Saturday’s UFC 229 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 – Khabib Nurmagomedov*
Why the asterisk? Because while UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov delivered the best performance of his career under the brightest lights ever, the post-fight incidents that made headlines around the sports world not only put his win below the fold when talking about Saturday night, but it also leaves question marks about his future that will only be answered when the Nevada State Athletic Commission addresses the aftermath of UFC 229. But all that aside, Nurmagomedov proved himself the superior fighter at T-Mobile Arena, and while there will be calls from some for a rematch with Conor McGregor, the only fight for this division will be between “The Eagle” and the man in the number two spot on this list…
2 – Tony Ferguson
There was no way Tony Ferguson should have been back this soon after major knee surgery. And there was no way he should have put on the fight he did against Anthony Pettis. But “El Cucuy” silenced any doubters in emphatic fashion with his two-round stoppage of “Showtime” in Saturday’s co-main event. It was the perfect fight to remind the world that Ferguson is an elite athlete and thrilling performer who will ignite any arena. Now picture his relentless pressure against Nurmagomedov’s equally punishing style. Start lighting candles to the MMA Gods that this one finally happens.
3 – Derrick Lewis
There are some athletes that are just National Treasures, regardless of what happens on the field of play. Derrick Lewis is that guy for mixed martial arts. Deadpan humor, a mellow charisma, and the ability to knock people out is a deadly combination for Texas’ “Black Beast,” and after his come from behind finish of Alexander Volkov, he’s won nine of his last ten and three in a row. In other words, Mr. Lewis may be looking at a title shot soon.
“Usually I only train 30 minutes a day. I tried doing an hour. I guess now I gotta train a couple of more hours.” - @TheBeast_UFC after his epic comeback knockout. #UFC229 pic.twitter.com/6q5CSAZjT9
— UFC News (@UFCNews) October 7, 2018
4 – Dominick Reyes
When you win a bunch of fights to start your career, knock most of your opponents out and barely get touched in the process, there will be doubters. Dominick Reyes is well aware of that, and he heard those doubts when he faced Jared Cannonier in May. He won that fight in less than three minutes. Then the doubts were back when it was announced that he was going to meet Ovince Saint Preux on Saturday. He shut OSP out over three rounds. Still doubting Reyes? Don’t. He’s for real.
Vicente Luque is on my “Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos list” of underrated fighters who always deliver excitement on fight night. And he will remain there indefinitely. But “The Silent Assassin” should be joining another list this week, and that’s the list of top 15 welterweights. He’s 7-2 with seven finishes and three wins in a row in the UFC. This is long overdue. As for Ms. Ladd, wow! No one does that to Tonya Evinger, and after just seven pro fights, it was a statement to the elite of the bantamweight division that the Californian is coming. Look out.