Giga Chikadze remained undefeated in the UFC, knocking out Edson Barboza in the third round to pick up the biggest win of his career. Chikadze attacked Barboza through the first two rounds with kicks, but turned it up with his boxing in the third round. Chikadze hurt Barboza and almost locked up a D’arce choke before finally putting Barboza away. It was the third straight knockout for Chikadze and he called out former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway following the fight and that is a fight I would love to see.
Barboza is 2-2 since dropping to featherweight and this loss halts all momentum he gained from his knockout of Shane Burgos. Barboza is still a great fighter, but he’s more of a gatekeeper than a contender at this point. I would strictly match him up with fellow strikers and a fight with Lando Vannata has fun written all over it.
Brian Battle was the last middleweight picked by Team Volkanovski on this season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, but on Saturday night he was crowned TUF winner at 185 pounds when he submitted Gilbert Urbina in the second round. Battle is still very raw as a middleweight prospect and he should be brought along slowly. He was originally supposed to face Tresean Gore in the final, but Gore had to withdraw with a knee injury. Once Gore is fully healed, he and Battle should square off to decide who truly was the best middleweight of the season.
Urbina is unlikely to get a UFC contract, but his next move should be to drop back down to welterweight, pick up a couple wins in a regional promotion like LFA and work his way back towards a second crack at the UFC.
Ricky Turcios and Brady Hiestand put on one of the best fights in the history of “The Ultimate Fighter” with Turcios edging out the fight by split decision to become the bantamweight winner. Hiestand was effective early with his wrestling, but Turcios fought well to get back to his feet where he held an edge in striking. Turcios did more damage on the feet and hurt Hiestand multiple times late in the fight and two of the three judges agreed that he won the fight. Turcios was one of the most experienced competitors this season and is more than ready for the shark tank that is the bantamweight division.
Hiestand fought valiantly and appears to have, even in defeat, earned himself a UFC contract. Hiestand is only 22 years old and his future looks bright.
Daniel Rodriguez continued his winning ways, earning a unanimous decision and spoiling Kevin Lee’s return to welterweight. Lee looked good early, but he faded in the second and third rounds and Rodriguez pulled away on the feet. Rodriguez has won six of seven fights since joining the UFC and has clearly established himself as a darkhorse in the welterweight division. Rodriguez deserves someone like Santiago Ponzinibbio, Li Jingliang or Belal Muhammad in his next fight.
Lee is now 2-5 in his last seven fights and at a crossroads in his career. He outgrew the lightweight division, but welterweight may not be the division for him either. Even UFC president Dana White is skeptical of Lee’s future in the promotion.
Andre Petroski, one of the early favorites to win the middleweight bracket on “The Ultimate Fighter”, picked up a third round stoppage via ground and pound over Michael Gillmore. Petroski had a strong first round, but his previous cardio issues came to light in the second round. However, he persevered and ultimately got the third round finish. Petroski has potential, but he definitely needs to sure up his cardio if he wants to be a factor in the middleweight division.
Gillmore isn’t a UFC caliber fighter so it’s back to the regional scene for him.
Kicking off the main card, Gerald Meerschaert, the biggest underdog on the card, pulled off a shocking upset of massive favorite Mahkmud Muradov. Meerschaert was in trouble in the first round, but he rallied back in the second round and submitted Muradov via rear naked choke. Meerschaert is a tough grizzled veteran who is a great test for upcoming middleweight prospects. Pitting Andre Petroski against Meerschaert is a fight that intrigues me.
The loss snapped a 14 fight winning streak for Muradov, who garnered a lot of hype for his association with Floyd Mayweather. Muradov is a good fighter, but he’s not the prospect he was made out to be.