UFC 300: 10 biggest takeaways from an unforgettable night in Las Vegas

UFC 300 was everything we wanted it to be. Alex Pereira capped off one of the most iconic nights in promotional history by defending his UFC light heavyweight title with a first-round knockout of Jamahal Hill, but Saturday night was so much more than its main event.

With so much to discuss, let’s dive straight into our 10 biggest takeaways from UFC 300.

1. As a general rule of thumb, I try not to be overly reactionary in these post-fight musings.

So much of sports media in 2024 is a glorified competition to see who can spit up the wildest take or who can proclaim something to be the best or worst ever in the loudest voice. Maybe it’d be better for me professionally if that’s how my brain worked, but it just doesn’t. I’ve been around long enough and witnessed enough firsthand MMA history to generally try to keep some perspective, or at least try to not be a prisoner of the moment.

I say all of that for one reason. I’ve long hailed UFC 189 as the greatest UFC pay-per-view ever. Just from an action and production standpoint, from a pure “how entertaining was this five-fight broadcast” perspective, UFC 189 has always been the standard-bearer. The one that felt the most special. And I still believe that to be true on this Sunday morning, though I’m going to have to give it some real thought as we get some distance from this weekend.

Because UFC 300? Well, there’s a very legitimate case to be made that Saturday’s tricentennial event was the greatest overall card, top to bottom, in UFC history.

It’s not something I say lightly, but also something I’m fairly certain of. From the curtain-jerker to the main event, no event has ever delighted and thrilled with such momentous and meaningful violence as the magnum opus we just witnessed from Las Vegas. This was a card we debated over for more than a year, a card I deemed the greatest lineup in UFC history just this past week. It’s rare anything with that level of hype lives up to its moment, especially in the fraught world of combat sports. But somehow UFC 300 did exactly that.

So let us start today’s super-sized edition of pay-per-view takeaways at the top, because Alex Pereira’s career continues to make less and less sense every time we’re here.

In case you’re wondering, this is now Pereira’s updated UFC résumé after his thrashing of Jamahal Hill: Eight fights, seven wins, five knockouts, five vanquished current or former champs, four title bouts, two belts, and one title defense. All of that in just eight fights, all for a man who hadn’t even begun training in martial arts by the time UFC 100 rolled around. For comparison’s sake, you know who on Saturday’s main card owns nine UFC bouts to his name? Cody Brundage. How’s that working out? No, what Pereira has done — and continues to do — in such a short amount of time simply reads like fiction, but it’s not hyperbole to call his eight-fight run among the greatest starts to an MMA career this sport has ever seen.

This time around, it meant something too. You could tell. Hill told everyone who could listen for the past six months that “Poatan” was overrated as a striker, that he wasn’t who we all propped him up to be. Hill promised there were levels to this game and he’d show that by standing and trading with the two-division GLORY champ. In the end, he proved to be at least half correct, though not in the way he hoped. Because what’s scariest of all? As Daniel Cormier pointed out on the broadcast, Pereira barely seemed to connect with half of his fist, yet still sent Hill’s consciousness into outer space. That’s how supernatural the champ’s power can be. And then to top it off with a celebration like this? Absolute perfection.

You’re looking at one of the coldest MMA photos we’ll see all year.

UFC will never actually pull the trigger on this, but if the champ really wants to fight at heavyweight at UFC 301 just to do it, good lord, you pull Derrick Lewis from his awful headliner against Rodrigo Nascimento and let “Poatan” get his Anderson Silva on in Rio.

Only the MMA gods know how long this run will last, so enjoy it while you can, y’all, because it’ll be a long, long time before we see another Alex Pereira at the sport’s highest level.

UFC 300: Pereira v Hill

Ice. Cold.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

2. I am still in absolute awe over what we just witnessed from Max Holloway.

Who else in this sport would be up three rounds to one (mere seconds away from four rounds to one), fighting up a weight class against one of the most dangerous lightweights to ever live, then say “eff it” and beckon a demon like Justin Gaethje to the center of the cage to give him an unwarranted chance by going full Ricardo Lamas? If ever there was fitting owner of the UFC’s symbolic “BMF” belt, it’s the fighting pride of Waianae, Hawaii.

The reaction of UFC featherweight champ Ilia Topuria says it all.

In a career defined by legendary moments, Holloway saved his best for the biggest stage imaginable. Not only is this the obvious frontrunner for 2024’s Knockout of the Year, it’s also one of the most ridiculous finishes in MMA history. I’ve literally never seen anything like it. Go ahead and write up those year-end columns now, because someone is going to have to send a skull into orbit with a rolling thunder in the final milliseconds of a title fight to dislodge Holloway from this perch (and even then, we’ll still need to have a conversation).

