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The
Ultimate Fighting Championship
on Saturday stayed close to home
with UFC
250
at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, where reigning women’s
featherweight titleholder and pound-for-pound queen Amanda
Nunes
risked her 145-pound crown against Felicia
Spencer
in the main event. Some stocks rose, and others
tumbled.

STOCK UP



Cody
Garbrandt
:
All it took was one well-timed right hook
at the second-round horn for the former UFC bantamweight champion
to release the frustration associated with his last three losses;
and just like that, he finds himself back in the mix at 135 pounds.
Garbrandt’s more measured and cautious approach was a breath of
fresh air, and while his incredible speed remained evident, it was
clear rather quickly that “No Love” had matured during his time
away from the sport. With most other Top 10 contenders already
booked, a showdown with onetime
World Series of Fighting
titleholder Marlon
Moraes
makes sense, both in terms of meritocracy and box-office
appeal.

Aljamain
Sterling
:
The Serra-Longo Fight Team star staked his
claim as the No. 1 contender in the bantamweight division, as he
took Cory
Sandhagen
’s back, slithered his arms around his neck and
secured the rear-naked choke for the tapout just 88 seconds into
the first round. The win figures to make Sterling one half of the
fight to determine the fate of the bantamweight championship—a seat
recently vacated by Henry
Cejudo
. “Funk Master” has rattled off five consecutive
victories against opponents with a cumulative record of 87-14-1.
All signs point to Sterling rising to meet the great expectations
that greeted his arrival in the UFC six years ago.

Sean
O’Malley
:
While taking on his first tenured veteran in
his run toward contention, “Sugar Sean” passed a legitimate test
with flying colors and cut down former
World Extreme Cagefighting
champion Eddie
Wineland
in a fantastic first-round knockout. Much like
Conor
McGregor
, O’Malley seems to possess what
Tristar Gym
trainer Firas Zahabi refers to as “the touch of
death.” He wields the kind of knockout power few bantamweights
carry, and coupled with his marketability, the
Dana White’s Contender Series
alum looks like a dream come true
for the UFC from a promotional standpoint. Up next for O’Malley:
his first crack at a Top 15 opponent, perhaps someone like Rob Font.

STOCK DOWN



Felicia
Spencer
:
The former
Invicta Fighting Championships
titleholder had a rough time,
from bell to bell. Spencer fell woefully short in her first UFC
title fight, as she was brutalized by the incomparable Amanda
Nunes
for five full rounds. She had no answer for the
champion’s well-rounded skills and spent 25 minutes in survival
mode. The Florida-based Canadian can hang her hat on the toughness
and durability she displayed, but the gulf between her and Nunes
was evident for all to see, and it was massive. Where Spencer goes
from here, considering the lack of depth present at 145 pounds,
remains to be seen.

Raphael
Assuncao
:
At 37 years of age and having come out on
the losing side in each of his last three bouts, it appears as
though Assuncao’s time as a perennial contender in the bantamweight
division has come to an end. The Brazilian was 11-1 in the
135-pound weight class at one point, but his skills have diminished
with age and the speed and power the division requires are no
longer present. While it remains unclear if Assuncao will fulfill
his UFC contract or opt for retirement, he has enjoyed a long and
distinguished career. Should he choose to move forward, he might be
best served by seeking out fights with aging veterans in a similar
position.

Chase
Hooper
:
Alex
Caceres
was a case of too much too soon for Hooper, who found
himself exploited on the feet by a cagy, far more experienced
veteran. With no means with which to drag the fight to the floor,
the 20-year-old grappler looked like a fish out of water in
striking exchanges. Hooper has a long way to go in his development
before he can be considered a significant threat in the
featherweight division. His grappling skills are undeniable, but he
has a clear ceiling until he makes strides in the standup and
wrestling departments. Fortunately, time remains on his side.
Hooper should hunt fights on the lower end of the featherweight
spectrum while he gains more experience, rounds out his skills and
fills out his frame. Advertisement


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