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Jake St-Pierre’s UFC 249 Review

May 11, 2020 | Posted by Jake St-Pierre
UFC 249
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Jake St-Pierre’s UFC 249 Review  

We are LIVE from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL.

Your distanced hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier. UFC’s best commentary trio in my esteemed opinion.

Ryan Spann vs. Sam Alvey
Alvey doesn’t look in great shape here, and Spann rushes him in the opening seconds for an early takedown. Sam gets back to his feet for a moment and Spann continues to work. High crotch single is successful for Spann, who sticks to Alvey like glue. Alvey gets to his feet, but Spann threatens with a standing arm triangle. He continues squeezing and even though it’s a close call, Alvey survives and Spann breaks off. Front kick to the body for Spann who continues to pressure Sam and bat away some punches. Two big punches whiff for Spann, and Alvey hilariously throws an off jab. Spann is barely doing anything here, probably trying to recover his arms. Right hand scores for Alvey, followed by a leg kick. Another one for Alvey. Straight right comes down the pipe for Spann, who is starting to get picked apart by Alvey until he rushes in with a nasty one-two and another takedown attempt. Single leg fails and Alvey hits an elbow on the break as the round ends. Tough fight to score but Spann came closer to finishing with the standing arm triangle, so call it for him 10-9. Alvey made a pretty good accounting of himself though.

Round 2 and Spann takes the center of the cage and tries a head kick, but Alvey blocks it and attempts to counter. Left hook scores as Spann attempts another single leg, but Alvey defends well and gets Spann off of him. Right hand backs up Alvey into the fence. More calf kicks but Spann is doing a better job here. Spann starts working his front kicks to the body, and both men land well in a wild exchange. Alvey lunges forward with a one-two that seems to land well for him. Another front kick to teh body lands for Spann. Alvey slips a right hand and a jab behind it, but whiffs on a right hook himself. Another calf kick scores for Sam. Spann catches Alvey big time with a one-two, probably his best strikes of the fight, but Alvey keeps fighting back until the round ends, where he looks a little weathered. Another 10-9 for Spann who didn’t really press the issue, but landed the better strikes pretty easily.

Last round and Spann clinches up pretty quickly. Alvey takes the over under hooks quickly and tries to work into a Thai clinch, but Spann breaks off with some shots and continues to pressure. Right hook misses for Alvey, who slips a one-two and glances with a right hook. Spann explodes after a glancing head kick, but Alvey stays moving and doesn’t take too much more damage from there. Right hand knocks Alvey off balance for a quick second, but Sam does the same as he rushes in with a big uppercut. Spann cracks him with a pair of punches, and a right hand scores a few seconds later. Jab for Spann. Jab pushes forward with a charging left, and a head kick glances for Albey. HUGE RIGHT HOOK scores for Alvey and Spann is hurt! Spann desperately shoots for a takedown and nearly gets a front choke, but Spann survives. Alvey STUNS HIM again but the fight ends before he can finish. 10-9 Alvey but it’s probably too little too late for him as my card still has Spann winning this one 29-28.

Judges have it 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 for Ryan Spann in a split decision. Right call in the end even if I think the first round was a lot closer than most will likely give credit for. Either way though, not a great showing for Ryan Spann. The UFC brass seem to fancy Spann as a contender but going off of where he seemed to be here, he’s nowhere near that level. He leaves a ton of holes in his striking to the point that a mediocre fighter at best in Sam Alvey was giving him trouble, and that’s just not a contender’s performance to me. It was a heck of a fight though in the end as the usually dull Alvey gave a gutsy performance and saw a lot of success in the face of a much younger, more physically dominating opponent.

Bryce Mitchell vs. Charles Rosa
Mitchell gets a takedown early after pressuring Rosa in the opening seconds. Mitchell moves over to Rosa’s back and looks for an arm triangle and VERY nearly gets the tap, but Rosa somehow survives and gets out. Mitchell keeps on him like a mother though, although Rosa is busy tries to work from the bottom. Mitchell ends up back on top and GOES FOR THE TWISTER AGAIN~! Rosa fights his ass off to prevent it and tries to move to the top… but Mitchell looks for it more! Rosa somehow survives it, and Mitchell moves to the mount. Holy hell. Mitchell locks up another Arm Triangle, but ROSA ESCAPES. This is so damn great. Axe stomp to the body as Mitchell gets to his feet and the round ends there. Textbook 10-8 for Mitchell as Rosa had nothing for him and nearly got finished like 4 times, but that round was as exciting as almost anything in the UFC so far this year. Awesome stuff.

