For the first time in what will be three shows in eight days, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., last night (Sat., May 9, 2020) for UFC 249. After well over a month on the sidelines, UFC returned with an incredible event, stacked from start-to-finish. Two titles were on the line, and it wasn’t hard to get excited for the return of combat sports even with the COVID-19 concerns.
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques of the night:
A Flawless Highlight
Justin Gaethje beat the sh*t out of Tony Ferguson last night. The mixed martial arts (MMA) world was promised a brawl, but that wasn’t the outcome. Instead, Gaethje dominated his opponent and frankly made it look easy (watch highlights).
From the first bell, Gaethje couldn’t miss. Ferguson juked and jived his way forward, but Gaethje’s right hand and left hook met him at every advance. Whenever Ferguson tried to force the action, he ate hellacious punishment. By the third round, Ferguson’s face was a mask of blood and swelling.
It only got worse from there.
Outside of a single big uppercut at the end of the second, Ferguson wasn’t able to accomplish much. Gaethje’s movement perplexed him, and the frequent counters ensured “El Cucuy” was never able to gain momentum. It’s a truly painful end to Ferguson’s incredible win streak, but there’s still no doubting his inhuman toughness.
‘Triple C’ Conundrum
Look, no one particularly enjoys the cringe persona. Unfortunately, his actions are so annoying that they distract from the incredible skills and accomplishments of Henry Cejudo.
Cejudo has all the skills in the world, and opposite Dominick Cruz he executed a picture-perfect gameplan. So many fighters have been puzzled by “The Dominator,” but Cejudo and his team knew the answer. Cejudo feinted his way forward, forced Cruz to move his feet, and then kicked the bejesus out of them. He mixed in combinations and kept his own movement unpredictable.
Olympic-level takedown defense made his kick-heavy strategy much more possible.
Cruz was stepping in more heavily with punches than usual, and Cejudo made him pay for it. When a fighter moves his head all over the place like Cruz, the head kick is always a viable option, and it takes just one.
Is Cejudo’s abrupt retirement the real deal? Hard to say. Cejudo did leave wrestling far younger than most, but it’s also a possible contract negotiation tactic. We’ll have to wait and see!
What Is There To Say?
Francis Ngannou is a f*cking terror!
Jairzinho Rozenstruik is a professional kickboxer with a wealth of experience. Combined between MMA and kickboxing, he’s competed 86 times as a professional. In all that ring time, Rozenstruik has only been knocked out twice.
Ngannou did it in 20 seconds. What is there to say?
Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar not only lived up to the hype, it flew past it.
Stephens opened the round on fire. He was ripping into Kattar’s leg, shifting stances, and clubbing Kattar with his powerful hooks. It was a great look for Stephens, as he was both fluid and powerful, landing with real impact and seemingly hurting Kattar at various points in the round.
Kattar’s boxing though. Holy crap, when that guy releases a combination, he’s almost in a league of his own compared to other UFC fighters. The weight transfer is perfect, the strikes brutal. A huge right hand snapped Stephens’ head back and got Kattar back into the fight late in the first, and he carried that momentum in the second.
Stephens has never been a man to allow the momentum to be stolen from him easily. Classic “Lil Heathen,” he bit down on his mouthpiece and swung back. Unfortunately for him, Kattar countered perfectly with an elbow as Stephens moved forward, direct to the chin. Stephens’ chin is really the stuff of legend, but not even he could survive such a perfect shot.
Kattar is one of the best in the world, and Stephens remains a bad sumbitch despite his losing streak.
Old Dogs, Same Tricks, Fun Times
Neither Anthony Pettis nor Donald Cerrone are in peak form anymore, but that doesn’t mean they can’t demonstrate their skills in a fun fight.
Pettis looked more mobile and loose than normal, which really paid dividends. A majority of the time the two exchanged, Pettis’ loose counter punches cracked the jaw of Cerrone. In addition, Pettis found good success with his jumping punches. On the other hand, Cerrone chopped at the leg, landed some of his reactive takedowns, and scored with a nasty high kick late in the third.
Unfortunately, the fight was marred by a missed eye poke in the third round. To the judges, it appeared that Pettis stunned and swarmed Cerrone, which may have swayed the eventual split-decision.
Regardless of that minor controversy, it was an excellent fight between game veterans.
Submission Aces Scrap
Aleksei Oleinik started the fight on fire.
He charged Fabricio Werdum, taking advantage of the Brazilian’s two year layoff by giving him zero time to settle into the fight. It worked, and he landed big, slamming home surprisingly quick sledgehammers over the top and through the middle with uppercuts. Werdum seemed a bit shell-shocked, trapped along the fence and eating big shots.
Werdum seemed to shake off the rust in the second, which was much closer. Oleinik still pushed the pace and did damage, but Werdum landed some brutal knees of his own, in addition to a takedown. That proved to the deciding round of the eventual split-decision, as Werdum ran away with the third round, controlling his foe from top position after a super slick kimura sweep.
Two of the three judges awarded Oleinik the decision win, arguably the biggest victory of his career. Both men brought the fight, but it’s pretty neat to see Oleinik thrive and score major victories so late in his professional career.
Long live “Boa Constrictor!”
The Brawl That Was Promised
UFC’s goal was to soak up extra eyes by being the only show in town, which made Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price 2 the perfect fight to put on the “Prelims” undercard. Of course, these two were going to throw down in a bloody battle — there was never any other option (watch highlights).
Similar to the first fight, Luque’s tighter punches and excellent counters made the difference. His overhand repeatedly landed over the top of Price’s jab, and the left hook proved once again to be a money shot for the Brazilian. That’s not to say Price didn’t have his moments; “The Hybrid” landed a brutal front kick, stunning Luque and nearly paying him back with a d’arce choke of his own.
Over the course of three rounds, however, Luque’s accuracy paid off, as his power shots slowly added up. A huge left hook put Price on his butt in the third, and though he regained his footing, his eye was completely shut.
Luque bounces back from his loss to Stephen Thompson in impressive fashion, and Price’s path is cleared for an ultimate Florida Man fight with Mike Perry -- an excellent outcome!
Bryce Mitchell manhandled Charles Rosa like no one else ever has.
Though the submission finish did evade him (thanks to Rosa’s dedicated defense), Mitchell kept his foe entirely on the defense for 15 full minutes. From the first takedown, Mitchell began transitioning up the positional hierarchy: leg triangle along the fence to two-on-one control to claw ride to arm triangle choke to back mount to twister. Rinse and repeat, over and over, as Rosa simply could not deny the grappling onslaught.
It was extremely impressive work from the Featherweight prospect.
For complete UFC 249 results and coverage click here.