UFC 250 will probably get mixed reviews online. While there was an insane amount of excitement on tap for the fans watching, the show was inarguably short on competitive, back-and-forth fights. But you know what? Sometimes a card like this is welcome. PRIDE made its reputation on shows filled with entertaining squash matches, and that's basically what UFC 250 was. Of the 12 fights, just 5 of them went the distance. And for me, at least, fewer decisions are always welcome.
Here are the best and worst moments from UFC 250: Nunes vs. Spencer.
#1 Best: Sterling proves he's the top contender at 135lbs
The main card of UFC 250 featured three fights in the UFC Bantamweight division, but the one with undoubtedly the highest stakes was the fight between Aljamain Sterling and Cory Sandhagen. Sterling – ranked #2 in the division – was riding a four-fight win streak, while Sandhagen was unbeaten in the UFC at 5-0.
Prior to the show, UFC President Dana White had suggested that the winner would get a title shot against the winner of the upcoming Petr Yan/Jose Aldo fight. After Sterling's performance last night, if that doesn't turn out to be the case, then there's no justice in the UFC.
'Funk Master' came out aggressively, backed Sandhagen into the fence and then hopped onto his back before slapping a body triangle on. From there, his first rear-naked choke attempt failed – but his second one succeeded, and 'The Sandman' was forced to tap out before passing out.
The whole fight lasted just 1:28.
Sterling – a vaunted prospect upon his arrival in the UFC in 2014 – has finally come of age. He's had his ups and downs in the Octagon – losses to Bryan Caraway, Raphael Assuncao, and Marlon Moraes have slowed his rise before – but right now, I don't think there's a better fighter in the world at 135lbs.
With Henry Cejudo gone from UFC, 'Funk Master' is probably the best wrestler in the division, but at 30 years old he's also in his athletic prime, his striking looks fantastic, and he's also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Matt Serra. Regardless of who wins the Yan/Aldo fight, I don't see them beating Sterling.
#1 Worst: Spencer's corner again shows MMA's issues with throwing in the towel
Last month, the fight between Glover Teixeira and Anthony Smith brought up an old debate: why do MMA corners not throw the towel in to save their fighter from a brutal beatdown as they would in boxing? There are a number of theories, ranging from the overly macho "tough guy" culture of the sport, to the fact that MMA lends itself to Hail Mary-type comebacks more than boxing does.
Last night's main event will probably raise the debate up again. UFC Featherweight champ Amanda Nunes was always heavily favored over challenger Felicia Spencer – a fan even bet $1m on 'The Lioness' – but for the first two rounds, 'The Fee-nom' hung tough.
Sure, Nunes was winning comfortably, but Spencer wasn't taking too much of a beatdown. That changed in the third round though, and in the fourth, the Canadian took a ludicrous amount of punishment.
Nunes destroyed her standing, dropping her with punches and causing some horrific facial damage. She would've choked her out cold had there been about ten extra seconds in the round. And yet Spencer's corner seemed quite content to let her out for the fifth round.
Surely a blind man could've seen that – no offense – Spencer wasn't capable of winning the fight at that stage. Even if she'd been capable of it at the start of the fight, by that point, she clearly had nothing left. So why not throw the towel in and save her another 5 minutes of pain?
'The Fee-nom' showed a lot of toughness to last the distance with the champ, but this morning she'll probably wake up in a hell of a lot of pain, and her career may never recover from such a beatdown. If that's the case, then her cornermen need to take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves why they allowed this to happen.
#2 Best: The Sugar Show continues to roll
The most brutal finish of UFC 250, in my opinion, came in the main card opener between Sean O'Malley and Eddie Wineland. Essentially, the veteran Wineland was doing well on his feet – until he was suddenly knocked silly just before the two-minute mark of the first round.
The punch that knocked Wineland out was a thing of beauty. 'Sugar Sean' faked with an uppercut, and when the veteran bit on the feint, he instead fired a beautiful right hand down the pipe that knocked Wineland unconscious, sending him crashing to the ground.
No follow-up strikes were necessary, as this was a walk-off knockout that Mark Hunt would've been proud of.
How high O'Malley's ceiling is, right now, we don't know. He's 12-0 in MMA and has looked fantastic throughout his UFC career, but Wineland – who is past his prime – was his best opponent to date and he's also been held back by a pair of positive drug tests in the past.
However, at just 25 years old, it's pretty clear that he's headed for big things. Is he ready for an opponent like Aljamain Sterling or Cody Garbrandt – both of whom picked up big wins last night? Probably not, but I wouldn't have a problem with him facing a highly ranked opponent like Cody Stamann or Marlon Vera next. Either way, his knockout last night was awesome.
#2 Worst: Is there anyone left for Nunes?
It seems unfair to put this under the "worst" heading as Amanda Nunes yet again put together a fantastic performance last night. Sure, the reigning UFC Featherweight and Bantamweight champion didn't finish Felicia Spencer, but it wasn't due to a lack of effort; she put a serious beatdown on the Canadian for 25 minutes.
The win was Nunes' 11th in a row, and during that run, she's defeated a total of 6 former UFC champions. It's a feat almost unheard of in MMA and it's safe to say that she's the greatest female fighter in the sport's history for sure.
The only issue? There's literally nobody left for her to fight. At UFC Featherweight, Megan Anderson would probably be the next logical contender, but realistically the Aussie would struggle greatly with the ground game of 'The Lioness'.
And at UFC Bantamweight, while Mexico's Irene Aldana has been on a tremendous run and Aspen Ladd has attributes that make her dangerous, do either of them stand more of a chance than say, Germaine De Randamie or Holly Holm do? In all honesty, no.
That means that there's literally no interesting fights on the horizon for Nunes. To an extent, that's fine; there's nothing wrong with a dominant champion proving their dominance by snacking on overmatched contenders. But wouldn't things be much better if there was a question mark hanging over the Brazilian's next fight?
#3 Best: Garbrandt returns to UFC with a bang
Coming into last night's show, more questions hung over the future of Cody Garbrandt than any other fighter on the card. The former UFC Bantamweight champion hadn't won a fight since he defeated Dominick Cruz to win the title in December 2016, and since then, he's suffered from numerous injuries and had been KO'd violently three times.
Last night he was faced with a dangerous opponent – Raphael Assuncao – and yet I felt that this was a winnable fight for 'No Love' so long as he avoided wildly brawling. Well, it was nice to be proven correct.
Garbrandt made the most of the speed advantage he held over the Brazilian from the start of the fight. Sure, he took some shots, but none of them landed really cleanly, and Garbrandt's own strikes were always more telling.
But nobody could've expected that the former champ would uncork one of the best knockout punches of 2020 with literally one second remaining in the second round. The timing of the right hook from 'No Love' was impeccable; as Assuncao waded in, Garbrandt ducked down and swung the punch, connecting perfectly and sending the Brazilian crashing down as the buzzer sounded.
In the post-fight press conference, 'No Love' apparently stated that he's ready to make another run at the title. I don't think that's right just yet, but at worst last night showed his doubters that he's not a shot fighter. A clash with title implications should definitely be next for him, and with Garbrandt back in the mix, there's no doubt that Bantamweight is the UFC's most exciting division right now.Published 07 Jun 2020, 18:10 IST