A Fight Card that lived up to the hype
It was a Card that they said was the best UFC Card in history, and as a bit of an outsider fan I thought maybe that was overhyping it a little bit. Then I really started looking at the lineup of fights and thought hell how could they ever have had this many great matchups in one night? and yet even then I was forced to question could a Card that seemingly everyone had even forgotten was happening really be one of the All Time Great Fight Nights?
To start, Bruce Buffer's pipes will never let you down, and then the prelims certainly started off exciting with Sam Alvey's incredible display of toughness in finishing of the third round of his loss to Ryan Spann, followed by a grappling showcase in Bryce Mitchell's win over Charles Rosa which was followed up by an absolutely brutal fight between Vicente Luque and Niko Price, one that even boxing purists would appreciate. The two of them spent the duration of the fight face to face trading flurries of fists and feet until it was stopped late in the third round by a doctor's stoppage in favor of Luque, Price's eye had completely swollen shut and it was clear he could no longer see out of it. At one point during the fight the announcers proclaimed that it was like a fight from the movies and god damn it they were right.
That was followed up by a close win by Carla Esparza over Michelle Waterson and then a heavyweight showdown between Fabricio Werdum and Aleksei Oleinik, a first round that had the announcers saying the 42-year old looked overwhelmed but a re-energized Fabricio showed out in the second round and while he improved during the fight and seemingly controlled the third round with his wrestling experience it wasn't enough to win in the eyes of the judges as he fell in a split decision and Cowboy Cerrone's slide continued as he fell to Anthony Pettis in a unanimous decision.
With the prelims delivering on promises, the question still remained for the late half of the evening, or for me early sunday morning as I write this, if the main card of this night would live up to its billing as being one of the All Time classics. I sit here sipping on my morning coffee as the pay per view event starts with a display of brutal power strikes between former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy and Fall River bad boy Yorgan De Castro and thinking...well this is a pretty good fucking start. De Castro seemed to handle the first round but a lack of activity in the later half of the fight, seemingly due to an apparent foot injury off a missed leg kick caused him to fall in a unanimous decision. Next up we had my new favorite fighter for his nickname "The Boston Finisher", Calvin Kattar from Methuen, Mass demolish Jeremy Stephens with a perfectly placed elbow to the jaw with 2:12 left in the second round. Which was immediately followed up by Francis Ngannou putting Jairzinho Rozenstruik to sleep just fourteen seconds into the fight. Yes you read that correctly. Fourteen Seconds. Out fucking cold. One left hook was all it took. So Far, So Good.
Henry Cejudo retained his Title with maybe a questionable stoppage in the second round over Dominick Cruz and then made his retirement announcement to Joe Rogan right in the middle of The Octagon before Cruz expressed his dismay with the stoppage. Alas, we entered the main event of the card as Justin Gaethje faced off with Tony Ferguson with The Octagon already stained in blood, as if to remind us of all the fireworks already thus far. The first round was an impressive display of the skill of both fighters and how evenly matched the two are, and while the first round was intense on it's own the intensity certainly ramped up in the second. Without the crowd we can literally hear every punch land and see both men look as if they're barely phased by it. By the end of the second it was clear that Gaethje was getting winded as he threw everything he had into his shots and Ferguson just marched through, seemingly not even tired. In the third round, the raw power of Gaethje's punches finally seemed to wear on Ferguson as his eye swelled up and he began to bleed, but watching it as I type this I have no fucking clue how Ferguson is still standing heading into the fourth.
By the start of the fifth round Ferguson was down on the score card and he knew it. Justin Gaethje had carefully and meticulously dismantled his opponent with constant leg kicks and devastating flurries of left and right hooks before Herb Dean stopped the fight with Ferguson still on his feet and about a minute left in the fight. A jab straight to Ferguson's jaw had him clearly dazed and off balance enough that the fight had to be stopped, considering the beating Gaethje had already delivered. All that being said, one of my biggest takeaways from the entire night is that Tony Ferguson is a fucking machine. As an outside fan looking in, maybe it's because there hasn't been any live sports lately, but UFC 249 certainly delivered on it's promise of one of the most entertaining Fight Night's we've seen in a while, UFC or Boxing. The lack of a crowd didn't take away from the entertainment factor at all, in fact being able to hear the coaches talking to the fighters during the fight was awesome. It may not have been Fight Island, but it definitely appealed to America's desire to watch grown men beat each other to a pulp in a cage.