Second round and Rosa throws about thirty kicks in the opening twenty seconds, but Mitchell catches one and gets him to the mat in short order. Mitchell goes right back after an arm triangle, but Rosa defends enough to stay in the fight. Full mount for Mitchell who continues to either throw punches or go for submissions. Big elbow scores for Mitchell up top and Rosa is helpless on the bottom. Mitchell threatens an armbar but doesn’t quite get there. Rosa rolls out and threatens going after a leg, but Mitchell transitions out gorgeously and eventually gets into side control… right back into mount for ANOTHER arm triangle attempt. Rosa defends well again but gives up his back, and Mitchell tries setting up the Twister again, but as soon as he gets it wrapped up, the round ends. Boy, Bryce Mitchell is something else. Another 10-8 for him here and Rosa needs a miracle.

Rosa opens up with a couple left hooks, but pulls a Chris Weidman with a crappy spinning back kick that gets him taken down right into a Twister position again. Mitchell gets the arm behind his head, but Rosa does a good job defending the position and tries to sweep… albeit unsuccessfully as Mitchell flawlessly transitions to top position and threatens a Von Flue choke, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Rosa gives Mitchell his back and Mitchell decides to set up for the Twister again, but settles for an arm triangle as Rosa turns to his back again. Back to full mount for Mitchell, and back to back mount as Rosa has absolutely nothing for the guy at this point. Not that he has at any other point in this fight but still. Rosa seems like he might have shucked him off, but Mitchell stays on him and puts in a crucifix for a quick second. The round ends on the feet and it’s another 10-8 for Mitchell, an astonishing 30-24 on my scorecard even if I don’t expect the judging to be that way.

Judges go 30-25, 30-25, and 30-24 for Bryce Mitchell. A blind man could have figured that one out. Undoubtedly one of the most dominant fights in recent UFC history as Mitchell made a good fighter in Charles Rosa look like a complete novice on the ground, to the point where only Demian Maia vs. Gunnar Nelson springs to mind as a comparable fit of destruction. Rosa’s toughness certainly should be commended here as he defended about as hard as a human being legally can, but Bryce Mitchell looked like a top level guy in there to the point where I think you have to give him a ranked opponent next. An absolute blast to watch at any rate, one of the most entertaining UFC fights of the year grappling-wise and a star-making performance for Mitchell.

Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price
Both men throw early, with Price throwing a few head kicks that hit Luque’s high guard. Jab pokes through for Price, who checks a following leg kick. Clinching uppercut scores for Price but Luque continues to pepper him with leg kicks and a jab. Huge pair of punches score for Luque on the counter and he continues scoring nicely with his calf kicks. Luque continues working nicely with punches and leg kicks, picking Price apart on the counter. Stiff jab lands for Luque, and a counter lands later on for the American. HUGE FRONT KICK lands for Price, and Price presses forward wildly and gets a big slam into half guard! Price threatens with a D’Arce, which is what Luque finished him with in their first fight, but Luque plays the hands well and gets to his feet. Two hooks land simultaneously for both men, and a right hand behind the ear wobbles Price on the horn. Price had a chance to steal the round with that flurry, but Luque’s defense paid off well for him and kept him in the winner’s column for him; 10-9 Luque.

Second round and it’s a firefight as you’d expect. More low kicks for Luque, but an overhand right glances for Price who eats a one-two on the counter. Accidental low blow from Luque though, but the action doesn’t stop for long. One-two for Luque, and a jab snaps Price’s head back immediately after. He adds on the calf kicks and dodges a Price right hand on the end of it. Crescent kick (!) misses for Price, who is having trouble getting anything going until he rushes in with a wild flurry. Clinch elbow for Price against the cage and they exchange wildly until LUQUE DROPS HIM with a hook! Niko is busted open as Luque breaks off of the fence and continues to piece Price up, forcing Niko to clinch against the fence and get something resembling a break. Luque attempts a judo throw which doesn’t work, but it does work in gettin ghim off the cage so he can inflict more damage. They exchange jabs in the center of the cage with neither man landing significantly. Jab for Luque countered by a right hand from Price, who continues to eat calf kicks. For what it’s worth, he’s not showing it too much. Niko just pressures and pressures, but gets caught on the end of his strikes with more counters from Luque. A pair of front kicks to the body land for Price as the round ends. Luque is clearly the better striker of the two here and it showed, which means it’s his round again, but Price’s wildman antics never count him out which is making this fight a joy to watch.

Early pair of leg kicks for Niko, followed by a jab that snaps Luque’s head back a little bit. Big left hook puts Price on notice, but he continues pushing forward despite it. Price starts working the body a little more in this round, but he continues running into a Luque jab. Price is starting to force Luque into a brawl that he doesn’t want here and his stamina is showing it. Jab scores for Price, but Luque wants to throw back. Big uppercut lands for Price, and a straight right over the top follows. Lead overhand glances for Price, who parries a jab and continues pressuring. Huge left hook FLOORS PRICE and Luque jumps on him, but he doesn’t get the finish and he stands back up. The ref wants to check Price’s face, which looks like a machete hit him. His eye is just mangled and the doctor calls it there. Probably the right call there. Luque wins but credit to Niko for taking the decision like a champ.

