Amanda Nunes is the greatest women’s MMA fighter of all time. She holds the UFC titles at bantamweight and featherweight. On top of that, she has beaten every other woman who has held either one of those belts. But, according to Nunes herself, even the GOAT can have weaknesses. Whether or not her foe can exploit them? That might be a different story.
“I’m a human,” Nunes told reporters Wednesday. “Everyone has holes in the game. But it’s harder when you’re in front of that person to really see that. This is, I feel like, the biggest thing with my opponents. They think they’ll be able to see all my holes. But when they step in front of me, they know everything is different.”
Nunes will defend her featherweight belt against Felicia Spencer at UFC 250 on Saturday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Nunes is trying to become the first fighter in UFC history to defend two titles simultaneously. She has held the bantamweight title since 2016 and the featherweight belt since 2018.
Nunes (19-4) has won 10 fights in a row going back to 2014, with five bantamweight title defenses in that span. The Brazil native has the most wins in UFC history among women (12) and the most wins in UFC title fights among women (7). Nunes, 32, has wins over the likes of Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate and Valentina Shevchenko.
Spencer (8-1) stopped Zarah Fairn Dos Santos via first-round TKO in February to earn the title shot. The Florida resident is trying to become only the third Canadian to ever win a UFC title. Spencer, 29, has only one career loss — to Cyborg at UFC 240 last July.
In the co-main event, former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt will try to snap a three-fight winning streak against Raphael Assuncao. Another huge bantamweight title fight — UFC president Dana White has called it a No. 1-contender bout — will pit Cory Sandhagen and Aljamain Sterling.
Also on the UFC 250 card, blue chip bantamweight prospect Sean O’Malley faces veteran Eddie Wineland, Neil Magny takes on Anthony Rocco Martin at welterweight and top flyweights Jussier Formiga and Alex Perez square off.
Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim recap all the action as it happens on Saturday night.
Fight in progress:
Well, at least one undefeated record will make it through the night. After two prelim fighters had suffered their first career defeats, O’Malley opened the main card by keeping his record perfect. He did so in style, dropping Wineland with a one-punch knockout just 1 minute, 56 seconds into their fight.
Right from the start, O’Malley showed off a more diverse attack than the boxing-heavy Wineland, utilizing spinning herald kicks and hard calf kicks to keep his opponent at distance. But it was a meat-and-potatoes technique that got the job done for O’Malley. His straight right hand found its way over the guard of Wineland and put out the lights.
— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) June 7, 2020
O’Malley knew it was over, turning and casually walking away before referee Herb Dean jumped in to protect a stiffened Wineland.
It was O’Malley’s fourth UFC win and second straight finish. He returned in March from a two-year USADA suspension.
Wineland, a 35-year-old former WEC champion, has lost three of four. He had not competed in a year. This was the first time he had been KO’d in the first round since 2014. He landed only four significant strikes, the fewest of his UFC career.
The fight was less than a minute old when Caceres decked Hooper with a lead uppercut. Hooper was dazed. Caceres backed away.
Caceres knew that his standup skills were far more advanced than those of Hooper. By round’s end, Caceres has landed 33 significant strikes, connecting with nearly 60% of what he threw. Hooper could not get out of the way, and when he threw punches of his own, he landed at just a 22% clip in those first five minutes.
That’s the way the rest of the fight played out as well, as Caceres cruised to a unanimous decision win (30-27 on all three scorecards) to hand Hooper his first career loss.
Hooper, 20, was the first UFC fighter to compete on a pay-per-view card before age 21 since Sage Northcutt in 2015. His youth did not serve him well. He had no answers while on his feet and struggled to get the bout to the canvas. This was a step-up fight for Hooper and it simply looked as if he was in over his head.
Askren and Masvidal reacted to the result of Chase Hooper’s #UFC250 fight.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 7, 2020
Caceres, meanwhile, showed the poise of a veteran. He has had 28 pro fights and made his UFC debut in 2011, when Hooker was 11. For Careres, the victory put him on his first two-fight win streak since 2016.
Potentially facing his UFC exit, Heinisch put forth his best result yet in the promotion. Heinisch landed a monster overhand right to drop Meerschaert, then followed up on the ground with hard punches to finish via TKO at 1:14 of the first round of a middleweight bout.
“The Hurricane,” who had been on a two-fight losing streak, celebrated with a back flip.
— Niko Price (@Nikohybridprice) June 7, 2020
To start, Heinisch came out throwing hard calf kicks. Meerschaert countered with a nice left kick to the body. Seconds later, Heinisch faked a takedown attempt and came over the top with a huge right hand. Meerschaert fell to the canvas, and Heinisch poured it on until referee Chris Tognoni stepped in to call it off.
Heinisch, 31, has now won three of his past five fights in the UFC. The Colorado native said his corner person had a “false positive” for COVID-19 earlier this week and there was uncertainty if he’d be able to fight, but the bout went on as scheduled.
Meerschaert, a 32-year-old Wisconsin native, has dropped four of six.
Stamann, fighting just over a week after the death of his 18-year-old brother, maintained his focus for the full 15 minutes, which paid off on both offense and defense. He threw and landed more shots, and even after Kelleher got on track, Stamann made him miss more than he connected.
It was a poised performance, but the moment the final horn sounded, that poise was gone. Stamann and Kelleher embraced on the canvas, and then Kelleher moved aside and was replaced by one of Stamann’s coaches. When Stamann rose to his feet, he was in tears. He remained in that state until the judges’ tallies were announced — 30-27 on all scorecards.
