UFC 203 Event Review

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.

The fights

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.

Brad Tavares

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.

Stipe KO's overeem
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.

Heartbreak

 

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.

UFC 203 Preview

September 10th 2016 sees the UFC head to Cleaveland, Ohio for the 203rd showcase event and the event is set to be a heavyweight one, both literally and figuratively. Apart from a heavyweight title bout between hometown hero Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem and a face off between former champ Fabricio Werdum and Mr Rousey, Travis Browne, we also have another hugely high profile debut of Phil Brooks, also known as WWE superstar CM Punk. This highly controversial bout that we are covering in our post here to avoid dominating the review of the real fight!

Fight Pass Prelims

Drew Dober Vs Jason Gonzalez

Dober is the more experienced fighter here, but Gonzalez in his UFC Debut (excluding exhibitions on TUF 2 seasons ago) brings a record of never going the distance in his 10 winsa nd 2 losses. Expect explosiveness.

CB Dolloway Vs Francimar Barroso

CB is coming off 3 losses and hasn’t fought since December. He absolutely needs to win this one but we think the experience of journeyman and BJJ blackbelt Barroso could take advantage of the pressure and pick up a surprise win.

Yancy Madeiros Vs Sean Spencer

Two solid servants to the sport, both needing a win to step up the next level. We think Hawaiian Yancy to push through on this one and be too strong for Spencer by decision.

FS1 Prelims

Caio Magalhães Vs Brad Tavares

Another wrestling versus BJJ bout, but expect both guys to test each others stand up as both will be wary of being caught on the ground. Tavares to out wrestle is our prediction.

Nick Lentz Vs Michael McBride

Belator up and comer McBride is an strong candidate and Lentz has been stumbling of late, yet still holds a massive experience and big event advantage.

Jessica Eye Vs Bethe Correia

These two hold a record of 0-5 between them, but 2 of those losses were to 2 of the last 4 Women’s BW champions. Eye is the local girl and needs the win more. Expect her to raise her game and bully out a win.

Main Card

Jessica Andrade Vs JoJo Calderwood

Andrade is very skilled and very tough, but Calderwood is explosive and only has one pro loss when she got caught be Maryna Moroz in what people consider somewhat lucky. We’ll be off our seats shouting for JoJo!

Uriah Faber Vs Jimmie Rivera

Rivera is slowly and surely developing a very good record, but this is a step up in quality of opponent for him. Faber is coming to the end of an illustrious career and this should be well within his capabilities, but it depends on how hungry he is coming into the cage. It is always difficult coming off a loss which has effectively ended your title ambitions.

CM Punk Vs Mickey Gall

Sigh…. Gall by utter death or Punk by corruption. I don’t care.

Fabricio Werdum Vs Travis Browne

Travis takes this on 4 weeks notice, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’d only ever have a punchers chance against Werdum, who is the superior technician. Of course heavyweight can be unpredictable, but Werdum should be focussed after his upset loss of the title to Stipe Miocic

Stipe Miocic Vs Alistair Overeem

This one is tough to call. Overeem is on an impressive 4 fight streak and carries with him bags of experience, if not the T/E ration of a few years back. Stipe is the champ, but his path to the belt had included some ageing competitors like Hunt and Arlowski and some middling like Maldonado and Roy Nelson. His major challenge was against Junior Dos Santos, which he lost. But then he did knock out Werdum, so all bets are off. Stipe is in front of a home crowd, but Overeem is known for being a loner so hostile environments won’t both him. This is one of the most exciting heavyweight title fights in some time and will certainly be duked out standing up. No way this ends any other way than a knock out. We can’t wait!

