UFC 210 Thoughts- Rumble Near The Bronx
As I write the title to this blog, I am saddened that no one thought of that play on words, as Anthony "Rumble" Johnson comes to fight in New York state for the first- and maybe the last time. This was a card that was entertaining at times, and downright baffling at others. Let's see what happened when UFC hit Buffalo for the first time in 22 years.
-Magomed Bibulatov (yes, I had to Google the spelling) looks like yet another beast to come out of Russia, moving to 14-0 with this win over Jenel Lausa. Just what the flyweight division needs- a strong challenger to emerge with plenty of hype- since Mighty Mouse has beaten everyone with the greatest of ease to this point. The comfortable decision win over Lausa- an aggressive, promising prospect in his own right- is a fine way to make a UFC debut for Bibulatov.
-Chookagian and Aldana went to war! Here is the reason I make sure I watch all the prelims, for gems like this. Both ladies came to throw down, and while Aldana landed more impactful strikes, Chookagian kept coming forward like the Terminator. Really fun fight that I plan to watch again after I finish writing.
-Josh Emmett suffered his first career loss taking on Desmond Green. Shame, I'm a big fan of Emmett, his style impresses me a lot, he's all action, all the time, moves forward like another Arnie stunt double. Green is far more experienced than his name might suggest, having fought in Bellator and Titan FC, and used that experience to unleash excellent counter striking against Emmett's aggression to take the split decision.
-Gregor Gillespie is a name I didn't really know before this card, but with a 21 second TKO win, I'll certainly be paying attention in the future. Andrew Holbrook has wins over Ramsey Nijem and Australia's own Jake Matthews to his credit, so to blast through him like that is a hell of a statement.
-Patrick Cummins shows heart to win the decision over Jan Blachowicz, getting hurt badly in the first round and rallying like a champ. I can never figure out Cummins' ceiling. I thought he was a jabroni when DC demolished him in his UFC debut, then he carved out a little run for himself, but has been finished by guys like OSP and Glover recently. With that knowledge, I expected Blachowicz to run through him, and then he pulls out this gutsy performance. Man, MMA. So hard to predict.
-Shane Burgos is one to keep an eye on, scoring a 3rd round standing TKO win over Charles Rosa. I've been very high on Charles Rosa since seeing how well he fought veteran Dennis Siver in his UFC debut, and he acquitted himself well again in this fight, but Burgos just kept landing clean strike after clean strike until he could no longer be denied. Deserved FOTN for both guys.
-Holy crap, Kamura Usman had a DOMINANT performance. Shocked me and the commentary team. Rogan and Cruz thought Sean Strickland would be Usman's toughest test to date, and I thought the same thing. Took another L in my predictions league on this one, but I'm left with a lot of intrigue as to how Usman would do against the top 10 at welterweight. Props to Strickland for surviving to the final horn, but Usman did not make it easy. I never want to give the impression that I dislike decisions. I dislike passivity and inactivity. If you're actively trying to stop your opponent and fall short, it's all good in my hood.
-Myles Jury went from being an undefeated prospect to dropping two straight, and it seemed like his back was against the wall in this featured prelim. Fortunately, he responded in a champion-like manner, getting Mike De La Torre to the mat in short order and pounding his skull into the ground for a first round stoppage. Originally plying his trade at 155, with big time wins over Michael Johnson, Diego Sanchez and Takanori Gomi to his credit, Myles Jury could be a major contender at featherweight.
-I've been on the Charles Oliveira hype train since 2010 (despite his maddening inconsistency) so I was ecstatic with this PPV opener. Du Bronx was at his best here, returning to lightweight after a somewhat shaky stint at 145. Perhaps he's grown into his frame a bit, displayed power I haven't seen from him before with a big takedown slam on Will Brooks. The standing RNC came moments later, and what a great showcase. Provided his chin holds up- I feel like that's been a big factor in his ups and downs- an Oliveira with increased strength to go with his incredible jitz game could be a true contender at lightweight. It's easy to forget with all his years in the UFC- the guy's only 27!
