Three thrilling bantamweights tried to outdo one another, and Amanda Nunes regarded nearly as good as ever at UFC 250 on Saturday evening.

In the meantime, Conor McGregor went on social media to announce his retirement from MMA. Once more.

Certainly, Saturday will go down as an evening MMA followers will bear in mind for some time, largely because of the gorgeous performances by Sean O’Malley, Aljamain Sterling and Cody Garbrandt on the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

O’Malley, the ballyhooed prospect, began the thrill with a one-punch knockout within the first spherical to defeat veteran Eddie Wineland and transfer to 12-0.

Not a lot later, Sterling completed Cory Sandhagen with a rear-naked choke lower than two minutes into the opening spherical, making his case as the highest title contender at 135. Garbrandt, a former UFC bantamweight champ, adopted within the co-main occasion with a surprising KO of Raphael Assuncao because the horn sounded on the finish of Spherical 2.

What does the long run maintain for every of these fighters? Does the ladies’s featherweight division have a future after Nunes’ drubbing of high contender Felicia Spencer in the primary occasion? Is McGregor bluffing? ESPN’s knowledgeable panel of Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto and Marc Raimondi sort out these matters and extra.

The place does this efficiency put Sean O’Malley within the bantamweight image?



Sean O’Malley says he envisioned himself knocking out Eddie Wineland within the first spherical of UFC 250, which is a cause why he was calm afterward.

Helwani: I like the best way the UFC has booked Sean O’Malley. Typically it will get too excited and pushes somebody too shortly, nevertheless it has pushed him excellent, in my view. In fact, he was sidelined for 2 years attributable to his points with the U.S. Anti-Doping Company, however even upon returning the matchups have been excellent. I do not need to see him in there with a top-five opponent simply but. Let’s go together with top-six-to-10 subsequent and if he wins that, top-five, after which if he wins that we are able to discuss title shot. Sluggish and regular wins the race right here, and they’re thus far doing an important job of showcasing him in the best matchups. He has all of it and is price going with the slow-build route.

Okamoto: One step nearer to changing into a star, undoubtedly. I do not need to oversell it. O’Malley nonetheless has a protracted solution to go when it comes to changing into a family title and a pay-per-view draw. Being a scorching prospect with a ton of hype is one factor. Inspiring folks to drop cash to see you struggle is one other. He additionally has a protracted solution to go when it comes to toppling the highest of this division, which, it must be famous, is stacked. There are some very robust matchups mendacity forward for O’Malley, and he is aware of that. Here is what’s thrilling, although: He has proven that capacity to all the time high his earlier efficiency. That is onerous to do. It is very troublesome to drag one viral second after one other, say the best issues within the aftermath, and exceed the expectations of hype. O’Malley is doing that. And that is in all probability the surest signal of a budding star there may be.

Raimondi: Wow. O’Malley is the true deal, huh? That was a very spectacular knockout of Eddie Wineland. It actually does really feel as if O’Malley is on a special stage. And there is simply one thing about him — an aura, or perhaps it is the rainbow hair — that makes him stand out as a possible star. Perhaps not even potential. O’Malley would possibly already be there. So, the query is how shortly does the UFC push him to the highest of the division? It could be actually tempting for the promotion to raise him, and I feel that may occur. I would think about the “Suga Present” entails a top-10 opponent subsequent time, and I might not be shocked if O’Malley is nearly two wins — or fewer — away from a title shot.

Which fighter stood out through the prelims?



On the conclusion of his bout with Brian Kelleher, Cody Stamann lets the feelings circulate in response to the dying of his youthful brother on Might 27.

Helwani: I used to be blown away by what Cody Stamann did on the market. Not solely was that arguably his greatest efficiency within the UFC thus far, however when you think about he fought with a really heavy coronary heart, it’s much more spectacular. In case you missed it, Stamann’s 18-year-old brother, Jacob, died unexpectedly Might 27. He advised ESPN’s Marc Raimondi this week that the household nonetheless does not know what induced his premature dying. Amazingly, Stamann was nonetheless capable of end his coaching camp for this bout and struggle like that. And, understandably, he was extremely emotional afterward. Plenty of respect for the best way he dealt with that; price mentioning, too, that his opponent, Brian Kelleher dealt with the state of affairs with the utmost class as nicely.

