It’s safe to say we were treated to an absolute barn burner this Saturday at UFC 239. The card was always as stacked as a Roy Nelson cheeseburger, so we knew it was gonna be good, but the main card blew us away like a carless drunk uncle lighting his poorly angled 4th July firecracker. The card took a small knock a while back when it was revealed that Dos Santos vs Ngannou was being removed to save the fight night one weekend prior, but in the grand scheme of things, dropping that match was like throwing a deck chair off the titanic. We were already spoiled. We had it all, 3 round tear ups, knockout of the year contenders, career defining performances and our fair share of controversy. We even had great prelims, with people like Yadong continuing the Chinese invasion with a devastating knockout. Without further ado, here’s our main card review.
Diego Sanchez vs Michael Chiesa
We started off the main card with my heart shattering into a thousand pieces as one of my favourite fighters of all time Diego Sanchez got destroyed by Michael Chiesa over three rounds, each one a similar affair. Sanchez’s demolishing of Mikey Gall made as all think, hope and dream that there could be one more, small career resurgence before he hangs them up, but alas, Poseidon himself could not stop the waves that would be crashing over him. He started the fight aggressively but was easily outwrestled by Chiesa who made good use of a body triangle throughout the first round, tiring out Sanchez, laying in some thick ground and pound and almost securing the choke early on. Sanchez, much like a millennial teen, surprisingly didn’t get choked out during this whole bout but was thoroughly dominated. Chiesa looked good, confident, aggressive and making Sanchez look helpless is never an easy task. Still at only 31, he could have a lot to offer in this stacked 175lb division as he destroyed his second UFC legend in a row.
Luke Rockhold vs Jan Blachowicz
Full disclosure, our pick was Luke “Oh God where is his chin, no seriously where did it go” Rockhold. He’s looked good recently and been in good spirits, and a change to 205 was always something that seemed inevitable with someone like Rockhold. He was always a big middleweight and the cut looked to be doing him more harm then good, plus he looked great in his videos leading up to the contest. Blachowicz on the other hand was coming off a hard loss to Santos who was main eventing this very PPV. I like Blachowicz, I like him a lot, and he’s one of the top tier fighters that KSW have produced. He went on an amazing run before the Santos fight, and did well to return to winning ways this weekend. At first, I was excited to hear Luke had had some success in good shoots, only to realise these were modelling photo shoots. But Rockhold looked good coming out into the first round finding his range and dominating most of the exchanges until a devastating kick on the buzzer made Rockhold look, well, like Rockhold. Lost, confused, and surprised he was still able to stand. From there it was easy for Blachowicz who made quick work of a clearly hurt Rockhold in the second with a picture-perfect left hand which seems to be Rockhold’s kryptonite, as well as strikes of all kinds really. It was a good shot, and Luke’s jaw looked like a teenager’s on ecstasy, ecstasy that Blachowicz had every right to be feeling. He battled through great adversity in the first round to come back and get the KO. We know this man can retain his power, and this must surely be putting him in a high-profile contest in the rice paper thing LHW landscape. Oezdemir, Smith, Reyes? They’re the only options in my opinion. And Rockhold? He just can’t seem to go 5 minutes without getting knocked out these days. He needs to stop getting his face dismantled if he wants to keep this deal with Ralph Lauren.
Jorge Masvidal vs Ben Askren
They’re aren’t many things that are over in 5 seconds. My temper when Dana moves to a whole new State so a drug cheat can fight, a passionate night in with my girlfriend, Arsenal’s chances of placing top 4 next season, but oh God no, not often fights. Askren’s chin is so huge, it’s a mystery no one’s managed to connect with it effectively since Lawler nearly slammed him through the literal mat some months prior, but this was just outright murder. Masvidal is one of our favourite fighters of all time, but we were under no illusions here, if he didn’t get a flash KO within the first 30 seconds or so of each round it was going to be a long, uncomfortable night of being laid of for 15 minutes like Mormons consummating a marriage. But we never expected this. Genius battle plan with can be seen with videos of him drilling this flying knee days before the fight, Askren is a tremendous wrestler but he’s as one dimensional as Super Mario Brothers on the NES so when the first thing he did was shoot for the takedown, within seconds, Masvidal was ready, oh yes he was ready, sprinting out the gate like a steed on amphetamines and delivering a cracking flying knee that collapsed the chin of Ben “Walking Mount Rushmore” Askren, with a couple extra punches thrown in for good measure. Gamebred does not fuck about.
