While plans are being made for the return of boxing and other MMA organizations such as Bellator, the Ultimate Fighting Championship have shown over recent weeks just how to stage a show during what has been such a testing period for combat sports.
As UFC fans around the world have been deprived of many mouth-watering fights before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the streets, the UFC promised they would come back with a bang. And boy, have they done so.
On May 10, the UFC held their first PPV event in what was supposed to be headlined as Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson. However, as history has shown, the fight was scrapped, this for a fifth time as Khabib pulled out due to unforeseen events. Justin Gaethje was named as Khabib’s replacement and the 31-year-old reaped the opportunity to become the interim lightweight champion as he stopped the ‘Boogeyman’ in the fifth round via TKO in brutal fashion.
The UFC would then hold another two events in less than a week. Light heavyweight Glover Teixeira made light work of Anthony Smith as he cruised to a TKO victory in the fifth round and three days later Heavyweight pioneer Alaistair Overeem put Walt Harris to sleep in the second.
UFC 250 may not have been the biggest PPV card put together; however, it was the return of the UFC in the fight capital of the world and it was set to become a bantamweight blockbuster.
Main Event: Amanda Nunes Vs. Felicia Spencer
As the main event took place, women's bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes (19-4) put her 145-pound title on the line against Felicia Spencer (8-1) and it wasn’t even close as Nunes mauled the title challenger for five rounds straight, further proving her status as the women's greatest UFC fighter of all time.
Despite being a huge bookie favourite, one Las Vegas punter was so sure the champion would defend her throne and decided to lump $1 million (£790,000) on Nunes to win and I'm sure a smiling face will be walking into the bookies saying that was the easiest $167,000 (£132,000) he could have ever made.
As predicted, Nunes came out early, asserting herself as the dominant fighter. To Felicia's credit, she absorbed everything that the champion threw at her and as seen before, that takes a granite chin and a lot of heart. We knew that Spencer’s best path to victory coming into the fight was through her grappling and she did try. She attempted several takedowns, however, succeeded on none, meanwhile, Nunes scored six takedowns of her own across the five rounds of action.
By the end of the fourth round, Spencer was battered, bloodied and many believed the towel should have been thrown in. The fact that Nunes outstroke Spencer 124-42 in significant strikes, sums up the beating she gave to the Canadian.
The question arises: Who is going to step up and challenge Amanda Nunes? The Brazilian has effectively wiped out two weight divisions and opponents such as Spencer are not going to push ‘The Lioness’.
Co-Main Event: Cody Garbrandt VS Raphael Assuncao
Leading up to the event, this was the fight I was most looking forward too on the card. Former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt (12-3) stepped in on a three-fight losing streak to face number five ranked Raphael Assuncao (27-8) and we were treated with a knockout of the year contender as Garbrandt took a patient approach to the fight before landing a vicious right hook right before the second round buzzer, knocking Assuncao out cold.
Garbrandt had fallen victim to his own willingness to engage in brawls and let his emotions get the better of him in his previous three fights prior to UFC 250, ending all in KO defeats. However, the victory over a top fighter such as Assuncao will feel like bittersweet revenge as he makes his way back up the bantamweight division.
I was really impressed with the way Garbrandt fought, showing a much more mature fighter. The 28-year-old took a conservative approach, using feints and leg kicks to create openings. At the end of the first round, the new approach paid off as Assuncao’s lead leg looked busted up, enabling Cody to get in range and unload on the Brazilian fighter early in the second round.
Towards the end of round two, Garbrandt laid a trap, as he stepped back almost leaning onto the cage and ducked as Assuncao came forward to land a few shots of his own. Cody unleashed a right of his own and connected clean, putting Assuncao onto the canvas face first.
Aljamin Stirling VS Cory Sandhagen
On paper, bantamweights Aljamin Stirling (19-3) and Cory Sandhagen (12-2), looked set to be the most competitive bout of UFC 250, however, Stirling had other ideas, as he took Sandhagen to the canvas and scored a rear-naked choke submission.
As Bruce Buffer introduced both fighters it was evident that Stirling was up for the task as he screamed, jumped, danced and seemed overly confident compared to Cory’s more relaxed approach to the octagon.
Aljamin came out quickly and immediately got close and personal with Cory, grabbing and throwing him onto the canvas. Once they were on the floor, Stirling locked in a body triangle and smoothly worked his way into a rear-naked choke position, putting the American to sleep in the first round. I expected a close encounter on this one however Stirling blew me away.
With current Bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo announcing his retirement and vacating the bantamweight belt, you would be foolish to rule out Aljamin Stirling to get the next crack at the title against Petr Yan.
Elsewhere at UFC 250, welterweight Neil Magny (23-7) outworked Anthony Rocco Martin (17-6) inside three rounds to score himself a unanimous decision win. Martin used a potent striking arsenal to get the better of Magny in the opening exchanges and in my view, won the first round. As time ticked, Magny started to open up and test Martin’s conditioning. Magny dominated the final two minutes of the second round and the full third round, doing enough to get the nod on the judges' scorecards. Magny now moves on to 4-1 in his last five bouts and surely has to square up with a top 10 fighter in his next octagon appearance.
‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley (12-0) opened up the pay per view card with a bang as he knocked out veteran Eddie Wineland (24-14-1) in style, making a huge statement in the bantamweight division. From the opening bell, O’Malley successfully hit Wineland to the body, setting up one of the knockouts of the night. After cracking Wineland with an overhand right, O'Malley feinted with an uppercut before letting loose with another overhand, this one crashing clean to Wineland's jaw. Sean knew his knockout power and refused to follow up on his blow that put Wineland to the floor, as he casually turned around and celebrated.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk.