ANAHEIM, California — Nate Diaz came back after a three-year hiatus and was in top form, pummeling Anthony Pettis and winning a unanimous decision in the co-main event of UFC 241 at the Honda Center.
Judges had it 30-27 twice and 29-28 for Diaz, who last fought at UFC 202 on Aug. 20, 2016.
It was vintage Diaz. He fought at a high pace, using the 1-2 to great effect and hitting Pettis with several hard elbows. He also controlled Pettis in the moments the fight went to the ground and never let Pettis mount a significant attack.
Pettis did cut Diaz over the right eye with an elbow late in the second round, but Diaz never let it bother him.
“That’s the Nate Diaz Army m----- f------!” Diaz shouted after it ended.
It would have been a significant win in any event, but considering the long layoff and the fact that Pettis had fought seven times in his absence only added to the legend.
He walked through most of Pettis’ punches and had several submission attempts. Diaz had Pettis’ back in the second, then hurt him with a knee to the body in the third and nearly finished him.
Pettis gutted it out but it was clear when the final bell sounded that Diaz was back. After calling out Masvidal, he walked over to the side of the cage where former interim champion Colby Covington was seated and began to shout at him.
The crowd chanted his name all night and Diaz reveled in what may have been the most significant win of his career.
Yahoo SportsAugust 17, 2019
12:13 AM CT
Brett OkamotoESPN Staff Writer
UFC welterweight Leon Edwards has had a tough time getting the top fighters in his division to fight him. They might not have a choice in the matter after this weekend.
Edwards (18-3) extended his win streak to eight Saturday night, as he defeated former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos (29-12) by unanimous decision. The 170-pound bout headlined UFC Fight Night at San Antonio's AT&T Center.
It was an impressive showing by the English welterweight, who has not lost a fight since December 2015 -- to current UFC champion Kamaru Usman. All three judges scored it a blowout victory for Edwards, awarding official scores of 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46.
Immediately after the win, Edwards called for a fight against ranked contender Jorge Masvidal, with whom he got into a brief, backstage altercation at a UFC event in March in London.
"I'm on an eight-fight win streak, in one of the hardest divisions in the sport," Edwards said. "There's a little weasel called Jorge Masvidal. Accept the fight. Let's do it. You're not on my level. Let's make the fight happen."
Masvidal later responded to Edwards' call-out in a series of tweets:
So I can be clear I was promised a title shot after I beat askren and I plan on cashing in on it. Don’t call me out no more until I get that belt #supernecessary
Edwards, who was born in Jamaica and fights out of Birmingham, England, has certainly done enough to start making demands. His win streak is the second-longest active run in the division, trailing only Usman's 10 in a row. His eight wins since the start of 2016 is tied for the most in that time frame with Usman and Vicente Luque.
He proved better than dos Anjos in every area of the fight Saturday night. He outstruck the former champion 106 to 88 overall, according to ESPN's FightCenter data, and stuffed all five of his takedown attempts. He opened a deep cut over dos Anjos' left eye with an elbow in the second round, which threatened to stop the fight.
Leon Edwards summarizes his execution vs. Rafael dos Anjos as perfect, while calling out Jorge Masvidal for a future fight.
Dos Anjos tried everything he could to turn the tide, but there was simply no doing so. He had some success early on with leg kicks, but Edwards' range and ability to mix things up dictated the standup. Dos Anjos tried hard in the third round to take the fight to the ground, but Edwards used his size and defensive grappling to calmly remain on his feet.
Masvidal hit Edwards at UFC Fight Night in March, after Edwards said something to him as Masvidal was being interviewed backstage. Masvidal's management has said he does not want to fight anyone other than Usman or Conor McGregor at the moment.
Dos Anjos has now lost three of his past four bouts. His only win during that time came in May, when he defeated Kevin Lee fourth-round submission.
9:30 AM CT
LAS VEGAS -- It was hardly a vintage Jon Jonesperformance. In fact, it was probably one of the most lackluster efforts in his long reign as UFC light heavyweight champion.
In the end, though, it was enough for Jones to win a split decision against a very tough Thiago Santos and retain his title in the main event of UFC 239 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Two judges scored it 48-47 for Jones, and a third judge had it 48-47 for Santos.
