UFC 282: What We Learned Last Night

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Opponents Jan Blachowicz of Poland and Magomed Ankalaev of Russia face off during the UFC 282 ceremonial weigh-in at MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 09, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Detailing everything that transpired inside the Octagon at UFC 282 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and offering instant analysis of what the results mean for the victors, the vanquished, and their respective divisions

For the final time in 2022, the UFC hit the pay-per-view airwaves, with UFC 282 touching down at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. A 13-fight lineup capped by a clash for the vacant light heavyweight title hit the Octagon, with critical victories, costly losses, questionable scorecards, and captivating performances littered throughout the night.

This is what happened and what we learned from the action inside the UFC cage.

Controversy Reigns

The UFC light heavyweight title remains vacant, as Saturday’s UFC 282 main event ended in a very rare split draw.

Magomed Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz went the distance in a bout that had multiple shifts in momentum and control. The first round was close, with Ankalaev appearing to do enough in my eyes, but all three officials scoring the round for Blachowicz. In the second and third, the former champion chopped at the Russian’s legs, hobbling him to the point that it appeared Ankalaev was dead in the water.

To his credit, Ankalaev pushed forward and changed things up, turning to his wrestling to dominate the final two rounds, earning 10-8 scores from two of the judges. When all the numbers were added up, each judge saw it differently and no one went home with the gold, leaving an unsatisfied taste in just about everyone’s mouth.

This is another “going to have to watch it back” situation because the first and third are certainly worth checking out again to see how I’d score them without distractions. In real time, I had it for Ankalaev, feeling there were a range of scores available, but none of them favouring Blachowicz… or resulting in a draw.

Judging has been one of the biggest topics of discussion all year, and it’s was a rough weekend on that front. There needs to be some accountability and oversight when it comes to these things because the fighters deserve to know how these close, competitive fights are being scored, and the public does as well.

A Debated Decision

Paddy Pimblett said he was confident he won the first two rounds in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, and he might be the only person in the building that could say such a thing. The popular Scouse lightweight eked out a unanimous decision win over Jared Gordon in Saturday’s co-main event, earning scores of 29-28 across the board in a fight that will be given the full re-watch treatment early next week.

Gordon appeared to get the better of things in the first, repeatedly finding a home for his sharp left hand as Pimblett held his chin high. The second was much closer, with Gordon again having plenty of success on the feet before Pimblett delivered a solid flurry in the final minute. In the third, the two spent the majority of the round clinched along the fence, with Gordon securing a late takedown.

When Bruce Buffer said it was a unanimous decision, it felt like Gordon was sure to win, but all three officials saw it for Pimblett, with two giving him the first two rounds, and the third giving him two and three. It honestly felt wrong in the moment, but I’ll wait to watch it back before really stating my thoughts.

Regardless of the outcome, this makes it clear where Pimblett’s ceiling rests, and it much lower than all of those that just started paying attention since he landed in the UFC expected. Gordon is a good, but not great fighter, and he damn-near beat him, so it’s time to shelve those dreams of “Paddy the Baddy” being a champion and just be happy with him being an engaging personality with a great walkout and the ability to put on solid fights against middle-tier competition.

From the Jaws of Defeat

Santiago Ponzinibbio was a couple minutes away from a third straight loss, but one clean right hand changed everything.

Down two rounds to Alex Morono and having already been wobbled in the third, “The Argentine Dagger” kept pressing forward, and found a home for a booming right hand that shifted the course of the fight on a dime. The shot twisted Morono’s jaw sideways and left his face momentarily frozen, with Ponzinibbio instantly recognizing his opportunity and pounding out the finish.

After dropping consecutive split decisions and losing three of four since returning from more than two years on the sidelines, this one has to feel amazing for Ponzinibbio. Of course, this also has to be crushing for Morono, who took the fight on five days notice and was less than three minutes away from securing the biggest win of his career. He looked to protest the stoppage, but Jason Herzog was right in waving things off, no question.

This contest is a reminder of the levels there are in each division, and what separates them. Morono was cruising, but Ponzinibbio has always been a little further ahead of “The Great White” in the welterweight waters, and it showed on Saturday.

Still Streaking

Dricus Du Plessis continued his unbeaten run inside the Octagon after collecting a third-round submission win over Darren Till.