Anticlimactic ending aside, this fight was everything you could have possibly wanted out of this pairing. Luque’s striking – while it looked a little elementary against Wonderboy in his last outing – was a major problem for Niko Price here, which was the story of the fight if you look at it broadly. However, Niko Price was never once out of it given his chin held up to an inhuman level and he was about as relentless with pressure as a man can be without his lungs inverting. The result was a fabulous brawl between two of the UFC’s most exciting guys, admittedly born out of a fight that promised this on paper. Not really a candidate for Fight of the Year, but you can’t really get a better undercard battle than this without an anomaly. Hard to say where Luque goes from here as Wonderboy was way too steep a climb for him at MSG, but he is still a great uppercard force in the division. Robbie Lawler maybe? Who knows.

Carla Esparza vs. Michelle Waterson
A feeling out process in the early goings here, with Waterson coming close on a jab attempt and a front kick to the body missing for Esparza. A couple leg kicks score for Esparza but she catches a punch rushing in. Esparza cracks her with a straight right, but can’t rush her as much as she would like. Leg kick scores for Michelle. Esparza tries clinching but can’t get anywhere with it. Carla rushes in with a stiff right hand. Side kick to the body scores for Waterson. Leg kick again for Waterson but Esparza catches a body kick and gets her to the mat. Nothing really doing for either woman here until Esparza lands an elbow on the horn. A total nothing fight so far, but Esparza landed the better shots and got the takedown so I think it’s her round 10-9.

Second round and Waterson continues to jab at air, completely out of range. Esparza pushes in with a combo but can’t land. A second push sees a right hook land for her though. Front kick to the body glances for Michelle. Esparza runs into a jab, and whiffs on a front kick. Leg kick for Waterson. Esparza clinches up and looks for a throw, but Waterson knees her in the body and breaks off. Waterson is doing a much better job of moving away here even if she isn’t landing anything of note. Glancing right scores for Carla, but Waterson rolls with it and resets. Esparza rushes in again but eats a knee to the body. Good combo glances for Carla, who tries a late takedown to no avail. Waterson didn’t seem all that interested in engaging, but she still did more than Esparza whose gameplan seems to be little more than throw the same combo over and over and try to wrestle at the end of the round. It didn’t work here. 10-9 Waterson.

Waterson stays at distance to open the third and she catches Esparza with another knee as Carla rushes in. Big straight right for Esparza scores. Carla runs into a jab though a few moments later. Body kick for Carla. Leg kick slams in for Waterson but Esparza responds with a good punch of her own. Carla clinches and hits a pair of knees to the body before breaking off. Waterson tries a takedown of her own as Carla clinches, but takes a few knees. Carla grabs a body kick and gets Waterson against the fence, but Michelle breaks off. Leg kick for Waterson. Big right hand scores for Esparza. Esparza shoots, but Waterson defends. Esparza just runs her down and swings but the fight peters out there. Not sure of the scoring for others, but I’m giving this one to Esparza as I just don’t count Michelle Waterson jabbing at nothing and throwing momentary leg kicks as doing anything when Esparza is doing a little more to push the issue and actually landed solid shots while doing so. 29-28 Esparza for me but so little happened that it really isn’t that concrete.

Judges have it 30-27 Waterson, 29-28 Esparza, and 30-27 for Carla Esparza. The judges actually got it right in my eyes, but I’m not sure about the 30-27 score even so. The fight itself put an end to the run of awesome fights on this show though, as neither woman showed anything to me other than a willingness to spar lightly for 15 minutes in front of no one. Michelle Waterson’s habit of trying to throw the same combos over and over at someone that’s on the other side of the cage as her (hi Mike Winklejohn) reared its ugly head, and Carla Esparza was only able to get the win by engaging juuuuust enough to convince the judges. Not everyone can be Joanna, I suppose. Ya can’t win ‘em all, but this wasn’t a good fight at all.

Fabricio Werdum vs. Aleksei Oleinik
This is going to be weird. Werdum is sporting a dad bod that would make Dan Kelly smile. Oleinik throws some wacky shots as he pushes forward, and Werdum looks slower… evidenced by Oleinik TAGGING him with a looping right. Werdum throws a good punch back but Oleinik clinches up. Werdum breaks off but continues to get lit up by Olenik walking back. Uppercuts land nicely for the Russian and he just PUMMELS WERDUM with punches over and over as Werdum tries to clinch up. Oleinik continues pushing him against the fence as Werdum tries to tie him up. Wild head kick misses for Werdum, who is just getting smothered by Oleinik. Werdum to his credit is landing some knees in the clinch, but Oleinik is not letting him rest. Oleinik tries a late takedown, but nothing doing until the round ends. Awesome round for Oleinik, but Werdum looks like he probably shouldn’t have come back from the USADA suspension because he looked… inadequate. Bordering on a 10-8 for Oleinik, in fact.

