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UFC 239 Review, Hall Of Fame & Upcoming Fights

I've slacked off on my MMA fandom as of late, much like I have with my WWE fandom. But unlike WWE, my weakening fandom for MMA- and more specifically, the world leader in the sport of mixed martial arts, the UFC- has nothing to do with disinterest. It's simply finding the time. UFC events generally last the vast majority of a Sunday here in Australia- today's show begin with the Fight Pass prelims at 8am, as I type this it is 3:25 and the PPV ended around half an hour ago.

Luckily, I find myself with more free time on my hands now. School holidays have commenced, and as of last Friday I have submitted my accreditation documents as a teacher, meaning I have additional time on my hands while those documents get processed. Once I get the seal of approval, it's back to work, but that could potentially be a month or more to go through that process. So, in the meantime, it's Netflix. And video games. And pro wrestling. And now, UFC.

I thought this event was a good time to get back into watching and writing about real fighting. Not only did it coincide nicely with my schedule freeing up, it's one of the most important events on the UFC calendar. The early July PPV is a staple of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, usually occurring around the 4th of July, and it is dubbed "International Fight Week", with the UFC Hall Of Fame Ceremony happening in conjunction with a loaded PPV card. In past years, other Fight Nights and TUF Finales have taken place around this weekend, but that was not the case this year. However, the HOF Ceremony and UFC 239 were a solid one-two punch in their own right.

Hall Of Fame

Admittedly, I haven't watched the full ceremony, only seeing some brief highlights on the PPV broadcast. But much like recent classes of WWE's Hall Of Fame, seeing fighters whose careers I watched as they happened makes me feel old as fuck.

Rich Franklin- I think the first time I saw Rich, he was getting dismantled by Anderson Silva. Then, when I got Foxtel and could start watching on a regular basis, he KOed Chuck Liddell and sent him into retirement. He always struck me as a fighter who wasn't extraordinarily gifted in any particular area- he wasn't some insane KO artist or a jujitsu wizard, he just worked really fucking hard at his craft to get good in all areas. He used to be a high school maths teacher, so to go from that to becoming a professional cage fighter is quite the career trajectory. He wasn't a Conor McGregor personality, but he was always a class act who represented the sport well when it needed it in the mid 2000s.

Michael Bisping- My stance on Bisping has changed over the last couple of years. Didn't like him on the Ultimate Fighter, either as a contestant or a coach, and seeing Hendo land possibly the biggest H-Bomb of all time at UFC 200 might be one of my favourite moments in UFC history. While he was definitely a bit of a dick- his antics opposite Jorge Rivera at UFC 127 were despicable- I think a large portion of what he said and did was a persona designed to make people want to pay to see his fights. In fact, he essentially seemed to draw from the pro wrestling handbook, looking back at it. That said, he seems to have mellowed out lately, he's exceptionally good as an analyst/commentator now that he's retired from active competition, and you have to have respect for the man's grind. Like Franklin, not blessed with hands of stone or an ability to run through opponents in devastating fashion, but he always came across like the hardest worker in the room. He fell short time and time again trying to get to that championship level, and for him to finally achieve his goal against Luke Rockhold- the one man who was such an arrogant dick that he made Bisping look like a great bloke by comparison- it was a genuine feel-good moment.

Rashad Evans- Unlike Franklin and Bisping, Rashad WAS an amazing athlete. He used that crazy athleticism, speed and stamina to take himself to a victory in a heavyweight season of TUF... when he was a natural 185er. In the UFC, he dropped to light heavyweight, and still found himself as an undersized competitor at 205lbs. He is one of a few men to KO Chuck Liddell, defeated fellow TUF alum Forrest Griffin to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, and also has victories over Rampage Jackson, Tito Ortiz and Dan Henderson to his credit. A true legend of the sport.

