UFC 250 definitely wasn’t the most hyped event of the year, but the fights absolutely delivered.
At the top of the card, Amanda Nunes proved yet again that she’s the most dominant women’s fighter in history as she dominated Felicia Spencer in every second of their main event showdown. Nunes may not have earned a stoppage but that was only thanks to Spencer’s incredible toughness shown over five rounds.
In the co-main event, Cody Garbrandt bounced back from a three fight losing streak by nearly disconnecting Raphael Assuncao’s head from his body with a vicious knockout at the close of the second round.
There’s plenty to talk about when it comes to UFC 250 so let’s take a look at what passed and what failed with the latest pay-per-view card in 2020.
This is Making the Grade.
On Another Level
No one doubts that Amanda Nunes is currently riding one of the best winning streaks in the history of the sport but her sheer dominance is nearly unmatched by anybody else in the sport.
Outside of a pair of fights with Valentina Shevchenko, Nunes has laid waste to every opponent she’s faced. Nunes has defeated every champion the UFC has ever produced at 135 and 145 pounds including lopsided wins over both Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg.
Nunes was a heavy favorite going into her fight at UFC 250 against Felicia Spencer but she still had to deliver because anything less than a dominant victory would be picked apart and criticized. Just ask Jon Jones how that goes.
But Nunes came through with another shutout performance as she decimated Spencer on the feet as well as the ground. If not for Spencer’s refusal to fade away, Nunes would have earned another finish to tack onto her already gaudy resume.
Nunes said after her latest win that she was probably going to sit out for the rest of 2020 as she prepared to welcome her first child with wife Nina Ansaroff while also healing up some nagging injuries. That gives the UFC about six months to find a worthy contender when Nunes is ready to return.
Right now there’s no one even remotely close to Nunes’ level on the current roster and that’s not an insult to the contenders at either bantamweight or featherweight. That’s just the gap that Nunes has created between herself and everyone else on the roster.
Cody Garbrandt wasn’t defending a title on Saturday night but in some ways he had the most to lose out of anybody competing at UFC 250.
Once praised as the future of the bantamweight division after a dazzling performance to defeat former champion Dominick Cruz in 2016, Garbrandt appeared poised to become one of the UFC’s most marketable stars.
Then Murphy’s Law struck down on Garbrandt like a bolt of lightning.
He lost his title to former teammate T.J. Dillashaw and then suffered a second knockout loss to him in their rematch. Garbrandt then suffered a third straight defeat by knockout when he decided to engage in a fire fight with Pedro Munhoz except he was the one who got burned.
Facing a perennial contender like Raphael Assuncao was still a tough test for Garbrandt coming back from after more than a year away from action. Assuncao is a notoriously difficult fighter to dissect because he’s very defensive minded and doesn’t take a lot of chances that result in mistakes.
Instead of struggling with that kind of opponent, Garbrandt took it as a challenge and he looked better than ever while picking and choosing his shots on the feet before unleashing a devastating right hand at the close of the second round to put Assuncao away. It was the kind of outing that was reminiscent of Garbrandt’s star making performance against Cruz from nearly four years ago.
At 28, Garbrandt still has far more road ahead of him than what’s behind and if he can build on this victory, the Ohio native will add yet another threat to the growing list of contenders in the bantamweight division.
The Sugar Show
As the UFC continues to search for another pay-per-view worthy superstar, Sean O’Malley might be the fighter most prepared for the job.
There’s just something about O’Malley that fans seem to love and his one-punch, walk off knockout over Eddie Wineland at UFC 250 only further cemented his status as the next big thing.
Between his highlight reel finishes, his unabashed adoration for the green or his colorful demeanor both inside and out, O’Malley has all the makings of a future pay-per-view star for the UFC. His knockout against Wineland only added to O’Malley’s reputation as a must watch sensation every time he competes.
Now the key for the UFC will be finding O’Malley worthwhile matchups that will allow him to rise up the ranks without tossing him into the deep end without a life preserver. O’Malley seems to believe he’s ready for the upper echelon of the bantamweight division and maybe he is — but with four wins in the UFC, he should remember that old adage about slow and steady winning the race.