Vince McMahon’s UFC? The curious case of CM Punk and Mickey Gall

At UFC 203 on September 10th a hometown hero enters the octagon to defend his world heavyweight title for the first time after hugely upsetting the dominant Brazilian world beater to win it. It’s a Rocky movie, is you replace boxing with MMA and Philly with Cleveland. But nobody cares. To the casual fan’s who make up the lion share of the projected PPV revenue for this one, and thus become the driving lobby in UFC brass’ eyes, all they care about is an nonathletic old bloke with a 0-0 pro record and a 0-0 amateur record, whose name is Phil. He is, of course, former WWE superstar known as CM Punk (side note, Wikipedia suggest CM stands for “chick magnet”. We cringed so hard we turned into a fist. He’ll never replace Ladies Love Cool James in our eyes of toughest abbreviated creep name). Phil “CM Punk” Brooks is a WWE wrestler who isn’t particularly athletic, has no “legit” background, really only rose to prominence in the WWE because Vince McMahon recognised that his “Smarks” who love independant cloggers from ROH purchased more merchandise than children (a tactic now being abandoned in favour of muscle bound freaks now kids represent revenue once more) and used to pretend he had a “Kempo” background despite showing some of the most awkward leg work week in week out. Simply put, CM Punk is not a mixed martial artist. He’s in the UFC because they want to make money.

CM Punk UFC 203

Should the fight happen?

At this stage I must state that the UFC is not at fault here. Their responsibility is to protect the integrity of the sport in terms of rankings and title lineage, but also to raise the profile of the sport and there’s no better way to do this than having crossovers from other major sports (and pseudo sports) and WWE is proven to be a big seller on that level with Brock Lesnar currently being the headliner of the 3rd highest PPV (UFC 100, after 196 and 202’s McGregor shows), comfortably eclipsing pro boxer Ray Mercer’s unsuccessful foray into MMA. On that level, CM Punk makes money and his fight doesn’t have any weight into the main title picture or rankings. So all innocent? No. Not at all.

How do you make a fight

First of all, let me state that there is no set rule on what permits somebody to be a MMA fighter. The inception of the sport combined traditional Martial Arts with Boxing, Wrestling and even street fighters (in fact Tank Abbot got very close to winning UFC six and also got to the final of UU 96 and Keith Hackney quickly gave up his Kenpo and Tae Kwon Do styles when beating Joe Son via testicular punches at UFC 4). Since sanctioning came in, which was a massive necessary step to legitimacy and mass market coverage, the sanctioning bodies have their own rules as to what conditions need to be met to justify a fight. In Ohio there are some relatively strict rules about weight cutting (this is a debate for another day), but they also have a very clear regulation that to fight as a professional Mixed Martial Artist in the state of Ohio, you must have completed 5 amateur fights. The purpose of this is to ensure you are skilled enough to safely engage in professional combat, having experienced the safer environment of amateur combat enough to make the step. CM Punk does not fulfil this criteria. His amateur record consists of precisely 0 fights. The reason given to sanction him is that his background in pro-wrestling is similar to Brock Lesnar’s. This is an absolutely disgrace. Lesnar was an NCAA champion and an athletic monster, a true freak of nature. That is where his MMA base came from, not from acting in the WWE week in, week out. CM Punk is about as close to Brock Lesnar as spam is to fillet steak. Worth noting also, Lesnar went off and fought at Dynamite, defeating Olympic Judo Silver Medalist Min-Soo Kim before he got what was seen then as a fast track to the UFC.
Punk’s utter lack of pedigree aside, there is another pretty significant point in sanctioned match making: Is the fight competitive? This is absolutely key to match making in the modern era. Fighter safety is key and the first port of call must be assessment of a fighters ability to step into the cage with their opponent. Weight classes are the basic indicator, but athletic commissions must ensure that one fighter won’t be so much better than the other that it causes active danger.
At this stage, to truly answer the question of competitive fairness, we must look at Punk’s opponent, Mickey Gall. There isn’t a great deal of information about Gall. He is a kid from New Jersey who appeared on reality show Dana White: Lookin for a Fight, calling out CM Punk. That seems to be pretty much it. Sherdog gives him a amateur record of 2-0 against guys who didn’t go pro. He has one independent pro fight (the Lookin for a fight one), which was his debut, and his opponent’s debut (who remains 0-1). After that, he entered the UFC to fight Mike Jackson, who was making his pro debut and remains, you guessed it, 0-1 after the Gall fight. It turns out Jackson is a some time kickboxer that does photography for Legacy fighting championship, the UFC friendly lower tier show that nurtured rising star Sage Northcutt. What this tells us is that Gall has fought 4 people who have precisely zero pedigree. They might have been monsters of delicate flowers, but no commission or sanctioning body can possibly know. He might be a good fighter. He certainly dispatched his pro fights earlier, but the whole thing raises significant questions as to his legitimacy. Obviously the UFC have decided they want to earn off CM Punk and they’ve also decided they don’t want to give him an absolute bum with no legacy (see Mike Jackson) to chew up in his main card PPV debut, so they’ve had to artificially create buzz about his opponent and try and make him look as legit as possible, while still assuring the fight gets sanctioned by the athletic commission.

