Saturday’s UFC 226 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Las Vegas, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at T-Mobile Arena.
1 – Daniel Cormier
Hmmm, who was the big winner on Saturday night? I guess the guy who made history, set up a mega payday before he walks off into the sunset next year and finally put some past ghosts to rest is a good choice. Daniel Cormier stunned the world with his knockout of Stipe Miocic, in the process joining Conor McGregor as the only two fighters to hold two UFC titles simultaneously. So if DC was looking for legacy, he got it. And by doing that, it doesn’t remove the two blemishes on his record against Jon Jones, but it does push them into the background when breaking down his career. And if Jones does return before Cormier calls it quits, is there a bigger bout than Jones-Cormier III? Well, maybe Cormier-Brock Lesnar I. The former UFC champ made a big splash when he squared off with Cormier in the Octagon after Saturday’s bout, and while many have made their feelings known about that confrontation and they’re not pleased with it, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when it all comes down to it, the fighters have to fight. All the talk and all the hype means nothing when the Octagon gate shuts. And if Cormier is going to fight Lesnar, I want to see it.
2 – Anthony Pettis
We’ve waited a long time to see Anthony Pettis back in the Octagon. Not that guy who’s shown up over the last couple years, but the guy who was expected to rule the lightweight division for as long as he wanted to back in 2014. That guy was back on Saturday night, as he beat a tough Michael Chiesa via submission. It was a signature victory for “Showtime,” who showed glimpses of past form in his loss to Dustin Poirier last November, but who looked better than ever in a win over Chiesa that should be a confidence booster and the ticket to an even bigger fight the next time out.
3 – Dan Hooker
Ever since moving to the lightweight division a little over a year ago, Dan Hooker has looked like one of the best fighters at 155 pounds. On Saturday, I think the rest of the division realized it. His first-round knockout of Gilbert Burns was the kind of victory that should propel him up the lightweight ladder and into a big fight his next time out, and if you’re still not convinced that “The Hangman” is the real deal, hit your UFC FIGHT PASS account and watch him defeat Ross Pearson, Marc Diakiese and Jim Miller.
4 – Paulo Costa
Just hearing some of the shots landed by Paulo Costa on Uriah Hall Saturday night would make me want to reconsider my career path if I was a UFC middleweight. And he took some hard shots in return from Hall, but like a Brazilian tank, Costa kept moving forward, determined to end the fight. And he did. Just like his three previous UFC bouts. So what could be next for “The Eraser”? Is it too early or too much to ask the MMA Gods for Costa vs Israel Adesanya?
5 – Khalil Rountree Jr.
When I read Gokhan Saki’s thoughts on Khalil Rountree Jr. for his UFC bio update, I got intimidated and I wasn’t even fighting him. So what did Rountree think, knowing that he was fighting a decorated kickboxer who had picked out several holes in his game before the two even stepped inside the Octagon? Apparently, he did not read this memo from Saki, as he scored a spectacular knockout win that took just 96 seconds. It was vindication for Rountree, who was a big underdog despite being a talented young man still finding his way in the MMA world. A win like that can do wonders for a fighter, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.