For the second time in two weeks, UFC made its presence known to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada last night (Sat., June 6, 2020) for UFC 250. In the main event, a Amanda Nunes looked to defend her Featherweight title for the first time. There were also a pair of pivotal Bantamweight match ups that would help shape the division’s future, so fans in search of relevant fights did not have to look far.
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques of the night:
Amanda Nunes fought the majority of her five-round title defense with a smile on her face, and why not?
Nunes landed hard strikes pretty much whenever she wanted. If she wanted a takedown, she got it. The rare punch or kick that Felicia Spencer landed bounced off her without any noticeable impact. When Spencer did dare to try, Nunes punished her for that rebellious concept. Nunes could do no wrong. Her corner could have left the building after the opening five minutes. If Nunes decided to stop using her hands, she could have won the fight.
Nunes becomes the first person, male of female, to actively hold and defend two titles. Pretend division or not, that’s a legendary accomplishment.
A Reminder Of Greatness
Cody Garbrandt’s rise through the Bantamweight ranks was incredible to watch.
Garbrandt knocked out most of his opponents, dominated the rest, and did so with style. People were labeling “No Love” as the next superstar for a reason. However, his trio of knockout losses that cost him the title put a damper on that streak to an extent, leading fans to forget.
Anyone watching at UFC 250 was reminded last night why Garbrandt is a special fighter. His combination of speed and power is outrageous, and last night, he maintained his composure in similar fashion to his Dominick Cruz victory.
Kicks have been more of a focus for Garbrandt since the Cruz bout, and they worked last night. Rather than wade forward against a crafty counter striker, Garbrandt softened his calf. Once Assuncao was biting on feints, Garbrandt was more willing to burst forward and exit at an angle.
Garbrandt was winning exchanges prior to the buzzer-beater knockout, but that single and unique right hook will prove a legendary highlight for “No Love.” Really, it was everything fans of Garbrandt could hope for: composure paired with a crushing knockout.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen was the best match up on the entire UFC 250 card, and most everyone expected it to be a great fight. Instead, it was a great performance from “Aljo.”
Sterling started the fight with a real urgency. He’s always been a quick starter, but this was a whole new level of confidence from Sterling, a man certain that his cardio was perfect, that he was destined for victory. After trading kicks, Sterling wrapped up a leg on his first attempt and drove his foe into the fence.
Sandhagen defended the shot well, but when Sterling moved up into the clinch, he exposed his back just a bit. That proved enough of an opening for Sterling to jump the back standing, using the fence help him climb up the body. Immediately, Sterling was on the back, wrenching at his foe’s face.
Sterling was too fresh and too dry to be denied. It took another couple attempts, but he put his foe to sleep to definitively prove himself more than worthy of a Bantamweight title shot.
Take This Man Seriously
Against a tough veteran in Eddie Wineland, Sean O’Malley made it look easy (highlights). As Wineland advanced, O’Malley glided around the Octagon and landed big kicks. He nearly took Wineland’s head off with a wheel kick, but made up for the slight miss by blasting him deep into unconsciousness with a cross for the rare walk-off knockout.
“Suga” looks like a sound cloud rapper, loves weed, and plays video games all the time. He’s also a tremendous fighter and unique Bantamweight prospect.
Both can be true.
A High Level ‘Prelims’ Fight
Cody Stamann vs. Brian Kelleher was a quietly great fight.
It was not overly dramatic. There were no huge knockdowns or near submissions. Instead, we saw two crafty and technical fighters throw down from pretty much every distance and position.
Stamann was a bit quicker, a bit sharper. For much of the fight, his feints controlled the exchanges. When he drew out offense from Kelleher, Stamann returned fire with combinations. If Kelleher instead shelled up, Stamann picked his shots, took angles off punches, and targeted the body.
In the process, his defense was impressive too. When Kelleher landed a kick, Stamann fired back well. More often, however, Kelleher was biting on false starts and swinging at air.
Despite coming up short, Kelleher showed off his own talents and toughness. Faced with the speed disadvantage, Kelleher made good use of shifting combinations to walk his opponent into kicks. When he did manage to corner Stamann, Kelleher went to work on digging wide body hooks.
Both men scored a high-crotch takedowns as well! Again, there were no spectacular moments, but it was an excellent 15 minutes of consi
- Ian Heinisch defeats Gerard Meerschaert via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): For a while now, the criticism against Heinisch was his inability to threaten people on the feet. He threw good volume and wrestled well, but against opponents who could stop the shot and throw heat back, he struggled. Well, Heinisch relocated to Thailand to work on his kickboxing, and it resulted in a quick stoppage against a historically durable opponent — that’s what we call a successful adjustment!
- Maki Pitolo defeats Charles Byrd via second-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): After a rough debut, Pitolo returned to the Octagon in style! The first round was competitive, with Pitolo landing some good shots but finishing the round on his back, absorbing elbows. However, Byrd spent a lot of energy in the opening five minutes, and he made a critical mistake early in the second: backing into the fence. Pitolo strung together something like a 15-strike combination, ripping the mid-section and mixing elbows into the onslaught. Byrd was hurt, tripped to the mat, and finished by further “Coconut Bombz.”
- Alex Perez defeats Jussier Formiga via first-round TKO (HIGHLIGHTS): The calf kick has once again proven itself a weapon not to be taken lightly. Perez came out firing at the lower leg, and it didn’t even take a full round for Formiga’s lead leg to break down from beneath him. Formiga even partially checked the final kick, but the damage was already done, as the Brazilian crumbled to the floor regardless. For Perez, it’s his six win in seven fights, and most of those victories were finishes. Can you say Flyweight contender?!?
- Herbert Burns defeats Evan Dunham via first-round rear-naked choke (HIGHLIGHTS): It can be easy to overthink when predicting fights. Despite his grappling credentials, Burns was relatively inexperienced, and there was still room to improve with his kickboxing and wrestling. Dunham is quite good on the mat, and his high-volume kickboxing is dangerous. There was a path to victory for Dunham … yeah, no. It took Burns less than two minutes to jump onto the back and do what he does against Dunham, who was a great fighter but is sadly well past his best years.