Tag Archive for Aftermath

Pic! The Aftermath Of This Invicta FC 34 Eye Poke Is Horrifying

Last night’s mixed martial arts (MMA) action did not end all that well.

Not only did Matt Mitrione’s main event clash with Sergei Kharitonov at Bellator 215 end in 15 seconds thanks to an accidental low blow, but Vanessa Porto’s flyweight title fight opposite UFC veteran Pearl Gonzalez at Invicta FC 34 ended early as well due to an accidental eye poke.

Despite getting poked in the eye in the fourth round and eventually being ruled unable to continue, Porto still walked away with the technical decision after the action hit the judges’ scorecards. It wasn’t the best way to capture the vacant 125-pound title, but Porto was handily winning the fight up until that point anyways.

Fight fans may have been rubbed the wrong way by the fourth-round stoppage, but one look at Porto’s eye after the fight and it’s easy to see why the bout was waved off. Luckily, the Brazilian veteran shared the aftermath with fight fans with the following Instagram post:

That’s not the way the human eye is supposed to look, especially the part of Porto’s eyelid that looks like it’s missing a meaty chunk. The puss is just icing on the cake.

Luckily, Porto didn’t suffer any long-term damage to her eye and will be able to get back into the cage later this year to defend her newly-acquired flyweight title. This was her third shot at Invicta FC gold so she was willing to fight through anything to get that belt.

Gonzalez posted the following image on her Twitter account after the fight to show her respect for Porto:

I guess there’s no hard feelings for nearly taking an eye out.

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UFC 225 Aftermath: Robert Whittaker’s Broken Hand, Romero’s Delusions

In case you missed it, UFC 225 was all about a bunch of some serious beatdowns, most of which were one-sided. But the main event, which saw middleweight champ Robert Whittaker rematch with Yoel Romero, was actually a two-side beatdown.

Meaning, they really clobbered each other.

Since Romero is old and can’t make weight when he’s supposed to, there was no belt up for grabs. But whatever, these guy fight a close fight last time, and this one was even closer.

No doubt Whittaker breaking his hand in the first round played a role in the closeness.

@robwhittakermma Fought 4 Rounds with a broken thumb for his Family and country.

A post shared by Gracie Grange (@graciejiujitsusmeatongrange) on

So yeah, the champ can take some punishment and still function at a high level. That kind of toughness is definitely a championship quality right there, folks.

Meanwhile, Romero is kind of stuck. He put away former champ Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold in pretty dramatic fashion, but no matter what, he can’t seem to get past Whittaker. Also, he can’t make weight – did I mention that already?

Anyway, if Romero can’t ever be the champ, then he might as well be “The People’s Champ”, right?

The post UFC 225 Aftermath: Robert Whittaker’s Broken Hand, Romero’s Delusions appeared first on Caged Insider.

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UFC 225 Aftermath: Robert Whittaker’s Broken Hand, Romero’s Delusions

In case you missed it, UFC 225 was all about a bunch of some serious beatdowns, most of which were one-sided. But the main event, which saw middleweight champ Robert Whittaker rematch with Yoel Romero, was actually a two-side beatdown.

Meaning, they really clobbered each other.

Since Romero is old and can’t make weight when he’s supposed to, there was no belt up for grabs. But whatever, these guy fight a close fight last time, and this one was even closer.

No doubt Whittaker breaking his hand in the first round played a role in the closeness.

@robwhittakermma Fought 4 Rounds with a broken thumb for his Family and country.

A post shared by Gracie Grange (@graciejiujitsusmeatongrange) on

So yeah, the champ can take some punishment and still function at a high level. That kind of toughness is definitely a championship quality right there, folks.

Meanwhile, Romero is kind of stuck. He put away former champ Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold in pretty dramatic fashion, but no matter what, he can’t seem to get past Whittaker. Also, he can’t make weight – did I mention that already?

Anyway, if Romero can’t ever be the champ, then he might as well be “The People’s Champ”, right?

