What mattered most at UFC on ESPN 45 in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight musings …
What's Andrei Arlovski's exit plan?
Andrei Arlovski made history by stepping into the octagon and becoming the second fighter to make 40 appearances in the UFC. He had a chance to tie the all-time wins record against Don’Tale Mayes, but instead he lost by second-round TKO.
It’s remarkable that Arlovski (34-22 MMA, 23-16 UFC) is still doing this thing after making his MMA debut in 1999. He’s put new coats of paint on his career too many times to count at this point, which is why he’s still in the UFC. He’s willing to take any opponent matchmakers offer and gives a good faith effort, but you can’t help to wonder about how he sees the overall future.
At 44, there can realistically only be so many years left for the former UFC champ. Maybe he waits for UFC brass to make the decision for him, because by all indications he’s being paid handsomely to get in there and compete. If that’s the case it’s hard to blame him for going until the wheels fall off, but you have to acknowledge the potential risks.
The loss to Mayes was the 12th time Arlovski has been stopped with strikes. Perhaps some don’t see that as a lot in the grand scheme of nearly 60 fights over close to 25 years, and maybe it’s not. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. But it’s certainly some food for thought.
Karine Silva a future threat at 125 pounds
Karine Silva proved herself to be a name worth paying attention to in the UFC women’s flyweight division when she blew up Ketlen Souza’s knee with a submission less than two minutes into their main card bout.
It was a flawless performance from the Silva (16-4 MMA, 2-0 UFC), who kept her 100 percent finish rate intact. That’s 16 victories and 16 stoppages, of which 12 have now come inside the first round. She’s extremely dangerous, and that could take her a long way in this weight class.
Before we get too crazy, it must be noted the Brazilian’s pair of octagon triumphs have come against middling competition. But after submitting those two opponents rather effortlessly inside five minutes, it’s clear she’s ready for the next step.
At 29, Silva seems like she could be right at the beginning or close to her prime. How high is her ceiling? It’s hard to tell, but once the title rematch between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko plays out, we’re going to have a much clearer idea of what the top of this division looks like. And from there, Silva can see what her path to contention could look like.
Jim Miller makes history in seconds
Jim Miller continued to be remarkable late in his career as he stacked more stats on his historic resume with a 23-second blitz of Jesse Butler to become the first in UFC history to reach 25 octagon wins.
What can you really say about Miller (36-17 MMA, 25-16 UFC) that hasn’t been said many times already? The man is a relic in our sport, and we should treasure him for as long as it lasts. There aren’t many in the game who are built like him.
Sure, you could argue Miller got something of a layup in this matchup against Butler in that he took the fight on two days’ notice as a replacement, but that would be dismissing the reality that Miller took two other much more difficult fights before it and didn’t blink at the replacements when the time came. That’s special.
At this point, he is shaping up perfectly to get his long-desired spot on the UFC 300 fight card, which should likely fall some time in the first quarter of 2024. It’s going to be amazing to see him on that card given he fought at UFC 100 and UFC 200, and it would be the perfect cap on his legendary career.
Did Amir Albazi prove worthy of a title shot?
Amir Albazi got a rather significant step up in competition in his first main event opportunity against former interim flyweight title challenger Kai Kara-France. He got his hand raised in the end, but it wasn’t without controversy.
Whether you think he deserved the split decision nod or not, Albazi (17-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) showed he was prepared for a moment like this and made it very competitive over five rounds. The frustration around how the judges saw it should not fall on his shoulders, because it certainly wasn’t a robbery.
After the chips fell in his direction, Albazi called for the next title shot at 125 pounds. And he might actually just get it against the winner of the UFC 290 co-headliner between Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja. Why? Because he could be a beneficiary of some perfect timing.
With the UFC set to go back to Abu Dhabi in October with UFC 294, the Iraqi contender has strong links to the region and would be a perfect candidate for a big fight in that market. It could be as simple as that, but it would only take one change in plans to derail his perfect scenario.
In that case, Albazi is likely in a position where the UFC would have to pick between him and Brandon Royval getting the next shot.
Dana White's post-fight press conference steals spotlight
After a decent event from the promotion, UFC president Dana White showed up at the post-fight press conference as he often does and provided thought’s on the night’s storylines and current MMA headlines.
Two topics in particular grabbed the most attention, the first of which was his challenge to Tyson Fury for a UFC showdown with heavyweight champ Jon Jones. White was adamant in claiming he’s ready to make a legitimate offer to Fury to determine the “baddest man on the planet,” but is he sincere?
Many people have pinpointed the particular line in White’s statements about Fury vs. Jones, and that is his claim the UFC “figured out how to pay Floyd” Mayweather for his record-setting boxing bout with Conor McGregor. Whether the UFC actually contributed a dollar to Mayweather’s purse on that night in 2016 isn’t really the point. White even saying that puts him in a curious position (via Twitter).
Dana White is making a BIG MONEY challenge to Tyson Fury to fight Jon Jones in UFC. 😳
"We figured out how to pay Floyd, we'll figure out how to pay you too, Tyson."
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) June 4, 2023
Let’s say Fury actually shows interest in the offer and gives White a call given their “very good relationship,” as the UFC boss said. Eventually, we’ll find out how that conversation went. Either the fight will happen to everyone’s surprise, or Fury at some point will reveal whether the financial terms presented were bogus or something he actually considered.
One way or another, White has set himself up to look very good or very bad.
Secondly, White offered some troubling comments regarding Conor McGregor’s future inside the octagon. He played coy when repeatedly asked about the status of McGregor’s comeback fight against Michael Chandler and whether he was concerned the matchup between “The Ultimate Fighter 31” coaches would actually happen.
Check it out here (via Twitter):
Dana White is not concerned about Conor McGregor's future because UFC has plenty of "people that are ready to fight and people that want to be Conor McGregor." 🤔
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) June 4, 2023
Maybe it’s just me, but it’s hard to spin those comments any other way than grim. Everyone in the sport should want McGregor back inside the cage because it elevates the industry as a whole, but only if he truly wants to be there. Anyone who has paid close enough attention to McGregor’s behavior in recent years has some level of skepticism about his fighting future in their mind, and perhaps White is taking notice, as well.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 45.