The South African put it on Till in the opening stanza, getting close to earning a stoppage a couple times as he piled up unanswered blows before the Liverpool man got back to his feet and started to claw his way back into the fight. Things were closer in the second, but Du Plessis continued to be able to put Till on the deck whenever he wanted, which was a harbinger of how things would wrap up.

A quick takedown midway through the third prompted Till to quickly give up his back and tap as soon as Du Plessis locked onto the choke, giving “Stillknocks” another stoppage win. The former EFC and KSW champ will move into the Top 10 in the middleweight division with this victory, and continues to force people to recalibrate their expectations and projections of him with each successive win.

During the broadcast, it was noted that Till suggested he tore his ACL during the contest, but nothing has been officially stated yet. Whether that is the case or not, this effort should close the door on the Scouse’s days as a contender, and brings his future into real question, as Till is now on a three-fight losing streak and just 1-5 in his last six outings.

Topuria Taps Mitchell

Ilia Topuria dominated Bryce Mitchell in Saturday’s pay-per-view opener, tapping out “Thug Nasty” a little over three minutes into the middle frame.

The 25-year-old from Georgia controlled things on the feet in the first, but Mitchell closed the round in top position after securing a takedown, giving him a glimpse at the road to success. In the second, Topuria made sure to block off that road, stuffing multiple takedown attempts and making Mitchell pay for those failures, battering him until he was able to manhandle him to the canvas. From there, the Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt clamped onto an arm triangle choke and squeezed out the win.

Topuria is a contender right now, and if he makes some of the adjustments that will be evident to him upon watching this back, he could very well be champion; he’s that good. Mitchell remains an excellent fighter, but Saturday showed his limitations.

One thing that was surprising during the fight: it seemed like the analysts, Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier, were either unaware of or unimpressed by Topuria’s grappling acumen, because both were shocked when he put Mitchell on the canvas and opted to engage with him there. Less than a minute later, the fight was over.

Record-Setting Rosas

Raul Rosas Jr. took the fight to Jay Perrin as if Perrin had stolen those Lunchables he was talking about all week while questioning the 18-year-old’s place on the UFC roster.

The DWCS grad closed the distance, secured a takedown, and climbed onto Perrin’s back with haste, eventually flattening him out and collecting a submission victory just after the midway mark of the opening stanza. It was one-way traffic the whole way, and one of those performances that is as impressive for the victor as it is embarrassing for the vanquished.

Winning shows that Rosas Jr. belongs at this level, even if only in the lower tier bantamweight division for the moment. He dominated Perrin, looked unfazed by the moment and attention focused on him, and has an incalculable amount of upside given his age and the early returns. As for Perrin, this one has to sting more than any other. After talking all kinds of junk about how he was going to show that he’s turned a corner as a fighter and take out the youngster, “The Joker” just had nothing to offer, and is now 0-3 inside the UFC cage.

There is no way to know what the future holds for Rosas Jr. as he looks to chase down Jon Jones’ record for being the youngest champion in UFC history — he might have to move up a division or two, his development could stall, or he could just simply top out well short of the upper tier.

But after a performance like this, there is no denying that watching Rosas Jr. and how things progress is going to be gripping theatre.

Rough Couple Weeks for the Daukaus Brothers

Jairzinho Rozenstruik wasted no time getting Chris Daukaus out of there on Saturday, racing across the Octagon and putting the former Philadelphia cop on the deck in 23 seconds.

This was precisely the kind of effort “Bigi Boy” needed after consecutive setbacks, and it’s absolutely not what Daukaus was expecting, as he didn’t have any time to settle in at all. Rozenstruik traditionally has been slow to start, but not here, as he just smothered Daukaus from the outset and made sure to finish things in a hurry.

It’s been a rough couple weeks (and year, really) for the Daukaus Brothers, as Saturday’s loss for Chris comes a week after his younger brother Kyle suffered his second straight stoppage loss against Eryk Anders in Orlando. For the year, they’ve lost four straight, and close out 2022 with a combined 1-4 mark inside the Octagon.

Ouch.

Back in the Win Column

Edmen Shahbazyan snapped a three-fight losing streak on Saturday, collecting a second-round stoppage win over Dalcha Lungiambula in his return to action after more than a year on the sidelines.

Shahbazyan burst on the scene after earning a contract through the Contender Series, winning four fights in his first year on the roster, capped by a first-round knockout win over veteran Brad Tavares. His success led to a step up in competition, and that’s where he stumbled, dropping three straight, all in ugly fashion, before pressing pause on his career to figure things out.