The post UFC 225 Aftermath: Robert Whittaker’s Broken Hand, Romero’s Delusions appeared first on Caged Insider.

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UFC 212 Aftermath: Max Holloway’s big night felt like the dawn of an era

Some nights just feeling like a changing of the guard.

Not just any old championship switch, mind you. We’ve had eight of those in the UFC alone in the past 13 months, and that’s not even bothering to count the interim belts which have been handed out like Halloween candies.

No, sometimes you know when you’ve seen a generational passing of the torch, the equivalent of the scene in the nature show where the young buck wins the territorial battle with the alpha male and assumes control of the herd.

That’s what it felt like as we watched UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night, as 25-year-old Max Holloway fearlessly walked into Jose Aldo’s domain and claimed his throne.

This wasn’t just the UFC title change of the month. This echoed back to Sacramento at UFC 65, watching the young hotshot Georges St-Pierre steamroll over Matt Hughes, the man who had dominated the welterweight division, and assumed his place as the next one.

Or UFC 128 in Newark, where the prodigy Jon Jones methodically picked apart Mauricio Rua, a former PRIDE tourney champ who had adapted to the UFC and won light heavyweight gold.

Some nights simply feel like the dawn of new eras. Like when a fighter on a 10-fight win streak goes into enemy turf, patiently waits out the initial burst of adrenaline, stays calm where so many of the champ’s other opponents had panicked under pressure, then turns up the heat and never stops until the job was done.

Of course, things change faster one can say the phrase “Machida Era.” St-Pierre, after all, got tagged by Matt Serra in his very next fight after defeating Hughes. But that turned out to be a blip in the road before GSP asserted himself and earned his spot on the short list of the game’s greatest champions. And Jones has proven his own most formidable opponent.

Still, sometimes you just know. This isn’t a prediction that Max Holloway is never going to lose. But we’re willing to bet that if we Google UFC 212 a decade down the road, there’s a solid chance we’ll look back and say this was the night the UFC’s next great champion was crowned.

UFC 212 quotes

“Why am I going to cry and beg him to fight me? Get the hell out of here with that sh*t. He can beg to fight me now.” — Max Holloway, on fighting Conor McGregor

“Stop crying, ‘I deserve this, I deserve that’, you guys don’t deserve sh*t. Keep trying, keep working hard.” — Holloway on the epidemic of griping fighters

“Ten years living in Rio, I went abroad alone, nobody there. Training with different trainers. It’s very, very tough, but I got to a point in my career where I felt I needed to improve and to become the fighter that I wanted to be, and that I desired to be.”Claudia Gadelha on her changes in attitude and scenery

“Unfortunately, not everything works like SnapChat or Instagram or Twitter. There’s certain things that take time and you have to have patience and confidence to know that everything is going to work out.”Vitor Belfort, on his win over Nate Marquardt

Stock report

Down: Jose Aldo It’s unfortunate for Aldo that his biggest career failures came in his biggest spotlights. A generation of Conor-come-lately fans only seem to know Aldo as the guy who got knocked out in 13 seconds by McGregor. Those same fans also apparently took a nap when Aldo schooled Frankie Edgar, but regardless, now the McGregor loss, 18 months later, has been followed up by absorbing a wicked beating from Holloway on Aldo’s home turf. Those fans weren’t around when Aldo buzzsawed his way through the WEC, ushered featherweight into the UFC, and left a trail of bodies in his wake. Still, all that said, it’s hard to envision Aldo getting right back on top this time. Holloway with the belt has a bunch a fresh fights in front of him. And the UFC isn’t likely to do too many favors for a guy who spent so much of his prime pulling out of fights, taking long breaks, threatening retirement when things didn’t go his way, and just this week announced he’d start picking his opponents going forward. The McGregor loss wasn’t Aldo’s permanent downward fall, but last night might have been it’s start.

