After what felt like years of waiting, UFC 249 finally arrived - and it more than lived up to the hype. Read on for results & analysis.
May 10 Results and Analysis
With UFC 249 now having come and gone, we take a look at the results and analyze the fallout from the incredible night in Jacksonville Florida. The original preview article remains unchanged, with results and analysis added in red following each fight's section.
After the turmoil of the last few months that included shifting venues, remixed fights, and political grandstanding, the UFC is finally set to grace our television sets once again on May 9.
With a ridiculously stacked card, UFC 249 looks to be one of the best cards (on paper) in UFC history despite the trials and tribulations the UFC and its fighters have gone through making this event come together.
Unfortunately, the massive event will go down in front of empty seats and the big fight atmosphere that typically fuels such a deep card will be replaced by that of an eerily quiet arena - luckily that doesn't mean the fights themselves will be any less violent or entertaining.
With the UFC largely being the only game in town and the eyes of the sports-deprived world turning to mixed martial arts to satiate their appetites, now's the perfect time to preview the action and analyze the matchups going down on Saturday night.
Of course, this preview assumes the fighters all show up and perform largely the same as they normally would - given the circumstances, it's likely that many fighters had less-than-optimal training camps thanks to the closing of gyms and their limited ability to train with others, not to mention the added stresses and uncertainties they've had to deal with over the past weeks.
That being said, it's times like these that show us how special fighters truly are.
So without further ado, let's break down some fights.
ESPN+/Fight Pass Early Prelims
Light Heavyweight (205) Bout
Ryan "Superman" Spann (17-5) vs. "Smilin" Sam Alvey (33-13 1NC)
An overlooked scrap on such a massive card, the curtain jerker for UFC 249 features everyone's favourite overly happy, lanky ginger, "Smilin" Sam Alvey in his desperate bid to try and keep his spot on the roster.
Once considered a feared knockout artist, Alvey has since been exposed as a rather one-note, awkward striker that looks very out of sorts when his opponents aren't recklessly charging at him and allowing him to land his counter right hook.
As a result, the highly active (he has had 18 fights in five years with the promotion) Alvey is now regularly involved in extremely tepid, dry affairs that have you begging for someone to do something for the entirety of their runtime.
After making a name for himself as an exciting slugger given his early opponents would charge him and get faceplanted, he has since finished just one of his last five wins and is on a three fight losing streak, which saw him knocked out by Jimmy Crute (kind of) and an aged Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
One would have to assume that a fourth consecutive loss would spell an end to Alvey's UFC tenure, and the UFC did him no favours with this latest matchup.
A 6'5 and athletic light heavyweight, Ryan Spann has now come into his own at 28 years of age.
Cutting his teeth in smaller promotons in Texas and Louisiana, Spann made a name for himself as a submission finisher before a rough patch saw him lose three of five outings to bring his record to 10-4 - the prospect was regardless granted an opportunity on the first season of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series.
Facing off against powerful striker Karl Roberson, Spann was massacred in just 20 seconds by a barrage of elbows, ending his UFC aspirations emphatically. At least for a little while.
Going back to the drawing board, Spann would turn things around and greatly improve his standup game in the process, winning three straight fights in the highly-touted LFA organization and capturing their light heavyweight title.
Having worked his way back onto the series, Spann was given another shot on the Contender Series' second season; this time, Spann would crack his opponent and tap him out via a guillotine in just 26 seconds to secure a contract with the UFC.
From there, Spann has handily won his three outings in the Octagon, with two coming via finish (including a brutal knockout over the afforementioned Antonio Rogerio Nogueira).
Spann is now riding a seven fight winning streak with six finishes evenly split between submissions and knockouts, showing off his well-rounded attack and vastly improved overall game.
Given his technical advances on the feet combined with his range and power, even in striking range (which is where Alvey will no doubt want to contest this fight) he appears to have a major advantage. Barring a severe miscalculation from Spann, this fight should serve as another dominant finish to add to a rising prospect's highlight reel.
Official Pick: Ryan Spann by first round (T)KO (sorry Sam)
Results: Ryan Spann won by unanimous decision
The night's opening bout surprised in several ways - for one, Spann looked rather clumsy and laboured compared to his recent outings and wasted a lot of energy early trying to drag Alvey to the mat. Alvey's takedown defense and ability to get back to his feet saved him early and he showed improvements in his output as well, leading to a surprisingly fun fight.
The third round was particularly fun as Spann looked to be gassing out - Alvey fought for his career and poured on the pressure, rocking Spann more than once and having him in all sorts of trouble right before the bell sounded - it ended up being too little, too late to swing the bout into his favour, but given his activity and persona it'd be nice to see Alvey granted one last shot to keep his spot on the roster.