This was the first time in Jones' career in which he had gone to a decision and was the loser on a judge's scorecard. The only time Jones lost was in 2009, when he was disqualified in a fight against Matt Hamill because of the use of illegal elbows.
Jones acknowledged afterward that Santos made him look "bad" and that Santos' strategy of focusing on leg kicks to Jones' calf was very effective.
"He did a really good job," Jones said. "He exploited a hole in my game, and that's something that won't be there next time."
Despite the nature of the victory, Jones set a UFC record for the longest unbeaten streak at 17 (16-0 with one no contest). Jones tied Georges St-Pierre for the most UFC title wins at 13.
Santos said he injured his left knee in the first round, and he seemed to favor it throughout. However, Jones never realty took advantage of it and pushed the action, probably out of hesitation because of Santos' prodigious punching power.
"I am so sorry," Jones said afterward in the cage. "I know you guys are booing me. We all know that his best chance was to win by knockout. I played it smart."
Judge Mike Bell had Jones winning the second, third and fourth rounds. Derek Cleary had Jones winning the second, third and fourth. Junichiro Kamijo, the judge who awarded the fight to Santos, had Santos winning the first, second and fourth.
It was a close fight throughout. Santos had moments in the first two rounds, particularly with his kicks. In the second, Santos landed a head kick that Jones seemed to take without much damage.
Santos landed a hard combo on Jones in the third but also fell to the canvas coming in for a striking exchange. It was unclear whether Jones did any real damage in that moment or if Santos just slipped. Jones landed a nice head kick and just grazed Santos with a flying knee in the third as well.
In the fourth, Santos landed a big left hand on Jones. Jones took over toward the end of the round as Santos' leg injury became more noticeable. Santos was clearly injured in the fifth but did the most damage with his kicks and punches.
Jones never really went for a takedown and did not utilize his superior wrestling.
Jon Jones says there are a lot of fights he is interested in, but he does expect to have a rematch with Thiago Santos. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
"I felt like I was winning, so there was no need to take him down," Jones said. "We were playing a very high-level game of chess in there. Any time you out-kickbox a black belt in Muay Thai, you shouldn't hold your head down."
Jones (25-1, 1 NC) has won three straight bouts since returning from a 15-month suspension for a failed drug test. The resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, regained the UFC light heavyweight title that was stripped from him by beating Alexander Gustafsson via third-round TKO at UFC 232 in December.
Jones, 31, has been in seven five-round decision victories. He landed at least 92 significant strikes in the first six of those fights, but on Saturday he landed only 59 of 90 (65 percent); Santos landed 43 of 166 (25 percent).
Santos (21-7) had won four straight coming in, including his past three since moving up to light heavyweight, all by finish. The Brazilian slugger had won eight of nine fights overall before this defeat. Santos, 35, lost only his second career fight by decision.
2:15 AM CT
Ngannou crushed dos Santos with a combination of looping, crushing punches early on -- a right hook followed by a left and another right for good measure. Dos Santos crumpled to the mat, and referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop it at 1:11 of the first round and rule it a TKO finish for Ngannou in the main event of UFC Minneapolis on Saturday at Target Center.
Ngannou called for a heavyweight title shot next, saying he should face the winner of August's Daniel Cormier versus Stipe Miocicchampionship bout. Ngannou has won three straight, all by first-round knockout.
"I hope the UFC realizes I deserve the title shot right now," Ngannou said.
Ngannou (14-3) has the most UFC finishes in the heavyweight division since 2015, with nine. The Cameroon native, by way of France, has seven wins within two minutes, fourth-most in UFC history. Ngannou, 32, has won 10 of his 14 career victories by KO/TKO. For his part, dos Santos had never been finished within the first two minutes of a fight.
This is the third straight fight that Ngannou has won within 1:11. Ngannou fought once for the title before, a unanimous decision loss to Miocic at UFC 220 in January 2018.
Dos Santos (21-6) had won three straight coming in, the previous two by TKO. The Brazilian slugger has fought in five UFC title fights and could have been in a sixth had he beaten Ngannou. Dos Santos, 35, has been one of the best heavyweights of his era. He held the title in 2011 and 2012.
Cormier will defend his UFC heavyweight title against Miocic, the former champion, in the main event of UFC 241 on Aug. 17 in Anaheim, California.
11:46 AM CT
Tony Ferguson was not pleased in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's TKO of a fighter whom I believe was Donald Cerrone. It's hard to tell for sure if it was "Cowboy" in there with him at the end, as the bloody, bloated face was barely recognizable. Yet Ferguson was in no mood to admire his grotesque handiwork.
Ferguson even seemed angry that the bout was halted after the second round when the cageside doctor diagnosed the obvious: Cerrone's closed right eye could not see a thing -- certainly not the relentless punches, elbows and kicks that Ferguson would have been throwing his way if they went into Round 3.
So it was over. Suddenly. A fight that fans had so much been looking forward to -- for many of them even more than the two championship bouts to follow on the UFC 238 bill in Chicago -- came to an end with a twinge of anticlimax hanging in the air. That's how it is sometimes when a bout is waved off between rounds, with the fighters sitting on their stools for a spell rather than being in the midst of launching violence at each other. And Ferguson was feeling the discontent.
"Yeah, I had my head down. I heard the boos," Ferguson said at the postfight news conference. "I think more than anything else, the fans wanted another round. And honestly, I would have gave them another round, too."
There's always next time. Whenever Ferguson is inside the Octagon next, he should have an opportunity to impress himself more and do so on a more spotlit stage. He just has to wait for his opponent to be determined.
That clarity should come on Sept. 7, when Khabib Nurmagomedov puts his lightweight championship on the line in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, against Dustin Poirier. Ferguson has to get next after what he did Saturday, right?
"I got 12 fights in a row, man," Ferguson said, referring to the longest active winning streak in the UFC. "I should be calling the f---ing shots. I don't know what else I have to do in this division to keep after it, man."
ESPN Stats and Information
Ferguson has done plenty. Speaking just to Saturday's win, it's no small accomplishment to break Cowboy, who had won three fights in a row and is not the man you want to run into while your career is teetering in uncertainty. And while it's true that Cerrone's spirit remained intact and contained plenty more fight when the bout ended, his body was in no condition to continue after what Ferguson wrought upon it in a relentless second round.
Those brutal five minutes did end with some measure of controversy, though, as Ferguson landed a straight right hand on the nose a full second after the horn had sounded. Referee Dan Miragliotta issued what he called a "hard warning" but did not take a point.
Did it even matter? The punch did come right before the swelling around Cerrone's right eye got out of control, and a fighter trying to clear an airway by blowing his damaged nose can cause such swelling. But short of a disqualification, which would have been an overreaction by the ref, this fight was going into the record book as a TKO no matter what.
The bizarre finish seemed to play a role in Ferguson's sour mood right afterward in the Octagon, but by the time he made it to the UFC 238 postfight news conference a couple of hours later, his frame of mind had lightened considerably. When asked about his immediate future, Ferguson referred to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov as "Tiramisu" and Conor McGregor as "McNuggets." He was jovial, which lay in contrast to his surliness right after the fight and even during the build earlier in the week.
At one point at the news conference, Ferguson opened his suit jacket to reveal a lining with the words "Champ S--- Only" sewed in. "My tailor's pretty cool," he said.
That the narrative now surrounding Ferguson has to do with weighing his various big opportunities -- title bout? money fight? -- is a dramatic turn of events. He had not competed in eight months prior to Saturday. In March, his wife filed for a restraining order, which has since been withdrawn.
"A lot of people were counting me out," Ferguson said. "They weren't counting on me to come back strong, come back anytime soon actually. I made it a point in my head, I told myself: You're gonna walk in there with your head held high, and you're gonna walk out the same way as you walked in."
That's not entirely true. Ferguson walked into the Octagon on Saturday as a bit of a mystery, and he walked out as the clear No. 1 contender-in-waiting at lightweight.
"If Dustin Poirier don't do it," he said, "I'm going to do it, man. Tiramisu needs an ass whooping."
Ferguson's time is upon him. Almost. He acknowledged that while a lucrative date with McGregor could lie ahead down the road, for now he has his eye on the championship that has eluded him. He sounded prepared to wait in the short-term in order to benefit his long-term legacy.
