UFC 239 results, takeaways: Jorge Masvidal steals the show, Amanda Nunes solidifies her resume
It was an eventful night in Las Vegas at UFC 239, highlighted by 'Gamebred's' KO for the ages
In what turned out to be one of the most wild pay-per-view main cards in recent history, Saturday's UFC 239 card delivered no shortage of storylines as to what comes next. As the headliner to a packed International Fight Week in Las Vegas, the card produced a succession of devastating knockouts and a near upset in the main event as we were delivered what may go down as one of the most memorable cards of the entire year when all is said and done.
Let's now take a closer look at what we learned coming out of the UFC 239 event on Saturday night inside the T-Mobile Arena.
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1. Jorge Masvidal might be the next great counter-culture superstar: More ghetto superstar than polished athlete or fighter/businessman, Masvidal delivered one of the most iconic moments in UFC history with a record-setting knockout of Ben Askren in just five seconds. Given the trash talk between them coming in and the audacious nature of his post-fight celebration, Masvidal may have just passed the Diaz brothers as the UFC's top anti-hero. In fact, considering Nate Diaz was never able to fully capitalize on the rub he got from a pair of pay-per-view blockbusters against Conor McGregor, should Masvidal earn a welterweight title shot next, it's worth debating whether he can become an even bigger star than the beloved Diaz brothers.
Masvidal is as real as real gets, and thanks to the former backyard fighter's catchy slogans like "three piece and a soda" and his willingness to fight inside and out of the cage at any time, the sky is the limit for his brand to the idea of becoming a UFC folk hero. The author of arguably the most disrespectful KO in combat sports history also may end up wearing UFC gold before it's all said and done, too. Considering he shared the marquee with the G.O.A.T. in both the men's and women's game, it's somewhat remarkable that Masvidal left UFC 239 having clearly won the night.
2. Jon Jones is so good ... he nearly played himself: If you were tasked to score Saturday's light heavyweight title main event as a whole, it would be hard not to give Jones the impressive nod. He won the tactical battle over a gutsy and hard-hitting Thiago Santos. Jones showcased his championship-level chin by constantly no-selling the damage of Santos' heavy blows. But MMA fights are scored on a round-by-round basis, and Jones' decision to almost "play with his food" while Santos was visibly wobbled in the second half on an injured left leg both increased the potential danger of the wounded Santos landing something big and simultaneously saw Jones risk it all by leaving the outcome in the judges' hands.
Jones, who hung on via split decision, got too cute in trying for the perfect and spectacular finish that was never going to be there unless he stepped on the gas and took more chances. Yet Jones, saying afterwards it was for strategic reasons with the fight in hand, made a puzzling decision not to attempt a single takedown in order to try and finish Santos on the ground. Instead, he chose the more dangerous option to stand in Santos' strike zone and walk him down amid heavy counter fire. Jones is so good that he gives off the impression he can win a fight in as boring a way as possible should he decide to (which he did at times in Round 4). In the end, Jones may have overplayed his own hand and was lucky that Vegas luck was on his side when the scores were read.
3. The women's G.O.A.T. might be knocking on the door of something bigger: Holly Holm was the last remaining former champion at bantamweight or featherweight that two-division champion Amanda Nunes had not yet faced. One violent head kick later in Round 1, Nunes further cemented the idea that she's the most talented and decorated female fighter in the short history of the sport. So ... what do we do with her legacy now? The combination of power and precision that Nunes showcased is unrivaled by any female fighter before her and, frankly, many male fighters as well.
So is Nunes getting closer to the idea of being, quite possibly, the greatest fighter regardless of gender? That might be a bridge too far still considering Jones' greatness and the increased level of danger he faced on a fight-by-fight basis in comparison to Nunes, who very often benefitted from size and power advantages in her biggest tests. One thing is certain, however: Nunes is proving she belongs at the upper table of the greatest to have ever stepped foot in the Octagon -- a group that includes Jones, Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, Daniel Cormier and Demetrious Johnson. Not too shabby.
4. The time has come to say goodbye: UFC president Dana White hinted at it when asked separately about the future of three different big-name fighters who came up short on Saturday. But it wouldn't be a stretch to imply that UFC 239 could be -- and more importantly, should be -- the final time we see Holm, Luke Rockhold or Diego Sanchez inside the Octagon. Sure, it's probably not a likely scenario that each of the three never fights again, and one wouldn't be wrong to suggest adding Gilbert Melendez to this discussion, as well.
Still, Holm has seemingly accomplished everything she set out to as a former UFC champion who has only lost against the very elite. Yet closing in on 38 and having lost three of her last five, it may be time for Holm to step away now before becoming a gatekeeper. Rockhold, at 34, is in a somewhat different situation after a disastrous light heavyweight debut that ended via knockout to Jan Blachowicz. The former middleweight champion is insanely talented, but that missing link that prevents him from fulfilling his potential has now seen him endure three damaging KO defeats in his last four outings. With a burgeoning modeling career on the side, Rockhold is at a legitimate crossroads. Finally, the 37-year-old Sanchez has thrilled crowds for nearly three eras of modern UFC, but his one-sided loss to Michael Chiesa showed us his recent resurgence is over.
5. Get ready to meet two of UFC's next big things: Their equally impressive performances may have been buried on the undercard of UFC 239, but a pair of 21-year-old's certainly whet the appetites of UFC matchmakers with stoppage wins. Chinese bantamweight prospect Yadong Song delivered a violent one-punch knockout of Alejandro Perez in the first round that screamed of his future potential. A student of Hall of Famer Urijah Faber at Team Alpha Male, Song's rise could coincide perfectly with UFC's expansion into China following the opening of a state-of-the-art Performance Institute in Shanghai. Meanwhile, Armenian-American middleweight Edmen Shahbazyan needed just 72 seconds to drop and submit Jack Marshman to improve his unbeaten mark to 10-0 since turning pro in 2017. A product of former Ronda Rousey trainer Edmund Tarverdyan, Shahbazyan gave off young Rory MacDonald vibes with the efficiency and force that was on display.
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