UFC 249: Justin Gaethje becomes interim champion, Cejudo retires

John Pollock's coverage of UFC 249 from Jacksonville, Florida featuring Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje and Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz.

Photo courtesy: UFC

Welcome to POST Wrestling’s coverage of UFC 249 from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

We will have our UFC 249 POST Show with John Pollock & Phil Chertok immediately after the show and streaming live on our Discord channel.

Tune into our UFC coverage beginning at 7 pm Eastern on the POST Wrestling Discord channel hosted by Phil Chertok & Eric Marcotte.

RESULTS:
*Ryan Spann def. Sam Alvey by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
*Bryce Mitchell def. Charles Rosa by unanimous decision (30-24, 30-25, 30-25)
*Vicente Luque def. Niko Price by TKO (doctor’s stoppage) at 3:37 of Round 3
*Carla Esparza def. Michelle Waterson by split decision (30-27, 27-30, 29-28)
*Aleksey Oleinik def. Fabricio Werdum by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
*Anthony Pettis def. Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Greg Hardy def. Yorgan De Castro by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Calvin Kattar def. Jeremy Stephens by KO at 2:42 of Round 2
*Francis Ngannou def. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by KO at 0:20 of Round 1
*Henry Cejudo def. Dominick Cruz by TKO at 4:58 of Round 2 to retain the UFC bantamweight title
*Justin Gaethje def. Tony Ferguson by TKO at 3:39 of Round 5 to become the UFC interim lightweight champion

RYAN SPANN (17-5, 206) VS SAM ALVEY (33-13, 205) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

Ryan Spann won the first two rounds and threatened with a standing arm-triangle in the first round that Alvey escaped. He would frequently throw the front kick to set up his right hooks. Alvey relied on right hooks and snuck them in plenty. In the third round, Alvey stunned him with the right hook and then couldn’t get the choke. He rocked Spann again towards the end. It was not enough for a 10-8 but it was close. 29-28 for Spann.

WINNER: Ryan Spann by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Spann gave himself a “C+” when Joe Rogan interviewed him (which was done as usual in the Octagon). Spann improved to 4-0 inside the UFC while Alvey has lost four straight. Spann worked around his power right hand and tried to show off some wrestling in the first round but won this fight on the feet. He kept himself open that Alvey exploited and that was a danger in the third round.

BRYCE MITCHELL (12-0, 145.5) VS CHARLES ROSA (12-3, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT

This was a one-sided dominant performance from Mitchell, who took Rosa down every round and threatened with submissions at every opportunity. He almost finished Rosa in the first with an arm-triangle that Rosa was struggling to defend. Mitchell worked for a Twister submission, which he used to win back in December. He continued this pace in the second and third rounds with numerous arm-triangle set-ups. When Rosa would defend, Mitchell would just move to the next position, which was always a dominant one. I had each round 10-8 as Rosa had no shining moments and defended from start-to-finish. Incredible outing from Mitchell.

WINNER: BRYCE MITCHELL BY UNANIMOUS DECISION (30-24, 30-25, 30-25)

I scored the fight 30-24 for Mitchell with 10-8 rounds in each one. Mitchell is an unbelievable grappler and his conditioning was through the roof, which is even more impressive during these trying circumstances for fighters to prepare. He improves to 4-0 inside the UFC and 13-0 in his career (the UFC appears to recognize his TUF exhibition loss to Brad Katona on his record).

VICENTE LUQUE (17-7-1) VS NIKO PRICE (14-3) – WELTERWEIGHT

The first round was a war with each chipping away at the other’s leg. Luque was more technical with his strikes that Price managed to absorb. Price connected with a front kick to the face and followed with a combination and takedown. Luque was back up and rocked Price with a right hand before the round ended.

The second round was close as Luque slowed after starting the round with jabs. Price unloaded using a knee and caught Luque with an elbow, Luque caught him with a right hand. Price was the aggressor towards the end and using front kicks to the body.

Price continued his pace in the third round and went to the body. Luque began to pile up shots and then drilled him with a left hook to drop Price. Luque allowed him up and referee Jason Herzog stepped in for a check-up and the fight was waved off. Price’s right eye was completely swollen shut at the end.

Excellent fight.

WINNER: VICENTE LUQUE BY TKO (DOCTOR’S STOPPAGE) AT 3:37 OF ROUND 3

This will be a solid contender for fight-of-the-night with the bar set high. Luque has won 11 of his last 13 fights and bounces back strong after his loss to Stephen Thompson in his last fight back in November. This was Luque’s second win over Price after submitting him with a D’arce choke in October 2017.

CARLA ESPARZA (15-6, 115.5) VS MICHELLE WATERSON (17-7, 115) – STRAWWEIGHT

Esparza won the first round, which didn’t feature much engagement. It was a right hand that Esparza connected with that broke the lack of action. Esparza took Waterson down near the end and landed an elbow.

