Jagged elbows and scar tissue set the stage for an anticlimactic finish to one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s most anticipated bouts of the year.
Jorge Masvidal was awarded a technical knockout against Nate Diaz in the UFC 244 headliner on Saturday at Madison Square in New York, as the cageside physician called for the stoppage due to cuts in between the third and fourth rounds, much to the dismay of the two combatants and those in attendance. Understandably, neither Masvidal nor Diaz seemed satisfied with how the situation played out.
Once the emotions die down, history figures to show Masvidal was the vastly superior fighter. The American Top Team standout decided when and where to engage, taunted Diaz with wry smiles and tore into him with virtually every weapon in his vast arsenal. An elbow strike from the clinch opened the first cut, and by fight’s end, it stretched across almost the entire length of Diaz’s right eyebrow. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner also sported a horizontal gash below his eye on the same side -- further evidence that his 15-minute clash with Masvidal had not gone as he had hoped.
In the aftermath of UFC 244 “Masvidal vs. Diaz,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Jorge Masvidal vs. Kamaru Usman-Colby Covington winner: Though he expressed an interest in a rematch, Masvidal ought to cast his gaze higher on the welterweight ladder. The long-awaited battle with Diaz, while entertaining, was not particularly competitive. According to preliminary data, Masvidal outlanded the Stockton, California, native by close to a 3-to-1 margin in terms of significant strikes and displayed a far more diverse set of skills. “Gamebred” has rattled off three consecutive victories, all of them finishes, and inched ever closer to a title that carries more than symbolic weight. Usman will defend the undisputed welterweight crown against Covington in the UFC 245 main event on Dec. 14.
Darren Till vs. Jared Cannonier: Till announced his arrival in the middleweight division with a split decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum in the co-main event. Judges Eric Colon and Chris Lee scored it 29-28 and 30-27 for Till, while Dave Tirelli cast a dissenting 30-27 nod in Gastelum’s favor. Till kept the Rafael Cordeiro protégé off-balance with fundamental footwork and lateral movement, stayed within himself and methodically built his lead. He connected with a number of chopping left hands, delivered more than one standing elbow strike in tight spaces and zeroed in on Gastelum’s exposed lead leg with kicks. Till, 26, appears to have found a home more suited for his 6-foot frame at 185 pounds. Cannonier has rattled off three straight stoppages against David Branch, Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson.
Stephen Thompson vs. Demian Maia: Thompson returned to form with a unanimous decision over Vicente Luque in an action-packed welterweight attraction, as the South Carolina-based karateka darted in and out with punching combinations, countered effectively and outmaneuvered the resilient Brazilian across three entertaining rounds. Scores were 30-26, 30-26 and 29-27, all for Thompson. “Wonderboy” overcame a slow start, floored Luque with a straight left on the counter and piled up points with a variety of kicks to the head, body, legs and arms. The victory was Thompson’s first since he outpointed Masvidal a little less than two years ago. Maia posted his third straight win at UFC Fight Night 162 on Oct. 26, when he submitted former Bellator MMA and One Championship titleholder Ben Askren with a third-round rear-naked choke.
Derrick Lewis vs. Curtis Blaydes: Ferocious bursts of power punches carried Lewis to a split decision over former World Series of Fighting champion Blagoy Ivanov in a three-round heavyweight feature. Judges Tirelli and Lee struck 29-28 and 30-27 scorecards for Lewis, while Colon saw it 29-28 for Ivanov. The Bulgarian twice executed takedowns and advanced to side control, only to surrender his advantageous positions with failed bids for keylocks. Lewis also withstood more than one submission attempt, fought through fatigue and blasted the iron-chinned sambo stylist with straight right hands, uppercuts and the occasional knee, as he closed the book on his two-fight losing streak. Blaydes last appeared at UFC 242, where he put away Shamil Abdurakhimov in the second round of their Sept. 7 encounter.
Kevin Lee vs. Islam Makhachev: Lee rebounded from consecutive losses to Al Iaquinta and Rafael dos Anjos with a spectacular head kick knockout of the previously unbeaten Gregor Gillespie in the first round of their lightweight showcase. The four-time NCAA All-American wrestler met a violent end 2:47 into Round 1. Gillespie put significant damage on the Tristar Gym representative’s left eye, as he fired repeated jabs into his face and seemed content to engage him in open space. However, Lee closed the distance, cracked him with a clubbing right hand and followed it with a perfectly place high kick his counterpart never saw coming. An unconscious Gillespie hit the deck in a seated position along the fence and ate a diving hammerfist from “The Motown Phenom” before referee Dan Miragliotta could arrive on the scene. Makhachev moved to 18-1 with a unanimous decision over Davi Ramos at UFC 242 in September.