UFC 232: Amanda Nunes KOs Cyborg 51 seconds into first round; Jon Jones reclaims light heavyweight title
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Amanda Nunes knocked out Cris “Cyborg” Justino 51 seconds into the first round at UFC 232 on Saturday night, ending the featherweight champion’s 13-year unbeaten run with one of the most surprising victories in mixed martial arts history.
Jon Jones also reclaimed his light heavyweight title in his return from a 17-month cage absence, stopping Alexander Gustafsson with strikes on the ground in the third round.
Nunes, the UFC’s bantamweight champion, made history when she moved up 10 pounds to challenge Justino (20-2), widely considered the world’s greatest female fighter. Nunes became the third fighter in UFC history to hold two title belts simultaneously, joining Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier.
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) December 30, 2018
“I knew this was happening, I told you all!” Nunes said. “Cris is a great fighter, nothing but respect. It was an awesome opportunity to share the octagon with her. I’m very thankful to her for this. I’m the new ‘champ-champ.’ I said that before, and now I’m just achieving this dream.”
Nunes (17-4) was thought to be an undersized underdog, but she seized her second title belt by overwhelming her fellow Brazilian. Nunes buckled Justino’s knees in the opening seconds, and she eventually knocked down Justino twice.
She ended the fight spectacularly with an overhand right to the ear, putting Justino face-down on the canvas.
Nunes also knocked out Ronda Rousey in less than a minute two years ago.
Jones (23-1, 1 no-contest) followed up that bout with a methodical dismantling of Gustafsson in a rematch of Jones’ toughest fight. Jones earned a thrilling decision in 2013 over Gustafsson, who tested the champion to the limits of his ability.
But in Jones’ first fight since completing his second drug suspension, the star picked apart Gustafsson with kicks in the first two rounds. He got a takedown in the third and finished the fight with several brutal shots to Gustafsson’s head on the ground.
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) December 30, 2018
The 31-year-old Jones had fought only twice in the previous 47 months, losing an enormous chunk of his fighting prime due to his misbehavior.
During 2015 alone, he tested positive for cocaine use and was later stripped of his 205-pound title because of a hit-and-run accident in which he broke a pregnant woman’s arm. He returned in early 2016, but was pulled from a title bout at UFC 200 later that year after testing positive for two banned substances often taken in concert with steroid use.
Jones returned from his first doping suspension with a stoppage of Cormier in July 2017 to reclaim his light heavyweight title, but he lost the belt again after testing positive for steroids.
Jones’ latest tests revealed extremely low levels of the same substance, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it considered the results to be an echo of his previous positive test, not a new violation. California officials agreed, allowing Jones to fight in Inglewood after Nevada demanded more answers in a hearing in January.
Gustafsson was thoroughly infuriated by Jones’ misbehavior, flatly calling Jones a cheater and vowing to wreck his latest comeback. The Swede lost to Anthony Johnson and Cormier after Jones beat him, but won his last two fights to vault back into contention.
Just six days after the UFC moved the entire show from Las Vegas to the famous Forum south of downtown Los Angeles, a capacity crowd watched another groundbreaking achievement by Nunes, the ferocious brawler who calls herself “The Lioness.”
Nunes’ punching power is often too much for her male sparring partners, and she carved up the formidable Justino with astonishing ease despite a size disadvantage. Justino had won 20 consecutive fights since her MMA debut in 2005, and she had dominated since the inception of the UFC’s 145-pound division, which was created largely as a showcase for her talent.
The UFC made the extraordinary decision to move its show 280 miles to California to keep Jones on the card. The former champion recently tested positive for low levels of a banned steroid, but California regulatory officials didn’t consider the result serious enough to keep the long-troubled star out of the octagon, while Nevada’s commission did.
Australian featherweight prospect Alexander Volkanovski (19-1) won his 16th straight bout in the PPV opener, stopping veteran Chad Mendes with right hands in the second round of a back-and-forth bout. Michael Chiesa also won his welterweight debut with a second-round submission of former champ Carlos Condit, who lost his fifth straight fight.
Former UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn tapped out for the first time in his MMA career, losing to Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz Ryan Hall on a heel hook in the first round. Penn (16-13-2), an MMA pioneer who turned 40 this month, is 0-6-1 in his last seven fights since 2010.
Despite the late move to LA, the UFC sold out the Forum after just six days of ticket sales. The crowd included Justino friend Halle Berry, Dolph Lundgren, David Spade, NL MVP Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers, Travis Barker, Mick Foley and Amber Valletta.