The UFC closed out an unbelievable year of fights with arguably the biggest upset in the history of the sport at UFC 269 as Julianna Pena became the bantamweight champion.
In an absolutely stacked card that saw nine finishes from 14 fights, we saw the incredible reign of Amanda Nunes as champion come to an end when Pena took her back in the second round and secured a submission.
It was by far the biggest upset of the year and potentially ever, as Pena overcame all the odds to fulfil her dream of being world champion with the win.
The fight didn’t start too well for Pena, who was dropped by the first leg kick Nunes threw and then dropped by the first right hand that connected too.
She kept coming forward though, just as she said she would, and turned the fight into an all-out brawl in the second round after Nunes controlled the first round on the ground following the second knockdown.
Pena stood toe-to-toe with Nunes and started landing her jab and clearly hurt Nunes, who looked out of sorts on the night compared to her usually efficient and lethal self. When Pena saw that Nunes was suddenly exhausted, she landed some big shots, got a takedown and immediately choked her for the tap.
It snapped a 12-fight win streak for Nunes and means that for the first time since UFC 200 she isn’t the title holder in the women’s 135-pound division.
A rematch will almost certainly happen, with Dana White confirming that the fight is there for her if she wants it and the ‘Lioness’ claiming in her post-fight interview that she will “go back to the gym and come back better”.
In the main event it saw the culmination of two amazing journeys to the top of the UFC lightweight division go head-to-head, and it was Charles Oliveira who came out on top after once again coming from behind.
Oliveira started with a tremendous pace but saw himself get knocked down twice in the opening round by the power and combinations of Poirier on the feet. He switched it up in the second round, using his takedowns to dominate on the ground and earn the round back with tremendous control and vicious elbows.
The third round ultimately saw Oliveira go for the kill, jumping on a standing rear-naked choke after changing levels for a clinch again and forcing a submission.
It means he has now won an insane ten fights in a row and extended his record of having the most finishes in UFC history and most submission wins in UFC history during his career.
For Poirier now, it seems as though his title chase is over once again but the era of ‘Du Bronx’ can now truly begin.
We also saw the ‘Suga’ show live and direct once again as Sean O’Malley earned a brilliant first-round knockout win over Raulian Paiva in the main card opener.
It was a mature performance from O’Malley, who showed great composure and intelligence in his shot selection once he had Paiva hurt with a big right hand. He threw plenty of strikes but all were accurate and mixing up targets, before a huge body blow and right hook ended things.
While star continued to rise, Cody Garbrandt’s has fallen to an all-time low after he was knocked out in the first-round of his flyweight debut by Kai Kara-France.
The former bantamweight champion was knocked down three times in the fight en route to a fifth defeat in six fights and his future in the company looks bleak now following the recent run of results.
It was a brilliant card all in all, but it was forever be remembered as the night that the ‘Venezuelan Vixen’ tamed the ‘Lioness’.
Fast paced start to this fight as Robertson looks to take the centre and attempts a couple of takedowns early. Cachoeira defends them well and is starting to land some decent strikes on the feet, landing good jabs and starting to do damage. Robertson suddenly changes levels in the centre though and scores a nice takedown before looking to secure a kimura lock. She transitions into side control and then full mount and starts raining down huge elbows! Cachoeira is in danger and Robertson switches to the back and gets a choke in under the neck. Cachoeira tries to defend it by sticking her thumb in Robertson’s eye but she refuses to let it go and then gets the tap with one second left! What a performance!
Tony Kelley def Randy Costa via Knockout, Round 2 (2:15)
Very fast start from Kelley who steps forward immediately and starts chasing Costa across the cage looking to land big shots. Costa trying to weather the storm and countering with his jab, but Kelley continuing to come forward aggressively. Clinch against the cage and Kelley is trying to wear on Costa early, landing some nice knees but Costa seemingly the stronger fighter physically. Kelley switching stances as he throws his combinations and Costa is struggling to make reads, before they clinch up against the cage once again and tangle until the end of the round. 10-9 Kelley.
Another fast start from Kelley as he comes forward quickly again and starts the clinch battles again once again. Costa looks a little fatigued but he’s defending himself well and and staying in it. Costa starting to land his jabs well but Kelley closing the distance and making this fight ugly. Costa lands a nice kick and follows it up with a short right hand that hurts Kelley, but he clinches up quickly and starts defending. Kelley gets him in a Thai clinch and lands some big knees to the body and Costa drops to his knees! Kelley battering the body and thrashing elbows onto Costa who’s just trying to defend himself now. Kelley going for the finish and the referee steps in! What a performance from Kelley.
Ryan Hall def Darrick Minner via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-27)
Tactical start to the fight from both guys here as Minner lands a couple of leg kicks and misses wildly with some big strikes. Hall very patient and lands a nice body kick and then Hall shoots for the legs. Lots of transitions and rolling for submissions but Minner defending against the kneebars and heel hook attempts well. Minner gets back to the feet and lands a big right hand that cracks Hall who starts to retreat. Hall starts to go for a takedown again and ends up in top position landing some decent ground and pound to end the round. 10-9 either way, but I lean to Hall just.
