LAS VEGAS • Brazil's Amanda Nunes stunned the mixed martial arts world with a first-round submission win over Miesha Tate to claim the women's bantamweight title at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 200 in Las Vegas.
Tate was rocked early by punches from strike specialist Nunes, who switched her attention to submission attempts when the fight went to the mat and quickly finished the American with a rear naked choke after 3min 16sec of the first round.
It was the same submission Tate herself used to claim the title from Holly Holm in March, and the belt has now changed hands three times in nine months since Holm beat Ronda Rousey.
"Oh my God, 10 years of my life working for this moment. I feel amazing," an elated Nunes said after being presented with the belt.
In the men's heavyweight category, Brock Lesnar beat Mark Hunt also by unanimous decision.
THAT WINNING FEELING
Oh my God, 10 years of my life working for this moment. I feel amazing.
AMANDA NUNES, UFC fighter, after winning the women's bantamweight title in a first-round submission victory over Miesha Tate.
Over three rounds, Lesnar neutralised the New Zealander on the canvas. Using mostly short strikes with hands encased in triple-XL gloves, the American scored a win (29-27 three times) on his first time back in the Octagon since 2011.
He earned a guaranteed purse of US$2.5 million (S$3.36 million), a publicly reported record for a UFC contest.
"It took me a little while just to get acclimatised," said Lesnar after his victory. "Words can't describe it."
However, a high-profile doping case has cast a shadow over UFC 200. The event boasted one of the most stacked cards in the promotion's history and was billed as a celebration of the fast-growing sport of MMA, with days of events collectively dubbed International Fight Week. The Ultimate Fighting Championship schedule included amateur championships, a fan expo and some of the sport's biggest names in action.
But the top-billed light heavyweight fight between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones was cancelled last week after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) informed the UFC the latter had failed an out-of-competition dope test on June 16.
Jones was initially lined up to face Cormier in a much-anticipated main event after Irish featherweight champion Conor McGregor was kicked off the bill for not fulfilling promotional commitments.
Instead, Cormier was left to fight and beat Jones' replacement Anderson Silva in a non-title bout via unanimous decision (30-26 thrice).
Last-minute changes to high-profile fight cards are nothing new in the UFC and even if they can have a negative effect on pay-per-view sales, they have done little to slow its growth around the globe.
"Over the past couple of years, within the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) market specifically, there has been a greater public awareness and support for the sport and a rise in demand for UFC product and content," James Elliott, vice-president and general for UFC EMEA, told Reuters.
Bought for US$2 million by the Fertitta brothers Lorenzo and Frank in 2001, the company that controls the UFC, Zuffa LLC, is rumoured to be exploring a sale that could value the company anywhere between US$3.5 billion and US$4 billion.
With the enormously well-liked McGregor set for a rematch against Nate Diaz, who shocked the fighting world when he defeated the Irishman in March, and Rousey set to return, the UFC looks set to continue to grow rapidly in popularity.
But a little over a year into its anti-doping cooperation with Usada, the organisation is still getting to grips with performance-enhancing substances, as evidenced by Diaz's comments about the Jones test at a news conference on Thursday.
"Everybody's on steroids," he joked.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN