Fight Notes: UFC 239
UFC 239 delivered a strong night of fights, with but a few lulls in the action. The early prelims were good, not exceptional but also without any complaints. The televised prelims a pair of lamentable fights and the featured bout was a mix of underwhelming and depressing for long-time fans. The pay-per-view side of the show was absurd, however, and offset any complaints. I had reasonably high expectations for this event and they were well met. Here's what I thought of the whole thing.
The pay-per-view portion of the show opened with a grim reminder that father time is no friend to MMA fighters, and Michael Chiesa manhandled Diego Sanchez. The best you could say is that Sanchez did well to defend the multitude of submissions Chiesa threw at him, but otherwise it was a depressing and utterly one-sided affair. Sanchez arguably lost every round 10-8, minimum, and round 2 could have been a 10-7. Chiesa notches a good win and Sanchez reminds us that his last 2 wins were the result of beating a guy whose best win was fucking CM Punk and an unheralded nobody the UFC conscripted on the fly.
Luke Rockhold made his light heavyweight debut next. At first, the fight looked like it was going to be a boring clinch-fest, until Jan Blachowicz nearly KO'ed Rockhold just as the bell rang to signal the end of the round. After giving referee Herb Dean a look similar to one I've given bouncers afer a dozen-plus drunks, hoping to god I can get back in the bar, he was allowed to go to his corner and come out for the second round.
Next we saw Jorge Masvidal knock Ben Askren out in about 2 seconds, charging out of his corner with a flying knee that had Askren collapsing like a statue. The official time was 5 seconds because it took Herb Dean time to rush in and end the fight. An incredible win for Masvidal, who ought to be seeing a title shot sooner rather than later. Between this and his 'win' over Robbie Lawler, it's looking like the UFC made a really stupid decision to trade Demetrious Johnson for Ben Askren. But what do I know, I'm no fight genius...
The co-main event was shaping up to be a fun fight, as Amanda Nunes pressured Holly Holm but wasn't able to string together much offence. Then, in the final minute of the round, Nunes landed a headkick that dropped Holm and then followed up with a flurry of coffin nails that forced referee Marc Goddard to wave the fight off. Nunes just did something I used to see a lot in pro wrestling and defeated Holly with the "finisher" she beat Ronda Rousey with. At this point there isn't an inch of room to debate that Amanda Nunes isn't the best female MMA fighter of all time. Wow.
Following the cavalcade of violence that was the rest of the main card, Jon Jones and Thiago Santos waged a 5-round war that defied all expectations. It wasn't an insane, high-volume battle, but rather a heavily attrition-based fight that saw the challenger limping across the finish line on a pair of battered knees and Jones rendered more passive than anyone would have expected. Every round was very close, with Jones using his reach advantage well and, as expected, smashing Santos' knees and body with kicks. Santos did well to repeatedly blast the inside of Jones' lead leg with kicks, and cracked the defending champion with some solid punches, but never managed to rock Jones or put him in any visible danger.
It was a good showing from Jones. At this level, every fight is incredibly tough and to expect a finish every time is simply absurd. Jones did what he had to do to win the fight, but a brawler like Thiago Santos still posed a significant threat. Jones made but a single takedown attempt, in the first round, and eeked out a win in a fight he was never actually losing. I'm confident that the correct winner was chosen, but would love to see a rematch after Santos is able to heal up.
- Jon Jones def. Thiago Santos by Split Decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
- Amanda Nunes def. Holly Holm by TKO (head kick and punches) @ 4:10 of Round 1
- Jorge Masvidal def. Ben Askren by KO (flying knee) @ 0:05 of Round 1
- Jan Blachowicz def. Luke Rockhold by KO (punches) @ 1:39 of Round 2
- Michael Chiesa def. Diego Sanchez by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
The televised prelims kicked off with another short, violent bout as Song Yadong starched Alejandro Perez with the perfect right-hook counter to an inside leg-kick. Perez was out before he hit the ground and that was the end of that. Yadong looks to be a serious force at bantamweight.
Strawweights Claudia Gadelha and Randa Markos put on a tedious fight with little-to-no action to speak of. Both women spent a considerable amount of time just standing in front of each other, doing nothing. Gadelha was the more active fighter, however, and easily took a unanimous decision win in a fight that did neither fighter any favours. This was a real momentum killer after a solid start to the show.
Things got back on track as Marlon Vera had a really fun, action-packed fight with last-minute replacement Nohelin Hernandez. Vera was dominating most of the first round, securing a takedown and just mauling Hernandez. In the second, Hernandez was able to get Vera down and work some ground-and-pound. At this point, Vera switched gears, got back to his feet, stunned Hernandez with a knee, dropped him, took his back and coaxed a very quick tap from a locked-in rear-naked choke. Hernandez did well for having a mere 5 days of advance notice, but Vera is clearly another bantamweight to keep an eye on.
The feature prelim was a bit of a rough affair, as Gilbert Melendez had about 2 minutes of fight in him despite going all 3 rounds with Arnold Allen. Melendez began to fade midway through the first, and Allen gave him no quarter for the remainder of the bout. Melendez was just too slow, and couldn't get anything going, although he remains as tough as ever — at no point did he look to be in danger of being finished. Arnold Allen adds a quality name to his resumé, while Melendez makes a good case for hanging up the gloves.
- Arnold Allen def. Gilbert Melendez by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Marlon Vera def. Nohelin Hernandez by Submission (rear-naked choke) @ 3:25 of Round 2
- Claudia Gadelha def. Randa Markos by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Song Yadong def. Alejandro Perez by KO (punch) @ 2:04 of Round 1
Fight Pass Prelims
The show opened with a fun women's bantamweight fight that saw Julia Avila blank Pannie Kianzad, even earning a 10-8 from two judges, as she won her UFC debut. Avila had Kianzad stunned a couple of times and opted to clinch and then take her down and work for submissions, rather than try and finish her with strikes. It was an odd choice but ultimately didn't cost her much. Avila looks to have a lot of power in her punches, and I am keen to see her fight again.
Up next, Chance Rencountre was able to rally back after Ismail Naurdiev lit him up with strikes early. Rencountre was able to secure a takedown and control the second half of the fight from top position. He then shot for a takedown immediately in the second round and held Naurdiev down for almost the full 5 minutes, trying for submissions but never getting close to locking anything in. The third round was more of the same, with both men exhausted by the end. Naurdiev was able to take Rencountre down in the final 10 seconds but wasn't able to do anything with it. Rencountre easily won a decision which received different scoring from every judge because MMA.
The final early prelim was a lightning-fast squash, as young middleweight prospect Edmen Shahbazyan steamrolled Jack Marshman in just over a minute. Shahbazyan took Marshman down with relative ease, used some harsh ground-and-pound to get him to give up his back and tapped him extremely quickly with a tight rear-naked choke. I know, I know, it's middleweight, but still; Edmen Shahbazyan looks like a very legitimate prospect.
- Edmen Shahbazyan def. Jack Marshman by Submission (rear-naked choke) @ 1:12 of Round 1
- Chance Rencountre def. Ismail Naurdiev by Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-28, 30-27)
- Julia Avila def. Pannie Kianzad by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
An amazing show, I have to say that UFC 239 was one of the year's best events. Not perfect, but a strong A grade for this one. A finish in the main event, or even a more dominant performance by Jon Jones would have put things over the edge. Still, a great night of fights with little of consequence to complain about.
Published: July 7th, 2019.