On paper, UFC 259 was stacked from top to literal bottom with matchups that gauged fan interest, whether that be the hardcore avid spectator or the perceived ‘casual’. Receiving billing as a potential card of the year, whichever pay-per-view event the UFC put together from here on out, certainly has it’s work cut out to find itself on the same pedestal as this past weekend’s showcase.
We witnessed the firm emergence of the likes of Uros Medic, Amanda Lemos, Sean Brady, and Kenney Nzechukwu on the early preliminary section. And beyond that, Kai Kara-France and former two-time bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz stole the section, the latter particularly — scoring his first win since June of 2016, with a vintage performance against rising contender, Casey Kenney in his Octagon return.
Jumping to the main card, a matchup that was expected to possibly rival Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling for Fight of the Night accolades; Thiago Santos vs. Aleksandar Rakic fell considerably short of contention, with the pair turning in a measured and cautious three-round display.
Stamping his top-ten mark at lightweight, streaking grappler, Islam Makhachev made it seven straight wins, submitting Drew Dober in a completely lopsided arm-triangle win in the third.
Opening our tripleheader of title fights, the above mentioned, Yan and Sterling turned in an exciting back-and-forth for almost four complete rounds — until offering up, undeniably the biggest talking point of the night.
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Starting to sway the fight in his favour after a usual steady start, Yan, ahead on the scorecards after a third round rally launching an ill-timed knee to a grounded Sterling — catching the Uniondale native with about as clean a knee can be from that proximity, forcing referee Mark Smith to immediately, thankfully call a timeout.
With his knee and both feet planted on the Octagon canvas, Sterling was a grounded fighter — making Yan’s offensive action illegal. Despite some confusion regarding an apparent call for the shot from his corner, Yan left the UFC Apex title-less, with the above mentioned Smith judging the foul intentional, resulting in a disqualification, and the subsequent crowning of Sterling as undisputed bantamweight best.
Sterling has received his fair share of criticism, and quite unnecessary abuse across social media amid the result of the fight, which is totally unwarranted. It’s a precarious situation for any fighter to find themselves in, and as pointed out by former interim lightweight champion, Justin Gaethje, the decision on whether or not the fight continues should be left in the Octagon side physician’s hands, and their hands only. Make no mistake about it, Yan is at fault here in this situation, he threw the knee, and whilst he’s taken responsibility for his actions, his handling of events thereafter on his Instagram, is questionable to say the least.
All remains intact for Amanda Nunes following our co-main event. She remains queen of the featherweights, in as straight forward a performance as you’ll likely see in the Octagon at this level.
I mentioned in my pre-fight Breakdown ahead of Nunes vs. Anderson, how the Australian had yet to find herself on the receiving end of the power that the Brazilian can dish out, and when it became apparent on Saturday night that she did — it was more or less over from then on out.
Stunning and wobbling the Queensland challenger, Nunes eventually took her back on the ground, and between playing with both a triangle and an armbar from her back, forced the tap from Anderson. It’s two on the trot at featherweight for Nunes in terms of title defences, and quite frankly — that division should be shelved. It’s been an experiment of sorts, in order to first accommodate Cris Cyborg — but the failure to stack the ranks with sufficient challengers, spelt its ultimate demise from the very beginning.
Faltering at his hurdle presented by Jan Blachowicz, middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya has seen his stock fall, certainly in my opinion — not drastically but somewhat notably. Suffering his first professional mixed martial arts outing, Adesanya dropped a unanimous decision win to the light heavyweight champion, struggling with two championship round takedowns from the Pole.
Granted, I was never a huge fan of this matchmaking excursion from the UFC. Glover Teixeira was laying in wait as a rightful challenger to Blachowicz’s throne, and I’m happy we’ll finally see the Minas Gerais veteran challenge for 205-pound gold once again.
A long-speculated and teased ‘superfight’ between Jon Jones and Adesanya is most likely off the table now as well for the City Kickboxing standout, who’ll have to switch his attention back to his middleweight stomping-ground, certainly for the time being, however, I’d rather he stuck around at 185-pounds than attempt to make the leap back to light heavyweight in the future — which he seems to be keen about.