Hall coming out more aggressive now as he starts swinging kicks, before Minner lands a nice right hand and gets a takedown as Hall goes for a leg. Minner in Hall’s full guard and looking for ground and pound, but Hall is looking to throw up an armbar or triangle submission. Minner stands up and slams Hall down to escape it and goes back for ground and pound. Hall throws up another triangle and it’s tight and he starts throwing big elbows from his back but Minner surviving. Hall looks to advance to a straight armbar but Minner denies it and then he rolls to an omoplata attempt and ends the round with ground and pound. 20-18 Hall.
Final round and Hall rolls under a punch and secures a triangle attempt immediately from his back. Minner defends it well but Hall then switches and is able to get on top. He advances to full mount and is in complete control here, looking for an arm triangle.
Erin Blanchfield def Miranda Maverick via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to the bout for Maverick as she steps forward aggressively and throws a few strong strikes. Maverick looks to step in with a right hand but Blanchfield ducks under and immediately has a body lock from the back. She maintains the lock and continuously forces Maverick to the ground with excellent wrestling. She moves to full guard and maintains position again, dragging Maverick to the mat every time she tries to get back to the feet. 10-9 Blanchfield.
Maverick starts up well with a little blitz but immediately Blanchfield is able to hip throw her and end up on top. Blanchfield quickly transitions to a crucifix position and starts blasting elbows down on Maverick, but she manages to just about escape as Blanchfield switches to an armbar attempt. Maverick just about defends but Blanchfield then goes for a kimura, but Maverick defends it well. Blanchfield switches to another armbar attempt but Maverick defends it by scissoring the head of her and the buzzer goes. 20-18.
Final round and Maverick is trying to go for a finish because she knows she needs it, but Blanchfield is landing well too. Clinch up against the cage and then Blanchfield catches a leg and moves straight into a takedown. She moves into top control and looks to dominate again and starts landing some big shots from mount. She controls the rest of the round from the top and claims a dominant decision win.
Andre Muniz def Eryk Anders via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:13)
Good start to the fight for Anders as he takes the centre and starts to throw powerful strikes early. Muniz does well and throws a nice calf kick before throwing a short left hook. Anders goes for a right hand again and Muniz ducks under and changes levels with a big takedown. Muniz looks to pass from side control straight into mount but Anders defends it well. Anders gets to his feet but Muniz has a body lock and drags him back down after a bit of back and forth and takes the back. He threatens with a choke and then switches to an armbar attempt and forces the tap from Anders. What a performance.
Bruno Silva def Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 1 (1:28)
Crazy start to this fight as Wright charges forward and looks to engage quickly with hard strikes. Wright continues to come forward and attack and he hurts Silva! They clinch up and Wright lands some big knees but Silva lands some big strikes too. They separate and Silva lands two huge blows and Wright is wobbled! Silva goes for the finish and drops him! Some huge shots and the referee steps in! What a KO by Silva!
Tai Tuivasa def Augusto Sakai via Knockout, Round 2 (0:26)
Slow and steady start so far with Tuivasa in the centre stalking Sakai, who’s throwing leg kicks and circling on the outside. Tuivasa goes for a nice combination and Sakai retreats, before they clinch up and Sakai lands a nice knee to the body. More knees to the body from Sakai as he holds Tuivasa close to him, before they separate and Tuivasa just misses with a big uppercut. Sakai landing heavy knees and hurting Tuivasa, but he then retaliates with a big right hand and forces Sakai to cover up before they clinch again to end the round. 10-9 Sakai, but Tuivasa looking dangerous too.
Second round and Tuivasa lands a huge left hook early and Sakai is rocked! Tuivasa steps forward and goes for the kill, landing huge hooks as Sakai tries to cover up. Another huge strike and Sakai is out coldddd! What a KO!
Dominick Cruz def Pedro Munhoz via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to this fight as both guys look to take the centre and trade leg kicks and movement. Munhoz throwing hard low kicks but Cruz making him miss big. Munhoz throwing bombs but only just missing and Cruz is doing well to land blitzes and flurries of strikes. Cruz goes for a big right hand and Munhoz lands first with a big left hand that drops him! Munhoz lands a huge left hook and goes for the finish but Cruz grabs a leg and somehow survives. He gets up and continues the pattern of the earlier fight. 10-9 Munhoz.
Second round and Munhoz coming forward again and looking for his big bombs. Cruz using his excellent footwork well again though and is using his speed brilliantly. Cruz throwing great combinations on the feet and Munhoz is eating shots, but there isn’t enough power in them to hurt him. Cruz throws a hard low kick that hurts Munhoz and continues to throw his strikes brilliantly. 19-19.
Final round and Cruz has definitely taken over now with his speed and footwork. Cruz has made his reads now and is landing his combinations well, but Munhoz is throwing powerful strikes back and just barely missing. Cruz lands a big one-two clean down the pipe and Munhoz is starting to back up a little. Munhoz lands some nice jabs but Cruz is too slick and is moving so well, throwing leg kicks and left hands. Cruz lands a big combo in the centre as the round comes to an end and that should be the comeback victory for him. 29-28 Cruz.
Josh Emmett def Dan Ige via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Nothing happens between these two in the opening minute and them Emmett explodes with a massive overhand right that drops Ige! Emmett goes down for a finish but Ige recovers quickly and starts to wrestle. Both guys scramble well and end up back to their feet where they separate. Ige taking the centre now and using his jab well and sees out the round relatively comfortably. 10-9 Emmett most likely for the knockdown, but could go either way in honesty.