-It's a shame things didn't work out for Thiago Alves in his attempts to make the lightweight weight limit, but when he's on, his height and reach disadvantages count for very little. This was evident at UFC 210, as he fought former middleweight contender Patrick Cote and looked every bit the former welterweight title challenger he used to be. Mixed up the striking impressively between kicks and punches, targeting the legs and the head of Cote. Like Oliveira, Alves has been around seemingly forever, but he's only 33. I'd like to think a win like this, where he was really able to display his diverse striking skills, breathed new life into a career that looked like it was perhaps winding down, with his recent losses and injury woes. If his body can stay healthy and he keeps churning out performances like that, maybe he has another run left in him.
-Speaking of careers winding down, Patrick Cote took the gloves off and announced his retirement. He wasn't beaten so badly in this fight that it seemed he was being forced into retirement, just more seemed like he thought it was time. Really, kudos to him for not "Chuck Liddelling" it and continuing to a point where he suffered a lot of KOs and caused fear for his long term health. Cote seems to be getting out before his performances and health decline significantly. With a career that began in 2002, he's given the fans a lot- 15 years is a damn long time to get punched in the face for our enjoyment.
-The most intrigue surrounding this next fight stemmed from the continued ineptitude of the New York State Athletic Commission. On weigh-in day, the NYSAC pulled Pearl Gonzalez from her fight with Cynthia Calvillo... because of her breast implants. Pearl found a loophole in that the rule states "boxer", not "mixed martial artist", so the show went on. But what a ridiculous reason to cancel a fight, especially so late in the day.
-Anyway, tits or no tits, Gonzalez was game, but the superior ground work of Calvillo lead to her defeat. Almost finished with a triangle choke at the end of the first, almost caught in a RNC at the end of the second, but it was in the third round where Cynthia Calvillo locked in the RNC for the finish. Impressive persistence by Calvillo, great heart by Gonzalez. Had to think "Tit-gate", as it has been affectionately dubbed, had to affect Pearl's psyche a little, but it wasn't evident. Props to Calvillo for having such a quick turnaround, winning two fights in the span of a month, and also for her mean mugging that neared Diego Sanchez quality!
-Chris Weidman vs. Gegard Mousasi was shaping up to be a really high quality co-main until the NYSAC fucked things up yet again. The new unified rules have done away with the "bitch hand", where if you have one hand touching the ground, you are still considered a standing fighter. So, in an attempt to combat knees being thrown at his head, Weidman puts both hands on the ground. Mousasi knees him anyway, ref Dan Miragliotta calls a stop to the action and gives Weidman 5 minutes to recover. A replay shows that Mousasi actually lifted Weidman's hands off the mat before delivering the knee, which is communicated to Dan. Apparently that's a problem in itself as replays are not allowed in New York, why, I don't know. New York is one of my favourite cities in the world, but their athletic commission is dog shit, at least when it comes to MMA. Anyway, this brings the doctors in to check on Weidman- who immediately wave the fight off, despite Weidman being clear-eyed, lucid, and willing to continue. The crowd dumps on it, chanting "bullshit", a sentiment shared by many- media, commentators, me. The seemingly obvious thing to do after determining that the knee was in fact legal, would be to start the fight back in that clinch position and move on.
-Seriously, fuck the NYSAC. I'm not even a massive Weidman fan, but to lose in that manner- meaning he's now lost three straight fights- is asinine. It's a fight I feel he was winning too. He wasn't in any way rocked by the knee, either, Dan just halted the action because he thought it was illegal, and in real time, definitely an understandable error. It's the NY doctors that shit the bed on that one. I think what needs to happen is, for a good year or so, they need to bring in people from more experienced commissions, like Vegas and California. Have the people that work in the NYSAC shadow them for a year or so to see how it's done. We can't have UFC running events in New York when there's this many issues. Holly Holm got screwed in Brooklyn by an incompetent ref. Pearl Gonzalez almost lost her chance to compete because of her fake boobies. And now, Chris Weidman lost a title eliminator fight due to this giant clusterfuck. I believe there was other commission related issues (Rashad Evans was denied a license to compete at the last minute in NY as well)- but these incidents in isolation are bad enough to trigger some kind of review. The fact that they're all starting to pile up means something has to be done.
