What mattered most at UFC 275 at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore? Here are a few post-fight musings…
1. Jiri Prochazka’s title potential:
There’s no doubt: [autotag]Jiri Prochazka:[/autotag] deserves to be the new UFC light heavyweight champion. He went through hell against Glover Teixeira and somehow found a way to win by securing a rear-naked choke with just 28 seconds left in Round 5.
It was an outstanding finish to an instant classic fight, and Prochazka (29-3-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) showed his mettle by overcoming some true adversity to net the second latest title-fight stoppage in UFC history. The fact that Prochazka was able to take Teixeira’s best stuff and kept trucking to find a way to win is the sign of a true champion, and no one can say this man did not work for it.
In the span of just three UFC fights, Prochazka has firmly established himself as one of the most exciting fighters on the roster. It’s hard not to wonder how many times he’ll be able to push his luck and get away with it, and Prochazka seems to be well aware of that reality.
After lambasting his own “horrible performance” at the post-fight press conference, Prochazka made it clear that he understands he needs to be more calculated. That’s easier said than done, though, since his high-risk style is clearly effective.
Prochazka will need to strike a balance of some kind if he wants to keep the strap for the long-term, however, because some of the opponents he has on the horizon could very well take advantage of the openings he frequently presents.
It’s a matter of when, not if, should he continue down this current path. But if he does some minor clean-ups to his approach, we’re looking at someone who could join the likes of Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier and Chuck Liddell in the lineage of great 205-pound champs.
2. Fight IQ costs Glover Teixeira:
Glover Teixeira after his loss at UFC 275. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim / Getty Images)
The fears I just expressed about Prochazka’s reign just came to life for: [autotag]Glover Teixeira:[/autotag], and it cost him his title. This result is going to be nightmare fuel for the Brazilian.
Teixeira (33-8 MMA, 16-6 UFC) entered Round 5 of his epic clash with Prochazka ahead on two of three judges’ scorecards, only for him to make a series of fatal errors down the stretch that allowed him to fall into position to be submitted for the first time in his illustrious 20-year career.
After hurting Prochazka with a hard series of punches early in the final frame, Teixeira inexplicably jumped for a guillotine choke that his opponent quickly escaped and ultimately turned the tide to get the win. If Teixeira had kept punching in the moment, it’s reasonable to believe he’d still have the belt in his possession, but that’s the cruel element of this sport and also a reason why we love it so much.
It’s admirable that Teixeira did not hesitate to tell Daniel Cormier in his post-fight interview that he’ll be back to make a run to regain the belt. However, there are some legitimate concerns about whether a fight like Teixeira just had would change the 42-year-old long term.
Whatever Teixeira lost from himself inside that octagon at the expense of our entertainment is not something he can gain back. That’s both scary and sad. I’ve been wrong about Teixeira’s capabilities on several instances before, so perhaps he comes back stronger than ever. But these concerns run deeper than just questions about a bad stylistic matchup.
3. Did Valentina Shevchenko lose to Taila Santos?
Jun 12, 2022; Singapore, SIN; Valentina Shevchenko (red gloves) reacts after the fight against Taila Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 275 at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Miller-USA TODAY Sports:
[autotag]Valentina Shevchenko:[/autotag] seems a whole lot more certain than the rest of the world that she clearly beat Taila Santos. And her case is pretty legit, honestly.
There’s no doubt that Santos (19-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) presented Shevchenko (23-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) with a challenge she’d yet to see as UFC women’s flyweight champion. The Brazilian pushed “Bullet,” but the more I reflect and view the fight back, the more I convince myself that we’ve been so accustomed to seeing Shevchenko hardly break a sweat that the mere sight of her in bad spots makes us think the situation was worse than it was.
Make no mistake: Santos had Shevchenko in some tricky positions. She was one good hand-fighting maneuver away from locking a rear-naked choke that would have Shevchenko dead to rights, and then we’re here having a completely different conversation. The same potentially could be said if Santos did not catch an accidental head butt that broke her orbital bone.
MMA fights are not scored on what-ifs, though, and the judges have to score what’s legitimately happening. Shevchenko was the most active striker in every single round – even when she was in compromising areas – and it should speak volumes that Santos herself is not out here screaming robbery after the decision.
It was one of those fights you could debate long into the night if you wanted. But I sit here the day after the fight feeling quite unbothered that Shevchenko is still champ.
4. Farewell to Joanna Champion:
Joanna Jedrzejczyk after losing at UFC 275. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim / Getty Images)
[autotag]Joanna Jedrzejczyk:[/autotag] hasn’t been very active these past few years anyway, but knowing that she won’t be back after retiring from MMA following her brutal spinning backfist knockout loss to Zhang Weili is pretty sad.
Most retirements in this sport do not stick, as we’ve come to learn so many times. But Jedrzejczyk (16-5 MMA, 10-5 UFC) seemed very sincere, and the fact she’s almost 35 years old with almost 20 of those years consisting of being a muay-Thai or MMA fighter makes it seem like we’ve seen the last of her inside the octagon.
The extent of Jedrzejczyk’s legacy is not something that can be summed up in the space of this column, but there’s no question she’s one of the best to ever do it. Jedrzejczyk’s run as a dominant UFC strawweight champion was instrumental in helping the women’s side of the sport flourish, and the Polish fighter absolutely deserves all the praise she’s getting right now for her body of work.
Personally speaking, Jedrzejczyk has almost always been gracious toward me. She took time out of her busy schedule to do a fight week interview in her hotel room when she absolutely did not have to, and it was not the first instance of something like that happening.
Professionally speaking, Jedrzejczyk just understood the sport, both inside the octagon and out. She knew how to make people care about her one way or another, from her signature intense staredowns to her edgy quotes to her relentless fighting style. She was the complete package and maximized her opportunity.
Would it have been nice to see Jedrzejczyk make one last run at the title and perhaps even get UFC gold around her waist again? Of course. But as Chael Sonnen once said: The legends of this sport are almost always going to go out on their back in a depressing manner. Or in the case of Jedrzejczyk, she went out face down after getting rocked with a highlight-reel shot.
Nevertheless, the defeat to Zhang takes nothing away from what Jedrzejczyk has accomplished, and we can only wish her health, wealth and happiness as she moves on to the next stage of her life.
5. Jack Della Maddalena Delivers:
Jun 12, 2022; Singapore, SIN; Jack Della Maddalena (red gloves) reacts after fight against Ramazan Emeev (blue gloves) during UFC 275 at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Miller-USA TODAY Sports:
It’s always cool when a fighter makes a bold prediction then proceeds to live up to it perfectly. That’s what: [autotag]Jack Della Maddalena:[/autotag] did prior to putting away Ramazan Emeev.
Della Maddalena (12-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) told me on the Wednesday of fight week that he was going to shine in this performance and do what no other person in the UFC has been able to thus far: Stop Emeev inside the distance. Not only did he accomplish that goal, but he secured a TKO in the first round after surviving an early scare courtesy of Emeev’s slick submission attempt.
The victory started to put some attention on the Aussie, who has now won 12 consecutive fights – with all but one by stoppage – since he started his MMA career with back-to-back defeats.
It’s promising stuff from the 25-year-old, and although it’s too early to tell how far Della Maddalena can go, there ‘no doubt he’s part of the next generation coming out of his region.