Saturday’s UFC 249 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Jacksonville, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Man, it was good to have fights back on Saturday night, and while I’m guessing we would have been happy with that simple fact, the reality of having one of the best cards of the year made the return of the UFC even better. And what a way to end the night, with Justin Gaethje delivering a career best effort against Tony Ferguson. In winning the interim UFC lightweight title, Gaethje didn’t just put himself in line for fights against the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, but he did so with a disciplined, systematic defeat of one of the best 155-pounders in the sport. Oh yeah, and he still remained “The Highlight” as he made it nine post-fight bonuses in just seven fights. All of us in the MMA world knew how good and entertaining Gaethje was before last Saturday night. Now the rest of the world knows.
With a quartet of consecutive victories over Demetrious Johnson, TJ Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes and Dominick Cruz, Henry Cejudo cemented his legacy as one of the best fighters to strap on the gloves. And if the former Olympic gold medalist sticks to the retirement he announced in the Octagon after beating Cruz, that’s an even more remarkable achievement because he will have left on top, a rarity in all sports, but especially combat sports. Of course, history has shown that these things don’t last too often, and with Cejudo just 33 and in prime form, I’m sure there will be the temptation to come back for a big fight. But in the meantime, if this is the end, kudos to “Triple C” on a spectacular career.
Twenty seconds. There’s not much to take from a fight that short other than to say that Francis Ngannou remains the scariest guy in the UFC. Forget that Jairzinho Rozenstruik only had ten pro MMA fights heading into Saturday’s bout; the Suriname native had over 80 pro kickboxing bouts, so he’s no newcomer to combat sports. But all it took was one shot from Ngannou and it was lights out. Ngannou has clearly earned his second shot at the UFC heavyweight title, and if it’s against Stipe Miocic, it’s the fight I want to see right now, especially given the way Miocic dominated the first time they squared off. Tons of intrigue around Miocic-Ngannou 2, tons.
After a bunch of COVID-19 induced starts and stops, UFC 249 finally took place last weekend and that meant Calvin Kattar and Jeremy Stephens got to throw hands. For Kattar, who not only had to deal with Stephens missing weight but Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski leaving his beloved Patriots as well (Sorry, Calvin, had to throw that in for all the abuse this New Yorker has had to take in recent years), that was music to his ears. And though he started slow against the veteran, by the time Kattar found his rhythm, he looked comfortable in his new role as one of the best featherweights in the game, and the knockout of Stephens was memorable to say the least.
Just a reminder to anyone that doesn’t know – Charles Rosa is a jiu-jitsu black belt. And that’s likely the only reason Bryce Mitchell wasn’t able to submit him last Saturday. Anyone else, and it probably wouldn’t be pretty. That’s a testament to Rosa’s submission defense but more so an appreciation of Mitchell’s ground game, which continues to improve with each fight. Yes, he’s still early on in his UFC career, but you want to see him back in the Octagon as soon as possible against a top 15 featherweight. I know I do.