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UFC 280 Review: Islam Makhachev is the King of the Lightweight Division!

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Etihad Arena in The United Arab Emirates was packed with excited fans, with celebrities’ such as Steve Harvey and Steven Seagal in attendance as well. Capitalizing on the opportunity to catapult himself into superstardom, Islam Makhachev delivered an impressive performance against Charles Oliveira, who is one of the greatest lightweights in UFC history. Overall, UFC 280 lived up to the expectations and did not leave the fans disappointed. There’s a lot to unpack here; without further ado, let’s get into it!

Oliveira vs. Makhachev

Islam Makhachev began round one by advancing with intense forward pressure. In response, Oliveira was able to execute one of his trademark level-changes and secure a takedown. After fighting to his feet, Makhachev responded with a back-trip, takedown combination of his own. He then began to pummel Oliveira with a barrage of punches, which he did not have an adequate response to. Overall, it was a very solid round for Makhachev who dominated the round with ground control time.

In round two, Makhachev landed a high kick followed by a flying knee. Oliveira attempted to thwart his opponent’s attack with a takedown but Makhachev’s defense proved to be superior. Makhachev then responded with a huge overhand right that sent Oliveira sprawling to the mat. He wisely followed the emphatic punch by pouncing on his opponent and establishing an arm triangle. The submission was too tight for Oliveira to escape from, forcing him to tap out or risk suffering a broken arm inside the octagon. With that submission, Islam Makhachev became the new undisputed UFC lightweight champion of the world!

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Sterling vs. Dillashaw

Reigning bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling entered the octagon with something to prove against former champion T.J. Dillashaw. Within the first 30 seconds of the fight, Sterling, who is one of the best wrestlers in the sport, scored a takedown. He then pummeled Dillashaw with a barrage of punches that he struggled to defend against. Sterling was eventually able to mount Dillashaw’s back and attempt a rear naked chokehold but Dillashaw was able to defend against it and fight back to his feet. Upon standing up, it became clear that Dillashaw’s left shoulder had popped out of place. He was able to survive the round, with his corner putting his shoulder back in place before round two.

Round two started off similar to round one, with Sterling scoring a takedown in the first minute of the period. It quickly became obvious that Dillashaw’s shoulder had popped out of place yet again. After Dillashaw once again fought to his feet, Sterling scored another takedown, this time unleashing a barrage of punches that rendered Dillashaw defenseless and forced the referee to stop the fight. Aljamain Sterling has now defended his championship belt for a second consecutive time, something that is very difficult to do in the bantamweight division!

Yan vs. O’Malley

Sean O’Malley and Petr Yan engaged in a classic bantamweight battle that begs for a rematch. This was a great fight between two of the best gladiators in the division. It’s a shame someone had to lose; these two fighters would have benefited from this being slated for five rounds instead of three. Regardless, they each deserve a round of applause for giving the fans their money’s worth.

O’Malley started off round one by utilizing leg kicks to establish distance. However, the shorter man, Yan, would not be denied as he executed a well timed body kick to O’Malley’s midsection. As the round progressed, Yan continued to apply forward pressure and land scoring blows with strikes. He then landed a huge body slam at the 1:30 mark of the round. O’Malley was able to fight back to his feet but the momentum of the fight was clearly on Yan’s side.

In round two, O’Malley landed a huge overhand right that left Yan visibly stunned. Yan responded with a right hand of his own that was equally damaging. He then followed up his strike with a well-executed takedown. Although O’Malley fought to his feet, Yan was able to score two more takedowns before the end of the round. In round three O’Malley started with calf kicks before landing two right handed jabs that hurt Yan. The second jab opened a cut over Yan’s left eye. The two men ended the fight on the mat after yet another takedown by Yan.

Sean O’Malley was awarded a split decision victory for his efforts. While both of these men fought admirably, I feel the wrong fighter was given the victory by the judges. Yes, O’Malley landed more strikes and opened up a cut that caused Yan to bleed, but Yan scored enough takedowns and combined those with enough striking power to emerge victorious in my opinion. Nevertheless, no fan would turn down a chance to see these two warriors go at it again. Both of these men left everything they had inside the octagon tonight.

Dariush vs. Gamrot

Lightweight contender Beneil Dariush began his fight against Mateusz Gamrot in the unfamiliar position of being the underdog. At the beginning of the fight, Gamrot immediately showed why he is so highly touted when he landed a strike that opened up a cut on Dariush’s left ear. About a minute-and-a-half into the fight, Gamrot scored a takedown, however, Dariush used the opportunity to his advantage and attempted to secure a leg-lock. Gamrot was able to escape the maneuver and the round ended on fairly even terms.

Gamrot attempted another takedown at the beginning of round two, however, Dariush exhibited great defense and would not allow the maneuver to succeed. Dariush went on to dominate the rest of the round with well-timed strikes, inside leg kicks and impactful high kicks. The first half of round three was fairly even, but Dariush stole the momentum with a big overhand left that stunned Gamrot and sent him crashing to the mat. This strike was the deciding factor in the round and most likely swung the fight in Dariush’s favor in the mind of the judges. For his efforts Beneil Dariush was awarded a well-deserved unanimous decision victory!

Chookagian vs. Fiorot

Women’s flyweight prospect Manon Fiorot has been rising quickly through the division, with her eyes set on securing a title fight. Tonight, she performed well against the current number one contender, Katlyn Chookagian. Valentina Shevchenko has had a vice grip on the championship belt for years; Fiorot just put the champ on notice that she has some serious competition coming her way.

Fiorot’s strategy of applying forward pressure and relying on a relentless barrage of strikes paid dividends early and often. Chookagian’s ability to fight while backpedaling was impressive, but it was clear who was in control of the fight. Outside of a few well-timed high kicks, the majority of the highlights during this fight belonged to Fiorot. She added the exclamation point to her performance when she completed the first and only takedown of the fight in the final minute of round three.

For her efforts, Manon Fiorot was awarded a unanimous decision victory. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is the new number one contender when the new divisional rankings are released in the early part of next week.

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Major Takeaways

Islam Makhachev’s ascension to the UFC lightweight championship has seemed to be a foregone conclusion for quite some time. However, I thought Charles Oliveira would be able to make him wait to finally wear the crown. Makhachev proved me and anyone else who doubted him wrong. In the most talented division in the sport, he is the best fighter and the most skilled technician. He is only 31-years-old; his reign of terror over the division could be long and ferocious. There are many men who would like to challenge him for the belt, but as of right now, it appears that none are equipped to take it from him.

What’s Next

The UFC returns next weekend with another edition of Fight Night from The Apex Center in Las Vegas. The main event of the evening features featherweight contender Calvin Kattar going up against seasoned veteran Arnold Allen; you won’t want to miss it. As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis, available right here at World in Sport!

Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.

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