UFC 239: The outtakes — as Masvidal’s KO steals the show
As per every summer, the UFC arrived in Las Vegas with a stacked card to cap off international fight week, and once again, the fight gods delivered.
A preliminary card filled with exciting prospects, and a thrilling main card full of jaw dropping knockouts and world class technical displays; UFC 239 had something for every fight fan to enjoy.
Now, as the dust has settled from the fireworks that took place at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night, it’s time to take a closer look at the weekend’s winners, their performances, and what may be next for them in the near future.
Jones simply a class above the rest of the division
As many questions as there were regarding Thiago Santos and his ability to challenge Jon Jones, one thing was certain, the Brazilian’s power was always going to be a threat. This was evident throughout the fight, with Jones instantly removing himself from any kind of position which could see Santos close enough to land one of his trademark bombs on the champ.
Other than a few scrambles here and there, the fight materialized just as most would have predicted. Jones never seemed to be in any kind of trouble. The reigning champion took minimal damage, controlled the distance in typical fashion, and beat up on Santos with grueling leg kicks and striking combinations. With that being said, credit where it’s due to Santos for bringing it for the entire five rounds. It was clear that he had earned Jones’ respect in there, and he was never fully out of the fight because of the vicious one punch knockout power which the champ grew fully aware of as the bout went on.
In the end, “Bones” became a world champion for the 13thtime by retaining his belt — via split decision this time. You could argue that the decision was a bit generous in favor of the challenger, but in the end, it was a correct one.
This victory now leaves Jones head and shoulders above the rest of the division as he continues to do what he has been doing since his UFC debut, and that is clearing out the division opponent by opponent. And while Dana White has a wealth of fighters still to pick from for Jones’ next title defense, it is truly difficult to predict who will stand across from the light heavyweight champion next.
Amanda Nunes, one of the all-time greats
To say that Amanda Nunes is the greatest female fighter of all time wasn’t too far-fetched even before she defeated Cris Cyborg in the fashion that she did. Now, the fact that Nunes is the “G.O.A.T” in female combat sports is pretty much set in stone, and you really have to start including her in the conversation for being one of the greatest ever, male and female.
On Saturday, Nunes added another future Hall of Fame name onto her list of victims, and in spectacular fashion, as she stopped Holly Holm in the first round. What’s even more impressive about that victory is that Nunes dropped Holm with a picture-perfect head kick — a Holm special — and later admitted that defeating Holm in the way she likes to beat opponents was her goal. To do something like that in a fight of that magnitude is simply incredible.
With that victory, Nunes is left on an even more deserted island in her division, than Jones is at 205. The bantamweight division is being dried out by the “Lioness,” and you would have to imagine that a return to featherweight to defend her second belt, perhaps against the winner of Cyborg vs. Spencer, has got to be the next move for the UFC’s undisputed queen.
“Masvidal via death”
Summed up as accurately as it could have been by MMA Latest’s own, Stephen Howson, during Saturday night’s live watch along, Jorge Masvidal proved once again that he is simply a stone-cold killer once the Octagon door slams shut.
“Gamebred” has dropped his last two opponents straight into local hospitals, showing that he is not the guy to be messed with in the extremely talented welterweight division. The 34-year-old seems to be getting better, and his skill set becoming more polished with age, as he keeps banging on the door of that highly coveted title shot.
The highlights of that five second flying knee KO, and the reactions, have made the rounds on all social media platforms since Saturday, and with Masvidal fresh as a daisy, it is going to be difficult to deny him the next shot at the belt. Or perhaps, a shot at another interim welterweight strap, with champ Kamaru Usman expected to be sidelined for another while following surgery.
Blachowicz right back into title contention
After finding himself on the wrong end of a left hook from Thiago Santos earlier this year, Jan Blachowicz delivered a jaw-breaker of his own to Luke Rockhold on Saturday, securing a second round KO victory, and reclaiming his seat at the title conversation round table.
A bit of bad blood built up between Blachowicz and light heavyweight debutant Rockhold during the fight week media duties, motivating the veteran Pole to welcome the California native into the division with a baptism of fire — and so he did. Blachowicz caught Rockhold with a crisp left hook coming out of the clinch, recording his first knockout since 2014, and the fifth win in his last six fights.
With the Santos fight ending up being a No. 1 contender fight, and Rockhold claiming that he was up next for a title shot had he been able to put Blachowicz away, it seems like after almost five years in the UFC, it may just be the time when the former KSW champion gets his first crack at the gold.
Chiesa too good for Sanchez
Unlike Kevin Lee, Michael Chiesa is taking his transition into welterweight at a slightly slower pace, getting used to the division and picking up some useful victories against unranked opposition first.
After a submission victory against Carlos Condit in December of last year, Chiesa delivered wrestling and grappling clinics in a comfortable decision win against another veteran, Diego Sanchez, on Saturday. With Sanchez coming off back-to-back wins, the match up was intriguing, but Chiesa never allowed his savvy opponent to get going, and dominated the fight from start to finish.
The former lightweight contender showed that he is a level above the welterweight old timers that perhaps have one foot out the door, and after a gradual acclimation period in the division, perhaps it is now time for Chiesa to test himself against a ranked, top 15 welterweight contender.
Sports journalist currently based in CA, USA.