UFC 250 — Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer: Five storylines to watch in Las Vegas
Nunes and Spencer headline, but the real story may be the future at men's bantamweight
The UFC will promote its first pay-per-view card in Las Vegas on Saturday since the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the scheduling of professional sports.
Two-division champion Amanda Nunes will defend her women's featherweight title in the main event of UFC 250, which will emanate from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. The card will once again take place in front of an empty arena.
Aside from the return of Nunes, UFC 250 will have a heavy focus on the men's bantamweight division and have two bouts meant to shake up the top 10 following the news that a retired Henry Cejudo has officially vacated his title.
Can't get enough UFC? Subscribe to our podcast State of Combat with Brian Campbell where we break down everything you need to know in the Octagon.
Let's take a closer look at the biggest storylines entering this weekend.
1. Amanda Nunes looks to make even more history
Already the women's G.O.A.T. of MMA, Nunes will look to become the lone female — and just the third UFC fighter overall (Daniel Cormier, Henry Cejudo) — to defend titles in two divisions when she faces Felicia Spencer. An extreme lack of depth at featherweight has allowed Nunes to keep both of her titles simultaneously, even though it has been 17 months since she knocked out Cris "Cyborg" Justino to capture the 145-pound title (and never defended it). Nunes will face a durable striker in Spencer, who pushed "Cyborg" the distance in a competitive decision loss for her lone pro defeat.
2. Wait … are we sure this is even a PPV-worthy card?
It's not. That doesn't mean it isn't a good card with plenty of fights and fighters worth tuning in for. But the reality is that it's missing a true main event and feels more like a really strong Fight Night card than one deserving of such a high price tag. A good deal of that, of course, can be explained by the quarantine, including the large group of international-based UFC fighters who are unable to travel to the United States (which is why UFC is constructing its mysterious Fight Island). It's also, unfortunately, part of the new reality for UFC under its exclusive PPV deal with ESPN that pays the promotion a heavy minimum price regardless of how many buys a card produces. The lack of crossover names on this card should hurt its selling potential although hard-core fans still have plenty to be excited about because …
3. Sterling-Sandhagen is worth the price of admission
Not only is this bantamweight tilt between fighters ranked in the top four by UFC at 135 pounds, it's among the best fights that can be made in the sport. Seriously. Had UFC president Dana White tabbed this bout to be contested for the bantamweight title recently vacated by Cejudo instead of a proposed Petr Yan-Jose Aldo fight, very few — if any — would have complained. Unbeaten inside the Octagon and riding a seven-fight win streak overall, Sandhagen may very well be the dark horse of this division given his size (5-foot-11) and unique style. Sterling, meanwhile, is fresh off wrist surgery and is incredibly deserving in his own right after 2019 wins over Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz. Although UFC always reserves the right to sub in a marketable name in any title bout (see Aldo and Dominick Cruz), it's safe to consider this fight a de facto No. 1 contender bout for the winner of Yan-Aldo.
4. It's now or never for Cody Garbrandt
The good news for the former bantamweight champion is that he's still just 28. The bad news is he's riding a three-fight losing skid, all by knockout. In his first fight in 15 months, Garbrandt will jump back into the deep end in Saturday's co-main event when he faces longtime division stalwart Raphael Assuncao. A loss here for Garbrandt would be devastating. But even more than a victory, he'll need to prove he can return to a more patient style, similar to his initial championship rise, and not be suckered into a brawl. Garbrandt must also prove the problem isn't his chin. "No Love" has been quiet throughout his comeback and he'll need a big statement against Assuncao.
5. The true future of bantamweight might be "Sugar-y"
Proving in his March comeback from a two-year USADA suspension that he's still the real deal, it's time for 25-year-old "Sugar" Sean O'Malley to climb the 135-pound ladder. The unbeaten fighter will take his next step against veteran Eddie Wineland on Saturday and has been outspoken about two things entering the fight: he believes he's one-to-two more wins from a title shot and he's not willing to face tougher competition until UFC rewards him financially for what he brings to the table. Make no mistake, the eccentric and marketable O'Malley can fight and an impressive finish against a well-known name in Wineland may force the UFC's hand.