The UFC on ESPN period kicked off on Saturday night time at Barclays Middle in Brooklyn, New York with a 13-fight card capped by a “Champion vs. Champion” superfight for the flyweight title.

Saturday was a historic day for the UFC because the blended martial arts chief teamed up with “The Worldwide Chief” for the primary time, ushering within the UFC on ESPN period with a powerful struggle card from Barclays Middle in Brooklyn, New York that supplied a bit of little bit of every little thing.

For the hardcore set, there have been underappreciated welterweights Belal Muhammad and Geoff Neal, “The Violence Queen” Ariane Lipski debuting in opposition to Joanne Calderwood and unbeaten light-weight Gregor Gillespie going through the hardest check of his profession in Hawaiian Yancy Medeiros.

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For the casuals, there have been acquainted names like Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Paige VanZant, in addition to the promotional debut of controversial former Professional Bowl defensive lineman Greg Hardy.

And capping all of it off was an amazing title struggle that includes bamtamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw dropping right down to problem Henry Cejudo for the flyweight title.

Right here’s a have a look at the important thing takeaways and speaking factors from the UFC’s first occasion of 2019.

1. Cejudo rapidly stops Dillashaw to defend flyweight title

Henry Cejudo wanted simply 32 seconds to complete T.J. Dillashaw and efficiently defend the flyweight title, closing out the UFC’s first occasion of the ESPN period in spectacular vogue.

“The Messenger” got here out in a flash, pushing ahead and placing a proper hand on the mark after shoving Dillashaw to the bottom. It wobbled the bantamweight kingpin and Cejudo by no means let up, connecting with a pair extra clear, stable photographs that left Dillashaw scrambling and prompting referee Kevin MacDonald to step in and cease the competition.

This was a large efficiency for Cejudo, who has now gone back-to-back in opposition to pound-for-pound standouts Dillashaw and Demetrious Johnson and may make his method to the 135-pound ranks to run this again with the bantamweight title hanging within the stability, though it may be laborious to hustle into that struggle given how rapidly and emphatically this one ended.

Saturday’s most important occasion muddies the waters in each the flyweight and bantamweight divisions and will probably be very attention-grabbing to see how the UFC brings readability to these two weight lessons and the way lengthy it takes earlier than we all know the place issues are headed in every division.

2. Hardy will get disqualified in UFC debut

Greg Hardy’s first foray into the Octagon went about as poorly as you could possibly have forecasted.

Positioned within the co-main occasion of the night, the controversial former NFL defensive lineman couldn’t get Allen Crowder out of there in a rush and from there, his inexperience was on full show.

As soon as Crowder took him down, Hardy had no actual response and though he didn’t take a lot harm, it was clear he was out of his component and beginning to fade. Early within the second spherical, Crowder began speaking trash — to the purpose that the printed needed to reduce the in-cage microphones — and calling Hardy ahead. The neophyte responded with strikes, however with Crowder on a knee, Hardy measured him and related with an unlawful knee to the temple.

Referee Dan Miragliotta instantly paused the motion and indicated that Hardy could be disqualified if Crowder couldn’t proceed and that’s precisely what occurred.

Whereas the viewers roared with the end result and MMA Twitter largely loved the end result, this was about as dangerous because it may have gone for Hardy and the UFC. His historical past of home violence already stood as a large strike in opposition to him, rightfully so, with out query, and now his first bout ended with a transparent and apparent foul, prompting many to query whether or not it was intentional and if Hardy would make a second look within the Octagon. 

From an athletic standpoint, he’s clearly an intriguing prospect, however in a spherical and a half on Saturday, Hardy confirmed he’s nowhere close to able to struggle at this stage. The very best factor everybody surrounding Hardy may presumably do for him proper now’s persuade him to press pause on his Octagon goals and as an alternative shift his focus to gaining expertise and increase his abilities.

Step out of the highlight. Go put in work, each within the fitness center and on the regional scene, and show you’re worthy of a chance to struggle alongside one of the best within the sport.