Emmett comes out with a big right hand early once again but Ige takes it and continues to come forward. Good exchanges on the feet and Ige landing his jab well with movement and power. Emmett looking for one big shot but he keeps missing it. Ige replies with a big strikes and wobbles Emmett with a big left hook. He stays patient and Emmett eventually recovers. Ige staying so calm though and using that jab well again, circling on the outside and threatening then ending the round with a big right straight. 19-19, Ige round.
Final round and Ige takes the centre once again, looking to use that jab and counter with his left hook. Emmett still looking for the power right hand but Ige seems to have him scouted now. Emmett steps forward and throws a straight right down the middle and wobbles Ige but he recovers very quickly and circles out. Ige lands his jab over and over, but Emmett is being more aggressive and coming forward. Both guys are missing with big shots as we enter the final minute. Emmett ducks under a big head kick but then eats a big uppercut. Both guys throw a final flurry, but that’s a super tough fight to call. Great fight.
Sean O’Malley def Raulian Paiva via Knockout, Round 1 (4:42)
Composed start to this fight from both guys as Paiva looks for an early takedown attempt but O’Malley sidesteps him into the cage. Body kick grazes the cup of Paiva and causes a short pause in the action. Paiva throws a hard low kick that gets a reaction, before O’Malley steps in with a hard straight left hand. Paiva trying to apply pressure but O’Malley moving well and avoids a leg kick then lands two left jabs and a big right hand behind it. O’Malley steps well to his right and lands a huge right hand that wobbles Paiva! He stays composed and lands a beautiful combination that hurts him badly! Huge body shot and hook combo drops Paiva and the referee steps in, huge win for O’Malley! Amazing!
Kai Kara-France def Cody Garbrandt via Knockout, Round 1 (3:21)
Lots of range finding in the opening minute of this fight as Garbrandt finds himself with his back against the cage circling, throwing some loose kicks. Kara-France just misses with a big overhand right and then just avoids a big right-hook from Garbrandt. Kara-France lands a big right hand that flattens Garbrandt! A big follow up shot drops him again but Garbrandt retreats and eggs him on, but he’s clearly hurt! Kara-France staying patient and then he lands a stunning combination that ends with a massive uppercut and Garbrandt is out! Kara-France lands a couple of strikes before Herb Dean steps in, but that’s that! What a KO!
Geoff Neal def Santiago Ponzinibbio via Split Decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Steady start to the fight for Neal with plenty of bouncing on his toes and throwing his jab and some leg kicks, forcing Ponzinibbio backwards. Both guys trade leg kicks and are starting to try and hold their ground in the centre. Neal lands a nice high kick and the referee warns both fighters about having their fingers out. A few short strikes each but not much damage so far. Neal using his jab well and both guys exchange before an accidental low kick from Neal causes a pause. They get back to it and Ponzinibbio lands a huge one-two right on the buzzer to end the round. 10-9 Neal for me.
More active start to the round as Ponzinibbio comes forward with a hard low kick and some straight right hands. Big one-two from Ponzinibbio down the middle to counter Neal’s leg kick and then a short right hand from Neal lands too. Ponzinibbio changes levels and blasts a takedown before Neal sweeps him to get back to his feet nearly immediately. Hard left hand lands from Neal, but Ponzinibbio lands a nice left jab-right hand. Neal lands a hard right hand but then eats a big leg kick in return, before a one-two of his own down the middle into the final minute of the round. Neal lands a big shot and Ponzinibbio claims it was a finger but the referee says no. They stare at each other and then trade a couple of strikes before the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Ponzinibbio lands a right hand before Neal lands a left. More exchanges in the centre and Neal lands a hard right hook that wobbles Ponzinibbio but he recovers quickly and lands a hard low kick. Neal starting to come forward and throws his left hand before a left high kick that just misses. Right hand gets a reaction from Ponzinibbio again, but then he lands a hard low kick to get Neal to back up. Hard left hand from Neal lands but Ponzinibbio replies with a solid right hook himself. Hard low kick and Neal steps backwards, but then he counters another attempt with a right hand. Neal coming on strong with jabs but Ponzinibbio continues to come forward too. Neal lands a big three-punch combo with the left hand and Ponzinibbio is wobbled! Final 30 seconds and Ponzinibbio just misses with a right hand to end the fight. Good fight. 29-28 Neal for me.
Nunes opens up with a hard low kick that drops Pena immediately. Nunes lets her up and kicks the leg again, before Pena tries to throw a small flurry. Nunes throws a right hand that drops Pena and then she eventually drops on top of her looking to control on the ground. Nunes looks to transition to the back for a rear-naked choke but Pena just about defends it, before Nunes gets back to top position. Pena threatens with a kimura from the bottom but Nunes stays patient, defends it and sees the round out on top. 10-9 champ.
Nunes takes the centre and she starts looking for huge strikes early doors but Pena isn’t going anywhere. Pena is landing her jab at will and Nunes is getting hurt! Nunes trying to slug it out but she’s slow and looks exhausted already. Pena keeps coming and is smashing Nunes up! Big strikes from Pena and Nunes is rocked! Pena goes for a takedown and immediately goes to the back and locks up a choke! NUNES TAPS! NUNES TAPS! AND NEWWWW!!!
