Welcome to the monthly May wrap up! Here is where we breakdown some of the biggest headlines from the month and provide some insight and opinion it. I would love to hear what you think so please leave a comment down below. You can find April’s wrap up here.
1. UFC 249:
UFC 249 was by far the biggest event for the month of May. Not only was it the only pay per view but it was also the first event back from a two-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Not to mention that it had been rescheduled a couple of times before finally taking place on May 9th in Jacksonville, Florida. To add to that significance, it also had the most meaningful fights and fighters on the card.
Justin Gaethje (22-2) defeated Tony Ferguson (25-4) to earn the interim lightweight title setting him up with a unification bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0). Justin dominated most of the match leading up to the fifth round TKO finish. It was a masterclass performance showcasing how skillful Justin can be when he sticks to a game plan and does not resort to brawling. Tony was able to endure so much punishment, really proving how tough he is. What was most shocking was that Tony was the consensus number one contender and fighting Justin was merely a formality of things. Gaethje obviously had a different plan in mind. Khabib has a new contender and after that performance it seems like Justin can possibly dethrone the undefeated champion.
Henry Cejudo (18-2) once again made a statement and further cementing his legacy in combat sports. Henry managed to finish former champion and arguably the greatest bantamweight of all time in Dominick Cruz (22-3) in the second round by TKO. The finish was a controversial as there were two seconds remaining and Cruz was never out of consciousness and was standing up getting himself into a safer position. Regardless, Henry dominated every minute with a tactical strategy of attacking the legs and thus neutralizing the Dominick’s fancy footwork.
To everyone’s surprise Henry announced his retirement in his post-fight interview. This was truly a shock as he always talks about fighting every legend of the sport, winning more belts, and clearly in the prime of his career. He mentioned that this is because he has been competing since he was a little kid in wrestling and now into MMA. He wants to settle down, have kids, and pursue other careers. If this is true, then we wish him all the best of course. It is a shame to see such a talented fighter retire early but if that is what he wants, he deserves to be happy. I suspect that this may be a negotiating ploy to earn more money from the UFC. If this is the case, it is truly disappointing of the UFC when even a dual champion feels that he is underpaid and undervalued.
The first and hopefully only positive test for Covid-19 with Jacare Souza (26-8). Souza reported that a family member of his had the virus, but he did not take any extra precautions. He was clearly seen with other fighters. He was eventually removed from the card and his fight was cancelled with Uriah Hall (15-9). Thankfully, no one else tested positive in the weeks after the event. This clearly shows deficiencies in the protocols and areas of improvement for the UFC.
2. UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira:
Glover Teixeira (31-7) proved that he clearly still has a lot left in the tank. He can still compete with the best of them in the light heavyweight division at 40 years old. After struggling in the first round against Anthony Smith (33-15) he came back in the second round with a vengeance and dictated the rest of the fight until the TKO finish in the fifth round. It may be possible that Glover may be able to work himself back to another chance at the title if he can win one or two more. That is incredibly impressive considering his age.
Controversy arose when it came to Smith’s cornermen. Many agreed that they should have thrown in the towel and canceled the fight earlier. At no point did it look like Smith was capable of a hail Mary victory. Even though much of the MMA community agreed, Smith disagreed. He is happy that they did not as he lives by the sentiment that he would rather die in the cage than have his corner throw in the towel. This has always been a controversial topic. if corners should save their fighters or let them keep their pride. I believe that corners owe it to their fighters to protect them from themselves and save them from enduring more damage than necessary.
3. UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Harris:
Alistair Overeem (46-18) put himself back in the win column when he finished Walt Harris (13-8) in the second round by TKO. Overeem was in serious trouble in the first round and was close to getting finished himself. He truly showed his veteran savvy and managed to survive and come back even stronger in the second. I am really appreciating the career development of Overeem over his last few fights. He clearly cannot take a punch like he used to as evident many of his recent highlight knockout losses. He completely reinvented his game becoming more tactical and strategic in victory. This is exactly what happened in this match up against Harris.
The incredible thing about this match up was the story leading up to this event. This was the first time Walt returned to fighting since the death of his daughter, Aniah Blanchard only 7 months prior. This is incredible as he had endured the worst thing a father could ever experience. Even though he lost he had an amazing performance and should be proud of it. Being able to get up and practice and show up to fight was an accomplishment itself.
It does feel a little bit dirty that the UFC was using this to promote and hype the fight. I understand that a background and meaning is needed market the matchup, so the fans have more of a reason to watch and feel invested. But this storyline felt odd to me to exploit. The important and most important part is if Harris gave his consent then that is all that matters.
4. UFC on ESPN: Woodley vs. Burns:
Gilbert Burns (19-3) continued his winning streak when he dismantled the former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley (19-5). Woodley returned from a very long layoff when he last lost his title to current champion Kamaru Usman (16-1). In both fights he did not look like himself at all. He was hesitant and seemed like he could never really get out of first gear. It is tough to determine if it was Woodley not performing well or if Burns came incredibly well prepared with a spectacular performance. At the end of the day it does not matter as Burns walked away with a unanimous decision.
With the victory he called for a title shot against Usman who also happens to be his teammate. That is very rare to see in MMA but evidently friendship will not get in the way of glory. Jorge Masvidal has been having contract disputes with the UFC so Burns slipped himself into title shot.
The month of May was incredibly busy with four events, three of which took place within eight days. It is amazing that Dana White and the UFC managed to make this happen considering the current pandemic. You really must give credit to them for being the first major sports league back in action. It is a much different experience without the crowds and in a smaller arena, but a modified version is better than it not being back at all.
This is my May wrap up! Let me know what you thought, and what stories you thought I missed out on mentioning.