"I don't feel like Superman, but I feel like I'm just getting better, man," he said. "Not even like wine, because that stuff gets stale, too. I just want to keep getting better, and I want to see how far I can take this mixed martial arts thing, man. And really, really hold onto that title for a long, long time.
11:48 AM CT
Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim
It's hard to measure what success looks like against Jon Jones. The man has been fighting professionally since 2008, and no one has legitimately beaten him.
Gustafsson (18-5) took Jones to the brink of defeat in a 2013 title fight, but in their highly anticipated rematch at UFC 232, he managed to land only 22 strikes. And Smith (31-14), who is known as one of the scrappiest, most unbreakable athletes in the UFC, inexplicably froze against Jones. He survived five rounds but never truly went for broke. He has admitted as much since.
Such is the buildup to Saturday's UFC Fight Night in Stockholm. Gustafsson and Smith will square off in the main event, each fresh off a lackluster showing against the dominant champion.
Neither is likely to earn a title shot in the near future, which raises the obvious question: What are they really fighting for?
Listen to their responses, and you'll know. This fight is not about sorting out rankings or title opportunities. In a way, Saturday's bout is taking place for no one other than the two men involved.
Gustafsson needs to establish who he is, now that he's no longer the man who "might be Jon Jones' kryptonite." And Smith needs to make amends in his own head, for his frustrating performance in a bout he'd waited years to reach. When you look at it that way, there's actually quite a bit at stake.
ESPN Stats & Information
Minus-89: Significant strike differential for Smith in his last fight, against Jones, according to UFC Stats. It was a career worst -- as was the minus-37 differential for Gustafsson in his most recent fight, also against Jones.
Fighters who have lost to Jon Jones in the UFC are a collective 9-7 in their next bout, with one (Brandon Vera) following with a no contest. Of the seven who lost, three dropped their fight after that as well.
|WON NEXT FIGHT||LOST NEXT FIGHT|
|Jake O'Brien||Andre Gusmao|
|Vladimir Matyushenko||Stephan Bonnar*|
|Mauricio Rua||Ryan Bader|
|Lyoto Machida||Quinton Jackson*|
|Vitor Belfort||Rashad Evans|
|Chael Sonnen||Glover Teixeira|
|Alexander Gustafsson||Ovince Saint Preux*|
|Daniel Cormier (twice)|
|* = Lost two in a row|
3: Finishes for Smith in his four fights since moving up to light heavyweight last year. That ties him with Thiago Santos and Johnny Walkerfor most UFC light heavyweight finishes since the start of 2018.
84.8: Percentage of takedowns successfully fended off by Gustafsson in his UFC career, the fifth-best number all time among 205-pounders.
6: Consecutive victories for Smith in which he finished his opponent.
Source: ESPN Stats & Information
No one else has made Jon Jones look like a beaten man, as Alexander Gustafsson did in 2013. Jones won the decision that night, and Gustafsson won fans. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
|Jon Jones||Loss (TKO3)||Dec. 29, 2018|
|Glover Teixeira||Win (KO5)||May 28, 2017|
|Jan Blachowicz||Win (UD)||Sept. 3, 2016|
|Daniel Cormier||Loss (SD)||Oct. 3, 2015|
|Anthony Johnson||Loss (TKO1)||Jan. 24, 2015|
|Jon Jones||Loss (UD)||March 2, 2019|
|Volkan Oezdemir||Win (SUB3)||Oct. 27, 2018|
|Mauricio Rua||Win (KO1)||July 22, 2018|
|Rashad Evans||Win (KO1)||June 9, 2018|
|Thiago Santos||Loss (TKO2)||Feb. 3, 2018|
"It's not really about Gus, you know? It's not even really about winning or losing. It's not about getting back to the title. I'm not sitting here saying I don't want to win; that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying I haven't even considered the fight in a win-versus-loss situation, 'cause honestly I don't give a s--- what happens. I just want to perform. I want to go in there, I need to destroy something to get this feeling out of my stomach, this burning, sick feeling that I can't shake. The only way I'm going to do that is I gotta let it out on somebody. I wasn't able to let that out on Jon, and I didn't. So I still have it." --Smith, talking to ESPN about how the lingering disappointment of his loss to Jones shapes his mindset for the Gustafsson fight
Dominick Cruz details how both Alexander Gustafsson's light footwork and power in the takedown will play crucial roles in his bout vs. Anthony Smith.
