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UFC 240 editorial: Nothing learned, but not a bad night in the classroom

Jordan Breen looks back at UFC 240, which largely didn’t tell us anything new.

UFC 240 happened Saturday night in Edmonton. It was a thing that occurred. Did it thrill us in any particular way? No, not really. Did we gain any new knowledge about mixed martial arts? Nope. Basically, if you paid $60 to watch this thing, you got to watch status quo upheld. So, the essential question is how you feel about that.

Max Holloway was a -300 favorite against Frankie Edgar, and the interplay of the contest confirmed what we all suspected. Yes, Holloway was ripped up by Dustin Poirier in his return to the lightweight division in April, but no one ever doubted he was on top of the featherweight world. As such, he soundly used his boxing to piece up “The Answer,” early establishing his jab and tuning him up with wicked uppercuts as Edgar tried to get inside. I think for most outside of New Jersey, this is not a great surprise. Folks love Frankie Edgar as a genuine, down-to-Earth, folksy guy, but understands that despite his accomplishments, at the highest level of competition, he’s a bridesmaid. The fight played out exactly as the majority expected, and characteristically, in defeat, Edgar is exactly the kind of ambassador we want for the sport. I mean, other than being managed by Ali Abdel-Aziz and being forced into hobnobbing with violent dictators. But I mean, MMA … am I right?

MMA: UFC 240-Holloway vs Edgar Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s tough when you want something really that bad and can’t get it and I’ve been close so many times before,” Edgar said after the fight. Hell, we’ve all been there. It’s part of why people connect to Edgar. From the start, Edgar won our hearts with his 2007 Fight of the Year, knocking off the heavily hyped Tyson Griffin in a 15-minute battle. He never stopped improving, transformed into the prototype for the modern wrestle-boxer and prospered. Even if he won the UFC lightweight title from B.J. Penn with one of the most bogus decisions in MMA history, he whooped his ass in a rematch. We watched him recover from one of the surest 10-7 rounds, even if no judges scored it as such, and storm back to manage a draw against Gray Maynard, who he absolutely plunked in the rematch. He was the little engine that could.

And, depending on your personal scorecard, we saw him get the carpet pulled from underneath him with two questionable decisions against Benson Henderson. Me? I had it 48-47 Edgar and 49-46 Edgar in the rematch, but MMA fate is a cruel one. At least we got the story of Ali Abdel-Aziz punching Malki Kawa in the face backstage after the rematch, right?

What I mean to say is that UFC 240 taught us nothing new and barely gave us anything to tantalize over. That doesn’t mean the card is bad; I do think it was lackluster, especially as a pay-per-view, but it wasn’t awful. Rather, it just confirmed our suspicions and bias. Yes, Max Holloway is the best featherweight in the world and got to put another major name on his resume. Yes, Frankie Edgar is a damn great fighter who, however long he may fight at 37 years old, deserves to be remembered, but was never an all-time great. And, it extends beyond that.

I’m sure many were hoping for a refreshing glisten over the UFC’s women’s featherweight division with unbeaten Felicia Spencer taking on Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. But, as anyone who has watched both women fight, you could accurately forecast that Spencer’s game, built around a top-heavy game set up by clinch takedowns, wasn’t going to play against the Brazilian. And it didn’t. Credit to Spencer, though: she hung in all 15 minutes and pushed Cyborg every step of the way, she was just out of her depth with a far more experienced and frankly, far more athletically gifted athlete and consequently got her face punched up.

MMA: UFC 240-Cyborg vs Spencer Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

But, going back to our central thesis: did anyone really expect Spencer to win here? No, not really. The major drama of our co-main event was about Cyborg battling in the public eye and column inches with UFC President Dana White, as she entered the last fight on her contract. Despite being a pioneer for women’s MMA, a former UFC champion and realistically, one of the dozen or so UFC names that could actually draw some attention, White was all too gleeful to talk about – during fight week, no less – his willingness to give her a one-fight deal to rematch dual-division champion Amanda Nunes, and then lock her into the UFC’s infamous “champion’s clause,” laying his promotional psychopathy bare on the table.

So, Cyborg is a physically imposing athlete and heavy striker and Dana White is a bit of an asshole. Anything learned here? Even if the biggest fight between two women in MMA is an Amanda Nunes-Cris Cyborg rematch, the answer is nope. And, that’s not even considering Bellator President Scott Coker trying to swoop in and regain the services of his former Strikeforce champion, whom he gave congratulations to on Twitter after her win. Sure, sounds spicy, but again, totally expected.

Hot-handed and exciting prospect Geoff Neal polished off Niko Price in a barnburner. Were you really shocked? Arman Tsarukyan, who at 22 years of age, nearly tipped over Islam Makhachev’s apple cart in April, stunted on Olivier Aubin-Mercier? Does this outcome shock you? Naw, of course not. We’ve got two blue chippers in the barrel, but again, is any of this surprising in any way? No, this is all what we expected.

Oh, Deiveson Figueiredo dominated in the biggest fight of his career over Alexandre Pantoja and staked his claim to flyweight contendership, a division the UFC are poorly, low-key trying to eliminate while being pumped on commentary? I mean, would you expect anything less?

Erik Koch, owner of some of the most lamentable and awful tattoos in a sport rife with lamentable and awful tattoos, shows up with two full sleeves and chest piece after a year and half out of the cage? I mean, par for the course. Nothing to cast a stare at.

At the end of the day, UFC 240 wasn’t great, it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t awful. It was just another UFC card, which oriented us toward all of the matchmaking entanglements and bullshit we expect. We’re conditioned to tolerate this, and maybe that’s our weakness. Hell, that’s kind of the UFC business model. But, we got to watch a young, great fighter expand on his legacy and a female pioneer for the sport prove she’s still in the game, regardless of where she signs her next contract, promulgating a storyline that will probably last us til the end of the year. It’s not the best of things, but it’s tolerable and at least forges a path to something better: How can Alexander Volkanovski match up with Max Holloway in what will assuredly be an all-action fight? How ridiculous will Cris Cyborg’s free agency be? Even if defeated, how does Felicia Spencer rebound? Are Geoff Neal and Arman Tsarukyan future title contenders? Is the men’s flyweight division still even real or does Jon Anik just have a sick sense of humor? Like I said, UFC 240 just forged us a path and now, we have to trek down it to figure out the answers.

As a kid, my dad would ask me when he came home from work, “What did you learn today, son?” and usually I’d say “Nothing really.” UFC 240 was one of those days, but maybe we’ll learn something soon enough.