Francis Ngannou and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 260

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2021

Francis Ngannou and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 260

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    If you thought the UFC had already unloaded its pay-per-view arsenal for March, you thought wrong.

    The MMA conglomerate produced a star-studded $69.99 card for the second time this month from the Apex facility in Las Vegas, putting the heavyweight title belt on the line in an anticipated rematch atop a 10-bout show just 21 days after a three-belt card went down in the Nevada desert.

    The second go-round between Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou came 1,162 days after their initial meeting ended in a five-round decision for the incumbent. This time around, it was supported by a three-rounder at welterweight featuring former champ Tyron Woodley and the return of bantamweight phenom Sean O'Malley.

    ESPN+ was in the house with a broadcast team featuring Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier at the announce tables and Megan Olivi working the room for features and breaking news.

    The B/R combat sports team was in place as well, taking it all in from a 7:30 p.m. start to a 12:18 a.m. finish to produce the authoritative list of real winners and losers from the night's combat.

    Take a look at what we came up with and give us a reply or two in the comments.

Winner: A New Era

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    Write down the time: 12:18 a.m.

    It was the official start of the Francis Ngannou Era.

    The Cameroonian powerhouse became the UFC heavyweight champion of the world in his second opportunity, defeating previous conqueror Stipe Miocic by a thunderous second-round KO in their eagerly awaited main-event slot at UFC 260.

    "I don't know if I can find the words or the vocabulary," Ngannou said. "Just imagine something you have your eye on for decades and it finally happens. The feeling is so great. To be doubted by people all the time and finally make them wrong, there's a huge feeling of satisfaction."

    It was a marked departure from the first fight between the two, back in January 2018, when Miocic was able to survive a chaotic first round on the way to a one-sided unanimous five-round decision.

    This time, Ngannou was far more measured and patient in his approach, landing leg kicks and body shots in addition to head strikes that had the champion wobbled and marked-up by the end of the round.

    Ngannou also stuffed a takedown attempt, forcing Miocic to stand and fight.

    He continued the attack in the second and hurt Miocic with a hard left that drove the Ohioan back to the cage. Miocic fought off the fence and landed a hard right of his own, but he stepped forward into another precisely delivered left hand that dumped him straight to the floor as his left leg buckled underneath,

    Ngannou pounced and delivered another unfettered right-hand hammer before Herb Dean intervened.

    "He touched me with that punch, but I was stepping back to reset," Ngannou said. "At that specific moment, I was like, 'Relax.' He made the mistake of following me. That's what I caught him."

    The title change immediately sparked discussion of an initial defense against former light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, who's moving to heavyweight.

    "It will be the Mike Tyson effect. Tie a rocket ship to his back," Cormier said. "Jonny Bones. Massive fight. For the heavyweight championship. That's gonna be insane."

Loser: Regaining the Mojo

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    Tyron Woodley looked, sounded and acted the part.

    He was in pristine shape and expressed relentless confidence he'd end a three-loss skid.

    And as he came out swinging against submission ace Vicente Luque in their scheduled three-round welterweight co-main event, the former 170-pound king seemed ready to back it all up.

    But just as reemergence seemed imminent, the tumble was precipitous.

    A counter right hand landed on the tip of Woodley's chin and sent him reeling, and Luque patiently and precisely kept the ex-champ in trouble, eventually getting him to the floor and locking in a D'Arce choke that ended matters at 3:56 of the first.

    "That's a big win because he had to go through shark-infested waters. He stayed composed. It was beautiful," Rogan said. "When you are trying to introduce yourself to the top of the division, that's how you get it done."

    The loss for Woodley followed decisions against Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns and a TKO due to a rib injury against Colby Covington, all in five-round main events, and was the first submission defeat of his career.

    For Luque, it was the 18th finish and seventh submission win of a 28-fight career.

    "He took a little of my balance away,, but I stayed composed," Luque said. "I realized he was overcommitting with the punches he was coming with. My D'Arces and anacondas are really good, so I went for it."

Winner: Suga Show 2.0

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    Given his proclivity for showboating, some were probably pleased when "Suga" Sean O'Malley saw his unbeaten record snuffed out with an injury-prompted TKO loss to Marlon Vera last summer.

    Those folks surely didn't enjoy his return on Saturday's main card.

    The UFC's resident "it" fighter at bantamweight, O'Malley dominated skidding veteran Thomas Almeida with myriad strikes before getting his sought-after viral KO at 3:52 of the third round.

