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UFC 249: Jacksonville, Florida

I can not stress how important it is in today’s global climate that this event went ahead. In what seems like a big step back in the direction of normality Dana White takes UFC 249 down to Jacksonville, Florida. The event will be the first of three in the state over the course of the next seven or so days. Just like Vince McMahon’s wrestling behemoth WWE, the UFC would follow suit and take advantage of Florida’s decision to allow sporting events to proceed behind closed doors.

The provisions being that stringent testing is to be done and social distancing guidelines adhered to. With all the necessary precautions taken, the green light was given and all but Jacare Souza were able to compete due to him testing positive for coronavirus. With only one match up effected, the rest of the competitors were in the position to fill out an extremely stacked card. Due to the sheer immenseness of the card, I will pick up the action from the fight night prelims.

Prelims

Welterweight Division

Vincente Luque (BRA) def. Niko Price (U.S.A.) — (TKO RD3 Doctor Stoppage)

The first fight of the late prelims saw Vicente Luque defeat Niko Price in the Welterweight Division. The contest between the two was an excellent back and forth brawl that was fought with as much brains as brutality. It was such an entertaining fight that could have easily have gone either way until Luque landed the decisive blow with a hellish left hook in the 3rd round. The hook dropped Price to the ground and with his eye receiving increasingly more damage the doctor stepped in to stop the fight.

Strawweight Division

Carla Esparza (U.S.A.) def. Michelle Waterson (U.S.A.) — (Split Decision—27-30, 29-28, 30-27)

In the follow-up to the opener, Carla Esparza came out on top against Michelle Waterson in the Strawweight Division. In what was a tentative fight, that was fought at distance, for the most part, Esparza held a slight advantage over the karate style of Waterson who never made that distance count. It as a close call but with Esparza being the more active of the two especially in the final round I think the decision was the correct one, all except for that 30-27 score from one of the judges who must have been watching a different fight.

Heavyweight Division

Aleksi Oleinik (RUS) def. Fabricio Werdum (BRA) — (Split Decision—29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

In the 3rd fight of the prelims, Aleksei Oleinik came out victorious in the battle of the Heavyweight Divison veterans against Fabricio Werdum. At the start Oleinik looked the far superior when the fighting was upright but as the action began to lean towards the grappling side of things Werdum came back strong. The Brazilian came very close to submitting Oleinik on more than one occasion but the Russian veteran used his 23 or so years of MMA experience to see it out and take the victory on the cards. I’m not sure about this decision as Werdum was dominant on the ground but Oleinik did very well to survive and looked good in the early rounds.

Welterweight Division

Anthony Pettis (U.S.A.) def. Donald Cerrone (U.S.A.) — (Unanimous Decision—29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

In the main event of the prelims, Anthony Pettis defeated the ever-active Donald Cerrone for the 2nd time in their rematch in the Welterweight Division. The two UFC legends did battle in what was a close encounter but Pettis came out victorious on all of the judge’s scorecards. Even though Pettis showed his surprise at being given the victory I think he was good value for it and this defeat has to leave a big question mark over Donald Cerrone’s future in the sport. It would be a shame to see him keep going and to have needless damage inflicted upon him, especially after such a long and illustrious career. If Cowboy is to continue it will be very interesting to see where he goes next.

Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone about to embrace post fight
Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone about to embrace post-fight

Main Card

After the conclusion of the prelims, we are immediately reminded of the strange setting for the event. As Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and former two-weight division world champion Daniel Cormier do the introductions, we can see how they too find the circumstances a little out of the ordinary but they soldier on and stay enthusiastic throughout. This trio constantly reminds us why they are the number one combination on the analytical side of things. The three share an excellent report and did their best to fill the arena with their excitement in place of that of the missing fans.

Heavyweight Division

Greg Hardy (U.S.A.) def. Yorgan De Castro (C.VRD) — (Unanimous Decision—30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

In the opening bout of the main card, Greg Hardy defeated Yorgan De Castro in the Heavyweight Division. In what was a fight of two halves, De Castro looked good money for a victory with some great leg kicks but his strength soon became his weakness. When one of those said leg kicks was checked by Hardy, De Castro suffered an injury to his foot and his activity waned massively as the action wore on. Due to the injury and Hardy’s impressive pressure, the decision ended up being a no brainer for the judges, and Hardy rightfully won on all of the cards.

Featherweight Division

Calvin Kattar (U.S.A.) def. Jeremy Stephens (U.S.A.) — (TKO 2ND RD—Referee Stoppage)

In the 2nd fight of the main card, Calvin Kattar defeated Jeremy Stephens in the Featherweight Division. In the battle of the ever-improving up and comer against the veteran, it was the fast-rising Kattar who got the better of his more accomplished opponent. The action was up close and personal from the off with the two men exchanging heavy blows. It was eventually in round 2 in a give and take exchange that Kattar took one and gave Stephens the fight winning blow. After getting his nose smashed Kattar returned with an inch-perfect elbow to end the contest and set up some big fights down the road.

Heavyweight Division

Francis Ngannou (CMR) def. Jarzinho Rozenstruik (SUR) — (KO 1ST RD)

In the 3rd fight, Francis Ngannou defeated Jarzinho Rozenstruik in the Heavyweight Division. Unless I write this extremely quickly I am in danger of spending more time writing about this fight than Ngannou did fighting it. In another show of immense power, the Cameroonian destroyer put the next hot prospect of the division to sleep in 20 seconds.

I don’t know who is next for Ngannou with Miocic currently unavailable due to front line duties—Miocic is an active firefighter—and has been suffering from eye issues so it’s up in the air right now for the increasingly impressive heavyweight. I for one hope the division clears up and at the very least an interim belt opportunity is granted to Ngannou in the near future.

Bantamweight Division – Title Fight

(C) Henry Cejudo (U.S.A.) def. Dominick Cruz (U.S.A.) — (TKO 2ND RD—Referee Stoppage)

In the co-main event, Henry Cejudo defeated and defended his title against Dominick Cruz in the Bantamweight Division. The self-proclaimed Triple-C went a long way in cementing his legacy with this victory. Although the result is huge for Cejudo it came in little more than questionable circumstances. The victory that came by way of TKO occurred when Cejudo was applying immense pressure to the grounded Cruz but the referee didn’t step in until it looked like Cruz was actually rasing to his feet.

It was a strange and ultimately premature stoppage that robbed us all of a potentially classic clash between two of the best to have ever done it. Just when you think the stoppage would be the main talking point Henry Cejudo would announce his retirement from MMA in the post-fight interview. Cejudo’s revelation will certainly have a few sitting up at attention and has blown the Bantamweight Division wide open.

Ferguson tightens up as Gaethje throws a fierce right hand
Ferguson tightens up as Gaethje throws a fierce right hand

Lightweight Division – Interim Title Fight

(I.C) Justin Gaethje (U.S.A.) def. Tony Ferguson (U.S.A.) — (TKO 5TH RD—Referee Stoppage)

In the main event of the night, Justin Gaethje upset the apple cart and defeated the Lightweight Divison Boogeyman Tony Ferguson for the Interim Title. Gaethje absolutely dominated and completely unraveled the enigma that is Tony Ferguson. In an incredible show of pressure and accuracy, Gaethje put on the performance of a lifetime. The Highlight chased Ferguson from minute one, constantly applying that aforementioned pressure whilst piecing up Ferguson and ending his 12 fight win streak in the process. Not only did Gaethje defeat Ferguson but he has now set himself up for an epic showdown against the divisions dominant champion Khabib Nurmagemedov.

It should be very interesting to see how that one plays out with Gaethje having an excellent wrestling background and superb takedown defense. The only question mark over Gaethje’s victory could be that Tony Ferguson made weight twice in a very short space of time and that may or may not have affected his performance and usual otherworldy cardio. That being said Ferguson later stated that wasn’t the cause of the defeat. Either way, Gaethje was good value for the victory and 100% deserves a shot at the title and it wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility for a rematch to take place between these two somewhere down the road.

Final Thoughts:

So at the end of an excellent and momentous night of MMA action, all I can say is that I hope that this is a big step in the right direction. I think with this resounding success and withstanding any negative ramifications in the aftermath of this event, in terms of COVID-19 then hopefully other sports will follow the UFC’s lead. Now with this show and the coming shows then this might serve as inspiration for other sporting bodies around the world. Although potentially massive, the impact on the future of the sporting world is not all that I took from this event.

After watching UFC 249, I am extremely curious about how both the Heavyweight Division and the Lightweight Division landscapes will pan out in the coming months. The future looks bright for both Ngannou and Gaethje, now it is just a case of whether or not they will get their shots at both of their respective divisional gold. It should be extremely interesting how the night’s results reverberate throughout the sport, especially Cejudo’s retirement which has just thrown everything up in the air in the Bantamweight Division.

With all that said, that’s it from me folks. Just like you, I must now play the waiting game to see what UFC 249’s results will mean for the coming future. I will be back for UFC 250, let me know your thoughts on all of last night’s action. I would also love to hear what fights you would all like to see this year.

Written by Vincent Greene

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