Since the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicked of 2017 in my adopted hometown yesterday, I figured it would be fitting to write about something I have intended to write about for sometime.
For those not familiar with the UFC, they are the big leagues of Mixed Martial Arts. Fighters reaching this level are at the top of their sport. Much like boxing, fighters work their way up the rankings by winning fights eventually earning a title shot if they are able to win enough fights against other ranked competitors.
Now the scenario I just laid out above is not quite accurate. There are many other factors in play. For example, injuries, other fighters schedules, UFC Fighter Rankings, etc. For these reasons and others, you don’t always see the number 1 and 2 fighters fighting for title belt in their division.
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A great night of fights just happened and it felt like lots of people missed it. Twitter was quiet compared to some fights that I have followed in the past. I know many people are looking ahead to UFC 205 already, but they did miss out on some good action.
It started strong with a women’s flyweight fight. There was a very good ground fight with some high level Jiu Jitzu. Joanne Calderwood was slick and looked very aggressive off of her back, but Jessica Andrade was too strong and kicked her way into a very nice guillotine choke.
Jimmy Rivera outclassed Uriah Faber and made a legend look very pedestrian. No side-to-side movement from Faber left him standing right in front of Rivera for strong counters and effective low kicks. It was an easy 30-27 decision.
Mickey Gall destroyed CM Punk. Joe Rogan said it best during the telecast that this is what a brown belt vs. a white belt looks like. I am not sure that the CM Punk experiment turned out as many new fans as the UFC would have liked.
Fabricio Werdum looked decent in his win over Travis Browne. The first round was as action packed as Anyone could have hoped. A flying side kick, a somersault, a near RNC, and what should have been a fight ending broken finger. The referee inexplicably gave Browne a timeout to look at his broken finger and let the fight go on after consulting doctors. All of that happened in the first five minutes. Werdum looked strong and almost finished the fight ending the round landing shots in back mount.
The rest of the fight was much more muted as both guys looked to land big shots, but only landed few and far between. Werdume won on all three score cards.
The Championship Fight
The final fight of the night was fantastic. The crowd was on fire for their hometown hero and he delivered. Stipe Miocic was caught early with the right and was put into a deep guillotine. He started escaping perfectly right away, slipping out to the opposite side of the choke. There were some very good exchanges that followed with some even better dirty boxing from Miocic. Allister Overeem was tough and survived some big shots and landed a couple more of his own. He threw a sloppy low side kick and was taken down. That is when Miocic took advantage and he grounded and pounded Overeem unconscious.
After the fight, Overeem said he felt Miocic tap when he slapped on the guillotine. Joe Rogan handled it perfectly by pulling up the video and asking Overeem to watch. He was respectful to Overeem, but he held him accountable to it not happening.
I am interested to see how the heavyweight division looks going forward. It is going to be an interesting end of the year.
Picture credit: Ester Lin MMA Fighting.
If you haven’t heard, Conor McGregor redeemed himself defeating Nate Diaz by majority decision Saturday night at UFC 202. In his post fight interview with Joe Rogan, McGregor hinted at a trilogy fight with Diaz at 155 pounds. The fan in me is going to hate what I am about to write next but I don’t want a trilogy fight, at least not right away.
If McGregor and Diaz both go down to 155 lbs following this epic five round war, there are a ton of great matchups for both of them. Donald Cerrone called out champ Eddie Alvarez following his TKO win over Rick Story. He may have unfinished business with Alvarez, but if you ask Cerrone tomorrow which fight he would rather have at 155, my guess is he wants to ring his lady and tell her it is red panty night. Khabib Nurmagomedov is already the number one challenger and despite long layoffs due to injury, he should likely get a crack at the belt before Cerrone. The winner of this fight would make perfect sense for McGregor. Nate probably doesn’t deserve a title shot coming off a loss nor does he likely care if he gets one. I think another Cerrone fight or match up with Anthony Pettis would make a lot of sense.
As the saying goes, a high tide raises all boats. The UFC is in a position to maximize the value of McGregor and Diaz to drive up the value of other top fighters in this division. Matching these two up with other fighters vying for a shot at the title will help everyone. As these guys face one another their following will grow and bring more eyeballs to future PPV especially when facing one another.
If McGregor and Diaz only face each other the rest of their career, I would buy the fight every time. What I really want is others fighters to emerge that I care enough about to say the same thing. It requires characters like McGregor and Diaz that fans either love or love to hate to get them to rally behind fighters that don’t have a large following outside of the core MMA fans.
I hope the new UFC brass can identify the opportunity these two fighters have created and promote a series of fights that can help grow the sport even more.
In what was billed as the biggest event in UFC history, there was a lot that happened. I was able to start watching the evening with TJ Dillashaw getting a win after his tough loss to Dominick Cruz. It was a great performance with TJ looking great and proving that he is still in the mix for a title shot soon. TJ was probably the least questioned of any of the fighters on this card coming off of a loss, but still had something to prove.
