FightWatch: UFC 244
We are at a landmark event for the UFC, this being their 500th show! A lot has happened in the Ultimate Fighting Championship since its inception in 1993, from Royce Gracie showing the powers of Brazilian Jujitsu, to a young Vitor Belfort blitzing his competition in seconds, to the occasionally-WWE esque feud between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock (that's when I started watching)... all the way through to TUF, Griffin vs. Bonnar, the legendary run of Anderson Silva, the emergence of new breed MMA superstars like Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor... and among the more recent milestones for the UFC, being legalised in New York and running shows in Madison Square Garden. Which brings us to UFC 244.
UFC 244 was the 4th event to be held in Madison Square Garden in New York City. UFC made it a yearly tradition to hold big PPV events in the month of November in MSG. The inaugural show, UFC 205, saw Conor McGregor become the first simultaneous two-division champion by battering Eddie Alvarez to become the UFC Lightweight Champion. The second show saw the return of MMA legend Georges St Pierre, as he successfully challenged Michael Bisping for the UFC Middleweight Championship. And last year, at UFC 230, Daniel Cormier defended the UFC Heavyweight Championship against Derrick Lewis.
This year, UFC didn't have any major championships available to headline at the Garden. They had loaded up the year-end card with 3 title fights, but individually they lacked the drawing power to headline in New York City. So with a lack of championships available, what did the UFC do? Well, they just made up a whole new championship, specifically for this event!
Yep, the BMF title. To determine who the "baddest motherfucker" in the UFC is. So which fighters would fit that bill? (Ooh, that could be a nice blog post in itself!). It would be Nate Diaz, a man who UFC president Dana White once infamously said wasn't a "needle-mover", meaning he couldn't draw ratings or PPV buys. But after he defeated Conor McGregor, and brought big business in the close rematch a few months later, Nate Diaz was unquestionably a MMA superstar. His opponent was a man who exploded into MMA superstardom himself in 2019. A fight veteran who emerged with a new look and attitude, dubbed as "Street Jesus", he scored spectacular finishes of Darren Till and Ben Askren, the latter being the fastest KO in UFC history. Jorge Masvidal was poised for a major fight, and he'd get it opposite Diaz at the Garden.
And just in case this whole BMF title and the personalities of the two fighters wasn't "pro wrestling" enough for you, they brought in The Rock, huge Hollywood actor and WWE Superstar, to present the BMF title to the winner. Madness. Beautiful, beautiful madness.
The stage was set. Two of the most raw and unabashed fighters in the game, who had been doing it since the early days when money and glory in the sport was scarce. Their records weren't perfect, they'd had plenty of ups and downs in their career. But their attitude and fighting spirit was certainly that of a warrior, or a "bad motherfucker", as the case may be. Both had an aggressive, crowd-pleasing fight style, which was the recipe for fireworks in NYC. Let's do this!
Fight Pass Prelims
(145) Hakeem Dawodu def. Julio Arce via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28 X2)
Worth A Watch? Dawodu was disappointed in his performance, but honestly it was a lively scrap to open proceedings on the show. If you have a good amount of time on your hands, give it a watch.
(170) Lyman Good def. Chance Rencountre via R3 TKO (punches) at 2:03
Worth A Watch? Absolutely. This is what they call a "coming out party" for Lyman Good. He was sharp as a knife from the opening minute to the last, it was only Rencountre's toughness keeping him in there for so long.
(125) Katlyn Chookagian def. Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision
Worth A Watch? My attention drifted in this, very pedestrian fight. These ladies were ranked #1 and #3 in the women's flyweight division, and performances like this show why they're buried on the undercard. Watch if you have trouble sleeping at night.
(265) Jairzinho Rozenstruik def. Andrei Arlovski via R1 KO (punch) at 0:29
Worth A Watch? It's a first round KO, of course it's worth a watch! Rozenstruik was throwing heat immediately and caught the veteran Arlovski with a perfectly timed bomb.
(185) Edmen Shahbazyan def. Brad Tavares via R1 KO (head kick) at 2:27
Worth A Watch? Young Edmen turned the lights out on poor Tavares! Terrible for him, but great for us fight fans. Given that Tavares has gone 5 rounds with the current UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya, that's a hell of a statement for Shahbazyan to put him away so quickly and spectacularly. The future looks bright!
(145) Shane Burgos def. Makwan Amirkhani via R3 TKO (punches) at 4:32
Worth A Watch? A great lesson in "it ain't over til it's over". Burgos overcame losing a tough first round to Amirkhani, and gained so much momentum that he was letting Amirkhani return to his feet repeatedly to take more punishment before the eventual finish. Great showing from Burgos.
