Saturday’s UFC Calgary event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Canada, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Scotiabank Saddledome.
1 – Jose Aldo
Before Saturday’s co-main event with Jeremy Stephens, I wondered if a great fighter like Jose Aldo had one great fight left in him. I got my answer, and while the Brazilian star took his share of shots early from the “Lil’ Heathen,” a shot to the liver changed everything and put Aldo back in the win column for the first time in two years and also saw him score his first finish since August 2013. The win didn’t just re-ignite his career, but seeing his emotional reaction to the result reminded us just how much this sport means to his life. Aldo has always been a class act, and seeing him get this one after a pair of tough losses made me throw objectivity out the window and cheer along with him.
2 – Dustin Poirier
Speaking of class acts, Dustin Poirier has always been someone you want to cheer for, and through the ups and downs, he’s always showed up to fight, and that persistence is finally paying off. Unbeaten since a loss to Michael Johnson in 2016, Poirier has dug deep, fought through adversity and defeated two former UFC champions (Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis) as well as longtime WSOF champ Justin Gaethje. In other words, he’s earned his shot at the lightweight crown, but if the next shot at Khabib Nurmagomedov goes to Conor McGregor, Poirier vs Tony Ferguson sounds great to me.
3 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Where would Joanna Jedrzejczyk be if she lost to Tecia Torres on Saturday? That would be three straight defeats and an uncertain future. But luckily for the former strawweight champ, that’s a question she won’t have to answer, as she got back in the win column by turning back Torres on Saturday. Still an elite striker, Jedrzejczyk’s grappling defense was also top notch, as she refused to let Torres get the fight to the mat. And at range, Joanna was Joanna, which means she’s still an elite 115-pounder. Do I want to see a third bout with champion Rose Namajunas, who handed JJ the only two losses of her career? Yeah, I do.
4 – Dustin Ortiz
I’m going to repeat myself and add a new name to this list. Ray Borg, Justin Scoggins, Hector Sandoval, Alexandre Pantoja, Matheus Nicolau. All top flyweight prospects, all turned back by Mr. Dustin Ortiz. If you’re a rising star at 125 pounds, that’s the name you don’t want to see on your bout agreement, but now Ortiz has his longest winning streak since joining the UFC roster (three), he’s in the top ten and rising, and he has to take the next step. And that next step means winning the big one. He’s lost to Joe Benavidez, John Moraga and Jussier Formiga, and those are the fights he has to win to get a title shot. But hey, he looks like he’s ready.
5 – John Makdessi
John Makdessi has been doing his thing in the UFC for a long time, and since 2010, he’s had moments of brilliance and moments that were less than brilliant. That’s part of the game, and while he’s never challenged for a title or got into the title race, he’s been a solid pro with the potential for more. On Saturday, after his second camp with Duke Roufus and the Roufusport squad, Makdessi reminded us of what he can do when he’s on. Faced with an aggressive opponent in Ross Pearson who was going to press him for three rounds, Makdessi responded in kind with a technical display that showed what top-level striking looks like. More of this Makdessi please.