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UFC 3000 Recap

Expectations create burdens and UFC 300 had the highest of anticipation. President Dana White coined this event “the greatest card ever assembled” earlier this year and it was not hard to see why. UFC 300 was chock-full of star-studded fights and dramatic storylines. 12 former or current champions, including 11 undisputed, fought on this card. The prelims featured names like Jiří Procházka, Aljamain Sterling, and Deiveson Figueiredo, all of whom could have headlined a main event, before a colossal main card that put three belts, including the BMF title, on the line.

With the hype surrounding this event, it would not have been a surprise to see the events fall slightly short of what fans were expecting. Yet Saturday night truly proved to be one of the greatest nights in the relatively short history of the promotion. Let’s recap the biggest night in recent UFC history. 

Holloway Produces A Moment of Magic

Aptly named “the people’s fight”, the BMF title bout featured two of the most entertaining fighters in the world in Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway. Most picked Gaethje to win this fight, citing a natural power difference and Holloway having to move up in weight from 145 pounds to 155. But Holloway turned the tables to create one of the most memorable moments in UFC history. 

With 10 seconds left on the clock and Holloway cruising to a comfortable unanimous decision win, the Hawaiian did what few dare to do against a fighter as dangerous as Gaethje: he pointed to the middle and signaled a scrap. Both fighters started throwing wildly before Holloway punctuated the night with a vicious right hand that knocked Gaethje out cold with one second remaining. 

“If that’s not a BMF moment, I don’t know what is,” Holloway said after the fight. 

Holloway’s finish completely overshadowed one of the best performances of his career. He looked a step ahead of Gaethje the entire night, breaking Gaethje’s nose with a spinning back kick as the first round concluded and dropping him in the fifth with a beautiful body jab-cross combo. Holloway’s longer fight camp was crucial in his power transferring up a weight class; the difference between his physique and strength in this fight and his lightweight debut against Dustin Poirier back in 2019 was night and day. 

The knockout went absolutely viral on social media, with fighters and fans alike posting their incredulous reactions to what UFC commentator Joe Rogan called “the greatest knockout of all time.” Regardless of the two title fights that followed, UFC 300 will be forever remembered as the night Max Holloway proved himself to be the ultimate BMF.

This victory sets Holloway up with a variety of options. The former 145-pound champ is likely to go back down and challenge current champion Ilia Topuria for the featherweight belt. But a matchup against lightweight champion Islam Makhachev could be in the works as well and give fans a taste of the fight between Holloway and Makhachev’s teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov that fell through back in 2018.

End of the Lightweight Old Guard?

Gaethje’s future perspectives are far more limited, and bleak. At 35 years old, Gaethje has taken immense damage throughout his fights. While this has made him an enormous fan favorite, a knockout like this one could have severe effects on his future fights. A win would have guaranteed a title shot against Makhachev but a loss now sends him back down the rankings that he fought so hard to climb back up. Time off and a no. 1 contender rematch with Charles Oliveira could make things interesting and give the lightweight division some more clarity. 

Oliveira himself has seen himself hit a rough patch. The former 155-pound champion was on an 11-fight win streak before losing the belt to Makhachev and following this loss to Arman Tsarukyan, his goal of regaining the belt looks to be slipping away. Oliveira is in an even trickier spot than Gaethje; the Brazilian has defeated nearly every top contender (Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, Beneil Dariush, Michael Chandler) but has lost his two most important fights to the no. 1 contender (Tsarukyan) and the current champ (Makhachev). His options could be limited to a rematch with Gaethje or a chance for redemption against Holloway for an opportunity to make a final run at the title. 

Pereira Proves A Point

The light heavyweight champion continued his terrific start in the UFC by starching Jamahal Hill with a left hook in under 4 minutes. Given the way Jamahal Hill was talking in the leadup to this fight and the history that Hill has with Pereira’s mentor Glover Teixeira, it wasn’t hard to see why “Poatan” came into this fight with a little bit more focus. The Brazilian looked like a stone-cold killer in the staredown prior to the fight and he did not disappoint. 