Up: Claudia Gadelha. It’s hard to get a third fight against someone who’s already defeated you twice. Joseph Benavidez has been knocking off one fighter after another in the UFC flyweight division and still hasn’t gotten a third try at champion Demetrious Johnson, whom he last fought in 2013. Gadelha, for her part, lost a razor-thin decision to Joanna Jedrjezcyzk before the latter won the strawweight belt, then lost their rematch last summer. But she’s 15-0 when not fighting Joanna Champion. And she made it clear she’s still the second-best fighter in the division (sorry, Rose Namajunas) last night by rolling over Karolina Kowalkiewicz for a first-round submission. Most impressive, though, is her maturity about the situation. She’s gone to JacksonWink, changed her approach, and seems patient about her prospects. It might take awhile, but Gadelha’s making all the right moves for a fighter in her position.

Hold: Vitor Belfort Somehow, “The Phenom” keeps moving on, keeps finding his next gig, keeps shape-shifting his way to stay in the picture, long after it’s assumed he’s finished, like some sort of Brazilian Dan Henderson. The 40-year-old Belfort got the nod Saturday night against Nate Marquardt (Side note: how crazy is it that in June 2017, we found ourselves watching a UFC one-night tourney winner fight a King of Pancrase? Maybe both of them can compete in a RINGS tourney next), enabling him to get away with telling fans he has five fights left in him. Still, this was Belfort’s first win in his past four fights, and it was against more or less a shot opponent. We’ll certainly give the wily Belfort his due for once again somehow managing to maintain his relevance, but we’re not sure the results in the cage are going to get any better from here.

Down: Marlon Moraes First off, let’s give the former longtime World Series of Fighting champion some credit for diving straight into the deep end of the UFC bantamweight division. Rafael Assuncao is no joke, the winner of nine out of his past 10 fights. And he fights a style that makes it impossible to look good even if you do beat him. Still, Moraes, who entered on a 13-fight win streak. did nothing to dissuade the notion he’d been feasting on soft competition in the past, as he appeared tentative and never got on track in his UFC debut. Maybe it was simply a matter of the infamous UFC Jitters, and we’re certainly not brushing him off after one loss. But the idea he might be fast tracked to the top at 135 has come and gone.

Up: Brian Kelleher Speaking of first impressions, this bantamweight’s UFC debut could scarcely have gone any better. Fighting on the cable prelims, Kelleher took on Brazilian Iuri Alcantara, who has 14 submissions among his 27 career finishes, on his home turf. And what did he do? Kelleher went out and submitted him in under two minutes. Then he mocked the Brazilians with their own chants. Then he all but called out the entire division. It makes you wonder why it took Kelleher to age 30 before getting the call to the big leagues in his 24th fight. Idle trash talk is one thing. Going into Brazil, submitting a submission specialist, then issuing callout is something entirely different. Kelleher is going to be a fun one to watch.

Interesting stuff

Refereeing took center stage on Saturday night. First came referee Mario Yamasaki, who let Johnny Eduardo take a hellacious beating from Matthew Lopez before waving off the fight. I’ve joked that Yamasaki is like the guy who yells “finish him” in Mortal Kombat. Now I’m starting to think if Mario was the Mortal Kombat ref, Liu Kang would pelt Scorpio with fireballs until his was burnt beyond recognition.

On the other end of things, a very entertaining welterweight matchup between Erick Silva and Yancy Medeiros came to a halt too soon when referee Eduardo Herdy stepped in while Silva, though rocked, was still intelligently defending.

You know who got it right? John McCarthy. McCarthy gave Aldo, the champion defending the title in front of his home fans, every opportunity to hang on to his championship in front of his fans. There is, in fact, a sliding scale on those sort of judgment calls. Being a referee means understanding the situation and the circumstances, knowing the stakes, and knowing what the fighter can and can’t take. There’s a reason we’re at UFC 212 and a referee who started at UFC 2 is still the third man in for pay-per-view main events.

Fight I’d like to see next: Max Holloway vs. …

… okay, so in this case, there’s the fight I’d like to see in a perfect world, and then the fight which we’re probably going to get, which also happens to be one hell of a fight in its own right.

