Matches to Make After UFC 250

By Brian Knapp Jun 7, 2020

It was even more of a mismatch in practice than it was on paper.

Amanda Nunes spent five full rounds toying with an abusing Felicia Spencer, as she retained her undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s featherweight title in the UFC 250 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it for Nunes: 50-44, 50-44 and 50-45. Spencer survived but offered nothing in terms of meaningful resistance—a fact that was more an affirmation of the champion’s greatness than any kind of indictment on the challenger.

Nunes was superior in all phases. She outlanded Spencer at a 124-42 clip in significant strikes and denied all seven of the Florida-based Canadian’s takedown attempts. Meanwhile, Nunes completed six takedowns of her own, shredded her counterpart’s guard and incorporated elbow-laced ground-and-pound that resulted in multiple lacerations. She nearly finished it at the end of the fourth round, where she flurried on a fading Spencer, advanced to the back and cinched a rear-naked choke. The bell prevented the submission, but an air of inevitability had long since enveloped the encounter.

In the aftermath of UFC 250 “Nunes vs. Spencer,” here are five matches that ought to be made:

Amanda Nunes vs. Aspen Ladd, Julianna Pena or Irene Aldana: Matchmakers have their work cut out for them in terms of finding legitimate challenges for Nunes. During her 11-fight winning streak, the American Top Team ace has defeated, among others, Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Sara McMann, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Cristiane Justino, Raquel Pennington, Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie. Among the women currently ranked in the Top 5 at 135 pounds, Nunes has not yet faced Ladd, Pena or Aldana; and while none of those three contenders appears to pose a clear-and-present danger to the champion, few options remain with a gulf this wide.

Cody Garbrandt vs. Marlon Moraes: Garbrandt recorded his first win in 1,254 days and did so in utterly spectacular fashion, as he knocked out Raphael Assuncao with a sweeping right hook in the second round of their bantamweight co-main event. Assuncao melted into the canvas 4:59 into Round 2, the concussive blow landing as the buzzer sounded. Garbrandt kept the respected Brazilian at bay with damaging leg kicks and lightning-quick hands. “No Love” drifted to the fence late in the middle stanza, changed levels and decked Assuncao to close the book on a three-fight losing streak. Moraes last fought at UFC 245 in December, when the former World Series of Fighting champion eked out a split decision over Jose Aldo.

Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan: In what can only be described as a virtuoso performance, the ascendant Sterling submitted Cory Sandhagen with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their bantamweight feature, likely securing his shot at the now-vacant 135-pound title. Sandhagen conceded defeat 1:28 into Round 1, briefly lost consciousness and awakened to find the “Funk Master” in full-throated celebration. Sterling pressured the Elevation Fight Team representative to the fence, forced a tie-up and maneuvered to the back while still upright. He secured his position with an airtight body triangle, went to work on the choke and eventually snaked his arms in place for the finish. Yan extended his run of consecutive victories to nine at UFC 245, where he knocked out Urijah Faber with a third-round head kick on Dec. 14.

Sean O'Malley vs. Frankie Edgar-Pedro Munhoz winner: The undefeated O’Malley made a significant move toward joining the 135-pound elite, as he flattened former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Eddie Wineland in the first round of their bantamweight showcase. Wineland met his end 1:54 into Round 1. O’Malley circled on the perimeter, probed for openings and connected with a spinning back kick to the body. The MMA Lab prospect then reset, feinted and sent a devastating straight right crashing into Wineland’s jaw, flipping the switch on the 35-year-old veteran in an instant. The highlight-reel finish moved O’Malley to 13-0 overall and 4-0 in the UFC, setting the stage for a possible run at the Top 10. Edgar and Munhoz will collide at UFC 251 on July 11.

Alex Perez vs. Brandon Moreno: Perez announced his arrival as a Top 5 flyweight, as he put away former Shooto Brazil champion Jussier Formiga with a series of kicks to the lower leg in the first round of their undercard pairing at 125 pounds. Formiga bowed out 4:06 into Round 1, his base having been chopped out from under him. Perez pushed a merciless pace, relied on effective counters in standup exchanges and continued to chip away at the Brazilian’s lower extremities. Formiga collapsed twice to the canvas after being struck on the calf. Referee Keith Peterson afforded him the opportunity to recover the first time but not the second. Perez, 28, has rattled off 11 wins across his past 12 appearances. Moreno last competed at UFC Fight Night 170, where he took a unanimous decision from Formiga on March 14.
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