I don’t think anyone really expected much from UFC Vegas 59/The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 30 Finale. UFC Apex cards in general have become consistently unimportant outside of the top pair of headlining fights, and while I don’t have the statistics to back it up, it sure feels like a large percentage of dedicated fight fans no longer tune into TUF.
Those who watched anyway were rewarded with an extremely rare gift from the MMA Gods: a night without a single judges’ decision. I’d like to think it was the sacrifice of a Jake Paul-led boxing event that pleased them and granted us such a bounty.
For a moment, consider all the unlikely elements that had to line up for this to happen. First and foremost, two fights were cancelled on the day of the event! Pulsing issues and medical failures trimmed the card down to a svelte 10 match ups, improving our odds by some unknowable measure.
Some of these fights always read as finished. Vicente Luque vs. Geoff Neal? Of course those two maniacs were going to beat each other’s heads in. They win almost entirely by stoppage anyway, but Neal’s breakthrough performance really sealed the deal. Similarly, we knew Michal Oleksiejczuk was going to drop left hand bombs all over Sam Alvey’s still-somehow-contracted-but-not-smile’n face, and the pair of Heavyweight bouts ending early makes sense.
The rest, however? 30 percent of the card was women’s MMA, and the ladies statistically have a lower finishing rate. Fortunately, nobody told these specific ladies! The night began with a quick, semi-controversial armbar, and it only grew more interesting.
What’s more unlikely, a very slick Von Flue choke courtesy of Cory McKenna (the first in women’s UFC history) or an actually promising TUF champion in 2022? Seriously, Julianna Miller may not yet be a technical marvel, but she beat the piss out of her opponent and showed a genuine mean streak to force a finish in a fight she was dominating.
Speaking of unlikely and impressive TUF winners, Bryan Battle — noted submission fighter — kicked his opponent in the face perfectly in 44 seconds. WHAT?!?
Lastly, the main event provided far more thrills than expected. I love Thiago Santos, but his last few fights have been abysmal and long viewing experiences. There was no reason to think that would change vs. Jamahal Hill, a far scarier puncher than someone like Johnny Walker or Magomed Ankalaev. For whatever reason, shades of the old “Marreta” returned, and we were treated to a great fight and final knockout of the evening.
On nights like UFC Vegas 59 that look underwhelming on paper, that’s always a contingent of fans who cry out, “These are the best cards!” Usually, that’s wishful thinking, but for once, all the stars actually did align and offer up a concise, violent, and entertaining night from the UFC Apex.
Take an extra moment to savor it, then cross your fingers for continued good luck at UFC San Diego. Right now, the card looks like great fun, but we’ll just have to wait and see!
For complete UFC Vegas 59: “Santos vs. Hill” results and play-by-play, click HERE!