MMA is a sport that usually embraces chaos and oddities, and sometimes it’s the strange things that keep us coming back for more. Even so, as is the case with many other things in life, there’s a limit to how much can be tolerated. Perhaps there isn’t a more polite way to put this, but the entire event was just very, very strange for all the wrong reasons.
We had cancellations due to illness and elevator hijinks, a fighter weighing in late. That was just before the fights themselves, and questionable performances from some of the participants got to a point where it was hard to see what to make of the event overall. From the officiating in the co-main event, to the coaching, to the post-fight fracas, we had a lot of weird. That was just one fight, too. Let’s look at what we get from here.
Stipe Miocic – Not that I would necessarily categorize Miocic’s win over Werdum for the belt as a fluke, but it was in part due to Werdum’s recklessness that Miocic was able to make the most of the opportunity and put him to sleep. Now, he does it again, this time against an experienced former kickboxer and in front of his home crowd. It’s a shame he doesn’t get more attention in mainstream publications, but Miocic has become a pleasant surprise that went from getting finished by Stefan Struve in 2012 to beating far more experienced fighters and making it look easy. Even his loss to Junior dos Santos was widely debated by many, and he’s had four finishes in a row since then. Miocic displayed patience, used great timing and took some damage but gave it right back. His next fight is almost guaranteed to be a lot of fun.
Mickey Gall – Let’s look back for a moment where Gall was last year: from fighting on regional shows with a 3-0 amateur record, he ended up on the Dana White traveling reality show, beat his opponent and made a bold request to fight CM Punk. He gets signed, beats Mike Jackson in the interim and puts on a performance like this. It was absolute dominance and showed that he wasn’t just brought in for a circus fight, he was and is a very legitimate fighter that has now found a degree of notoriety. He beat a lesser-skilled yet more famous and visible opponent, then called out another franchise favorite, top prospect Sage Northcutt. Say what you will, but Gall is a clever go-getter and he’s bold. Good on him for making the most of the circumstances he continues to find himself in.
Jimmie Rivera – 4-0 in the UFC with an 18-fight win streak, Rivera has to be the most successful and resilient Tiger Schulmann fighter we’ve seen in the UFC. He continues to improve and impress, and he gets extra credit for pushing forward while having his eyesight impaired in his right eye.
CM Punk – Fine. I’ll lay off using his government name for once. Even those of us that were largely dismissive of the fight not long ago were interested in seeing this happen, and it took a lot for him to go through the rigors of a fighter’s lifestyle – something he doesn’t have to do – to go in there against a very good young fighter. He at least earned a great degree of respect for going through with this, and got a lot of love from the crowd when his music hit. Hey, what other song could they have possibly gone with? Any complaints or concerns here should be directed at the organization itself, but the man saw something he loved and took a swing at it. He then failed and handled the matter with nothing but class and respect.
Jessica Andrade – If Andrade isn’t growing on you, you’re not paying attention. She’s doing impressive things with a top-heavy grappling style and is very clever about her movement on the ground and what she waits for in an opponent to pounce on a better position. That’s two wins in a row, and they’re both finishes against Joanne Calderwood and Jessica Penne, two of the most well-known fighters in the division. She’s moving up and could very well end up with a title shot very soon if she keeps this up.
Yancy Medeiros – Another impressive performance from one of the younger Hawaiian talents, and with this win Medeiros is now 5-4-1NC in the UFC, but looked crisp and was definitely the better athlete. Not ready to call this a complete turnaround or anything, but he looked great here and put things together better than in some of his other outings.
Drew Dober – That’s the kind of finish that gets a lot of eyeballs on you, and Dober looked great delivering that finish. Certainly a good way to stay in the good graces of management.
Nik Lentz – Lentz now moves to 27-7-1NC-1 Draw overall, and continues to not just win, but look pretty good doing it and even getting another finish. Granted, this wasn’t an opponent that’s on his skill level (at least not yet), but it was a tough fighter that gave Lentz some challenges.
Alistair Overeem – Full disclosure – at one point in time, Alistair Overeem was my favorite heavyweight on the planet. His K-1 GP win made me immensely happy (field of competition notwithstanding, it’s still a K-1 GP) and being poached from the Strikeforce GP only to be brought over to fight Lesnar was all manner of awesome in my mind. But his overconfidence, terrible defensive habits, unreliable cardio and inability to take it on the chin have made him a totally different fighter. The more cautious Overeem notched him victories over Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, Junior dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski, with the last two being by sensational knockouts. That was only going to take him so far with an opponent that’s fast, puts combinations together and hits like a truck. Alistair almost had this one with that choke attempt, but it was not to be. It will be difficult for him to get another crack at the champion after getting finished like that unless he bounces back strong with an impressive win against another top 5 heavyweight. He didn’t make matters any better by claiming Miocic had tapped when he clearly didn’t, and one has to wonder if that idea was the result of a concussion – that would beg the question of how much longer Overeem should even be fighting for.
Fabricio Werdum – Congratulations to him, but let’s take a step back for a moment. Here’s a rematch with an opponent that he had already beaten in impressive fashion a while ago, but Werdum looked plodding at times and his conditioning didn’t look as sharp. Also, consider the following: it’s not his fault that his original opponent bowed out due to injury, but you now beat a fighter that’s 2-2 since you last fought him with one of those wins being over Matt Mitrione in a fight that was being riddled with controversy. The losses were the recent Cain fight (shudders) and the devastating loss to Andrei Arlovski. Does this win really elevate Werdum and get him closer to a rematch with Miocic for the belt? It’s certainly possible, but it’s also very hard to make that case. His defense somehow didn’t look any better, either. He charged in on Browne as he did with Miocic and kept his hands in bad positions while kicking. He was fortunate to be facing a fighter that was unable to capitalize on those lapses, but a faster striker with better movement could easily make him pay for that. Taunting the audience for booing a fight that had some serious lapses in action was rather puerile as well. The teep kick on Tarverdyan after the fight was also inexcusable, and as many on social media are pointing out, if Tarverdyan and Browne weren’t so unpopular we’d be addressing the fact that Werdum was clearly wrong for attacking someone that was not a threat to him. He won the fight, but it won’t net him much in the long run other than the payday he gets from this event.
