What mattered most at UFC Fight Night 232 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight musings …
Joanderson Brito answers Jonathan Pearce's plea
Not everyone watching may have caught it on the broadcast, but Joanderson Brito turned the tables on Jonathan Pearce in one of the quickest moments of karma in recent memory.
With Pearce controlling the action from top position in the second round, he started trash talking Brito (16-3-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) and telling him to “get up and do something.” Well, Brito answered the call. Moments later, he stood up, locked in a slick ninja choke submission and forced the tap. It was a wild scene as the Brazilian then took his pants off in a Derrick Lewis-style celebration.
It was a huge win for Brito, who now has four straight finishes in the featherweight division. He is a name to keep tabs on, while Pearce’s stock takes a blow. The MMA Junkie Under-the-Radar Fighter of the Year from 2022 was forced to take a long break from competition due to an ACL injury. His five-fight winning streak was ended, and he was taught a lesson in focus and humility.
Myktybek Orolbai's intriguing debut
Although the turnover at the very top has been slow and at times agonizing, the UFC lightweight division has a strong of a crop of names on the rise, and Myktybek Orolbai may now be part of that.
We don’t want to get too excited based off one performance, but Orolbai’s (12-1-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) dominant effort en route to a neck crack finish of Uros Medic was impressive, especially when done as a replacement on just four days’ notice. Moreover, he did it at welterweight, when he’s normally a lightweight.
The Kyrgyzstan-born fighter already has a UFC-ready skill set, and it seems he could be competitive at either 170 or 155 pounds. If he follows through on his plan to return to the latter, he could have a good chance at being a potential force once he gets more experience at this level under his belt.
Amanda Ribas is her best self at strawweight
Amanda Ribas returned to the strawweight division with a dazzling finish of top-10 ranked Luana Pinheiro, and it proved once and for all this is the weight class for her – so long as the cut down is safe.
Ribas (13-4 MMA, 7-3 UFC) has jumped between 115 pounds and 125 pounds during her octagon tenure. She’s 2-2 when fighting at the latter, and elevated her UFC record at strawweight to 5-1 with the third-round TKO of Pinheiro, which came after landing a brilliant spinning kick.
It seems Ribas is now comfortable with the idea of what she needs to be doing with her career. She has the experience and knowhow to overcome a rough start like she did against Pinheiro, then pick up the pace to get the job done. With the right commitment and dedication, she can certainly flirt with the top five of the weight class, which she’s done before. Let’s see if she can maintain the focus to make a run, because the tools are there.
Paul Craig's style sees ceiling in second division
The main event result was one that’s likely going to follow Paul Craig for a while. He was completely overmatched in his best area by Brendan Allen on the ground, and it set up his submission loss in the third round of his first headlining opportunity.
It was shades of some of the roadblocks Craig (17-7-1 MMA, 9-7-1 UFC) ran into during his light heavyweight stint. He was all too happy to give up position and take damage in hopes of catching his opponent in a mistake, and when it didn’t happen, he was toast.
After Craig shined in his middleweight debut earlier this year, the optimists believed his size and strength in the division would widen his room for error and give him different advantages. That might still be the case against a lot of 185-pound fighters, but against a surging contender on the rise in Allen, he was made to look out of his depth.
Craig’s opportunistic submission talent remains a driving force of his game, but merely dropping down 20 pounds wasn’t the fix he needs to reach the top. His drop-off in skill in terms of wrestling and overall striking are parts of the game he still needs to work on. But with his 36th birthday just over a week away, it’s hard not to wonder if it’s too late.
Brendan Allen's stock continues to rise at 185
This column has been a place of praise for Brendan Allen for several years at this point, and he continues to live up to the high expectations placed on him.
Although many other people have been slow to come around on Allen (23-5 MMA, 11-2 UFC), his performance against Craig started to open eyes and turn heads that he’s a contender to be taken seriously in the middleweight division.
There’s been a couple of rough points for Allen during his UFC tenure, but those are starting to feel like a distant memory after his third-round submission of Craig, which extended his overall winning streak to six fights, including four by rear-naked choke.
Finding criticisms for Allen on this one are tough. He showed some evolution on the feet, and went straight into the fire against the strongest point of Craig’s game – then finished him there. What more could you ask for him out of the 27-year-old? Not much.
The recognition and opportunities Allen has been working toward are starting to come around for real now, and the next stage of his career is going to be the most serious. Title eliminators, title shots, title defences and more are right within his grasp, but this is the level-up fighters historically have the most trouble dealing with. I’m confident Allen is equipped for it, but only time will tell.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 232.