The dust has finally settled on UFC 226 and International Fight Week. Daniel Cormier, who entered Saturday’s main event as the company’s light heavyweight champion, is now the UFC’s heavyweight champion - the “double champ” as he is being hailed nowadays.
But even after a historic UFC card that entertained the masses from the Fight Pass prelims to the PPV portion of the card, a cloud hung over the night’s co-main event between Francis Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis for all the wrong reasons.
It wasn’t just that the fight itself failed to live up the hype, it was that it was the wrong fighters stepping inside of the Octagon.
“When you look at this card, and the fights are all going … now imagine if the co-main event had stayed in there. Because you know that co-main event would have been ridiculous,” said UFC president Dana White during the UFC 226 post-fight press conference. “I was sitting there going, ‘This might’ve been the most epic card that we’ve ever done.’”
The fight White is referring to is Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega, one of the most anticipated featherweight title fights since UFC 194 between Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor.
What was supposed to be a banner week for Hawaii's UFC fighters soon became a nightmare as Holloway was pulled from the card due to concussion-like symptoms last Wednesday, just hours after completing his open workout in front of fans at the MGM Grand.
It was what it was. Respect to Ortega and his team. Thank you @danawhite and the @UFC staff for making my health priority. Also thank you to @lilheathenmma and @frankieedgar for being about that champ life and stepping up. I see you. To all the fans I know this rollercoaster can pic.twitter.com/I094Gv74CK— Max Holloway (@BlessedMMA) July 6, 2018
To add insult to injury, Waianae native Rachael Ostovich was submitted in the third round of her fight against Montana De La Rosa at The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale card on Friday, followed by Hilo native Brad Tavares’ devastating loss to Israel Adesanya during the TUF 27 main event.
While UFC Hawaii seemed improbable going into International Fight Week, there was still hope that Holloway, Ostovich and Tavares could carry the Hawaii MMA torch on the ninth island in Las Vegas to ensure Hawaii’s place among the sport’s hotbeds of talent.
Unfortunately, International Fight Week left these Hawaii fighters with more questions than definitive answers.
Questions will be asked about Holloway’s future at featherweight and his long-term health, including the next time he might be seen inside the Octagon. White said last week Thursday during the pre-fight press conference that he doesn’t see Holloway fighting “any time soon.”
For Ostovich, she is now 1-1 in her young UFC career and will have time to go back to the drawing board.
As for Tavares, he won’t fall much in the upcoming UFC middleweight rankings after showcasing tremendous heart despite being outclassed by Adesanya’s striking but the loss will certainly leave the Big Island native in the back of the line in terms of receiving a Top 5 opponent for the foreseeable future.
The reality is that Holloway, Ostovich and Tavares could be out of action for some time as they recoup from a disappointing week.
But don’t feel that just because those three fighters won’t be in the Octagon anytime soon that the islands aren’t being represented in the sport elsewhere.
UFC welterweight Yancy Medeiros was supposed to fight against Mike Perry at UFC 226 before he fractured his rib two weeks out from fight night. But as long as his his rehabilitation goes well, Medeiros could realistically find himself with a fight lined up by the end of the year.
In other fighting organizations such as Bellator, flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane defended her belt at Bellator 201 just two weeks ago while racking up high viewership numbers as the promotion’s main draw.
In the Professional Fighter’s League, Waianae native Ray Cooper III knocked out former UFC veteran and Strikeforce champion Jake Shields four days ago, avenging his father’s loss to Shields 14 years earlier.
In ONE Championship, Angela Lee has become of the sport’s elite female mixed martial artists at the age of 22 and is the company’s strawweight champion.
Angela Lee retains the ONE atomweight title with a decision win over Mei Yamaguchi. First fight for Lee since a potentially career-threatening car accident. She seems thrilled, relieved and emotional. Lee, who is the face of ONE, IMO, is now 9-0.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) May 18, 2018
Even though UFC 226 and International Fight Week could have been better for Hawaii’s UFC fighters, but this far from the end of the road for Hawaii MMA.
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