International Fight Week 2019 is in the books after being capped off by UFC 239, which went down Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The card was headlined by arguably the greatest fighter of all time, Jon Jones, defending his light heavyweight title against Brazilian slugger Thiago Santos. The fight was a surprisingly close back-and-forth contest which saw “Bones” winning a split decision using a slower, more calculated attack. The main event came after three straight spectacular knockouts that might have stolen some of the headlines from Jones’ title defense.
PRIDE OF A ‘LIONESS’
In the co-main event, UFC bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes defended her 135 pound strap against former champion Holly Holm. Nunes was able to add another head to her mantel after defeating the Jackson-Wink MMA member by head kick TKO. With the win, the double-champion “Lioness” shifted her focus to what is next.
“I want to defend my 145 pound belt,” Nunes said on the ESPN+ post-fight show. “I want to keep making history.”
Back in December at UFC 232, the Brazilian became the first woman to hold two UFC belts simultaneously when she knocked out featherweight champion Cristiane Justino, 51 seconds into the opening round. A rematch between the two legendary fighters appears to be on Nunes’ mind.
“I don’t know,” Nunes said when asked whom she wants to fight next. “Maybe Cyborg. We will see.”
Cyborg, who battles Felicia Spencer later this month at UFC 240, has stated that the UFC hasn’t offered the rematch, a claim that has been denied by UFC President Dana White.
“There are not two sides of the story, there are three sides of the story,” White told Brett Okomoto of ESPN after the event. “There is Amanda, who says she wants it. You got me, who says I will make it. You got the other one saying she was never offered. You do the math on that one… I will do a deal with her tomorrow to fight Amanda Nunes in a rematch. There you go.”
AN UNAPOLOGETIC GRUDGE MATCH
Jorge Masvidal made history when he knocked out the previously undefeated Ben Askren in a UFC record-setting five seconds. “Gamebred” opened the fight by running across the cage and throwing a flying knee that landed on Funky’s head and left him motionless on the canvas. The American Top Team fighter punished the unconscious former NCAA wrestling champion with two big right hands before referee Jason Herzog pulled him off. The follow-up shots drew criticism from some fans, who thought they were uncalled for.
“They were super necessary,” Masvidal said in the post-fight press conference. “The referee hadn’t pulled me off. My job is to hit somebody until the referee pulls me off. To those people [critics] I would say maybe don’t watch MMA. Go back to soccer.”
The fight between Masvidal and Askren was one of the most anticipated bouts of the evening due to the trash talk between the two welterweights before the contest. After picking up the win, “Gamebred” began to taunt his foe while Askren was still unconscious. The unsportsmanlike behavior drew even more criticism on the internet though it appears the Floridian thinks his actions were justified.
“There are not too many people that I have disliked,” Masvidal said. “I have over 50 pro fights and he is one of them. He talked about my manhood. He talked about my culture and ethnicity. Why do certain people get to do stuff online? So you can do anything? Everything is cool before a fight? You are allowed to do and say what you want, like not what other fighters are doing. Talking about people’s religion, wife, and even kids, that’s cool? But after a fight I’m not allowed to showboat and rub it in your face to show that guys like you should say ‘maybe I shouldn’t talk so much s--- because when I cross one of the real motherf-----s, he is going to make me pay for it. They are going to embarrass the s--- out of me.’ It’s not over for Ben either. He still has to deal with me. If I see him at Whole Foods, I’m going to slap that dude up because I don’t like him.”
A (LITERALLY) CRACKED CHIN
The first knockout on the main card came when Luke Rockhold made his light heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz. The former middleweight champion tasted a perfectly timed right hook in the second round, putting his lights out. The defeat was the third loss in his last four appearances for the Hard Knocks 365 team member, with all three coming by knockout. The disappointing defeat compelled the UFC president to suggest it may be time for Rockhold to walk away from the sport.
“I think Luke Rockhold should talk about hanging it up,” White said. “He broke his jaw tonight. That’s his second broken jaw. He has been knocked out viciously a few times. His shin is all banged up. He had to have a skin graft and that kind of stuff. He’s had a great career. He’s been a great fighter. I would like to see him hang it up.”
The win was the fifth in his last six contests for Blachowicz, making him a solid option to be the next fighter to be matched against Jones for the title.