Another UFC pay-per-view card has been and gone, and with it comes a host of talking points and lessons.
The card showed all the hallmarks of being a good watch in the build-up. In action were prospects vying to make a name for themselves, contenders looking to make the next step up the rankings and heavyweights throwing hands for the title of “The Baddest Man on the Planet.”
UFC 260 brought us some memorable moments. Francis Ngannou defeated the consensus greatest heavyweight of all time, becoming Africa’s first heavyweight champion. Vicente Luque added a legendary name to his record and climbed into contention. Sean O’Malley reminded the bantamweight division of what he is capable of.
With that said, here are five things we learned from UFC 260.
#5 The light heavyweight division has exciting prospects
The reputation of the light heavyweight division as one of the stronger weight classes in the promotion has been faltering. The reign of Jon Jones became so dominant, the division had been almost purged of competition to his belt. When he departed, “Bones” Jones left a division that didn’t have a good number of top contenders like other weight classes.
Despite the disappointing fight between Alexander Rakic and Thiago Santos at UFC 259, it did establish the Austrian as a top contender and future star at 205 pounds. The future of the division took a further step into optimism with the performances of Michel Oleksiejczuk and Modestas Bukauskas.
The two European fighters reminded us of what the light heavyweight division is capable of. For three rounds, the two prospects threw bombs, looking to get their names heard in the division. The combination of Oleksiejczuk pressing forward in every round and the Lithuanian loading up with every shot made for an entertaining fight on the prelims and an encouraging bout in the context of the division’s future.
Aged 27 and 26, both established themselves as promising names, along with the likes of Jiri Prochazka, Magomed Ankalaev and Jimmy Crute.
#4 Miranda Maverick is a future star
In a great showcase for the UFC women’s flyweights, Miranda “Fear The” Maverick went 2-0 in the UFC with a win over veteran Gillian Robertson. The word prospect doesn't come close to describing the 23-year-old. Having won fights in the highly regarded Invicta FC promotion, Maverick got her call-up to MMA's leading promotion last year, debuting on "Fight Island."
Against Liana Jojua on her UFC debut, Maverick showed she has more than just submission skills and groundwork in her armory. Jojua’s beaten and bloody face showed Maverick has power. The vicious elbow that caused it showed she has the striking ability to be a danger to the rest of the division, something we saw on display at UFC 260.
Against Robertson on the feet, Maverick looked superior and in technical exchanges on the ground with an experienced wrestler, she looked the part. Having picked up a unanimous decision win, the 23-year-old will look to face a highly ranked opponent in her next walk to the Octagon.
#3 Sean O'Malley is still a future star...
Sean O’Malley’s hype train has found its way back to the UFC tracks. There aren’t many superlatives that do justice for O’Malley’s performance at UFC 260.
Against an undoubtedly tough opponent in Thomas Almeida, “Sugar” displayed his speed, his power and his special style. He could have finished the bout in the first round after dropping the Brazilian with a head kick and a powerful left punch.
O'Malley started to walk away before realizing Mark Smith had no intention of stepping in, a mistake that brought some criticism from Daniel Cormier and Joe Rogan on commentary. The 26-year-old wanted that highlight finish and his urge for a walk-off knockout allowed his opponent to recover.
It seemed Almeida had done just that and looked set to survive the 15 minutes. O'Malley had something to say about that. The American got his highlight finish in brutal fashion. Having dropped Almeida for a second time, O’Malley was forced to cancel his second attempt at a walk-off and connect with Almeida again, dropping a bomb as he fell onto the stricken Brazilian. It was clear he was as good as out before the right hand connected; there was no doubt after.
#2 Tyron Woodley's UFC career is at its end
On the one hand, seeing Vicente Luque add a top-10 name and former UFC champion to his CV was good. On the other, we had to witness a legend of the promotion continue his fall from grace.
Tyron Woodley’s total dominance in the welterweight division seems a long time ago. The 38-year-old had dropped to seventh in the 170 lb rankings before Saturday night after a string of convincing defeats. His decline took a further hit at UFC 260.
After beating Robbie Lawler to become the welterweight king, Woodley defended his throne against Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Darren Till. He sat at the top of the division’s food chain with a 19-3-1 record and looked fairly unbeatable.
Losing the title to the now dominant Kamaru Usman set the tone for what was to come. Reluctant to unleash the striking we know he has against Gilbert Burns and comfortably controlled by Colby Covington, Woodley needed to win this time, but he failed to do so.
Losing four in a row at his age is never an encouraging sight. The one-sided nature of his last four losses haven’t done much to instill confidence in Woodley’s ability to bounce back. Having watched Woodley stumble across the Octagon dazed and off-balance and be submitted for the first time, it seems clear his wonderful career has reached its end. He remains one of the greatest welterweights the UFC has ever seen.
#1 Ngannou is not one-dimensional
Francis Ngannou has done it. It seemed inevitable. One of the scariest men in the UFC has reached the top. Given his difficult and heart-warming journey to the title, it’s impossible to not feel happy for “The Predator.”
Against the greatest the division has ever seen in Stipe Miocic, the Cameroonian fought the perfect fight. We didn't see the crazy swinging we had come to associate Ngannou with. We didn’t see the one-plan brute many branded him as. We saw a meticulously planned performance that culminated in a knockout.
Ngannou set up shots with powerful leg kicks. He defended Miocic’s takedowns, showing the improvements he’s made since 2018 and most importantly, he was patient. Ngannou let the KO come to him.
When it came, it was brutal. Having dropped Miocic with a jab, Ngannou smelt blood and went for the kill. The knockout blow came as Stipe pushed forward to return fire.
A composed Ngannou, with takedown defense and competence on the ground, combined with his crazy power; now that's a scary thought for the rest of the UFC heavyweight division. A blockbuster clash with Jon Jones awaits...