Featherweight (145) Bout
Bryce "Thug Nasty" Mitchell (12-0) vs. Charles Rosa (12-3)
Once known almost exclusively for his unfortunate mishap with a power drill, "Thug Nasty" has since become even more well known for his in-cage exploits, most notably his brutal twister submission of Matt Sayles late last year.
Primarily a grappler, Mitchell has shown excellent submission skills throughout his career and likes to push a ridiculous pace on his opponents, which is what has propelled him to a sterling 12-0 record (though it should be noted he did lose during The Ultimate Fighter).
Mitchell has an extremely tough test standing in front of him however in the form of Charles Rosa.
A black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Ricardo Liborio, Rosa is a submission specialist himself that may be more than a match for Mitchell and has shown a more capable striking game compared to his younger opponent thus far.
While his 3-3 record in the UFC isn't exactly inspiring, Rosa has earned Fight of the Night honours on three occassions (ironically, all three in the bouts he lost) and two of his losses were to top talent - a close split decision to Yair Rodriguez and a late TKO loss to Shane Burgos.
Rosa's last bout saw him face off against an extremely heavy top-game specialist in Manny Bermudez, who also missed weight by three pounds for their featherweight clash. The 14-1 Bermudez wasted no time taking Rosa to the ground but was unable to mount much offense before being caught in a slick armbar and finished just midway through the opening round, to the shock of many.
The win showed off just how dangerous Rosa is on the ground and against a fighter somewhat similar in style to Mitchell - the chances of a submission win for Rosa also look promising considering Mitchell's loss in the TUF house was a submission defeat to the rather unimpressive Brad Katona.
Of course, Mitchell has greatly improved since then and should he be able to avoid Rosa's submissions, his pace and tenacity will prove difficult to overcome for Rosa, who has been shown to struggle with that type of fight in his prior outing against Shane Burgos.
Personally I'll lean in Mitchell's favour but don't be surprised if Rosa picks up a submission victory to spoil the undefeated prospect's party.
Official Pick: Bryce Mitchell by decision
Results: Bryce Mitchell won via unanimous decision
Wow, has "Thug Nasty" continued to impress. The 25 year old put on a show yesterday by putting on an absolute clinic on Rosa, a Ricardo Liborio-trained BJJ black belt.
Despite the fight occurring entirely on the mat, Mitchell's constant submission attempts with nasty elbows and punches sprinkled in kept things entertaining and his extremely impressive ability to continually find twister attempts was just as amazing as it was baffling. A move that's only been successful twice in UFC history, Rosa found himself in twister position three times over the course of as many rounds and at the end of the second, Mitchell had secured the position and likely would have gotten a tap had he had more time.
The way he handled such an accomplished grappler was supremely impressive and should see Mitchell earn himself a top-15 fighter in the near future to coincide with his new Reebok camo shorts.
Welterweight (170) Bout
Vicente "The Silent Assassin" Luque (17-7-1) vs. Niko "The Hybrid" Price (14-3 1NC)
Just three fights in and we're already looking at a matchup that on any other card would be a virtual lock for Fight of the Night.
Starting with "The Silent Assassin", the quiet and mild-mannered Brazilian does more than his fair share of speaking when the cage door closes - continuous forward momentum, an onslaught of clean combinations, and ridiculous toughness are staples of Luque's game.
Luque's path to becoming a force of nature was an arduous one - cutting his teeth in Brazilian promotions, by the time his run on the 21st installment of The Ultimate Fighter came to an end and his lackluster UFC debut saw him laid on by a wrestler for three rounds, Luque's rather dismal 7-5-1 record didn't do his potential any justice.
His potential was still evident to those who looked however - he did knock out future light heavyweight title challenger Thiago Santos in a middleweight fight in Brazil after all, and had shown a ton of promise during his stint in the TUF house.
Under the tutelage of kickboxing great Henri Hooft, Luque finally began putting everything together and showing the world just how loud the Silent Assassin could be.
Utilizing excellent ringcraft and an always-forward pressuring style, Luque began to run roughshod through the welterweight division on his path to the top.
Vicente would start off the first of his two impressive finish streaks in the UFC by scoring four brilliant finishes in as many fights - he avenged a controversial decision loss from his stay in the TUF house by choking Hayder Hassan to sleep in two minutes, smashed an overmatched opponent before locking up his favourite D'Arce choke submission, slumped Hector Urbina with a vicious barrage on the feet, then skewered top-15 ranked Belal Muhammad with a beautiful short left hook, announcing himself as a legitimate threat to the elite in the stacked welterweight division.
Another wrestling-centric setback stopped Luque's momentum in its tracks as he lost a dull decision to the highly overlooked (but criminally boring) Leon Edwards, but six months later Luque would erase all memory of that and would renew his upward momentum by kicking off an even more impressive winning streak.