Fight Wing: Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida (TUF 9 Finale)- Wild that the two men receiving this award are both active competitors in the UFC today, a testament to their longevity even with classic wars like this one under their belt. I haven't actually seen this fight in a long time, but I remember it being a crazy battle with both men taking many shots that would have ended many other fighters. This fight played a large part in the legend of Diego Sanchez especially, and also gave Clay Guida the reputation of being a wildly exciting fighter, even when some of his fights over the years didn't really reflect that reputation.

UFC 239


Julia Avila def. Pannie Kianzad via Unanimous Decision

Thoughts: This was Avila's UFC debut, but she showed no sign of the famed Octagon jitters. No finish, but not for a lack of trying, Avila was very well rounded- on the feet, in the clinch, on the ground... Kianzad was just too tough and survived the 3 rounds. Fun fight to kick things off.

Chance Rencountre def. Ismail Naurdiev via Unanimous Decision

Thoughts: The favourite Naurdiev started strong on the feet, especially with some hard kicks and knees to the body, but Rencountre was able to rally and control the fight on the ground throughout the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Smart gameplan and a decent scrap. Rencountre comes through as the underdog but Naurdiev absolutely showed flashes of promise.

Edmen Shahbazyan def. Jack Marshman via R1 Submission (rear naked choke)

Thoughts: Like a hot knife through butter. Marshman is tough, but Shahbazyan had an intelligent strategy, immediately putting Marshman on his back with a takedown, weakening him with brutal ground and pound and quickly finding the opening to give the Vegas crowd its first finish of the night.

Song Yadong def. Alexander Perez via R1 Knockout (punch)

Thoughts: The commentary team talked up the promise, striking ability and power of Yadong, who quickly turned the lights out on Perez to prove the hype right. Picture perfect hook, tremendous KO, not much more to say. Yadong is on his way to a top 10 contender with performances like that!

Claudia Gadelha def. Randa Markos via Unanimous Decision

Thoughts: First real boring fight of the card. A lot of waiting, feinting, quick light exchange and reset. 15 minutes of that was pretty dull, to be honest.

Marlon Vera def. Nohelin Hernandez via R2 Sub (rear naked choke)

Thoughts: Competitive first round, where Vera showed an advantage in ground transitions. Going into the second, Hernandez started to gain the advantage and get top position, landing some ground strikes along the way. Vera creates a scramble and uses the brief opening to land a sick flying knee, quickly going into mount and the choke shortly after. Great fight, where late replacement Hernandez (in for "Suga" Sean O'Malley, who tested positive) created adversity that the veteran Vera had to overcome. Excellent showing by both men.

Arnold Allen def. Gilbert Melendez via Unanimous Decision

Thoughts: Here is where pro wrestling and MMA differ. In pro wrestling, the legend will often overcome the young lion, proving they have "one more run" left in them. Unfortunately for Melendez, this is real life, and the younger, stronger fighter was simply too much for the older, slower veteran to handle. Paul Felder made the good point on commentary that it's a concern when fighters decide to drop weight classes later in their career. It's a desperation move to try and gain the advantage as the bigger man after starting to struggle in their usual weight class as Father Time comes along. What usually happens is that cutting the additional weight is extra strain on a body that is already beat up and succumbing to the effects of aging. Examples include BJ Penn, Kenny Florian, Rashad Evans... it rarely works out. Still, an impressive performance by the 25 year old Allen, and a huge milestone in his career.

Main Card

Michael Chiesa def. Diego Sanchez via Unanimous Decision

Thoughts: Chiesa put on a masterclass in grappling. Sanchez is no slouch in the ground game, but "Maverick" made it look effortless in shutting him down in every single exchange and transition. It was very one-sided, with very little striking, yet it was never boring to watch. I found it quite fascinating watching Chiesa flow seamlessly from position to position, never letting Diego get the upper hand. Credit to Diego, as Chiesa was constantly looking for submission opportunities, but never could secure it despite the dominant nature of his performance.