Charles Oliveira def Dustin Poirier via Submission (Rear-naked choke), Round 3 (1:02)
Fast paced start to the fight as Oliveira looks to take the centre and land body shots and his jab, but Poirier lands a right hand that knocks Oliveira off balance. Oliveira lands a big strike of his own and backs Poirier up and then he clinches looking for knees. Poirier getting kicked in the body and firing back with big combinations and drops Oliveira again. He lands a huge shot on the ground but Oliveira ties him up and then Poirier stands them up again immediately. Body work from Oliveira again is affecting Poirier and the rounds ends. Wow. 10-9 Poirier.
Huge start to the second round again as the frantic pace starts again and Oliveira immediately goes in for a takedown against the cage. He drags Poirier to the ground but as he tries to escape Oliveira takes the back. Poirier tries to escape but Oliveira holds his arm in place and illegally holds the glove before rolling into full guard. He lands some huge, thudding elbows as Poirier looks to defend off his back. Oliveira absolutely dominant with pressure and elbows but Poirier survives. 19-19.
Oliveira comes out fast once again and shoots in for a takedown and immediately transitions to a body lock from behind. He drags Poirier down and then jumps on to his back, sinking in hooks and looking for a standing rear-naked choke. Poirier defending the hands but Oliveira continues to switch the grips, sinks in the choke and forces the tap! Amazing!! What a fight!
Raulian Paiva (21-3) vs Sean O’Malley (14-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger in the bantamweight division to open the main card. Paiva is on a three-fight win streak in the UFC thanks to victories over Mark De la Rosa, Zhalgas Zhumagulov and most recently Kyler Phillips at UFC Vega 32. O’Malley bounced back from his only career defeat against Marlon Vera after a leg injury to earn back-to-back highlight reel KO’s against Thomas Almeida at UFC 260 and Kris Moutinho at UFC 264.
Paiva is a well-rounded fighter with good striking technique and decent takedowns to earn top control. O’Malley on the other hand is a specialist striker with legitimate one-punch power. He’s also a very skilled jiu-jitsu grappler, it’s just not something he needs to use much because of how good his striking is. ‘Suga’ is excellent and changing angles and mixing up his attacks with kicks and punches and to the head and body.
O’Malley has a big height and reach advantage, has a clear power advantage in the striking battle, is the better grappler of the two and is on an upwards trajectory. Paiva has a chance if he checks kicks and can get top position, but realistically I expect O’Malley to put his lights out after putting on a show yet again. PICK – Sean O’Malley via Knockout, Round 2
Kai Kara-France (22-9) vs Cody Garbrandt (12-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A former champion debuts in a new weight class in this one. Kai Kara-France welcomes Garbrandt to the division on a 2-2 run. He was submitted by Brandon Royval at UFC 253 but bounced back with a KO win over Rogerio Bontorin at UFC 259. Garbrandt has lost four of his last five at bantamweight, with a KO win over Raphael Assuncao at UFC 250 sandwiched between two losses to TJ Dillashaw, Pedro Munhoz and most recently Rob Font.
Kara-France is a well skilled all-rounder, with good boxing combinations and power mixed in with decent wrestling and good kicks. He’ll have a reach advantage over Garbrandt, who is a great boxer with tremendous one-punch power and good wrestling too. This is a really even match up because Kara-France’s abilities are similar to that of Font, who beat Garbrandt last time out.
If Garbrandt is to win he needs to use his power strikes and wrestling, much like he tried to do against Font too. He has the speed to match up with Kara-France and the power to end the fight in one shot, but with the reach advantage on ‘Dont Blink’s side he could land first in any exchanges. Ultimately, the big experience factor and power edge leans me towards picking ‘No Love’, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the other way. PICK – Cody Garbrandt via Knockout, Round 2
Geoff Neal (13-4) vs Santiago Ponzinibbio (29-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Banger at welterweight up next between two guys who are desperate to get a win and get back up the rankings. Neal has lost his last two, getting taken the distance by Stephen Thompson at UFC Vegas 17 and then Neil Magny at UFC Vegas 26. Ponzinibbio on the other hand returned from a long lay-off to get KO’d by Li Jingliang at UFC Fight Island 7 before earning a big decision win over Miguel Baeza at UFC Vegas 28.
Neal is a solid southpaw striker with genuine knockout power and some good wrestling skills in his back pocket too. Ponzinibbio is a top level boxer with good power, but injuries have taken their toll on his career to date. Neal’s best attacks are his straight left hand and left kick, which will be wide open against the orthodox Ponzinibbio.
Ponzinibbio will need to establish range and use pressure to force longer striking exchanges, where his superior boxing skills and combinations can land and cause damage. Neal is likely to stall the fight in those instances with clinches to stop any momentum, and land that body kick and left hand. I don’t think this one ends early and it’ll be razor close throughout 15 minutes, but with Neal looking gun shy in his last two bouts I think Ponzinibbio will be able to be busier to claim a win. PICK – Santiago Ponzinibbio via Decision
Amanda Nunes (21-4) vs Julianna Pena (11-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The women’s G.O.A.T makes her return to the bantamweight division for the first time in two years. Nunes is on a UFC-high 12-fight win streak, with her last two wins coming at featherweight against Felicia Spencer and Megan Anderson at UFC 259. Pena on the other hand has just two wins since 2017, beating Sara McMann at UFC 257 to claim this title shot against her long-time rival.
