Darren Till’s UFC fight with Stephen Thompson will still go ahead in Liverpool on Sunday even though Till missed the weight.
The Englishman’s hometown welterweight bout with American Thompson looked like being called off after Till was 3.5lbs overweight at Saturday’s weigh-in.
Till was even given an additional hour to make the weight, after citing a family emergency as a reason, but still came in too heavy.
However, Thompson has allowed the fight to go ahead and the pair will headline as on Sunday as Liverpool’s Echo Arena hosts the first UFC event ever to be held in the city.
Till will give 30 per cent of his fee to Thompson by way of a fine and he must also be no heavier than 188lbs at another weigh in on Sunday morning.
The 25-year-old Merseysider, unbeaten in 17 MMA contests including five in the UFC, is set to face an opponent whose own 17-fight record, featuring 12 UFC bouts, shows two losses, both on points, and who is the number one- ranked welterweight contender.
In front of a partisan Rio crowd at the Jeunesse Arena, Nunes stopped the No2 ranked women’s 135lbs challenger in the fifth round following four rounds of brutal leg kicks and stinging right hands.
It was far from the slickest performance of the Brazilian’s career but the champ was effective, although the contest could have and perhaps should have been finished earlier than the final round.
Indeed, Pennington’s nose was busted and broken by a series of knees towards the conclusion of the fourth stanza and realising the result was beyond her, told her coaches during the break “I’m done”.
Pennington’s corner, however, refused the plea and convinced her to fight on. To the American’s credit, she attempted to unload in the final round but was soon taken to the ground. Nunes smelt blood and soon exploded a fountain of it after landing elbows on top before referee Marc Goddard stepped in, something the corner should have already done.
“It’s sad,” Nunes said post-fight. “(Teammate) Nina (Ansaroff) told me. I didn’t even know. Nina told me in the locker room. It’s sad because you could avoid something. She went to the hospital. It might be a bad injury for her to go to the hospital. I already asked Nina to text her – if she needs anything I’m here. It’s sad.
“If she didn’t have the right conditioning to fight then the coach should have thrown in the towel for sure.
“I think my coach wouldn’t let me go through that. It’s sad. Everyone must be saying a lot of bad things about him on social media, but I really think she needs to surround herself with people who want the best for her so she can really evolve for her next fights. Unfortunately, tonight (the cornerman) failed.”
AND STILL 🏆— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 13, 2018
Amanda Nunes beats Raquel Pennington by 5th round TKO for 3rd straight defense of UFC Women’s Bantamweight belt pic.twitter.com/RTG9yohQCf
Elsewhere on the card, Kelvin Gastelum launched himself into middleweight title contention with a split-decision win over Jacare Souza while Mackenzie Dern, who missed weight for her 115lbs clash with Amanda Cooper by a wide 7lbs, extended her unbeaten MMA record with a first-round rear-naked choke submission.
The most stunning knockout of the night arrived when Lyoto Machida front-kicked Vitor Belfort into retirement but on the ground Alexey Oleynik produced a classy finish of his own with a first-round Ezekiel Choke submission of Junior Albini.
To first understand the demented nature of UFC 223, it is best to begin at the end and then work back because the event concluded simply enough.
Indeed, as was widely anticipated – although the probability differed for each new opponent – Khabib Nurmagomedov emerged from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as the undefeated and undisputed (or rather heavily disputed) lightweight champ.
In the most unpredictable week in UFC history – a statement of gravitas given the rollercoaster rides of recent years – Nurmagomedov dominated a game Al Iaquinta over five rounds to claim the belt.
But the journey there was far from straightforward. Here’s a synopsis of the last week: Nurmagomedov was initially scheduled to face Tony Ferguson but the fight was scrapped for a fourth time after the interim champ tripped over a cable and tore his ACL.
Featherweight king Max Holloway accept a call-up to step into the main event slot on six-days notice but was then declared medically unfit to continue his weight cut by the New York State Athletic Commission.
Undercard fighters Anthony Pettis (pay disagreement) and Paul Felder (unranked) were both denied shots at Nurmagomedov before Iaquinta was handed the opportunity 24 hours before fight night.
The narrative throughout the week shifted from one to the next but the Dagestan-native deserves tremendous credit for riding through it all.
While his performance, particularly in the striking department, cast further uncertainty over his capacity to defeat Ferguson or Conor McGregor, it was a commanding display befitting of any champion.
The 29-year-old called for former two-weight belt holder Georges St Pierre next, although, divisive Irishman McGregor lurks in the background.
McGregor whipped up chaos after allegedly leading his friends and camp members in an attack on a transport van carrying fighters – including Nurmagomedov – during fight week but is expected to contend for the belt he has just been stripped off.
“We have to finish this beef, chicken or something like this,” Nurmagomedov said at the UFC 223 post-fight news conference.
“He has to stop eating Burger Kings. You want to fight? Come. I told you guys, I’m going to make him humble. I’m going to change his game. Now only one champion.
“No more fake champions, no more champion who never defend his title or something like this. Now UFC has champion, and this champion wants to defend his title.
“You want to fight? Come here. Inside the cage? Come. Outside the cage? Come. Let me know without camera, without like all this media.”
Three fights were dropped from the card as a result of McGregor’s alleged bizarre bus attack but it could have been four had Rose Namajunas decided to withdraw.
The strawweight queen was inside the bus at the time of the incident and admitted after defending her title against Joanna Jedrzejczyk that she considered pulling out.
“It shook me up just because it was just such a – I didn’t know how far it was going to escalate,” Namajunas said in the post-fight press conference.
“All the guys inside, they wanted to fight back, they wanted to go jump out of the bus. But I’m like, ‘I don’t know if they’re going to open the door, and they’re going to all come in.’ They’re obviously not directly after me, but I’m just caught in this scenario, so I don’t know.”
Thankfully, the 25-year-old remained on the card and retained her title with a technically tight performance, banishing the “fluke” sentiment stemming from her first-round KO of Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 to secure a unanimous decision win.
And so the show moves on but UFC 223 has left an indelible mark for good and for bad.