Big spinning backfist scores for Oleinik (!) as Werdum tries to keep Oleinik at bay with some front kicks to the body. Oleinik clinches but Werdum threatens for a guillotine against the fence. Werdum doesn’t get it though and Oleinik breaks off. Both men see success in their exchanges, and Werdum is doing a much better job in this round to his credit. Oleinik is getting tired but he still just caveman rushes Werdum. Werdum changes levels, and the tide has turned as Werdum has him in half guard. Oleinik gives Werdum his back but Oleinik somewhat shucks him off, but it was more Werdum misreading his positioning. To his credit, Oleinik continues throwing as they get back to their feet. Oleinik begins to land again, and a big lunging right hand scores for the Russian. Oleinik ends the round pushing Werdum against the fence. Tough round to score given Oleinik came on strong at the tail end of the round, but Werdum had more success in the bigger picture and had some good positions on the mat, so he manages to get a round in here after a dreadful opening stanza. 19-19 going into the third.

Werdum gets a takedown in the opening twenty seconds of the round, and works from the top. Werdum threatens an armbar as he takes Oleinik’s back, but Oleinik does a great job defending and ends up in Fabricio’s guard. Werdum stays active from the bottom though and now starts working towards a Kimura, and he explodes Oleinik’s arm up… only for Aleksei to defend. Werdum moves to mount and gives up on the arm after he threatens with a straight armbar. Oleinik gives up his back and manages to defend an armbar, but Werdum is still attacking. Oleinik’s defense holds up and they get back to their feet. Werdum continues to tie Oleinik up, but Aleksei is just relentless n his pressure until Werdum gets him back to the mat. Werdum has Oleinik cut, and the round ends at the horn. 10-9 Werdum and he did a great job rallying there, for what it’s worth. Guess I was a little hasty.

Judges have it 29-28 Werdum, 29-28 Oleinik, and 29-28 for Aleksei Oleinik. Hmm. I’m not sure that’s where I’d have gone with that, but it wasn’t a robbery or anything as Oleinik definitely did more damage in the second despite losing the positioning game. The fight was actually pretty compelling for what it was, with Werdum looking completely shot in the first round before using his trusty ground game to prove he had a little bit more in the tank than we gave him credit for. Maybe Oleinik’s stamina is a little more to blame for that – who knows – but Werdum showed a lot of heart here. The book is written on Oleinik really because he’s never going to be a champion, but not everyone can be, and I still love watching the guy fight for how wacky he tends to be at times. Nothing wrong with a tough old Russian dude beating on other dudes, even if I’m not sure he did enough to clinch this one. Good fight at any rate, but Werdum should probably hang it up sooner rather than later because he took some bad damage from one of the crudest strikers in the game when even the Werdum of 2017 would have picked him apart. A better stand-up fighter will eat him alive.

Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis
Pettis stays on the outside early as Cerrone feels him out. Neither man lands with any real oomph in the opening minute or so. Cerrone shoots a quick single but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Leg kick for Cowboy, but he takes a glancing right from Pettis on the end of it. Right hook for Pettis. Cerrone catches his back during a strike attempt and gets him to the fence, but Pettis defends and breaks away. Pettis parries a jab away and hits a switch kick that lands, but Cowboy perseveres and gets Pettis down to side control. Not muh doing there and Cerrone lets Pettis up, and cracks him with a couple shots as they circle afterwards. Mean right hand scores for Pettis, and Cerrone lands a jab at the horn. Close round, but Pettis landed a couple good punches there despite Cerrone advancing and getting a good takedown. 10-9 Pettis.

Cowboy eats a Superman punch and nearly takes a head kick, but he continues coming forward. Big left hook scores for Cerrone but Pettis seems unfazed, although it opens a small scratch under his eye. Pettis is landing the better shots here though. Spinning backfist misses for Pettis as Cerrone throws a leg kick. Pettis is throwing pretty freely but Cowboy keeps him on his toes. Head kick misses for Pettis, but a counter left hook finds a hoe. They trade leg kicks, and Cowboy lands a good kick to the body from distance. Pettis responds with one of his own, and Cerrone gets Pettis to the ground again. Pettis is able to get to his feet as Cerrone tries a head kick, but it bounces off Pettis’ guard. Front kick to the body for Cerrone and the round pretty much ends there. Another good round for Pettis, but Cerrone is certainly compettive. Cowboy just can’t quiiiite catch him, and Pettis is finding a home often enough for it to count. Cowboy needs a finish here, more than likely.

