The APEX Center in Las Vegas, Nevada was home to a great night of fights at UFC 259: Blachowicz vs. Adesanya. The card saw five (T)KOs, three submissions, one disqualification, and five decisions, including one split-decision.
The prelims opened with Trevin Jones scoring a second-round TKO of Mario Bautista to kick the card off properly. That was followed up by Uros Medic making a sensational debut with a quick, round-one knockout of Aalon Cruz. Amanda Lemos showed off her striking prowess when she scored a round-one TKO of Livia Renata Souza. Sean Brady put a stop to Jake Matthews’ three-fight win streak when he snagged a third-round arm triangle. Kennedy Nzechukwu defeated Carlos Ulberg via second-round TKO and Tim Elliott took Jordan Espinosa to a lopsided decision, even taking the time in the second round to lob a domestic violence allegation at Espinosa. Kai Kara-France was victorious over Rogerio Bontorin when he scored a first-round TKO. Askar Askarov beat Joe Benavidez from post to pillar in a career-defining performance, taking a lopsided unanimous decision. Kyler Phillips and Song Yadong had an entertaining, action-packed scrap but it would be Phillips walking away with the unanimous decision win. Dominick Cruz defeated. Casey Kenney by split decision and looked fantastic throughout the fight. I had it scored 29-28 for Cruz, but a split is still a win.
The main card kicked off with Aleksandar Rakic taking a boring decision over Thiago Santos, who looked lackluster and ineffective. That was followed by the Revenant-style mauling of Drew Dober by one methodical, determined Islam Makhachev.
The controversial title change from our first championship fight occurred when Aljamain Sterling, down on two score cards at the time, was illegally kneed while down, and the sticking point of the DQ was that referee Mark Smith had specifically instructed Yan that Aljo was down. Yan threw the knee and Aljo couldn’t continue. It was revealed by Khabib Nurmagomedov that Yan looked to his corner, asked them “Do I kick him?” to which his coach said “Yes, throw the kick.” We’ll have to see how that all unfolds in the coming days, but Sterling is now the bantamweight champion.
Amanda Nunes made short work of Aussie sensation Megan Anderson when she submitted her via triangle-armbar after absolutely pummeling her when Anderson made the mistake of pulling guard. Nunes retains her belt, and Anderson keeps being the only “real” featherweight Nunes has fought, if the commentary booth is to be believed. I think they may have forgotten Cris Cyborg was once in the UFC. Note of awesomeness: Nunes introduced Anderson to her baby right after beating the brakes off her. Nice, wholesome touch by the Lioness.
The headliner saw Israel Adesanya and Jan Blachowicz go to a hard-fought decision. Both men traded blows, but Blachowicz’ wrestling certainly paid dividends in the last round. After it was all said and done, Jan Blachowicz retained his belt and handed Izzy his first professional loss.
Performance of the Night: Uros Medic, Kai Kara-France
Trevin Jones (TKO (punches) at :47 of round 2), Uros Medic (TKO (punches) at 1:40 of round 1), Amanda Lemos (TKO (punches) at 3:39 of round 1), Sean Brady (arm-triangle choke at 3:28 of round 3), Kennedy Nzechukwu (TKO (punches) at 3:19 of round 2), Kai Kara-France (TKO (punches) at 4:55 of round 1), Islam Makhachev def. Drew Dober (arm-triangle choke at 1:37 of round 3), Aljamain Sterling (DQ (illegal knee) at 4:29 of round 4), and Amanda Nunes (armbar at 2:03 of Round 1) all finished their fights, but it would be Uros Medic and Kai Kara-France that would take the $50K bonuses.
Fight of the Night: Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Carlos Ulberg
Tim Elliott (30-27, 30-27, 30-25), Askar Askarov (30-27, 30-27, 30-26), Kyler Phillips (29-28 x3), Dominick Cruz (28-29, 29-28, 30-27), Aleksandar Rakic (29-28, 29-28, 30-27), and Jan Blachowicz (49-46, 49-45, 49-45) all went the distance in their respective contests, but it was Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Carlos Ulberg that took fight of the night honors.