On Saturday night , Amanda Nunes dominated Felicia Spencer at UFC 250. The bout was a complete whitewashing with Nunes out-landing Spencer 124-42 (that Spencer landed 42 strikes is shocking), scoring six takedown attempts, and nearly having a fight-ending submission but for the clock. And it wasn’t just a dominant performance, but a historic one as well. With the win, Nunes became the first fighter in UFC history to defend titles in two divisions, concurrently (Daniel Cormier and Henry Cejudo did defend belts in two divisions, but neither did so while still holding both titles), and in the aftermath, Nunes is faced with one major question: where does she go from here?
It’s said that when Alexander the Great conquered the known world, he wept for he had nothing left to conquer. And while that may be objectively false for Alexander, it’s true for Amanda, there is nothing left for her to accomplish in the sport. At only 32 years old, Amanda Nunes has cemented herself as the greatest female fighter of all time. There really is no argument at this point. She has completely cleaned out two divisions (even if featherweight can hardly be called that) and has absolutely obliterated the most notable fighters in the history of the women’s MMA. Miesha Tate: demolished in one round. Ronda Rousey: retired from the sport in 52 brutalizing seconds. Holly Holm: destroyed with her own weapon, a first-round head kick KO. Even the great Cris Cyborg was felled like a rotten tree in just 51 seconds. What more is there to do?
Nothing, is the answer. Following her big win, Nunes is intending to take an extended break, probably for the rest of the year. After that, her goals remain the same as always, defending her titles. The absence will be good for the division, allowing some contenders to put together more wins to at least make the promotion of a fight with Nunes palatable, but even then, the exercise seems pointless. Like death, taxes, and Dana White saying a fighter who is asking for more money really just doesn’t want to fight, Amanda Nunes is inevitable.
The thing is, there is only woman who might have some semblance of a chance at defeating Nunes, and unfortunately, Nunes already holds two wins over her. Like Nunes, Valentina Shevchenko finds herself atop a division without any peers in reasonable striking distance. Normally, this would set up a massive superfight, but Nunes has already beaten Shevchenko twice. Even if both were somewhat controversial, there’s not much promotional value in running it back for a third time, and Dana White has already said as much. So instead, Nunes is left searching for the next world to conquer.
Perhaps that world is boxing. On the broadcast on Saturday, Joe Rogan joked that Claressa Shields, the two time Olympic gold medalist and undisputed middleweight champion, needed to start working on her takedown defense because she is the only woman who could challenge Nunes. That’s probably not going to happen, but perhaps a move to boxing could. Would Nunes get utterly demolished by Shields? Most likely. But there’s a better chance of her pulling off the boxing upset than there is of someone upsetting her in the UFC. And, more importantly, it would let the bantamweight and featherweight divisions have plenty of time to grow new contenders while Nunes took time away.
That’s probably a pipe dream though. As much as Dana White wants to get Zuffa Boxing off the ground, he’s yet to be able to accomplish much in the world of The Sweet Science, and Nunes, ever the affable sort, is not going to demand something like that. Instead, Nunes will return to the business of defending her titles, governing the worlds she has conquered. You’ll see no tears from her.
UFC 250 Quotes
“Nothing is normal right now. Everything is crazy and I am the only guy that is pulling off sporting events right now. . . I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in the next f*cking month with my business. I don’t know. I don’t give a f*ck. I’m doing what I can do to keep the bus on the f*cking highway here, or the train on the tracks, whatever you want to call it. I don’t give a f*ck. If people don’t to fight, you don’t have to fight. . . Whatever your deal is, you don’t have to do it.” - Dana White on his big stars speaking publicly about the UFC and pay.
“I studied her very well. I know she’s tough. If I have to go five rounds, I have to be dominant. Sharp as a cactus.” - Amanda Nunes on her performance.
“I’m tired of all this hype sh*t. Everyone talking about Petr Yan is the greatest guy. You better win your fight because I’m coming on your ass, man. I’m coming for that ass. Pause.” - Aljamain Sterling, following his domination of Cory Sandhagen.