Friendly commissions?

Let me say now the UFC do not go to Ohio that often. Ohio’s rules on weight cutting do not fit with the standards of UFC heartland Nevada and also Ohio demands a 50% cut of the fight purse in fines for people missing weight. It isn’t traditionally an attractive commission to fight under. You certainly won’t ever get the likes of Conor McGregor risking a cut in Ohio if those are the conditions.
It’s also worth noting that while Michael Bisping is deserving of a home town first title defence for his decade long unrelenting service to the UFC, Stipe Miocic isn’t (yet. No disrespect to Stipe). Going to Ohio isn’t purely for pandering to a HW champ in his first defence. There must be other reasons.
Let’s look at what we know:
Both fighters have been cleared to fight despite not clearly fulfilling requirements.
Fighters have been cleared to fight each other despite not having matched experience of frame of talent reference.

Would Nevada or California sanction this bout? I doubt it. It’s too strange not to be suspicious. Is this all a Vince McMahon style work? Dana White will, I’m sure, say “No Chance”.

Fight Night 93 Review – Main Event

Saturday September 3rd saw UFC Fight Night 93 (Aka UFC Hamburg, Aka UFC Fight Night Barnett Versus Arlovski). As with some of the more recent European Cards (Rotterdam and Zagreb particularly), the UFC has promoted Heavyweight main events, and this trip to Hamburg, Germany, was no different, with veterans and legends of the sport Josh Barnett and Andrei Arlovski squared off in a bout that promised explosiveness and delivered.

The Background

What more can you say about a fight like this? A combined experience of a whopping 79 professional fights between them before this one, with bouts in every time zone covering all major promotions in the history of the sport. The Pitbull versus the War Master, there is barely a thing these men haven’t achieved in the game between them.
The UFC face some criticism for it’s heavyweight division at times, but currently there seems to be a good mix of competitive styles with some extremely powerful veterans willing to put on a show and while neither of these guys will be getting a title shot soon, they both regularly ensure that those aiming for one are met with powerful punches and world class grappling along the way. These veterans are probably the scariest gatekeepers in the business and it is a testament to current champ Stipe Miocic that he had to come through Arlovski before getting his title.
As for the event as a whole, you could level some criticism at the card itself, with a fairly uninspiring undercard of what can only be described as Free TV fighters, with some debutants, including veteran journeyman Judo Jim Wallhead, who lost a split decision.

