Both defending champions successfully retained their titles at UFC 259 as light-heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz and women’s featherweight champion Amanda Nunes picked up significant victories at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
In the main event, Poland’s Blachowicz produced a controlled, calculated performance to hand middleweight champion Israel Adesanya the first defeat of his MMA career.
Blachowicz and Adesanya traded shots through the first three rounds, with the faster, sharper Adesanya appearing to edge the action heading into the championship rounds.
But Blachowicz, 38, switched gears in rounds four and five and turned to his wrestling as he took the 31-year-old to the canvas midway through each of the final two rounds, and didn’t let the Nigerian-born Kiwi back to his feet as he dominated the action on the canvas.
After the bout went the distance, the three octagonside judges each scored the fight for the Pole, with Blachowicz registering the first defence of his title with scores of 49-46, 49-45, 49-45.
“It was a tough fight, it was a close fight,” Blachowicz said. “I’m happy I can be the first to beat him. He’s one of the best in the world. I had to defend the division and I did it.
“I proved I’m a true champion. Now I will celebrate. We have a whole fridge of beer. We are going to start drinking and I don’t know when we will finish.”
‘The lioness is always dangerous. But when she has a baby, nobody can stop her’
In the night’s co-main event, two-division women’s champion Nunes retained her featherweight title with ease as she overwhelmed top contender Megan Anderson with strikes before submitting her with an armbar after just two minutes, three seconds.
Anderson, 31, looked tentative from the very start, and Nunes, 32, took advantage immediately as she stung the challenger with a big right hand. Nunes then reset and badly rocked the Australian with strikes before taking the action to the mat and locking up a triangle armbar to claim her 12th consecutive win and register her seventh UFC title defence – five at bantamweight, two at featherweight.
Such was Nunes’ dominance, the fight was described by former two-division champion Daniel Cormier as a “non event,” and also raised question marks over the future of the women’s featherweight division, which is the only weight class in the UFC that does not have an official rankings list.
After her victory Nunes (21-4), who became a mother along with her wife and fellow UFC fighter Nina Ansaroff earlier this year, said that fighting as a mother now makes her even more dangerous.
“The lioness is always dangerous. But when she has a baby, nobody can stop her,” she said.
“I’m more dangerous now with my little girl, so nobody’s going to stop me. I’m going to retire undefeated and with the two belts at home.”
Yan’s illegal knee hands Sterling bantamweight title
The UFC bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling produced one of the most controversial finishes in recent memory as Sterling was crowned champion after defending champ Yan was disqualified in the fourth round.
Yan, 28, was ahead on two of the three judges’ scorecards heading into the championship rounds, but a deliberate illegal knee from the Russian to the clearly grounded challenger left Sterling badly rocked and unable to continue.
After seeking the advice of the cageside doctor, referee Mark Smith waved off the fight, with an emotional Sterling (20-3) crowned champion via disqualification.
“I thought the fight was very close, I thought I was down two rounds,” said the New York native after leaving the octagon.
“That’s not the way I wanted to win. That’s not the way I envisioned this. I was in bad shape and it would’ve just been ego taking over to take further punishment.”
It transpired that a member of Yan’s corner team mistakenly told him to throw the illegal strike that led to his disqualification, and Yan took to social media to apologise to Sterling for the foul and wish the new champion a swift recovery.
Makhachev stakes his claim to mentor Khabib’s throne
Earlier in the night, retired UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was in the corner of longtime friend, training partner and team-mate Islam Makhachev, who earned a third-round submission win over American Drew Dober in his lightweight main card bout.
Nurmagomedov has made no secret of his belief that Makhachev can take over his mantle at the top of the UFC’s 155lb division, but a Covid-hit year that also saw the death of Makhachev’s head coach and Nurmagomedov’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, meant the Russian contender had not fought since September 2019.
Makhachev defeated Dober with relative ease, using his takedowns to take the heavy-handed American off his feet.
After two dominant rounds spent largely on the mat, Makhachev made his grappling advantage pay in round three as he locked up an arm-triangle choke to force the tap. The victory extended his winning streak to seven and improved his record to 19-1 as he staked his claim for a shot at the division’s top names.