Stamann came in having won only one of his previous three bouts, but prior to that he was 17-1. He’s in the process of rejuvenating his career in a new weight class, moving to featherweight after spending most of his time in the UFC at bantamweight.
— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) June 7, 2020
It was a good career choice, as he looked good the whole way.
Kelleher had fought just last month on one of the UFC cards in Jacksonville, Florida. He came in having won two in a row. He had his moments in this one, but Stamann kept his focus — somehow — and walked out of the cage a tearful winner.
Pitolo, who competed at welterweight in his UFC debut but was forced to pull out of a 170-pound bout in February, finished Byrd with strikes on the ground at 1:10 of the second round in his return to the 185-pound division.
The finish came after a somewhat slow first round in which Byrd had some success on the floor. He wasn’t able to keep Pitolo on the floor for the entirety of the round but appeared to be more in control as far as where the fight took place.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 7, 2020
Pitolo seized momentum in a big way in the second frame, however, as he hurt Byrd with a left hand to the body and then a short right moments later. Byrd retreated to the fence and covered up, and Pitolo poured on combinations to the body. Byrd eventually fell over from the shots, and Pitolo finished the fight with hammerfists on the ground. Pitolo has now on won four of his past five.
Byrd announced his retirement after the fight.
“I appreciate the love and support from everyone friends and family through this journey I call my fight career,” he posted on Facebook. “But time waits for no man. So with that said [I’m] officially done with fighting.”
Perez is someone to keep an eye on in the flyweight division. In the best performance of his career, Perez stopped Formiga via TKO (leg kicks) at 4:06 of the first round.
Perez looked excellent standing up throughout the first round, and his volume of hard calf kicks put Formiga down twice before referee Keith Peterson stepped in to call it off.
Perez landed 15 leg kicks in total, per UFC Stats. Perez becomes only the 11th fighter to win a UFC fight via TKO due to leg kicks.
Calf kick is literally a game changer in this sport
— James Vick (@JamesVickMMA) June 6, 2020
Coming in, Formiga was ESPN’s No. 6 flyweight, and Perez was No. 10.
“I want that title shot — 2020 is my year,” Perez said.
Perez, 28, has won three in a row and 11 of his past 12. The California native has just one loss in seven UFC fights — to Benavidez in 2018.
Formiga, a 35-year-old Brazil native, has lost three straight.
“It means a lot, I’ve fought a lot of guys. I feel like he’s been the toughest guy I’ve fought so far,” Perez said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling, I’ve known this guy for a long time. I met him about 2010, my second amateur fight, when he was the No. 1 guy in the world at the time. It’s kind of like full circle, I came back and I fought him. He’s one of the guys I didn’t want to fight just because we are friends, but business is business, I’ve got to make money and it is what it is.
“The number next to my name doesn’t matter, I’ve got to fight everyone. The only number that matters is number one, that’s the champion, other than that I couldn’t care less about the number I got. I’m ready to fight, I’ll be here for the next two weeks just in case someone gets hurt.”
Alonzo Menifield lands a series of punches on Devin Clark, slicing him open under his left eye.
Menifield came in as essentially a one-round fighter — undefeated with a finish in every win and all but two in Round 1. Clark had gone a full three rounds in five of his previous UFC bouts. That turned out to be the difference.
Clark absorbed an early punch to the left eye that left him wincing for much of the first round and provided a target for the aggressive Menifield. But Clark never faded and took over the fight as Menifield’s energy sagged.
Man I’m always rooting for @brownbearC
Say what you want about his skills or fight approach, this man is next level Midwest tough. He’s constantly got the next big thing and boogie man up and comers across from him.
— Anthony Smith (@lionheartasmith) June 6, 2020
Clark was rewarded by the judges, who handed Menifield his first career loss (30-27, 29-28 and 29-28).
Clark was busier the whole way and kept Menifield in a clinch against the cage for extended periods. Menifield had no room to wing his big punches — when he still had the energy to do so.
Clark attempted takedown after takedown, and while his first eight failed to materialize, defending them sapped Menifield further. Finally, in Round 3, Clark got the fight to the ground. Thus, he became the seventh 205-pounder with 20 takedowns in his first six UFC fights.
The Burns family has enjoyed a heck of a two-week span in Las Vegas. Lightweight Herbert Burns, the younger brother of welterweight contender Gilbert Burns, recorded a rear-naked choke just 1:20 into the opening round.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 6, 2020
Burns, 32, took Dunham to the floor early and controlled him from the back with a body triangle. Dunham is known for his strong grappling, but Burns is a former world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and proved to be far too much for the American.
It is Burns’ fifth finish in a row, and fourth inside the first round. Burns improves to 2-0 in the UFC. The Brazilian also picked up a victory on Dana White Contender Series in a fight that also took place at the Apex.
“The Burns brothers came to make a lot of noise in 2020 and we’ve come to make history,” Burns said. “Gilbert proved that last week when he took out the No. 1 contender Tyron Woodley with a special performance, and today I took out a seasoned veteran in Evan Dunham, so we came here to make history and we are on the way to do that.
“I felt very good, it was a good fight against a tough veteran, a former top lightweight. I knew I had to go in there and put pressure. My style, I try to finish fights, that’s why I’m ‘Blaze’, got to be done in blazing style, so that’s what I did. Having that name on my resume is great because he is super tough, I saw him in a lot of wars and to finish a guy like that in the first round is a statement win.”