Good body kick opens for Cerrone, and a calf kick scroes a few seconds later. Cerrone rushes in, but Pettis cracks him with a couple shots. Cerrone is more apt to trade here as he probably senses the urgency. Cerrone tries the head ick but it doesn’t get too close for comfort. Pettis throws a kick to the body, but Cowboy catches it and clinches against the fence so he can land a knee to Pettis’ midsection. Head kick blocked by Cerrone. Good low kick for Cerrone after a few feints. Weird moment as Cerrone claims an eyepoke but nothing stops, and it looked like a punch in a flash but I couldn’t tell. HUGE HEAD KICK FROM CERRONE but Pettis EATS IT like it’s nothing and they have a WILD TRADE. Jab lands for Pettis as he seems to be okay. Body kick lands for Pettis, but Cerrone just THROWS WILDLY as the round ends. Hell of a final couple minutes, and that’s a good round for Cerrone. 29-28 Pettis though. That issue with the eye ended up indeed being an eyepoke, but Cerrone turned it up afterwards so who knows if it was actually a deterrent!

The judges have it 29-28 for Pettis, which Cerrone seems to not agree with, but he takes it on the chin like usual. Hell of a fight in the end, as it showed Cerrone wasn’t shot or anything, it’s just that he didn’t have the variation in offense or power to quite compete with Pettis, which makes sense as Donald Cerrone has never been one to switch up his game despite his consistently elite level. It also shows Pettis isn’t as shot as he appeared to be in the Ferreira fight either, as he was willing to throw and engage, which is usually when he does his best work. See the Chiesa fight as a somewhat recent example. A great fight in the end, especially with Cerrone’s wild rally in the last stanza. I still hate watching him lose though.

Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan De Castro
Ugh. De Castro is way, way smaller here but he throws with purpose in the early goings. Glancing left hook for De Castro, but Hardy gets cracked coming in with another one. De Castro moves really well and he’s doing a very good job of countering so far. Head kick blocked by De Castro, and Yorgan continues to catch him on the end of some punches. Good low kick for Hardy. Big counterpunch for De Castro, and he’s giving Hardy fits with his leg kicks. Another one lands for De Castro. Hardy isn’t rushing in as much now and gets the better of an exchange against the fence, tagging De Castro a little bit. He’s definitely improving. Jab misses for Hardy, and his leg is in a bad way. The round ends with Hardy pressuring, but it’s De Castro’s round as he was the far more technical striker and used Hardy’s pressure against him. The leg kicks sure didn’t hurt his case either. 10-9 for the Cape Verde native.

Big leg kick in the opening seconds of the 2nd for De Castro, but Hardy fires back with one of his own. Hardy is walking gingerly on that leg, but he does a good job avoiding a flurry from Yorgan. His leg looks baaaaad too. Hardy’s that is. Leg kick from Hardy, but De Castro checks another one and tries to fire back. Two more leg kicks for Hardy. Good head movement from Hardy to dodge a flurry. Head kick from Hardy whiffs. De Castro has just stopped engaging for some reason. Hardy isn’t landing much either but he’s trying. The round basically ends there. Not sure what the hell happened but that fight ground to a halt, even if De Castro might have hurt himself. 10-9 Hardy just because De Castro did literally nothing for most of the round.

Both men take hard punches in the opening seconds and it’s fast. Leg kick scores for De Castro and another one lands on the inside. Leg kick for Hardy, who eats a jab glancing coming in. De Castro again just stops doing anything. De Castro slips and butt scoots as Hardy works the leg standing. Hardy is frustrated by De Castro at this point. He lands a glancing right hand as DE CASTRO JUST STANDS THERE LIKE A MORON. Fight ends there. 29-28 Hardy and let’s get this over with.

Judges have it 30-27 for Greg Hardy. Not sure how you can give him the first, but the right guy won, so there you go. I am not a fan of Greg Hardy or his presentation in the UFC, but he has kept his nose clean and improved at a solid rate to the point that he’s at least a worthy addition to the UFC heavyweight division at this point. So hey, credit where it’s due. Who knows if he has any sort of contender aspirations but the dude’s clearly a hard worker and an elite athlete. Maybe he’ll redeem himself yet. On the other hand, Yorgan De Castro made a horrible account of himself after a very promising opening round and put on a performance in the final two that would make Kalib Starnes shed tears of joy. I accept that he was hurt after getting a leg kick checked, but when you’re a professional fighter, giving up and doing nothing at all at any point is the worst possible way to deal with it. And it’s not like he couldn’t throw punches. He did it early in the rounds and seemingly forgot that he could do it for the next 4:30, and that made for one of the most infuriating fights of the year… and for once, Greg Hardy wasn’t the one to blame even if I wish he’d have pushed the action a bit more to make De Castro pay.

Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar
Worth mentioning Stephens missed weight by 4 and 1/2 pounds. Surprising he was the only one, to be honest, but he doesn’t make a habit of it so we’ll chalk it up to a bad cut.

