One of the greatest cards ever assembled in mixed martial arts history, UFC 218 delivered in every way imaginable.
Tecia Torres took another small step toward the strawweight title. Eddie Alvarez derailed the Justin Gaethje hype train. Henry Cejudo nullified the offense of Sergio Pettis. Francis Ngannou cemented himself as the most frightening heavyweight contender on the planet. Max Holloway closed the book on Jose Aldo’s storied run at 145 pounds.
FanRag Sports offers its report card for those who earned a raised hand on the UFC 218 main card. Grades are determined based on overall performance, method of victory and quality of opponent. We’ll also look at what should be next for the night’s biggest winners.
Tecia Torres: B-
Dropping the first loss of her professional career last April, Tecia Torres has now bounced back with three consecutive victories. The latest came Saturday night, handing Michelle Waterson her second straight defeat since kickstarting her UFC career at 2-0. Torres was characteristically scrappy against Waterson in Detroit, outworking the overwhelmed contender for the better part of the 15-minute affair. Torres was also visibly stronger than Waterson, enjoying advantages in the clinch.
Yet to earn a finish in her now 10-win career, Torres came fairly close to stopping Waterson with strikes as she took advantage of her exhausted opponent on the ground. Close but not cigar, though, as Torres moves to 10-1 with zero finishes. That will harm her chances of fighting for the UFC championship anytime soon.
FRS matchmaker: Tecia Torres vs. Claudia Gadelha
Eddie Alvarez: B-
Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje turned out to be everything we expected and more: two violent fighters exhausting all their resources to put forth one of the most entertaining fights of 2017. Alvarez and Gaethje went toe-to-toe for nearly 15 full minutes, before Alvarez landed the finishing blow in the form of a knee to the head. It marked the first loss of Gaethje’s professional career, proving he is human after all.
That was very much in question for a majority of the contest, with Gaethje simply eating all of Alvarez’s best shots. Alvarez was forced to do much of the same, hampered early by an onslaught of vicious low kicks that visibly impeded his ability to move as fluidly as he would have preferred. But just as Gaethje was finding his rhythm with low kicks and violent hooks, Alvarez veered his attention to the body, landing a handful of game-changing hooks to the torso. Gaethje slowed as the fight wore on, paving the way for Alvarez to do what many felt was impossible.
Alvarez has his sights set on challenging for the lightweight championship again some day. That won’t take place anytime soon, with a rematch against Dustin Poirier likely in order.
FRS matchmaker: Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier
Henry Cejudo: B+
Recognized as the best pure wrestler in the UFC’s flyweight division, and arguably the best pure wrestler in all of mixed martial arts thanks to his Olympic pedigree, Henry Cejudo relied on his greatest strengths to derail one of the more promising fighters in the division. Showing glimpses of the striking developments he’d made with a new karate stance, Cejudo quickly took the fight to the ground in the opening round to showcase a telling advantage on the ground. He rarely attempted to do much damage once he got there, content with simply controlling Sergio Pettis and preventing him from getting up.
The following two rounds were much of the same.
While the victory was certainly dominant, it wasn’t the sort of performance that Cejudo needed to make a strong case for a rematch against champion Demetrious Johnson. His climb up the flyweight mountain only continues.
FRS matchmaker: Henry Cejudo vs. Ray Borg
Francis Ngannou: A+
Francis Ngannou was expected to win this fight, and expected to do so in violent fashion. And yet, he still managed to stun viewing audiences with just how violently he managed to finish this match. Facing the highest-caliber opponent of his professional career, Ngannou made his big win look relatively easy.
It took Ngannou just 1:42 to land the vicious knockout blow, clipping Alistair Overeem with a counter left uppercut that sent the decorated striker falling to the canvas. The fight was effectively over, though that didn’t stop Ngannou from landing a follow-up diving hammer fist for safe measure.
The most terrifying heavyweight contender since Shane Carwin in the late 2000s, there’s no denying Ngannou a shot at the heavyweight title.
FRS matchmaker: Francis Ngannou vs. Stipe Miocic
Max Holloway: A
Winning the UFC featherweight championship in June, Max Holloway was tasked with defending his place atop the mountain just six months later … against the very man he defeated to win the belt in the first place. Holloway faced one of the most motivated versions we’ve ever seen of Aldo, required to adjust to all of the changes the former champion made to his approach six months removed from their original bout. Aldo introduced more leg kicks into his game plan, also fighting more patiently than he did the first time out. It made no difference, with Holloway once again finding the very same finish in the very same round.
Holloway was a bit more active to start this time around, but once again allowed the former champion to tire himself in the opening rounds. He consistently dragged Aldo into deeper and deeper waters. Patient and calculated, Holloway finally began to pounce in Round 3, realizing Aldo was no longer capable of matching his pace.
That didn’t stop Aldo from trying to, though, ultimately leaving himself open to Holloway’s more tactical strikes.
Holloway has now won 12 in a row, undoubtedly cementing himself as the greatest featherweight on the planet. Though he’s defeated a majority of elite contenders in the division, he still has a handful of challenges ahead of him.
FRS matchmaker: Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar