UFC 254 had a lightweight title fight that had the situation with COVID-19 giving Justin Gaethje the chance of a lifetime against one of the most dominant lightweights in the UFC with Khabib Nurmagomedov. Not only did Nurmagomedov move to 29-0, but he has chosen to walk away from the sport where he may be considered the most dominant mixed martial artist to ever do it.
There was a lot to take away from UFC 254 but with the lightweight champ surprising everyone with his retirement announcement, some things might slip the minds of fans. Here are some things to take away from the event.
Challenger in waiting
One piece of insurance fans were aware of leading up to UFC 254 was that newly signed, former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler would be ready to step in to face either Nurmagomedov or Gaethje should something pull them off the card. Both fighters made weight and so did Chandler. He may not have been needed, but he was ready. It will be interesting to see where he will wind up amongst the UFC lightweights.
Early bird gets the fights
The first bell for UFC 254 was scheduled for a 10:30am EST start time. It should be interesting to see how this event does during a pandemic with the earlier start time. UFC 242 was the last card where Nurmagomedov defended his title against Dustin Poirier that aired earlier than fans are used to and reports are that it sold 1 million pay-per-views according to Nurmagomedov’s manager. ESPN+ has come a long way since then and with shutdowns still in place due to COVID-19, folks may be more inclined to subscribe and sign up for something like UFC 254.
Fear the Maverick
Miranda Maverick came out of Invicta FC to make her flyweight debut against Liana Jojua and she did not disappoint. She found her range and created opportunities in the striking exchanges that sealed the fate of Jojua and the path to win. A hard elbow from Maverick straight down the middle of Jojua’s guard would land the cut that would get the win for Maverick. Too much bleeding and event though Jojua wanted to continue, the ref saw it fit to stop the fight. Check out Maverick’s handiwork and keep an eye out for her:
No controversial stoppage this time
Ion Cutelaba and Magomed Ankalaev settled the question of the stoppage from their last fight at UFC 254. After a cautious and slow start in round one, as time went on Ankalaev would prove that what was happening in their first fight, would not be mistaken in the second one as he scored a definitive knockout over Cutelaba in round one. See the finish here:
Bobby Knuckles is still here
The co-main event between Robert Whittaker and Jarrod Cannonier definitely made a case as to why both men were in title conversations to face Israel Adesanya. Adesanya called for Cannonier at UFC 253 but it looks like the former champion in Whittaker will keep his number one contender spot. It might be a while since it seems like Jon Jones and Adesanya may be circling one another but a rematch between Adesanya and Whittaker might make for a fun 2021 middleweight bout.
“This is my last fight” UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov
The tension was high in round one. The leg-kicks and power were there from Gaethje but Nurmagomedov ate the leg-kicks and was able to get the fight to the ground. That is where fans all know Nurmagomedov does his best work. With the fight nearly ending by submission in the first round, the lightweight champion brought the fight to where he knew he would win in round two. Securing another takedown, taking Gaethje’s back then switching to mount he wrapped up a triangle choke that would close out the fight and his career. His only request, to be recognized as the best pound-for-pound fighter in UFC history. That should not be a problem.
“We’re all lucky we got to see what we saw tonight.” -Dana White on UFC 254
UFC President Dana White, like Daniel Cormier during the broadcast, seemed to carry the weight of how UFC 254 ended in the post-fight press conference. Seeing Nurmagomedov move to 29-0 and call it a career seemed to leave him with little patience to entertain questions about the future. When it came to how the night ended, White said, “We’re all lucky we got to see what we saw tonight.” He cited the tumultuous year 2020 has been with COVID-19 and seemed to only want the book to close on Fight Island, and get back to Las Vegas. With the build-up to UFC 254 and how it turned out, who can blame him?
There’s obviously more to take away from this event than what is listed here, but having a 29-0 champion, in his prime walk away from the sport is something that will be spoken about for a long time.
What did you take away from the event?