UFC 249 ESPN Preliminary Card Recap
Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone
Though both men have had extensive and successful careers as lightweights, this bout would take place in the welterweight division. Donald Cerrone was coming off a TKO loss against the biggest star in the sport, Conor McGregor. Anthony Pettis had also recently lost to an MMA star in Nathan Diaz. Both individuals were on losing streaks, so they needed a win at UFC 249. If history were of any indication, Pettis would be the favorite. After all, he had TKO’d Donald Cerrone in the first round when they last competed. But that was seven years ago. These would be two profoundly altered fighters competing in a different weight division.
This fight was full of excitement. Both men showed much of what had made them fan favorites over the years. Though Pettis had previously finished Cerrone in their first encounter, ‘Cowboy’ refused to waver this time. The most surprising moment in the fight came in the third round when Cerrone landed a head kick straight across Pettis’s jaw. Incredibly, Pettis appeared unfazed by the impact. His continuance boded well for him as he would be declared the victor just minutes later. Anthony Pettis defeated Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision.
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Fabricio Werdum
After his two-year USADA suspension decreased by ten months, Fabricio Werdum would be making his return to the octagon at UFC 249. Known for his elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Werdum is dangerous on the ground. However, his opponent Aleksei Oleinik came into this bout with a similar reputation. Nicknamed ‘The Boa Constrictor,’ Oleinik has become popularly known for his ability to submit opponents with the Ezekiel Choke. However, choking somebody like Werdum in an MMA competition is a tall order for anybody.
Oleinik came into the first round with aggressive striking. Though both men were 42-years-old, Werdum looked his age much more than Oleinik did. Oleinik landed heavy shots and seemed to be the faster of the two. Even worse for Werdum, he came into this fight after a two-year layoff. Though he looked slower than usual, Werdum showed he still has a great chin. He also began to turn things around in the third round. But at the end of the night, Aleksei Oleinik was the better fighter. Aleksei Oleinik defeated Fabricio Werdum via split-decision.
Carla Esparza vs Michelle Waterson
Former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza was looking to make it three wins in a row at UFC 249. Michelle Waterson was aiming to get back in the win column after a one-sided loss against the most dominant UFC strawweight champion to date, Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
This bout would end up going the distance. It was quite competitive, but what surprised many was Esparza’s striking. Though there were takedown attempts, the battle primarily served as a striking affair. Despite fighting outside of her wheelhouse, Carla Esparza defeated Michelle Waterson via split-decision.
Vincent Luque vs. Niko Price
Thirteen-fight UFC veteran Vincent Luque has had quite the run in the UFC. Before his decision loss against a striking enigma in Stephen Thompson, he was riding a six-fight winning streak. His first win in that span was a submission victory against Niko Price back in 2017. After losing to Luque, Price had some exceptional wins of his own. For example, Price finished Tim Means, Randy Brown, and James Vick.
This fight turned into a violent standup bout. Both men were ruthlessly aggressive and admirably determined. As each round ended, it was difficult to decide who was winning. Judging by the damage each man had withstood, it seemed unlikely that either would feel like a winner during their post-fight recovery. But something tells me both fighters are wearing their damage with pride. In the third round, Luque dropped Price. After Price survived the follow-up barrage, a ringside official examined him. Due to extensive damage to his right eye, the doctor determined Price couldn’t see well enough to continue. Vincent Luque defeated Niko Price via doctor stoppage.
FIGHT PASS BOUTS
Bryce Mitchell vs. Charles Rosa
Other than his exhibition loss on The Ultimate Fighter, Bryce Mitchell walked into UFC 249 with a perfect record in the UFC. Charles Rosa would surely be a stiff challenge for the man out of Arkansas–at least on paper. Rosa was a six-fight UFC veteran and had fought talented fighters such as Yair Rodriguez, Kyle Bochniak, Shane Burgos, and Manny Bermudez.
Despite being a BJJ black belt under Ricardo Libório, Charles Rosa fell victim to a relentless grappling attack. Mitchell stuck to Rosa like glue and almost submitted him in every round. Rosa defended admirably but couldn’t seem to turn the tables. Bryce Mitchell ultimately defeated Charles Rosa via unanimous decision. All three judges gave Mitchell at least two 10-8 rounds. With that performance, any cardio issues previously had by Mitchell have ostensively vanished. When they had a post-fight embrace, Rosa reportedly told Mitchell that he was championship material. With a performance like that, Bryce Mitchell might get those camouflage shorts from Reebok after all.
Ryan Spann vs. Sam Alvey
Coming in as a -450 favorite, Ryan Spann would be facing off against a fan-favorite in Sam Alvey. Spann was 3-0 in the UFC, with two wins coming via finish. Sam Alvey was on a three-fight losing skid. Unfortunately for him, the losing streak would extend to four. Spann seemed to be one step ahead of Alvey for most of the fight. Spann clearly won the first two rounds, but Alvey came close to getting a knockout in the third. This effort won Alvey the third stanza, but his big moment had come too late. Ryan Spann defeated Sam Alvey via unanimous decision. Spann improves to 4-0 with the UFC.