Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to action last night (Sat., May 9, 2020) as UFC 249 went down from inside Vystar Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. It was the promotion’s first event in two months, delivering on all fronts with one action-packed bout after another. In the headlining act, Justin Gaethje defeated Tony Ferguson via fifth round technical knockout to win the interim Lightweight title (see it again here). In the co-main event, Henry Cejudo stopped former Bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz, to retain his 135-pound strap with just two seconds remaining in round two (recap).
Winner: Justin Gaethje
Who He Should Fight Next: Khabib Nurmagomedov
While we may have lost Ferguson vs Khabib once and for all last night, at least we can look forward to another thrilling Lightweight title fight, as Gaethje will face “The Eagle” later this year in a title unification bout. Yes, it’s a fight everyone wants to see, but we didn’t want to get it at the expense of losing Ferguson vs. Khabib after five previous failed attempts. But those were the dice UFC was willing to roll just for the sake of coming back early. And we may not have to wait too long for Khabib vs. Gaethje, as we could get it as early as August. Last night’s bout delivered on all fronts, and Khabib vs. Gaethje could very well do the same.
Winner: Henry Cejudo
Who He Should Fight Next ....
After knocking out Dominick Cruz, Cejudo announced his abrupt retirement from MMA at the age of 33, all while being at the top of the game. As a result, UFC president Dana White stated during the post-fight press conference (video replay here) that Petr Yan and an opponent to-be-named later would fight for the vacant 135-pound strap as soon as possible. And that got me thinking a bit: if Cejudo was posturing for a bigger raise — a sentiment many share — perhaps White called his bluff by wanting to stage a title fight as soon as possible. Could it be?
Winner: Francis Ngannou
Who He Should Fight Next: Title shot
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Ngannou is a a scary, scary man. “The Predator” once again proved his dominance last night after starching Jairzinho Rozenstruick in just 20 seconds (recap). For those keeping count, Ngannou’s last eight UFC wins have all come via first round stoppage, seven of them by way of (technical) knockout. His last four wins have ended in 45, 25, 71 and 20 seconds, respectively. That is more than good enough to earn him another shot at the strap. The problem is he will now have to sit back and wait once again, as Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic still have to figure out a date to hold their trilogy fight. After that, things could get a bit complicated. Should “DC” win, he plans on retiring, leaving the title vacant. That means Ngannou will have to see who UFC pegs as a worthy contender to face him for the title. If Stipe wins, there is no telling how long Ngannou will have to wait for that rematch, depending on what type of damage, if any, Miocic endures against Cormier.
Winner: Calvin Kattar
Who He Should Fight Next: Josh Emmett
Emmett was lined up to face Edson Barboza last week at what was supposed to be UFC Fight Night 174, but after that event was canceled, that bout was scrapped. Personally, I’d rather see Emmett and Kattar -- two natural 145 pounders — square off against each other next. Emmett holds one ranking spot higher (No. 8) over Kattar (No. 9), so it makes sense in that aspect. Plus, trying to convince a higher-ranked fighter to take on Kattar would be a chore in itself, as they would all, obviously, want a higher-ranked opponent themselves. Kattar looked great in his knockout win over Jeremy Stephens, and if he can get a win over a powerhouse like Emmett, it could do wonders for his career moving forward.
Winner: Greg Hardy
Who He Should Fight Next: Marcin Tybura
Hardy got back in the win column last night after defeating Yorgan de Castro via unanimous decision to score his third victory under the UFC banner. Still, some feel that the jury is still out on Hardy, as you get the sense that you haven’t quite seen enough from him to notice drastic improvement in his overall game from his previous bout. And that’s not necessarily a knock on Hardy, I’m positive he’s working hard in the lab to get better each day. Is he ready to jump into a title fight? No, he isn’t, and the good thing is that he recognizes that and is ready to pick off as many foes as he needs to in order to get to the big dance. Up next for him should be a nice step up in the form of Tybura. With 10 fights inside the Octagon, Marcin has the experience to give Hardy some fits. While he is only 1-2 in has last three bouts, Tybura is a good candidate for the former NFL star. He has knockout power and good submission skills to take care of business on the ground. And a win over Tybura would be a nice notch on Hardy’s belt.
For complete UFC 249 results and coverage click here.