Saturday night, the UFC made its long-awaited return with the first live MMA show in nearly two months, UFC 249 from the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.
It took place without fans in the arena, a precautionary measure taken because of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Aside from a scare in the run-up to the card when Jacare Souza tested positive for the virus, everything went off without a hitch on Saturday night in Jacksonville.
It cannot be argued, however, that the lack of a live audience in Jacksonville, had any sort of negative effect on the stoppage rate during the card on Saturday night.
In total, UFC 249 featured 11 fights on Saturday evening, five of which ended in stoppages.
Speaking mathematically for a moment, that roughly accounts for a 45 percent stoppage rate on the evening.
When you run an MMA promotion and your event sees roughly half of its fights on a single card end via stoppage in an event with no live audience, that’s an impressive statistic.
Further, the last four fights in succession on the main card ended with the referee halting proceedings.
For comparative purposes, UFC on ESPN+ 28 in Brasilia on March 14, an event that also took place with no live audience, had just three fights, all on the main card, end in stoppages, two by submission.
The co-main and main events each saw championships at stake on Saturday night.
Incumbent champion Henry Cejudo stopped Dominick Cruz (second-round knockout) to retain his belt and announced to Joe Rogan and everyone watching on TV in his post-fight interview that he’d be retiring from the sport.
Cejudo leaves MMA with a 16-2 record.
With the retirement, the Bantamweight title is now vacant.
Speaking of post-fight interviews, all of them (there were nine total) were conducted in the Octagon by Rogan, a contrast to the UFC’s original plans that Rogan would conduct the interviews at his commentary table with the winner being given a clean headset.
Rogan explained on-air Saturday night that he was adamant to conduct the interviews in the Octagon as usual, just as Michael Bisping had done in Brasilia in March.
In your main event, No. 4 contender Justin Gaethje and No. 1 contender Tony Ferguson battled to the fifth round for the UFC’s Interim Lightweight title.
Underdog Gaethje proved to be the better fighter on this night, scoring a fifth-round knockout to capture the interim title and a guaranteed shot at champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in a unification bout at a later date.
The result also delays a potential fight between Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov for the foreseeable future.
Saturday night also brought an announcement for the upcoming UFC Hall of Fame class, as Georges St-Pierre (26-2), a former UFC Middleweight champion, was revealed as this year’s headlining inductee.
Megan Olivi returned as the onsite reporter for UFC 249—and as usual, she did a phenomenal job.
For that matter, so did everyone involved with the production, as Olivi mentions in this tweet:
Last night was really special. I want to acknowledge the efforts of everyone behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to ensure we pulled off a great fight week, broadcast & event. From production to ops to medical to the arena employees. We work with some damn legends 🙌🏼 #UFC249
— Megan Olivi (@MeganOlivi) May 10, 2020
Olivi will serve in the same capacity later this week for the two Jacksonville UFC Fight Nights on ESPN and ESPN+.
All in all, UFC 249 was an incredible show on Saturday.
We all need some kind of sports, some kind of entertainment right now, and the UFC delivered.
I give it an A-plus.
The true test will come in the weeks ahead, however, when results from COVID-19 tests come in and we’ll see how well the UFC has done to mitigate a potential spread of the virus.
We’re not through with UFC this week, either.
As mentioned earlier, two Fight Nights will come your way on Wednesday and next Saturday on ESPN and ESPN+.
We’ll have coverage of those events this week.
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