2019 UFC Year in Review [Jul-Dec]
The Adesanya era officially arrives, plus Masvidal is a BMF as we review the last 6 months of 2019.
Everyone expected UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones to win his defence in the first big title fight of the second half of the year. But no-one expected him to struggle against Brazilian challenger Thiago Santos and only scrape by with a split decision.
Jones looked surprisingly pumped for what many considered to be an easy night for the champ. But former middleweight Santos had self-belief:
I feel great. Tomorrow will be a great night. Tomorrow, I will do my best and I will shock the world.
The challenger delivered on his words slamming Jones with savage leg kicks and occasional flurries, even whilst being hampered by an apparent knee injury. For his part Jones was content to fight cautiously, putting his clinch work away to snipe from distance:
He's a black belt at Muay Thai, he's been doing it for a long time and I fought him where he's comfortable. As a result, I have sore feet and sore legs. But I'm very grateful that I came out on top.
In the co-main event Amanda Nunes 'Holly Holmed' Holly Holm, defending her bantamweight strap with a clean, heavy head kick late in the first round:
I have the best coach in the world and we do this over and over. It was something I had the whole time and I've not had a chance to show yet, but tonight was a good night to show and I'm very happy about that.
But the biggest story of the night was Jorge Masvidal scoring the fastest knockout in UFC history with a flying knee to Ben Askren’s forehead in the fifth second of their fight:
He got the head buster with no-longer with his clavicle. He got all types of ****. Then he got those punches to the face, you know, because I thought he was going to get up.
Frankie Edgar finally got a shot at the featherweight belt against someone other than Jose Aldo, but the result was the same. Max Holloway maintained space and touched Edgar up with jabs and teeth-rattling uppercuts to take the decision.
Valentina Shevchenko retained her flyweight title with a shutout unanimous decision over Liz Carmouche, but with only sixty significant strikes in twenty five minutes it was hard work for everyone involved - especially the fans.
Stipe Miocic came out on top and regained the heavyweight title from dual division legend Daniel Cormier. After a slow start Miocic found Cormier’s body in the fourth, eventually shutting him down with an uppercut:
He's an amazing fighter. He makes people feel uncomfortable in there. He only did that for the first two rounds but I started to get my back straight, I saw him slowing down and I was like okay, this is where I take it now.
And the UFC crowned their first-ever Chinese champion as unheralded Sanda striker Zhang Weili surprised everyone with a 42-second stoppage of strawweight champion Jessica Andrade.
The Brazilian champion was as aggressive as usual but Zhang was prepared. She rocked Andrade with a counter right before wilting her with sharp elbows and crunching knees from the clinch. It was a jaw-dropping performance.
The king of smash, Khabib Nurmagomedov, put another body on his record at the UFC’s first-ever event in Abu Dhabi, stealing Dustin Poirier’s soul to tap the interim champ and unify the lightweight belts in the 3rd round.
Sick of questions about a Conor McGregor rematch, The Eagle only had one opponent in mind afterwards:
My next opponent is a very good steak, with a burger and double cheese. I want this. With some juice with ice. I want to enjoy it. Give me a couple of days, please.
The loss was a heavy blow for Poirier who was visibly upset to the point where his fighting future was less than certain:
I didn't get a rhythm, I felt like the way he was pulling back it was hard for me to set up my combinations and get into a rhythm. I know I sound like I have a lot of excuses but I was just so prepared for tonight and this one really hurts.
The Israel Adesanya era officially arrived in front of a sold-out crowd in Melbourne. The interim champion unified the middleweight belts with an expert second-round stoppage of Robert Whittaker in an electric and entertaining performance.
Before the fight Whittaker was confident that he would be able to match it with Adesanya who is widely considered a striking savant:
I don’t take pride into the octagon. I don’t need to be proud like - ‘I’m going to make this a striking match and prove to everybody’. I’ll fight any way I have to to get the win.
In front of the biggest live gate in UFC history, Whittaker took the fight to the challenger, leaping through Adesanya’s range to land shots. But a left-hand counter early in the second caught Whittaker flush and laid him out, leaving the new champ free to soak up the limelight:
It's probably one of my toughest tests, but I make it look easy.
And at the UFC’s mega New York show at Madison Square Garden, Jorge Masvidal beat Nate Diaz for the freshly invented BMF title in the least BMF way possible.
Their fight was stopped after the third when the doctor didn’t like the cut over Nate’s eye. It was hardly a robbery though, as Masvidal won nearly every second of the fight with his more accurate striking. He noticeably wobbled Diaz in the first and had him all but finished more than once.