I’ll be the first to admit I doubted whether this “BMF” experiment was a good idea for a war-weary vet like Holloway when UFC 300’s lineup was first announced. I was cageside the last time Holloway tested the waters at 155 pounds and it wasn’t a pretty sight, but Gaethje is the type of fighter who changes careers for the worst. Everything about this booking screamed a brutal ending to the “No One Can Knock Out Max Holloway” narrative that has endured over the past 14 years. But Holloway dared to be great, and now the world is his to command. Manager Tim Simpson said earlier this week that Holloway could be the No. 1 contender in two divisions by the time this weekend was done. Those words proved to be prophetic. Holloway essentially has his pick of belts now — he can freely ride this wave into a challenge against the Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier winner, or he can scoot back down to his home at 145 pounds and face Topuria in one of the biggest fights of the year.

My guess for how these two divisions shake out?

Holloway chooses Topuria.

Arman Tsarukyan chooses to wait for the Makhachev vs. Poirier winner after his narrow victory over Charles Oliviera, most likely in Abu Dhabi in October if it’s Makhachev.

Either way, wherever this ride takes us, Saturday’s main card stands as yet another reminder of two things. First, that 155 pounds is — and always has been — the best damn weight class in MMA. Second, that anything is possible in this unpredictable sport. The MMA world almost universally wrote Holloway off for dead in July 2022 after his third loss to Alexander Volkanovski. Now’s he’s drowning in options and big-money fights. How can you not love it?

3. It may seem strange to say about a title fight on a historic card, but Zhang Weili’s win over Yan Xiaonan in the UFC’s China vs. China showcase will almost certainly be relegated to a footnote when people remember UFC 300, in part due to Yan’s lesser-known status and in part due to the fact that it immediately proceeded the absurdity that was Holloway vs. Gaethje. But Saturday’s co-main event was nonetheless another lesson in why Zhang casts such a long and fearsome shadow as the No. 1 pound-for-pound woman in MMA.

The two-time champ essentially finished her countrywoman two separate times, choking Yan into a daze at the end of the first round and then blasting her with roughly 3,000 unanswered punches in the second. Zhang ultimately settled for a decision, but credit is due for Yan, who implausibly rallied back to score a knockdown in the third round and never really accepted the meaning of the word “done.” Still, this one was never in doubt.

And now? The strawweight division may have finally arrived at a moment I’ve personally waited for since 2016. Sure, UFC tried to book Tatiana Suarez against Amanda Lemos in February, but at this point, there’s no need. Suarez is the top available contender left at 115 pounds who hasn’t already fought the champ, and UFC needs to capitalize at the first moment Suarez is healthy. From a talent perspective, Zhang vs. Suarez is one of the best fights in all of women’s MMA. The time to see whether Suarez can fulfill the destiny that once seemed preordained for her by becoming UFC champion is long past due.

4. Can I just say how much I enjoyed SamuraiGate? I’m serious. It legitimately might’ve been my favorite fight week storyline thus far of 2024. Watching Aleksandar Rakic’s utter bewilderment at a madman from the Czech Republic calling himself a modern day samurai, and the normally stoic Jiri Prochazka then try to contain his obvious fury all week long at the gall of the accusation — it was too pure for this world, the best kind of fight game magic.

The fact that it all came full circle with a pissed off Prochazka walking through fire and burning Rakic alive after begrudgingly accepting that defense is for cowards? Just the icing on the cake. I’m fairly certain Prochazka is legally a samurai now after this win. Sorry y’all, I don’t make the rules.

But I digress.

The ex-champ continues to be a once-in-a-generation lunatic in the best possible way. I adore everything about it. Light heavyweight is perpetually weird and I don’t know if Pereira vs. Prochazka 2 is really the first fight I’d jump straight back into booking, but if that’s the one UFC settles on, hell, you won’t hear a peep of complaint out of me.

5. The stats from Kayla Harrison’s first official UFC round: 46-1 edge in significant strikes.

And her second official UFC round? A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it finish of a future Hall of Famer.

For those keeping score at home, that’s pretty, pretty, preeeeeettty damn good.

There was never a question of whether the two-time Olympic champion and two-time PFL champion belonged in the UFC. She obviously does, and her effortless mollywhopping of Holly Holm should hopefully shut up the legions of morons who dismissed her as an overrated can crusher for the past six years. The better question now is not whether Harrison has the skill set to be UFC champ — I feel confident in saying she’s the best active bantamweight in the world today — but whether she can make championship weight often enough and healthily enough to reach her superstar ceiling on the world’s brightest stage.

Harrison’s weight cut was an intrigue unto itself this past week. She ultimately tipped the scales at 136 pounds flat and looked as if she didn’t have an ounce of water left in her body. She then spoke openly about how challenging that final pound from 137 to 136 was to drop. We’ve heard countless athletes in her position echo the same. Title fights require 135 pounds. If Harrison can figure out how to tick that last box, she’ll be the queen of this division for as long as her body will allow — and if she continues to be this dominant, she’ll be the person who convinces the GOAT, Amanda Nunes, to come back for one more.

The seeds have already been planted.

6. Speaking of ex-champs making homes in new weight classes, the man who was being hailed as potentially the bantamweight GOAT just eight months ago, Aljamain Sterling, drew the exact opposite response of Harrison and Holloway. His long-awaited featherweight move against Calvin Kattar devolved into the worst kind of grinding affair. You know things weren’t great when a guy as decorated as Sterling doesn’t even get a post-fight interview.

