Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to the hurt business last night (Sat., May 12, 2018) for UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which was headlined by a barn-burner of a women’s Bantamweight title fight which saw division champion Amanda Nunes obliterate Raquel Pennington to hold on to her 135-pound strap (recap). Also, Kelvin Gastelum scored a huge win over Ronaldo Souza to put himself in the 185-pound title mix.
Biggest Winner: Kelvin Gastelum
The former Ultimate Fighter winner is really starting to make some noise in the 185-pound weight class, as he has won four of five since making the move back up with big wins over Vitor Belfort, Michael Bisping and now “Jacare.” His win over Souza was impressive given the fact that he won a split-decision in Ronaldo’s home country, something many didn’t expect to happen. While it seemed Kelvin could’ve finished a very tired Souza, at the end of the day the important thing is the victory. And with victory come the spoils, as Kelvin should get the winner of the upcoming title fight between champion Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero at UFC 225 on June 9 in Chicago.
Runner Up: Mackenzie Dern
Mackenzie didn’t endear herself to fans when she missed the 116-pound weight limit by a staggering seven pounds in her sophomore UFC fight. But the best way to silence critics is to put on a winning performance, and that’s exactly what she did. Surprisingly, Dern kept the bout on the feet, seemingly looking to prove a point by showing she is far from a one-trick pony. Halfway through round one, Dern clipped Amanda Cooper with a big overhand right that dropped her like a sack of potatoes.
From there, Mackenzie wasted no time on pouncing on her down foe, and eventually going into her specialty by sinking in an air-tight rear-naked choke to put an end to the fight. It was an impressive win indeed, but she’ll need to do a lot more of than and keep her weight on track if she really wants to be UFC’s next big star.
Biggest Loser: Vitor Belfort
Just because a fighter is on his way out, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about a win or a loss. For “The Phenom,” going out via knockout is not the way he imagined his storied and legendary mixed martial arts (MMA) career would end. But it was indeed a case of deja vu for Belfort, as he was knocked out with a front kick to the face, the same way he went out against Anderson Silva — who happens to be Lyoto Machida’s training partner — seven years ago. Afterward, Belfort made it official that his career had indeed come to an end.
After losing four of his last five via knockout, it really was the best option as it was obvious Vitor’s best days were behind him. But, it was a truly special career by one of the best to ever do it. And he did it for 22 long years. For his sake, I hope Vitor isn’t one of those fighters who simply can’t stay away — like this guy.
For complete UFC 224: “Nunes vs. Pennington” results, including play-by-play updates, click here.