UFC 259 was headlined by three title fights. We got a little bit of everything out of them, including the first ever title change via disqualification. No disrespect to Jan Blachowicz or Amanda Nunes, the other winners in the evening’s title fights, but the crazy ending to the bantamweight title contest was easily the most memorable moment of the night.
Petr Yan was in complete control, cruising on his way to a victory when he stupidly landed a knee to the face of a downed Aljamain Sterling. Despite many accusations of Sterling putting on an Academy Award winning performance, the knee that landed was a HARD knee that legitimately would have stopped the fight if it had been legal. Of course, it wasn’t and Yan threw it despite a firm warning from the ref not to throw the illegal strike. The rightful course of action was to give the belt to Sterling. Before everyone gets to feeling too badly for Yan, it’s a guarantee there will be a rematch.
Blachowicz held on to his light heavyweight title, turning away Israel Adesanya in the middleweight champion’s bid to become a two division champion. The first three rounds of the five-round decision were very touch and go, neither fighter clearly taking any of the rounds. However, Blachowicz turned the tide in the fourth and fifth rounds, scoring takedowns halfway through the rounds and delivering the punishment when Adesanya couldn’t get back to his feet. Perhaps the Pole will begin to get the respect he deserves at this point....
Despite some rumors floating around that Nunes might call it a career after disposing of Megan Anderson, no such announcement came from the two-division champion. In fact she indicated she’s more dangerous than ever. Given the ease in which she beat Anderson — combined with how easily everyone expected her to do so — the fact that Nunes is hanging around appears to be the bigger story.
As for the rest of the card....
- Some have been calling Islam Makhachev the heir to his more famous teammate, Khabib Nurmagomedov. After the way Makhachev dominated Drew Dober, those declarations carry a lot more weight. Makhachev did what he wanted with Dober for the entirety of the contest, eventually finding a head and arm choke early in the third.
- The main card opened with the most “meh” performance of the night as Aleksander Rakic and Thiago Santos traded strikes at a tentative pace. There wasn’t a lot of separation between the light heavyweight contenders, but all three judges Rakic did a little bit more.
- While it was clear Dominick Cruz has lost a step from his heyday, he proved he still has something left in the tank, taking a close decision over a game Casey Kenney. Cruz seemed to recognize he’s not what he once was, indicating he’d like to do a charity fight next. Perhaps we’ve
- While Song Yadong’s chin might be the most popular talking point, it was Kyler Phillips’ kick to the face that started the conversation. Phillips landed several hard shots on Song, delivering the Chinese representative his first UFC loss and likely launching Phillips into the official UFC rankings.
- No one likes to see a legend fade. It looks like we’re witnessing the twilight of Joseph Benavidez. Askar Askarov is no slouch, but he has never been an athlete near the level of a prime Benavidez. Benavidez couldn’t outathlete Askarov enough to overcome Askarov’s technical prowess, Askarov winning a one-sided decision. Askarov could be fighting for a title next… provided the UFC doesn’t hold his weight miss against him.
- Rogerio Bontorin dominated Kai Kara-France for 90% of the first round, having several opportunities to cinch in an RNC for the win. Kara-France refused to give in, got the fight back to the feet, and secured a walk-off KO. I can’t remember the last time I saw a flyweight walk-off KO….
- The first decision of the night saw Tim Elliott smother Jordan Espinosa in dominant fashion. It wasn’t the most entertaining contest – he maintained control of Espinosa for almost 90% of the contest on unofficial statistics – but it gave Elliott a much needed win, giving him consecutive wins in the UFC for the first time since 2013.
- Exactly zero people were predicting Kennedy Nzechukwu and Carlos Ulberg would deliver a FOTN contest, but they did just that. Ulberg hurt Nzechukwu early, but the big man hung in there and began to deliver his own brand of punishment as Ulberg faded from his attempts to put away Nzechukwu. A heavy right hand from Nzechukwu dropped Ulberg in the second, but hats off to both men.
- There isn’t anything pretty about Sean Brady’s style, but it’s damned effective. Overcoming an early knockdown at the hands of Jake Matthews, Brady plugged away scoring takedowns and wearing down the Aussie with shear attrition, scoring a late submission. Brady called for a ranked opponent next. Expect him to get it.
- The bloom is off the rose for Livinha Souza. She offered next to nothing against Amanda Lemos, allowing the hard-hitting Brazilian to stalk her down and punish her. Souza wasn’t out, but after being knocked down twice and showing every indication of not wanting to be in there, the referee provided some mercy.
- While Uros Medic’s win was impressive, it was unfortunately overshadowed by Mark Smith allowing the newcomer to deliver an unnecessary amount of punishment to Aalon Cruz. Medic continued to land blows after putting Cruz to the mat, Smith allowing the punishment to continue at least 30 seconds longer than it needed to.
- I felt Trevin Jones’ debut victory had a bit of a fluke feel to it when he upset Timur Valiev. Now that he’s upended Mario Bautista, I have to admit he’s the real deal. After attacking early with low kicks, he landed a funky right uppercut that put the explosive Bautista to the mat. Well of a way to start the night.