In a perfect world? Let me see Conor McGregor vs. Max Holloway. Holloway was 22 years old when he fought McGregor back in Boston, and even then, he was the only fighter to take McGregor the distance in a UFC featherweight fight. Now, with McGregor accomplishing everything he’s done, Holloway winning 11 fights in a row, and both conquering Aldo? Yeah, that’s a fight I want to see.

That fight, of course, is also McGregor’s third-best option at the moment. If he gets his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, we might never see him fight MMA again. If he does return to the sport, a trilogy fight with Nate Diaz is the biggest-money option out here in this sport. But Holloway’s emergence — the guy who took McGregor the distance as a 22-year old, then won 11 straight fights and claimed the 145 belt — is now a bargaining chip the UFC can use to keep Diaz’s contract demands in check. If Diaz asks for too much, they can turn around and sell Holloway coming up to 155, regardless of what Holloway might be saying now.

Meanwhile, as all that plays out, a tremendous Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar fight lies in wait. Edgar’s 7-0 at featherweight when not fighting Aldo and just mauled the supposed Next One in Yair Rodriguez. Holloway is still building his legend and a victory over Edgar would give him three consecutive wins over former titleholders (Pettis, Aldo, and Edgar).

However this pans out, Holloway’s next fight should be a win-win for the fans.

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UFC 211 Aftermath: Joanna Jedrzejczyk chases history

In the days leading up to UFC 211, Joanna Jedrzejczyk made it clear she’s all for the UFC adding the women’s flyweight division.

After all, that could very well give her the opportunity to become the second UFC fighter, along with Conor McGregor, to hold two weight-class titles simultaneously.

And after her dominant performance against Jessica Andrade on Saturday night, does such an idea really seem farfetched?

Joanna Champion put on another clinical performance in pitching a shutout against the game-but-overmatched Andrade on Saturday night in Dallas. She took her aggressive challenger’s fast start in stride, stuck with her game plan, and exhibited her otherworldly level of movement, pacing, and precision strikes.

Those low kicks Jedrzejczyk threw in the early rounds might not have seemed killer in the early going, but when Andrade started to feel them later, the champ really put on a show, peppering Andrade from range and mauling her every time Andrade dared wade in close.

And with that, we seem to have the perfect set of conditions for Jedrzejczyk to really make her mark on the sport’s history. Jerdzejczyk — whose 75 leg kicks, incidentally, broke her own UFC single-fight record of 70 set against Valerie Letourneau at UFC 193 — is now one win shy of former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey’s UFC women’s record of six successful title defenses.

The Ultimate Fighter 26 will crown the first UFC women’s 125 champion before the year is out. If Jedrzejczyk defends her title once before the end of the year and again by the middle of next year, she’ll break Rousey’s title-defense record. She’ll likely have the division cleared out.

It’s almost as if she’s ready made to walk into a 115 vs. 125 superfight sometime around the end of next year.

Of course, these scenarios rarely play out as clean as they sound on paper. But right now, Jedrzejczyk seems as sure a thing in the UFC this side of Demetrious Johnson.

And if you need any more convincing, the champ doesn’t sound like she’s in any rush to rest on her laurels.

“I feel this fire, and I want to learn,” she said. “Since I moved to American Top Team, I feel like I’m the bird that got to escape from its cage, if you know that meaning. I’m very hard on myself everyday, you can ask my coaches, and after a good training session, I’m not happy because I know I can do better or change something to do better, you know? That’s why I keep on defending this belt.”

UFC 211 quotes

“I’m not going to sell myself just because I want to be a champion, just because I want to make more money, you know? I don’t sell myself. I am what I am.” — Demian Maia isn’t going to do a song and dance to get a welterweight title shot

“I’m not one to root for either guy. Sometimes you want something so bad and it doesn’t happen, so we’ll let them figure that out and cross that bridge when it happens.” — Frankie Edgar, on whether he wants Jose Aldo or Max Holloway to win their UFC 212 main event.