Below, join me as I play matchmaker for the combatants from our trio of title fights.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan II:
I mean, you can’t get any more straight forward than this. The business between these two is as unfinished are you’re likely to see. Sterling looked composed in the early goings, even scoring a takedown like he predicted, however, it didn’t lead to a finish like he previously proclaimed. Whilst his cardio was starting to wane as the fifth round approaches, it would’ve proved interested to see if he could deal with the incoming Yan who was himself starting to find a pace-pushing groove. Rebook this one for a summer event, and on the undercard, a title-eliminator between Cory Sandhagen and T.J. Dillashaw should join proceedings as well.
Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena:
Initially booked for a potential title challenger decided on May 8th. against former champion, Holly Holm, TUF victor, Julianna Pena is now free to book another fight, following a niggling injury to Jackson-Wink MMA mainstay Holm. That booking should come against Amanda Nunes in her first title challenge at 135-pounds.
UFC president, Dana White has more or less claimed that the promotion would keep the featherweight ‘division’ alive as long as Nunes wanted to compete at that weight, but let’s be real here, that weight class could be sealed away tomorrow with relative ease. Felicia Spencer, who’s already faltered against Nunes at 145-pounds has a date with former boxer and Dana White’s Contender Series alum, Danyelle Wolf, but I genuinely believe it’s time to knock this featherweight nail on the head.
Pena represents a new challenge for Bahia bruiser, Nunes, who has run through the ranks at bantamweight, unscathed time and time again, and off the back of a submission win over Olympic silver medalist at UFc 257 in January — whilst it’s just a one-fight winning run, she could try her hand against Nunes in the summer, given the fact the defending champion took zero punishment against Anderson.
Megan Anderson vs. Felicia Spencer/Danyelle Wolf Winner:
At the current featherweight climate, what else is there? We’ve got look toward either a rematch of Anderson and Spencer, or a fresh pairing of the title challenger against the current 1-0, Wolf. If the featherweight ranks are abolished, then we’ve got a situation on our hands with Anderson, Spencer, and Wolf, in regards to their fighting future in the UFC.
We’ve really not got many more options for Anderson in the division. She’s already bested both Zarah Fairn dos Santos and Norma Dumont Viana, so fighting to avenging her loss to Spencer or to overcome Wolf is what’s likely next for her.
Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker/Paulo Costa Winner:
Granted, Adesanya would be clashing with either Robert Whittaker or Paulo Costa for the second time in his UFC stint, his interest in a title defence opposite Darren Till should land on deaf ears, regardless if he overcomes Marvin Vettori on April 10th. — especially if Whittaker overcomes Costa.
Adesanya has already finished both Whittaker and Costa, both with similar second round strikes, but a rematch against either has some arguable intrigue to it. Whittaker has looked shrewd and back to his best since dropping his title and recovering from a period of burnout, and if he can make the sufficient adjustments against Adesanya, we’re in for an exciting re-run.
The same applies for Costa, who has drawn major flak for his hangover claims over the past week, but if he can apply some pressure to Adesanya in a rematch, rather than turn in a statue-esque display — that would make for interesting viewing.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira:
UFC 259 could’ve, and many would argue, should’ve been billed as UFC 259: Blachowicz vs. Teixeira on Saturday night. One-time title challenger, Teixeira even begged the above mentioned, White to not overlook him for a title shot given his age — before he admirably signed himself up as a potential replacement for Saturday’s main event — successfully making light heavyweight championship weight to boot.
Teixeira has been on a tear as of late, and whenever the majority seems to count him out, he rises to the occasion and continues his siege to the title. In the midst of a five-fight unbeaten streak, the veteran has taken out both Anthony Smith and the above mentioned both in dramatic fashion to earn his number-one contender rank at 205-pounds.
Stylistically this one is really interesting as well. Both Blachowicz are Teixeira are accurate and formidable strikers, and if the defending champion decides to utilise his grappling against the Brazilian, he’ll be tasked with overcoming a shrewd and polished Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game.
Senior writer for FightBook MMA. An aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Producer of news articles, interviews, opinion features, and exclusive features such as, ‘The Fallout’, ‘The Breakdown, and, ‘This Week In MMA’.
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