The baddest mother [expletive] on the planet championship fight came as violent as advertised with two of the UFC’s most iconic prizefighters, Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal, going toe-to-toe at UFC 244 on Saturday night for a uniquely conceived title.
After three rounds of action, Diaz wore the crimson mask of the carnage that had ensued for the first 15 minutes of exchanging blows with Masvidal, but he also looked to be catching his marathon wind to carry him through the last two remaining championship rounds.
And then it happened.
It was the only outcome capable of killing the rock concert-like vibe at Madison Square Garden and turning it into a chorus of boos echoing into the night. A cut over Diaz’s right eye compelled the doctor overseeing the fight to insist on a stoppage before the start of the fourth round. Referee Dan Miragliotta waved off the bout and stamped the worst ending possible for the guts and glory-themed fight featuring two of the toughest competitors in all of MMA.
UFC President Dana White agreed with the stoppage in a post-fight interview, but you would be hard-pressed to spot him with a frown after the second-most successful UFC fight card in New York. Business is booming with the newly-realized feud between Diaz and Masvidal, and Saturday’s early stoppage was the perfect ending from a promoter’s standpoint. The UFC can now run back the rematch and cash in on another surefire blockbuster down the line once Diaz’s eye heals up.
But there have been worst cuts that haven’t resulted in fights being called in the past. ESPN MMA analyst Ariel Helwani posted a side-by-side comparison of Diaz’s cut and the gash over boxing phenom Tyson Fury’s eye that required 47 stitches to close.
Of course, both fights took place in completely different locations, but it still highlights the frustrations over the MMA bout not being allowed to continue. Masvidal was clearly ahead on the judges’ scorecards, but Diaz also started to finally show a surge of offense in the third round, which is typical in any five-round fight he participates in. He’s a notoriously slow starter that ends up drowning opponents in the later rounds.
That isn’t to insinuate Masvidal’s conditioning wasn’t up to the challenge, but we’ll never know thanks to the early stoppage. After the fight, Diaz not only called out Masvidal and the stoppage, but he also jokingly went after Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who served as the special guest presenter of the BMF belt.
Instant pay-per-view gold.
If Nate Diaz loses in the inevitable rematch, perhaps we can even get his brother Nick Diaz back in the cage to challenge Masvidal as well. Why not make it a family affair? A shot at becoming the UFC champion is probably a top priority for Masvidal, but there is nothing at the top of the division that’s going to line his pockets with more cash than the BMF title, which fans seem to care about more than the real UFC belt.
For a fighter that’s spent years scratching and clawing his way to the top, he might be better off taking the fights that pique his interest rather than chance getting out-wrestled by guys like Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington.
As for the rest of the UFC 244 fight card…
After losing back-to-back fights against Tyron Woodley and Masvidal at welterweight, Darren Till’s gamble of jumping into the fire at middleweight against top contender Kelvin Gastelum paid off in a big way. He put on a tremendous technical striking performance in utilizing his footwork to avoid fighting inside of a phone booth with a powerful puncher.
It had to be a frustrating fight for Gastelum, who looked like a one-trick pony at times in his desperate attempts to brawl with Till. A game of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots is a two-way street, and Gastelum needs to have a more diverse game plan when stepping into the cage. Not everyone is simply going to stand and trade with him. It might even be time for him to dust off those wrestling roots.
From a broader perspective, Till’s win is good for the division as it adds yet another name to a growing list of potential contenders for middleweight king Israel Adesanya.
Speaking of contenders, the welterweight division got a statement performance from former title challenger Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. His decision win over a ridiculously tough Vincente Luque looked like a mastery striking class. The effortless stance-switching, pinpoint striking and dynamic kicking abilities is a treat to watch. It’s easy to forget he’s the last man that defeated Masvidal two years ago.
Heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis also defeated Blagoy Ivanov by split decision to avoid a third consecutive loss. He was also in rare form as always in his post-fight interviews. But at least he kept his pants on this time.
The card opened up with Kevin Lee earning a Performance of the Night bonus after flat-lining undefeated welterweight Gregor Gillespie with one of the best head kick knockouts you’ll ever see in a fight. It was an impressive return to form for Lee, who moved his entire training camp to Tristar Gym in Canada to fix some of the issues that led to his recent slump.
The thought of a freakish talent like Lee being molded by one of the greatest coaching minds in Firas Zahabi could be a nightmare for the rest of the division.
Full fight card results – Main Card
Jorge Masvidal defeats Nate Diaz via TKO doctor stoppage (Round 3)
Darren Till defeats Kelvin Gastelum via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 30-27)
Stephen Thompson defeats Vincente Luque via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
Derrick Lewis defeats Blagoy Ivanov by via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Kevin Lee defeats Gregor Gillespie via KO (Round 1 at 2:47)
Corey Anderson defeats Johnny Walker via TKO (Round 1 at 2:07)
Shane Burgos defeats Makwan Amirkhani via TKO (Round 3 at 4:32)
Edmen Shahbazyan defeats Brad Tavares via KO (Round 1 at 2:27)
Jairzinho Rozenstruik defeats Andrei Arlovski via KO (Round 1 at 0:29)
Katlyn Chookagian defeats Jennifer Maia via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Lyman Good defeats Chance Rencountre via TKO (Round 3 at 2:03)
Hakeem Dawodu defeats Julio Arce via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)