After all the drama during the week, UFC 223 finally took centerstage in Brooklyn, New York. In the end, “The Eagle” takes flight as the new lightweight champion.
Khabib Nurmagomedov looked dominant as he was able to score a unanimous decision over late replacement Al Iaquinta in the main event. Nurmagomedov was in control throughout the five-round fight with his grappling and takedowns. Iaquinta survived by fighting out of the submission attempts and managed to land some strikes on Nurmagomedov. However, it wasn’t enough to do any damage to Nurmagomedov as he cruised to the lightweight title. Iaquinta didn’t leave empty handed, gaining much deserved respect for stepping in and putting up a fight on short notice.
Iaquinta was placed in the main event on Friday afternoon after featherweight champion Max Holloway was deemed medically ineligible to compete. Holloway stepped in to replace interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, who injured his knee making the media rounds earlier in the week.
Nurmagomedov is now the undisputed lightweight champion. Ferguson was stripped of the interim belt. Conor McGregor, who created all sorts of a mess during the week which we all know about by now, was stripped of the lightweight title.
“Now just one champion,” said Nurmagomedov, who improved to 26-0 in MMA. “No more fake champions. No champions who don’t defend the title. Now the UFC has a champion and this champion wants to defend his title.”
The co-main event featured a rematch for the women’s strawweight title between champion Rose Namajunas and challenger Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The fight was close in all five rounds, with Namjunas taking the first two by landing several significant strikes. Jedrzejczyk would then counter in the middle rounds with a flurry of leg strikes that would set up body shots on Namajunas. In the fifth and final round, Namajunas scored a late takedown and would eventually get the win via unanimous decision.
“I just kept saying I’m the best,” Namajunas said. “Just kept saying to myself I’m the best. I just kind of abandoned the game plan a little bit and just went out there and had fun and was just like, ‘Screw it, I’m just going to slug instead of trying to be quick right now, because it’s obviously not working.”
Needless to say, Jedrzejczyk was not happy with the decision.
“The numbers don’t lie. 142 to 84 and landed 132 strikes from me and 83 from Rose,” Jedrzejczyk said. “That’s the answer. I felt like I was winning the fight. The numbers don’t lie. The significant strikes are telling the truth.”
It’s the second career loss for Jedrzejczyk, with both of those to Namajunas. Jedrzejczyk had previously lost the strawweight belt to Namajunas at UFC 217.
Another major strawweight battle took place during the prelims, with Karolina Kowalkiewicz getting the split decision win over Felice Herrig. The split decision was somewhat controversial considering how Kowalkiewicz was in control during the entire three-round fight.
The reason why this was big, despite being on the prelim card, is that both Namajunas and Kowalkiewicz have history together with Kowalkiewicz getting a split-decision win over Namajunas at UFC 201. Kowalkiewicz would later make a run at the title but eventually lost to Jedrzejczyk at UFC 205.
Namajunas wouldn’t mind a rematch with Kowalkiewicz.
“I’d definitely like to right that wrong,” Namajunas said. “I think she’s a great competitor, and I have a lot of respect for her, as well. At the same time, there’s a lot of strawweight competitors out there, but she’s definitely one on the list.”
UFC 223 Results
Khabib Nurmagomedov defeats Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision
Rose Namajunas defeats Joanna Jedrzejczyk by unanimous decision
Renato Moicano defeats Calvin Kattar by unanimous decision
Zabit Magomedsharipov defeats Kyle Bochniak by unanimous decision
Chris Gruetzemacher defeats Joe Lauzon by TKO
Karolina Kowalkiewicz defeats Felice Herrig by split decision
Olivier Aubin-Mercier defeats Evan Dunham by TKO
Ashlee Evans-Smith defeats Bec Rawlings by unanimous decision
Devin Clark defeats Michael Rodriguez by unanimous decision