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UFC 239: Three straight knockouts electrify T-Mobile Arena

Jon Jones retains title in razor-thin fashion

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Steve Marcus

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, left, kicks Thiago Santos of Brazil during UFC 239 at T-Mobile Arena Saturday, July 6, 2019. Jones retained his title by split decision.

Updated Saturday, July 6, 2019 | 11:03 p.m.

Jon Jones Retains Title with Spilt Decision

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, left, is announced as the winner over Thiago Santos of Brazil during UFC 239 at T-Mobile Arena Saturday, July 6, 2019. Jones retained his title by split decision. Launch slideshow »

Let’s hope local hospitals set aside a few extra beds for the UFC tonight.

They certainly needed them after a particularly violent evening at T-Mobile Area to conclude this year’s International Fight Week. The UFC 239 main card saw three of five fights end in knockout — and they were uniformly vicious.

That included the fastest knockout in UFC history, in what many considered the most anticipated bout of the night. Jorge Masvidal handed Ben Askren the first loss of his UFC career in directly the fashion he promised — leaving him unconscious.

Askren immediately dropped down for a takedown, and Masvidal was ready. He threw a flying knee and got the finish in 5 seconds, breaking the previous record by three seconds.

“I really wanted to beat him up for 14 minutes and 30 seconds before ending him, but it didn’t happen,” Masvidal said. “Now it’s back to business. I have nothing nice to say about him. He was talking wild and I had to show him there are consequences. You’re welcome for ending that dude.”

No one thought Masvidal’s win could be topped, but two-division champion Amanda Nunes may have done it in cementing herself as the best female fighter of all-time. After back-and-forth early first-round action with former champion Holly Holm, Nunes connected with a headkick at 4:10 of the first round to ed the fight prematurely.

“She was the only former champion I didn’t beat yet,” Nunes said. “Now, I beat her and I’m very happy.”

Holm isn’t the only former champion who required immediate medical attention at the event. Former middleweight belt-holder Luke Rockhold’s debut at light heavyweight didn’t go according to plan as he walked into a lethal Jan Blachowicz left hand to lose via knockout at 1:39 of the second round.

Blachowicz has now won five of his last six and could soon have a claim as light heavyweight’s top contender. It just might be up for debate whom he should have to fight for that title.

Jon Jones retained the 205-pound division’s belt in the UFC 239 main event, but it was the closest fight of his career. Longshot opponent Thiago Santos caught Jones with several punches and did enough to win the fight on one judge’s scorecards.

The other two judges sided with Jones, however, to give the champion a split-decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48). Some boos rained down as the crowd appeared to think Santos won.

Most media decisions were also in Santos’ favor, though Las Vegas Sun scored the bout for Jones.

“I’m so sorry,” Jones said to the crowd. “ I know a lot of you are booing me right now but Thiago’s best chance to win this fight was by knockout and I was playing it safe.”

“He was just technical, a lot more solid than I thought.”

Jones appeared to injure Santos’ lead leg with a kick midway through the fight, which might have been the difference.

“There’s no whining about it,” Santos said through a translator. “It is what it is.”

The only other fight to reach the scorecards on the pay-per-view main card came in the opening bout where Michael Chiesa defeated Diego Sanchez via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26) in a welterweight bout.

It was dominant and somewhat dull fight, not fitting at all thematically with the rest of the card. Even for combat-sports standards, UFC 239 wreaked particular havoc.

Check below for full results from the preliminary card and come back later for more coverage.

No matter what event was on the schedule, masses of fans flocked there.

Any concern that this year’s International Fight Week would prove less attended than ones in the past was dropped days ago. UFC 239 doesn’t include the mega matchups or the accompanying Fan Expo of past Fourth of July weekend pay-per-view fight cards.

But that doesn’t appear to matter. Las Vegas is as packed as ever with fight fans, which is making for a lively environment at T-Mobile Arena heading into the main event.

While the event might lack a historic-type fight, UFC 239 certainly isn’t missing great fighters. Many of the local mixed martial arts’ organization’s finest will step into the octagon over the next three hours.

None are more distinguished than light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, a pair of belt-holders who must fight off game competition.

Nunes is first in the co-main event against Holly Holm, who poses a problem for anyone with her boxing and kickboxing acumen. Bettors are reportedly calling for the upset with Holm, who’s as high as a plus-350 (risking $1 to win $3.50).

Of course, they’re also on Jones’ opponent, which could hint that they’re just looking for a big payout on a small bet. The line would indicate Jones has one of the easiest defenses of his career when he meets Thiago Santos, as high as a plus-500 underdog, in the main event.

Santos is a former middleweight who earned a shot against Jones by winning his first four fights at 205 pounds by knockout. The expectation is he’ll be head-hunting against Jones early.

Jorge Masvidal will have the same approach in a featured fight against Ben Askren, and he’s not even trying to mask it. Askren, perhaps the UFC’s best wrestler and an undefeated former One FC champion, is making his second appearance in the octagon after defeating former champion Robbie Lawler in March.

Big names are also in the first two fights of the main card, as welterweight “The Ultimate Fighter” winners Diego Sanchez and Michael Chiesa open the action before former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold debuts at light heavyweight against Jan Blachowicz.

Rockhold is considered a potential next contender for Jones. Askren could also add his name to the title picture at welterweight, where Kamaru Usman currently reigns, with a dominant win.

UFC 239 has a lot on the line, which might be part of the reason fans packed everything from Wednesday’s open workouts to Friday’s ceremonial weigh-ins. It all leads up tonight, where there’s similiarly no lack of fanfafre.

Check below for full results from the preliminary card and follow along for round-by-roud updates of the main card.

Featherweight prospect Arnold Allen picked up the most significant victory of his career against former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez. Allen defeated Melendez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in near flawless fashion.

Marlon Vera overcame a few early mistakes to still earn a memorable win over Nohelin Hernandez in a bantamweight bout. Vera used a rear-naked choke to submit Hernandez at 3:25 of the second round, setting up the finish with a knee to the chin.

Claudia Gadelha and Randa Marcos more or less neutralized each other in a women's bantamweight bout, with neither fighter ever coming too close to a finish. Gadelha out-landed Marcos, though, and that was enough to earn a unaniumous decision where all three judges awarded her every round.

Yadong Song knocked Alejandro Perez out cold at 2:04 of the first round with a vicious right hand. The win was the highly-touted Song's seventh straight and improved his UFC record to 4-0.

Top middleweight prospect Edmen Shahbazyan went virtually untouched before knocking out Jack Marshman at 1:12 of the first round. Shahbazyan improved to 10-0.

In a relatively close welterweight fight, Chance Rencountre came through with a big-time upset by beating Ismail Naurdiev via unanimous decision (30-27,29-28, 29-27). Recountre was as high as plus-455 (risking $1 to win $4.55) underdog.

Julia Avila defeated Pannie Kianzad via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27) in a women's bantamweight bout. Kianzad showed extraordinary toughness to survive, as Avila nearly finished her with strikes in each round.

UFC 239 Undercard

UFC bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes of Brazil lands a kick on Holly Holms that knocks her to the mat in the first round of their bantamweight title fight during UFC 239 at T-Mobile Arena Saturday, July 6, 2019. Launch slideshow »

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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