Okamoto: It ain’t straightforward preventing within the UFC at age 20. That is the takeaway. Chase Hooper bumped into an absolute wall towards Alex Caceres — however that does not imply he is overrated. Was he rushed into that matchup? Yeah, it will appear he was. Vegas had Hooper as greater than a 2-to-1 favourite, however generally expertise trumps all, and that is what we noticed on Saturday. Caceres has had a really uneven historical past within the UFC. He is earned his share of upsets, however he is laid an egg or two. He is additionally been in there 22 occasions. For Hooper, Saturday was solely his second journey into the Octagon. He did not have the power to regulate. His reply to his sport plan not working was to only attempt tougher to implement it. That is the disadvantage in making it to the UFC earlier than the authorized consuming age. Typically it is gonna seem like this. Hooper stays a really excessive prospect, although.

Raimondi: Alex Perez may be very a lot a reliable flyweight title contender. It seems Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez will rematch for the vacant title this summer time after Figueiredo missed weight previous to their first struggle in February. Figueiredo beat Benavidez at UFC Norfolk, however there was additionally a conflict of heads that led to the TKO end. Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2 is certainly the subsequent struggle to make, however Perez put himself on that shortlist of future contenders Saturday by beating Jussier Formiga. It wasn’t simply that he beat Formiga; it was how he did it. Perez destroyed Formiga’s calf with low leg kicks till he simply may not rise up. It was a first-round leg-kick TKO within the first spherical towards a perennial 125-pound contender. Extraordinarily spectacular.

Do you anticipate Aljamain Sterling to be sporting a belt by the top of the 12 months?



Aljamain Sterling contends that if folks proceed to doubt him, the extra money they’ll lose after his submission win over Cory Sandhagen.

Helwani: Properly, in my thoughts he’s the champion. Or a minimum of the uncrowned champion. I sincerely assume this could have been the vacant title struggle, and whereas I do not need to advocate for the UFC taking the title shot away from Jose Aldo, as a result of that simply would not be truthful, the subsequent struggle ought to actually be Sterling vs. Petr Yan for the undisputed title. However alas, he’ll have to attend. And I ponder for a way lengthy. If that title struggle occurs in the summertime, it could be some time earlier than he really will get to struggle for the belt. Unlucky, however for now, congrats to him. Phenomenal win.

Okamoto: You realize what? I do. I actually do. I am gonna plant my flag on the Sterling bandwagon proper now. I have been singing this man’s praises actually ever since he misplaced to Marlon Moraes in devastating vogue. Since then, he is rattled off 5 consecutive wins and, greater than that, it simply feels as if Sterling has figured it out. And that is actually what so many people had been ready for. If you happen to bear in mind again to the start of his UFC profession, this was the man. His ceiling was so excessive. Sensible, bodily items, strong grappling base. It took him some time to get snug on the toes, however he is there now. And that consolation stage is making a distinction in his grappling. Sterling is preventing with lots of confidence, and he is stepping into with a plan. He is aware of what he desires to do and he is assured in his talent set to get it completed. I feel he is a nasty matchup for lots of the division.

Raimondi: He has to a minimum of struggle for the bantamweight title this 12 months, proper? Sterling has received 5 straight and he completely rolled via Sandhagen on Saturday. Only a few noticed that coming. Sterling received Sandhagen’s again and put the squeeze on. It is very onerous to outlive in that place towards Sterling. The rear-naked-choke end got here in lower than 90 seconds. Sandhagen was the favourite coming in and had a ton of hype, due to his high-level hanging and footwork. Sterling by no means let him get going.

It appears Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo might be subsequent for the vacant bantamweight title, although it isn’t official. Perhaps Sterling will get slotted into Aldo’s spot? Perhaps not. Both means, if Henry Cejudo is actually retired proper now, I do not assume there’s a greater fighter within the division than Aljamain Sterling. If he will get the title shot, I consider he’ll develop into the UFC bantamweight champion. Cejudo vs. Sterling could be so darn good although, would not it?

What was your greatest takeaway from Cody Garbrandt’s efficiency?



Cody Garbrandt shakes up Raphael Assuncao with a jab to the face within the first spherical.

Helwani: Mark Henry is an exceptional coach. Cherished Garbrandt’s determination to work with the New Jersey-based Henry, whom I contemplate the most effective hanging coaches within the sport. He wanted to modify issues up after struggling three losses in a row, and Henry was simply what the physician ordered. I by no means subscribed to the speculation that he was shot, however he wanted an emphatic win like that to remind everybody simply how good he’s, and he received it, thanks largely to his work with Henry not too long ago.

