Saturday September 10th saw Cleaveland, Ohio host UFC 203, with a main event featuring home town hero Stipe Miocic defending his UFC Heavyweight Championship against Alistair Overeem. You can see our preview and predictions here. See how right/wrong we were!
Background and the curse of Cleaveland
The preview we wrote for this was almost immediately invalidated by fighter pull outs. Not only did Ray Borg pull out of his bout with owner of the most bizarre nickname in MMA, Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall, a frankly ludicrous incident with a lift malfunctioning and falling from the second floor to the basement while full of pro fighters. The fact that only CB Dollaway bore injuries that kept him from fighting and nobody suffered anything long term is a relief, but I’m sure the UFC will be more brutal in their treatment of the hotel’s insurance company than a Conor McGregor KO highlight reel. The big winner from this was Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who having just had his much anticipated match with Robbie Lawler cancelled, offered to step in to fight “Whoever CB was supposed to fight”. This disregard for the opponent or the fact the fight was at 205lbs and Cowboy (fighting as 155 or 170) has discussed in the pressers how he walks around at 180, has utterly galvanised his supporters with his “toughness” and “don’t give a f**k” attitude. The cynic in me feels this is all very deliberate by a man who’s barely ever seen without a bottle of “America” branded Budweiser, literally counting the stacks of money his endorsements bring in from his yee haw appeal to Trump voting morons, but the fight fan in my is starting to mark out a little, especially given his recent explosive performances. This is all very upsetting as I really don’t want to like a man who brags about alleged assaults and repeatedly uses casual homophobia in his every day speech, but that combo at 202 – Wow!
This nonsense, added to some pretty awful judging and refereeing by Ohio sanctioned officials and the utter fiasco that led to CM Punk getting a pro liscence ((discussed here) means Ohio will probably not be seeing a major event anytime soon, despite the sell out crowd.
Mederos Vs Spencer
Solid Sub win for Madeiros early in the second. We picked the right winner, wrong method!
Dober Vs Gonzalez
We called explosiveness, and the barrage of punched that Drew Dober finished Gonzalez with delivered only 1.45 into the fight. Seriously impressive from Dober. He should be good to go again soon. TUF Alum Gonzalez will probably get another shot on a small card after his suspension, but it’ll be make or break for him.
Lentz vs McBride
Good day in the office for Lentz, solid second round TKO against McBride, who missed weight and had to hand over 20% of his purse. I’d imagine he’d be happy to have these fights weekly, but it looks like a beef with BJ Penn could lead to a grudge match if Penn gets through Lamas.
Dull, and a bizarre judging decision that gave a split of 28-29, 30-27, 29-28. Other than the Ohio judges varying opinions, there wasn’t much to write home about, other than the fact that if you’d have bet according to our advice, you’d be richer.
Bethe Correia Vs Jessica Eye
Despite being a desperately dull fight, this one is actually interesting from an interpretation of the rules point of view. It’s a split decision and a brave one to hand a loss to the home town girl Eye, but there is a big question mark on how you now interpret significant strikes and damage. Statistically Eye threw more, yet you could argue that while eye landed more significant strikes, Correia’s were significantly more damaging, which is technically the spirit of new rules in judging. Does a landed punch that has no significant effect count as much as one that visibly looks like it hurt? Does that mean tough guys like Nate Diaz and Forrest Griffin have advantages because they show less pain or wobble less? While removing weight from pointless takedowns and lay and pray strategies is undoubtedly a good thing, are we in a situation where the significance of a punch becomes entirely a matter of perception? Eye was very upset by the result, declined to give an in-octagon interview and left immediately. She’s 0-4 in her recent fights and may well be cut. Her mood was surely soured even more by Bethe Correia displaying a distinct lack of dignity by showboating in celebration, despite the manner of her victory being anything but impressive. It is important to be gracious in victory, and while the sport needs pantomime villains, it takes a well judged personality to be one.
Jessica Andrade Vs JoJo Calderwood
We are huge JoJo fans, but Jessica Andrade looked very impressive here. Arguably JoJo was out of her depth with the cut and really needs 125Lb fights, but don’t let that take away from a very well executed first round guillotine with 22 seconds remaining. Worth noting that Jessica has fought most of her career 20lbs heavier but seems to be loving 115 and is now 2-0. A performance bonus topped things off and the suggestion that one more big fight gets he the winner of Joana and Karolina will put a smile on her face for sure.
Jimmie Rivera Vs Urijah Faber
A very good technical performance by the extremely tough Rivera gave him a very impressive decision win over veteran Urijah Faber. One significant marring is a sloppy eye poke by Faber has left Rivera with a serious injury and hindrance of vision, with some rumours circulating that it might be long term. We wish him the best and want to see him moving up the ranks as quickly as possible. Faber, on the other hand, must decide if he’s willing to be a gatekeeper for the remainder of his illustrious career.
