Public opinion aside, UFC 208 was a milestone night for mixed marital arts.
Saturday’s show was the first MMA event at Barclays Center, and the UFC’s second show in New York City. The promotion debuted its third women’s division and crowned a new champion.
But a night that produced just one finish in 10 fights and culminated with a controversial main event wasn’t an ideal way to make history.
Germaine de Randamie became the inaugural UFC featherweight champion with her unanimous decision victory over Holly Holm, but a series of apparent late shots from de Randamie at the end of the second and third rounds went unpunished. Had referee Todd Anderson deducted a point from de Randamie, the fight would have ended in a draw.
“I wouldn’t expect them to take a point after the first one, even though it was intentional,” Holm said. “Then the second time, you’d think that at that point they would do something.”
De Randamie denied committing any fouls on purpose in her post-fight interview.
“It was in the heat of the moment, I apologize,” de Randamie said. “The referee told me the first time it was still on the bell.”
The first incident was among de Randamie’s hardest blows all night, Holm said. When de Randamie threw two more late at the end of the third, Holm’s corner let Anderson know they were upset and the referee gave de Randamie a warning.
Officiating wasn’t Holm’s only gripe. Holm believes she won the final three rounds despite no penalty. Two judges had Holm winning the final two rounds, while the other had her wining Rounds 2 and 4. Her best shot was a head kick near the end of the third, but de Randamie said it didn’t seriously stun her.
“You cannot knock me out like that, come on,” de Randamie said. “It was a good head kick, but I kept fighting, I landed shots after that.”
Whatever the reason, Holm believes the controversial fight justifies running it back.
“When you have more than half the people saying the fight should have gone the other way, usually that warrants a rematch,” Holm said.
But one big obstacle stands in the way of de Randamie-Holm 2.
The featherweight division was created as a stage for dominant Cris Cyborg Justino, but the longtime Invicta FC champion turned down an offer to fight at UFC 208 while recovering from her last weight cut. Justino failed a drug test in December, but was cageside on Saturday night. She told ESPN she is applying for an exemption and believes she will return soon.
Said de Randamie, “I want to fight everybody, and if Cris Cyborg is the one I have to fight, I will fight her.”
Of course, de Randamie dealt the featherweight division one more blow on its first night.
“Right now, I really need surgery on my hand. I’m going to get surgery on my hand and let’s see after,” de Randamie said. “I tore ligaments in my (2015) fight with Larissa Pacheco so I need to get that fixed first.”