(205) Corey Anderson def. Johnny Walker via R1 TKO (punches) at 2:07
Worth A Watch? This was as wild a 2 minute fight as you're ever likely to see. Anderson, who typically fights with a wrestling heavy style, decided to trade bombs with the young Brazilian finisher, and came out the better of it! Tons of fun, and if this doesn't end the Johnny Walker hype train, it at least stalls it for now. Anderson was extremely fired up post-fight- I believe he was angry about being overlooked, most people including myself picked Walker to run through him en route to a big fight with Jon Jones. Corey showed some rarely seen aggression and here we are. He may have taken it too far though- he got fined 10K for shoving the referee in the heat of the moment.
(155) Kevin Lee def. Gregor Gillespie via R1 KO (head kick) at 2:47
Worth A Watch? BRUH. Just when I thought Edmen had KOTN sown up, Lee comes along and tops it. Gregor was out before he hit the ground. Falling into the cage wall made a really cool visual, but it also probably saved him from being more damaged. Incredible way to open the PPV portion of the card.
(265) Derrick Lewis def. Blagoy Ivanoc via SD (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Worth A Watch? Most split decision fights I find can be quite tedious, but this wasn't one of them. It was a case of what do you value more, the power shots Lewis was landing or the tenacity of Ivanov, who kept coming forward no matter what he was hit with. And this is worth watching to see an improved Derrick Lewis, with improved cardio and fight IQ, he now seems like much more of a threat, whereas before the deeper a fight got, he only had a puncher's chance- which would still sometimes work in his favour.
(170) Stephen Thompson def. Vicente Luque via UD (30-26 X2, 29-27)
Worth A Watch? Just when it seemed like the eternally baby-faced Wonderboy was starting to show his age a little, he turns back the clock here to deliver a vintage performance. Although Luque had the edge in power and landed some nice shots here and there, the karate technique of Thompson was flawless over 3 rounds, and he somehow seemed to get sharper and stronger as time went on. A super fun 3 rounds!
(185) Darren Till def. Kelvin Gastelum via SD (27-30, 29-28, 30-27)
Worth A Watch? No. Just no. This was one fight on the whole card that truly shit the bed. Till was very tentative, but he did more than Kelvin, who basically did... nothing for 15 minutes. I'm glad Till was successful in moving up in weight, but this was a super dull fight.
They give The Rock a full entrance with his WWE music in Madison Square Garden. He's carrying the BMF belt in the same way he did his old WWE championship. He does the iconic raise of the belt and the crowd goes nuts. I love seeing my worlds of pro wrestling and MMA collide like this, it's kinda stupid but it still makes my heart happy.
(170) Jorge Masvidal def. Nate Diaz via. R3 TKO (doctor stoppage) at 5:00
Worth A Watch? Okay, for as long as it lasted, this was a crazy, if surprisingly one-sided, fight. Masvidal cracked Diaz early, and as is customary for the Diaz bros with their years of scar tissue, Nate was bloodied up from the first exchange. R2 was mostly Masvidal, and then Diaz began having his moments in R3. And then... the NYC doctor ruled that Nate's cut was too bad in between rounds, even though Nate was fighting and seeing perfectly fine. This doctor clearly had no knowledge of Nate Diaz, his history with cuts and fighting on, and possibly MMA itself. The fans were pissed, I was pissed. It was a bad cut, but nowhere near the worst we've seen in the Octagon. Seems like every time we go to NYC, the commission fucks up somehow.
Post-fight, chants of "bullshit" rain down from the faithful in the Garden. The Rock is standing in the cage with the BMF belt looking a bit uncomfortable... I mean, the fight for the "baddest motherfucker" getting stopped due to a cut is pretty ironic. Masvidal gets on the mic and says he'll run it back with Nate as soon as he's ready. Classy gesture. He was dominating the fight, but Nate started tagging him in R3 and he was slowing down a little... if nothing else, both they and we deserve a definitive conclusion to the fight.
Controversy in the main event aside, this was a hell of a show. The ESPN prelims might go down as the greatest prelims in UFC history, and out of 12 fights, only 2 really didn't deliver- Chookagian vs. Maia and Gastelum vs. Till. Was encouraging to see UFC run the Garden without their "biggest names" and still have a really great PPV. The BMF gimmick helped, and whether it made a difference to most MMA fans or not, I enjoyed seeing The Rock there. Also, US President Donald Trump was in attendance, but fuck him.
Yesterday, I watched AEW Full Gear, so there's a WrestleWatch review coming, but expect more articles in all things wrestling and MMA coming soon, more opinion pieces to break up the reviews. Any feedback is welcome at email@example.com, or the comment sections of anywhere that this is posted!
Until next time, take care,