The main card

The main card began with German Judoka Nick Hein taking on Korean fighter Tae Hyun Bang. In a less than comfortable decision win for Hein, the crowd began to warm up, happy that their country man extended his mini win streak. It is, however, difficult to see Hein moving the needle and getting bigger fights without injecting far more excitement into his game.
Next up saw TUF alum Ryan Bader take on Ilir Latifi, who resembles an even more pumped up Hector Lombard in body shape, but looks like a solid wrestler, with a low centre of gravity who isn’t afraid to keep standing and throw some clean strikes. Being the European Latifi got the crowds support over American Bader and came out with the intention of putting on a show, dictating the pace and having arguably the better of the early exchanges, dropping Bader late in the first round, but landing at an awkward angle allowing Bader time to recover and avoid a quick finish. All Latifi’s good work, however, was blown out of the water 2 minutes into the second round when he was knocked out in spectacular fashion by the knee of Bader. Latifi had started to get lazy with his level changes and clearly telegraphed on too much, allowing the experienced American to smash him square in the head, sending him flying backwards in a spectacular and theatrical movement that was a few degrees off resembling a bizarre gymnastics display, such was the trajectory Latifi was driven back by. Bader’s £50k bonus for performance of the night for that one every bit deserved.
Next up was the intriguing co main between Alexander Gustafsson and Jan Blachowicz. Gustafsson is coming off a run which may seem poor at 1-4, but represent a period where he’s been fighting some of the best fighters in the business. He managed to take Jon Jones the distance and worried him a lot and lost a split to current champ Daniel Cormier, fights which sandwiched a good tko of Jimi Manuwa and a demolition at the hands of Rumble Johnson. Gustafsson needed an ordinary day at the office and this fight started in a manner which suggested he was going to have to work for his money. Blachowicz came out strong and caught the Swede with a couple of punches, doing visible damage under his right eye. If Gustafsson was worried that he’s underestimated the pole, he didn’t show it. In a masterful switch to plan b, Gustafsson proceeded to take Jan down and pound him into oblivion for 3 rounds, earning a solid decision win which puts him back on positive trajectory in the division. It wasn’t massively exciting, but it was technically brilliant, utilitarian fighting and he thoroughly deserves a W next to his name.

The main event

The first 30 seconds of this fight suggested these boys were taking a lead out of their experience from both Elite XC and Affliction, where rumours flew around that main event fighters were encouraged to take more risks if the prior card had been lacklustre. Straight away both men tried to do nothing other than punch each others head off, both being rocked and nearly going down to the canvas in quick succession before the fight began to level out. Some good strong stand up was coupled with some solid ground work, particularly by Barnett who was able multiple times to counter Arlovski’s leg trip take downs and fall dominant. As the fight went on Barnett became dominant and nearly got the finish in the 2nd round, the war and mess of blood made it quite apparent that this one wasn’t going the distance. After an accidental eye poke caused Barnett to turn away Arlovski nearly capitalised and if he’s been swinging a right hook from behind on a man who doesn’t possess a dolomite chin, he might have. As it were, Barnett reversed another take down, used his superior ju-jitsu and took Andrei’s back, choking him out 3 minutes into the third round. Both men showd each other a lot of respect afterwards and the crown certainly appreciated their efforts, if not the wider UFC’s somewhat lacklustre attempt at bringing a card to Europe.

Submission clinic – Kimura from guard

The Kimura is one of the most famous techniques in the history of Mixed Martial Arts in that it is a technique named after Masahiko Kimura, the famous Japanese judoka who used the reverse ude-garami arm lock to defeat Hélio Gracie, one of the founders of Brazilian Ju Jitsu and father of UFC 1 winner Royce and UFC co founder Rorion. In effect, the bout was one of the most high profile fights between different styles of its era and is a spiritual precursor to the MMA we know today.
Kimura Defeats Gracie

 

The Technique

The Kimura is a simple, yet effective lock that involved interlocking your arms against your opponents arm and using the leverage and pressure from the joint of their elbow to achieve a submission. It can be achieve from a variety of positions, but is often most effective at turning a defensive guard position into a dominant submission. In the below video we are shown how to achieve the hold from multiple angles. Bonus points for spotting the young guy getting his arm twisted as current undefeated UFC standout Brian Ortega!

UFC 202 – Event Review

August 20th saw UFC 202 arrive upon us finally, after all the hype we were now going to find out if the arguments and posturing, the hype and drama and the anticipation and hubris were all worth it. Spoiler Alert: They were.
This event was a tricky one. It was the first event in some time that wasn’t explicitly focused on title matches, instead looking at McGregor Vs Diaz too, a grudge match as its main event.

