UFC 280 was one of 2022’s most highly-anticipated events. While not all of the fights in Abu Dhabi lived up to the hype, the show still had enough to make it a memorable night.
As with any UFC event, last night’s show had a number of winners in more ways than one. After their showings in Abu Dhabi it’s fair to say that the spotlight will be on them.
#5. Belal Muhammad – defeated Sean Brady in a UFC welterweight bout
In a fight that belonged on the main card, welterweight contender Belal Muhammad pulled off a huge win as he stopped the previously unbeaten Sean Brady in the second round.
The finish wasn’t without some controversy, as Brady didn’t actually go down from Muhammad’s blitz of punches and appeared to protest the stoppage afterwards. But, to most observers, it looked like the Philadelphia native was out on his feet.
Given ‘Remember The Name’ was coming off back-to-back wins over Stephen Thompson and Vicente Luque – two well-recognised names – it’d be easy to discount this victory. However, Brady steamrolled everyone put in front of him prior to fighting Muhammad.
Will the recent win bump Muhammad up in the UFC’s welterweight rankings? Given the status of the fighters above him, as well as the fact that Brady was actually ranked three spots below, it’s unlikely.
However, because this was his first finish since 2019, and was hugely entertaining to boot, it should provide him with a huge boost in the eyes of the fans. Even if he doesn’t get his next wish – a title shot or a clash with Khamzat Chimaev – he should definitely be seen as one of last night’s big winners.
#4. Beneil Dariush – defeated Mateusz Gamrot in a UFC lightweight bout
In a fight that, under different circumstances, could’ve been seen as a de facto No.1-contender’s bout, Beneil Dariush came out on top against Mateusz Gamrot.
Dariush had not lost in the UFC since 2018, but despite being on a lengthy seven-fight win streak, he hadn’t stepped into the octagon since his May 2021 win over Tony Ferguson. An indication of how avoided he is in the lightweight ranks.
That should change after last night’s win. Despite struggling with Gamrot’s surprising takedown-based assault in the first round, the native of Iran turned the tables in the latter stages, hurting ‘Gamer’ with his strikes and punctuating his win with a brutal knockdown in the third.
The No.6-ranked contender Dariush is now the highest-ranked fighter to not receive a shot at the lightweight title yet. However, with Alexander Volkanovski’s entry into the division as well as the fact that the likes of Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier have not yet fought new champ Islam Makhachev might spell trouble for Dariush's title aspirations.
He’s definitely earned a big fight, though – so putting him against either Poirier or Gaethje, or even Charles Oliveira, would make sense.
#3. Aljamain Sterling – defeated TJ Dillashaw to retain the UFC bantamweight title
Sure, ‘The Funk Master’ looked excellent and thoroughly dominated the former titleholder, stopping him via TKO in the second round to retain his bantamweight title. But unfortunately, Dillashaw came into the bout with an injured left shoulder.
Did the fact that his shoulder popped out twice during the fight enable Sterling to pick up the win? Not exactly, as the champion still had to claim a dominant position and do enough for the referee to step in. Nonetheless, the fight could’ve been very different had Dillashaw been healthy.
‘The Funk Master’ looked excellent in this clash and got through a tricky stylistic match unscathed. His haters might question the victory and cite Dillashaw’s shoulder injury, but Sterling is now on an eight-fight win streak and there’s no doubt that he’s the top 135lber in the world.
After 'Aljo's last two showings, it’ll be hard to pick anyone to dethrone him right now.
#2. Sean O’Malley – defeated Petr Yan in a UFC bantamweight bout
While his victory definitely came in controversial circumstances – it seems that every other UFC fighter to comment on his bout felt that he should’ve been handed a defeat – it’s impossible to deny that Sean O’Malley was one of the biggest winners from last night.
Long considered to be one of the best prospects in the bantamweight division, ‘Sugar’ had remained untested at the elite level. In the fight with former champion Petr Yan – whose only true loss in the octagon came against current champ Aljamain Sterling – he was definitely the underdog.
Despite that, O’Malley proved that he belongs at the very top of the 135lbs mountain. While it is probably fair to suggest that Yan deserved the win on the scorecards, clearly taking the second round and arguably the first and third too, ‘Sugar’ had plenty of great moments in what was a very competitive fight.
He proved that he’s tougher than many fans thought, absorbing plenty of punishment from ‘No Mercy’. He also proved that his high-octane, slick brand of striking can work against the best fighters in the world.
Will the win net him a shot at Sterling? It’s possible given Yan was the No.1-ranked fighter in the division. O’Malley seems like the kind of fighter to demand his worth from the promotion, however, the UFC doesn't always acquiesce.
#1. Islam Makhachev – defeated Charles Oliveira to win the UFC lightweight title
There’s absolutely no arguing with the fact that the biggest winner at UFC 280 was Islam Makhachev. Not only did he fulfill the prophecy of his mentor and former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov by claiming the vacant lightweight title, but he did so in an almost flawless performance.
Prior to last night, nobody had beaten Charles Oliveira since he was stopped by Paul Felder way back in December 2017.
The Dagestani started fast, nailing Oliveira with a left hand in practically the first exchange of the fight, and while the Brazilian took the fight into his wheelhouse – the ground – Makhachev easily avoided his submission attempts to grind him with elbows and punches.
In the second round, things only got better for the Russian. After dropping ‘do Bronx’ with a right hook, Makhachev settled into top position, snatched up an arm triangle choke, and made the most successful submission artist in UFC history tap out moments later.
Makhachev has plenty of potential challengers for his newly-won title – most notably current featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski, one of the most cerebral and brilliant fighters in the promotion’s history. But after this destructive showing, it’s nearly impossible to pick against him.
Will he go on to dominate the 155lbs division like Khabib Nurmagomedov did? Put simply, a star was born last night in Abu Dhabi, and there’s no telling how long he might shine for.