    "That dude's legit. He's a tough dude," O'Malley said. "I've only got 15 minutes to perform a couple times a year. When I get in there, it's got to be sweet."

    The Arizona-based phenom nearly left Almeida behind in the first round after a high kick and a follow-up left hand dropped the Brazilian to the seat of his pants. But O'Malley shrugged his shoulders and began to walk away rather than following up the shot, allowing Almeida to recover and reengage.

    O'Malley continued to control matters throughout and got another chance to end things in the third, landing a quick inside left hand that sent Almeida stumbling before falling to his back.

    O'Malley once again expected an intervention from referee Mark Smith, but this time he jumped back in when he didn't get it, running in for a devastating overhand right to the floored foe and forcing Smith's hand.

    "He's just a really creative, unusual guy that really has that 'it' factor," Rogan said.

Winner: The Next Big Thing

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    Last time out, it was an early prelim. This time, it was the second fight on a main card.

    Such is the career trajectory of flyweight phenom Miranda Maverick.

    The charismatic 23-year-old continued to breathe violently fresh air into the flyweight division, battering veteran Gillian Robertson on the feet and holding her own on the mat while grinding to a unanimous-decision win in their competitive three-rounder.

    Two judges gave Maverick all three rounds, and the third saw it two rounds to one in her favor.

    "That's the biggest win of her MMA career. A fantastic performance by that young lady," Cormier said. "Even though she got controlled in Round 2, she finished very, very strong. It ended up being a dominant performance."

    Maverick, who's pursuing a Ph.D. at Old Dominion University and did a teaching seminar during her pre-fight weight cut, controlled matters in a stand-up position through the first five minutes before eluding danger and a series of choke attempts from Robertson in the second.

    Robertson, incidentally, has more UFC flyweight appearances than any other female. Her loss dropped her to 5-4 in the Octagon and 9-6 overall.

    Maverick reestablished control in the third round and had some effective groundwork as well.

    She improved to 9-2 overall.

    "There's always improvement that can be made," she said. "I hoped I showed I could stay with the top of the division with both grappling and striking."

Loser: Remembering Carnage

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    Khama Worthy stood in the center of the cage, turned to a member of the corner team supporting opponent Jamie Mullarkey and asked what had just happened.

    If you'd been watching a few moments earlier, you could probably understand his confusion.

    The Pittsburgh lightweight was clipped on the chin with a perfect left hook from the aggressive Australian, lurching backward before going face-first to the mat barely a half-minute into the fight.

    Mullarkey swooped in with four right-hand ground strikes to the stricken fighter to earn an intervention from Chris Tognoni after just 46 seconds.

    "That's a monumental KO for Jamie Mullarkey on a UFC pay-per-view," Anik said. "When you can get one like this, it's so satisfying and gratifying. He delivered on what he promised to be for so long."

    It was the first win in three UFC outings for the 26-year-old, who was beaten by decision in each of his first two fights in the Octagon after winning 12 of his first 14 as a pro.

    Worthy lost for the second straight time after beginning his UFC run with back-to-back wins.

    "It feels unbelievable. We worked so hard for this fight," Mullarkey said. "It wasn't meant to be last time. I'm glad I had an opponent who would actually come and fight me this time."

    Indeed, Worthy was standing stationary as the decisive sequence began. Mullarkey feinted with a right hand and reached around with the looping left that landed squarely.

    "It never does feel like it's hard enough," he said. "But I saw his eyes wobble, and I saw him go down, and I knew I had to go in and finish him."

Winner: Rogan's Strategic Chops

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    Few would argue that Rogan is, well…outspoken.

    But he sometimes makes it clear that he's more than just a personality with a microphone.

    The one-time TV sitcom star was on point during a feature prelim between Alonzo Menifield and Fabio Cherant, calling out the imminent danger Cherant was in several seconds before the bout actually ended in a first-round submission loss for the late-notice substitute.

    Cherant, a former contestant on Dana White's Contender Series, was booked for the Menifield bout when the formerly scheduled opponent was sidelined with COVID-19 concerns.

    He answered Menifield's initial charge by looping his right arm around his foe's neck in an attempted guillotine choke, which Menifield countered by slamming Cherant to his back alongside the cage.

    Rogan immediately suggested Cherant relinquish the choke, but the newcomer held on, which allowed Menifield to isolate his right arm, lock his own hands together under Cherant's neck and drive his right shoulder into Charant's throat—a maneuver known as a Von Flue choke—with no avenue for escape.

