UFC 285: 10 Things We Learned (Extended Edition)

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 03: (L-R) Opponents Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane of France face off during the UFC 285 ceremonial weigh-in at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 03, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Detailing the divisional ramifications and critical talking points to emerge from UFC 285 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, which ended with a new heavyweight champion being crowned

‘Bones’ is Back

Jon Jones is the new UFC heavyweight champion after running through Ciryl Gane in the UFC 285 main event.

The former light heavyweight ruler put the French fighter on the deck just over a minute into the contest, and he never let him get back to his feet. Jones climbed over the legs and attacked a guillotine choke, and after Gane escaped the first attempt, he couldn’t do the same with the second, as Jones locked his hands under the chin and secured the tap.

This was an excellent performance from Jones, especially given that it was his heavyweight debut and first fight in three years. All those questions about how Jones would look have been answered — he looked tremendous, and is only going to keep looking better as he settles into the division and shakes off the rust.

He’s one of the most skilled competitors we’ve ever seen inside the Octagon and if he can stay out of his own way, Jones has the potential to write another incredible chapter to his already incredible career inside the cage.

A New Champion is Crowned

Alexa Grasso is the new UFC flyweight champion.

The Mexican challenger showed no nerves or hesitation standing in opposite Valentina Shevchenko in Saturday’s penultimate pairing, hurting the champion in the first with clean boxing and seemingly surprising “Bullet” by coming out southpaw. Shevchenko grappled in the second and third to build some momentum, but Grasso was right there with her heading into the championship rounds.

Late in the frame, when Shevchenko threw an ill-advised spinning back kick, Grasso jumped on her back and attacked the choke, never getting her arm under the chin, but squeezing out the tap nonetheless.

We said going in that Grasso would need to be perfect in order to dethrone the long-reigning champion, and she while that wasn’t the case, she took full advantage of a rare mistake from Shevchenko to become the third women’s flyweight champion in history and the third fighter from Mexico to claim gold this year.

This was an outstanding performance from Grasso. It was also a night where Shevchenko appeared to have lost a step, as the challenger not only had success on the feet, but also escaped the dreaded crucifix position that spelled doom for so many others.

Time catches up with everyone eventually, and it now seems fair to say that it’s caught up with Shevchenko.

Who Can Stop Shavkat Rakhmonov?

It took longer than ever before, but Shavkat Rakmonov remained undefeated and continued to earn finishes in all of his fights, finally choking out Geoff Neal in the final minute of a wildly entertaining back-and-forth battle.

Throughout the contest, Rakhmonov was the more active, more effective of the two, showcasing tremendous variety in his attacks while also being tested for the first time in his UFC career. Neal hit him with a whole bunch of shots that would have put a lot of welterweights down, but Rakhmonov somehow managed to deal with them all and keep pressing forward.

And then to still find a finish in the final minute, clamping onto a standing rear-naked choke along the fence to keep from going to the judges for the first time? Sheesh.

Rakhmonov is an absolute menace and after a performance like that, he’ll have an even tougher time getting anyone to sign on the dotted line to share the Octagon with him in the future.

He called out Colby Covington, which is a perfect matchup, but there is no way “Chaos” agrees to that fight. A fight with Belal Muhammad would make sense as well, but Muhammad won’t risk his place in the pecking order to face that dude either. Rakhmonov is a problem, and that means he’s going to have problems finding a fight after the performance he turned in on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Gamrot Wins, Turner Still Impresses

Mateusz Gamrot earned a hard-fought split decision win over Jalin Turner on Saturday night, turning a short-notice opportunity into a return to the win column.

It was a competitive clash from the jump, with all three rounds being tough to score, as Turner landed bigger shots with greater impact, while Gamrot found success bringing the fight to the canvas and landing there. Watching live, you could make a case for either man winning each round, with the scores and the final cards reflecting that, as each man got a 29-28 score from one judge, and Gamrot getting the nod thanks to a 30-27 scorecard from judge Ron McCarthy.

This is one of those fights that further highlights what a dog Gamrot is and why he’s an invaluable member of the lightweight class, as few Top 10 talents would have risked their place in the queue to face Turner on short notice. But it also shows that “The Tarantula” is certainly someone with further upside in the 155-pound ranks, as his power is legitimate and a problem for everyone that shares the Octagon with him going forward.

