The three-night flurry of UFC events kicked off with a bang on Thursday when Rose Namajunas and Paige VanZant battled in a bloody strawweight fight. The anticipation of UFC 194 only grew on Friday when Frankie Edgar’s first-round KO of Chad Mendes got people talking about the future of the featherweight division – pending the result of Aldo-McGregor, of course.
Edgar and Namajunas weren’t the only stars of the pre-194 events. Tony Ferguson made waves at the top of the lightweight division and Sage Northcutt continues to climb from the bottom of the 155-ers.
Today’s talking points …
1. Does Frankie Edgar win or lose after UFC 194?
Saturday night couldn’t have gone much better for Frankie Edgar and the promise he received from Dana White on Friday at Fight Night Las Vegas.
Edgar’s first-round KO of Chad Mendes guaranteed him a spot in the next featherweight title, according to White. Some questioned, though, whether Jose Aldo could be denied a rematch against McGregor if he were to lose in an all-out brawl type of fight.
Luckily for Edgar, that trump card is out of the equation. McGregor KO’ed Aldo in 13 seconds, which may have assured Edgar his place in the next featherweight championship fight. Who he’ll face is the only remaining question, as it’s not certain whether McGregor will take the Edgar fight or move up the 155-pound lightweight division.
2. The crowded 155-ers
The top of the lightweight division just got a bit more crowded. Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza put on an electrifying bout that ended in a Ferguson d’arce submission of Barboza in Round 2, the entire crowd on their feet and a $100k bonus for “El Cucuy”.
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“I said I was going to take apart this entire division and that’s what I’m doing,” Ferguson said. “If No. 5 is afraid of me, then I’ll go to No. 4 and same thing all the way to No. 1. I’m top five in the lightweight division, there’s no doubt about that.”
Ferguson’s thrilling win earned Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night bonuses, each worth $50k.
“Ferguson looked incredible tonight. That was one of the best fights of the year,” White said.
It’s Ferguson’s seventh straight victory and it puts his name on the list of potential lightweight title challengers. But that could be a long list after the results of Fight Night in Orlando on Dec. 19.
Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone will fight for the title in Florida with fifth-ranked Michael Johnson fighting Nate Diaz on the same card. In Boston on Jan. 17, the No. 1-ranked challenger - and former champ - Anthony Pettis takes on No. 4 Eddie Alvarez.
And let’s not forget the words of “The Notorious” Conor McGregor, who’s made it clear his plan is to become the first multi-division champ in the UFC.
Ferguson’s explosive win on Friday is enough to move up the ranks. Was it enough to get him his title shot, though?
“I finished Edson Barboza with a d’arce choke. What else do you want?” Ferguson asked.
Ferguson will play the waiting game as the upcoming Fight Night’s in Orlando in Boston will have a big impact on his fate.
3. Humble Rose
Rose Namajuna’s victory over Paige VanZant on the UFC’s FIGHT PASS card on Thursday was as dominant a performance there is. “Thug” won every round, bloodied the young VanZant and finished her in the final frame by submission.
More on Fight Night Namajunas vs. VanZant: Watch all the action again! Subscribe to UFC FIGHT PASS | Rose prevails, Paige earns respect | Sage silences doubters with win | Postfight bonuses | Complete results | Backstage interviews: Rose Namajunas, Sage Northcutt, Michael Chiesa, Aljamain Sterling, Thiago Santos | Octagon interviews: Rose Namajunas, Sage Northcutt, Michael Chiesa | Fight Night Vegas pictures
So what’s next for Namajunas? A dominant performance from a top-ranked fighter in a main event normally has them calling for a shot at the belt. But not Namajunas.
The third-ranked strawweight was calm and understanding in hearing she won’t be taking part in the next title fight. All she wants is some vacation time and to keep improving. If Namajunas keeps fighting like she did Thursday, it won’t be long before the fans will call for her title shot – even if she won’t speak out.
4. Did Sage prove his legitimacy?
Sage Northcutt’s natural athleticism and power were put on display in his first ever UFC fight when he earned a TKO win over Francisco Trevino at UFC 192. Though people have questioned: is he anything more?
On Thursday, Northcutt entered the Octagon against Cody Pfister and delivered a perfect game plan. He allowed the wrestling-minded Pfister shoot for a takedown at the start of Round 2 and took to the attack by submitting Pfister.
The UFC’s youngest product still has plenty to prove. Thursday was a big step, though.
Jon Gagnon is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com Follow him on Twitter at @jgagnonUFC