UFC’s grandest stage returned to its rightful place in Las Vegas Saturday night for the first time in several months amid the ongoing worldwide pandemic. The event took place from Apex right off the strip without fans in attendance.
The obvious headliner pitted the dominant Amanda Nunes against Felicia Spencer for the women’s featherweight title. On the men’s side, Aljamain Sterling taking on Cory Sandhagen in the bantamweight division was the headliner.
Sean O’Malley’s knockout of Eddie Wineland early in their match Saturday night set the stage for the rest of the main card. From there, the action was never ending. It included Aljamain Sterling’s stunning submission of Cory Sandhagen and Nunes defending her title in dominating fashion.
The backdrop here was real, too. With the United States currently in the midst of both a pandemic and racial tensions boiling over, some fighters made it their goal to use their platform to make a statement.
Here are our top takeaways from UFC 250 in Las Vegas Saturday night.
Sean O’Malley makes his impact known
The undefeated 25-year-old bantamweight up-and-comer absolutely dominated Eddie Wineland early in their bout Saturday night. He knocked out Wineland at 1:54 in the first round with a brutal right hand. Even with the Apex in Vegas empty, you could feel the shock factor. The sports world reacted in kind.
O’Malley is now 12-0 in his professional career and has made the decision regarding a future title bout in the bantamweight division more difficult following the retirement of Henry Cejudo after his UFC 249 win.
Aljamain Sterling’s stunning win overshadowed by post-fight statement
Sterling absolutely destroyed Cory Sandhagen, submitting his foe within the first couple minutes of Round 1. It was a stunning performance from the New York native, one that sent shock waves through the UFC world. Now a winner of five consecutive fights, Sterling will likely fight for the bantamweight title here soon.
Though, it was his statement after the match that sent even more shock waves throughout the MMA community. Sterling called out systemic racism in the United States following the murder of George Floyd, backing protesters in the process. This is no small thing given UFC head Dana White’s support of the man currently occupying the White House. It came mere hours after another UFC fighter took a knee during introductions as a protest. It sure looks like White and Co. won’t be able to shield themselves from the ongoing issues in the country.
Back in Vegas, baby
Saturday represented an important moment in the UFC and the broader sports world. UFC’s biggest event taking place in the desert metropolis. Even without fans in attendance, it was great to see mixed martial arts return to Las Vegas at this level.
This could potentially be a precursor to future events in Las Vegas with fans in attendance. The city just opened up some of its casinos amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It was also great to see live sports resume as the United States continues to deal with protests and division following the murder of George Floyd late last month. For at least one night, we were able to focus on something else.
Bantamweight takes center stage
I focused on Aljamain Sterling’s brutal submission of Cory Sandhagen earlier. This sets the stage for what promises to be an interesting next few weeks in the bantamweight division. Earlier in the night, Sean O’Malley knocked out Eddie Wineland. He’s made his presence known in a big way, too.
Meanwhile, Petr Yan and Jose Aldo wait in the wings for an attempt to earn the bout following the retirement of Henry Cejudo last month. Dana White and the UFC would be smart to pit these four against one another in what would be akin to semifinal bouts before a potential title match between the winners.
Cody Garbrandt makes his impact known, too
As you can tell, it was all about the bantamweight division Saturday night in Las Vegas. While it’s highly unlikely that Garbrandt will soon go for the title (No. 9-ranked fighter in the division), he needed an impressive win over the fifth-ranked Raphael Assuncao.
That’s exactly what we saw.
What a dominating performance from Garbrandt at a time when he needed it the most. This now moves to “No Love” now moves to 12-3 in his career and will be heard from once the dust settles moving forward. That’s for sure.
Amanda Nunes is just ridiculous
I felt sorry for Felicia Spencer throughout Saturday’s fight. It seemed like Nunes was just toying with her, laying the hammer down in a big way. Spencer couldn’t land a punch to save her life. There’s a reason why Nunes was among the biggest favorites in modern UFC history heading into Saturday night.
In the end, Nunes won easily via unanimous decision. She’s now won 11 consecutive fights dating back over a half-decade. That includes wins over Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm. At this point, it’s hard to imagine anyone having a chance moving forward against the top-ranked pound-for-pound Nunes.