Background

The internet is obviously insane. The democratisation of information has created a hub for conspiracy theories, and with any combat sports you don’t even need a stray Wanderlei Silva comment to draw accusations of fight fixing and WWE style works and scripts. After the past year in the UFC though, nobody could accuse anything of even remotely going to plan. Everything simply went wrong from a marketability perspective. Marquee fighter Ronda Rousey had the mystique thoroughly kicked out of her head by Holly Holm; Rousey-Killer Holm gets choked out by Meisha Tate; Beach body Tate has her marketing train stopped at the first attempt by Amanda Nunes. The tiniest of silver linings for Dana White is that the vitally important Brazilian market has a champion to celebrate as there was a brief period where for the first time in a decade Zuffa federations had no champ from the spiritual heartland of MMA. In addition to this, WW supremo Robbie Lawler puts on the fight of the year with Rory MacDonald and a war with Carlos Condit, then gets easily knocked out in rumour filled circumstances by unfancied Tyron Woodley, who uses his new founds exposure to basically refuse to fight clear number one contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and demand snazzy pay days that make fans fall of their chairs laughing at the cheek of him. Additionally, the middleweight title, a longstanding GOAT associator, is dropped in embarrassing circumstances by Luke Rockold to 38 year old dad-body brawler Michael Bisping. Bisping’s inspiration “never give up story aside”, the UFC did not want their new prince to drop the belt to a man approaching retirement who took the fight on 2 weeks notice, nor did they want their former champion to proceed to put on an exhibition in bitterness ever since.
Things aren’t going well, so when the standout star of the company has his title shot cancelled due to injury to Rafael Dos Anjos (no Red Panty night in the dos Anjos household then), and his late replacement who is dismissed as an also ran shocks the world by dethroning the king, you can imagine Pfizers stock rising on Dana White’s blood pressure medicine alone. So they do the natural thing and plan to restore Conor McGregor’s legacy in the biggest event in history, UFC 200. Only McGregor decides to cause problems (whether it be through genuine concerns for schedule, a knock on of seeing a young fighter tragically lose his life at an event in Dublin, or simply an anatomy measuring contest between McGregor and the Fertitta family). Fight is cancelled, but no matter, not only do the UFC have Brock Lesnar coming back, they also have Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier in MMAs biggest grudge match. What could go wrong? Everything. Jones pulled from the fight for a positive drug test, Lesnar pops for drugs immediately after a lay and pray victory over Mark Hunt. Everything that could go wrong in a year, has.

Now it’s important to note that events like UFC 199 were some of the greatest MMA spectacles ever, exciting and dramatic as they are, but they certainly didn’t happen in line with the UFCs promo strategies. And so comes UFC 202. McGregor has made up with Dana and the Family and the event is on. Can normal service be resumed?

The Card

The card is good and in an attempt to grow the fanbase outside of the PPV market, the UFC have put some absolutely mouth watering bouts on the prelims on free TV and fight pass too. We have Lorenz Larkin and Neil Magny on the fight pass prelims, Magny gathering serious momentum this year and Larkin a renowned entertainer and on the FS1 prelims we have what is effectively being touted as a Bantamweight title precursor for Cody Garbrandt taking on Japanese veteran Takeya Mitzugaki. Garbrandt has been playing the PR game very well recently and this is a huge fight for him and a major coup for Fox Sports to have this on the free card.
The main card starts with debutants Sabah Homasi and Mike Perry being given big first UFC fights in Tim Means and Hyun Gyu Lim respectively. Perry does himself no favours by acting like a bell end at the weigh ins (and later audio indicating some pretty racist behaviour from his corner team). Cowboy Cerrone faces a real challenge continuing his impressive Welterweight run against strong wrestler Rick Story and a title eliminator in the light heavyweight division between powerhouses Glover Tiexera and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson precedes the main event, the rematch between McGregor and Nate Diaz.

