LAS VEGAS — Near the end of his postfight news conference following his victory over Thiago Santos on Saturday, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones responded to a question about a kick he threw by saying, “This is a very malicious game.”
And right now, there is no one in the UFC nearly as malicious as Jorge Masvidal has become.
More than two hours after he scored arguably the greatest knockout in UFC history by blasting Ben Askren with a knee in their welterweight bout at T-Mobile Arena, Masvidal was still spewing venom toward his fallen opponent.
Masvidal opened his fight with Askren, a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic wrestling team, with a flying knee that crushed Askren on the cheek. He was out immediately, but Masvidal raced over and blasted an out-cold Askren with two massive shots before referee Jason Herzog got over to stop it a UFC-record five seconds into the fight.
Asked about throwing the two punches when Askren was obviously out, Masvidal was defiant.
“The referee hadn’t pulled me off and my job is to hit someone until the referee pulls me off,” Masvidal said. “For those people [who didn’t like those punches], I’d say don’t watch MMA. Go watch soccer.”
UFC 239 was a compelling show that had enough incredibly vicious knockouts to fill three highlight reels.
Song Yadong, a hugely promising bantamweight prospect, starched Alejandro Perez early on the preliminaries to get it rolling. Jan Blachowicz crushed Luke Rockhold with a left hook, breaking his jaw in the process. And Amanda Nunes embellished her credentials as the greatest female MMA fighter in history by knocking out Holly Holm with a kick to the head.
“What a night, huh?” a gleeful Nunes said after her win.
It was one of the better shows the UFC has put on in a while, but nothing compared to the violence Masvidal displayed or the raw anger he still carried at the postfight news conference. He said his beef with Askren goes back to 2008 when they worked out together.
He wasn’t happy just by knocking his hated rival cold.
“My whole vision of this, if you could get inside my head and my thought process, was me beating his ass for 14 minutes and then putting him out like that,” Masvidal said. “I really wanted to hurt him for as long as I could for as much as I could: destroy his kneecaps, bust his ribs, make him piss blood and then send him home packing. In a way, I think he got off easy.”
Masvidal even managed to overshadow Jones, who pulled out a split decision over Santos in a tougher-than-expected fight.
Masvidal seems to be the logical next challenger for the next welterweight title, but champion Kamaru Usman is injured and UFC president Dana White wasn’t going to play postfight matchmaker.
But White couldn’t stop raving about Masvidal, who had the sellout crowd of 18,358 roaring after that jaw-dropping finish. White has been in the fight game for decades and had difficulty coming up with a KO to rival Masvidal’s finish of Askren.
The knock on Askren, often made in the past by White himself, is that his fights were boring. Well, that was anything but boring.
“The guy obviously has the potential to be incredible,” White said. “He’s unique. He’s unique. That dude’s a fighter. That guy is a guy who, if he wasn’t doing this for a living, he’d be doing this anyway.”
Masvidal walked toward Askren with his hands behind his back when the bell rang, then suddenly leapt at him with the knee. As he was talking about why he continued to punch him when Askren was out, Masvidal arched his eyebrows and grinned devilishly.
“I thought he was going to get up,” he said.
Those are the words of a real fighter, a guy who is going to throw first and worry about the consequences later.
But he insisted he didn’t have a beef with Askren.
“This is not a beef; I just don’t like my co-worker, you could say,” Masvidal said. “This is not a beef. This is just some idiot I don’t like. My job, thank God, and some of you guys are going to be jealous of this, I get to punch that co-worker in the face.”
He was annoyed by comments Askren made when Masvidal missed a news conference two weeks ago in Los Angeles to promote the show.
Masvidal promotes the show by the intimidating threat he poses.
“I think my body of work speaks for itself,” he said. “If you want sheer violence, you know who to call. If you want other s---, [expletive] guys who show up to a press conference on time, who won’t do s---, they know who to call. But if they want someone who is going to bring violence, they know who to call.”
For sure, Ben Askren knows. There is no doubting that.
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