UFC 239 Results: The Real Winners and Losers

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterJuly 7, 2019

UFC 239 Results: The Real Winners and Losers

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    Jon Jones (left) and Thiago Santos
    Jon Jones (left) and Thiago SantosJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    UFC 239 was a blockbuster card for a few different reasons. Going down two days after July 4, and in Las Vegas, the fight capital of the world no less, you knew this would be one of a handful of true must-see cards in an average UFC year.

    One reason stood out above the rest. Jon Jones' career has seen plenty of weirdness—if you want to call it that—but on most scorecards, he's the best fighter in MMA history. When Jones is on, fight fans watch.

    On the other end of Saturday's main event was Thiago Santos, a merciless muay thai striker with a 13-5 UFC record. Of those wins, no fewer than 11 came by knockout. He hits very hard, and it comes from every point of attack. In perfect MMA fashion, Santos had a striker's chance.

    Jones was the best, but not the only, true great on this card. Amanda Nunes is well on her way to becoming the GOAT on the women's side, but she's not quite there yet. The dual-division champ successfully defending her bantamweight strap against famed giant-killer Holly Holm would mean a big step toward cementing her superstar status.

    And this is to say nothing of Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal, who unquestionably generated the most heat coming into the event.

    As always, the final stat lines don't reveal all. These are the real winners and losers from UFC 239.

    (For the literal-minded among us, full card results appear at the end.)

Winner: Jon Jones

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    Jon Jones (left) kicks Thiago Santos
    Jon Jones (left) kicks Thiago SantosChristian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    For the record, this was an amazing card. It contained four knockouts and two submissions, with one of the latter appearing on the pay-per-view card. 

    Now, on to the main event.

    Jones retained his light heavyweight title and overall GOAT status with a split-decision win over a game but overmatched Thiago Santos. Jones lost rounds as he weathered a dangerous (if predictable) early storm, but he came on in the later rounds to win going away, despite a valiant effort from Santos.

    "I had to fight smart," Jones told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight. "He was a lot more technically sound than I thought."

    Jones began to make his mark in the second round, when a leg kick landed flush on Santos' knee. Replays showed some pretty unnatural movements in that area. But Santos pushed through it and continued applying pressure into the third.

    In the third, though, Jones appeared to come to his senses. 

    Consider this sequence: Santos landed a solid three-piece combo that might have dented a tree but didn't appear to faze Jones. The champ immediately responded by knocking Santos down with a single ripcord of a left hook, laced impeccably through the Brazilian's defenses. At the end of the round, Jones landed a left high kick flush to Santos' head, then completed the combination with his right foot, slamming home one of his trademark thrust kicks to the upper leg.

    Santos doesn't get enough credit for his hand speed, but Jones still evaded with ease, parrying at just the right time, always a few moves ahead. 

    In the fourth, the left knee began to catch up with Santos. The joint buckled and spun out of place after a sharp kick from the merciless Jones. Still, the challenger came forward, displaying no outward sign of trouble.  

    By the fifth, Santos was truly hobbled. It became hard to watch as Jones continued to punish his opponent. In the final few minutes, Jones appeared to call off the proverbial dogs and let Santos leave with no unnecessary damage.

    Santos fought extremely well. That's obvious in the split-decision verdict, with his volume evidently swaying judges in the early rounds. Everyone knows at this point that a lopsided loss to Jones is indicative of absolutely nothing outside of the fact that you just fought Jon Jones.

    So, that's it. Jones is the best in the world, and we already knew that. Another win goes on the pile. And the drumbeat to a third fight with Daniel Cormier continues unabated. 

Winner: Amanda Nunes

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    Amanda Nunes (left) kicks Holly Holm
    Amanda Nunes (left) kicks Holly HolmJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Let this wash over you: Amanda Nunes has now beaten every other UFC women's bantamweight champion. She is 18-4 and hasn't lost since 2014. Her last seven opponents? Holly Holm, Cris Cyborg, Raquel Pennington, current flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. All but Pennington have worn gold in their career. 

    What else does she need to do? The women's MMA GOAT crushed the always-worthy Holm with a head kick for a first-round knockout for yet another in an impressive series of knockouts at UFC 239.

    A left-hand feint from Nunes—and a brilliant read of a Holm kick setup that left Holm with one foot off the ground and momentarily vulnerable—opened the door for the monster right leg that crushed the southpaw's jaw. A ground strike or two followed, but not much, if anything, was needed at that point. 

    Nunes is a legend in the making. Possibly the only thing needed to solidify her status as the greatest is a trilogy fight with Shevchenko. Nunes won both of their previous fights, but both were close, back-and-forth affairs. Shevchenko is open to it. With all but one of the UFC women's belts represented, and with these two electric fighters at the absolute apex of themselves and their sport, it's time to go big on Nunes and make this fight.

Winner: Jorge Masvidal

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    Jorge Masvidal (top) and Ben Askren
    Jorge Masvidal (top) and Ben AskrenChristian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    My word. I mean, my word.

    Before we do anything else, what we need to do is give it up. Give it up for the great Jorge Masvidal. Not the good Jorge Masvidal. The great Jorge Masvidal. And if you don't want to take my word for it, believe the record books.

    Masvidal set a UFC record Saturday for the fastest knockout when he buried Ben Askren in five seconds. The phrase "Just! Like! That!" comes to mind. 

    The knee-bomb came after a period of protracted grudge-building between the two and shattered Askren's theretofore undefeated record.

    It was very simple. Just after the opening horn, as Askren advanced to the center of the cage, Masvidal paused along the fence. After a couple of beats, Masvidal sprinted forward, waiting until the last moment to launch a flying knee that landed right upside Askren's head. Askren was as stiff as a board as he crashed onto the mat.

    That's it.

    Masvidal is 2-0 in 2019; the first victim was Darren Till. Both were knockouts. The Till fight notched him two performance bonuses, and this one netted him a third.

    Kamaru Usman is the welterweight champion, and he was cageside in Las Vegas. Make it happen. 

Loser: Diego Sanchez

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    Michael Chiesa (top) and Diego Sanchez
    Michael Chiesa (top) and Diego SanchezChristian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    It's not outlandish to think that every post-UFC 239 opinion on Diego Sanchez is going to begin with a series of caveats.

    Everyone loves Diego Sanchez, the ultraintense character who happens to be one of the most electric and charismatic fighters in UFC history. He came into Saturday on a two-fight win streak.

    His brand-new relationship with coach/cornerman Josh Fabia may not have taken root just yet. But you can't ignore the wince-inducing loss he just sustained to Michael Chiesa. For 15 minutes, Chiesa rag-dolled a hapless Sanchez around the cage with a series of takedowns, trips, tosses, mounts, back mounts, choke attempts and so forth.

    Sanchez was tough enough, as he always is, to survive. But that's about all you can say. The across-the-board 30-26 scorecards were the damning evidence, at least on paper.

    Sanchez is 37 years old, and after this whipping, he is 2-3 in his last five. This was his 41st fight; he's sustained some mileage. His interviews also are veering into concerning territory. Will he know when it's time to walk away from the sport? Who knows? Regardless, the fan favorite is garnering extra attention these days for the wrong reasons.

Winner: Jan Blachowicz

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    Jan Blachowicz (left) and Luke Rockhold
    Jan Blachowicz (left) and Luke RockholdJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Ladies and gentlemen, we have a contender.

    Jan Blachowicz knocked Luke Rockhold cold (say that five times fast) to notch the biggest win of his career and the fifth in his past six contests.  

    Blachowicz dropped Rockhold with a high left kick at the first-round buzzer. Not too long after, in the second round, Blachowicz caught him with a perfect left hand on the chin as Rockhold was charging in. Rockhold hit the canvas, and one ground strike later—and perhaps one too many at that—referee Herb Dean waved off the contest.

