The UFC's big return to the big apple proved wildly successful with the estimated gate being $9.9 Million and the 4th all-time gate in Madison Square Garden history and according to Dana White himself at the post-fight press conference, it was a "very successful night" and "blew their expectations out of the water." With two massive title fights and two monumental title defenses as the co-main event saw Rose Namajunas retain her UFC strawweight crown and establishing that her 1st Round KO win over Weili Zhang back in April was not a fluke with a split decision win over Zhang to earn her first title defense. The main event was the rematch of the UFC 245 Fight Of The Night and as well the fight to give Usman the biggest challenge against Colby Covington. The fight delivered as Usman walked away with a unanimous decision win (49-46, 48-47 x2) and kept his belt for his 5th title defense. A night to remember with a performance that won't leave the mind of fight fans for a long time.
The 265 Pound Spinning Wheel Kick Heard Around The World
Nobody at first thought much of the matchup between Chris Barnett (22-7 MMA, 1-1 UFC) and Bellmore, New York's own Gian Villante (17-14 MMA, 7-11 UFC) compared to the rest of the fights on the card. Barnett has fought all over the world, fighting in ROAD FC and even a singular appearance in RIZIN, but he has been known as a fun heavyweight to more hardcore fans. Barnett holds a black belt in taekwondo and fights that heavyweight despite the massive height discrepancy, with him standing only 5 foot 9 inches. His opponent Gian Villante fought in the UFC since 2013 and declared that his fight against Barnett will be his last. The first round started with both men trading low kicks with Villante dealing more meaningful strikes and every judge giving the first round to the hometown favorite Villante. 2 and a half minutes into round 2 was a moment that changed Barnett's career where he threw a spinning heel kick that floored his opponent and swarmed onto him for the 2nd Round TKO finished and earned himself a $50 thousand performance of the night bonus as well as over 70 thousand Instagram followers and the #10 spot on ESPN Sports Center's top 10. Everything from the knockout to the dance moves on the way to the octagon to the class and respect he showed in his post-fight interview, where he gives his interview time to congratulate and wish Villante a happy retirement and wishing his family the best. If Saturday held anything to Barnett's performance and the class and energy he brings, there is a new fan-favorite heavyweight in the UFC, and it is Chris "Beastboy" Barnett.
Not Bad For Just Being Here For A Fight Kit
"He is one of the guys here for the fight kit, and I am here to be a world champion," said Phil Hawes as a response on media day to the question of what he expects out of the debuting Chris "The Action Man" Curtis, who was penciled in to face Hawes a few weeks ago on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Dern VS. Rodriguez as a late minute replacement for Deron Winn. Curtis fought the highest level of competition you could fight outside of the UFC, fighting in the PFL, XMMA, iKON, CES, and even DWCS back in 2018 and took over 30 professional bouts and 14 years to make it to the biggest stage. Hawes declined the fight and wanted to make Curtis "watch film to get nerves about fighting him and getting knocked out." Hawes was extremely confident and had every reason to be as cocky, holding a perfect UFC record of 3-0 and wins over Kyle Daukaus and Nassourdine Imamov and trains out of Sanford MMA; he has all the tools to be great but ran into the superhero power from the action man. The fight started with Hawes putting a high output and throwing many straight punches and front kicks, which left Curtis using his philly shell and defending and reading off the back foot for the first 4 minutes of the 1st. Right as Joe Rogan on the commentary both stated that Curtis needs to land something to earn Hawes's respect, he fired a left hook that sounded like a baseball bat hitting a tree and a few punches in the clinch, and ref Todd Anderson calls it at 4:27 of the first round and gives Hawes in first UFC loss and his first loss in 7 fights and leaves Curtis successful in his debut and a whole lot more meaning to his Venum fight kit from that fateful night at MSG.
The Chito Show Is Renewed For A Second Season
After earning the biggest victory of his career by beating then-undefeated bantamweight star "Suga" Sean O'Malley by 1st Round TKO back in August of 2020, Marlon "Chito" Vera (20-7-1found himself in a weird spot in the logjammed UFC bantamweight division. After losing a close decision loss to future hall of famer and current #5 bantamweight Jose Aldo, Vera found himself in limbo before picking up a well-needed unanimous decision win over TUF Season 18 finalist Davey Grant and redeemed a loss from 2016. Coming off a win, he gets matched up against another New Yorker in former UFC lightweight champion and the #8 ranked bantamweight Frankie Edgar. With fighting in enemy territory, the Ecuadorian wanted to make a statement and establish himself at the mecca of Madison Square Garden. The first round did not go Vera's way, with the battle on the feet being even and Edgar timing his takedowns and controlling on top while Chito attempted submissions and elbows from the bottom. The second round was much closer, with Vera keeping it standing for much longer and only limited Frankie to only 1:14 of control time. With 2 of the 3 scorecards being 1-1, the 3rd round was the deciding one, and Vera pulled the trigger with a front kick to the face which faceplanted, and after an extra hammer fist, the fight was called. With another highlight finish and now holds the record for most UFC bantamweight finishes with 9, The Chito Show is back and better than ever.
To The King Goes The Spoils
"Flawless victory" is what everyone's favorite real estate agent and Long Island's own "Raging" Al Iaquinta (14-7-1 MMA, 9-6 UFC) said when bringing up his preliminary bout against Bobby "King" Green (28-12 MMA, 9-7 UFC). Green showed up to ceremonial weigh-ins with joker face paint, proclaiming he is "the real-life joker" and put on a performance worthy of the face paint and the trash. In Madison Square Garden facing off against a fan favorite New Yorker returning after over two years away, the crowd was booing Green when he was walking out to the cage, but that soon turned to cheers and had the entire arena in the palm of his hand. The fight started with roughly a 10 second feeling out process and after that. Green's boxing and hand speed showed to be extremely ahead of Iaquinta, hitting him with almost every jab and cross he threw, landing 71% of his total strikes and 66% of the strikes thrown at the head of Iaquinta in the 2 and a half minutes the fight lasted for. Once Iaquinta was able to keep Green's back against the fence, Bobby squared up and threw a jab-straight combo that rocked his opponent and caused him to shoot and deny and jumped on top to earn the first-round TKO and his first finish win since November of 2013. The finish also netted him a $50 thousand performance of the night bonus and gained a whole brand new fanbase after his elegant showing at MSG Saturday night.