The keys to victory for Smith (according to Cruz and Melendez):
Gilbert Melendez says that it'll be key for Anthony Smith to push Alexander Gustafsson up against the cage and win points there, knowing that Gustafsson will be light on his feet.
On paper, this is Gustafsson's fight to lose. He's the more technical striker and probably the better athlete. Smith has finishing prowess, which makes him a dangerous underdog, but Gustafsson's chin is still above average and his defensive wrestling is underrated. It's also a very quick turnaround for Smith. Brett Okamoto's pick: Gustafsson gets it done, third-round TKO.
Top-heavy with light heavies
The light heavyweight fisticuffs get going before the main eventers hit the Octagon, as the fight leading up to Gustafsson vs. Smith is also a 205-pound bout. One of the two fighters in the co-main event has something to overcome, while the other would love for the status quo to keep rolling forward.
There was to be a third 205-pound fight at the top of the card, but Volkan Oezdemir vs. Ilir Latifi was canceled on Thursday after Latifi, who fights out of Stockholm, was pulled because of a back injury.
Fighter, cop, actor ... and matchmaker
Nick Hein, on the set of "Diese Kaminskis," prepares to film a fight scene. Dennis Grombkowski/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
He is a former police officer in Cologne -- thus the nickname "Sergeant" -- who wrote a book about police work.
He also has worked as an actor, co-starring in the TV show "Diese Kaminskis" about a trio of hapless brothers who run a funeral parlor.
He is a former two-time national champion judoka who, while competing in Japan, met a local woman who would become his wife.
Greg Rosenstein and Jeff Wagenheim
The latest episode of Ariel Helwani's MMA Show featured a current champion calling out another champion, a Bellator titleholder disputing retirement rumors and a top nutritionist wanting to fight his top rival in the cage.
Here's what you might have missed:
UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is interested in facing light heavyweight champion Jon Jones one more time before calling it quits on his MMA career. The 40-year-old is winless in two previous matchups against Jones, who represents the only loss of his 24-fight career.
Cormier told ESPN's Ariel Helwani it will be at light heavyweight because "I have to get it right on the same terms."
"I don't need the deck stacked in my favor," Cormier (22-1-1) said of fighting at 205 pounds. "My whole life I've overcome odds. I've faced uphill battle after uphill battle my entire life and I've always been able to get through it. This is one of the only things I've not been able to conquer. I need to go do it. I have to get it right."
Cormier and Jones (24-1-1) fought two times prior. Jones defeated Cormier at UFC 182 in 2015 by unanimous decision. He later won again at UFC 214 in 2017 via a third-round head kick knockout, but it was later overturned to a "no contest" after Jones tested positive for the banned steroid turinabol.
Cormier will defend his belt against former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 241 on Aug. 17. If he wins, he has only one option before retirement: Jones.
"It's all I want," Cormier said. "When I fight Jones, I feel most complete when I'm preparing for competition against that guy. It makes me train harder. It makes me train smarter. I do everything right in preparation, and I believe that if I do stick around that would be the fight that I do it for. It would be at 205 pounds because I need to go and get that back from him."
"This career is going to end at some point. But I don't see it ending after this tournament."Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald
"I did tell you one time I'm gonna fight Georges St-Pierre in the spring in Montreal. I did say 2019. I think it's gonna be 2020."
You still believe it?
"It was my psychic intuition. I was feeling spring. I was feeling the Bell Centre. I was feeling Montreal. I think I was one year off."
What makes you think that this is gonna be a thing?
"Something about it just feels right. I mean, if I beat up Jorge [Masvidal on July 6] and then win the UFC title, there's a debate for who the best welterweight of all time is. And me and Georges can settle it, in Montreal, spring of 2020."
What's the bigger dream scenario for you, the Georges fight or the Khabib fight?