Fight Pass Prelims

First fight saw highly active 22 year old UFC debutante Marvin Vettori take on Brazilian Alberto Pereira. Vettori came in with a 10-2 record, amassed quickly through a combination of first round finishes and Venator’s quick match making. He promptly extends this to 11-2 with a first round guillotine.
Then follows, Colby Covington extends his mini UFC win streak against Max Griffin with a stunning 3rd TKO. Both fighters put on a show and despite Griffin’s loss in his first outing with the UFC I have no doubt we’ll see him again. Covington could well make a serious step up the welterweight rankings fairly soon.
Then we arive as the Fight Pass Main event, heavily fancied Neil Magny up against journeyman Lorenz Larkin. Many had this as a springboard for Magny and despite Larkin holding a win over Robbie Lawler, the smart money suggested that at the end of his contract this could be Larkin’s last UFC outing. Until, of course, he absolutely sliced up Magny with a first round TKO that will sit on the highlight reel for an age. Larkin has been sniffing around Belator and may still feel that he can make more money as he approaches his 30s there, especially with the heavily stacked WW top 5 in the UFC at the moment, but he certainly gave Dana something to think about this night in Las Vegas.

FS1 Prelims

Fist up saw Courtney Casey earn her second UFC win on the bounce with an armbar victory over Canadian Randa Markos, who has a stop-start UFC records with impressive wins over Aisling Daly and Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger, but a tight loss over Jessica Penne and a beasting by title challenger in waiting Karolina Kowalkiewicz. A solid win for Casey and a big step up for her in the Women’s Strawweight division.
Artem Lobov, TUF finalist and training partner of Conor McGregor, was up next against Nate Diaz team mate Chris Avila. A 0-2 UFC record versus a 0-0 UFC record is not normally a headline grabber, but given the context of the main event and the mayhem that had accompanied the press tour between both teams, this fight had an added adrenaline boost. Lobov was impressive in his game plan and Avila was far too cautious. Lobov is not known as the Russian Hammer for no reason and Avila seemed to do everything in his power not to be on the receiving end of a punch, meaning the fight was won in cagey exchanges and Avila’s lauded BJJ didn’t get much of an outing. Lobov impressive and this was certainly seen as first blood to the McGregor camp on the night. Lobov probably bought himself another fight in the UFC. Avila probably not.
Next up Raquel Pennington took a much expected decision victory over Elizabeth Philips, which was fairly unsurprising, but the 3 rounder had fans wondering if the early explosive promise of the event was fizzling out into more tactical decisions. Could this be an underwhelming event like UFC 200?
No. Step up Cody Garbrandt. It took him all of 48 seconds to turn Mizugaki’s lights out in ultra impressive fashion. There is a huge question mark about Garbrandt in that his undefeated streak hasn’t included any of the top 5 (partly because of Team Alpha Male being fairly top heavy at bantamweight), but he’s certainly got Dominick Cruz’s attention despite the CM Punk jibes. Common wisdom suggests a Grudge match against TJ Dillishaw would set up a title shot nicely, but Cody may well have talked his way there even earlier than that. He’s certainly the BW fighter with the best recent highlight reel.

Main Card

The main card begins very much as expected, with Tim Means and Sabah Homasi putting on a great show as promised and experienced Means getting the TKO win in the second round. Homasi showed great attitude and will be back.
Mike Perry beat Hyun Gyu Lin and will receive more column inches in future if he and his team learn to tone down the douche-baggery.
Next up was Donald Cerrone against Rick Story. Cowboy is looking very comfortable at welterweight and is gradually being fed better guys and in this his third fight he was given a real test in Rick Story. Not only did he pass, but with flying colours. In one of the best combo TKOs in UFC history, Cerrone firmly established himself as a serious contender in this Division. He called out Lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez after the fight, but later called out Robbie Lawler on twitter. The only thing you can critices Cowboy for right now is involving himself in too many moutwatering match ups. We think he should stick to Welterweight for now as his body shape and power looks more natural and if he did pick up a win over Lawler, he’d be right behind Wonderboy and Maia in the title picture, whereas at lightweight, he’d have to deal with McGregor, Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov if he was in the title mix up.
The next fight between Teixeira and Rumble Johnson was over before you’ve finished reading this sentence. Emulating the same time McGregor took to put away Jose Aldo, Johnson sent a message to the world that he is probably the most powerful fighter pound for pound on the planet. His uppercut KO of Teixeira sent a tooth flying 12 feet into the air and had Glover so out of it that he attempted a double leg take down on referee Dan Miragliotta well after the end of the fight. Teixeira is no slouch, but Johnson is an animal and thoroughly deserves a title shot against Daniel Cormier. Here’s hoping Jones potential suspension lift doesn’t scupper that.

