Two of the UFC’s most dominant champions Jon ‘Bones’ Jones and Amanda ‘The Lioness’ Nunes successfully defended their titles on a spectacular night at UFC 239 in Las Vegas.
Jones claimed victory in the main event to register the 25th win of his MMA career as he outpointed power-punching Brazilian challenger Thiago Santos after five tense rounds at the T-Mobile Arena.
Former middleweight campaigner Santos, 35, had earned his shot at light heavyweight gold with an impressive hat-trick of stoppage wins after moving up to the 205lb division. And the Brazilian was a constant threat throughout the contest with his powerful punches and kicks.
And when the scorecards were totalled at the end of their 25-minute battle, the judges were split on the result, with the scorecards reading 47-48, 48-47, 48-47 in the defending champion’s favour.
“Boy, was he tough,” Jones, 31, said after the fight.
“We all knew Thiago’s best chance was to knock me out. I played it smart and brought home this gold for my family and team.
“He was technically a lot more sound than I thought. Thiago Santos is a black belt in Muay Thai. I’m proud of myself, because I stood with a guy who’s been kickboxing way longer than me.”
The night also saw the fastest knockout in UFC history as the previously undefeated Ben Askren was floored after five seconds in his welterweight fight with Jorge Masvidal.
In the co-main event title fight, Nunes cemented her legacy as the greatest female fighter in UFC history by defeating former world champion Holly Holm to complete a set of victories over every woman to have ever held UFC championship gold at bantamweight or featherweight.
Holm, 37, previously captured the UFC women’s bantamweight title when she knocked out Ronda Rousey with a stunning head kick at UFC 193 in 2015, and the American had high hopes of defeating Nunes and recapturing the title once again.
But Brazil’s Nunes had other ideas, and turned to Holm’s signature move to secure a spectacular first-round victory. The 31-year-old connected perfectly with a head kick that landed flush, dropping Holm to the mat. A couple of follow-up ground strikes were all that were needed to put the seal on an eye-catching stoppage win.
“People say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but this belt is going home with me,” she said.
“During my warm-up, I knew I was going to get her. I told my coaches I wanted to knock her out the same way she knocks people out … I did it tonight. She was the only former champion I hadn’t beaten yet. Now, I’ve beaten her and I’m very happy.”
Welterweight contender Masvidal spectacularly handed Askren the first loss of his MMA career with a jaw-dropping flying knee that knocked out the former Bellator and ONE world champion right at the start of their eagerly-anticipated main card grudge match.
Masvidal, 34, exploded out of his corner and immediately launched himself through the air, connecting flush with his fellow American, knocking him out cold.
Timed at just five seconds, the finish set a new mark for the fastest knockout in UFC history Masvidal staked his claim for a shot at the UFC welterweight title held by Nigerian Kamaru Usman.
“I really wanted to beat him up for 14 minutes and 30 seconds before ending him, but it didn’t happen,” said Masvidal.
“I have nothing nice to say about him. He was talking wild and I had to show him there are consequences. You’re welcome for ending that dude.
“I’m coming for that belt. You know who deserves that belt. I deserve that next title shot. After this performance, I don’t want to say anything. I’ll let the fans do the talking. They pay guys to fight. if you want to see a fighter, and not someone on social media talking about fighting, that’s me.”