UFC 249 delivered action from top to bottom.
2020 has been a trying year, to say the least. The global COVID-19 pandemic impacted essentially every aspect of day-to-day life, and sport was no different. Beginning in March, the UFC went on an eight-week hiatus while the promotion scrambled to find a way to safely put on events. During those eight weeks, many fans re-watched classic fights or events, but nothing could replace the feeling of live, high-stakes, honest-to-goodness cage fighting.
Enter UFC 249. Initially scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn, the event took place on May 9, 2020, and was the UFC’s first event “back” following a string of cancelled events in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions. Fans were, undoubtedly, salivating for fresh fights and live action.
On paper alone, UFC 249 was easily one of the year’s best cards. Although the event lost its planned headliner — a long-cursed bout between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov — the replacement main event between Ferguson and Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight championship seemed destined to deliver violence, and that’s exactly what it did.
In the main event of UFC 249, Justin Gaethje earned a late stoppage over Tony Ferguson to win the interim lightweight title
Both Ferguson and Gaethje are bonus-winning machines, so it comes as no surprise that their 23-minute war earned Fight of the Night honors and consideration for one of the best fights of the year. For the most part, Gaethje battered Ferguson, but the incredibly game and shockingly durable Ferguson had his moments throughout the slugfest, even dropping Gaethje with a well-timed uppercut at the end of the second round. Ultimately, though, Ferguson succumbed to Gaethje’s relentless kickboxing late in the final round.
In the night’s co-main event, then-bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo successfully defended his belt against former champion Dominick Cruz, finishing the veteran late in the second round. Before that, Francis Ngannou earned his fourth consecutive first-round stoppage, starching Jairzinho Rozenstruik in just 20 seconds. And just minutes before Ngannou’s knockout, featherweight striking virtuoso Calvin Kattar dropped Jeremy Stephens with a beautiful elbow on the feet and finished him on the mat, earning one of the biggest wins of his career.
Looking further down the card, even fights that went the distance delivered the action that UFC fans had been so desperately craving. In a clash of WEC veterans (and a rematch of their 2013 bout), fan-favorites Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone put on a fun fight that saw Pettis walking away with a decision. Fast-rising prospect Bryce Mitchell quieted the doubters by dominating Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Charles Rosa on the mat with a dazzling display of grappling control and technique. And in the first fight of the night, Ryan Spann and Sam Alvey engaged in a back-and-forth brawl at light heavyweight.
At UFC 249, the ingredients for a great event were all there: a two-month break from MMA leaving fans starving for live fights, a pair of championship fights, a main event featuring two of the UFC’s best action fighters, long-time veterans of the sport, intriguing prospects, and knockout artists. Importantly, though, UFC 249 actually delivered, top to bottom. For that reason, it is FanSided MMA’s 2020 Event of the Year.
Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your news and highlights.