UFC 302: You Get What You Pay For

ufc 302
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a valiant effort from Islam Makhachev and Dustin Poirier in the main event, UFC 302 stands out for the wrong reasons, some of which are solely the fault of the promotion. 

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UFC 302’s 5 Round Meltdown

Aside from the myriads of Fight Night main events, there have been very few non-title five round fights. Bouts like the Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz rematch stood out as special moments that needed the extra two rounds to satisfy the fan base. Sean Strickland and Paulo Costa do not fit that criterion.

By putting Sean Strickland and Paulo Costa in an extended co-main event, the UFC actively undermined their efforts to present the best possible product. The most frustrating aspect is that they know better. 

Matchmakers have spent countless hours dissecting the fighters’ tendencies and have a very good idea of the most probable outcomes. Putting Strickland, a cardio based fighter who has won the overwhelming majority of his UFC fights by decision, against a powerhouse like Costa that loses steam by round two, is setting the stage for two likely outcomes.

Either Costa blasts Strickland in the early moments or Strickland pushes past the danger zone where his ability to push the pace takes over. Either outcome makes for good entertainment. 

Adding an extra two rounds to that is like adding unnecessary filler to a good recipe, the product loses its potency and becomes watered down. A watered-down fight is a boring fight. 

As the fight played out just the way most would have expected, the slow-paced decision felt like a stylistic inevitability. On a night devoid of finishes, those extra 10 minutes felt that much more unnecessary. 

New Gloves, Same Sh*t

For almost the entire modern era of the UFC, the gloves have been a centerpiece of controversy. The number of broken hands, the ludicrous amount of eye pokes, and the clear difference in quality compared to other promotions, meant that change was needed. 

An April press release from the company announcing a new glove design that would keep “fingers in a natural position and minimize eye pokes” offered some hope.

But instead of addressing those issues with proper improvements to the equipment, UFC 302 marked the debut of gloves that failed to live up to the intended purpose. Before the first fight of the event concluded, multiple eye pokes had taken place.

To make matters worse, when referee Gasper Oliver didn’t just miss the fouls in the Randy Brown and Elizeu Zalecki dos Santos fight, he robbed “Capoeira” of the appropriate time to recover.  

If promotions that the UFC has outperformed, outlasted, and/or bought out (Strikeforce for example) figured out how to reduce eye pokes, why can’t the UFC?

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Ant Walker is a native of the Washington DC area that now lives in Los Angeles. He has been... More about Anthony Walker

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