UFC 228 on Saturday in Dallas turned out to be one of the most action-packed shows of the year and followed a curious trend of low-profile Ultimate Fighting Championship events that have impressed the masses. Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley took on charismatic Englishman Darren Till in the main event, as “The Chosen One” cemented his place as one of the most dominant titleholders in the sport today.
‘Y’all Must’ve Forgot’
The headliner began with both competitors feeling out their opponent, unwilling to make the first attempt at a strike. Woodley was much more active than Till and looked to implement his wrestling on his long, rangy foe, often clinching with him against the cage and looking to work for takedowns. However, Till managed to stay on his feet throughout, stuffing all of Woodley’s attempts. Woodley was warned by referee Dan Miragliotta for inactivity against the cage, as he separated the fighters before the end of the round.
To begin the second round, Till looked to stalk Woodley early, getting directly in the pocket with the champion before he was absolutely leveled with a right hand counter that sent him crashing to the Octagon floor in a daze. Woodley followed him to the ground and hunted for a finish. The champion postured in Till’s guard and began landing hard, heavy elbows, one of which opened a sizeable gash on the challenger’s forehead. By mid-round, Till managed to compose himself and was no longer in danger of being finished via strikes, yet Woodley refused to relent. With just over a minute remaining in the frame, Woodley framed a brabo choke and locked it in. Till fought the choke for a brief moment but ultimately elected to tap, his means of escape cut off.
Afterward, Woodley was all business and sported a stoic look of a been-there-done-that champion. It was not until longtime mentor Din Thomas presented him with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt that the two-time NCAA All-American showed a hint of emotion. “Line them up, and I’ll knock them all down,” Woodley said. “I’m the best welterweight of all-time, and I’m here to prove it.”
In the UFC 228 co-main event, Jessica Andrade took on Karolina Kowalkiewicz in a women’s strawweight clash that was expected to serve as a de facto title eliminator. The top-ranked strawweights came out to a roaring start, foregoing any feeling-out process and opting to stand and trade punches in the middle of the Octagon. Andrade appeared to rock Kowalkiewicz with her first combination of punches, putting the Polish fighter on her back foot early while she wobbled around trying to escape the Brazilian’s onslaught.
By mid-round, Kowalkiewicz had cleared the cobwebs and was aiming to fire back on her aggressive opponent. Eventually, Andrade found her opponent’s chin. As Kowalkiewicz dropped her head to fire off a counter shot at her opponent, she ate a flush overhand right from Andrade that she never saw coming. The shot put her out before she had a chance to hit the floor, and the referee stepped in to call off the bout before Andrade had a chance to do any further damage.
Andrade was a ball of energy following her latest conquest. She pleaded for a title shot against Rose Namajunas at UFC 232 -- a card that already features a champion-versus-champion superfight between Cristiane Justino and Amanda Nunes.
A Contender Emerges
Zabit Magomedsharipov was originally scheduled to fight Yair Rodriguez at UFC 228, but after an injury forced the latter to withdraw, Alan Belcher protégé Brandon Davis stepped in on short notice. The fight began with a feeling-out process, as Davis looked to chop at his tall, rangy opponent with leg and body kicks in an attempt to keep Magomedsharipov on his back foot. The Russian struggled to mount any viable offense early on, but began to establish his range while firing off a well-timed switch kick and an overhand right as a counter to a caught body kick attempt from Davis. At the end of the first round, the bout was far more competitive than most anticipated.
Magomedsharipov switched up his game plan in the second round and looked to grapple with Davis, pushing him against the fence and attempting to climb to his back. Davis denied his opponent’s advances well, but Magomedsharipov gave him no room to breathe. As soon as Davis managed to get back to his feet, Magomedsharipov slammed him right back down to the mat and focused on staying within grappling range. By mid-round, Magomedsharipov moved to back mount on his opponent and fished for a rear-naked choke. After Davis fought off the initial attempt, Magomedsharipov grabbed his counterpart’s leg and quickly locked in a tight kneebar. Davis briefly resister before being forced to tap.
In the aftermath of his encounter with Davis, Magomedsharipov credited a stellar training camp with great coaches and receptive teammates for his success. He expressed interest in fighting once more before the year ends and called out Chad Mendes as a possible opponent.
Jimmie Rivera defeated John Dodson in a three-round bantamweight showcase. Dodson employed an all-too-familiar strategy of sticking to the outside and baiting his opponent with kicks and punches as he circled the Octagon. Rivera -- who rebounded from a devastating knockout loss to Marlon Moraes in June -- largely landed the heavier shots throughout and was simply busier than his opponent, which resulted in a unanimous decision for the Team Tiger Schulmann export … Abdul Razak Alhassan opened the main card against Niko Price in a battle between surging welterweights looking to break out as contenders. It did not take long for the fight to heat up, as Alhassan connected on a thunderous right that had Price recreating to the fence, with his opponent teeing off. In a flurry against the cage, Alhassan connected on a picture-perfect left hand that had Price out on his feet. Two more shots from Alhassan landed before Price had a chance to hit the ground. It was Alhassan’s third win in a row … The unbeaten Tatiana Suarez dominated former women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza in the final bout of the televised prelims en route to a late third-round stoppage. Suarez controlled the fight with a superior grappling attack, as she kept Esparza planted to the mat and teed off with ground-and-pound. In the closing moments of the third round, the referee had seen enough and called off the match, awarding Suarez a third stoppage in four UFC fights.