UFC 238 stock watch: Who's up, who's down after Chicago?
UFC 238 is in the books, and it’s time to take stock in the evening’s performances. MMA Junkie looks at who’s up, who’s down and who’s flat after a night of action at United Center in Chicago
There’s an Olympian. There’s a guy who knows how to win. The guy who had his legs taken away in two rounds left the guy who took them unable to stand in the third. Cejudo was getting merked, and he adjusted mid-fight with the strategy to beat Marlon Moraes, a talented but fallible threat. All the silly WWE antics in the world don’t change the fact that Cejudo is a truly special athlete. History hasn’t been kind to champ-champs so far. But maybe Cejudo is the guy to turn it around, dominating both classes to cement himself as the GOAT. Why not be optimistic for once?
Look at the current women’s flyweight ranks, and tell me who has a shot at the champ right now. There are fighters who might be able to last five rounds. There are a few who could give her a good fight a year or two down the line. There just aren’t any that look remotely close to ready right now. Shevchenko is head and shoulders above anyone at 125 pounds, and the longer she goes on like this, the more interesting a trilogy with Amanda Nunes looks.
A weird, entirely legal ending obscured the more important point on Saturday night, and that’s the comeback Ferguson pulled off. Considering the headwinds he faced going into the fight, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if he’d lost a step. But it looked like another day at the office for one of the most creative combatants in the game. Give that man his title shot.
Don’t let Yan back you to the cage, a directive that seems simple enough and yet so difficult to execute against the wily Russian. At the end of each round, he debuts a new sequence of strikes that surprises you, and you’re suddenly fighting for your life.
That’s the way things went for Jimmie Rivera, who despite all his talent couldn’t find a way to contain Yan. The 26-year-old’s mix of striking and wrestling looks pretty unbeatable. Even scarier, he’s got a youthful chin that can survive shots his veteran colleagues wouldn’t. A fight with Corey Sandhagen seems like the perfect crucible for a title eliminator. But the way Yan looks now, there’s nothing he can’t handle in the bantamweight division.
There have been times when it looked like Sterling relied on the get-out-of-jail-free card his wrestling gives him in fights. Throw a couple of high kicks, distract foe, and shoot. Well, the “Funkmaster” we saw on Saturday didn’t get one takedown, and he still dominated. It wasn’t in the way a young gunslinger might. There were no wild exchanges that would put Pedro Munhoz at an advantage. Instead, it was an educated approach to a dangerous opponent, and Sterling even threw in a little flair by inviting Munhoz to go kick for kick and punch for punch in the third. Sterling has picked up some big wins as of late and should get a shot at Cejudo, if there’s any meaning to divisions any more.
Grasso didn’t have much time to adjust before she got tossed into the UFC against the best of the strawweight bunch. And why not? The talent she showed in Invicta FC made her every bit worthy of the buzz around her. She didn’t fare well against Felice Herrig and Tatiana Suarez. But against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Grasso looked exactly like the young phenom on the way to a title shot. Favorable matchups will do that for you, of course. Kowalkiewicz’s attack played right into her hand. It was still an impressive sight, and she should get another crack at a division standout.
Call it the power of the mustache. Wineland has been through so many ups and downs, so many injuries and triumphs and defeats, it’s hard not to homer for the former WEC champ. Maybe it was having his back to the wall with two straight losses, or the hometown crowd cheering him on, or Grigorii Popov’s just-happy-to-be-here vibe. Any way you slice it, Wineland looked like the guy who could give anyone in the bantamweight division trouble.
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