3. “The Present” is the products

Gregor Gillespie is one of the best light-weight nobody is speaking about — an unbeaten former nationwide champion wrestler who has amassed six wins and 5 straight finishes since arriving within the UFC a bit of greater than two years in the past.

After making comparatively fast work of a set of stable, however unspectacular opponents to kick off his run, the Lengthy Island, New York resident stepped into the cage with veteran powerful out Yancy Medeiros on Saturday and made it look straightforward, absorbing a single strike whereas sporting out the Hawaiian along with his suffocating wrestling and punishing high sport. Whereas Medeiros hung powerful, Gillespie stayed on him and gave him no area, ultimately securing the end with only one second left within the center stanza.

Though light-weight is extremely aggressive and flush with acquainted names, Saturday’s outing and his general dominance within the Octagon ought to land Gillespie within the rankings and safe him a dance accomplice within the Prime 15 subsequent day trip. He has championship potential and the abilities to hold with anybody within the division; all he wants now is a chance.

4. Benavidez, Ortiz makes a case for preserving flyweights

Earlier within the week, I talked at size about why the UFC ought to hit reset on the flyweight division fairly than shut it down following Saturday’s most important occasion title struggle. Halfway via the present in Brooklyn, Joseph Benavidez and Dustin Ortiz teamed as much as ship one other case for preserving the 125-pound division round.

The highest-ranked duo engaged in a back-and-forth scramble-fest — a show of high-level wrestling that featured quite a few attack-and-defend eventualities with counters and reversals and extra counters and extra reversals. It was the kind of struggle that loads of individuals don’t like, however true heads acknowledge as a present of elite talent.

Benavidez secured the victory, utilizing a first-round knockdown and practically six minutes of management time to garner a trio of 29-28 scores to stay on the high of the record of contenders within the division with an unsure future. He reiterated his want to face whomever ended the night time with the belt of their possession and after two superb wins and a profession because the second-best fighter within the division, Benavidez deserves an opportunity to seize gold.

Right here’s hoping the division survives lengthy sufficient for that to occur.

5. Identical Previous Cowboy

Donald Cerrone returned to the light-weight division for the primary time in three years on Saturday night time, touchdown in a harmful showdown in opposition to rising prospect Alexander Hernandez within the last preliminary card bout of the night. Positioned because the underdog with many forecasting that the 26-year-old would spoil his divisional homecoming, Cerrone confirmed he’s nonetheless a contender by handing Hernandez a second-round stoppage loss.

The youngest got here out of the blocks with tons of vitality, pushing the tempo and connecting with a handful of early photographs that obtained Cerrone’s consideration. However as soon as the veteran obtained his rhythm and vary, “Cowboy” began making Hernandez pay for coming ahead.

After busting him up within the first with a number of brief elbows, the 35-year-old veteran went again to them within the second, placing Hernandez on his heels with sharp mixtures earlier than uncorking a proper excessive kick that put his opponent on the deck. From there, Cerrone pounced, including to his data for probably the most wins (22) and most finishes (16) in UFC historical past.

Cerrone mentioned he moved again to light-weight to chase gold and after a efficiency like this, he ought to discover himself proper again within the thick of the chase.

6. Calderwood discovering her groove

Joanne Calderwood entered the event to crown the primary strawweight champion in UFC historical past because the No. 2 seed; a promising Muay Thai striker with an unbeaten document and tons of hype. However she struggled on the present, getting upset within the second spherical earlier than being plagued with inconsistency over her first six official Octagon appearances.

Following a yr on the sidelines, a transfer to Las Vegas and a shift to the flyweight division, Calderwood is beginning to present the shape that made her a high prospect earlier in her profession. After scoring a submission win over Kalindra Faria final summer time, the Scottish striker earned a unanimous determination win over KSW champ Ariane Lipski on Saturday night time, dominating the motion en path to a clear sweep of the scorecards.

Extra importantly, Calderwood has proven critical enhancements over her final two outings, totally on the bottom. She setting issues up higher and preventing smarter, that are two components that usually separate the nice from the good. With flyweight simply getting rolling, Calderwood has rapidly positioned herself close to the highest of the division and may stay there for the foreseeable future.

