Controversial finish aside, I think I speak for all of us when I say Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal looked absolutely flawless last night at Madison Square Garden. The resurrection continued against Nathan Diaz, via a third round doctor’s stoppage in his BMF title headliner. A large cut both above Diaz’s right eye, and on the cheek of the Stockton native, forced the New York State Athletic Commissioner’s cageside physician to call a halt to proceedings. Diaz argued the stoppage afterwards, but on all three judges scorecards after the fifteen minute affair, Masvidal was coasting.
The original cut was formed early in the opening round, as Masvidal sliced Diaz with an elbow on the break from a fence clinch, before landing a head kick as Diaz stumbled to the mat. Finding a consistent target over the next two rounds, Masvidal peppered Diaz with a stinging left hook, and an overhand right which caused a second knockdown. Masvidal held the advantage on both the power and speed side of the standup equation, mixing combinations with a right roundhouse to the body on cue. Anyone but Nate Diaz gets finished by the shots Masvidal was landing, that’s a given.
The gritty Diaz claimed how the game plan ahead of the matchup, was to turn the heat up on ‘Gamebred’ in both the fourth and fifth round, two more frames we unfortunately failed to see. Masvidal, strapped with the Baddest Motherf**ker championship by The Rock, told Joe Rogan how he would be interested in a rematch. I think all of us agree with that statement. The promotion seems to be American Top Team trainee Masvidal’s oyster at the moment, he can call the shots.
The middleweight division also received a reshuffle last night, as a tentative Darren Till nabbed a split decision over one-time interim middleweight champion Kelvin Gastelum. After the closely contested clash, a brave and emotional Till spoke backstage of his pre-fight fear and nerves, and how he even explored the possibility of withdrawing from the bout. The Liverpool striker explained how he had been dealing with demons ever since his loss to Tyron Woodley and the aforementioned Jorge Masvidal. Over three rounds, Till stuck on the outside, executed a leg kick heavy game plan and countered while possible. Gastelum on the other hand, really never got started all night and failed to mitigate the movement of Till and close the distance effectively.
So, what next for our main and co-main event features?
Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz II:
“Nate (Diaz), heal up, run it back in (Las) Vegas.” Joe Rogan hit the nail on the head. There’s unfinished business here. Sure, Masvidal was running away with the victory and was three rounds to the good, but both Nick and Nate Diaz are famed for their ability to rally late on and make a gigantic comeback. The Florida native has spoke of his acceptance of a rematch in the future, despite UFC President Dana White’s reluctance to book one as of yet. In my opinion, if last night’s venue was the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, we at the very least, get to see a fourth round. Masvidal suffered some hand injuries in the lead up this record-setting finish of Ben Askren, and has plans to rehab those injuries ahead of a 2020 return. Nate Diaz must also allow time for his facial lacerations to heal and according to Dana White, the Californian must undergo plastic surgery to remove cartilage around his eye. Before a re-run in the future, Masvidal may have another target on his hit list.
Kamaru Usman – Colby Covington winner vs. Jorge Masvidal:
The ultimate goal for Jorge Masvidal has to be world championship success. Kamaru Usman defends his welterweight title in the headliner of UFC 245 in December, against Colby Covington. Expect ‘Gamebred’ to keep a close eye on proceedings. The history between Covington and Masvidal is firmly there. Former friends, now sworn enemies, who still ply their trade at American Top Team. During his siege of the 170-pound title, the brash Covington has had some choice words regarding teammates, Dustin Poirier, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, and Jorge Masvidal. ‘Gamebred’ has poked fun at both Usman’s and Covington’s predominanty wrestling based offence as of late, noting how many total career finishes he has when compared to both.
Dustin Poirier vs. Nate Diaz:
This matchup was booked for UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden last year. Poirier remains adamant that Diaz stalled during negotiations and how he in turn, chose to undergo hip surgery. Even after the event last night, Poirier called for a re-scheduling with the Stockton favorite. “I got Nate (Diaz) next if they don’t book the rematch.” Poirier, who most recently challenged Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight championship in Abu Dhabi, has flirted with the idea of a move to 170-pounds, a division where Diaz seems more than comfortable at.
Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till:
Former UFC middleweight champion Robert ‘The Reaper’ Whittaker recently canceled a public appearance scheduled for December, in a press release, teasing an imminent return to the Octagon. The Aussie striker recently dropped the 185-pound title to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243, and is eager for a return to active-competition. Who better to face off with than Darren Till? The Liverpudlian spoke with Ariel Helwani and Chael Sonnen after his matchup with Kelvin Gastelum, where he outlined his ambitions to meet the previously mentioned Adesanya at Anfield in a middleweight championship tilt. Whittaker presents a significant roadblock to such a meeting, and for the time being, it seems ‘The Last Stylebender’ is interested in a meeting with former three-time title hopeful, Yoel Romero after Paulo Costa underwent bicep surgery.
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Jared Cannonier:
Jared Cannonier has completely lit the UFC middleweight division up since his drop in weight classes earlier this year. The heavy-hitter has gone 3-0 at 185-pounds, where he has finished David Branch, Anderson Silva and in a huge performance, stopped Jack Hermansson at UFC Fight Night Copenhagen last month. Gastelum, who looked fantastic against Adesanya in his interim title challenge defeat, failed to kick start any significant offense against Till last night, but a meeting with a more boxing oriented Cannonier may suit the Kings MMA staple.