In the sweltering TD Place Arena Saturday at UFC Fight Night 89 in Ottawa, a former flyweight title contender got back in the win column in impressive fashion. Taking on relative unknown Geane Herrera in the opening fight on the card, perhaps the biggest surprise was that Ali Bagautinov was relegated to the bottom of the pack, the first fight down on Fight Pass. The next biggest surprise? The heart of Herrera, who weathered an incredible storm just to make it to the end of the fight. Because frankly, Bagautinov was in beast mode, throwing kicks, punching for the fences, and looking absolutely focused.

Walking out to “Fight Nights” by Salvador, Bagautinov looked determined from the outset, perhaps fueled by his 0-2 record in his last two fights, including a title fight loss to champ Mighty Mouse and another to the always dangerous Joseph Benavidez. The possibility that he was fighting for his job may have been weighing on his mind, as well as a positive test for EPO following his title shot, but whatever the motivating factor, Bagautinov’s effort at UFC Fight Night 89 looked to be a return to form.

Putting Herrera in danger repeatedly and nearly stopping the fight on several occasions, it was a credit to his opponent that the fight didn’t end early on. At the end of three rounds, it was a clear unanimous decision for Bagautinov, with 30-27 being the score from all three judges.

The problem is, does it matter? Fighting an unranked opponent, already a victim of the Demetrious Johnson freight train, and with the flyweight division’s course set for the next year thanks to a title shot gifted to Wilson Reis, and the winner of the next Ultimate Fighter getting the next crack at Mighty Mouse, it will be a long time before another title shot is even possible for Bagautinov. And given his previous PED test failure, UFC matchmakers may be hesitant to put him back in title contention — though there is plenty of precedent for it (see: Sonnen, Chael).

Still, it seems a little disheartening that such a great performance Saturday may fly under the radar and wind up being a solid victory that does nothing for Bagautinov’s position in the division. On the flip side, however, it represented a great start to the inaugural Ottawa card, and hopefully is a sign that Bagautinov can make another run at 125lbs.

He’ll just have to be extremely patient getting there.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.