Saturday’s UFC 274 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Phoenix, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Footprint Center.
1 – Charles Oliveira
Charles Oliveira’s UFC 274 experience had the potential to be disastrous after he missed weight for his main event bout against Justin Gaethje and lost his lightweight title on the scales, but then he went out and got into a hellacious 3:22 firefight with Gaethje, rose from the canvas twice, and finished “The Highlight” via rear naked choke. So when it was over, yeah, “Do Bronx” didn’t have the belt around his waist, and he wasn’t eligible for what would have likely been a performance bonus, but he still won over more fans and cemented his place as not just the best lightweight on the planet, but one of the best lightweights ever. And he’ll get a chance to reclaim his belt officially in his next fight. That’s not a bad weekend after all.
2 – Michael Chandler
If not for Charles Oliveira’s stirring victory in last Saturday’s main event, the big winner at UFC 274 would have clearly been Michael Chandler. No, there weren’t any belts or title shots on the line in his fight with Tony Ferguson, but you wouldn’t have known that by the intensity Chandler brought to the bout before, during and after it. Chandler has been a spectacular addition to the roster, and he showed why once again with a blistering knockout of a fighter who never got finished in such devastating fashion before. What’s next for “Iron” Michael? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. Yes, Mike, we’re entertained.
3 – Carla Esparza
No, Carla Esparza’s title-winning effort over Rose Namajunas will not hit any Fight of the Year lists. That much is clear. But if we’re talking about a fighter who is in a much different and positive place after her victory, the “Cookie Monster” is it. She made history by regaining the 115-pound title, she is now a champion with plenty of options for intriguing fights, and she has come full circle in a UFC career that began with a title and now has it back in her possession. If Esparza loses last weekend, the odds of her getting another crack at the crown anytime soon would be slim, especially with a long list of contenders wanting their shot. But now she’s the one in the driver’s seat, and that’s a win, regardless of what anyone thinks of her rematch with “Thug Rose”.
4 – Brandon Royval
In our chat before UFC 274, Brandon Royval defined for me who he is as a fighter. “A fighter is someone who's looking for the kill at all times and who's ready to put themselves in the fire because they know they're gonna come out unscathed.” Yeah, Royval is a fighter, and he proved it again last weekend with a frantic two minutes and 14 seconds against Matt Schnell. The flyweights jumped into the fire and Royval dodged some adversity before submitting Schnell, and I will mention again that while I get into the fights for free, Royval is someone I would pay to see. Win, lose or draw, he brings it.
5 – Andre Fialho
If he isn’t already, Andre Fialho is well on his way to becoming your new favorite fighter. Ready to go at all times against anybody, and eager to not just win fights, but finish them, the Portugal native made his third UFC start of the year last Saturday and after eating a hard shot from Cameron VanCamp, he closed the show by knockout moments later. And after a solid short-notice effort against Michel Pereira in January, a knockout of Miguel Baeza and a possible spot on June’s show in Singapore, Fialho has a strong case as the top UFC newcomer of 2022 thus far.
UFC 274: Oliveira vs Gaethje took place on Saturday, May 7, 2022, live from a sold out Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!