Okamoto: He is again. And I do know that is cliché. I do know it is essentially the most overused line in fight sports activities, and perhaps sports activities generally. However Garbrandt is again … and, you understand what — he by no means left! How about that? Cliché metropolis. However simply check out what occurred to the man. He suffered via accidents previous to his first knockout loss to TJ Dillashaw. After which he misplaced his head coach in Justin Buchholz. Garbrandt as soon as in contrast it to an NFL quarterback departing from his offensive coordinator. It takes a minute to reestablish that connection. He appears to have that now with Mark Henry. I liked what I noticed from Garbrandt, and I do assume criticisms of his chin may need been a bit overblown. He isn’t even 30 but. I feel he is nonetheless very a lot a title contender on this division.

Raimondi: Every thing he mentioned main into Saturday was reliable. Garbrandt mentioned he had made the required modifications to his coaching, going to New Jersey for a part of his camp to coach with Mark Henry. Garbrandt mentioned he swore off the tendency to be roped into brawls. Garbrandt mentioned he hadn’t been as excited a few struggle week since he beat Dominick Cruz to win the bantamweight title in 2016. All of these issues ended up being correct in Garbrandt’s violent, highlight-reel knockout of Raphael Assuncao proper on the second-round buzzer. What number of occasions do fighters on a shedding streak say they’ve made all the best modifications and so they’re able to get again on the profitable monitor, nevertheless it by no means finally ends up occurring in apply? Extra occasions than not. However not this time.

Garbrandt was self-aware, spot on and he appears really able to get again into the bantamweight combine now after three consecutive losses. He is nonetheless simply 28 and has all of the bodily instruments anybody may need. It’s going to be thrilling to see if he can get all the best way again. No fighter in UFC historical past has misplaced the world title, misplaced three straight at any level and are available again to win the belt once more.

Is Conor McGregor actually gone this time?

Helwani: I feel he is being severe proper now. At this time. Tomorrow? That is still to be seen. We have been right here earlier than, proper? He is an emotional man. I feel he’s pissed off as a result of there is not any apparent opponent on the market proper now, which is unusual contemplating the draw he’s. I feel he wished the Justin Gaethje struggle, and he was disillusioned when it did not materialize. I feel he wished the Anderson Silva struggle, and is disillusioned that’s not materializing. However as he has mentioned to me many occasions, he’ll by no means cease preventing. He reiterated this again in January. In the end, I feel he’s very upset his 2020 plans have taken a detour. He hoped to struggle July 11 in his second struggle of the 12 months and now that seems to be a protracted shot. A creating state of affairs.

Okamoto: LOL. No. McGregor didn’t simply retire from MMA with a tweet, instantly after a pay-per-view occasion on a Saturday evening. Let’s be actual right here. Nevertheless, the timing of his tweet, because it pertains to different stars — Jon Jones, Jorge Masvidal, Henry Cejudo — does make it extra attention-grabbing.

Raimondi: In fact not. I would be completely shocked if McGregor by no means fought once more. That does not imply retirement will not occur. It is simply extremely unlikely. That is McGregor’s third time saying his “retirement” on Twitter. The earlier two occasions had been throughout disputes with the UFC. This previous week, UFC president Dana White mentioned it could be greatest for McGregor to not struggle in the meanwhile and look forward to the winner of a light-weight title struggle between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje. McGregor, in the meantime, has wished to remain lively, although the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench in these plans. There’s possible a correlation between what White is saying and what McGregor tweeted Saturday evening. The small print of the disagreement will certainly come out in time.

Ought to the UFC preserve the 145-pound division?



Amanda Nunes places on a dominating efficiency towards Felicia Spencer, touchdown heavy blows to the top all through.

Helwani: I feel the promotion ought to preserve it. A part of what has made Nunes’ run so nice is that she is a double champion, so it has worth. I would prefer to see them proceed to spend money on the division and discover new expertise. The benefit of Nunes being the double champion is that she will return right down to 135 and do work there whereas a queue kinds at 145. This buys the UFC time. It will be extra problematic if there have been separate champs at 135 and 145. Nunes does not (and should not) should struggle at 145 subsequent, so there is not any rush there. I say carry on Irene Aldana at 135 subsequent.