The Main Event

All backstory and PR stunts aside, fight fans were looking forward to seeing if McGregor could answer the serious questions Diaz put to him last time out. Nobody had excuses now and there was no last minute arrangements. This was two men, on their terms, fighting it out.
McGregor walked to the ring in much less animated fashion than normal. Stony faces and driven, fans were teased that they could be seeing a different Conor tonight, a game plan heavy calculated warrior. The indicators were there until he stepped into the cage with his usual swagger and did a Vince McMahon style strut around.
Diaz received a massive ovation and his fans, wearing black at his request, cut an imposing atmosphere. This was his time to go stratospheric and you could see it in his eyes.
The two men lines up in the middle of the ring. More commissioners than normal for the added security concern made it difficult for the camera to get the angles it wanted, but this only adds to the tension.
McGregor comes out in round one and puts on an absolute exhibition in striking and game plan. He lights up Nate’s front leg with kicks, a weakness previously exploited by RDA and Benson Henderson, and he absolutely destroys him with precision punching. He sticks to his gameplan, even when dropping Nate early on and letting him back up. Don’t engage with a guy on the ground who has better ju jitsu than you.
Round two starts explosively for McGregor, knocking Diaz down twice and dominating exchanges. Diaz is starting to bleeed a lot and is unable to go heavy on his front leg in a boxing stance because McGregor has leathered it so well. But with less than a minute to go McGregor starts to tire and Diaz feels his shots having less power. This allows Diaz to walk down Conor and get in the pocket and trade and he finishes the round on a flurry. Its not enough to win the round, not by a long way (despite what you’ll read in the youtube comments), but it sends a serious message that Nate’s conditioning means he’s no pushover.
Round 3 is out and the difference in cardio is visible. McGregor is breathing deeply and is pulling Nate into deep clinches to avoid big punches, but is seriously risking takedowns and close range elbows. Nate is unloading and trying to get him down and while Conor is offering some decent shots of his own, he is losing the round. Nate’s takedown attempts are stuffed, showing exactly why Conor spent a rumoured 6 figures on bringing Dillon Danis into this camp.
Round 4 is a revival. A combination of Conor digging deep and Nate now getting tired give Conor opportunity to pick Nate off with distance shots and stuff his takedowns and clinch game with relative ease. Blood from an expanding cut on Nate’s face covers both me. They are at war and it is beautifully brutal. Conor’s winning of this 4th round is a wonderful performance given he was in trouble in round 3 and memories of gassing and getting rocked in the first fight must have been playing over and over in his head.
Round 5 is in and two warriors trade again. It’s arguable even but Conor is more tired and doing more to try an avoid engaging. Nate pushes him to the fence and they both land great close range shots. Despite this being the longest time Conor has ever fought for and not exactly familiar territory for Nate either, both men are putting on an exhibition of digging deep and going for it. Nate continues to try to take Conor down against the fence but Conor defends excellently. Conor is looking at the clock a lot now. He knows he has 3 rounds in the bag so far and needs to hold on. With ten seconds left and all the energy drained from the fighters Nate finally gets him down and takes position. It’s enough to take an even round in the judges eyes, but there isn’t time to get a finish or do serious damage.
The Judges scores seem somewhat underwhelming after such a war. That two gladiators are reduced to a 10 point must system doesn’t do their talent, commitment and heart justice. Two of them give McGregor 48-47 win, one inexplicably sees round 3 as 10-8 round and scores is 47-47. McGregor wins. The questions have been answered. There will be a rubber match in the future. This is an example to all MMA fighters. True heroes put on their best performances at the biggest stage. Nobody came out tonight to stifle and subdue. These guys went to war.

