Monday, June 17, 2024

UFC 300 results, takeaways: Alex Pereira and Max Holloway grow their legends with emphatic performances

After a night to remember in quite possibly the deepest card in the promotion’s 31-year history, there was no shortage of takeaways to discuss following UFC 300 on Saturday in Las Vegas. 

In just his eighth UFC fight, Alex Pereira recorded a title defense in his second division as champion when he finished former titleholder Jamahal Hill in Round 1 of the main event. In the co-feature, Weili Zhang outlasted a determined Yan Xiaonan in their All-Chinese showdown for the women’s strawweight title. 

Neither of the above names, one could argue, had a better evening than former featherweight champion Max Holloway, however, as he scored a dramatic knockout of Justin Gaethje with one second remaining in Round 5 of their ceremonial BMF title bout. 

Let’s take a closer look at what we learned from a memorable night of action inside T-Mobile Arena. 

1. There’s no reason Alex Pereira shouldn’t get everything he asks of UFC

Not even three years into his UFC run following a lengthy kickboxing career, which featured titles in two weight classes under the Glory banner, the native of Brazil continues to conquer uncharted territory. Pereira finished Hill with the first significant punch he landed via vicious counter left hook in Round 1 to become just the fourth UFC fighter to defend titles in two divisions. And even crazier than this being just Pereira’s eighth UFC bout (and 12th overall in MMA), is the fact that he scored his fifth straight win over a current or former UFC champion, which is a feat that has only been equaled by Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes, who are collectively known as the GOATs of men and women’s MMA, respectively. 

Pereira petitioned the UFC after the knockout to not only make a quick return at UFC 301 in May in his native Brazil (on a card that could badly use the infusion of his star) but he also asked for a debut fight at heavyweight in a third division. That could move “Poatan” one step closer toward becoming the first UFC fighter to attempt to become a three-division champion and, if you are UFC CEO Dana White, why wouldn’t give Pereira every chance to do so? Legends like this don’t come around that often. And even at 36, there’s no ceiling in sight for how great Pereira might truly be. 

2. Max Holloway proved why he deserved to have been the main event

Fourteen years into a long and decorated MMA career, few would have imagined a triumphant moment as sweet as the one Holloway delivered as an underdog against Gaethje, after moving back up to lightweight for their BMF title clash. But Gaethje never fully recovered from having his nose shattered by a motivated Holloway to close Round 1. A victory alone for Holloway would’ve been enough to celebrate his constant ability to reinvent himself, especially in this fight as so many fans and media members predicted Gaethje would deliver more damage than the 32-year-old Holloway could handle. But not only would Gaethje refuse to go away as he rallied to drop Holloway in Round 4 for the first knockdown of his career, it set the stage for what many instantly hailed as the greatest knockout in UFC history. In the closing seconds of Round 5, Holloway pointed to the canvas inviting Gaethje to stand and trade, which called back to UFC 199 when Holloway did the same to Ricardo Lamas. Only this time, Holloway delivered upon the moment by knocking the always durable Gaethje out cold and onto his face as time expired. Holloway used the moment to make a case for a shot at his old 145-pound title now that rising star Ilia Topuria has toppled Alexander Volkanovski, who owns a trio of title wins over Holloway. But regardless of whether he gets it, Holloway achieved what UFC CEO Dana White called “a career-defining moment” on this night, raising his legend as a fan favorite to an entirely new level.

3. Arman Tsarukyan is ready for everyone at 155 pounds

Although he won’t get the next shot at lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, whom White announced late Saturday would defend his title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 302 in June, Tsarukyan should do nothing but wait in the bullpen for his shot at facing the winner. Tsarukyan, who has long coveted a rematch with Makhachev after losing to the pound-for-pound king in his UFC debut in 2019, recorded the biggest win of his career on Saturday in edging out former champion Charles Oliveira via split decision. Tsarukyan’s wrestling and patient striking turned out to be the difference in this hard-fought battle that saw Tsarukyan twice survive deep choke attempts from the sport’s most decorated finisher, including a D’Arce choke in the closing seconds. Losing a title shot to a star like Poirier is understandable, especially considering he’s fresh off his own breakthrough win over top prospect Benoit Saint Denis. But Tsarukyan’s emergence of late, which includes a first-round knockout of Beneil Dariush in December, has been so great that his 9-1 record since losing to Makhachev should be enough for him to need to do nothing else but prepare for a title fight to close 2024. 

4. Kayla Harrison just might be the reason Amanda Nunes comes back

Harrison, a former teammate of Nunes at American Top Team until a rift saw Nunes open up her own gym, passed the test of her high-profile UFC debut against Holly Holm with flying colors. Not only did the former two-time PFL champion achieve the impossible by cutting effectively down to 135 pounds for the first time, she battered Holm on the ground en route to a second-round submission win. The aftermath saw the retired Nunes post a reaction video on social media that appeared to see the former two-division champion hoping that Harrison would’ve called her out after the fight. The good news for UFC fans is that Harrison’s win was so dominant, mixed with how shallow the division’s depth already is, that a fight between her and new champion Raquel Pennington wouldn’t be out of place next, even with former champion Julianna Pena still in the mix. But should Harrison capture the women’s bantamweight title sooner than later, a showdown against a returning Nunes could be one of the biggest fights in women’s MMA history and a saucy grudge match at that after Nunes accused ATT coaches of favoring Harrison during their time in the same gym.

5. UFC 300 was the perfect reminder about why we love this incredible sport

Given the 24/7 nature of the modern professional sports news cycle, it can be easy for fan and journalist alike to spend too much time caught up in the weeds of negativity. Whether it’s debating recent UFC headlines like fighter pay, watered-down matchmaking or too many cards at the UFC Apex, there’s seemingly never a shortage of imperfections worth harping on in the greater picture of MMA as a whole, especially within the UFC. But all this historic and incredibly deep UFC 300 card did on this special night was remind us all why we fell in love with the sport to begin with. Holloway’s walk-off KO would’ve been enough, honestly, to sustain that feeling unto itself. But that doesn’t take into account Pereira’s dominance, Bo Nickal’s continued evolution or the incredible heart shown by both Zhang and Yan in their co-main event bout for the women’s strawweight title. 

This night was a celebration of what makes this sport so wildly unpredictable and inspiring in nature. And in a card already overrun with storylines to ponder and debate for weeks to come, including a slew of big-fight announcements by White during the post-fight press conference (including Conor McGregor-Michael Chandler headlining International Fight Week in June), it was the roar of the crowd and the string of exciting results that resonated the most. From breakthrough finishes from Diego Lopes, Renato Moicano and Jiri Prochazka to a strong debut at featherweight for former bantamweight king Aljamain Sterling, UFC 300 had all that and then some on this night. And it won’t be forgotten among similar nights like UFC 100, 196, 205, 217 and 249 as one of the greatest nights in company history. 

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