Stephens takes the center of the cage early, but doesn’t land. Body kick lands for him and he’s trying to put it away early. Kattar stays composed however. Leg kick scores for Stephens, and Kattar lands one of his own a few moments later. Both men land glancing blows in an exchange, and they exchange low kicks later on. Body punch slams into Kattar, but nothing else really finds a home. Glancing right hand scores for Stephens, but Kattar cracks him with a great left hand in an exchange. Kattar starts throwing a little more, but Stephens is relentless with the leg kicks. Jab scores for Kattar, and one from Stephens. Kattar lands hard with a one-two and backs Stephens up, but Stephens fires right back and the round ends with some more leather thrown. Kattar did a good job in the latter minutes finding his boxing range, but Stephens did a good amount of damage with his leg kicks to the point where I think it won him the round. 10-9 Stephens.

Kattar starts fighting fire with fire in terms of leg kicks as the second round opens, and he hits a good uppercut as Stephens comes in. Kattar starts finding his boxing range, and Stephens is starting to feel it. Stephens clinches up against the cage, but Kattar breaks off. HUGE RIGHT ELBOW puts Stephens down, and a few more shots on the ground finish it. WOW.

What a fantastic performance in the end from Calvin Kattar, who withstood a bit of a storm in the first round and came out in the second with a vengeance. He showed a bit of vulnerability to the leg kicks, but his boxing was so sharp that it was only so long before Stephens – whose kryptonite is often better, more technical strikers – found himself on the bad end of something. Still though, I didn’t see Kattar knocking him silly like that and it has to be a statement for him, as guys like Zabit, Yair Rodriguez, and Renato Moicano weren’t able to give Stephens that sort of treatment. Aldo did to a point, but that was a liver shot even so. Stephens made a decent accounting of himself as usual, but he just isn’t a good enough technical striker to take on these top guys and it showed here… although it’s not like Calvin Kattar is going to lose to just anyone himself. Good stuff!

A video package for Georges St-Pierre – my psuedonym’s namesake of course – and it’s about as much of a slam dunk as anything that ever existed. He’s my pick for Greatest of All Time in MMA and I don’t see anyone else particularly close if you count PED usage against guys. He was unbelievable and one of the main reasons I’m as diehard an MMA fan as I am today. He had duds like the Shields or Hardy fights sure, but you can’t look at his resume and not be in awe. His near-murder of Jon Fitch. Taking Josh Koscheck’s soul. Dismantling Matt Hughes twice. The virtuosic performance in taking out BJ Penn in one of UFC’s first “Superfights.” Simply put, Georges St- Pierre iss one of the most “perfect” athletes I’ve ever watched in any sport. He fought through ulcerative colitis to come back after 4 years and win a title in a weight class above. No PED usage, no scandals; nothing but respect and class. Georges St-Pierre is the quintessential champion. He’s simply everything MMA should be, and he’s a top line candidate for any self-respecting MMA Hall of Fame.

Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Here we go! Leg kick opens for Rozenstruik…. AND NGANNOU MURDERS HIM TO DEATH WITH A LEFT HOOK~! DEAR GOD. That’s the scariest man I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

It’s a twenty second fight so I can’t sit here and analyze it, but I am horrified and you should be too. Francis Ngannou is unreal. He’s the most powerful puncher in the history of the UFC at this point, and despite his rough performance against Stipe Miocic… I don’t know that I foresee it happening again. This man continues to improve upon his insanely gifted foundation and if Stipe manages to come back, that’s going to be a big, big rematch. Jeez.

UFC Bantamweight Title: Henry Cejudo (c) vs. Dominick Cruz
Oh man. Even without a crowd, my heart is in my throat. Cruz is mobile as always, but he misses an early leg kick. Leg kick scores for Cejudo. Another one lands nicely for him. Cejudo is doing a good job early with the low kick strategy. Cejudo gets a flash takedown, but Cruz escapes quickly and continues to circle away. Cruz is still moving but can’t quite find his distance. Cejudo pushes in with a glancing right hand but Cruz bounces out. Good head movement for both men as they exchange, and Cruz lands a good head kick. More leg kicks from Cejudo and the round ends there pretty much. Not a blowout, but a comfortable 10-9 for Cejudo who found a good rhythm with the leg kicks while Dominick couldn’t quite find Cejudo on the end of anything.

More leg kicks for Cejudo, and he pushes forward with a good body kick. Leg kick for Cruz as Cejudo continues to walk him down. They exchange punches but neither man lands significantly. Head kick misses for Cejudo on a good slip for Cruz. Left hand for Cejudo, but Cruz ducks in with one of his own, later on hitting a good one-two on the champ. A lot more punches being thrown here now, with both men finding success. Dominick hits a good leg kick of his own and an uppercut and he’s finding his range a little bit now. Left hand scores for Cruz after a fake level change. Cejudo continues walking him towards the cage, but a clash of heads cuts Cejudo open. Uh oh. Not in a bad spot though so we’re fine, if a little bloody. Time in after a small pause. Glancing left scores for Cejudo… and he FLOORS CRUZ with a knee and the fight ends there. Cejudo wins.

