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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Friday touched down in Boston with UFC on ESPN 6 -- an event that had knockouts, back-and-forth action and major controversy. Here are five lessons we learned from the happenings at TD Garden:
1. Dominick Reyes is ready for Jon Jones.
When Reyes called out Jones following his contentious split decision win over Volkan Oezdemir at UFC Fight Night 147 in March, it was hard to take him seriously. Many felt Oezdemir had done enough to win, while Reyes still seemed far from ready to challenge Jones. However, there should be no question about it now. Reyes earned the biggest win of his career following a knockout of former middleweight champion Chris Weidman in the UFC on ESPN 6 headliner. “The Devastator” dropped Weidman in the opening round while moving backwards, then landed hammerfists to seal the victory. It was not just his striking and power that was impressive. Reyes also managed to stuff three of Weidman’s four takedown attempts and was never really controlled on the ground. All that bodes well in a potential title fight against Jones, provided Johnny Walker or Corey Anderson does not do anything special at UFC 244.
2. Chris Weidman might have to call it a day.
It is never comfortable to say someone should retire, but most would agree that a fighter who has lost five of his last six fights by knockout qualifies. That is the case for Weidman, who endured a forgettable welcome to the light heavyweight division. Given the lack of top contenders in the weight class, on paper, a road to a title shot should have been attainable for “The All American.” However, it looks like all the damage and wars he has gone through at 185 pounds may have caught up with him and his chin, even if he is no longer cutting an extra 20 pounds. That does not mean it is impossible. After all, Reyes is an undefeated prospect and represents a difficult divisional debut for anyone. As of now, though, things do not look promising for the former middleweight king.
3. Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens need five rounds.
Arguably the most-anticipated matchup at UFC on ESPN 6 was the featherweight grudge rematch between Rodriguez and Stephens, and it certainly delivered. After a first round that saw “El Pantera” dominate the striking exchanges, the action really came to life in the middle stanza. Rodriguez hurt Stephens with a body kick and unloaded strikes on the downed veteran. However, “Lil’ Heathen” showed heart and managed to turn the tables by ending up on top and landing his own strikes. The third round was all Stephens, as he took down Rodriguez multiple times and attempted to finish the fight. In the end, it was not enough as Rodriguez outpointed him by two rounds. The 15-minute affair earned “Fight of the Night” honors, but the general feeling among the mixed martial arts world was that this contest clearly needed two more rounds. Even UFC President Dana White revealed at the post-fight press conference that his one regret was not making the match the main event. Maybe he could rectify that mistake in 2020.
4. Maycee Barber is definitely ‘The Future.’
The ever-confident Barber continued her undefeated run with a first-round technical knockout of Gillian Robertson in their women’s flyweight encounter. She has finished all three of her UFC fights, backing up the hype that accompanied her arrival. At just 21 years of age, “The Future” is aptly nicknamed, and if she continues to win in such dominant fashion, a title shot will certainly not be too far off, especially with Barber having already stated that she wants to break Jones’ record as the youngest UFC champion. However, given the lack of serious contenders in the division, she must not rush into it. Following her latest win, she called out Paige VanZant, who would be an ideal next opponent. Even if Barber were to emerge victorious there, she needs a few more outings before facing one of the greatest female fighters of all-time in Valentina Shevchenko.
5. Despite the controversy, Greg Hardy showed a lot of improvement.
Hardy’s performance against Ben Sosoli was overshadowed by his illegal use of an inhaler in between the second and third rounds. “The Prince of War” claimed he received permission to use the USADA-approved inhaler. However, it was still deemed illegal, and his unanimous decision win was overturned to a no-contest. It is difficult to determine just how much of an effect -- or boost -- Hardy received in the third round as a result. Looking solely at the first two rounds, the former NFL star has certainly improved by leaps and bounds. He was much more patient and composed, as he picked his shots and displayed new weapons by utilizing effective leg kicks throughout the contest. While he was facing a promotional newcomer, Sosoli was a game opponent for a change and did not seem intimidated by Hardy’s size, power or reputation. Whatever you think of Hardy as a fighter, he is only getting better and that can only mean he will end up facing a ranked opponent sooner rather than later.