We are ecstatic for Jorge, and what a run he’s on. After his disappointing loss to Wonderboy, he knocked out top contender Darren Till, which I had the pleasure of seeing live, and now has absolutely destroyed quite possibly the best fighter in the world to have never fought in the UFC until this year. Is a title shot up next? As usual with the UFC, or any corporate company, and actually just life in general, politics. Covington was interim at one point and there was some real heat there with Usman, so that fight just made sense, the booking wrote itself and love him or hate him Colby’s good on the stick and could turn that into a draw. But since Woodley pulled out the with fight with Robbie it seems to be Lawler vs Colby for the number 1 contendership unless they book Masvidal to fight Usman in the meantime. I wouldn’t be against that, considering the only other fight that really makes sense is a rematch with Wonderboy just for his own personal vengeance, but why risk his spot like that? I say Masvidal just Stipe’s it from here, does absolutely fuck all until you get your shot.
And what next for Askren? Probably the most hyped fighter to never be in the UFC, the man toured the world and dominated the welterweight division everywhere he went, Bellator, ONE, and he hoped the creme de la creme was next, the ultimate prize in the UFC. His life got off to a rocky start in the big leagues, in a fight I personally would have stopped against Lawler before he recovered and got a controversial choke victory. Now, he’s been knocked out quicker than anyone in the history of the company, bearing in mind CM Punk has fought for this company. Well still ranked 6th there are some interesting match ups here. If Lawler loses to Colby than that rematch makes the most sense in my eyes as there is clearly some unfinished business there. The loser of RDA and Edwards is also a viable option, both men are fantastic strikers and are also good off their backs so there’s an interesting matchup to be had there, or maybe even a chess match type set up with Wonderboy. I mean we’re blessed with a stacked 175 division. From the UFC’s point of view, Askren needs a clear and decisive win. I’d look downwards and feel a fight against Wonderboy or Pettis would be a good bet to secure Askren a competitive victory, not that he couldn’t lost either of those fights because he really could. Or, my ultimate pitch that would put many to sleep but give me a huge hard on for days, Damien Maia. Some of MMA’s best ever wrestling vs some of it’s best ever BJJ? To me that’s better that the best B… J, it’s a fight I’ve been wanting to see for years and I honestly feel it makes the most sense for both men.
Amanda Nunes vs Holly Holm
Next up was the greatest of all time. God, I love the fact that Nunes is finally getting her due because she is the most incredible female martial artist I’ve ever seen, and I’ve even pencilled her as my number 3 P4P in the world today, and there’s even an argument she could be higher than that. She’s not as bigger draw as Ronda, and never will be, and it’s disgusting. Ronda had a hype train like we’d never seen before, it’s like if MVP’s hype train fucked Aaron Pico’s hype train, then that hype train’s kid bent over and took it from behind from Ben Askren’s hype train only to be raised and neutered by the loving, caring, older and wiser Chuck Liddell hype train. People were saying she could beat male bantamweights, beat Floyd Mayweather, she was on the covers of magazines and getting advertisements and was the face of western feminism for the longest time and the fact that Nunes isn’t even getting half of that recognition is not only a disgrace to our sport, but society as a whole. Nunes is more professional, she’s humble, and as a martial artist she’s impeccable, and the UFC needs to be pushing that.