Travis Browne – Now, I don’t want to be too harsh with Browne. He’s got a formidable highlight reel and some great wins, and showed a lot of promise upon his arrival in the UFC. Yet I fail to see how his skills have changed and declined since moving to Glendale Fight Club as being a coincidence. Leaving Jackson-Winklejohn has given him more pop on his punches and better form, but his overall MMA game is now something that makes you even wonder why Browne accepted the rematch in the first place. Is this delusion on his behalf? We saw what Werdum did the first time, and Browne clearly didn’t have any other approach other than what happened in the first bout. Did his manager have any input here? He just got outclassed and brutalized by Cain Velasquez at UFC 200 just two months ago and is clearly falling off with his reflexes and approach to fighting. He was a day late and a dollar short in most of those exchanges, didn’t use angles or any meaningful footwork, managed to land some late offense in the third round but was so far behind it didn’t matter – not to mention that the shots he was landing didn’t have much pop to them. He’s 9-5 overall in the UFC, but including his biggest UFC win over Alistair Overeem he’s been 4-4 since 2013. It’s clear that even in an division as unpredictable and generous with a random win as heavyweight, Browne doesn’t seem like he’s able to hang anymore. And I haven’t even gotten to his coach…
Edmond Tarverdyan – Look, we don’t have to be active cornermen or trainers to know what a competent person directing a fighter and telling them what they need to hear to get ahead looks and sounds like. After years of being exposed to his style of coaching, I think we can safely conclude that this isn’t it. In a first round where Browne was outstruck, ate some significant shots and got dropped, the first thing Edmond told Browne was “This motherf-cker ain’t got shit on you”, which was followed by “This motherf-cker’s too slow for you.” What fight was he watching? During the replays of the round, he tells Browne “Fight solid, fight with heart, sit down, head movement, press and break this motherfucker.” I’m not a prude nor an opponent of coarse language, but it’s painfully clear there’s no substance here. He even told Browne that Werdum wasn’t landing anything and called Werdum “a baby” (h/t Jessica Hudnall) Everyone that has trained under him got worse, from Jessamyn Duke, to Shayna Baszler, to Marina Shafir to Jake Ellenberger. This is negligence at this point, and it’s irresponsible and dangerous to have this kind of coaching when fighters are going out there and getting concussed.
Urijah Faber – A lot of us felt terrible for Francisco Rivera when Faber reached out to his face with an open hand and essentially dialed a rotary phone with his face. This fight? This was far worse. Desperation tactics and fudging certain rules as an experienced fighter is nothing new, but this seems like a new low for Faber. The questionable groin kicks, the open-handed slaps that just happen to claw at an opponent’s eye – there’s no reason for any of that. Yet the real story here is the fact that Faber just looked old. He was slow and couldn’t get his offense to work consistently, and mad things even stranger by remaining a still target in front of Rivera, who made the most of the opportunity by grabbing the biggest win in his career. Maybe he just hates guys named Rivera looking at him or something, but it seems more a matter of him sliding off on the skill scale and working dirty.
Jessica Eye – Fourth straight loss for the Ohio native, and whether or not she stays is probably not even a question. She usually brings some action to her fights and the old management would usually forgive a lot of things from fighters like that. However, she’s now 1-5-1NC in her overall UFC run. This fight was anything but exciting, though. She very well may be sent to Invicta the way Jessamyn Duke was, or allowed to compete elsewhere.
Joanne Calderwood – It didn’t seem to me that Calderwood would be dragged into deep water like this, but it happened. Now 3-2 in the UFC with some very gritty fights and bold performances, her spot is still safe. The problem here lies with the fact that she can’t seem to be able to crack into the upper crust of the division just yet. She has the potential to make that happen, but she needs to rebuild again.
Bethe Correia – Yes, she bounces back after two consecutive fights, but this performance doesn’t do her many favors. If anything, her opponent hasn’t won a fight in two years, and still made the fight ugly in what management was probably banking on being a series of wily boxing exchanges between two of the women most known for striking in their division (that aren’t named Holly Holm). So she gets back on track, and that’s great. She just ends up here because it’s not enough for this to be considered a definitive turnaround for her.
Caio Magalhaes was content to mug his opponent against the cage, but all the control he had wasn’t enough to get a decision win from the judges. Sean Spencer falls to 3-5 in the UFC having three consecutive losses. Unfortunately, he’s as good as gone.
Michael McBride – McBride came in as another replacement and did what he could against a suffocating grappler with a hard-nosed approach and cardio for months. It happens, and the UFC is keen on throwing fighters like this a bone and keep them around to see how they progress.
Jason Gonzalez – Losing your UFC debut isn’t a death sentence, but if he gets finished like that in his next outing, he easily loses his spot. He had some more than questionable opposition in Xplode and Gladiator Challenge earlier in his career, which make his 10-3 record something that isn’t as cut and dry. We’ll have to see how he performs in his next outing.
Brad Tavares – Tavares got a tough decision win, and while still in the middle of the middleweight pack continues to grow, even if this fight wasn’t that great. Not much to make of this yet, either.
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