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The UFC returned to California for the first time since before anyone knew what COVID even meant for UFC 270, with two classic championship fights. First, Deiveson Figueiredo took the UFC Flyweight Championship belt back from Brandon Moreno in their third bout against each other, and then Ngannou retained his UFC Heavyweight Championship over Ciryl Gane in one of the most bizarre and anticipated heavyweight title fights of all time.
Of course, there was also plenty of other action over the course of the night, and SPIN was at the Honda Center in Anaheim for all 11 fights. Here’s The Best, The Mess & The Rest of everything that went down on Saturday night.
Vanessa Demopoulos — Just the second fight of the card already saw a potential Fight of the Night contender. Silvana Gomez Juarez dropped Vanessa Demopoulos with a huge right hand, only for Demopoulos to come back and submit Juarez with a slick armbar after surviving on the ground for a bit. After her first UFC win, Demopoulos earned some extra fans with an extremely excited post-fight interview ending with her leaping into the arms of an unsuspecting Joe Rogan. Talking to the media later in the evening, the 7-4 fighter admitted she “woke up on the ground” and has no recollection of the strikes she survived — and then credited her background as an exotic dancer for her ability to do the splits and some of her jiu jitsu prowess.
Bruce Buffer’s Gold Jacket — UFC in-ring announcer Bruce Buffer pretty much always looks great, but his bright gold jacket for the UFC’s first return to the Golden State since August 2019 was particularly appropriate and stylish. Buffer’s closet must be brighter than most Las Vegas casinos at this point, and it really doesn’t feel like a major UFC event without seeing what he has in store each time.
Two Title Fights — A lot of the big UFC pay-per-views these days feature two title fights, and it’s probably the best decision the company’s made in years when it comes to ensuring a quality night of fights every time out. Gone are the days of one dud title fight ruining a night, and UFC 270 was no exception. Having Mexico’s favorite MMA son Brandon Moreno’s first title defense in Southern California was a genius move, and coupling it with one of the biggest heavyweight fights in UFC history was a surefire way to make more casual fans care about the flyweights as well. Figueiredo reclaimed the belt against Moreno in an amazing back-and-forth battle (setting up the first tetralogy in UFC history) and that made up for the 25-minute puzzle that was Ngannou-Gane.
Surprising Fans — Look, the fans at an MMA event are always a mixed bag. You could see a fight break out one minute, a dance battle the next, and people drinking beer out of shoes by the end of the night. But not only were the fans out in full force for the two championship fights at the end of the night, the stands were already filling in surprisingly early for the first few preliminary bouts. Maybe people were just eager to get back to a live event since they’ve become so much less common the last couple of years — or perhaps there were just more friends, families and diehard fans of the fighters present — but for a card that seriously lacked high rankings and starpower outside of the last two matchups, the audience was still prepared to enjoy the full six hours of fights.
Michel Pereira vs. Andre Fialho — Every time Michel Pereira fights, you know it’s going to be a show. Will he ever win a UFC title? Probably not. But he’s always going to throw some insane spinning kicks, superman punches off the cage, and a variety of other crazy strikes. So when he gets partnered up with a more conventional boxer, like UFC newcomer Andre Fialho, it’s pretty much guaranteed fireworks. These two didn’t let anyone down, putting on a 15-minute brawl full of insane moments that raised both of their stocks going forward.
Changes and Cancelations — A lot of cards have been decimated by COVID cancellations and injuries in recent months and UFC 270 got hit about as hard as it could outside of two championship bouts. After a wide variety of opponent changes and canceled fights in the weeks leading up to the event, UFC 270 lost two more of its most interesting fights just hours beforehand. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend Rodolfo Vieira’s matchup with Wellington Turman fell apart late in the week and Ilia Topuria pulled out of his bout with Charles Jourdain at the eleventh hour after complaining about his original opponent pulling out prior. The 11 fights that were still scheduled on Saturday night went off without a hitch, but it would’ve been nice to still have some of the more anticipated undercard bouts intact.
Local Staff/Logistics — As far as large-scale live events go, the UFC is generally better than most other big names. While most sports leagues are used to hosting events at their teams’ stadiums, the UFC puts on shows all over the planet generally with a lot more efficiency and less scandal than something like Live Nation. Likewise, the Honda Center is generally a pretty good place for an event. Aside from hosting the Ducks for hockey, they’ve had no shortage of massive concerts, fights, and other arena-filling events. They must’ve needed to hire a whole new staff during COVID, because it seemed like it was everyone’s first rodeo there. From the police poorly attempting to direct traffic into parking lots outside of the stadium to staff giving conflicting directions or just seemingly not knowing information they should’ve, it was clear that the only people who knew what they were doing was the UFC’s staff. You can do better, Anaheim.
Most Parlays — Gambling on MMA fights is always a bit of a crapshoot even compared to other sports betting. Anything can happen in a fight, and picking a multi-fight parlay is pretty much a guarantee that at least one of the “guaranteed” matchups you feel really good about will go in exactly the opposite direction. While there was no single parlay-buster at UFC 270 like Amanda Nunes losing at UFC 269, there were enough unexpected results, upsets and toss-ups that most parlays probably went the way of the dinosaur fairly early in the night.
UFC NFTs — Really? Just really? The UFC has never been a company to turn down an opportunity to take more money from fans, but jumping on the NFT craze in 2022 just seems a little thirsty even for them.
Frank Trigg — Random fun fact: UFC 270 was UFC fighter-turned-referee Frank Trigg’s first MMA appearance since joining the Star Wars universe as one of the Gamorrean guards in The Book of Boba Fett.
Debuting Fighters — It’s not uncommon for a major UFC event to have a few fighters making their organizational debut during the early preliminary fights, but UFC 270 had a whopping 8 fighters making their UFC debut, including two on the main card. Some looked great (like Jack Della Maddalena and Michael Morales) others could’ve used some extra time away from the spotlight, but it’s still impressive that over a third of the fighters on the card were stepping into the Octagon for the first time (not counting Dana White’s Contender Series).
Victor Henry’s Tattoo — MMA fighters have never been known for their taste in tattoos, but UFC newcomer Victor Henry really made a splash with his “Say Uncle” shoulder tattoo. Henry put on a hell of a performance to beat Raoni Barcelos and had MMA legend Josh Barnett as his coach in his corner, but words really can’t describe this beauty.
All-Time Violence Champions — It’s hard to think of many other UFC champions who have had a penchant for violence like Deiveson Figueiredo and Francis Ngannou. Even by MMA standards, the two of them will always be among the most violent finishers to ever hold their belts (at opposite ends of the size spectrum), up there with guys like Robbie Lawler. Obviously, they went into UFC 270 in different scenarios and had very different fights, but highlight reels will most likely look kindly upon both of them for a long, long time — even if the fight against Gane only added a powerful slam to his highlights.