    Cherant tapped out at 1:11, giving Menifield the fourth Von Flue win in UFC history.

    "I was surprised. When he held on to the guillotine and I slowly went into it, I said, 'Damn,'" Menifield said after the bout. "I just leaned into it and went in to the [Von Flue]."

Loser: Matador Maneuvers

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    Sometimes you're the bull. Sometimes you're the matador.

    On Saturday night, at least early on, it was a good time to be the former.

    Polish southpaw Michal Oleksiejczuk was on the short end of a double-digit striking margin and probably sustained more big-punch damage than he delivered, but he was nevertheless rewarded for aggressive optics in a split-decision victory over Modestas Bukauskas at light heavyweight.

    All three judges saw it 29-28, with two leaning toward Oleksiejczuk and the third for Bukauskas.

    B/R went with the minority and gave it to Bukauskas, from Lithuania, who admittedly spent most of the 15 minutes in elusive mode. He circled laterally around the perimeter of the Octagon and occasionally engaged, while Oleksiejczuk pressed relentlessly forward, winging big shots.

    Bukauskas landed a brief combination of kicks and punches at the end of the first round, but Oleksiejczuk was the clear winner in the second with consistent forward movement. Bukauskas again seemed to land more often and at least as effectively when he fought off the front foot in the third, but he still lost the scorecard battle.

    He landed 54 significant strikes to his opponent's 41.

    Ironically, the official cards showed all three judges giving Bukauskas the second round and all three giving the third to Oleksiejczuk. The split came in the initial round, which two judges awarded to the Pole. 

    The broadcast crew seemed a trifle surprised at the outcome.

    "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The judges liked the forward movement," Cormier said. "Bukauskas needed to stand firm. You cannot run away the whole time."

    Oleksiejczuk improved to 15-4 overall and 3-2-1 in the UFC, ending a two-fight skid. Meanwhile, Bukauskas fell to 11-4 as a pro and 1-2 in the UFC, losing his second straight.

    "It's how you choose to look at the fight," Rogan observed. "Oleksiejczuk was pressuring, controlling the center, or do you look at how Bukauskas was throwing combinations and stealing the ends of the rounds? I guess we got our answer."

Winner: Early Gore

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    If you tuned in for ghastliness, you didn't have long to wait.

    Much of the Octagon's canvas was smeared in blood by the end of Saturday night's first fight, most of it oozing from the eye, nose and mouth of rugged brawler Abu Azaitar.

    The Moroccan veteran was making his first cage appearance since July 2018, and the gas tank ran dry early against active Canadian export Marc-Andre Barriault, who upped the aggression and striking volume in the final two rounds while beating his foe to a figurative, and almost literal, pulp.

    Barriault outstruck Azaitar by a 110-35 margin across Rounds 2 and 3, rendering his foe essentially helpless and leaving the broadcast crew campaigning for a stoppage long before referee Jerin Valel finally intervened just four seconds before the final horn.

    It was Azaitar's first loss since September 2012, ending a run of nine wins and a draw.

    "This fight could have been stopped a long time before it was," Cormier said. "It was unfortunate that it went as long as it did, but for Marc-Andre Barriault, it's a great win."

    It was officially his first win in the UFC, coming nine months after a victory against Oskar Piechota was overturned into a no-contest. His previous three outings with the promotion had ended in decision losses.

    "He's a brawler, and he looked to throw big bombs right away," said Barriault, who bled from a cut over his own left eye and also brandished a swollen, scraped lip during a his post-fight chat with Rogan.

    "It took me one round to let everything go."

UFC 260 Full Card Results

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    Main Card

    Francis Ngannou def. Stipe Miocic by KO (punch), 0:52, Round 2

    Vicente Luque def. Tyron Woodley by submission (D'Arce choke), 3:56, Round 1

    Sean O'Malley def. Thomas Almeida by KO (punch), 3:52, Round 3

    Miranda Maverick def. Gillian Robertson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

    Jamie Mullarkey def. Khama Worthy by KO (punch), 0:46, Round 1

          

    Preliminary Card

    Alonzo Menifield def. Fabio Cherant by submission (Von Flue choke), 1:11, Round 1

    Abubakar Nurmagomedov def. Jared Gooden by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

    Michal Oleksiejczuk def. Modestas Bukauskas by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

    Omar Morales def. Shane Young by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

    Marc-Andre Barriault def. Abu Azaitar by TKO (punches), 4:56, Round 3

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