“I’m gonna sit down, talk to the UFC, hopefully renegotiate my contract like I was supposed to do last time, and figure out what’s next.” - Sean O’Malley quietly joining the ranks of people wanting more money.
“It’s been hard. It’s been real hard. I’ve been fighting tears all day, just trying to hold everything together. It’s been a hard time for me. I had to buckle up and be a man and get this done, for him, for my family, and for myself.” - Cody Stamann on fighting after his younger brother’s recent death.
Cody Garbrandt: Not only did Garbrandt fight a measured, mature performance, he also delivered one of the most vicious knockouts of the year over a durable opponent. Bantamweights, watch out.
Aljamain Sterling: Aljo throttled Dominick Cruz-lite and made the case that the UFC should just scrap Petr Yan-Jose Aldo and have him fight Yan for the belt straight up, if not just give him the belt right now.
Sean O’Malley: The Sugar Show is for real. Eddie Wineland is a little past his prime but no one sparks him like that. Sean O’Malley has delivered every step of the way and will next find himself in bouts with top-10 opponents.
Cody Stamann: What Stamann did, fighting just a few weeks removed from the death of his 18 year old brother, and looking the best he ever has against a difficult opponent, is incredible. There was no bigger winner on Saturday.
Amanda Nunes: Unfortunately for Nunes, she cannot go more up. Even pitching what amounts to a perfect game against Felicia Spencer, Nunes’ star power isn’t going to rise. She’s hit the peak of up, and it looks like she’s going to stay there until she decides to retire.
Raphael Assuncao: Formerly the most underrated fighter in MMA, Assuncao has now lost three in a row. More to the point, the KO he suffered is one that should make any fighter in his position consider retirement.
Cory Sandhagen: On Friday, Cory Sandhagen was the dark horse of the bantamweight division. Today, Cory Sandhagen is a complete afterthought.
Chase Hooper: It’s a bit unfair to knock Hooper here. It’s not his fault the UFC gave him such a massive step up in competition. But nonetheless, Hooper was dominated and looked like a prospect who needs time in a developmental organization.
UFC 250 was a bright spot in all matters of official business. There was only one egregious foul up on the entire card: the scoring of the main event. Officially, Amanda Nunes beat Felicia Spencer by unanimous decision, earning 50-44 scorecards from Derek Cleary and Chris Lee, and a 50-45 scorecard from Sal D’Amato. Unofficially, Nunes won by substantially more. On MMADecisions, only two media members scored the bout as high as 50-44, with everyone else going 50-43 or lower.
Let’s be clear: Amanda Nunes beat Felicia Spencer pillar to post. Giving her a score of 50-45 is insulting, because it seems like Sal D’Amato stopped caring about the bout and just wrote a perfunctory score. Or worse, he actually thinks Amanda Nunes did not deserve a 10-8 round in there anywhere. In either case, it’s inexcusable.
But the overall smoothness of the event brings us to another point: the small cage. The reason there were a number of judging errors on Saturday was that the action was high and fast-paced. Straight up, the small cage makes fighters have to be more active, which increases offense, leading to more stoppages and more clear-cut decisions. The UFC should only ever use the 25-foot cage.
Fights to Make
Amanda Nunes vs. Claressa Shields : As outlined above, there is no one for Nunes to fight right now. The next person in line per the rankings would be Aspen Ladd, who got KOed two fights ago by Germaine de Randamie. Nunes either needs to spin her wheels boxing for a bit or convince the UFC to let her fight multiple contenders in one night.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan: The UFC needs to scrap the Yan-Aldo fight and just make this bout for the title. No reason to do anything else. Aldo can fight Dominick Cruz instead.
Cody Garbrandt vs. Cody Stamann: This would be a huge step up for Stamann and a very different style matchup for Garbrandt. May the best Cody win.
Neil Magny vs. Geoff Neal: That Magny is not ranked is a result of the voting body really liking to put part-time welterweights into the standings. Magny’s resume should have him as a top-10ish fighter and this would be an optimal battle for who spells Neal/Neil the correct way.
Sean O’Malley vs. Song Yadong: Two of the brightest prospects in the bantamweight division in a thrilling fight. Let one man start a run at the title and the other get more seasoning.