All the talk heading into this past weekend’s UFC 232 event was centered on Jon Jones‘ controversial drug test with USADA, and unfortunately all that talk overshadowed what was a tremendous slate of 13 fights. From top-to-bottom, UFC 232 on paper was one of the best cards the UFC matchmakers have put together all year, and unfortunately the narrative heading into the night wasn’t about the fights themselves, but rather Jones’ test results and the UFC taking the unprecedented step of moving the event from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on extremely short notice.
By the end of UFC 232, though, no one was talking about drug testing. Instead, everyone was talking about the fights, and for good reason. UFC 232 ended up being one of the most important cards of the year because it featured the two fighters who deserve to be called the GOAT in men’s and women’s MMA in Jones and Amanda Nunes, respectively. It was the best-case scenario for the UFC and its president Dana White, who was turning into Donald Trump with his refusal to answer the tough questions all week. Now that the event is over, White doesn’t have to talk about the drug test and the event moving anymore, and instead he can focus on promoting Jones and Nunes.
Let’s start with Jones. Drug testing aside, Jones was coming off of an 18-month layoff and was rematching the man who gave him the most competitive bout of his career in Alexander Gustafsson. The two previously met back at UFC 165 in what was one of the greatest MMA fights of all time. Jones won a narrow decision that night, and with the long layoff and all the controversy, no one knew how he would look in his return to the cage.
Well, it turned out he looked great once again, and he continued to build his legacy as the GOAT of men’s MMA with a third-round KO over Gustafsson that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt who the better man was. Jones is now a three-time UFC light heavyweight champion and improved his MMA record to 23-1, 1 NC with a 17-1, 1 NC mark in the UFC alone. His resume speaks for itself, and it’s hard to argue he isn’t the most talented and impressive male MMA fighter to ever step foot inside the Octagon. At 31, he’s right in the middle of his prime and should have a number of great years left in the sport, provided of course that he can pass all of his drug tests.
For the women’s side, we really weren’t sure what to expect from Nunes moving up in weight against UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg. As good as Nunes has looked at bantamweight, stepping up a weight class to take on the most dominant female fighter the sport has ever seen in Cyborg looked like an uphill battle on paper. It turned out to not even be a close fight at all. Nunes blitzed Cyborg early and often, needing 51 seconds to land two knockdowns on Cyborg, including the final blow that knocked her opponent into unconsciousness.
Nunes is now the UFC women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion, the only two-division champion in women’s MMA history. With a 17-4 MMA record including a 10-2 mark inside the Octagon alone, with wins over the likes of former or current UFC champions Cyborg, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Germaine de Randamie and Valentina Shevchenko, Nunes has now become the GOAT in women’s MMA, and it’s hard to see her slowing down anytime soon considering she’s only 30.
Jones and Nunes showed at UFC 232 that they are the GOATs of men’s and women’s MMA, and it was beautiful to watch both of them demonstrate their skills to the world. The talk going into the card may have been all about Jones’ drug test and the event moving to a different locale on short notice, but White and the UFC can thank their lucky stars that the fighters put on incredible performances and completely changed the narrative to being just about the fights themselves.
Perhaps that’s what makes fighters like Jones and Nunes GOATs. Not only are they amazing fighters with incredible records and resumes, but they’re able to get people to stop focusing on the controversy outside the cage and just concentrate on what’s happening inside of it. The sport of MMA is still very young and someone else may emerge who takes Jones’ and Nunes’ throne, but for now they are the GOATs of men’s and women’s MMA, and it doesn’t look like either will be giving up their throne anytime soon.