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UFC 299: Five Things We Learned

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UFC 299 did not disappoint and provided several noteworthy performances. Here are the biggest things we learned at the event. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

UFC 299: Five Things We Learned

UFC 299 was a stacked night of fights with great action. The card delivered several great fights and a few spectacular individual performances. That leaves us with important lessons for some of the most important fighters in the UFC. Here are the five biggest lessons we learned at UFC 299.

Sean O’Malley shows championship cardio

At UFC 299, Sean O’Malley defended the bantamweight championship for the first time in his career with a spectacular win over Marlon Vera. O’Malley showed a lot of outstanding tools on his way to a dominant decision win. For the most part, he showed a lot of skills that we have seen, but this fight was his first to enter the championship rounds. The champion held up well in those rounds and answered any questions surrounding his ability to perform deep in a fight.

O’Malley started this fight strong and had an outstanding game plan. The champion did a great job of using his footwork, stance switching, and speed to quickly get a lead. It was a classic game of hit and don’t get hit. Furthermore, the shots that he landed were big shots that did damage. The most notable was the knee that he landed in the second round. It is ridiculous that Vera was able to take that shot and stay in the fight.

In the later rounds, Vera’s aggression picked up substantially. Still, O’Malley had the necessary footwork and speed to stay out of danger. That is why his cardio is crucial. In theory, if O’Malley gets tired, his will movement will be far less effective and he will be far easier to hit. The fact that O’Malley showed strong cardio makes him much harder to beat in a five-round fight. That should be the biggest takeaway from his performance at UFC 299.

Dustin Poirier stays at the top

At UFC 299, Dustin Poirier was in a risky position. The veteran was taking on Benoit Saint-Denis- a young up-and-comer with a great skill set. Poirier rose to the occasion and landed a highlight reel knockout.

Poirier exposed the exact flaw in Saint-Denis’ skill to pick up this victory. The Frenchman is wild and reckless which leaves him open to be countered. Poirier found a moment where Saint-Denis got overaggressive and punished him with lethal counters. The most impressive part is that Saint-Denis has shown superhuman durability. The fact that Poirier had enough power in his hands to land a clean knockout is absurd.

This fight is a strong example of the value of fighting down in the rankings. If a highly-ranked fighter takes on a lower-ranked opponent, they have a chance to stop them from rising the ranks while earning a bigger opportunity in their next outing. At UFC 299, Poirier showed the value in that.

Michael Page is still at top form

Michael Page entered UFC 299 with a handful of questions. The most blatant involved his age and ability to fight in the UFC. In his UFC debut, he answered those questions with a dominant win over Kevin Holland.

One of the keys to Page’s game is his speed and explosiveness. At 36, questions can be asked about whether those attributes have slipped. Well, Page showed that he is still capable of darting in and out of the pocket while landing his lighting-quick right hand.

UFC fans should be thrilled that Page still has high-level performances left in the tank. At a minimum, he will make for a few highly intriguing match-ups against top-ranked welterweights.

Jack Della Maddalena has a mix of traits to love and hate

At UFC 299, Jack Della Maddalena took another step forward in his career with a third-round knockout win over Gilbert Burns. This fight put the things to love and hate about Della Maddalena on display.

Let’s start on the positive side of things. Maddalena showed great boxing and made an outstanding read to land the knee that ended the fight. On the feet, he is very high-level. Furthermore, Della Maddalena has the heart and cardio to make him dangerous for an entire fight. Della Maddalena could have easily given up and allowed Burns to control top position for the remainder of the third round. Instead, he found a way to get to his feet and end the fight. That is a great mentality for a fighter to have. Plus, he did not seem remotely tired in the third round. The pairing of a no-quit attitude and strong cardio creates a dangerous fighter.

It should be made clear that this fight was not an easy day in the office for Della Maddalena. Burns managed to go seven of 11 on his takedown attempts and racked up 5:07 of control time, according to UFC Stats. Specifically, Burns did a great job of landing his single leg and transitioning toward Della Maddalena’s back. It should be noted that we have seen grappling flaws from him in previous fights as well. This bout continued to highlight the positions where Della Maddalena struggles in grappling sequences.

Outside of the fight itself, Della Maddalena called out Shavkat Rakhmonov in his octagon interview. This has nothing to do with skills, but he deserves credit for having the guts to hunt the toughest fight in the division.

Petr Yan is back

At UFC 299, Petr Yan had his back up against the wall. The former champion was 1-4 in his last five and squared off with the highly talented Song Yadong. In a close fight, Yan managed to pick up a decision victory and get back in the win column.

This fight highlighted the reason Yan was able to capture the bantamweight title. That begins with his boxing, kicks, ability to make reads, and his highly underrated grappling. In the face of a dangerous striker, Yan managed to land the much bigger striker in the second and third rounds while landing takedowns. That combination allowed Yan to do more damage.

It should also be noted that this was only Yan’s second three-round fight since 2020. That was not ideal as Yan typically holds an advantage in the later rounds. If this fight was a five-round fight, Yan would have had a massive edge entering the championship rounds. With that in mind, it makes his performance even better. The former champion picked up a clean decision victory without fighting in the rounds that are historically his best.

At 31, Yan still sits in the elite portion of the bantamweight division. It does not look like the former champion is going anywhere anytime soon either.

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