Another memorable International Fight Week is in the books. Best part? The four-year curse of something bad happening just days before the card has been broken. What a relief.
All in all, UFC 239 delivered. There's no doubt about it.
So, before we turn our attention to another busy week to come in MMA, which features the return of Contender Series, Bellator, ONE and the PFL, here are some random thoughts on the week that was and what's to come in this wonderful sport:
1. I thought the Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos main event was absolutely riveting. Santos did way better than I thought he would. The first round reminded me of Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165, as Santos caught everyone off guard by winning the opening frame. In the end, I feel like the fight came down to the second round. I think Santos won Rounds 1 and 5 and Jones won Round 3 and 4. The second? Man, was it close. I sided with Jones while watching it live, but it was so darn close.
2. I don't think Santos will get an immediate rematch, but I'd love to see those two fight again at some point. Santos deserves that. Crazy to think that was the first split-decision victory of Jones' career. We haven't seen him get pushed to the limit like that since the Gustafsson fight, so I couldn't believe that fans were actually booing toward the end of the fight. I really don't get fans sometimes.
3. As I was leaving T-Mobile Arena late Saturday night, I saw Santos getting pushed out of the arena in a wheelchair with just his team around him. No one acknowledged him except for Chael Sonnen, who congratulated him on a great fight. That really seemed to mean a lot to Santos. I couldn't help but feel for the Brazilian in that moment. Not because he was banged up, but because it was a reminder of how cruel and lonely this game can be. If a few sequences had gone a different way, he could have been leaving that arena as champion with his whole life about to change for the better. In the end, though, he's just another challenger who fell short against one of the best ever.
4. Now, the question is: Whom does Jones fight next? Yes, there are a slew of light heavyweights coming up, but is anyone ready for Jones? I am not so sure. Dominick Reyes appears to be the closest; however, last I heard, the UFC was interested in booking him against light heavyweight newcomer Chris Weidman (that fight is far from done, though, and is currently a long shot to even happen). Of course, we might get the answer to our question come Aug. 17. That's when Daniel Cormier meets Stipe Miocic again. I have no doubt the UFC will try to book the DC trilogy, but will the parties be able to come to terms? We'll see. That would obviously be the biggest fight possible for Jones.
5. The initial plan was for Jones to fight Luke Rockhold next had Rockhold won at UFC 239 versus Jan Blachowicz. Unfortunately for Rockhold, he got knocked out for the third time in his past four fights. That was scary to watch. I don't know if he should retire, but he is 34 and has taken some big blows over the past couple of years. I thought he looked great all week as a light heavyweight, but now I wonder if we'll ever see him again, especially with his budding modeling career taking off.
6. If anyone had any doubt whether Amanda Nunes was the greatest female fighter of all time going into Saturday night, I sure as heck hope there aren't any doubts anymore. She has now stopped Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm, and she has two decision wins over Valentina Shevchenko. Amazingly, she appears to get better every time she fights. It also feels like she is finally getting the recognition she deserves as one of the stars of the sport. Remember when her character was seemingly assassinated exactly two years ago? I'm glad she overcame that.
7. As for what's next for Nunes, well, there's the winner of next weekend's Aspen Ladd vs. Germaine de Randamie fight or the winner of the Cris Cyborg vs. Felicia Spencer bout later this month (though, Cyborg needs to sign a new deal first). I'd love to see the Cyborg rematch sometime soon, but one wonders if her toughest test will come in the form of a trilogy fight versus Shevchenko. That's a fight I'd love to see.
8. You know what was the best part of Jorge Masvidal's record-setting, five-second knockout of Ben Askren? It wasn't the knockout, even though that was spectacular beyond belief. It wasn't the celebration, either, which was memorable. It was seeing a 47-fight veteran, an OG who has been grinding for 16 years, finally get his due. Jorge Masvidal is a star. That wasn't always the case. Hardcore fans always knew how good he was, but it always seemed like he would fall short in the big one. He is now a legit superstar on the cusp of a title shot. What a story. What a journey for "Gamebred," who has been persevering since fighting on the undercard of the Kimbo Slice backyard brawls a long, long time ago.