The great thing about the bantamweight division is there’s no shortage of talent for O’Malley to face next. Imagine a fight with O’Malley and Marlon Vera or throwing him in there with a veteran like John Dodson next. Those are both fun fights but don’t sacrifice O’Malley to the MMA gods by offering him too much, too soon.
Henry Cejudo’s retirement following a win at UFC 249 shocked the world but the only benefit from the bantamweight champion hanging up his gloves after a dominant win was the depth in the division he left behind.
A long list of top contenders still exist at 135 pounds and two of them were scheduled to fight on Saturday night. Aljamain Sterling was riding a four-fight win streak on the best run of his career while Cory Sandhagen was undefeated in the UFC while quietly taking out several notable veterans along the way.
On paper, the fight appeared to be a pick ‘em but what resulted was anything but a competitive matchup after Sterling dragged Sandhagen to the ground, latched onto his back like a human Jansport and quickly finished the fight with a rear naked choke in the opening round. Sterling proved that he’s not only one of the best bantamweights in the world but he truly is the biggest threat to claim the vacant title.
Unfortunately while Sterling was taking out another ranked opponent, the UFC was preparing for a bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and Jose Aldo. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with that matchup until you add the 135-pound title to the mix.
Yan is a phenomenal prospect, but at 6-0 in the UFC, his biggest win came against Jimmie Rivera last June. Rivera is a perennial top 10 fighter but he had already lost to both Sterling and Marlon Moraes before facing off with Yan. The Russian also defeated UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber, but “The California Kid” is far removed for his best days when he was a multi-time title contender.
As for Aldo, he is receiving a title shot without a single win in the bantamweight division. Sure, many will point to Aldo’s razor-close decision loss to Moraes as a fight he should have won but the reality is he didn’t win. It’s a loss on his record and now Aldo is fighting for a title with a 2-4 record in his past six fights.
Meanwhile, Sterling looked better than ever while taking out another ranked opponent yet he’s somehow on the outside looking in. The UFC could argue that Yan vs. Aldo is the more marketable fight but it’s absolutely not the better fight.
The reality is Sterling should have been facing Yan to crown a new bantamweight champion but the UFC blew it. Yan or Aldo will also have to pay for that decision because the winner of that fight will undoubtedly face questions about the start of their title reign without going through the real No. 1 contender in the division.
Pay That Man His Money
The UFC has been at odds with many superstars over the years but there’s seemingly a revolt happening at the highest levels of the sport right now at a time when the promotion desperately needs promotable fights.
First there was Cejudo’s retirement where he flat out said the UFC knows the price to get him to return. Then came Jon Jones, who blasted the promotion for failing to live up to a promise of a better deal when he finally decided to make the move to heavyweight.
Jorge Masvidal piled on while claiming that the UFC was offering him less for a title fight against Kamaru Usman than he made competing for a made-up “BMF” belt in a showdown with Nate Diaz.
On top of everything else, Conor McGregor announced his retirement from the sport late Saturday night. McGregor says his problems are more about competition than compensation, but the Irish superstar is nothing if not a shrewd businessman, which means he’s always got his mind on his money and money on his mind.
While the UFC has benefited from being the only show in town with most sports leagues still trying to orchestrate a comeback during the coronavirus pandemic, the time will come when the casual audience will begin thirsting for the biggest fights again.
Add to that, Masvidal raising real concerns like the UFC only paying out 18 percent of revenue to the fighters while other leagues like the NFL or NBA are contractually obligated to hand over 50 percent is starting to get serious attention.
Then you’ve got UFC president Dana White declaring Jon Jones as the GOAT yet a second later demeaning him as a draw in comparison to boxer Deontay Wilder. The only problem is Jones has actually been a much bigger draw than Wilder his entire career yet he’s still making 10 times less in disclosed pay based on each of their most recent fights.
It’s hard to say how this all plays out.
Will this result in the first ever fighters’ union? Not likely, but at the very least it’s putting the UFC’s finances front and center because the biggest stars in the sport are the ones speaking out. With the UFC’s owners at Endeavor currently drowning in debt, the promotion is now battling its athletes in the court of public opinion and that’s one fight they absolutely cannot afford to lose.