“I really don’t care. I mean, yeah, if I keep winning, I’ll break history. Big deal. I’m just going to keep winning. I like winning. It’s fun. I like being called champ, especially.” — Stipe Miocic, not overly concerned about whether he’ll be the first UFC fighter with three successful heavyweight title defenses

“Today it didn’t work well for me. But I felt good. I felt almost there, and I felt like winning. After my third kick, I felt winning until lights out.” — dos Santos on his loss

Stock report

Up: Stipe Miocic It’s not just that Miocic has joined the likes of Randy Couture, Cain Velasquez, Tim Sylvia, and Brock Lesnar in the UFC’s “two heavyweight title defenses” club. It’s the manner in which he’s done it. In case you haven’t noticed, Miocic has now knocked out Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, and Junior dos Santos in the first round in three consecutive fights. His unflappable demeanor might be just what’s needed to navigate this gauntlet of angry monsters and come out the other side. Sure, this isn’t the first time the pundits have proclaimed that we finally might have our first dominant UFC heavyweight champion, but then, we’ve never had a Stipe Miocic before, either.

Up: Demian Maia There are people out there who are going to look at Maia’s postfight comments after defeating Jorge Masvidal, in which he said he won’t sell himself out to get a title shot, and mock him for not grabbing after every last dollar. You have to wonder if those folks were born with souls. Maia’s run of seven consecutive wins has been a victory for sport over spectacle. And his style is a reminder that, despite what Meryl Streep might think, there is art in mixed martial arts. Against Jorge Masvidal, Maia wasn’t able to quickly finish Jorge Masvidal like he did Carlos Condit in his previous fight. But he did show tenacity when Masvidal, one of the sport’s most hard-nosed fighters, didn’t buckle under Maia’s relentless first-round pressure. And Maia showed his veteran guile in doing what he needed to secure the win. In an era in which profane rants and complaints drown out nearly everything else, Maia’s run is a breath of fresh air.

Up: Frankie Edgar I’ll admit, I was ready to buy into the idea Edgar’s match with Yair Rodriguez was going to be one of those passing-the-torch moments, the one where we lament Edgar is not quite the fighter he used to be. Instead, Edgar ruthlessly snuffed out any hints he might be past his prime with an absolutely merciless victory over Rodriguez, battering the young hotshot for two rounds until the bout was waved off before the third. That’s two straight wins and seven out of eight for a guy who, by the way, still has never been finished in a career which dates back to 2005. While it would be beneficial for Edgar to have Max Holloway defeat Jose Aldo next month at UFC 212 in the featherweight title unification bout, since a third Aldo-Edgar fight would be a tough sell, there’s little dispute he’s got a valid claim on the next featherweight title shot.

Down: Yair Rodriguez Nope, we’re not going to go calling Rodriguez a hype or a fraud after his first UFC loss. Especially when it came to a fighter the quality of Edgar. Instead, we’ll call on Rodriguez and his camp to consider the case of Stephen Thompson after his loss to Matt Brown in 2012. Thompson took the information he learned from a one-sided loss to a crafty vet, committed to becoming a better all-around fighter, and went on a run that took him within a hair’s breadth of the welterweight title. Will Rodriguez, who seems to have about 90 percent of what’s needed to become a breakthrough star, buckle down and focus on shoring up that remaining 10 percent? That could be the difference as to whether he’s simply an interesting guy on the card or whether he fully lives up to his potential.

Hold: Jessica Andrade We’re not going to write off Andrade, either. Andrade has proven one of the sport’s more fearless fighters. She had an above-.500 record at bantamweight despite being undersized when 135 was the only option for women in the UFC. She’s buzzsawed her way through 115. And she took her best shot against one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters in Jedrzejczyk. Sure, she came up short. But she’s only 25 and with a 125-pound class opening up, her options have only expanded. One gets the feeling that one way or another, we’ll be writing about Andrade in a title fight again some day.

