant belt at a later date against an unspecified opponent.

According to Montano’s Instagram page, UFC doctors insisted that she stop her weight cut to be hospitalized for further evaluation. Extremely high sodium levels and failing kidney function led the medical staff to believe she was only minutes away from cardiac arrest at the time. Before any real answers were made public or there was any time to discuss further options, the newest division in the UFC found itself without a champion. This all feels like a knee-jerk response to a fluid situation.

Considering that Montano has not even held the belt for a year, it seems particularly troubling. The pattern of title belts disappearing is nothing new in the UFC. We’ve seen Tony Ferguson lose his belt to a freak accident just six months after being crowned the interim lightweight champion. In fact, the opening bell of Woodley-Till also marked the dissolution of Covington’s claim to gold only three months after his ascension. However, this was the first time an undisputed titleholder was unseated through bureaucracy without contract disputes, a Dominick Cruz- or Frank Mir-type absence or Jon Jones-esque legal troubles.

While there may be other behind-the-scenes issues that contributed to the situation, it sends a clear message to champions: You are expendable. Maybe the UFC has learned from the past mistakes of keeping Cruz champion for so long during his multiple knee surgeries and cancelled bookings. Perhaps Cain Velasquez and Anthony Pettis having to sit out for so long are scenarios the promotion is unwilling repeat. Those cases involved champions the UFC clearly planned to market and introduce to new audiences. Montano seemed to be viewed as someone keeping the throne warm for Shevchenko. Maybe if the company saw Montano as a more bankable potential star she would have been given some leeway, as well.

Montano lost the belt after enduring the restrictions of “The Ultimate Fighter” and the subsequent health issues that plagued her. To be forced to surrender the crown before she could walk to the bank as champion was, in the end, just icing on a really nasty cake.

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