A move to Las Vegas seems to have helped, as he was more patient and strategic against Lungiambula, working the body and largely staying away from his thunderous power. The finish came late in the second after Shahbazyan popped a clean right hand in Lungiambula’s grill, opening the door for a big flying knee and flurry of strikes that halted the action.

This was a good win for Shahbazyan after a year away and having his confidence shattered, but it’s also not the kind of performance anyone should make too much of going forward. Lungiambula is a limited fighter that has now lost four straight, the last three of those by stoppage, and is just 2-5 inside the Octagon.

The fact that he’s still just 25 means Shahbazyan has plenty of time to keep improving and build on this effort, but tempering expectations before he starts climbing the ladder again seems wise.

Lights, Camera, Action Man

Chris Curtis kept the finishes coming on Saturday, collecting a second-round knockout over Joaquin Buckley to earn the 30th victory of his professional career.

Throughout the broadcast, the commentary team talked about Buckley’s output, as “New Mansa” took a high-volume approach against the more selective, technical Curtis. But the 35-year-old “Action Man” showed that quality is better than quantity midway through the second, landing a crisp counter left that put Buckley on the deck. He appeared to be out and brought back by Curtis’ first follow-up shot, only to be sent back to The Shadow Realm by the subsequent hammerfists Curtis rained down.

Although he stumbled in a short-notice showdown with Jack Hermansson earlier this year, Saturday’s victory further solidifies Curtis’ place in the middleweight pecking order and moves him to 3-1 inside the Octagon. He’s a perfect figure just outside the Top 10, and showed that with his UFC 282 performance against the exciting, but limited Buckley.

Bleed and Rally

A little bit of blood — okay, a lot of blood — wasn’t going to stop Billy Quarantillo.

After getting split open late in the opening round, Quarantillo came out and put it on Alexander Hernandez, using his trademark pace, pressure, and bottomless gas tank to put it on the divisional newcomer and secure a second-round stoppage win. This was vintage “Billy Q,” but also a fairly typical effort from Hernandez as well.

While Quarantillo has made a name for himself by being in entertaining, back-and-forth battles where his conditioning, durability, and resolve shine through, Hernandez remains a quick starter who starts to fade after five hard minutes and can be made to fold with sustained pressure. Both men showed us who they are on Saturday night, and now we have an even better idea of where they each stand in the division and their respective careers right now.

Brown Shines Against Silva

TJ Brown picked up the first finish of his UFC career on Saturday, tapping out newcomer Erik Silva in the late stages of the third round.

This was the best overall effort of Brown’s six-fight run inside the Octagon, as the DWCS Class of ’19 member dropped Silva with the first punch he threw and was able to control the action on the canvas for the majority of the contest. He was a half-step ahead of Silva at every turn, and didn’t settle for the decision win, chasing down the submission finish.

In talking about this fight earlier in the week, I questioned why the UFC was slow-playing the 35-year-old Silva, and now we see why. While I don’t want to overreact to one effort — and his debut, at that — it’s hard see a real path forward for Silva after a performance like this one. It’s been a rough couple years for recent Contender Series grads, and it will be interesting to see if the general struggles of the last few classes prompt a change in approach when the talent-search series returns next year.

Outstanding Showing for Saaiman

When Cameron Saaiman earned his contract on DWCS this autumn, the thing that really stood out was his poise. Paired off with Josh Wang-Kim, the 21-year-old South African weathered the offence coming his way early, never looking bothered, and stepped on the gas when Wang-Kim began to fade, leading to a third-round knockout win.

Saturday night, Saaiamn could have folded up after being docked a point for an illegal knee midway through the middle stanza. Instead, “MSP” steadied himself and came out swinging in the third, getting the tiring — and likely compromised — Steven Koslow out of there just before the final horn.

These are the kind of critical early showings that make a prospect stand out, and Saaiman certainly stands out. Stuck in a competitive fight with a tricky short notice opponent, a foul and point deduction could have rattled him, but Saaiman remained as calm and focused as he was to start the fight. You can’t teach those things, and it makes me tremendously excited to see what Saaiman can do in the coming years in the absolutely loaded bantamweight division.

E. Spencer Kyte is a veteran MMA content creator based in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He's written for numerous outlets, including FOX Sports and The Province, British Columbia's leading newspaper, and has been a freelance contributor to the UFC website for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter: @spencerkyte.