Interesting stuff

Once again, a controversy over illegal knees marred an exciting fight. This time, it was Eddie Alvarez drilling Dustin Poirier with three illegal knees, just one month after Chris Weidman vs. Gegard Mousasi ended in controversy.

I’m not even going to bother getting too worked up over the whole deal over whether it should have been a no-contest vs. a disqualification (Okay, for the record, it probably should have been a DQ, but I’m not going to call Alvarez, who plainly was in survival mode, a dirty fighter).

Rather, this fight felt like the tipping point for me on the entire deal about downed knees for fighters being banned. We generally accept that PRIDE-style knees to grounded fighters shouldn’t be legal as our starting point before deciding what the delineation point between legal and illegal knees should be. Why? There’s the brain trauma argument, of course, but that’s a bit of selective judgment when you’re okay in the first place with a sport with punches and elbows both standing and on the ground and kicks and knees to the head in the standup.

Maybe it’s time to get the idea of fully legalizing knees back on the table. And if not, for the love of god, the commissions need to get the rules straight across the board. Maybe you didn’t like the “playing the game” rule on technically downed fighters, but at least it was consistent, MMA’s equivalent of a play being in bounds or out of bounds. The way things are now, with different rules in different jurisdictions, is like an annoying television ad for a prescription drug: the side effects of the new rule have been worse than the original condition it was supposed to fix.

Fight I’d like to see next: Stipe Miocic vs. Cain Velasquez

Yes, I know all the reasons why we’d balk at having the UFC book this one. Velasquez’s injuries are the reason why he’s simply listed among the all-time great heavyweights, and not the single best of all-time in his division. Still, if you look at the landscape at the moment, Miocic has mowed through Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Werdum, Overeem, and dos Santos in the first round. But, putting aside for the moment the fact he’s still on the shelf, Velasquez has won five of his past six fights. If you want to build intrigue around Miocic’s last fight, facing a two-time former champ and another member of the two-defense club in his attempt to make a record-breaking third defense, with the Werdum-Overeem winner on standby in case Velasquez falls out, seems worth the risk.

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UFC on FOX 24 Aftermath: Demetrious Johnson, greatness, and stardom

Demetrious Johnson never concerned himself with what the critics had to say.

Tell him flyweight fighters are too small? Whatever. He can’t control his height.

Tell him flyweight fighters can’t draw? Sure, that criticism has stuck, and surfaced again when the numbers for UFC on FOX 24 came out, but DJ’s been consistent in explaining that he’s not in this to become the biggest star in the sport.

“I’m not here to be voted UFC prom king,” Johnson reiterated after making it look easy against Wilson Reis on Saturday night.

They used to call Johnson boring, too. Taste is of course subjective, but if you were bored by his wins over Hendry Cejudo, Tim Elliott, and Ries, maybe mixed martial arts isn’t for you.

No, Johnson never bothered getting too concerned with what the chattering classes thought. He’s told us all along what interests him: Becoming better as a fighter. Becoming the best fighter in the world. Reaching, and exceeding, Anderson Silva’s UFC title defense record. Maybe even be recognized as the greatest fighter of all time.

He’s a lot closer to getting there than the too-cool-for-school Twitter snarkers ever could have imagined him getting.

I’m not quite ready to elevate “Mighty Mouse” over Silva in the debate over who is the greatest UFC champion of all-time just yet. Silva would have had 11 middleweight title defenses if Travis Lutter had made weight in their 2007 fight, and he went up and fought at light heavyweight three times in that span.

Still, Johnson is closing in, and when all is said and done, he could end up remembered as the greatest of all-time. As is, Johnson’s run is like few we’ve ever seen in the sport. He’s won 12 fights in a row and is 16-1-1 in his past 18. His only loss along the way was a decision, as an undersized bantamweight, to then-champion Dominick Cruz, who was in the midst of a decade-long unbeaten streak.