Nunes is the best ever for a reason. She has abnormal punching power on the feet, is a tremendous boxer with great combinations and has the ability to wrestle and submit opponents with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to her name too. Pena on the other hand is a jiu-jitsu fighter with good wrestling herself and she looks to secure top position and work from there.
This fight is only happening because Nunes needs to defend her belt and Pena just keeps saying her name out loud. ‘Lioness’ has the advantage in every single aspect of this fight and it’s really up to her how she wants to finish this one. I think Nunes blitzes her early to make a statement and claims a vicious KO victory early doors. PICK – Amanda Nunes via Knockout, Round 1
Charles Oliveira (31-8) vs Dustin Poirier (28-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Without a doubt my favourite fight of the year, and it’s for the lightweight championship of the world. Oliveira is on an amazing nine-fight win streak which includes a dominant win over Tony Ferguson at UFC 256 before winning the belt by knocking out Michael Chandler at UFC 262. Poirier on the other hand bounced back from defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov in his first undisputed title shot back at UFC 242 to defeat Dan Hooker in a war at UFC Vegas 4 before back-to-back stoppage wins over Conor McGregor at UFC 257 and UFC 264.
Oliveira is a scarily good all-rounder, with the most submission wins in UFC history to add to some new-found striking credentials that have seen him generate fight-ending power. Poirier is one of the best boxers in the UFC with brilliant cardio, great power in both hands and a good wrestling game too. This is such a good fight, because both fighters excel everywhere but are at their most comfortable in different places.
If Oliveira is to be successful, he needs to make this a grappling match. Much like against Ferguson, he can take the fight down and use his amazing jiu-jitsu to secure a submission win or control for long periods. While the fight is on the feet though, Poirier is the man in the driving seat. His takedown defence is good and his ability to mix up his attacks stand him in good stead, because Oliveira won’t hide from the striking exchanges. Because of that I think Poirier keeps the fight standing for long periods, does damage with his combinations before eventually earning a stoppage at some point in the championship rounds to finally become champion. PICK – Dustin Poirier via Knockout, Round 4
Injury forced him to withdraw and after a win over Alex Perez, Figueiredo ended up taking on Brandon Moreno the following month and is now embroiled in a trilogy for the belt.
The delay meant that Gabrandt instead opted to remain at bantamweight for a bout with Rob Font, where he was dominated by a jab for five rounds en route to a defeat.
Now with moving down in weight, ‘No Love’ is hoping he can find a home with the smaller guys and make a charge for the belt once again.
Gabrandt’s punching power often saw him considered as one of the scariest bantamweights in the division, but as he engaged with the elites of the weight class we saw him fold on more occasions than he would have ever wanted.
At 5ft 8′ with a 65.5 inch reach, Garbrandt fits in pretty well at 125lbs. By comparison, champion Moreno stands at 5ft 7′ with a 70 inch reach and Figueiredo stands at 5ft 5 with a 68 inch reach. He was always a small bantamweight.
With his brilliant boxing and fearsome power, mixed in with his elite wrestling background, Gabrandt has all the tools to be a real threat at flyweight and be one of the top names in the division.
But to get there, he must first defeat Kara-France at UFC 269 to put himself into the rankings conversation. If he can do that, which he feels he will be able to do with relative ease, then 2022 is set up for ‘No Love’.
He’d enter the rankings at number six at least, and that means he’d likely be no more than two more wins away from a title shot. Considering he was already scheduled for one after snapping a three-fight losing skid at bantamweight though, don’t be surprised to see it come sooner.
He is supremely popular among fans, has a name that sells tickets and has show-closing power to put doubt into even the biggest Garbrandt hater’s mind.
Flyweight is the perfect division for Garbrandt, and UFC 269 is the perfect place to prove that heading into the new year.
Edwards is on a ten-fight unbeaten streak (9 wins, 1 no contest) and most recently dominated against Nate Diaz at UFC 263. Masvidal is coming off consecutive title fight defeats to Kamaru Usman, including a brutal knockout loss at UFC 261.
The two have had a heated rivalry for several years now after a backstage altercation at UFC London led to Masvidal punching Edwards in the face and causing a cut under his eye.
Cody Garbrandt will also be on the main card making his flyweight debut when he takes on Kai Kara-France. Garbrandt snapped a three-fight with a brilliant knockout win over Raphael Assuncao at UFC 250, but then got dominated by Rob Font last time out in May.
Rounding off the main card, Sean O’Malley returns to take on the supremely talented Raulian Paiva in the bantamweight division. The fight is a chance for ‘Suga’ to enter the rankings before 2022, with Paiva currently the number 15 bantamweight in the UFC.
On the prelims, you’ll be able to Dominick Cruz vs Pedro Munhoz, Geoff Neal vs Santiago Ponzinibbio, Andre Muniz vs Dricus Du Plessis, Maycee Barber vs Erin Blanchfield as well as Gillian Robertson, Alex Perez and Ryan Hall too!
FULL UFC 269 CARD
Charles Oliveira (c) vs Dustin Poirier – Lightweight Amanda Nunes (c) vs Julianna Pena – Bantamweight Leon Edwards vs Jorge Masvidal – Welterweight Kai Kara-France vs Cody Garbrandt – Flyweight Raulian Paiva vs Sean O’Malley – Bantamweight
Geoff Neal vs Santiago Ponzinibbio – Welterweight Pedro Munhoz vs Dominick Cruz – Bantamweight Andre Muniz vs Dricus Du Plessis – Middleweight Maycee Barber vs Erin Blanchfield – Flyweight Alex Perez vs Matt Schnell – Flyweight Ryan Hall vs Darrick Minner – Featherweight Gillian Robertson vs Priscilla Cachoeira – Flyweight Randy Costa vs Tony Kelley – Bantamweight
The top of two of the most exciting divisions in the UFC have got themselves a new contender after UFC Vegas 27.
