The UFC’s final pay-per-view of this calendar year was nothing short of exciting. The five-fight main card was action-packed from bottom to top, with impressive displays of skill ranging from many forms of martial arts. The UFC finished off what could be called a “great year” in 2020 standards for the company. Dana White, the President of the UFC, said during his post-fight press conference that they broke records in almost every category but live gate, of course with fans not being allowed to attend events. The UFC looks to pick up right where they left off in 2021 with UFC 257 in January headlined by the highly anticipated rematch between top-ranked lightweights, Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. But before the UFC kicks off 2021 in style, we have to acknowledge the final pay-per-view of this year we never thought would end.
Kicking off the main card was a fight between two of the UFC’s top fifteen heavyweights. Brazil’s seventh-ranked Junior Dos Santos faced off against France’s Ciryl Gane. Fourteenth-ranked Gane had yet to be able to make it to a fight day in 2020 with four of his fights canceled throughout the year. Dos Santos came into this fight with a 21-8 record, 15-8 in the UFC, as well as a three-fight knockout loss streak. The 6’4 thirty-six-year-old weighed in well under the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds, coming in at 246.5 pounds. Gane, a 6’4 promising prospect with a record of 6-0, 3-0 in the UFC, weighed in one pound heavier than his opponent. Gane possesses an 81” reach, with Dos Santos’ being 77”. Gane, the heaviest favorite on the main card, came out early attacking the legs of the former champion. Gane’s impressive offensive arsenal proved to be too much for the aging Dos Santos earning him a second-round technical knockout of the former champ. The beginning of the end came in the middle second round when Gane landed a hard jab to the head of Dos Santos that visibly hurt him. Gane proceeded to land several elbows in close which led to him knocking down Dos Santos and the fight being stopped. Dos Santos quickly protested the finish arguing that the elbow that put him out was in the back of the head, which is illegal. The replay showed that the elbow landed behind the ear, which is legal, but it was very close. As Gane goes to throw the elbow Dos Santos turns his head causing this to occur. Gane improved to 7-0 with what was definitely the toughest challenge of his young career, which he passed with flying colors. Gane was very efficient with his strikes landing sixty-one of his total eighty-two strikes, with a masterful twenty-eight out of thirty to the legs of Dos Santos. This the fourth straight loss by knockout for the former champion. With the win, Gane will propel himself into the top ten when the new rankings come out, positioning himself to earn a massive fight next.
The next fight on the pay-per-view was a middleweight bout between former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jacare Souza and fifteenth ranked Kevin Holland. Souza was the first UFC fighter to test positive for Covid-19 back in May. This was his first and only fight this calendar year. The former Strikeforce champion was supposed to take on fellow middleweight Marvin Vettori, who stepped in on short notice when Holland dropped out of his main event fight against Jack Hermansson due to a positive Covid-19 test. So Vettori and Holland switched spots. The 6’3, twenty-eight-year-old Holland had a 20-5 record coming into this fight and weighed in at 185 pounds, one pound under the middleweight limit. The 6’1 forty-one-year-old Souza weighed in at 185.5 pounds. Holland possesses a nine-inch reach advantage at 81”. After an early takedown by Souza, Holland began applying pressure from the bottom by firing strikes from his back. Holland caught Souza with a straight punch to the head which stunned Souza, Holland swiftly jumped on top and after less than five more punches, Souza was out cold earning Holland a first-round knockout as well as a performance of the night bonus. Holland capped off a historic 2020 with the best performance of his career. Holland went 5-0 with four finishes in 2020. He becomes the third fighter in the modern UFC era to go 5-0 in a year since Roger Huerta in 2007 and Neil Magny in 2014. Holland tallied these five wins in a record two hundred and ten days. This makes Holland a front runner for the male fighter of the year. At forty-one years old this marks Souza’s fifth loss in his last seven fights and three in a row. Holland will look to build off his historic year in 2021.
The middle fight on the card was a bout between two top fifteen strawweights, Brazilians Mackenzie Dern and Virna Jandiroba. Both of these women are black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. When two high-level grapplers match up in the octagon, the fight usually stays on the feet because both parties don’t want to get on the ground with the other. For the most part, this stayed true. Both women came out swinging right off the bat. After trading blows throughout the first round and into the second, the fight made its way to the ground. During the second round, Jandiroba caught Dern with a knee right to the nose, seemingly causing it to break. With the fight heading into the third and final round, it was clear that the fight was still up for grabs. After a strong third round, eleventh ranked Dern earned a unanimous decision victory over thirteenth ranked Jandiroba, with all three judges scoring the contest 29-28. Even with Dern going 0/5 on takedown attempts, she clearly outstruck her opponent. Dern earned her third consecutive victory to improve to 10-1 after her only career loss to Amanda Ribas. Jandiroba’s second loss in her four UFC fights. The former Invicta FC strawweight dropped to 16-2. Dern looks to draw a top ten opponent for her next fight. She has established herself as a contender at 115 pounds.
