Saturday’s UFC Saint Petersburg event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Russia, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Yubileyny Sports Palace.
1 – Alistair Overeem
Sixty-three pro MMA fights. That’s a lot of fights, and Alistair Overeem has won forty-five of them. That’s a lot of wins, especially when most of them were fought at the highest level of the sport. So if “The Demolition Man” walked away from the sport today, he would have a legacy tough to match. But he’s not done yet, and after a couple tough losses to Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou, he’s stopped Sergei Pavlovich and Aleksei Oleinik, putting the 38-year-old back in the heavyweight title race. Now that’s a comeback story.
2 – Islam Makhachev
Fight fans are starting to come around to the reality of Islam Makhachev as a lightweight contender after five consecutive wins, the most recent of which on Saturday earned him and opponent Arman Tsarukyan Fight of the Night honors. But let’s go back a bit to 2015, and Makhachev was seen as the biggest thing to hit the UFC from Russia since his friend Khabib Nurmagomedov. Then he got upset by Adriano Martins at UFC 192 and he went back under the radar. But Makhachev is the same guy with the same talent and the same potential, and he has proven to be a prime example of the combat sports reality that one loss does not define a fighter.
3 – Sergei Pavlovich
When the unbeaten Sergei Pavlovich got his call to the big show, he got one of those feast or famine fights against Alistair Overeem. He wins, he’s an immediate contender. He loses and the skeptics come out of the woodwork. Well, Pavlovich was stopped by Overeem last November, and the skeptics came out. But Pavlovich was undeterred, and he got back in the win column last Saturday with a 66-second knockout of Brazilian prospect Marcelo Golm. Some fighters don’t recover from their first loss. Pavlovich did…with style.
4 – Roxanne Modafferi
I’m not one to make fight predictions, but as talented as Antonina Shevchenko is, I had to think that taking on Roxanne Modafferi in her second UFC bout was going to be a big hill to climb for “La Pantera.” And it was. Yes, it was a close fight, but that’s when the experience of “The Happy Warrior” came into play. And while she isn’t likely to win all the fights against the top flyweights in the UFC, she’s going to give them all a fight, and if that fight stays close, don’t be surprised if she takes it down the stretch.
5 – Michal Oleksiejczuk
A failed drug test got the UFC career of Michal Oleksiejczuk off to a rocky start and took away a dominant 2017 win over surging Khalil Rountree Jr. But after serving his suspension, the Polish light heavyweight returned earlier this year and he’s made up for lost time with a pair of knockouts over Gian Villante and Gadzhimurad Antigulov, proving that he’s going to be a player in a 205-pound weight class that is pretty interesting heading into the middle of 2019.