In the men’s bantamweight division, number three ranked Rob Font took on number four ranked Cody Garbrandt in the main event and put together a striking clinic to completely dominate the former champion en route to a unanimous decision win.
It was a fight billed to see whether Garbrandt had really evolved into a more mature fighter after getting back on the win trail last time out following three knockout losses in a row, or whether Font could establish himself as one of the best in the world and worthy of being in the title picture.
In the end though, both proved to be true. Garbrandt was able to stick to a game plan for the majority of the fight and not lose his mind, then entering a brawl at the detriment of his chin. However, Font’s game plan and ability to jab and use a six-inch reach advantage just proved too much to overcome on this occasion for the 29-year-old.
Losing to a top fighter isn’t something to be ashamed of and Font has now proven he is among the best in the world.
With the title being held up currently with the champion Aljamain Sterling recovering from neck surgery, Font is aware that he is unlikely to get the next shot. Following the fight he called to get the winner of the fight between Cory Sandhagen and TJ Dillashaw, whose cancelled bout has been rearranged for July 24th.
While that’s unlikely to be the deal considering Sandhagen in particular feels he deserves a shot already, never mind with a win over Dillashaw, he’s earned himself the right to make such call outs and give UFC president Dana White a headache.
In the co-main event, we saw an old contender re-emerge as the inaugral champion of the division Carla Esparza ended the unbeaten run of Yan Xiaonan in the UFC with a second-round TKO win.
Esparza dominated the fight, using her excellent wrestling to secure top position and win the positional battle before progressing into a crucifix position and raining down strikes on her bloodied opponent until the referee stepped in to stop it.
After the fight she called for White and the UFC to make a rematch of the first ever fight for the belt between herself and newly crowned champion Rose Namajunas.
White isn’t as convinced, telling the post-fight press conference that he needed to decide between Esparza or giving Weili Zhang an immediate rematch.
Esparza is now on a five-fight win streak and after losing the title back in 2015 to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, she never got another opportunity at the belt. She’s the best placed 115lbs fighter to challenge for it now and it would be more than deserved.
Elsewhere on the card Yan Xiaonan takes on Carla Esparza in the co-main event to potentially determine the next contender for Rose Namajunas’ strawweight title, while Jack Hermansson and Edmen Shahbazyan meet in their delayed middleweight scrap too.
Last week at UFC 262 we didn’t have the best of nights prediction wise, going 6/12 with two perfect picks to move up to 314/494 (63.56%) with 136 perfect picks (43.31%).
Hermansson is one of the best grapplers in the division, with a sneaky submission game and fantastic top control once he gets on top, while Shahbazyan is as pure a striker as they come in the division with sensational kickboxing. Hermansson will be happy to stand if he can keep the distance short, but if he gets hold of him will almost certainly look to put him on his back.
While Shahbazyan has got great talent for all to see, his hype has made people forget he’s only 23. He’s in no rush to hit the top of the mountain right now and I think he still has holes in his game that ‘Joker’ can expose and I think he’ll get the win here. PICK – Jack Hermansson via Knockout, Round 2
David Dvorak (19-3) vs Raulian Paiva (20-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A potential fight of the night at flyweight here as two 125lbers look to break into the top ten of the rankings with a big win. Dvorak has won 15 fights in a row, including wins over Bruno Silva and then Jordan Espinosa in 2020, while Paiva bounced back from consecutive defeats to earn back-to-back wins over Mark De La Rosa and then Zhalgas Zhumagulov at UFC 251.
Dvorak is a special grappler, with good striking to set up his takedowns where he will look to control position and eventually try and get to the back and look for chokes. Paiva on the other hand is a super striker with quick hands and great kicks, who’s ground game is okay but not so much when it’s against someone like Dvorak. ‘The Undertaker’ is relentless with his pressure and can hold his own on the feet too, meaning those kicks Paiva throws leave him susceptible to getting them caught and taken down.
Paiva could win the striking battle on the feet, but Dvorak will win any grappling battles on the mat and that’s where the difference lies. For me, Dvorak gets the fight down and controls position to nullify the threat of Paiva for a wide decision win. PICK – David Dvorak via Decision
Felicia Spencer (8-2) vs Norma Dumont (5-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
The first ladies on the card get a nice spot on the main card as former title challenger Felicia Spencer looks to get back in the win column against Norma Dumont. Spencer took ‘Cyborg’ to a decision in a losing effort before beating Zarah Fairn dos Santos via KO in the first round to set up a defeat to Amanda Nunes at UFC 250. Dumont got slaughtered in her first UFC performance against Megan Anderson, before earning a win at bantamweight over Ashlee Evans-Smith.
Spencer is a natural 145lbser among the women which is a positive immediately, with great striking and decent grappling to boot. Dumont on the other hand is a grappler with jiu-jitsu skills and a decent bit of striking on the feet, but will have a huge size disadvantage that she’ll need to overcome. Spencer is the far better wrestler and has better striking and this fight just seems like a lay up for the bigger woman in a division that is limited in it’s contenders.