-Moving on to the main event- I could rant longer on the NYSAC, but I'm conscious of the length of my blog and people's attention spans- Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson, the rematch. In the first fight, "Rumble" Johnson landed a big overhand punch early, dropping the champ and almost finishing him. Cormier was able to recover and use his wrestling skill to gain control and eventually finish Rumble with the RNC. So, logic dictates that Rumble would look to land the big punches again and try and avoid the grappling exchanges. Unfortunately, Rumble said "fuck logic" and decided to INTIATE grappling exchanges. With a former Olympian. Mr. Johnson, I'm aware you did well in high school wrestling, but this dude was in the Olympics! So, Johnson got taken down and choked out again- quicker and easier than the first time around.
-Ah well. I can at least take solace in the fact that what Rumble did was not his corner's game plan. Soon after the fight, audio surfaced where his coaches were incredulous and angry about their fighter's strategy. So, post fight, when Joe Rogan conducted an interview with Johnson, he requested that his team join him in the cage, but they had stormed backstage in disgust. Johnson went ahead with his announcement anyway- he was retiring from MMA. He had a job lined up outside of MMA, saying that he was sick of getting punched for a living. If true, it explains his fight strategy, and the fact he barely even tried to defend the choke- almost seems like the closest thing to throwing a fight I've seen. If he was leaving MMA regardless, with that performance, he basically cheated the fans, and his fellow fighters by putting on a performance like that. If he had won, then retired, that puts the division in limbo with a vacated title. Seems like an odd time in an athlete's life to retire though. Rumble's announcement just added to the weirdness of what ended up being one of the strangest cards in recent memory- well, in the top fights, at least.
-Daniel Cormier gets on the mic. As both a pro wrestling and MMA fan, and knowing DC loves WWE too, this warmed my heart a bit, I'll admit it. He questions why people don't like him, and then decided to embrace it and cuts a full-on heel promo! He disses Jimi Manuwa ("you just beat Corey Anderson, sit down, son") and Jon Jones ("is he eligible to fight yet? If he's not, don't talk to me about him. He doesn't exist.") Great stuff to kind of end things on a high note. It gave me a good laugh at least.
-As for why Cormier isn't liked? I'd say a lot of people don't like how preachy he got about Jon Jones, basically telling people that they shouldn't like him. Nobody likes being told how to feel. For me, personally, it's his fight style. I touched on this earlier talking about decision victories. In DC's UFC career, if a fighter offers up little to no defense (Hendo and Rumble) he'll go for a finish. If a fighter has a modicum of defensive ability, Cormier seems content to lie against the fence or lie on the mat and chip his way to a decision. If he can't finish easily, he won't bother trying. And I specifically said "UFC career", because I actually enjoyed Daniel Cormier a lot in Strikeforce. He mixed striking and wrestling and looked like he was trying to kick ass- and usually succeeded. He had a really fun fight with Josh Barnett- won by decision, but it was a fun, hard fought decision- and steamrolled Bigfoot Silva back when he was on TRT and still a threat.
Anyway, weird night of fights. This was on the way to being a kind of succinct blog by my standards until I got started on the topic of the NYSAC (seriously, UFC should just go back to New Jersey). Some good to great fights until the craziness at the top of the card.
Hopefully, my next foray into writing about UFC will be a bit more contained and I'll have less reason to be vitriolic towards the athletic commission, as the Octagon heads to Kansas City this Sunday for an event on FOX. Headlined by Mighty Mouse defending the flyweight title against one of the only top 10 guys he hasn't already destroyed, Wilson Reis. A big time strawweight fight is on tap as well as "Thug" Rose Namajunes faces "The Karate Hottie" Michelle Waterson. But the one I'm all about is between top contenders in the middleweight division- "Jacare" Souza fights the rising star from Sydney, "The Reaper" Robert Whittaker. Much excite!
Until next time, take care,