Facing a wildly aggressive undefeated knockout artist, Luque took on none other than Niko Price in his next outing. The two strikers traded heavy leather for the first round, both men getting their shots in throughout, though Luque's forward pressure and ring cutting gave him the advantage in the slugfest as he systematically broke down the undefeated slugger.
In the second round, a torrent of strikes finally sent Price to the canvas but "The Hybrid" refused to quit, instead managing to work his way back up to his feet only for Luque to lock up his signature D'Arce choke to close the show early in the second round. It was a beautiful finish and an impressive performance from the rising Brazilian star.
Vicente would go on to knock out his next two opponents, Chad Laprise and Jalin Turner, each in the opening round. He followed that up with a Fight of the Year runner-up against Bryan Barbarena where he scored a brutal knockout with just six seconds remaining on the clock, then scored another first round knockout over a late replacement opponent to run his knockout streak up to four and his finishing streak up to five.
Facing off against the tough-as-nails Mike Perry, Luque engaged in another action-packed brawl, picking up a close decision win following a back-and-forth war which left Perry's nose an absolute disaster courtesy of a late knee from Luque, though Perry somehow managed to survive and make it to the scorecards.
His last outing was another war, this time a technical striking affair with Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson.
Although he started off well, Wonderboy soon took over thanks to his extremely effective distance striking and precision. Luque held his own even after getting dropped in the third, once again reinforcing his status as one of the toughest and most exciting fighters on the roster even if he did leave the cage with a loss.
At UFC 249, Luque will once again face Niko Price inside the Octagon.
Similarly to Luque, "The Hybrid" has made himself a fan-favourite action fighter thanks to his hyper-aggressive (often to the point of recklessness) style and flair for brilliant finishes.
Starting off in a smaller promotion in his native Florida, Price racked up eight straight wins with all but one coming via finish to earn his shot in the UFC, where he would quickly dominate failed prospect Brandon Thatch.
In a scrap against Brandon Morono, Price would starch his opponent right at the bell to signal the end of the second round, earning a truly rare non-corner stoppage knockout at exactly 5:00 of a round. Unfortunately, Price would fail his post-fight drug test for marijuana and as a result his win was overturned to a No Contest by the Texas commission (yes, up until recently commissions still did that shit for pot).
After stopping fellow action-fighter Alan Jouban in under two minutes, Price then ran into a fellow rising prospect, one Vicente Luque, who handed Price the first loss of his career.
Price would rebound with a submission win over George Sullivan before shocking everyone by delivering a virtually unheard of knockout via a hammerfist from his own back against Randy Brown.
Scoring a knockout from the bottom is extremely rare to begin with as it's incredibly difficult to generate power off your own back, and is almost always the result of an upkick; scoring a clean knockout from the canvas with a hammer fist of all things was as utterly bizarre as it was impressive.
Price's aggression and willingness to brawl got him into trouble in his next outing however, as Abdul Alhassan came out like a wrecking ball and slumped Price against the cage in just 43 seconds at UFC 228.
To the delight of fans, Niko vowed to remain a reckless brawler regardless of outcome and continued his scrappy ways against another fighter known for delivering his fair share of violence, Tim Means. The two winged elbows, knees, shins and fists at each other throughout the back-and-forth first round, with Means rocking Price as the seconds ticked away in the opening frame.
As Means backed Price against the fence and looked for a killing blow, Price nailed Means with a vicious right hand and sent the "Dirty Bird" crashing to the canvas and earned Price a beautiful first round knockout.
Unfortunately for the highly entertaining brawler, Price would run into another surging prospect in Geoff Neal, who picked apart the scrappy striker en route to a second round TKO while in Price's guard from hellacious ground and pound.
In his last outing, Price would once again delight the MMA world with an insane knockout from his own back, this time a brutal upkick knockout over everyone's favourite concussion recipient James Vick.
If there's one thing we know heading into a rematch between Luque and Price, it's that it's guaranteed to deliver fireworks for as long as it lasts.
Vicente has certainly found more consistent success in the UFC, but Price is as consistently entertaining as humanly possible and is seemingly incapable of having a boring fight. These two could fight each other twenty times and still manage to have MMA fans hyped for another meeting.
All that being said, Luque is a rightful favourite here - though both are knockout artists in their own right, Luque is the more polished and technically sound striker and although he's unlikely to take it to the floor unless following Price there after a knockdown, he should also have the advantage on the mat with his submission ability (exactly as we saw in their first meeting).
Price however can never be counted out of a fight and so long as he is conscious, he's a threat - whatever you do, don't miss this scrap.
Official Pick: Vicente Luque by second round (T)KO
Results: Vicente Luque won by third round TKO (doctor stoppage)
What. A. Fight.
A scrap that would have surely earned Fight of the Night honours on virtually ANY other card, Luque and Price beat the hell out of each other for the better part of 15-minutes - both men had the other hurt on multiple occasions, Price's output and variation of strikes holding up well against Luque's more technical approach.