Gamrot called for a Top 5 matchup next time out, and he should get it, while Turner should stick around the Top 15 and get another chance to cement his standing as one of the brighter young talents in the division.

The Hype is Real-ish

Bo Nickal blew through Jamie Pickett as expected in the UFC 285 main card opener, securing a first-round submission victory to move to 4-0 as a mixed martial artist.

This is what was always going to happen — Pickett had lost his last two fights, both by stoppage, and was 2-4 in the UFC. He was a sacrificial lamb and Nickal slaughtered him, but it was far from flawless.

Nickal slipped while throwing a kick in the opening seconds of the bout, and while Pickett was hesitant to rush in, anyone else with some legit skills would have pounced on the opportunity to attack. And while the newcomer did well to get into his grappling, he was a little too eager with a couple different looks, then spent well over a minute locked onto the arm triangle in a position where he wasn’t going to finish.

Now, a first-round submission win in your UFC debut and fourth professional fight is terrific, but anyone that thinks Nickal should get hustled into a big fight right away may have reason for pause now. He looked solid against an overmatched opponent, and as long as he’s not thrown into the deep end too quickly, the former Nittany Lion standout should continue to get plenty of opportunities to climb to the ranks in the 185-pound weight class.

‘No Love’ Has Nothing Left

Cody Garbrandt won his fight against Trevin Jones on Saturday night, but anyone that watched the contest had to see that the former bantamweight champion is a shadow of the man that styled on Dominick Cruz all those years ago.

Garbrandt won the fight because Jones didn’t presses at all through the first two rounds, allowing the struggling former titleholder to land a smattering of punches and head to the third up two rounds. In the final two minutes, Jones got after Garbrandt and had him hurt, stinging him with the first real shot that landed and forcing “No Love” to clinch and hold on for dear life.

The broadcasters were doing their best to find ways to praise Garbrandt’s effort, highlighting his lateral movement and general quickness, but you could tell it was because they didn’t want to say what everyone could see: he’s shot and now has to fight exclusively on the outside, trying to work as a sniper if he wants to earn a victory.

Watching this fight, there are few in the bantamweight division that I would even considering picking Garbrandt to beat going forward because he understandably seems hesitant to engage, and there won’t be many that let him off the hook the way Jones did on Saturday.

‘Stillknocks’ Still Streaking

Dricus Du Plessis just keeps winning. Saturday night in Las Vegas, the South African middleweight collected his five win in as many UFC starts and seventh straight victory overall, earning a second-round stoppage win over tenured veteran Derek Brunson.

After getting into some compromising positions in the first, but continuing to press on, Du Plessis took the fight to a flagging Brunson in the second, battering him on the feet before chasing him to the canvas and unloading from inside his guard. Late in the frame, Brunson’s corner had seen enough and threw in the towel, protecting their athlete in a way that referee Herb Dean refused to do.

This is another good win for the unorthodox and difficult to figure out “Stillknocks,” who just keeps posting victories. He often encounters trouble and constantly looks fatigued and ready to fall, but thus far, Du Plessis is perfect inside the UFC cage and continuing to scale the middleweight ranks. There aren’t too many names ahead of him in the rankings, so it’s going to be interesting to see who he’s paired off with next.

Ribas Continues Improving

Amanda Ribas was disappointed with not getting to compete in December when her bout against Tracy Cortez was pulled the day before the fight. Saturday, she made up for that missed opportunity by picking up the biggest win of her career, sweeping the scorecards against fellow Brazilian Viviane Araujo.

While she got touched up a little in the opening stanza, Ribas scored a knockdown with a clean right hand down the pipe and chased Araujo to the floor, spending the rest of the round controlling the action on the canvas. She came out sharp in the third and was cruising to victory before having to defend a last-minute armbar attempt, which got close for a moment only for Ribas to wriggle free.

The 29-year-old splits her time between flyweight and strawweight and is now a Top 10 fighter in each division, which means she has options going forward. Her personality is always going to make her a fan favourite, but her performance at UFC 285 shows she’s developing into a contender as well.