The announcers think the stoppage is early, but I don’t think it’s a bad one as such. Cruz wasn’t really defending himself actively and while he was rising, I can see Keith Peterson’s justification in the heat of the moment. It could have gone either way. I think it’s a legitimate win for Cejudo over a Cruz that definitely came correct and didn’t lose too much of a step in his layoff.

As for the fight? It was good while it lasted, but Dominick Cruz’s style is such that it takes a little longer for his fights to materialize into something memorable. That’s not to say his early work is bad or anything of the sort, but he is a guy who feels his opponent out and works with timing, and you need to start a little slow to do that. And he definitely started slow here, which was not aided by Cejudo’s great strategy of using low kicks to limit Cruz’s mobility. We didn’t see how it worked for him long term so there’s only so much to glean from it, but Cejudo’s talent for adjustment paid off in the KO win, as Cruz ducking his head in moving led to his demise. That movement reaps Dom a lot of rewards in terms of defense, but Cejudo timed the knee perfectly and used that to his advantage. As goofy as the guy can be, Henry Cejudo has proven to be very adept at adjusting on the fly and even though he was losing that 2nd round on my card, he made the right adjustment at the right time and became the first man since Urijah Faber to finish Dominick Cruz. In that sense, this was a great performance. But I’m not sure that’s what we’ll remember this for in the end…

In one of the most out of nowhere occurrences in UFC history, Henry Cejudo just announced his retirement. With how wacky this dude has been in the past year, I’m not convinced this isn’t a gimmick but if it sticks… that is one of the most surprising retirements I’ve ever witnessed. You can’t complain about the career this guy had though and while I love watching him fight, if he wants to have a family and not get hit in the face a bunch for the rest of his life, good for him. Retiring on top is a power move to end all power moves but I don’t think that’s the end of Cejudo in MMA in reality. We’ll see though.

UFC Interim Lightweight Title: Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje
Holy heck, it’s happening. HERE WE GO. Tony opens up with an early front kick to the body as they feel each other out. Neither man commits to anything big early. Gaethje smacks him with a left hook as he rushes in. He throws hard but Ferguson prevents death, only to eat a leg kick. Head kick attempt glances for Ferguson with a jab behind it. Leg kick for Gaethje. These guys are throwing for the bleachers. Another leg kick scores for Gaethje, and a one-two finds a home for him as well. Head kick misses from Ferguson, and Gaethje catches him with a right hand coming in. Another right hand for Gaethje, and he STINGS TONY with a left hook but Tony eats it like it’s nothing. Eyepoke gets through for Gaethje as the round ends. 10-9 for Gaethje. He looked sharper than ever with his hands and a lot of what he landed would have knocked out a rhino. Ferguson is tougher than a rhino.

Second round and a Superman Punch stumbles Gaethje early. Justin just slams into Tony’s guard with a left hand that would have killed him if it landed flush. Another huge left hand for Gaethje, another no-sell from Ferguson. What is in this dude’s water? Gaethje with a pair of leg kicks as he circles out. Tony lands a good one-two, but Gaethje keeps going. Big right-left combo but Tony just keeps taking it. Head kick blocked by Gaethje, and he continues to threaten with these punches. Some of them are getting to the gloves, but even the ones that land are horrifying. Gaethje times a leg kick beautifully and pushes in with a right hand. Ferguson’s chin is fucking inhuman. I’ve never seen anything like the stuff he’s taking. Left hook scores for Ferguson, but Gaethje continues working until Ferguson DROPS HIM WITH AN UPPERCUT! The round ends there. Jesus this is awesome. I don’t even know how to score that round but Gaethje landed so many huge punches that I still have to give the edge to him barely. 20-18 Gaethje but I’m not too confident.

Gaethje looks okay going into the third, for what it’s worth. Right hand over the top for Gaethje. Leg kick into a left hook for Gaethje scores, and Ferguson’s face is wearing the pain now. How the tables turn, El Cucuy. Stiff left scores for Ferguson, but he walks right into a right hand from the Highlight… and he WOBBLES Tony with a right. Tony just KEEPS FIRING BACK because he’s better than any of us ever will be. Another INSANE bevy of punches lands for Gaethje and somehow FERGUSON IS STILL STANDING. Good God. Gaethje is showing fabulous head movement here. Jab lands for Ferguson. Leg kick buckles Gaethje a little bit and Ferguson is STILL SHOWING OFF. God, I love that man. Head kick and a STIFF right hand land but Ferguson just doesn’t feel it. Left hand scores for Gaethje at the horn. 10-9 Gaethje and Ferguson is getting the crap beaten out of him. How he is still even speaking and of sound mind is outlandish.