The second round saw Waterson defend several takedowns and landing a knee to the body to get Esparza off. Waterson was using her oblique kicks to connect with the body. I have it 19-19.

Round 3 was very close but Esparza appeared to do enough with the striking exchanges but hardly put an exclamation point on the round. Esparza landed a straight right and some knees to the body. Waterson started piecing together strikes in the latter portion and they traded in the final minute. 29-28 for Esparza.

WINNER: CARLA ESPARZA BY SPLIT DECISION (30-27, 27-30, 29-28)

It was not a heavy action fight for either but the 30-27 card for Waterson seemed nuts. Esparza has now won three fights in a row after dropping a pair prior to this streak. It is the second time of Waterson’s career that she has lost two straight as this follows her loss last October to Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

ALEXEY OLEINIK (58-13-1, 227.5) VS FABRICIO WERDUM (23-8-1, 243) – HEAVYWEIGHT

Physically, Werdum didn’t look in top shape while Oleinik did. The first round was Oleinik’s, who overwhelmed the former champion with his striking. Oleinik connected with numerous uppercuts and set a pace Werdum could not keep up with.

The second round was more competitive. Werdum used knees from the Thai clinch and took Oleinik down. He had his back with the hooks in and just like that, Oleinik got free. Oleinik ended strong with big strikes as Werdum couldn’t build off the takedown. It was enough for Oleinik to take Round 2.

In the third, Werdum had his best round gaining the takedown and threatening with several submissions. He mounted Oleinik but could not finish him with his kimura attempt. Oleinik got to his feet at the end of the round and scored with shots but not enough to win the round.

29-27 for Oleinik.

WINNERS: ALEKSEY OLEINIK BY SPLIT DECISION (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

This was a decent fight but it was more indicative that Werdum did not look like his old self. Whether that was a bad training camp because of the problems training during the pandemic or indicative that age has caught up to him in 42, this was not a spirited performance. He looked his best in the third round but a far cry from the fighter that won the UFC heavyweight title. This was Oleinik’s second straight victory and 8-4 since joining the UFC in 2014.

DONALD CERRONE (36-14, 171) VS ANTHONY PETTIS (22-10, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT

Pettis was circling on the perimeter as Cerrone is leading. Cerrone caught a leaping kick and took Pettis down into side control but did little with the position and Pettis got up. Pettis landed a counter right that very effective in the closing seconds. Cerrone by a narrow margin on my card.

Pettis had the timing down in the second round and was connecting with his left hand. Cerrone got a takedown but Pettis got up against the cage. Cerrone had some strikes land before the end of the round. I scored this round for Pettis.

The third round was the best round of the fight. There was a controversy where Pettis struck Cerrone, who complained of an eye poke but referee Keith Peterson said it was clean and Pettis continued. The replay showed the fingers outward and appeared to be a poke. Cerrone landed a flush head kick that Pettis ate. Cerrone ended the round strong including a kick to the body and I felt he won the round and the fight 29-28.

WINNER: ANTHONY PETTIS BY UNANIMOUS DECISION (29-28 ALL)

It was a close fight and you can’t argue the decision going for Pettis. I narrowly gave the third round to Cerrone. The third round was the big round to go back and watch and featured fireworks from the two. Each was desperately in need of a victory and it was Pettis ending his two-fight losing streak in his return to the welterweight division. Cerrone has lost four in a row and is the longest losing stretch of his career.

GREG HARDY (5-2, 265.5) VS YORGAN DE CASTRO (6-0, 262) – HEAVYWEIGHT

De Castro had a flurry at the beginning with some big strikes landing on Hardy. De Castro attacked his lead left leg that was visibly affected by the end of the round. Hardy opened up later with several power shots connecting. De Castro’s round.

De Castro slowed noticeably in the second round. He was reverting to leg kicks and Hardy finally checked one and it stopped De Castro in his tracks with no offense the rest of the round and it was Hardy’s round using leg kicks.

The third round was another inactive one from De Castro as Hardy did more of the two to win the round, but it wasn’t a great round or fight. Hardy wins the fight on card 29-28.

WINNER: GREG HARDY BY UNANIMOUS DECISION (30-27 ALL)

De Castro indicated he injured his foot after the fight ended, which likely occurred when he checked the leg kick.

It was not a great fight but Hardy won it. I don’t know how they scored the first fight for Hardy as that seemed a strong round for De Castro with the leg kicks he administered.

Hardy said he heard Daniel Cormier on commentary stating he needed to check the leg kicks and he listened.

Hardy earned the third win of his UFC career and bounces back from a decision loss to Alexander Volkov. This was the first loss of De Castro’s career.

JEREMY STEPHENS (28-17, 150.5*) VS CALVIN KATTAR (20-4, 146) – CATCHWEIGHT

*Stephens missed weight for their featherweight fight and was fined 30% of his purse.