    Rockhold is and always will be a fan favorite, and that's a status the former middleweight champ deserves. He'll be back. But Blachowicz deserves some shine here. Originally known as a mediocre UFC light heavyweight with a tendency to grind, the Pole now has three of his past five wins by stoppage, plus three  performance bonuses. He came in ranked No. 6 in the official UFC light heavyweight rankings. Time to rank him a lot higher. 

Loser: Claudia Gadelha

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    Claudia Gadelha (left) and Randa Markos
    Claudia Gadelha (left) and Randa MarkosChristian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    There are a few layers to this.

    Claudia Gadelha was a significant favorite to handle Randa Markos in the women's strawweight undercard bout. She'd been a tad inconsistent of late—2-2 in her last four coming in, albeit against the division's true elite—and a win over Markos might signal that the former title challenger was ready for another run.

    Gadelha got the win over a game Markos, but here's the trouble: It was an incredibly boring fight.

    In the shadow of an increasingly noisy flock of boo birds, they glumly traded one-twos for the duration, with Gadelha ultimately taking a unanimous-decision win, presumably based on activity. 

    So Gadelha got the win, but the performance may have meant a net loss with the fans. But with her performance afterward on the mic, she may have salvaged her Q Score.

    Everyone, at some point, is advised to speak from the heart. Proof that that is good advice came from Gadelha, whose eloquent post-fight comments (delivered in her second language, no less) seemed to disarm a testy crowd. 

    "I've switched camps and transitioned from a brawler to an MMA fighter," she said after the fight. "I love this and want to keep doing it. Everything I did today is new to me. I may not have looked the fastest, but I tried my best. I'm so happy to win tonight. I showed a smart Claudia and that I have cardio to do this all day."

    Also after the fight, Gadelha called out ex-champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, to whom she previously lost two close decisions. A trilogy fight usually isn't in the cards if it's 2-0 in the series, but this might make sense as a fun bout that would generate plenty of heat.

Winner: Song Yadong

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    With all due respect to Weili Zhang and Li Jingliang, China has yet to make a big mark on mainstream MMA. Could Song Yadong be the fighter to change that?

    It took Song just a shade over two minutes to shut down Alejandro Perez. Song feinted and then fired a cannon blast of a right hand that landed flush on Perez's jaw. Perez was out cold before he hit the ground.

    That's 14-3 (2) overall for the 21-year-old, including a crisp 4-0 under the UFC banner, with three of those victories being finishes. Can we get this guy a Top 10 bantamweight in his next bout?

UFC 239 Full Card Results

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    Julia Avila defeated Pannie Kianzad on the evening's undercard.
    Julia Avila defeated Pannie Kianzad on the evening's undercard.Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Main Card

    Jon Jones def. Thiago Santos by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) (retains UFC light heavyweight championship)

    Amanda Nunes def. Holly Holm by KO, 4:10, Round 1 (retains UFC women's bantamweight championship)

    Jorge Masvidal def. Ben Askren by KO, 0:05, Round 1

    Jan Blachowicz def. Luke Rockhold by KO, 1:39, Round 2

    Michael Chiesa def. Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)

          

    Preliminary Card

    Arnold Allen def. Gilbert Melendez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

    Marlon Vera def. Nohelin Hernandez by submission (rear-naked choke), 3:25, Round 2

    Claudia Gadelha def. Randa Markos by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

    Song Yadong def. Alejandro Perez by KO, 2:04, Round 1

    Edmen Shahbazyan def. Jack Marshman by submission (rear-naked choke), 1:12, Round 1

    Chance Rencountre def. Ismail Naurdiev by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 30-27)

    Julia Avila def. Pannie Kianzad by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)

          

    Scott Harris covers MMA and other sports for Bleacher Report. 

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