UFC 224 on paper might’ve lacked pay-per-view appeal… but it delivered on a massive scale. Eleven finishes across thirteen fights left the running for performance of the night bonuses wide open!
Amanda Nunes retained her bantamweight crown in her home country, eventually dispatching Raquel Pennington in the fifth round. The Brazilian repeatedly targeted her opponent’s legs early on, leaving Pennington perplexed, with no answer to Nunes’ speed.
Nunes’ sheer power and measure of distance was on display throughout the night, and despite Pennington displaying heart and toughness, her swollen left eye curtailed any significant attack at the end of the third round.
Raquel Pennington told her corner “I’m done… I want to be done” at the end of the fourth round. Despite this, her cornerman Jason Kutz persuaded her to come out for a fifth round, and later faced the wrath of fighters and fans for doing so.
In that final fifth round, Nunes took the fight to the ground and continued to drop brutal elbows, leaving the challenger in a bloodied mess and slumped to her knees, forcing referee Marc Goddard to call a halt to proceedings.
Nunes also weighed in on the situation later saying “If she didn’t have the right conditioning to fight, then the coach should have thrown the towel in for sure. It’s sad, but she needs to surround herself with people who want the best for her so she can evolve for her next fights”.
She continued with her brutal assessment saying “Unfortunately tonight, the corner man failed”. Nunes makes her third defence of her bantamweight crown, whilst Pennington’s previous four-fight winning streak comes to an end.
In the co-main event, Kelvin Gastelum’s rise to the top of middleweight division continued, as he earned a split decision victory over Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza.
Whilst Souza dominated the first round on the feet, Gastelum floored the Brazilian with a straight left hand to edge a narrow second round. The American’s boxing and granite chin shown throughout, and heading into the third round, Souza looked exhausted on his stool.
But the third round proved closer than the second, with Souza and Gastelum trading strikes blow-for-blow. Jacare did manage a takedown, but didn’t follow it up with much attack. A close competitive fight led to Gastelum getting the nod in his opponent’s back yard. The fight also earned the fight of the night bonus, with both men pocketing a $50,000 addition to their fight purse.
Mackenzie Dern submitted Amanda Cooper inside the first round, just a day after missing weight by seven pounds. The jiu-jitsu specialist sunk in a rear-naked choke just before the midway point of the first round to improve her record to a perfect 7-0.
The ever-entertaining John Lineker gained an important victory over Brian Kelleher to improve his UFC record to an impressive 12-3, starching the American with a huge left hook in the third round.
Lyoto Machida rolled back the years with a devastating front kick knockout of retiring legend Vitor Belfort. After a tense first round, with just eleven strikes landed in the opening five minutes… Lyoto Machida landed his first strike of the second round. It was his trademark front kick, straight to the chin of Belfort, ending the fight instantly.
Equally as scary, Machida just stands still and bows to his fallen compatriot and opponent. A knockout of the year contender for sure, and a worth recipient of a performance of the night bonus.
The octagon moves on to debut in Chile next Sunday evening, with dangerous Nigerian Kamaru Usman taking on jiu-jitsu specialist Demian Maia.