In the third Price had appeared to be the fresher man and was having great success even though Luque continued to lance him with jabs and leg kicks, but a beautiful Golovkin-esque left hook swelled Price's right eye shut and dropped him, leading to a late doctor's stoppage.
While many doctor's stoppages can feel anticlimactic, the damage on his face left the doctor no choice and the war that preceeded it as well as the nasty left hook that dropped Price evaporated that feeling, instead earning a sense of relief that Price didn't suffer any further damage when the fight was clearly over. It certainly lived up to its lofty expectations and both men continue to be the most entertaining welterweights on the planet.
Middleweight (185) Bout
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (26-8 1NC) vs. Uriah "Prime Time" Hall (15-9) - SCRATCHED
Ah, the good ol' middleweight division. If there's a bout on this card that has almost equal chance of being a boring 15-minute slog as it does of being an exciting fight and/or finish, it's this one.
MMA fans need no introduction to Jacare Souza - one of the most accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in mixed martial arts history, Souza is known for his ridiculous strength, power, durability, and devastating submission game.
The former Strikeforce champion has finished all but four of his victories and has been stopped just once in the last decade - whether he's tapping out Gegard Mousasi, Ed Herman, Tim Boetsch, and Chris Camozzi (twice, the poor bastard) or starching the likes of Chris Weidman (at the end of an absolute war that was seriously overlooked in 2018's Fight of the Year discussions), Derek Brunson (twice, the poor bastard), Vitor Belfort, and Yushin Okami, Jacare is one of the scariest fighters in the UFC's middleweight division.
Unfortunately the 40 year old is starting to show his age - after going 10-1 between 2012 and the beginning of 2017 with his lone blemish being an extremely close split decision loss to Yoel Romero, Jacare was knocked out by future champion Robert Whittaker and is now 2-4 in his last six outings.
Albeit of those losses was a controversial decision to Kelvin Gastelum, his last two outings saw him dominated (even on the ground) against Jack Hermansson before he stood around and looked at Jan Blachowicz for 25-minutes in his brief stint up at light heavyweight in November.
In Uriah Hall, we see a fighter of tremendous promise and an extremely gifted athlete that despite having flashes of brilliance, has never come close to realizing his true potential and is about as consistent as gas prices.
Hall made a name for himself by wrecking shop on The Ultimate Fighter's 17th season, where he scored an 8-second knockout which fractured his opponent's orbital, kicked off a TKO of one of the most promising fighters of the season with punches from his own guard, and delivered one of the most vicious and brutal knockouts in MMA history against poor Adam Cella.
Under the bright lights and expectations of the finale however, Hall was outworked by Kelvin Gastelum en route to a close decision loss, and followed it up with a similarly lackluster performance against John Howard, killing off his hype train as quickly as it started. He would slowly work his way back up, scoring four victories in his next five with three finishes, before catapulting himself back into contention talks by knocking out top contender Gegard Mousasi.
Finding himself once again the talk of the town, Hall's hype train was quickly derailed once more. His next outing resulted in a loss to future champ Robert Whittaker by decision, though it was hardly a terrible outing - his subsequent under-two minute trouncing at the hands of sloppy striker Derek Brunson however, was.
He then proceeded to get mauled in a rematch against Gegard Mousasi, which only further reinforced the sentiment amongst fans that Hall's biggest win was in fact a "fluke".
Facing a pink slip from the UFC following three straight losses, Hall was once again looking lost and getting touched up by the middling Krzysztof Jotko before a massive right hand in the second turned the tides and finally got Hall back on track with another knockout victory - only for him to then be fed to the young lion that is Paulo Costa.
Surprisingly, even though Hall was eventually broken down and knocked out in the second courtesy of Costa's ridiculous onslaught, he made a great accounting of himself in a stylistically nightmarish matchup and got plenty of his own licks in.
Since, Uriah once again scored a massive comeback knockout over prospect Bevon Lewis (who had largely dominated the first two rounds of action) and picked up a solid if unremarkable decision win over Antonio Carlos Junior in his last outing.
Against Jacare Souza, Hall has his work cut out for him - pressure has never been something he's been particularly adept at handling, and it's something that Jacare brings in spades. Hall's ground game, while serviceable, is nowhere near the level of Jacare's and he's had trouble keeping strong top players (like Carlos Junior and Gegard Mousasi) off of him in the past, something that will absolutely kill him here.
Souza is however slowing down and Hall is someone that can always turn the tide of a fight in an instant, making this an intriguing matchup - so long as both men show up and we aren't left with a patented Uriah Hall staring match, the likes of which Jacare just found himself in in his very last outing.
Souza has the advantage here even with his age and decline, and with near-even odds is a great bet if you're so inclined.
Official Pick: Jacare Souza by second or third round submission