What mattered most at UFC Fight Night 228 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight musings …
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What would you do if you were Cody Brundage?
I’m not here to make any claims of knowing what was going through Cody Brundage’s mind after Jacob Malkoun landed a blatant illegal shot to the back of his head to get disqualified from their middleweight bout. I have no idea how hurt Brundage really was – all I can judge is what I saw.
Do equally significant illegal blows of this manner go unnoticed or unpunished all the time? Yeah. Constantly. Referee Mark Smith was on top of this one, though, and Malkoun (7-3 MMA, 3-3 UFC) was caught red-handed. At worst this would’ve been a point deduction. Possibly two points. But it’s all predicated on Brundage (9-5 MMA, 3-4 UFC) being able to continue fighting, and he couldn’t. That left two options: Disqualification or no contest.
I think the result was the correct one, but lots of people are throwing hate on Brundage for embellishing the severity of the situation, “quitting” or taking “the easy way out.” Only he knows the answer to that, but I wouldn’t blame him if he did. He came into this bout with three straight losses and the fight wasn’t going his way, so if Malkoun is going to hand him a win on a silver platter, then, my man, go ahead and take it.
Michelle Waterson-Gomez's understandable emotion
First off, we need to give major credit to Marina Rodriguez. She looked in perhaps the most dangerous form of her entire UFC career in a completely relentless and unforgiving beatdown of Michelle Waterson-Gomez. The Brazilian is definitely still a contender at strawweight despite her previous back-to-back losses, and she needs a big fight next.
The story coming away from the fight, to me, however, was Waterson-Gomez (18-11 MMA, 6-7 UFC). She showed ridiculous heart in fighting through multiple cuts and blood that came as a result of the Rodriguez (17-3-2 MMA, 7-3-2 UFC) onslaught. The moment she was stopped for the TKO – which was her first defeat by strikes in 14 years – all the emotion came out and she sobbed inside the cage.
I definitely get it. This was a huge fight for Waterson-Gomez. She lost three straight coming in, and said she made a lot of changes both mentally and physically coming into the fight. She also felt the terms of this rematch were more favorable to her after losing a decision to Rodriguez in a short-notice main event in the women’s flyweight division in May 2021.
None of that paid dividends. She was defeated much more thoroughly than the first time around, and now she’s on a four-fight skid. At 37, these are the types of situations that raise questions about a fighter’s future.
In fairness to Waterson-Gomez, she is fighting some of the best of her weight class over and over. But she’s definitely not looking anywhere to her prime form in these fights, and she’s going to have to decide with her family and team what that means for her career prospects going forward.
Bryce Mitchell goes full Bryce Mitchell
Bryce Mitchell returned from a more than nine-month layoff to outwork Dan Ige for a unanimous decision in a solid bounce-back performance after his undefeated record was taken away by Ilia Topuria in December.
It was an essential win for Mitchell (16-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) after having all his momentum dashed away, but the story of the night wasn’t what he did in the octagon during the 15-minute fight. It was what happened before the contest began, then after he was announced the victor, that had everyone talking.
I am by no means trying to ridicule a fighter for their religion or beliefs. If Mitchell wants to hold the Bible high above his head and scream “FREEDOM” while Joe Martinez introduces him, then more power to the guy. His life is clearly buoyed by his faith, and he is not afraid to display that for the world to see, or to speak passionately about it. That’s totally fine.
Where things get dicey is in the aftermath of the fight, when Mitchell starts speaking about the devil’s influence on the world and parroting outlandish conspiracy theories about the Hawaii wildfires while essentially forcing Hawaii native Ige to stand by his side and listen to it all. Mitchell said he would donate $5,000 for Ige to help support those harmed by the wildfires, which in a vacuum, is a nice gesture.
In the overall scheme of what Mitchell delivered in his post-fight interview, though, it doesn’t overshadow the many highly suspect things that came out of his mouth. Thankfully, Michael Bisping was the in-cage interviewer and prevented the scene from going too far off the deep end, but this is the Bryce Mitchell experience. Put a camera in his face or a microphone in his hand, and live with the consequences of what’s to follow.
The UFC isn’t ignorant of what it has in Mitchell. He’s going to say some wild stuff with some potentially dangerous messaging behind it. But given this is an organization where free speech is encouraged and the punishments are few and far between when people actually do cross the line, it just rolls off the back of the viewers and we move on to the next thing.
The main event injury debate
It’s been a minute since we had a main event end like this and bring up a conversation that seems to foster lots of strong opinions out of people.
Rafael Fiziev’s knee gave out on him in the second round of the lightweight headliner with Mateusz Gamrot, causing the fight to be stopped and leaving the fighters, the promotion and the fans disappointed with an anticlimactic end.
This was a common theme last year, when main event fights of Tom Aspinall vs. Curtis Blaydes, Brian Ortega vs. Yair Rodriguez and Calvin Kattar vs. Arnold Allen all ended prematurely due to injury. And the narrative is the same every time.
Critics will say Gamrot (23-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) got lucky and that Fiziev (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) sustained a “fluke” injury. It’s not a real win in the mind of the naysayers, especially because it was a competitive fight up until the point of the injury. If Gamrot was dominating it would be easier to cope with the result, but the momentum was arguably on the side of Fiziev.
Moreover, the mere suggestion from Gamrot that his stern striking defense and focus on blocking kicks may have contributed to Fiziev’s body betraying him, is met with mockery and dismissal.
That puts Gamrot in a situation where it’s really tough to get people on his side. The Polish fighter has now had doubt cast over his past three wins. The injury TKO of Fiziev then a pair of debated decisions over Jalin Turner and Arman Tsarukyan are the latest notches on his resume, and it hasn’t exactly led to growth in his fanbase.
Nevertheless, Gamrot only goes forward from here. It might not be easy for him to secure the next marquee fight in the lightweight division, which is in a bit of an odd place right now outside of the scheduled title fight between Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira, but you’d rather be the winner here in Gamrot opposed to Fiziev, who had to be helped out of the octagon by his team.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 228.