9. I was glad to hear Askren was discharged from the hospital Saturday night. The aftermath of that knockout was hard to watch. I hope he takes some time off now.
10. Little-known fact: Masvidal asked for a promise from the UFC that if he beats Askren, he gets a title shot. Now, we know how things can be in this crazy sport, but if that promise happened, it's going to be hard to deny him. But what about Colby Covington? You know, Masvidal's close friend, former roommate and current teammate. You remember him, right? He's back on Aug. 3 against Robbie Lawler. Pressure is now on to somehow top the Masvidal win in hopes of getting the Kamaru Usman title fight.
11. What a difference a year makes for Michael Chiesa. A year ago at International Fight Week, he lost to Anthony Pettis after he failed to make weight while nursing a broken foot. He told us on the scale he'd never cut to lightweight again. A year later, he's now 2-0 as a welterweight and has left me wondering how he ever cut to 155. He looks great.
12. Does anyone really believe Diego Sanchez will retire after that loss to Chiesa? I sure as heck don't.
13. Will Arnold Allen finally get some love? The soft-spoken Brit is now 5-0 in the UFC, has won eight in a row and is 15-1 overall. Something tells me he doesn't care about any of the recognition stuff (that's the kind of thing people like me worry about), but I would like to see him get a top-eight opponent next. He's earned it.
14. Speaking of rising stars, UFC 239 showcased a bunch of them. I was really impressed with Marlon Vera, Song Yadong and Edmen Shahbazyan, in particular. I also liked the way the card was constructed in that the first half featured prospects and the back end was all about the established names.
15. I'm surprised whoever is in charge of seating the fighters at these events had Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov in the same vicinity on Saturday. That was a disaster waiting to happen. Kudos to security for jumping in before things escalated.
16. I'll never forget the 2019 edition of International Fight Week for a couple of reasons: Not only did I experience my first earthquake, but I also got to work as a sideline reporter for three NBA Summer League games. I had a blast doing the games and hope to do more. Everyone involved with the ESPN NBA team couldn't have been nicer to me. It was fun feeling like a rookie again, and I hope I represented the MMA community well on the hardwood. A real dream come true.
17. Can't wait for the Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya title fight on Oct. 5, though I feel like I can't really get excited about it because we don't know where it will be yet. It's down to Australia or Las Vegas, by the way. Here's hoping the UFC settles on Australia, because that is a part of the story in this fight. It won't feel as special if it's not held Down Under.
18. Thank you to everyone who voted for me for journalist of the year again. The award means a lot to me because it comes from you, the fans. I will never take those awards for granted.
19. Bellator women's featherweight champion Julia Budd is back in action this weekend. I know she is a veteran and a champion, but she might be the best female fighter you've never heard of. She also might be the second- or third-best women's 145er on the planet.
20. Urijah Faber is coming out of retirement in five days, by the way. In Sacramento, no less. I am here for this.
And with that, here's today's Helwani Show lineup:
Monday's Helwani Show lineup:
1 p.m. ET: Weekend recap
1:05 p.m.: Arnold Allen
Allen will look back at his win over Gilbert Melendez on Saturday night.
1:25 p.m.: Mike Brown
He will recap a huge night for American Top Team at UFC 239.
1:45 p.m.: Michael Chiesa
Chiesa will discuss his win over Diego Sanchez.
2:05 p.m.: Colby Covington
"Chaos" will preview his Aug. 3 fight against Robbie Lawler and discuss where he fits in the title picture at 170 pounds.
2:25 p.m.: Dominick Reyes
The light heavyweight contender will discuss what is next for him.
2:45 p.m.: Jimi Manuwa
Manuwa will explain why he retired recently.
3:05 p.m.: Ben Askren
He will talk about his shocking loss to Jorge Masvidal this past weekend.
3:25 p.m.: Francis Ngannou
The heavyweight contender will look back at his win over Junior Dos Santos last week and discuss what's next.
3:45 p.m.: Israel Adesanya
Adesanya will preview his upcoming title fight against Robert Whittaker.
4 p.m.: Jorge Masvidal
The owner of the fastest KO in UFC history will talk about that and his immediate future.