Fight fans were blessed Saturday night with a historic night of UFC fights. During the midst of this strange time without sports (due to Covid-19), fans are left craving live sports more than ever. Although the event took place in an empty arena, UFC 249 provided sports fans around the world a night full of fireworks.
In the main event, Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje (22-2 19KO) earned the Interim Lightweight Championship in his fifth-round TKO victory over perennial contender Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (25-4 12KO). Gaethje, who earned his seventh $50,000 bonus in just nine UFC fights, looked outstanding picking his shots, neutralizing the offense of Ferguson, and landing heavy punches and leg kicks throughout the five rounds. “I was great tonight,” Gaethje said at the post-fight press conference. “It feels good to be recognized as almost the best in the world at this current time.”
Ferguson looked somewhat sluggish and unable to get into a proper striking rhythm which could have been a side effect of cutting weight twice within the span of one month. Gaethje moved very well, kept Ferguson off balance, and was accurate with his powerful left hooks and overhand rights. Both fighters, despite their decorated grappling credentials, mutually agreed to keep the fight a kickboxing match to the delight of viewers at home. After five rounds of pay-per-view violence, referee Herb Dean decided to save Ferguson from any further damage at 3:39 of the final round.
In the past, “The Highlight” has been criticized for his reckless fighting style and accused of not being capable of sticking to a game plan. Currently, his UFC Interim Championship and four consecutive knockout victories lay those claims to rest. While Gaethje will always live up to his nickname “The Highlight” and deliver entertaining fights, he has evolved into a calculated and versatile fighter who will provide a ton of challenges for Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0 8KO).
In the co-main event Henry “Triple C” Cejudo (16-2 8KO) defended his UFC Bantamweight Championship against Dominick Cruz (22-3 7KO). Cejudo set the tone of the fight by landing well placed leg kicks to neutralize the notorious movement of Cruz who is usually, incredibly elusive in the octagon. Cejudo moved very well himself, and seemingly landed at will. As he stalked Cruz late in the second round, he landed a knee to the head of a ducking Cruz that sent him to the canvas where Cejudo followed him. “Triple C” then landed several punches to the head of Cruz, who was saved by the ref, shortly after at 4:58 of the second round.
Immediately after the bout, Cejudo announced that he will be retiring from MMA and vacating the UFC Bantamweight and Flyweight championships. “I want to leave on top,” he said. “I just don’t see myself coming back. I want to remain king forever.”
As the fight was stopped, Cruz immediately protested the stoppage, and had some choice words for referee Keith Peterson. Cruz was visibly upset that Peterson didn’t give him more time to recover and later claimed that Peterson smelled like cigarettes and liquor during the fight.
Full Fight Results:
Francis Ngannou def. Jairzinho Rozenstruik via KO :20 round 1
Calvin Kattar def. Jeremy Stephens via KO 2:42 round 2
Greg Hardy def. Yorgod De Castro via unanimous decision
Anthony Pettis def. Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision
Alexey Oleynik def. Fabricio Werdum via split decision
Carla Esparza def. Michelle Waterson via split decision
Vicente Luque def. Niko Price via TKO 3:37 round 3
Bryce Mitchell def. Charles via unanimous decision
Ryan Spann def. Sam Alvey via split decision