Kevin Gastelum and Johny Hendricks put on a heck of a show. Johny landed the only take down in the fight in the second round, which is probably the one round that he won on a single judge card. One judge scored it 29-28 in favor of Gastelum and the other two judges had it 30-27 for KG. Kevin was able to put together the best striking performance of his career. Some real fireworks started in the last 30 seconds of the fight as both fighters traded in a heated exchange that was intense to watch knowing Johny’s power, but KG hung in the pocket and looked to come out with the cleaner shots.
The next fight was a good scrap with Cat Zigano and Julianna Pena. The fight started with Cat being able to control the fight on the ground and Pena only able to muster a reversal and 3 significant strikes in the round. But the fight turned and Pena was the one in control for the rest of the fight, out striking Cat 129 to 23. All three Judges scored it 29-28 for Pena.
Cain and Rhonda Rousey’s boyfriend was the first fight of the main card. Cain Velasquez was coming off of a very big loss to Fabrcio Werdum were he was picked apart on his feet. Werdum is considered one of the best jiu jitsu for MMA fighters in the world, it was expected the Cain would would have the advantage standing. When he didn’t we all wondered if he was as good as we all thought. Cain then promptly reminded us all how good he is and scary he can be on any given night. He showed us a new technique that he had not previously shown us from him in the octagon and spinning heel kick. It was the beginning of the end for Travis Browne after that.
Didn't see a spin kick from Cain coming. Neither did Travis Browne. #UFC200
— The Long Ball (@1ongBall) July 10, 2016
Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar went the distance. Jose Aldo was masterful in this fight. He looked like the best Aldo that I have seen in the octagon and he is ready for the rematch with Conor if it comes. I am glad that he had the chance to erase the last image that we had of him over extending, getting caught and hitting the canvas. Interestingly, Jose only threw two leg kicks in the fight and both seemed to be very effective. If someone would have told me that he won 48-47 on one card and 49-46 on the other two and only threw two leg kicks, I would have called them crazy. But it happened. It was closer than the 49-46 appeared as Aldo was able to steal rounds that were dead even with effective flurries at the end of a couple rounds. I picked Frankie for this fight, but before the fight I tweeted this.
While I am sticking with my pick of Frankie, it would be great to see Aldo get in Connors face after the win. #UFC200
— The Long Ball (@1ongBall) July 10, 2016
This will be a great rematch, I just hope it happens soon while Jose is locked in and ready to go.
At this point in the night it feels like fights have been going on forever and the main event was coming up. And if not for the fact that it was a 3 round fight, it felt that big. Anderson Silva making it to this fight on two days notice is worthy of some massive respect. I won’t take credit for predicting how this fight would go, because any even casual fan could see this one coming. What I didn’t expect is how fired up this crowed would be to see Silva do well. Every time the fight was standing, there was electricity in the air. When Daniel Cormier was doing what we all knew he would do and laying on top of Silva trying to ground and pound him the crowed was incensed.
Cowboy Cerrone is leading a "Stand! Them! Up!" chant, waving on the crowd.
— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) July 10, 2016
This was my favorite tweet of the night. Cerrone is one of my favorite fighters and I am so happy that he was his normal self being a fan of fighting and leading the chant. With 35 seconds to go in the fight Silva was standing and threw a liver kick that hurt Cormier and instantly grabbed Silva and pinned him to the cage. For a moment there was a flash of excitement in what was otherwise a one sided fight. I wrote about this still being good for Silva in my post yesterday and it was. He walked out of the cage, on two days notice and lasted 15 mins with the light heavyweight champ of the world. He then had some interesting things to say after the fight that I will cover in my next piece.
Really though. That was not the main event. We still have two more fights to cover.
Brock Lesnar is back. What does that mean, we have no idea. He is going to take it one day at a time is what he said to Rogan after his 29-27 unanimous win over Mark Hunt. He looked like he was in over his head in the second round, but after he secured a take-down in the third, he was dominate. He earned a 10-8 round from all three judges and was back with a victory after four and half years off.
Finally the final fight of the night.
Miesha Tate vs Amanda Nunes was a great fight and a terrific performance by Nunes. She is historically a fast starter that fades at the end of fights, while Miesha starts slow and picks up steam as she goes. I predicted that Tate would be able to withstand the quick start and defend her belt, but Nunes was too much. In what looked like an illegal knee that started the final exchange after replay, it missed. The shots she landed were all legal and very effective. Ending with Miesha giving up her back and getting choked out.
Bigger than the fight in my opinion was the fact that a women’s fight was the main event of the biggest UFC fight ever. At UFC 100 seven years ago, there were not even ladies in the UFC.
— The Long Ball (@1ongBall) July 10, 2016
I will try to get something up shortly covering the pressers.