Statement Made by Ian Machado Garry

Though he encountered a brief scare late in the opening round, Ian Machado Garry dominated every other second of his fight with Song Kenan, finishing the Chinese veteran late in the third round with a brilliant, extended combination that transitioned from the feet to the floor before referee Marc Goddard stepped in to halt the action.

Song clipped Machado Garry with a counter left hook towards the end of the first, sending the unbeaten Irish welterweight to the canvas. But he recovered well and resumed his onslaught straight away in the second, ultimately getting Song out of the there amidst a hail of unanswered strikes in the final minute of the bout.

This was the kind of dominant effort that Machado Garry needed after a couple smart, tactical performances in 2022. He took his time, but turned up the heat when he had Song hurt, moving to 11-0 in the process. He looked outstanding, and merits a step up in competition next time out, which he’s hoping comes in just a handful of weeks in Miami.

From here on out, Machado Garry will be facing the toughest tests of his career, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how he continues to improve and deal with these forthcoming challenges.

Still Undefeated, But…

Cameron Saaiman has lost a point in each of his first two UFC appearances and is going to have to tidy up his striking in order to avoid getting labeled a dirty fighter.

“MSP” got the better of Mana Martinez on Saturday, turning things up and distancing himself from the Texan the longer the fight progressed. But he was docked a point in the first for a pair of inadvertent low blows, and could have lost another in the third after an outstretched hand resulted in an eye-poke that paused the action again. He apologized in the moment and after the bout, but he needs to get through a couple fights without losing a point in order to shake this burgeoning reputation.

Beyond the fouls, this was another tremendous showing for the 22-year-old from South Africa, who is now 8-0 overall and 2-0 in the UFC. He’s technical, quick, and aggressive, fighting to finish, rather than just to win, and as he continues to gain more experience and develop further, Saaiman is going to become a real factor in the 135-pound weight class.]

Beware of Baby Shark

Tabatha Ricci is starting to establish herself as a dangerous name to track in the 115-pound weight class, turning in a career-best performance against Jessica Penne on the prelims.

The Brazilian, who lost her debut at flyweight to contender Manon Fiorot, has now won three straight since returning to strawweight. She dominated Penne every second, showing improved striking and good quickness in the first, coupled with her signature strong grappling. A beautiful harai goshi brought the fight back to the canvas midway through the second, and Ricci wasted little time locking up an armbar and securing the tap.

Now 8-1 as a pro, the 28-year-old “Baby Shark” continues to look more comfortable and more dangerous each time out, and while she’s still got work to do before becoming a contender, things are moving in that direction.

Another Basharat Family Victory

Farid Basharat joined his brother Javid in the UFC win column on Saturday, securing a hard-fought unanimous decision win over Da’Mon Blackshear.

There were positive moments and a couple scares for the younger of the Basharat Brothers, especially at the end of the third, where Blackshear threw up a lightning quick triangle choke that was locked in a little too late. Just like his older brother, the younger Basharat didn’t get an easy introduction to the Octagon, and while it wasn’t a show-stopping performance, it’s a quality win over a very good fighter, and sets a solid baseline for where the 25-year-old fits in the bantamweight division.

The Basharats are now a combined 4-0 in the deepest, most competitive division in the UFC, and it’s going to be a lot of fun watching them compete against each other and the rest of the 135-pound ranks in the coming years.

Radzhabov and Ribovics Show They Belong

Loik Radzhabov and Esteban Ribovics kicked off the card in entertaining fashion, battling to-and-fro for 15 minutes, with Radzhabov ultimately coming away with the unanimous decision win.

This was one of those fights where despite the results, both men came away having elevated their stock. Radzhabov, who was a two-time PFL finalist, survived some scares and was able to grind out a good win despite having a very limited training camp, while Ribovics showed a good ability to create scrambles and hang tough in a gruelling battle. He had moments where he stung Radzhabov and had him hurt, only to get taken down by the more experienced, far more credentialed wrestler.

Both men are certainly talented enough to remain on the roster for the foreseeable future, with Radzhabov having the higher upside, and Ribovics looking like an all-action entertainer at worst.

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.

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