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UFC 239: A Night to Remember (Or Forget)

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The UFC 239 was held on July 6th, 2019, at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise (Las Vegas), Nevada. It consisted of three major fights. In the Welterweight division, Jorge Masvidal was opposed to Ben Askren. The two 34 year-olds were at odds from the start. The pre-fight press conferences were filled with disrespect and hatred for one another. Askren was looking forward to a pristine record, with 19 wins and no losses prior to this confrontation. Masvidal, on the other hand, had a 33-13 record. Not so pristine. But he turned it around with a flying knee in the opening seconds of the fight. Askren was knocked out immediately, and Masvidal even landed two punches to the unconscious fighter. The referee stopped the combat after 5 seconds. A UFC all-time record for the fastest confrontation. Ben Askren will have to take a medical leave of a couple of months with a concussion protocol.

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Masvidal said after the fight that he trained and rehearsed the opening flying knee for months in advance. He never respected Askren as a fighter and wanted to give him hell from the very beginning. If his opponent would have survived his opening gambit, he would just have beaten him to a pulp. As for Askren, he said he expected some kind of bravado on his opponent’s part, but was nonetheless taken by surprise by the flying knee. Besides, he remembers absolutely nothing of this knock-out blow. He remembers standing in front of Masvidal, then awakening on the mat. He knew immediately he had lost in a matter of moments since he wasn’t sweaty, sore nor bloody.

Masvidal’s antics exploded after the knockdown. He kneeled beside the unconscious body, talked to him, then fell over on his back to mock Askren. Many fans present at the T-Mobile arena booed him for this disrespect. But Askren doesn’t hold a grudge, feeling that, in the end, he probably deserved it. After having antagonized Masvidal to get him to accept the fight, then to get him mad out of his head, Askren plainly accepts the consequences for this lack of respect. He admits never having liked Masvidal, even though he regards him highly as a fighting machine.

In one of the event co-headliner fights, the Women’s Bantamweight Championship opposed Amanda Nunes (31-year-old, 17-4) to Holly Holm (37-year-old, 12-4). Nunes was the reigning Bantamweight Champion (as well as the Featherweight Champion). In what can best be described as a low-intensity match between two fighters, both respecting their opponent’s strength and keeping a safe distance from one another, Nunes took suddenly the initiative after four minutes of low-intensity sparring. She launched a head-kick at Holm and knocked her right out. She followed with a few punches, but the damage was already done. The referee intervened immediately to prevent injury to Holm.

Nunes is now considered as an almost invincible champion, having defeated every quality fighter in both weight divisions upon which she reigns. At 31, with her perceived invincibility, she is now acquiring the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) status, one which will be hard to wrestle from her. As for Holly Holm, soon to be 38 and with a Mixed Martial Arts record of 12-5 (having lost five of her last seven fights), she seems destined for retirement, especially with Nunes reigning atop both her weight divisions, seemingly undefeatable.

In the main event of the night, the UFC Light Heavyweight bout opposed Jon Jones (31-year-old, 24-1) to Thiago Santos (35, 21-6). Without the acrimony of the Masvidal-Askren fight, this one was a long, very long ebb-and-flow type of matchup. Both fighters respecting the other, without too much offensive on either side. Not surprisingly, this bout went to the wire, and at the end of the fifth round, it was up to the judges to decide. So those came up with a split decision, judges Bell and Cleary both scoring a 48-47 in favor of Jones, while judge Kamijo scored a 48-47 victory to Santos.

Neither fighters went out of their way trying to knock out their opponent. There was a lot of sparring, not that much in terms of hard exchanges. Jones, though, seemed to take control of the center of the octagon for most of the fight. Santos tried to attack during the last round, but Jones deflected the volley and surfed to the end of the conflagration nearly untouched. In terms of plain showmanship, this fight lacked the dramatics of the two previous ones. There just didn’t seem to be much anger nor hate between these two combatants. Does this split decision entail a rematch? Hopefully not, if the energy level separating these two stays lukewarm.

Are you a UFC fan? Check out our other blogs on Conor McGregor fighting in 2019 and UFC 238.

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