Spencer should be able to have her way entirely in this one for a dominant decision win. PICK – Felicia Spencer via Decision
Justin Tafa (4-2) vs Jared Vanderaa (11-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Tafa is a brawler, with tremendous power in his hands but an interesting chin and not the best boxing skills as he showed against Felipe. Vanderaa is a striker/wrestler type, who will look to step forward to close the distance with his hands and then get hold of you to put you on the ground. He has a big height and reach advantage meaning Tafa will have to take risks to step inside.
Despite that, I don’t think Vanderaa will be able to get a finish. If Tafa lands a heavy shot or two early on it could cause big problems, but Vanderra should be able to use his size and experience to see out a pretty comfortable win. PICK – Jared Vanderra via Decision
Yan Xiaonan (13-1 1NC) vs Carla Esparza (18-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Xiaonan is a great striker, with terrific speed and solid kicks to go with some brilliant takedown defence. That will be put to the test though against Esparza, who’s biggest strength is her wrestling skills. She can get you to the ground and control the top position, with decent strikes and submission skills. Xiaonan’s path to victory is clearly on the feet, with decent power although all her UFC fights thus far have gone the distance.
Ultimately it comes down to whether or not Esparza can put Xiaonan on her back and keep her there, but I’d be very shocked if that’s the case. Expect Xiaonan to piece her up on the feet and deny the takedown attempts to cruise to a huge win on the judge’s scorecards. PICK – Yan Xiaonan via Decision
Rob Font (18-4) vs Cody Garbrandt (12-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Both Font and Garbrandt are boxing heavy fighters, with terrific hand speed and legitimate one-punch power. Font is the technically cleaner fighter of the two, working behind his jab with great footwork and combinations, while Gabrandt is quicker and more powerful but a bit looser with his technique. Font’s biggest win came in his last fight and while impressive on paper, Moraes has proved to be rather chinny in recent fights and that’s definitely something to consider. Garbrandt’s three losses were all by knockout because he refused to fight smart but we’ve seen his brilliance in the past and he looked much better against Assuncao too.
It’s a super even fight, between two guys who will feel they can beat the other at what they do best. For Font, he’s never been knocked out in the past but also never had to go five rounds. Despite that, I think Garbrandt’s past of being knocked out viciously could play against him in this one. Font hits hard and clean and with his speed to counter, I think he gets the biggest win of his career. PICK – Rob Font via Knockout, Round 3
Instead he’s hung around at his more natural weight class and taken a fight against one of the most lethal strikers in the division, where a win will give Dana White a real headache when it comes to what to do next.
It was a fantastic performance from ‘No Love’ last time out, as he bobbed and weaved through Assuncao’s power with an excellent jab and great footwork before ducking down and landing a huge haymaker to end the fight on the buzzer.
That came after three consecutive knockout defeats, where Dillashaw turned his lights out twice before Pedro Munhoz poured the pressure on and won in a firefight. It was a more mature performance from Garbrandt as he was patient behind his strikes and looked to avoid getting his head taken off, rather than trying to walk through it.
But when he comes up against Font it will be a whole new ball game. The 33-year-old has earned a reputation as one of the best boxers in the entire UFC, never mind the bantamweight division, and when he throws it comes with venom and accuracy.
That’s a recipe for disaster for Garbrandt, who has been prone to going down against power punchers and leaving his chin in the air. But considering the new maturity of performance he showed against Assuncao, this is a great chance for him to show if he really is back or if the criticism he received for “handpicking an opponent” was justified.
If he’s able to survive the test that a game Font will put on for him, then he’ll be deserving of all the praise that will undoubtedly come his way. If he gets iced by Font however, it will show that he has a huge issue against the elite of the division and that his title win may have just been a timing thing rather than him ever being the top dog.
For Font, a win shows he belongs at the top of the division and that is ranking isn’t a false position and his next fight could well be against one of Yan, Sandhagen or Dillashaw before a potential title fight himself.
He could either fall flat on his face against a former champion, which is no shame, or beat one and do himself no harm.
It’s without a doubt going to be a banger of a fight and one that will have huge repercussions at the top of the division for both men. Don’t miss it.
With the pay-per-view main events set for the foreseeable future, the UFC have now announced some of their Fight Night main events and some other notable bouts too.
After UFC 261, former light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes returns to the octagon following his defeat at UFC 253 when he takes on Jiri Prochazka on May 1st in their main event bout. Prochazka made his UFC debut at UFC 251 with a stunning knockout win over Volkan Oezdemir to shoot himself into contention for the top five. This fight was originally scheduled for February but Reyes was forced to withdraw due to injury.
These two will now battle it out for the number one contender spot, with Yan and Sterling certain to compete in a rematch later this year. Dillashaw makes his return to the octagon after serving a two-year suspension after admitting to injecting EPO ahead of his flyweight title fight with Henry Cejudo in 2019.
The following weekend will see UFC 262, before a return to the bantamweights headlining as Cody Garbrandt takes on Rob Font in a battle of heavy hands. ‘No Love’ last fought at UFC 250 with a highlight reel knockout over Raphael Assuncao, before being scheduled to move down to 125lbs for a flyweight title fight against Figueiredo. Garbrandt was forced to withdraw with injury and ‘Deus da Guerra’ instead fought Alex Perez at UFC 255.
