What mattered most at UFC 283 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro? Here are a few post-fight musings …
5. Ismael Bonfim’s impeccable debut
The moment the fight began, it was clear Bonfim (19-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) wasn’t there to roll over for McKinney, who was more cautious than usual out of respect for the Brazilian newcomer. That allowed Bonfim to settle in and gain confidence, and from there he was off to the races.
As it became clear he was starting to take over going into the second round, cageside commentator Paul Felder noted how amazing Bonfim looked in the fight. The UFC had a picture-and-picture window on the screen with his brother Gabriel (who picked up a thrilling 49-second submission of Mounir Lazzez later on the prelims), then he uncorked the brutal strike that face-planted McKinney and put him to sleep.
It truly doesn’t get much better than that in a debut, and while the result may ultimately raise more questions about where McKinney’s ceiling is at compared Bonfim’s, this was a huge way to make a first impression under the UFC banner.
4. Farewell, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua
Mauricio Rua had an early moment in his fight with Ihor Potieria that inspired hope he might be able to exit his MMA career with a fairy tale ending. That glimmer of hope quickly was taken away, however, when he was caught with a hard shot then finished at the 4:05 mark of Round 1.
No matter the mixed results late in his career, Rua’s (27-14-1 MMA, 11-12-1 UFC) legacy remains unblemished. He’s an all-time great and one of the most influential fighters in the sport’s history, and the fact he managed to stick around as long as he did is a testament to his natural talent.
Even when “Shogun” joined the UFC in 2007, an argument could be made he wasn’t the same fighter as he was in PRIDE. He’s endured a stretch of serious injuries, largely to the knees, but somehow found a path to become UFC light heavyweight champion. It’s truly remarkable.
Rua’s retirement is legitimately the end of era in the sport of MMA, because he’s the final PRIDE mainstay who was active on the UFC roster. He should be proud of a career that was carried with class, no outside-the-cage controversies and a plethora of memorable moments inside the cage and ring.
3. Can Deiveson Figueiredo thrive at 135?
Just moments after he failed to unify the flyweight title with Brandon Moreno and came out on the losing end of their series, Deiveson Figueiredo took off his gloves and announced his time fighting at 125 pounds officially was over.
The cuts down to flyweight have been a well-documented struggle for Figueiredo (21-3-1 MMA, 10-3-1 UFC). He never missed weight in his matchups with Moreno, but it was clear he needed to be precise and disciplined in order to hit the contracted limit. Figueiredo’s talent is obvious, but it’s hard not to wonder how much he’s taken away from his own performances by draining himself so much on the scale.
We’ll find out the answer to that question when he makes his debut at bantamweight, but even at his very best, it’s going to be an uphill climb for Figueiredo. The depth of talent at 135 pounds is immense, and there’s no one in the top 15 that looks like it would be a layup of a matchup for the Brazilian.
At 35, Figueiredo automatically becomes one of the older fighters at the top end of the division, and some of the advantages he enjoyed at flyweight from a size, speed and power perspective are going to be minimized. That’s all to say any hopes of a title run are going to come with a major challenge.
There’s a lot of fun fights for Figueiredo on paper in his new weight class, but he’s going to have to prove himself all over again to reach the top.
2. Glover Teixeira gets his dream exit – kind of
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) January 22, 2023
Glover Teixeira certainly didn’t draw up leaving UFC 283 with a loss in what’s now his final career fight against Jamahal Hill, but short of the gold, he couldn’t have asked for a more ideal exit from the sport.
The fact Teixeira (33-9 MMA, 16-7 UFC) got to compete in the main event of the UFC’s return to Brazil after the COVID-19 pandemic is a moment that is going to stick with him for the rest of his life, despite not getting the desired result in the octagon.
He didn’t prove to be the better fighter to Hill on the night, but over the course of 25 minutes, Teixeira showed once again why he he’s got as much heart and toughness as anyone we’ve ever seen in this sport. Sure, those aren’t the traits he wants us to peg to his name, and it’s not to diminish his talent, but at 43, his ability to hang at the top level of beyond admirable.
Teixeira’s legacy is one that’s going to age well through the course of MMA history. Not many fighters are going to be able to pull off a run in their 40s like he did, however, and his story will no doubt he an inspiration to the next generation of athletes.
1. Jamahal Hill’s championship potential
The chaotic journey of UFC trying to crown a new light heavyweight champion finally came to a conclusion when Jamahal Hill delivered a five-round showcase against Teixeira to win a unanimous decision and go home with the vacant belt.
It’s crazy that about six weeks ago, Hill (12-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) was nowhere in the title conversation. He was supposed to fight Anthony Smith in the UFC’s March 11 headliner, but when Magomed Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz fought to split draw at UFC 282 in December, the landscape of the weight class changed and Hill’s number was called to face Teixeira.
He took advantage of the opportunity, and suddenly Hill is the top dog at 205 pounds. The question is, how long can he stay there?
The interesting part about Hill’s involvement and victory in this title bout is that Teixeira is the first opponent he’s faced inside the top five of the division. It’s not taking away from Hill’s win, but as we spin things forward, there are going to be some people who use Teixeira’s age and career position to question what Hill’s performance really says about his skill level.
No matter how you cut it, there are going to be some hard matchups coming Hill’s way. Names like Jan Blachowicz, Magomed Ankalaev and Jiri Prochazka are all going to be chasing after Hill’s belt, and no matter who gets the first crack at him, we’re going to get more answers when that time comes.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 283.