UFC 244 is now in the books. Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz met in the cage, Darren Till made his middleweight debut, and so many more amazing storylines played out. Join us as we break down the entire main card, fight-by-fight!
UFC 244 Main Card Recap
Jorge Masvidal vs Nate Diaz
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson walked out to the cage with the BMF belt. They played his WWE intro music and the crowd went crazy. This stacked event delivered in so many ways. But the time had come for the main event. Nate Diaz walked out to the cage first. Anticipation was through the roof and the crowd erupted when Diaz appeared. And to make it feel even bigger, Nick Diaz walked his brother out to the cage as well. Viewers across the globe could feel the energy through their TV screens. Jorge Masvidal began walking out after Nate and he had a big smile on his face. He was noticeably excited and he would ultimately carry this exact same grin throughout the entire fight.
Masvidal dropped Diaz in the first. As Diaz ducked punches, he leaned right into a head kick that grounded him. Masvidal tried to get the finish, but he was unable to get Diaz out of there. Diaz was bloodied and was even dropped again in the second round. Masvidal’s power proved to be a major factor in this fight. And anytime Diaz began to push forward with his patented volume punching, Masvidal would slow him down with a heavy body kick. Though Masvidal was still getting the better of Diaz, the third round appeared to be more competitive.
At the end of the third, a New York State Athletic Commission doctor came into the cage and reviewed two cuts around Nate Diaz’s right eye. Against the wishes of Diaz, and probably everybody else watching, the doctor chose to stop the fight. This was a very anti-climactic ending to an otherwise fantastic matchup.
Kelvin Gastelum vs Darren Till
Even at middleweight, Darren Till looked gigantic next to his opponent. Despite being the significantly larger fighter, Till used great footwork and timing to outwork the former title challenger, Kelvin Gastelum. He tactically landed leg kicks in the early going. These shots visibly chewed up Gastelum’s lead leg. And it began to show throughout the fight.
Whenever this matchup was originally announced, many people, this writer included, felt that Gastelum was an extremely dangerous first fight for Till at middleweight. He had just lost back-to-back fights, and both fights were losses via finish. Even more, Tyron Woodley dropped Till before submitting him. Jorge Masvidal also knocked him out cold.
Additionally, Kelvin Gastelum has shown he has powerful punches at middleweight. So for Till to face Gastelum, the result almost felt like it would be a foregone conclusion. But with great risks can come great rewards. And that’s exactly what happened for the middleweight debutant. Darren Till defeated Kelvin Gastelum via split-decision. There was one judge who scored the fight 30-27 for Gastelum. In this author’s opinion that scorecard was unequivocally ludicrous. With the massive victory over Gastelum, Darren Till now places himself among the top ranks at middleweight. The Gorilla is back!
Stephen Thompson vs Vincente Luque
Vincent Luque came into this fight with a 90% finishing rate at welterweight. Put simply, Luque was a dangerous opponent. But Stephen Thompson showed up with something to prove. He went from being revered as one of the most complicated known Rubik’s cubes of a fighter, to having lost three of his last four bouts. This included a recent knockout defeat against the former lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis.
Luque landed some good punches in the first round. He even appeared to daze Thompson a few times. But Thompson began to land several of his own shots in the second round. Thompson looked agile and utilized crisp striking to gain the upper hand. Stephen Thompson came to Madison Square Garden to prove something to himself and to everyone watching. He wanted to establish that he is still the top fighter that he believes he is. Whatever you may think of his abilities, it is a fact that Stephen Thompson is 58-0 as a kickboxer. And at UFC 244, he looked every bit of it. Stephen Thompson defeated Vincent Luque via unanimous decision.
Derrick Lewis vs Blagoy Ivanov
Despite ultimately losing via split-decision, Blagoy Ivanov proved to everyone watching that he has an incredible chin. In fact, it’s possible that he has one of the best chins in the sport. Derrick Lewis arguably looked better than he ever has at UFC 244. And while looking good, he seemed to hit Ivanov with everything he could. Several of his powerful punches landed directly on Ivanov’s jaw. But Ivanov could not be deterred. It was actually quite fascinating to watch take place.
There is a small group of fighters who have been able to defeat Blagoy Ivanov. There is Alexander Volkov who submitted him via rear-naked-choke back in 2014. Junior Dos Santos defeated him via unanimous decision in Ivanov’s UFC debut. And now Derrick Lewis has defeated him via split-decision. Say what you will about ‘The Black Beast’ but he is capable of beating any heavyweight in the world on any given day. Per his usual behavior, Derrick Lewis gave another unique post-fight interview. He ended up shouting out President Donald Trump, of whom was in attendance. It’s tough to say who Derrick Lewis may face next. Perhaps if Greg Hardy is able to get past Alexander Volkov, we may finally get to see the two men have their much-discussed potential grudge match.
Kevin Lee vs Gregor Gillespie
After a brief stint at welterweight, Kevin Lee chose to drop back down to lightweight at UFC 244. Welcoming him back to the division was undefeated wrestling stud, Gregor Gillespie. Lee was fighting the hometown hero. And during fight week, he was battling a significant weight cut. Lee ended up being the victor in both of those matchups. Though he didn’t look great on the scale, he did make weight. He also looked amazing against Gillespie.
After nullifying each other’s wrestling, both men traded shots on the feet for a short while. They each landed decent strikes, but Lee landed the only one that mattered in the end—a brutal head kick. Upon impact, Gillespie was immediately rendered unconscious. The severity of the kick was reminiscent of Rashad Evans’ head kick knockout over Sean Salmon back in 2007. It landed flush on Gillespie’s jaw, and the New Yorker stiffened while collapsing to the canvas. Though the referee acted quickly, Lee landed a hammer fist to the face as Gillespie hit the ground. Gregor Gillespie is no longer undefeated, and Kevin Lee is back in a big way.