It’s already in the conversation for fight card of the year. From top to bottom, UFC 228 delivered in the way the best events do: crazy finishes, delightful surprises, and world-class martial arts excellence. And like every Sunday that follows epic nights like that one, we reflect on what comes next in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
These are the UFC 228 talking points.
“Winning conquers everything,” he reminded his detractors at the post-fight press conference.
There is truth in that statement. Astoundingly, UFC 228 marked the third time in four title defenses that Woodley was a betting underdog.
Surpassing the satisfaction of silencing his doubters, however, was the belt after the belt: coach Din Thomas awarded Woodley his jiu-jitsu black belt. Woodley admitted to getting teary-eyed on the walk to the Octagon, recalling how long he and Thomas had worked together and all they had been through.
“I was going to win that anyway,” Woodley said, pointing to the welterweight title. “This [black belt] was a surprise…definitely more emotionally rewarding.”
"We have two Brazilian belt holders fighting Dec. 29. Both happen to be female. It'd be nice to fight for the title on that card." @JessicaMMAPro at the #UFC228 post-fight press conference https://t.co/33qq1csur5 pic.twitter.com/o2bHyFT7ib
— UFC (@ufc) September 9, 2018
There was a good argument that Jessica Andrade was already the most deserving contender to have the next shot at champion Rose Namajuas before Saturday night. With her one-punch Performance of the Night knockout of Karolina Kowalkiewicz, however, she removed any last shred of doubt. Andrade has been on a tear since reinventing herself as a strawweight, and fight after fight, she shows
continuing signs of advancement that make her a difficult puzzle for her opponents to solve.
“When I look to the past, I see how much I have evolved,” she said following the victory. “I’m just learning everyday a little bit more. Now it’s my time. I beat a very tough opponent, who already beat Rose Namajunas. I want to fight Rose for the belt, in Las Vegas, at UFC 232.”
Around the Card
In a night filled with thrilling brawls and fantastic finishes, there was still one fight that was the hands-down Fight of the Night winner before we even saw the ten bouts that followed. If you missed the FIGHT PASS prelim between bantamweights Irene Aldana and Lucie Pudilova, stop whatever you’re doing and go watch it now. It was the kind of epic fisticuffs that are the spirit of the sport itself: heart, determination, and ferocity.
Tatiana Suarez continued her undefeated ascent by positively smothering former champ Carla Esparza with the wrestling prowess that is her bread and butter. The TKO victory is the biggest of her promising careers, and whispers of a top contender matchup are already underway.
Veteran Jim Miller became the first UFC fighter to make his 30th walk to the Octagon, and he absolutely made the most of it. Ending a four fight losing streak in dramatic fashion, he choked out the always-tough Alex White in the first round.
As emotional as this would be on its own, Miller later explained that the win was extra sweet because it marked a turning point in his battle with Lyme disease.
“The last six or eight months I’ve felt pretty damn good. I’ve been able to train in a way that gets me ready to do my best inside the Octagon. That’s something I hadn’t been able to do in a long time. Way too long.”
Till Next Time
“I was 10-0 when I fought for my first world title. I wouldn’t be here without that loss.”
Darren Till’s toughness is unquestionable; he weathered a barrage of fists and elbows from the champ that would have ended most fighters. But against Woodley’s vast skill set, the disparity in their experience was evident. But if the Liverpudlian is known for pre-fight bravado and bombast, in his first defeat he was the picture of candid composure.
“He’s not a better fighter than me, but tonight he was better. It kills me inside, it does. I’m not going to lie. The loss came tonight. There will probably be another loss. But I’m still going to be the greatest fighter of all time. I know I am.”
On that point, his opponent agrees. When they met backstage following the fight, Woodley reminded Till that the all-time greats of the sport all have losses, including himself, a point he reiterated for the press.
“When you’re undefeated, you don’t know [you’re going to lose]. I’ve been in that position. 10-0. Rising star. Everybody thought I was the hottest thing on the block. I got knocked out, and it broke my heart. I never thought I was going to lose. So I think he’ll rebuild the same way. He’s tough. He’s confident. He’ll have a promising future.”
Steve Latrell is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TheUFSteve