Sunday’s early overnight television numbers reinforced the notion that Johnson is never going to be viewed as a superstar. That’s the masses’ loss. “Mighty Mouse” has stayed true to himself, true to his vision, true to his goals, his family, and himself. He’s embodied everything people profess to admire about the martial arts, long after the “once ever in human history” comets have flashed across the sky and burned out.

There will never be a UFC 205-type supershow built around Demetrious Johnson. And that’s okay.

UFC on FOX 24 quotes

“This kid could be considered the GOAT right now. Or, to give Anderson Silva the true respect, wait until he actually breaks the record and it’s hard not to call this guy the greatest of all time.” — UFC president Dana White on Mighty Mouse

“That’s just what I have in mind, just that general goal. So sometime before the year’s over with. But I don’t want to put any specific stamp on it just yet.” — Rose Namajunas on getting a flyweight title shot

“That’s where I come from, I come from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so that hurts more than a knockout for me. But props to him. At the end of the day, I made a mistake and he capitalized on it.” — Reis, on submitting to DJ.

“I’m on my run and I want that belt. Bisping owes me a fight, but if he’s tied up, or if he loses it, or whatever, I want that belt. Wherever it goes, I want it.” — Robert Whittaker, who was supposed to fight Michael Bisping at UFC 193

Stock report

Up: Rose Namajunas. Here’s the fun thing about watching Rose Namajunas’ career progess: We’ve been watching her since she was, to quote the late, great Kimbo Slice, “a baby in this game.” If you’ve been watching her since Invicta, you’ve literally been watching her career since day one. When she was on The Ultimate Fighter, she got all the way to the finals and into the match to crown the first strawweight champion at age 23, with just three official fights under her belt. As we watched her ups and downs, we knew we were watching someone with great potential. Saturday night was the performance we all envisioned Namajunas could achieve when she finally put it all together. Her poise with a veteran like Michelle Waterson was a joy to behold. Her head kick which set up the finishing sequence was lethal, and her persistence in getting the finish was ruthless. At age 25, Namjunas is a contender.

Up: Robert Whittaker. I don’t know about you, but I’m never underestimating the middleweight from Down Under again. It’s not just that Whittaker hits like a truck, although he’s certainly demonstrated that quality in his current seven-fight win streak. But while becoming the first fighter in nine years to finish Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in and of itself is enough to elevate him into the title picture, it’s the way he went about it that turned heads. Whittaker did enough on the ground with Souza to demonstrate he wasn’t afraid of Souza’s aura, but at the same time, didn’t go overboard about it. That enabled him to get in his head and continue to wear Souza down in the standup. It was the perfect game plan, it was executed to perfection, and sent notice to the division there’s a new contender in town.

Down: Jacare Souza. Maybe we should have seen this one coming. There was so much talk about Souza’s contract status going into this fight, so much talk from Souza about whether Bisping was ducking him or not, that Whittaker somehow became an afterhought in all the buildup to the fight. I’m not about to write off the former Strikeforce champion after just one loss, especially considering he may have lost to a future champion. But the deck has long seemed stacked against Souza breaking through that final step and getting a title shot and the odds certainly didn’t get any better after a one-sided loss like that one.

Up: Tom Duquesnoy. For a minute, there, you had to wonder of the much-heralded Parisian was going to become a high-profile victim of the UFC Jitters. Patrick Williams, filling out a role that almost felt like the B-side in a Bellator showcase fight, gave Duquesnoy a run for his money before hitting the wall. And when he did, we saw what Duquesnoy was all about, as he turned on a dime and went into overdrive. Duquesnoy likely knocked out Williams twice, first at the end of the first round and then once again, officially early in the second. That devastating flash was all we needed to see to understand just how much potential Duquesnoy has.

Interesting stuff

After last week’s officiating stinkfest in upstate New York, UFC on FOX 24 was a breath of fresh air. I’m not going to bother with here-and-there quibbles, since all the important stuff was done right.

