What were the biggest moments at UFC Fight Night Long Island? Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim offer their takeaways from a fun event in Elmont, New York.
There’s a lot to take in from a disappointing UFC Long Island main event. How Does Yair Rodriguez’s Victory After Brian Ortega’s Injury Affect UFC Featherweight Title Pic? We’ll get to it. But first it’s important to note that Rodriguez should be credited with this as a real win. Yes, Ortega’s shoulder popped out resulting in the TKO finish. And sure, in typical cases, this doesn’t usually happen; Rodriguez didn’t try to force Ortega’s shoulder out with any particular technique.
However, Rodriguez attempted an armbar from the bottom position and Ortega injured his shoulder trying to defend that submission attempt. That’s a legitimate win. Ortega didn’t slip or hurt himself, and he didn’t step in the wrong direction or hurt his ankles or knees. The injury came while fighting for position with Rodriguez on the ground. So while Rodriguez didn’t attack the shoulder with a submission or aimed punch, the shoulder was damaged during an actual offensive move by Rodriguez and a defensive move by Ortega.
This result absolutely changes how the UFC plans to top the featherweight division. Rodriguez would probably have had a title chance against Alexander Volkanovski with a win. He won and it was a real win, but it wasn’t the kind of win that usually leads to title chances. While the UFC could certainly pit Volkanovski against Rodriguez — and it would be an absolute cracker of a fight few would complain about — it now seems more likely that we could be looking at Rodriguez against Josh Emmett in a No. 1 contender bout.
Meanwhile, Volkanovski fought Max Holloway just two weeks ago and needs surgery for a thumb injury. UFC President Dana White said in Saturday’s post-fight press conference that the UFC was considering an interim title, which seems like a disservice to Volkanovski considering how active he was as a champion. If the interim title comes to fruition, Rodriguez vs. Emmett would make the most sense. Rodriguez was cut under his left eye on Saturday night but that will heal quickly. Emmett sustained more damage in a June 18 defeat of Calvin Kattar, although those were also mostly superficial cuts and bruises.
Volkanovski has also talked about moving up to lightweight and challenging for that title. One would imagine that with the thumb injury and Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev cautioned for the vacant lightweight title at UFC 280 in October, that will now have to be put on hold. It seems realistic that an interim featherweight title fight between Rodriguez and Emmett could occur before the end of the year, with Volkanovski fighting the winner in early 2023 to unify the belts.
Potentially, former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo, who is coming out of retirement, could also be in the mix. But it seems the UFC would prefer Cejudo to bantamweight rather than featherweight on his return.
Hopefully Ortega can make a full recovery as soon as possible because he deserved a better one on Saturday night. Nobody knows what would have happened if the fight had continued. Ortega is one of the most resilient fighters in the UFC, and the competition was total slaying before it ended abruptly. If there is an opportunity to play Rodriguez vs. Ortega 2 later, the UFC must provide it. And if so, let’s hope the site makes more geo sense for this matchup. Rodriguez is Mexican and Ortega is a first generation Mexican. Long Island didn’t make sense for this fight, although it could very well have taken place anywhere in Southern California or the Southwest in front of thousands of adoring fans. – Marc Raimondi
Two examples of why it’s not over until it’s over
Matt Schnell shows incredible determination to overcome powerful blows from Sumudaerji and win by submission.
Many MMA fans crave big knockouts, while others prefer subtle submissions. For me it’s all about perseverance in difficult circumstances in a fight and we saw two heartbreaking examples of that on Saturday.
The first was Bill Algeo’s survival in the danger zone of Herbert Burns’ task. Burns came into the featherweight preliminary round with eight submissions among his 11 wins and a decorated background as a gold medalist in multiple no-gi jiu-jitsu competitions. Wasting no time and getting Algeo in massive trouble brought the fight to the canvas early in Round 1 and went into a triangle choke. But Algeo, himself a black belt, didn’t panic. He slowly worked his way out of the submission attempt, and after deflecting an armbar and a leg attack, stalled the fight again.
Now the battle was in Algeo’s world. He unloaded Burns to such an extent that Algeo threatened when the fight returned to the mat – ground-and-pound. When Algeo decided to retire and leave Burns standing, it took the flabby Brazilian a while to get back on his feet. The fight could have ended between rounds as Burns had no energy in his chair. But it was only a matter of time. For nearly two minutes into the second round, Algeo continued the beatdown, in standup and on the canvas. When Algeo backed up again to allow Burns to stand, Burns barely moved. The referee waved the fight off at 1:50, giving Algeo victory in a fight that tested his will in the face of daunting odds.
But more adversity was soon to come. Matt Schnell was staggered several times but ended early in the second round of his flyweight bout with Sumudaerji. Had the referee stepped in at one of those moments, with Schnell auf Seebeine, few fans would have complained. But an unthinkable comeback would have been denied them. Schnell turned the tide by landing a desperate right hand that briefly staggered his opponent and left an opening to take the fight to the canvas, where Schnell discharged elbows and punches. While this was happening, the Long Island crowd roared, but it was the fans watching at home who got the added pleasure of hearing commentator Daniel Cormier’s voice, which went shrill and barely audible as he attempted to deliver the breathtaking to capture the moment.
A few minutes later, after Schnell finished the job with a triangle choke in the final seconds of Round 2, Cormier was in the cage and asked Schnell to explain to him how he did the job. “I think he’s tired of hitting me,” Schnell said.
What a sport it is. -Jeff Wagenheim
Miesha Tate deserves another flyweight try, also as a gatekeeper
It made sense when Tate announced she was moving from bantamweight to flyweight as Tate looked tiny against Keteln Vieira in a loss last November. After a five-year absence from MMA competition, things have certainly changed on the landscape and Tate was logical in attempting to make that adjustment. The problem is that the UFC gave her on Tate’s debut at 125 pounds to Lauren Murphy, herself a former bantamweight and arguably the most physically fit fighter in the division aside from champion Valentina Shevchenko.
By the way, this is not a criticism of matchmaking at all. The UFC set Tate up for a potential title shot if she defeated Murphy, who had a championship challenge against Shevchenko. But it didn’t work out for Tate. Murphy defeated her via unanimous decision and severely damaged her, blowing up Tate with elbows and punches that left a hematoma under Tate’s left eye. Hopefully the injury isn’t too serious.
Tate is 36 years old and now 1-2 since coming out of retirement. But if she doesn’t want to hang up the gloves, at 125 kilos there are still fights for her. She is a former UFC women’s bantamweight champion, a pioneer in women’s MMA and one of the most popular fighters of all time. She deserves another chance to prove herself at flyweight, see what went wrong here and make adjustments. The first fight in a new weight class can present a unique set of challenges, from weight reduction to cardio to the speed and power of new opponents.
The only problem is that loss could position Tate as a gatekeeper, meaning her next opponent could be an up-and-coming fighter like Maycee Barber, Tracy Cortez or Amanda Ribas. An exciting matchup would be Tate and Natalia Silva, who looked amazing in her UFC debut last month. If Tate doesn’t have a problem with that kind of matchmaking and wants to try again at 125lbs, these are the types of opponents that make sense. And Tate is still a big enough name that she’s only a win or two away from a top contender fight or title shot. – Marc Raimondi
https://www.espn.com/mma/story/_/id/34253856/ufc-fight-night-takeaways-yair-rodriguez-get-title-shot-miesha-tate-now-gatekeeper UFC Fight Night takeaways – Should Yair Rodriguez get a title shot? Is Miesha Tate now a gatekeeper?