"Khabib would be awesome, too, but I think probably Georges. When I started my MMA career, he was on the top of the welterweight division. And that's who I'm looking at, saying, 'OK, if I'm gonna be the best, that's the guy.' So year after year, I'm looking at him."
Ben Askren won his UFC debut by submitting Robbie Lawler in the first round at UFC 235. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
"When I used to go to Asia all the time, and we didn't want to explain that I beat up human beings for a living -- because that's kind of weird for a kid, I think -- we would always tell her I went and fought tigers. So every night before they went to bed, they would want some type of story about how I went to the jungle and fought tigers."
-- Ben Askren on how he used to explain his One Championship career to his 6-year-old daughter and her younger siblings
The PFL (he's on the broadcast team) and its season format: "What I like about it is it's an absolute meritocracy. You can talk smack if that's who you are, but that's not going to get you anywhere. You've still got to go out and score points and make it to that postseason, to that progressive tournament, to get to the money, to get to the big prize."
The 2011 KO loss to Lyoto Machida that ended his 30-fight career: "I had all my own teeth until that fight."
The one fight that threatened to entice him back to the cage: "Obviously, the phone started ringing when Fedor [Emelianenko] threw his hat back in the ring, because that was the fight a lot of people wanted to see when we were both in our prime, ranked [Nos.] 1 and 2 in the world, and obviously a fight I chased for a significant amount of time, too. But it just didn't make sense to me."
Staying retired: "I have my health. I went out on my own terms. I think that's a rare thing in the sports world today, to not have a doctor or promoter say, 'Man, you really shouldn't do this anymore.' I felt comfortable that it was the right decision for me, and I've stuck with it."
Randy Couture, who now broadcasts with the Professional Fighters League, spoke with Ariel Helwani about the upcoming season. Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images
Why fighters have a tough time walking away and staying away: "Our identity is wrapped up in that sole endeavor, and that's a difficult thing to just let go of and walk away from. We're not normal humans. So to think your just gonna throw us back into the civilian world and it's gonna be hunky-dory, it just doesn't work that way. I've been fortunate in the transitions I've had: leaving the military, leaving wrestling, leaving MMA. I had other things to go to. I had acting. I had a new focus."
The transition from fighting to acting: "I was Tiny Tim in the sixth grade, 'A Christmas Carol.' But that was it. Spent my whole life as an athlete, kind of boxing up emotions, putting them to the side and going out and doing what I'd trained to do. So now, in this process, they want you to find a way to emote real things and be genuine in these made-up scenarios. Try to find a way to tell the truth, which is the real key and the trick."
How his second career as an actor has helped him understand what a fighters union should look like: "As a member of [the Screen Actors Guild], that's the model that I think fits fighting the best. There's a bunch of studios out there all trying to make films. There's this pool of actors that they're trying to pull from. They have health insurance. They have retirement plans. They've created minimum standards for treatment and pay through SAG. I think that's what we should aspire to as fighters."
UFC strawweight contender Cynthia Calvillo has left Team Alpha Male. Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Cynthia Calvillo has left Team Alpha Male, the UFC strawweight told Helwani on Monday. The gym, run by UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber in Sacramento, California, is the only place she has trained in her career.
"I'm no longer training at Team Alpha Male anymore," Calvillo says. "There have just been a lot of changes since I first went in there in the last year-and-a-half or two. I tried to stick it out, but it just wasn't working for me anymore. I needed to make the changes."
Calvillo (8-1) said a new coaching staff played a major factor in her decision.
"A big part of it had to do with my head coach Justin Buchholz, who is no longer teaching there," she said. "He's no longer coaching there. It made it a little bit difficult my last two fight camps. I just decided it was time to move on."
Lockhart went 12-7 in his MMA career, finishing in 2013. Dolce was 5-10 and has not fought since 2010. Both have dominated the nutritionist competition since.
Why Dolce? We'll let Lockhart explain:
"If there's anybody I want to punch in the face, it might be Mike Dolce," Lockhart said. "That would be a fight I would want to make. There's a lot of things he's brought up about me. He's attacked my character, he's attacked our company. ... If he wants to squash our beef, if he wants to get in the cage, I would be more than happy to throw leather at him."