Mickey Gall Vs CM Punk
This was a joke the whole way through, like a gimmick match they have in the middle of Wrestlemania to pad the listings. From Mickey Gall’s entrance music joke going too far, to the absolutely awful attempt at a punch from CM Punk, this was a freak show point of interest that asked the question: “Are WWE guys tough?” and the answer was “No”. Phil “CM Punk” Brooks has made the UFC a lot of money, but I doubt people will be keen to see wrestlers again make the same leap as his performance was precisely zero. He did nothing. He threw a right hand that looked beyond amatuer, got taken down, got beaten up and choked out. The only real question is why didn’t Gall keep it standing up and toy with him to get a highlight reel out of it.
It looks like Gall will fight Sage Northcutt, who he called “Corny” (shortly after begging the crowd for “no more hate”). Gall has a 3-0 record against fake fighters and his Brown belt in ju-jitsu is normally a base level for top fighters who possess other skills. Put it this way, his overwhelmingly best attribute is the worst thing about Conor McGregor’s game. That’s how far away he is from being a UFC main card fighter. If the Sage fight gets sanctioned, bet on a first round finish and a taxi for Gall, who has the gall to be fighting above his level.
Fabricio Werdum Vs Travis Browne
This is probably one of the more bizarre fights of the night. It began with Werdum connecting with a flying side kick to Browne’s head, stumbling him temporarily and only got weirder.
Towards the end of the first round, Werdum threw an overhand right and Browne blocked with his open hand, fingers spread out wide, a schoolboy error, and then preceeded to signal to the referee that he had a finger problem. Initially the referee did nothing, as he hadn’t verbally submitted or tapped, there was no reason to stop the fight, but as Werdum realised this and went for a punch that Browne didn’t defend the referee seemed to have a brainfart and stepped in, clearly making a time out signal rather than the TKO for not defending one’s self he should have. At that point a doctor and official came in to the octagon to check Browne. Presumably the official thought there was an equipment stoppage, which is legitimate, and the doctor was called to assess medical situation, upon which Browne was cleared to continues.
It turns out Browne had broken his finger and had bone protruding. It is unknown if the doctor could see this, but the question is if they couldn’t, how could the referee have stopped the fight to investigate medically. Simply put, he couldn’t, unless we assume the doctor also saw it yet allowed the fight to continue regardless, which would probably result in serious disciplinary. The only possible conclusion must be referee error, which doesn’t sit well for Ohio’s hopes of future events. You can’t imagine Herb Dean or Big John McCarthy being that ignorant of the rules, regardless of scenario.
The fight continued and Werdum won a pretty clear decision, wild kicks included, until things got more bizarre when awaiting the official decision, Werdum was taunting the crowd who were booing in a fairly playful and innocent manner when Edmund Tarverdyan, Travis Browne’s coach and the man famous for instructing Ronda Rousey to box with Holly Holm, started apparently screaming obscenities at Werdum. It is unclear what exactly was said and what caused it, but Werdum reacted by push kicking Tarverdyan accross the octagon and a face off ensued. Tarverdyan was removed from the octagon and things calmed down, mainly due to the sensible actions of both fighters coaching teams (apart from the obvious). The commission claims neither will face sanctions, but it added to yet another bizarre loss of control in a weird event overall.
The Main Event
And so we reached the main event of the evening, a 5 round title fight nobody expected to go the distance and boy did it not disappoint.
Miocic entered the octagon to massive hometown support, but Overeem looked composed and cool, as his experience would dictate. The anticipation and nerves were apparent in the arena and an audible intake of breath from the crowd was heard when Overeem put a kick in hard to Stipe’s midsection. What followed was the entire city of Cleveland collectively nearly losing their lunch as Stipie chased with a wild air kick of his own, ran after a retreating Overeem, straight into a fist that put him down on his backside. Overeem scrambled into a guillotine when he may have had opportunity to swarm with punches and paid for the decision as Stipe was able to pivot out and force his neck free with some comprehensive power.
From there the crowd swelled and got behind their man, who started hunting down the legendary Dutch kickboxer with precision shots that visibly hurt Overeeem, who couldn’t seem to understand how they were getting through his blocking hands. Stipe, for his credit, is a hugely deceptive boxer, what looks like pawing jabs and space finding hooks are actually power strikes and Overeem began to back away rapidly wanting no business in the pocket with the Croatian-American.
While backing away Overeem got his leg caught by Stipe and a sloppy take down led to Miocic posturing from guard and absolutely pelting shots down on a soon to be unmoving head of Overeem, although it took the Referee 4 shots and a clearly asleep Alistair to get in and stop it, another blot on the copy of Ohio’s chosen officials, while the crowd went absolutely ape for their hero.
Of course the oddness wasn’t over, with Overeem, when he awoke, claiming that Stipe had tapped in the guillotine. Joe Rogan, with little remorse for such whining, twice called on the replay, to Overeem’s crushing disappointment.
In fairness to Rogan, he has spoken out about not interviewing losing fighters, particularly those who’ve suffered a KO, as they may not be in a coherant state of mind. Considering Overeem had fully gone to sleep with the KO, he may have a point.