People picked Holm to win this, which I understand, she’s a great kickboxer with amazing timing, but Nunes is too good and her stand up had improved too much in the last year. She dominated the opening round with a good use of jabs and range which left Holm with not many options, she had a flurry, but Nunes is a master of throwing that jab, feigning, then tricking you out with either doubling up on the jab or coming over with that straight. Flipping that on its head, she threw a devastating head kick after the beforementioned technique that sent Holm to the mat and her soul somewhere stupidly far away. I don’t know let’s say, China, fuck it. After some ground and pound to seal the deal referee Marc Goddard had seen enough and scored a stop to this contest. What a performance from Nunes, and what now? Well honestly although I feel like this whole champ champ champ stuff blocks up divisions most of the time, I’d love to see the trilogy fight with Valentina, only because after only recently watching their second fight back, I have Shevchenko narrowly winning on my scorecards. It’d be an opportunity for Nunes to make history and be the first triple champ and, on top of that, what else is there for her? Avenging her loss against Zingano might be on her personal list of goals but I think it’s fair to say she’s eclipsed her at this point, plus Vieira scored the victory over her back last year. Aspenn Ladd’s been getting a lot of hype after an impressive victory back in May but of course Vieira’s probably the one most deserving. So maybe we see that, and please, please, that trilogy with Shevchenko. Yes, I believe Nunes to be the GOAT, but Valentina’s kickboxing is so elite she could decapitate anybody at any time. We’ll have to see how the cards fall in the coming months. As for Holm? Who knows, it could take her a few weeks, hell, maybe even a few months before she gets another title shot. I really am thinking of her in these troubling times.
Jon Jones vs Thiago Santos
Finally, we have the main event of the evening as Jonny Microdose Jones was defending his light heavyweight title against Thiago Santos who was a massive underdog coming into this, but has been making waves in the 205 division with impressive victories over the likes of Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz who scored an impressive win himself on this card. Santos wasn’t just beating these men, he was knocking them out, and rumour has it the hammer on his chest grows bigger with each chin that is absorbed through his Munir like power. Let’s call a spade a spade, Santos needed a knockout here, if not for an unbelievable overdominance with several knockdowns and top control, the judges were never gonna score this one against Power Pulse himself. I personally scored this fight for Santos but completely get why a lot of people scored it for Jones. It was a true split decision either way you see it, I had Santos taking 1, 2 and 5. But these rounds were all razor thin, and it really depends on how you tend to score MMA. Jones controlled the middle of the octagon for the majority of the fight, using his masterful range to do his usual large variety of single effective shots. What I mean by that is, you rarely see combos from the Charlie Sheen Machine, just well-placed laser like strikes upstairs and down that pick you apart, but in rounds 1 and 2 he wasn’t active enough for me, and Santos was firing off leg kicks hard and fast, and Jones checks leg kicks as often as the McCanns check on their children. Jones admitted after the fight the calf kicks really did a number on him, so I feel it’s a good blueprint for any good striker going up against him. Santos did well, rushing in with some flurries too, hooks landing to the face and kicks to the body but at some point, he buckled on his knee and that really was the story of this fight. Even though he struggled to stand on it at times and get off his shots, Santos powered through like a warrior and showed his toughness. The Cocaine Cowboy made good use of oblique kicks to help the damage along, and often tried landing some spinning back kicks to ill effect.
Overall, despite easily controlling the third and fourth rounds from the centre of the cage, Jones looked slow and lacklustre. Considering I scored Santos, with one knee, winning 3 rounds to 2 as well as many others did, shows how incompetent the Dick Pill Killer was at times. Afterwards he stated he didn’t want to use his wrestling so that he can beat Santos as his own game, which I can kind of understand. In my eyes, a pre-USADA Jones would have picked Santos apart in the first round with vicious jabs and body kicks, taken him down in the second and rained down elbows until Herb Dean had seen enough. But that’s just me assuming. OSP and Santos are the only fights Jones hasn’t flagged and are easily his most disappointing performances. Take that how you will. What next for Jones? Surely, he must move up to HW now. But the way he looked on Saturday I honestly wouldn’t see him beating any of the top 3-4 competitors, and as someone who didn’t look that powerful or sharp, I don’t see him looking to risk his near perfect record anytime soon. He’ll ride the thin LHW division unless Cormier bites the bullet and comes down for one more go. And Santos? Still only in his mid-30s, he had good, tactics and toughness against Jones. I was very impressed with his explosive power and use of leg kicks, and if I was another one of those judges he’d be champion right now. If Jones moves up or retires, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be champion at 205 one day.