We’re in deep waters now and Ferguson is still pressuring, and he lands a jab. Spinning wheel kick whiffs for El Cucuy. Right hand lands for Gaethje. Gaethje counters an elbow with a left hook and he just continues to give Ferguson fits. Don’t forget about Gaethje’s leg kicks either. Huge left hand WOBBLES FERGUSON, but Ferguson JUST KEEPS COMING. Good God. They just continue to go after it until a spin kick hits Gaethje low, but the pause in the action is negligible. The leg kicks are now starting to give Tony fits too and Gaethje even lands a high kick, and the round ends there. Holy hell, this is incredible. 10-9 for Gaethje and Tony Ferguson needs a miracle. And if there’s any man to do it, El Cucuy is him.

Trevor Wittman’s work in Gaethje’s corner is fantastic. Ferguson tries an ankle pick, but he eats a leg kick instead. Tony’s SHINS ARE BLEEDING from checked leg kicks if you can believe it. Huge Superman Punch scores for Gaethje hurts Ferguson, and a one-two just SLAMS HIM. Ferguson is still alive. Jesus. Body kick lands for Ferguson. Jab scores for Gaethje, and he STUMBLES Ferguson with another left hand. Ferguson is still mobile somehow and I am developing CTE on behalf of Tony Ferguson, because I don’t think he is capable. Gaethje is beating the hell out of Tony here, and Tony’s leg is totally shot to boot. ANOTHER huge one-two lands for Gaethje… and ANOTHER JAB STUMBLES HIM! HERB DEAN STOPS THE FIGHT~! He pushes Gaethje away initially but luckily they embrace after the fight and Ferguson shows his respect. Good on him, especially after his career arc just came tumbling down so madly.

I don’t really know what to say about this fight. If you’d have told me in 2018 after the Dustin Poirier fight, that Justin Gaethje would dominate Tony Ferguson in such an unbelievably awe-inspiring manner, I’d have laughed in your face. It’s not that The Highlight wasn’t ever a great fighter. He took Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez to the brink. Only great fighters can truly do that. But the old Justin Gaethje was not capable of this performance. He did not have the defense, technique, mindset, or wherewithal to do this. And I don’t know if there’s a fighter in the world who could have done this either. Not even Khabib Nurmagomedov. Gaethje did a flawless job of taking his trademark wildman style and mixing it with discipline, improved defense, world class coaching from Trevor Wittman, and a more serious attitude and now he’s one of the best fighters on the planet. Even if this fight wasn’t potentially Fight of the Year (it is and I’ll have to watch Zhang vs. Joanna again to know for sure) it should be lauded as an incredible evolutionary step in one of the most exciting, likable, and interesting fighters in recent UFC history.

With that though, comes a bittersweet moment for fans of Tony Ferguson. He’d won 12 fights in a row up to this point. He was scheduled to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov five times, and never stepped into the cage with him once. He could have been the kryptonite to Khabib’s Superman and now, there’s a chance we might not ever know for sure. For a man who’s done so much good in the fight game, battled through so much personal adversity, to see this incredible run end is hard to watch in a way.

Does Justin Gaethje beat Khabib though? I don’t know. I’m not betting against Khabib until I have a credible reason to do so. People talk about Justin Gaethje’s wrestling and while he’s got the NCAA credentials, he’s never used those wrestling skills against top flight competition. And when he doesn’t have big fight experience with that wrestling, it’s hard to give him an advantage when Khabib has exclusively used his in bigger fights. But if Gaethje can use that wrestling well and stay standing, I don’t think Khabib lasts the fight. But you could have said that about Khabib against McGregor, Poirier, Barboza, and any other high level striker he’s faced. And those fights have all ended the same way. So I won’t pick against The Eagle until I’m forced to, but there’s also no sense in counting Justin Gaethje out… not after how incredible he looked tonight.

Simply put, track down this fight. It’s worth your time and then some.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
While professional wrestling struggles mightily without a crowd to feed off of, UFC's return to the spotlight didn't fall into those traps and ended up putting one of its best shows in years. Any event with Ferguson vs. Gaethje on it is going to have a certain sense of quality attached to it given it might be the Fight of The Year, but the quality up and down this card was just spectacular. The latest chapter in Francis Ngannou Murders Dudes was as horrific as always. Henry Cejudo retiring after dispatching of Bantamweight legend Dominick Cruz is one of the most noteworthy stories (non-COVID related, of course) in recent memory. The prelims had an outstanding performance from Bryce Mitchell, a hell of a Cowboy vs. Pettis fight, and the second-best fight of the card in Luque vs. Price. One stinker in Waterson vs. Esparza hardly does much to sour the occasion when everything around it works so well. This is MMA at its best, even if Dana White's greed and stubbornness is why it happened.

article topics :

UFC 249, Jake St-Pierre