Jan Blachowicz def. Luke Rockhold via R2 KO (punches)

Thoughts: Rockhold came into fight week quite arrogant. He was moving UP in weight after suffering knockout losses at 185, he jumped to 205. Now, there's two ways moving up in weight can go. Having to cut less weight can result in better performances and more durability, since you're not putting your body through as much hell. We saw that in the previous fight with Chiesa (a newly minted welterweight from lightweight), and Donald Cerrone and Robert Whittaker are two more notable names that have gone heavier to great success. Unfortunately, going up in weight is also a lesson in physics, as the larger men you face are typically going to hit harder. The latter is what Luke Rockhold experienced. He quickly initiated a grappling exchange rather than staying in the striking realm, but even in close Rockhold appeared shook every time Blachowicz connected with a punch or elbow. There was a small amount of controversy regarding a late head kick at the end of R1, but luckily Herb Dean was the referee, ruling that the kick was initiated before the horn sounded. So the fight rolled into R2 and Rockhold came out strong, aware that he may have lost the first. Soon after, though, Jan connected with a crisp combination that crumbled the former middleweight champion. Huge statement for Blachowicz, and you have to wonder what's next for Rockhold after this attempt to reignite his career in a new division failed miserably.

Jorge Masvidal def. Ben Askren via R1 KO (flying knee)

Thoughts: HOLY SHIT! The fastest KO at history at 0:05. And, as Joe Rogan pointed out, the actual knockout occurred about 2 seconds in, it just took the ref those extra 3 seconds to get in and stop it- in which time Masvidal landed about 3 extra punches to the clearly unconscious Askren. Ton of bad blood and shit-talking heading into this one, and it ended in spectacular and violent fashion. Given Dana White's well documented dislike of Ben Askren, this could be the end of the decorated wrestler's UFC run. Old Baldy looked ecstatic at that result.

UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship- Amanda Nunes def. Holly Holm via R1 TKO (head kick)

Thoughts: Nunes is on another level. Competitive first round, but the Lioness carries next level power in women's MMA, and she displayed it in short order using Holm's own famed head kick technique. Another brilliant, brutal finish on this card, and Nunes continues to make a strong case for being the women's GOAT. With this victory, Nunes has defeated every women's bantamweight champion in UFC history. Crazy.

UFC Light Heavyweight Championship- Jon Jones def. Thiago Santos via Split Decision

Thoughts: This was a really interesting fight. Santos came in with a smart gameplan, very different to how most observers assumed it would go. Based on Santos' performances in getting to this title shot, it stood to reason that Santos would look to take Jones' head off in the first couple of rounds, then if he was unsuccessful, his gas tank would fade and the champ would take over for a comfortable win. However, the first two rounds saw a patient, calculated Santos, taking his time and having success picking apart the legs of "Bones". After that early success, something appeared to happen to Santos' left leg, and he was clearly compromised from that point, throwing less kicks and giving Jones more openings. Even though he had some serious mobility issues, Santos was still able to take it to Jones in a very close fight. He won the fight on one judge's scorecard (presumably rounds 1,2 and 5). Jones just scraped by in this one, and I would love to see a rematch once Santos heals from his injuries. At this point, we don't know the exact nature of the injury- Joe Rogan speculated that it could be a torn ACL, and if that is the case, all the credit in the world to Thiago Santos for really gutting it out and taking the fight to the longtime champ. That was the most Jon Jones has been tested since the first Gustaffson fight in my opinion.


So, that's UFC 239 in the books. A highly entertaining event with some huge finishes and fun fights along the way. Well worth the PPV price, and a nice way to find myself back in my MMA fandom. The card will be remembered more for its spectacular finishes than having classic fights. If I'm giving out the post-fight awards, they might look a little like this:

Performance Of The Night: Jorge Masvidal

Performance Of The Night: Amanda Nunes

Fight Of The Night: Jones vs. Santos (honourable mention to Vera vs. Hernandez, very fun prelim scrap)

What's Next?

UFC held a press conference a few days ago highlighting the currently booked main events in the 3rd quarter of 2019. Plenty of tasty stuff on tap.

Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya (UFC 243)

This is the big one for me. Should be taking place in Australia, heavily rumoured to be Sydney's Bankwest Stadium. If they have it in Melbourne again, I swear to fucking God... Give Sydney something! In the last few years, Melbourne has gained precedence over Sydney for all the big WWE/UFC events. As much as I love Melbourne, it is a beautiful city, I can't afford to keep making trips down there! At least if it's in Sydney, it's a $2.50 train ride, being on a disability pension. If I save my pennies up, maybe I could splash out for a cheap motel room up there. Just hope Whittaker makes the fight, he pulled out after making the big trip to Perth last year, and he was also forced out of the Melbourne card earlier this year- which I thankfully didn't buy tickets for due to finances. All the bullshit about travel and injuries aside, if these men both get in the cage in October. it's going to be fucking fireworks! They seem really fired up for it, and the Australian crowd- no matter the city- will provide a rabid atmosphere.

Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar (UFC 240)

This bad boy is happening much sooner, just three weeks away! Super keen for this one. They've scheduled this fight twice before, but it fell through due to injuries on both sides. Fingers crossed that the third time is the charm, and both guys enter the Octagon at 100%. Great match up of styles, the wrestling abiltiy of Edgar against the relentless cardio and pressure of Holloway. Coming off a tremendous attempt at the interim lightweight title against Dustin Poirier, Holloway returns to the division where he is king, the 145 pound featherweight division. Frankie Edgar is a legend still at the top of his game, he only loses to champions, and usually by narrow margins. He is one anomaly that hasn't been negatively affected by age or dropping to a lower weight class.

Also, I have a bit more vested interest in this fight than usual. It seemed like a bit of a strange booking, Holloway vs. Edgar, coming right after local Windang boy Alexander Volkanovski seemed to secure his no. 1 contendership with a dominant win over the legendary Jose Aldo in Rio. However, it now seems like Volko may challenge the winner of this fight for the title, potentially as a co-main event to Whittaker vs. Adesanya in Australia! Hyped!

Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic 2 (UFC 241)

Cormier talked about retiring before he was 40. Then he decided to hold on a little longer for a Brock Lesnar super fight. Then Lesnar decided to retire again (I'd bet my right leg it was USADA-related). Now, Cormier's taking a much less super fight, giving a rematch to the man he knocked out inside Round 1 to claim the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Miocic hasn't fought since that loss. I'm not really a fan of this booking. It's not going to be a bad fight, and it may go completely differently to the last time they fought, but I generally think, unless they've had an Anderson Silva/GSP/Jose Aldo esque reign of terror over the division, former champions should have to win a top contender's fight in order to get a shot. Stipe got KOed clean in Round 1. Some critics point to an eye poke earlier in the round, but I think that's clutching at straws a little. If we discredit DC's win because an eye poke happened in the fight, then we've got to go way back in the record books and start taking away a LOT of people's victories. Like almost every fight Jon Jones has ever had (to his credit, he didn't poke Santos. Yay for personal growth.).

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier (UFC 242)

The first time the UFC goes to Abu Dhabi since THAT event. The one where Anderson clowned Demian Maia and the whole thing was considered a bit of a farce. Well, they're getting a hell of a legit fight as a make-good. By the time Khabib steps in the cage to defend his title, it'll be 10 months since he fought and decimated Conor McGregor. It does not feel like it has been anywhere near that long since that shitstorm went down. All bullshit aside, Khabib is a beast, and Poirier might be the most elite well-rounded fighter that the Russian has fought to date. Since moving from 145 to 155, Dustin has been a new man. Always a highly skilled fighter, he's found that next gear over the past year or so. Guaranteed high level, exciting MMA showcase in that one.


A lot to love in the UFC today and in the weeks and months to follow. All the stuff I just mentioned- oh, and Nate Diaz is fighting Anthony Pettis soon. No big deal. I'll be writing about it here on The Arena, your place to go for the latest of real and fake fighting. I'm going to try and balance things out with more writing on the real fights going forward. If you've read this far, thank you for the support. I love to write, I love pro wrestling and MMA, and if I can share that love with you guys and it brings something positive to you, that's a win for me.

Until next time, take care,


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Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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