Both came out looking great and it was Stephens with the early pressure. Stephens kicked the body and Kattar responded with a combination to the body. Stephens forced the lead leg to buckle with a kick and Kattar hit a big right hand. It was a strong round from each but I scored it for Stephens.

Kattar’s boxing all came together in the second round with some dynamic combination that found a home on Stephens. Kattar blasted him with a right elbow that dropped him and then followed with several follow-ups including a left elbow that sliced him open and it was over.

WINNER: CALVIN KATTAR BY KO AT 2:42 OF ROUND 2 

This was a great striking battle and Kattar places himself back among the higher-ranked featherweight. The end was a brutal knockout with the elbow and visually looked horrendous after the follow-up elbow leading to Stephens being cut significantly. Kattar is now 5-2 in the UFC and comes back from his loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov.

Kattar noted he was upset Stephens missed weight on Friday but Stephens did congratulate him for the victory.

At this point in the show, they announced Georges St-Pierre will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in July as part of the Modern Wing. He is the most obvious choice for such inclusion. We will have a larger story on St-Pierre on the site in the coming days regarding his career and legacy.

FRANCIS NGANNOU (14-3, 261.5) VS JAIRZINHO ROZENSTRUIK (10-0, 260) – HEAVYWEIGHT

Ngannou was sizing him up and then threw with caution to the wind. He missed an overhand right and was just throwing, landed a left hand that put Rozenstruik out. He went down and was finished with more strikes in seconds.

WINNER: FRANCIS NGANNOU BY KNOCKOUT AT 0:20 OF ROUND 1 

This was the opposite of Ngannou’s fight with Derrick Lewis and will just add to the demand for Ngannou to fight for the heavyweight title next. The problem is he may have to wait a while for that fight.

Since the loss to Lewis, Ngannoy has won four straight and the longest fight during that stretch went 71 seconds.

This didn’t show us anything beyond a display of Ngannou’s incredible power as the real test is how he will do in a long fight especially a potential five-round affair.

HENRY CEJUDO (15-2, 135) VS DOMINICK CRUZ (22-2, 135) – UFC BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE

Cejudo implemented a game plan of big leg kicks to attack Cruz in the opening round. We got a preview of the wrestling with Cejudo sprawling several times but this round came down to the leg kicks and was a round won by Cejudo.

In the second, it was a very close round until the closing minute. Cruz’s hands started to land and found his rhythm in that department. Cejudo was still connecting with leg kicks and using his hands as well. The two cracked heads and Cejudo had a cut.

The fight resumed as Cejudo landed a brutal right knee that dropped Cruz. Cejudo followed with several shots and referee Keith Peterson called the fight with two seconds left in the round.

WINNER: HENRY CEJUDO BY TKO AT 4:58 OF ROUND 2 TO RETAIN THE UFC BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE

Joe Rogan disagreed with the stoppage and thought Cruz was recovering but watching the replay it was not an egregious stoppage at all. Cruz was hit badly and was taking strikes. Cruz was interviewed after the fight and said he was aware of what was going on but was getting up to his feet. The two were on their way to having a very competitive fight.

The bigger announcement was Cejudo stating he was retiring.

TONY FERGUSON (25-3, 155) VS JUSTIN GAETHJE (21-2, 155) – INTERIM LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE

Gaethje had a good outing in the first round with a disciplined striking arsenal led by his left hook, which was big in the closing minutes of the round.

The second round was a huge one for Gaethje, who was landing numerous power strikes on Ferguson. It was amazing to see Ferguson absorb these strikes. Ferguson tried to start going for the legs and stunned Gaethje with a right uppercut at the end of the round. It’s a 10-9 round for Gaethje and he is up two rounds to zero. Between rounds, Trevor Wittman told Gaethje to conserve energy and take 10% off his punches as he’s ‘trying to kill’ Ferguson.

Gaethje listened to his corner’s advice and utilized his power more judiciously. He connected with the leg hook and the power shots continued as Gaethje was smart with his output. It is insane what Ferguson is absorbing. Gaethje is ahead 3-0 on my card.

The key in the fourth round was all the leg kicks adding up and Gaethje connected and wobbled Ferguson. This could be a 10-8 round and it was borderline for me. Gaethje’s timing is incredible.

The fifth round was on its way to the most one-sided of them all with Gaethje annihilating him with his power. Herb Dean finally stepped in and it was the right call.

WINNER: TONY FERGUSON BY TKO AT 3:39 OF ROUND 5

This was the best performance of Gaethje’s career and he dominated the fight. I had him winning every round prior to the fifth. This solidifies him as one of the top lightweights in the world and potential fights with Khabib Nurmagomedov or even Conor McGregor next.

This would be Ferguson’s first loss since May 2012.

About John Pollock 5646 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.