anatomy of a fighter

Anatomy of a fighter – An introduction

In this series we will be identifying fighters from different stylistic backgrounds and analysing what attributes, techniques and skills they harness to be the best. We will look into both natural ability and technical background to find out which styles are most effective with which type of fighter.

Why is this important?

MMA is one of the most unpredictable sports there is, be it Tyron Woodley upsetting Robbie Lawler, Michael Bisping shocking Luke Rockold or Matt Serra shocking the world by KOing GSP. Many times a fighter comes along with a new style that makes us all look differently at the fight game and wonder how they’ll ever be beaten. Lyoto Machida hit the big time in the late 2000’s with a hybrid and elusive Karate style and his destruction of Light Heavyweight UFC Champ Rashad Evans made the MMA world thing twice about the dominance of Wrestle-boxers in the sport. The days, the title positions in the UFC are held by a range of different styles, from Bisping’s hard cardio Kickbocking, to Daniel Cormier’s wrestling and the precision striking of Conor McGregor. With the most recent title changes it’s arguably one of the most open and unpredicatable times for the UFC as the top tier of the sport and this is filtering down to lower ranked organisations too.
We are analysing which fighters benefit from what styles to ensure that we can understand how best to adjust and overcome, to become the fully rounded martial artist.

What are we looking at?

Body Type

The key point of a series like this is to pick standard indicators to ensure that we are assessing each fighter on a level playing field. While we obviously can’t compare the physiology of Mighty Mouse to Stipe Miocic, we can certainly look at how their relative types have influenced their careers. The first point we will be assessing is physical make up. How someone’s relative height, natural weight, reach and core strength ratios influence them as fighters and influence their performance within the next two categories: Style and Career.

Style

Style is hugely important as it is the basis for the premise of MMA to exist in the first place: Which martial art is the best? Obviously we’ve moved on from Art Jimmerson attempting to punch Royce Gracie with one glove and the world being amazed that a little ju-jitsu guy can take out men twice his size, but MMA is still very stylistic. One of the things that makes the sport so interesting is that there is no fixed answer to that. Different fighters pose different challenges to each other. For every TKO finish Conor McGregor has involving a big shot and then a swarm of ground strikes (see Brimage, Poirier, Siver, Brandao and Mendes), he faces a Nate Diaz. At UFC 202 McGregor repeatedly connected with his trademark stun gun left hand, dropping the Stockton fighter. Each time McGregor had to avoid the follow up swarm because he could not risk ground engagement with a high level BJJ black belt who possesses longer arms and legs than him. Style and Body are huge.

Career

Career provides context to the decisions fighter make daily. Previous knock outs can have a massive effect on a fighters durability as well as their attitude to risk. What also must be considered is narrative. Remember, storylines sell fights, and combat sports are judged by their ability to generate interest and revenue. A fighter like Ronda Rousey cashes in on being an unbeatable monster and that narrative influences the way she fights. This was detrimental against an experienced striker like Holly Holm and now the UFC and Rousey have a big question of how to sell her next fight. Fedor Emilianenko is another major victim of the “monster” narrative. As soon as the defeats started coming (as they inevitably will in high level MMA) his stock dropped hard. In contrast to that, there has always been fighters who can lose courageously and maintain their image. Forrest Griffin, the Diaz Brothers, Wanderlei Silva and Michael Bisping have all dropped numerous fights but haven’t been massively diminished as a result. When looking at the DNA of a fighter, we must always consider how their experience effects their future performance.

For this series there is no concrete plan to focus on any particular era or fighter type, but if there’s any request you wish to make, please do so in the comments or on Twitter!