In the co-main event two of the world’s best lightweights faced off, seventh-ranked Charles Oliveira versus former interim UFC lightweight champion and third-ranked Tony Ferguson. The odds coming into this fight slightly favor the former interim champion, but they proved to be the exact opposite. Oliveira dominated the fight from start to finish with his world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. When the fight concluded, all three judges scored the bout 30-26 in favor of seventh-ranked Oliveira. He solidified the 10-8 round in the first with a vicious armbar attempt as the round concluded. If the round had gone any longer, Ferguson would have tapped or his arm would have broken. Ferguson further showed his toughness to withstand the submission attempt. Any other fighter in that situation would have most likely tapped. The loss for Ferguson marked his second in a row after a masterful twelve fight win streak coming into his previous fight against fellow top-five lightweight Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight championship back in May which resulted in a fifth-round technical knockout loss. The dominant win for Oliveira marks his eighth consecutive victory, finishing seven of them. After by far the biggest win of his career, the most decorated submission artist in UFC history, Oliveira is now 8-1 since moving up into the lightweight division. Oliveira will look to draw a massive name for his next fight, after assuming a bump into the top five in the rankings after this win. He looks to be a force to be reckoned with in the division for years to come. He matches up great with everyone at the top of the division. As for Ferguson, who turns thirty-seven next February, he will look to bounce back after losing back to back fights for the first time in his career. As we look into 2021, the sky’s the limit for Oliveira in the most competitive division in the UFC, as he looks to capture the coveted UFC gold.
In the main event of the evening, reigning UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo fought the number one contender in the division Brandon Moreno. This fight came to fruition twenty-one days prior to the day of the fight. At UFC 255 last month, Moreno took on fellow top ranked flyweight Brandon Royal, and, in the main event, Figueiredo successfully defended his title for the first time against Alex Perez. After both the champion and Moreno both won via first-round finishes, the fight kind of made itself after the main event spot opened up after Petr Yan had to drop out of his first title defense against Aljamain Sterling. Many thought that Moreno should have been fighting for the belt instead of Perez at UFC 255. Figueiredo is the most recent champion to defend his belt in back to back pay-per-views since Tito Ortiz did back in 2001. This was also the fastest turnaround for a title challenger as well. Figueiredo came into this fight a heavy favorite over the challenger. As many thought the champion would walk through Moreno, it was not the case. This fight was absolutely phenomenal. The two men fought to a majority draw, with Figueiredo earning a 48-47 victory on one scorecard, as the other two were 47-47. The draw was a result of two specific situations. In the third round of the fight, Figueiredo caught Moreno flush in the groin with an inadvertent kick. Moreno went down in a heap and began coughing blood. As a result, the referee of the fight Jason Herzog took one point away from the champion for the blow. And on the scorecards, one judge scored the fifth round for Moreno, which he clearly did not win. Judging continues to be an issue in the sport of mixed martial arts. If these scenarios did not happen, the champion would have won, but with the draw, he retained his belt. Even with the draw, Figueiredo most likely secured the male fighter of the year with his 3-0-1 record this year. The crew calling the fight was calling for a rematch immediately. This feels inevitable, just to see what the result would be with both of these men going through full training camps. In his post-fight interview, Figueiredo told Joe Rogan that he was in the hospital the entire night leading up to the fight due to sickness. Many speculate that it was because of the weight cut. Figueiredo has had issues with cutting weight in the past. As he was visibly bigger than Moreno in the octagon. If anything the fight elevates Moreno, as no one really gave him a chance coming in. As for Figueiredo, we wonder how many fights he has left at 125 pounds due to his troubles making the weight.
While 2020 was a year that the world would call “not great,” the UFC could say it dominated the sports world. The first sport to return during the pandemic with UFC 249 in early May in Jacksonville. The strides they have made to control the pandemic with fight island in Abu Dhabi, as well as holding all the fights in the United States at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, were great. They have had very few fighters fall out of bouts due to positive tests. So going into 2021, the UFC looks to continue its momentum with an amazing lineup to start off the year with the sports biggest star Conor McGregor.