The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 245
UFC 245 gave fans three different title fights amid a long night of action. But for those who made it all the way to the final result shortly before 2 a.m. ET, it was nothing if not memorable.
All three title bouts reached the fifth round, one new champion was crowned, and a rivalry that helped create a buzz to propel pay-per-view sales was able to deliver on its compellingly vicious promises.
And those were just the title fights. There were 10 other bouts, including the UFC debut of a precocious potential future star. Several others ended with underdogs on top, which got the drama going long before the big names arrived.
Needless to say, that's a lot to digest.
So, to help you along, here's a look at our take on the real winners and losers coming out of Las Vegas.
Winner: Making Welterweights Great Again
Colby Covington was angling to do it for America.
Meanwhile, Kamaru Usman had a more global beneficiary in mind.
The "Nigerian Nightmare" survived a run-up of trash talk from his controversial challenger but said it was the ability to block it all out that mattered.
"This is not just for me," he told Joe Rogan moments after stopping Covington with just 50 seconds remaining in their instant welterweight classic. "This one's for the whole entire world right now."
The two combatants refused to touch gloves beforehand and continued to verbally joust throughout the bout. The matchup was effectively even entering the final round, with one judge seeing Usman in the lead, one judge having Covington up and the third scoring it dead even through the first four.
But Usman made it academic in the fifth, dropping the American twice with right hands and following up the second with a series of hammerfists, prompting referee Marc Goddard to intervene. Covington, whom Rogan said suffered a broken jaw in Round 3, in addition to a cut near his right eye, appeared displeased with the stoppage but left the cage without being interviewed.
"I heard all week, all month, 'Colby's in his head,'" Usman said. "But the reason I'm the best in the world is because my mind is stronger than everyone in the division."
The win was Usman's 11th in a row in the UFC, making it the second-longest active streak in the promotion.
"I'm gonna give you guys a show every time like that," he said. "I step right over that adversity and I keep going."
Winner: Thunder from Down Under
A lot of people suggested Max Holloway was the best featherweight of all time. And a lot of people suggested Alexander Volkanovski would be his most difficult test.
Both were right.
A former 200-plus-pound rugby player, Volkanovski showed his stuff as a reconfigured 145-pound mixed martial artist, outworking and outstriking the champion en route to a unanimous-decision victory.
The scorecards were 48-47, 48-47 and 50-45 in his favor, making him the first Australian-born champion in the UFC's history. It was his first five-round fight, but he never looked impacted by the extended time while racking up a 172-103 advantage in strikes.
"This is what we do. This is what we always look forward to," the emotional victor told Rogan after securing a second straight win over a featherweight legend, following a win over Jose Aldo back in May.
"They were great champions. I promise to be a great champion, too," he said. "I'm telling you. I'm gonna stay champion for a long time."
Holloway seemed miffed by the decision, but he promised a return before quickly exiting the cage.
"I'm only 28. I'm only getting better. I'll be back, boys," he said. "There's three guys whose decision matters, and it didn't go my way."
Loser: Joe Rogan's Cash Flow
Tasked with calling a 25-minute fight only a grappler could love, the ESPN+ team got creative.
About the time analysts Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier ran out of things to say about the grinding mat work of Amanda Nunes atop Germaine de Randamie, they remembered where they were: Las Vegas.
Nunes' control of her bantamweight challenger was so complete that the action basically stopped for minutes at a time because the Dutch veteran had no exit strategy and the champion was content to coast. And after referee Keith Peterson intervened early in the fight to get the women back to a standing position, it seemed imminent again whenever the crowd at T-Mobile Arena began getting restless.
So, during another such long stretch in the fourth round, Rogan bet Cormier $5 that Peterson would once again restart the action. And when he hadn't done so by the end of the round, Rogan offered a double-or-nothing proposition that Cormier quickly accepted as the women again went to the floor.
Long story short...De Randamie never escaped. Peterson never intervened. And Nunes walked away a unanimous-decision winner by one-sided scores of 49-44, 49-46 and 49-45.
No word on whether Cormier will demand bills, coins or another means of compensation.
Winner: Scorecard Surprises
If he thought he'd earned it, Marlon Moraes was masking it well.
In fact, as Bruce Buffer began to read scorecards after Moraes' bout with 135-pound newbie Jose Aldo, the New Jersey-based Brazilian sighed, looked down and generally appeared as if he'd missed a chance.
And then he smiled.
Instead of squandering his position as the UFC's No. 1 bantamweight contender, Moraes kept his standing intact by escaping with a split-decision victory over the former featherweight king.
All three cards were 29-28, with two in Moraes' favor and one for Aldo. Bleacher Report's card agreed with the minority judge and had it for Aldo, citing his 57-48 advantage in significant strikes and superior Octagon control.
It was Aldo's first appearance at 135 after a career spent at 145.
Moraes, perhaps sensing the crowd's displeasure, said he'd run it back again immediately.
"I think I scored more. It is what it is," he told Joe Rogan. "If they think Aldo deserves a rematch, I will give him a rematch right away. I didn't expect him to have this energy. He looked great. He felt powerful."
Loser: Midlife Crises
Nearly every time he entered a pre-UFC 245 press conference, Urijah Faber was asked, "What are you thinking?" After all, the 40-year-old bantamweight was already a Hall of Famer and became a new father nine months ago, so the idea of jumping into the Octagon with a 26-year-old Russian with a style resembling a sausage grinder seemed unnecessary at best, and bloodily painful at worst.
Saturday was most certainly the latter.
Less than 11 full minutes with Petr Yan left the brash Californian woozy, bloody and bruised, not to mention on the short end of a KO loss 43 seconds into Round 3.
Ranked No. 4 at bantamweight, Yan forced the action for the first two rounds and gashed Faber's left eye with a punishing three-punch combination and then put him out for good with a straight left kick to the head. Faber went down in a heap and was instantly rescued by referee Keith Peterson.
"I don't know who wants to see that dude standing across the Octagon from them," said former two-division champ Daniel Cormier on the ESPN+ broadcast. "The dude's a problem. In every facet of martial arts, he's a problem."
Loser: Unsportsmanlike Weigh-in Conduct
Welterweight fighter Mike Perry may be the toughest man in the UFC. And his go-to move at weigh-ins, the fake handshake, is typically both a fan favorite and an accurate indication of the enmity that's going to come a day later in the Octagon.
But his opponent, Geoff Neal, was having none of it.
The surging welterweight prospect told anyone who'd listen that he'd be the first to stop the rugged Perry with strikes. He then went ahead and did just that on Saturday night.
A whistling left leg kick rattled Perry and sent him reeling backward to the cage, where "Handz of Steel" seized the moment and quickly ended matters just 90 seconds into the first round.
Still, rather than immediately calling for the 170-pound division's high-enders, Neal—ranked 14th when the night began—was measured.
"I wanted to be the first to put him away with hands, and I got the job done," he told Joe Rogan. "I'm happy I did what I said I would do, but I still need two or three fights before I go for a belt."
Winner: Bantamweight Intrigue
The UFC's women's bantamweight division was once the place to be.
But since crossover bully Ronda Rousey was ripped from her pedestal a few years back, the 135-pound rankings were home to chaos rather than continuity.
Rousey conqueror Holly Holm was quickly dethroned by Miesha Tate, who was similarly dispatched in her initial defense by Amanda Nunes. And while Nunes has since maintained her title with little danger, the level of dominance she's established has sapped much of the compelling nature of the fights.
But that could change after Saturday night, thanks to a single left hand.
Mexican slugger Irene Aldana announced her presence with violent suddenness, dropping previously unbeaten No. 2 contender Ketlen Vieira with one shot to end her night in a single round.
Aldana seemed stunned when chatting with Joe Rogan post-victory, but she did acknowledge her new perch as it relates to Nunes.
"I'm so shocked," she said. "This is amazing. So I guess I'm the No. 1 contender now."
Loser(s): Early Prelim Favorites
Being the betting favorite was the wrong place to be in Saturday's early going.
No fewer than three fighters who were given the better odds, per Oddschecker, came up short in the first four fights in the desert.
Poland's Oskar Piechota was a minus-115 proposition against Punahele Soriano in a card-opening battle of middleweights, but Soriano defeated his opponent by knockout just 3:17 into the first round. Viviane Araujo, who was a minus-170 selection, fell to former flyweight title challenger Jessica Eye by unanimous decision.
Upset No. 3 came in the third fight when minus-160 choice Kai Kara-France lost to Brandon Moreno in another matchup that went the distance and ended in a unanimous decision.
Winner: Chase-Ing the Dream
Well, what do you know? The kid is all right.
Chase Hooper, who is just three months removed from his teen years and still the youngest fighter on Dana White's talent roster, became a full-fledged UFC man on Saturday night with an impressive first-round blowout of Swedish trial horse Daniel Teymur.
Hooper's Octagon debut lasted just four-and-a-half minutes and ended after he rallied from early adversity, took control of the battle on the ground and ultimately drew an intervention from referee Jason Herzog with Teymur on the wrong side of a mounted triangle.
Presumably, in the market for a nickname to replace his now-outdated "Teenage Dream" moniker, Hooper improved to a nearly pristine 9-0-1 as a pro.
UFC 245 Full Card Results
Kamaru Usman def. Colby Covington by TKO, 4:10, Rd. 5
Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 50-45)
Amanda Nunes def. Germaine de Randamie by unanimous decision (49-44, 49-46, 49-45)
Marlon Moraes def. Jose Aldo by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Petr Yan def. Urijah Faber by KO, 0:33, Rd. 3
Geoff Neal def. Mike Perry by TKO, 1:31, Rd. 1
Irene Aldana def. Ketlen Vieira by KO, 4:51, Rd. 1
Omari Akhmedov def. Ian Heinisch by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Matt Brown def. Ben Saunders by KO, 4:55, Rd. 2
Chase Hooper def. Daniel Teymur by TKO, 4:34, Rd. 1
Brandon Moreno def. Kai Kara-France by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Jessica Eye def. Viviane Araujo by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Punahele Soriano def. Oskar Piechota by KO, 3:17, Rd. 1