Promises kept: UFC 300 was the single greatest night of fights in MMA history

Promises kept: UFC 300 was the single greatest night of fights in MMA history

LAS VEGAS — Isn’t it nice when things are as good as they’re supposed to be? And maybe when they’re even better?

UFC 300 was billed as the greatest night of fights in the history of combat sports. An absurd promise, obviously. Pure runaway advertising. Then the leather started flying here at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, and by the time it all stopped and I had a chance to catch my breath, I had to admit that this was, in fact, the single greatest night of professional fighting I’d ever seen.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise. You put together a lineup that features 13 current or former champions, you ought to end up with something good in the end. But this was better than good. This was special.

A lot of that credit has to go to Max Holloway. For weeks now he’s been bristling about people saying he was making a mistake by going up in weight for the BMF title fight with Justin Gaethje. Didn’t he remember what happened the last time he fought at 155 pounds (a loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 236)? Wouldn’t he be better off staying home at featherweight and making his case for a crack at new champ Ilia Topuria?

Max Holloway had a legendary finish at UFC 300. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

But what he wanted, Holloway insisted, was to be a legend of this sport. And how can you be a legend if you don’t take some big risks to go and do legendary stuff?

In case you thought he was just saying stuff, there was Holloway, in the final 10 seconds of the final round of a fight he seemed to be clearly on his way to winning, and he was not just agreeing but practically demanding that Gaethje join him in the center of the cage for one final brawl. That’s risky, to put it mildly. It was basically the only chance Gaethje had left, and Holloway handed it to him. Just winning the fight would have been enough. Risking losing it that way seemed borderline crazy.

Then Holloway landed that clean right hand standing in the eye of the hurricane. Then Gaethje slumped to the floor, the fight ending with a second left. Then the crowd roar that nearly tore a hole in the roof of the building confirmed that Holloway had indeed just become a legend of the sport.

Max Holloway lands a big right hand against Justin Gaethje. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

It was one of the greatest, most dramatic finishes ever seen in an MMA fight. And there were still two more fights to come.

The UFC set out to make a centennial event that would outpace the two previous ones. While it didn’t produce any blockbuster names for the main event, it was able to rely on the depth of the roster to provide the magic in the aggregate. To be able to call on someone like Holloway as an undercard feature? That’s a luxury most fight promoters don’t have, and a gift fight fans may only just barely deserve.

A few other notes on UFC 300 …

  • Alex Pereira told Jamahal Hill he’d make him remember the moment he mocked the champion with his choice of pre-fight props. As Pereira stood over the fallen Hill after the first-round knockout win in the main event he gestured down at the man repeatedly as if to say: That moment I told you was coming? This is it right here.

The moment Alex Pereira had been waiting for. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

  • In a sport filled with professional tough guys, Pereira somehow manages to be a whole other level of terrifying. His facial expression never changes, yet he radiates a constant intensity. After successfully defending his 205-pound belt, he now says he’d like to try heavyweight. I guess when you’ve already won UFC titles in two divisions it’s only natural to figure, hey, why not a third? Whoever welcomes him to that weight class, it had better not be anyone who frightens easily.

  • If, on the other hand, Pereira opts to stick around light heavyweight? Jiří Procházka sure made a strong case for a rematch with his TKO win over Aleksandar Rakić on the undercard. After getting steadily picked apart for most of the fight, Prochazka landed one clean right hand to turn the tide, then swarmed for the finish. It was a swift reversal in a fight that seemed he was clearly on his way to losing. Clearly, that is, for everyone but him.

  • One of Procházka’s great strengths (but also his weakness) is that he fights as if it’s never occurred to him that he could be hurt. This can make him seem not all that interested in protecting his face, but it also keeps him from losing confidence when things aren’t going his way. That’s a dangerous person, even when he’s losing. Pereira may have beaten him once, but that doesn’t mean anyone should count him out in a potential rematch.

  • Zhang Weili had a tougher time than many expected in her UFC strawweight title defense against Yan Xiaonan, but she got it done in the end. It required her to walk right up to the line of winning the fight two separate times before she finally took it by decision. It also required her to lean heavily on her wrestling, which has been a work in rapid progress. It paid off tonight against a very tough challenger who wouldn’t go away easily. It also makes Weili an even tougher puzzle for anyone to solve.

  • With the arrival of Kayla Harrison, business is about to pick up in the women’s bantamweight division. The weight class has been in a little bit of a lull since the retirement of longtime champ Amanda Nunes. But the way Harrison showed up and ran through former champ Holly Holm in her UFC debut, there now seems to be a new reason to get excited about the division. If Harrison can consistently make the weight, she’s a major problem for every other 135-pounder. And judging from her reaction at home on fight night, even Nunes is starting to feel renewed interest in the division with Harrison here.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button