But in the end “Funk Master” completed his most important mission, because a loss on Saturday would’ve been devastating for the career crossroads he’s reached. With no real future at bantamweight as long as his pal Merab Dvalishvili sits atop the title picture, Sterling badly needed to prove his viability at 145 pounds. For better or worse, he did that.

There’s zero chance he gets expedited to the front of the line after a win like that, but could I could see the UFC giving Sterling another top name they consider to be a “boring grappler” in an effort to kill off one of the two contenders they don’t prefer? Absolutely.

And you know what? I dig it. The Movsar Evloev fight makes too much sense not to happen.

UFC 300: Kattar v Sterling

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

7. Diego Lopes is really following the Arman Tsarukyan playbook to a tee, isn’t he?

Step 1: Debut on short notice and immediately put the fear of God into a widely-ducked contender by giving him all he can handle.

Step 2: Settle into the UFC proper and run roughshod over the lower ranks.

Step 3: The moment you have an ounce of worthwhile cache, immediately angle for a rematch against the man who kicked off your UFC run.

Step 4: Profit?

Lopes is officially three-for-four on that checklist after his masterpiece over Sodiq Yusuff, and it’s spectacular to see. Yusuff may not be the biggest name, but he’s only lost to legitimate dudes over his six-year UFC run — which makes what Lopes just pulled off even crazier. MMA Fighting’s 2023 Rookie of the Year went out there and got hit twice, landed 81 percent of his significant strike attempts, scored a pair of clinch knockdowns, then knocked Yusuff out proper in just 89 seconds. I cannot overstate how impressive that is. Tsarukyan took a good three or four years to start breaking into the conversation after his debut against Islam Makhachev. But Lopes? Of all the lesser known names jockeying to make their presence felt on Saturday’s undercard, he undoubtedly opened the most eyes.

It’s probably still too early to go straight back to the Evloev well, but a matchup against Arnold Allen in Manchester or Yair Rodriguez at The Sphere? That sounds just right to me.

8. Speaking of matchmaking, Bobby Green vs. Paddy Pimblett in Manchester?

Hey, I don’t hate it. We’re talking about a guaranteed all-action brawl and an even-more-guaranteed, incredibly bizarre lead-up — and you know what? I’m kind of here for it. I’d already prematurely filed away Renato Moicano for Pimblett next, but the more I talk this one out, the more Green makes sense. Moicano is probably too highly ranked after his come-from-behind win over Jalin Turner, and I’m not sure Green or Pimblett will be able to understand even 50 percent of what the other says but the banter would still be next level.

OK Bobby, you sold me. I’m in. If these two aren’t matched up at the rumored pay-per-view event this summer in Manchester, I’ll officially be disappointed.

(And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of using your mic time to steer your own fate. Too many could learn from what the 16-year vet just pulled off with a 16-second clip.)

9. Don’t look now, but is Deiveson Figueiredo becoming a real bantamweight contender?

That’s two very legitimate (if limited) bantamweights the former flyweight king has blitzed through after choking out Cody Garbrandt in the most decorated curtain jerker in MMA history. And just as he did against Rob Font in December, Figgy Not-So-Smalls looked right at home tossing around a former 135-pound champ like Garbrandt on Saturday.

I still have my doubts about whether Figueiredo’s size can hold up against the Godzillas of the division like Sean O’Malley, Cory Sandhagen, and Petr Yan, but his 68-inch reach is on par with everyone who matters at 135 pounds except O’Malley, and thus far those Gumby arms and that flyweight speed have proven to be a great equalizer against these larger foes.

It’s time to find out just how real this experiment can be. Book another battle of ex-champs against Yan and let’s see if Figueiredo can actually vault himself into title contention.

10. We speak a lot these days about how the UFC has grown complacent, how the MMA world leader has become comfortable with its creative bankruptcy in the post-pandemic era. And it’s a fair compliant. After all, they won the race. Year after year, those three letters make up the most financially successful combat sports promotion in human history. There is no Pride FC in 2024 pushing Dana White and his team to be better, no Strikeforce urging them to innovate. It’s why we get paint-by-numbers APEX slop shamelessly shoveled to us week after week with no urgency to make things ever feel special, or even meaningful.

It’s also why a night like Saturday stands out so distinctly, because UFC 300 did feel special. It did feel meaningful. It felt like a genuine celebration of everything that makes MMA so great, and I don’t mean the historic lineup the matchmakers put together. I simply mean the production, the love and care that clearly went into every aspect of the broadcast. From the nostalgia of the old-school graphics and chill-inducing video packages, to the unexpected return of Gladiator Man, black-and-white intros, and Face the Pain, to even the emotional walkout of UFC Hall of Famer and real-life hero Mark Coleman, UFC 300 served as a much-needed reminder of what MMA’s top promotion is capable of producing when it tries.

So bravo, UFC. I wholeheartedly mean that. You nailed it. Obviously not every card can be UFC 300, but hopefully we don’t have to wait another several years to feel like this again.

UFC 300: Prochazka v Rakic

Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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