UFC 209 lived up to its hype, even if fans didn’t like the main event. The main card had two finishes, with Alistair Overeem knocking out Mark Hunt in the third round with a knee to the face, and Cynthia Calvillo winning in the first round via rear-naked choke. More important though, were the preliminary fights, where two comeback of the year contestants happened.
Iuri Alcantara vs. Luke Sanders was the first of the two bouts. Luke Sanders came out strong, completely nullifying the game of Alcantara. Sanders was dominating Alcantara on the ground, but at one point he landed an illegal knee at a time where the fight was very close to being stopped. Alcantara was given the chance to recover. The round ended soon after, and many thought that Sanders was going to dominate the second round as well.
Sanders came out in the second round and began to do the same thing he did in the first. This time however, Alcantara was able to create a scramble and in doing so he was able to grab the heel of Sanders.
Alcantara rolled onto his stomach, using the ankle to pull Sanders’ leg tight against him. Sanders was completely unable to defend, and had to tap out seconds after the kneebar had been locked in. This caused the UFC to award Alcantara a Performance of the Night bonus.
Many were calling that fight the likely winner of Comeback of the Year, since Sanders was completely tearing up Alcantara until the kneebar was locked in. Then, Mirsad Bektic vs. Darren Elkins happened.
Mirsad Bektic vs. Darren Elkins started out with Bektic completely dominating. Most fans expected this, since Elkins was the +500 underdog. Bektic took Elkins down and began to rain down elbows on his head, resulting a deep cut over Elkins’ left eye, that could’ve resulted in a stopped fight. Bektic was piecing Elkins up on the feet as well, so fans began to think that he would achieve the stoppage later in the fight.
In the second round the same thing happened, and Elkins’ face was completely cut up. Elkins was still putting up a fight and wasn’t dominated as much, but he was clearly the loser of the round.
In the third round things started to look up for Elkins. He began to deny the takedowns of Bektic, and standing up he was able to use his strikes to begin winning the fight. Late in the third round, Elkins landed a flurry of punches that rocked the Bosnian fighter, and then landed a roundhouse kick to the head that knocked him down.
After a series of follow up strikes, the fight was stopped and the blood-covered Elkins’ hand was raised in victory. The performance even netted Elkins’ an extra $50,000 with a performance of the night bonus.
These two comebacks were crazy and fans were lucky that they were on the free portion of the fight card. There are very few instances in MMA where people can be dominated for as long as Alcantara and Elkins were and still be able to pull out the win. Both of these fights will likely be competing at the end of 2017 for Comeback of the Year, and it will be for good reason.