Moving into June, at UFC 263 welterweight jiu-jitsu king Demian Maia will make his return to the octagon for the first time since being brutally knocked out by Gilbert Burns at UFC Brasilia last year – the first event to take place without fans due to the pandemic – when he takes on Belal Muhammad.
With the top of the division currently at a standstill as Jon Jones and the UFC have a contract impasse and Derrick Lewis waiting on a decision to see if he will fight new champion Francis Ngannou next for the title, Volkov and Gane have chosen to stay busy and look improve their own situations in the running for a potential title shot in the future.
That fight will be backed up by a bantamweight banger between two of the most underrated fighters in the division as Raoni Barcelos takes on Timur Valiev. Barcelos returned after nearly a year away from the cage with a masterful performance against Khalid Taha at UFC Vegas 13 before seeing his next three bouts fall through for various reasons. He has won his last nine fights professionally and is 5-0 in the UFC.
Last but not least, the UFC also announced blockbuster welterweight co-main event for UFC 264 on July 10th when Gilbert Burns returns to the cage to take on Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.
Burns was on a tear at 170lbs and fought Usman for the title at UFC 258 in February, only to suffer a third round TKO loss to his former teammate. He’ll be taking on former title challenger Thompson who has won his last two fights in a row, defeating Vicente Luque and then Geoff Neal most recently at UFC Vegas 17 in December. Both men are looking to get back into the title picture as soon as possible and with Leon Edwards hoping that a win over Nate Diaz at UFC 262 can earn him a fight against the winner of Usman vs Masvidal later this year. A win for either of these two competitors in July could see them challenge next for the title, especially if they can do it impressively.
This was the ultimate Conor McGregor performance. If anyone ever asks you what all the hype was about, don’t bother showing the Jose Aldo knockout just show them this fight.
McGregor stepped up in a quest to become the first double champion in the companies history, after a gruesome double-header with Nate Diaz, to fight Eddie Alvarez in for the 155lbs lightweight title. McGregor turned in a masterful performance, knocking Alvarez down three times in the first round before a stoppage finish in the second.
But mid way through the second round, before the knockout, McGregor showed that he was levels clear of Alvarez on the feet by putting both hands behind his back and leaving his chin exposed as Alvarez stood in front of him. It was the ultimate show of disrespect and went unpunished as he claimed the belt just a few minutes later.
4. Dominick Cruz vs Cody Garbrandt (UFC 207)
Pre-injuries, it wasn’t a crazy opinion to have if you said Dominick Cruz was the greatest bantamweight of all time. So after coming out on top in his legendary rivalry with Urijah Faber, ‘No Love’ Cody Garbrandt emerged to avenge his mentors defeats.
In a bantamweight title fight at UFC 207, Gabrandt turned in a masterful five-round performance to claim the title from Cruz in a unanimous decision win but it was his antics during the fight that caught the eye most.
Garbrandt would slip shots and look in the opposite direction, started breakdancing mid-fight and just generally dominated the man who was considered the best ever in what still stands up as the best performance of his career to date. The fight was personal and ‘No Love’ rubbed salt in the wounds.
3. Max Holloway vs Brian Ortega (UFC 231)
This was supposed to be Max Holloway’s toughest test as UFC featherweight champion, with Brian Ortega the best jiu-jitsu technician he had ever come against.
Instead what we saw was a stand-up clinic from ‘Blessed’ as he beat the living hell out of Ortega for a full four rounds before the doctor stopped the fight. But what took place just minutes before was something never seen before.
Holloway stopped punching Ortega in the face for a few seconds, to help teach him how to block in the middle of the fight. He took his hands and moved them closer to face and threw a soft punch to show him the benefits, before touching gloves and getting back to it. Rude.
2. Anderson Silva vs Nick Diaz (UFC 183)
The Diaz brothers are known as two of the more… outspoken members of the UFC roster over the last 20 years. This is probably the defining moment of either of their careers though when it comes to disrespect.
During a grudge match against the legendary Anderson Silva, Diaz had repeatedly jabbed at him during press conferences and interviews but got no reaction. When they finally stepped into the octagon, he upped the gamesmanship by a level almost immediately after the fight began though.
With Silva not really pressing the action in the opening 90 seconds, Diaz started trying to antagonise him. He literally lay on the ground as if he was sunbathing, he backed himself against the cage and invited Silva to come and fight and then stood still as Silva circled.
It turned into a five round war and as of this writing, was the last time we saw Diaz in the octagon.
1. Max Holloway vs Calvin Kattar (UFC Fight Island 7)
The most recent display of disrespect but for me, the most disrespectful thing ever.
Holloway was paired up against Kattar for his first non-title fight since 2016, with Kattar stating that ‘Blessed’ was just a man in his way en route to a title shot. He claimed to be the best boxer in the UFC and said he’d be able to take Holloway’s record of never being knocked down before away from him.
The Hawaiian clearly took offence to the comments as he slaughtered Kattar to a 50-42, 50-42, 50-43 decision win at UFC Fight Island 7. But in the final round, after already battering Kattar to a pulp, he started talking to the commentators while still in the cage. He commented about the record breaking stats he’d put together, snapped a jab off and then slipped Kattar’s counter punches while walking backwards and not even looking at him.
It was incredible to watch, while being skilful and disrespectful at the same time. Max Holloway, take a bow.