Saturday’s UFC 292 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Boston, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at TD Garden.
1 – Sean O’Malley
Well, if you doubted Sean O’Malley before Saturday night’s main event, you’re probably not doubting him today. And if you are, you likely will never be convinced. Bottom line, Aljamain Sterling was the legitimate king at 135 pounds, in the running for the best ever tag in the division, and O’Malley stopped him. Add that to his win over Petr Yan, and it’s clear that the charismatic Arizonan is no hype job. He’s the real deal, and the best part is that if you’re still in the minority that thinks he doesn’t belong here, there are a ton of intriguing matchups for him to change your mind, including Marlon Vera, Merab Dvalishvili and Cory Sandhagen, just for starters. I’d love to see him in with Yan again, Rob Font, Umar Nurmagomedov, etc. as well. Bantamweight is a heck of a division for fight fans, and let the good fights keep on coming.
WATCH: O'Malley Knocks Out Sterling
2 – Zhang Weili
Take away two losses to Rose Namajunas, and Zhang Weili is the best fighter in the game – male or female. She’s that good and she can do it all. And while we can’t take away those two losses to “Thug Rose,” we can look forward to the possibility of a dominant second reign from a champion who just seems to get better and better. Amanda Lemos is one of the top strawweights in the world, and Zhang dominated on Saturday night. She’s the real deal, and though she has plenty of challengers chasing her, most notably Tatiana Suarez, if she can figure out the Californian, “Magnum” may be holding the belt for as long as she wants to.
3 – Marlon Vera
Marlon Vera had a lot riding on his Saturday bout against Pedro Munhoz. A win, and he was in the mix for a shot against someone he already beat in Sean O’Malley if “Sugar” Sean left Boston with the bantamweight title. Lose, and that’s two straight and a long wait to get into the title conversation. Well, “Chito” did his part, O’Malley did his, and while nothing is set in stone at this early stage, a rematch between the two rivals makes all the sense in the world.
4 – Brad Tavares
There’s winning and winning with class, and that’s what Brad Tavares did on Saturday night. Despite being thrust into the “bad guy” role against comebacking Chris Weidman, Tavares remained the good guy that he is, putting in three rounds of work, sticking to the game plan, and then picking up the biggest win of his UFC career against a former middleweight champ. And after the verdict was announced, the Hawaiian remained all class, making it one of those fights where no matter who scored the victory, the good guy won.
5 – Ian Machado Garry
A lot of fighters talk. It’s the ones whose words put them in crosshairs and still deliver that become champions and stars in this game. Ian Machado Garry is rapidly getting to that point where he not only talks, but backs up what he says in the Octagon. Neil Magny isn’t someone who loses fights by scores of 30-26, 30-26 and 30-24. It just doesn’t happen. But Garry did what he said he would on Saturday night, proving that he’s ready for the next step in his climb up the welterweight ladder, one we’ll all be watching.