7. Introducing Alonzo Menifield

Alonzo Menifield is a reputation to keep watch over within the UFC mild heavyweight division.

Saturday night, the two-time Contender Sequence winner made his promotional debut, securing a first-round stoppage win over Vinicius Moreira the place he showcased his spectacular velocity/energy mixture on the toes to push his successful streak to eight.

Proper out of the chute, it was clear the Fortis MMA product was the higher man, as he rocked Moreira with the primary actual mixture he landed and by no means actually let off. Whereas the stoppage might need come a bit of early for some individuals’s liking, Menifield was all around the Brazilian and there was no actual cause to let issues proceed any additional.

With mild heavyweight at all times in want of contemporary names, Menifield has the potential to make an expedited stand up the divisional rankings. He’s a plus athlete with sharp palms and apparent energy, plus he comes from a terrific rising fitness center with glorious coaches and a bunch of high quality coaching companions.

All of the items are there for Menifield to make an on the spot impression and rapidly turn out to be an element within the 205-pound weight division.

8. Cory Sandhagen is Should-See TV

Initially scheduled to face John Lineker, you could possibly perceive if Cory Sandhagen got here out a bit of flat after the Brazilian was pressured out with an damage and changed by MMA Lab prospect Mario Bautista. As a substitute, the surging bantamweight continued to point out out, gathering his third stoppage victory in as many begins contained in the Octagon.

The well-rounded and all-action Elevation Struggle Crew member took the struggle to Bautista from the outset, dropping him with a flying knee early within the opening spherical. When Bautista recovered and seemed to wrestle, Sandhagen turned to his submission abilities, attacking with an inverted triangle choke earlier than finally latching onto a belly-down armbar to safe the end.

Now an ideal 3-Zero within the Octagon and driving a three-fight successful streak, the 26-year-old Colorado native has established himself as a must-see attraction each time he steps into the cage and somebody able to making some noise within the bantamweight division in 2019.

9. Dennis Bermudez calls it a profession

Standing within the heart of the cage after snapping his four-fight dropping streak, Dennis Bermudez peeled the tape off his gloves, took them off and laid them on the mat, bringing his 27-fight profession to a detailed.

A local of Lindenhurst, New York, the previous TUF finalist thought of strolling away after struggling a third-straight break up determination loss and fourth consecutive defeat general final summer time. As a substitute, Bermudez moved as much as light-weight and made probably the most of it, using a bevy of takedowns and prolonged intervals of high management to safe the victory.

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Bermudez was a fixture within the featherweight division for almost all of his profession, utilizing a seven-fight successful streak that included a memorable brawl with Matt Grice and a split-decision win over reigning champ Max Holloway to enter the Prime 15 and he stayed there for the subsequent a number of years.

Although he by no means challenged for gold or made it right into a title eliminator, “Dennis the Menace” was a constant, aggressive powerful out in one of many deepest divisions within the sport. He went out on his personal phrases and to do it with a victory at house was absolutely additional candy.

10. Take note of Geoff Neal

The welterweight division is at all times flush with expertise and standing out is tough, however via his first three Octagon appearances, Geoff Neal has made it clear that he’s somebody to keep watch over within the 170-pound weight class.

After incomes stoppage victories over Brian Camozzi and Frank Camacho final yr in his UFC rookie season, the Fortis MMA product kicked off 2019 with a unanimous determination win over Belal Muhammad within the second bout of the night on Saturday night time in Brooklyn. Getting into the spherical comparatively shut, Neal pulled away within the last body, turning up his output and hurting Muhammad down the stretch to seal the deal.

This was a step up in competitors for Neal and the 28-year-old Texan handed with flying colours, weathering one of the best the resilient and examined Muhammad needed to provide and rising to the event to safe one other victory. As a result of it was positioned early on the struggle card, this one will seemingly slide into the shadows a bit of and that’s a disgrace, as Neal confirmed he’s deserving of one other stage of competitors and somebody who may land a spot within the Prime 15 earlier than too lengthy.

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