Despite standing in opposite stances with Hill, Pereira was able to crack his vicious lower leg kicks to gauge distance. He was constantly probing to the body, similar to his fight against Sean Strickland, in an attempt to get Hill to lower his hands. In just three minutes, “Poatan” was able to nail down his rhythm and timing to the point that he refused to take time off after getting hit with an illegal low blow. Pereira waved off referee Herb Dean before unloading his patented left hook and dropping Hill, shutting his lights off with some nasty ground and pound. 

Pereira’s wins over Jan Błachowicz, Jiří Procházka and now Hill have cemented his status as one of the best fighters on the planet and left him with ample options. He teased a move-up to heavyweight in an attempt to become the first fighter to win belts in three different divisions but contender Magomed Ankalaev and a rematch with Procházka could be in play. Ankalaev in particular can pose serious danger to Pereira with his dominant wrestling. For Hill, who was on a four-win streak including the 205 title, this loss has set him back but a win over budding contender Khalil Rountree Jr. could potentially vault him into the title picture.  

Move Up In Weight (and the Rankings)

It was a big event for fighters who moved up from their usual divisions. Holloway, as we talked about earlier, flatlined Gaethje at 155, former bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling dominated Calvin Kattar in his featherweight debut and former flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo submitted Cody Garbrandt in the second round. Sterling, who reportedly cut over 40 pounds to make bantamweight, looked stronger and less drained. Figueiredo’s power and grappling ability transferred over nicely to bantamweight and Holloway had a noticeable increase in power without a loss in speed. All three fighters were big for their weight classes and a move up seems to have suited them well, as they all sit squarely inside the top 10 of their new division. 

Well-Rounded Women Show Out

The women’s division has usually been full of champion-level strikers, with Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko dominating their divisions. UFC 300 showcased the wrestling chops of strawweight champion Zhang Weili and the impressive ground game of Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison, who made her UFC debut at 135 pounds. 

Weili was dropped numerous times in her title fight against Yan Xiaonan but was able to leverage her much-improved ground game to nearly submit her Chinese counterpart at the end of the first round and ground-and-pound her to a 10-8 second round. Her second title defense looked similar to her first, where she was able to take Amanda Lemos down at will and keep her there. 

While Harrison’s quick finish of Holly Holm with a rear naked choke in round two was less surprising giving her accolades, it was still an impressive performance. Harrison, who fought at 155 pounds in the PFL, looked absolutely massive compared to Holm at 135 pounds. The power difference was stark and Holm never had a shot to defend the Olympians takedowns. Harrison has her eyes set on the bantamweight strap, currently held by Racquel Pennington, and her elite judo could catapult her to that title. 

Entertainment Extravaganza

With a card as stacked as this one, it was surprising how few duds there were. Renato Moicano gave a memorable post-fight speech after finishing Jalin Turner, Diego Lopes livened up the preliminary card with a first-round TKO of Sodiq Yusuff and Jiří Procházka had a huge comeback victory against Aleksander Rakic. It is going to be a near-impossible task for the following card, UFC 301, to get anywhere near the bar that 300 has set. 

Future Cards: Makhachev and McGregor Set to Return

Saturday night was a gift that kept on giving. Dana White announced two new main events in June: a lightweight title fight between Makhachev and Dustin Poirier at UFC 302 and the long-awaited welterweight contest between Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler that was received with applause by the journalists in attendance. 

Makhachev has not fought since knocking out Alexander Volkanovski to retain his title last October but the contender list at lightweight is starting to increase, with Tsarukyan’s big win and Holloway’s entrance into the top 10. Poirier was seemingly out of the title picture after getting put to sleep by Gaethje at UFC 291 but a massive KO win over Benoit Saint-Denis and the general muddle at the top of 155 shot him right back. Dana also announced that Sean Strickland and Paulo Costa will be the co-main event of the night in a matchup that could determine who gets the next middleweight title shot. 

But the bigger announcement of the evening was about Conor McGregor. “The Notorious” is by far the biggest star in the UFC and a household name worldwide but the former two-division champ has not fought since July 2021 when he broke his left tibia in a trilogy match against Poirier. The bout between him and Chandler was long teased and both were captains on the previous season of The Ultimate Fighter but the official announcement from the UFC never came until now. Chandler, while nowhere near the superstar McGregor is, has put on some of the most entertaining performances in the lightweight division and is a big draw himself. However this fight ends, fans will be thrilled to see McGregor back in action and the UFC will sleep well knowing their money-making machine has returned. 

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