Something worth noting, as originally pointed out by writer Ben Miller on Twitter: During this period in which pretty much everyone has been getting on the UFC’s case for what in many ways has been a bad stretch, on back-to-back weekends, the company has set arena gate records, first for UFC 210 in Buffalo, then last night at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. True, that’s not the same as the PPV revenue that’s not being made with Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey on the sidelines, but its also indicative the UFC remains a strong brand and fans are still engaged.

And last night, the fans both in the arena and watching at home got the sort of show that FOX cards were expected to deliver when they first drew this concept up in 2011. The skeptic could point out that both Souza and Waterson lost, after getting a decent push from the promotion. But they lost in star-making performances by by Whittaker and Namajunas, who delivered exciting performances against consequential opponents and announced they are ready for the next level. Throw in DJ’s performance in the main event and UFC on FOX 24 was the sort of night of action in the cage the UFC has needed for months.

Fight I’d like to see next: Robert Whittaker vs. Luke Rockhold or Yoel Romero

I’m personally most interested in seeing Whittaker, a hard hitter on a long win streak, take on Romero, another hard hitter on a long win streak. But, a. Romero stubbornly insists on a bizarre interim title fight with Anderson Silva, b. Luke Rockhold offered to fight Whittaker in July; and c. based on a Twitter poll I ran on my page overnight (I left off Gegard Mousasi since there’s no guarantee at the moment he’ll be fighting in the UFC again, Rockhold is the runaway winner as of this writing, with more than twice as many of you wanting to see Rockhold-Whittaker and Romero-Whittaker. So, you know what? I’m down with either one. The point here is that Whittaker seemlessly slips into that big contender’s fight that Jacare would have seemed destined for. Whether it’s Romero or Rockhold, Whittaker’s next fight should be win-win for the fans.

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UFC 210 Aftermath: Daniel Cormier lords over barren division

Daniel Cormier has earned his time in the spotlight, and he’s milking it for all it’s worth.

The UFC light heavyweight champion was coy and playful, dishing out barbs, and just generally being an amped-up version of himself following his UFC 210 main event victory over Anthony Johnson, one in which he overcame an apparent broken nose as if it was no bigger deal than the sniffles.

But while DC deserves this moment to bask and gloat, there’s also no doubt that a light heavyweight division that already wasn’t exactly the UFC’s deepest class in the first place just got a whole lot less so in the wake of Saturday night’s festivities at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center.

Johnson, for his part, responded to just his second loss in his past 14 fights by abruptly retiring from the sport. I suspect I’m not alone in suspecting that by about 2019, we’ll be writing about the Return of Rumble, but for now, this is a big blow to the division at a time it could least afford it.

The champion is 38 years old. He’s been through wars both as an undersized heavyweight and a light heavyweight. He looked like death warmed over at the weigh-ins on Friday, where he needed an assist from Towelie to make weight, and his body looks like it doesn’t want to force itself down to 205 much longer. Cormier’s a world-class competitor, but time is not on his side.

Beyond that? Alexander Gustafsson is still trying to regain his mojo. Glover Teixeira and Ovince Saint Preux had their biggest chances come and go. Misha Cirkunov is intriguing, but still a prospect. And don’t Ryan Bader and Phil Davis all of a sudden seem like they may have been worth spending a few extra bucks on?

Which brings us back, as it always does, to Jones, the guy who’s always lingered while Cormier has run around with the belt. Cormier claims he doesn’t need a rematch with Jones, who handed him his only career defeat in 2015, to feel whole.

“If I were done today, I would be completely fine with everything that I have accomplished, Cormier said. “I don’t feel like I should let this young man have so much control over me and my legacy. He beat me, so what he won a fight. I would love to fight him again and beat him, but if I don’t fight him, especially for something that I cannot control, I’ll be fine.”

Maybe that’s why Cormier tried a little too hard to start a pro wrestling-style beef with Jimi Manuwa, the closest thing to a freshest face and sellable fight the division has while Jones is on the sidelines. After all, if he can’t get us to believe he and Jimi Manuwa hate each other, what are his other options?

UFC 210 Quotes

“At the end of the day, the people of New York got screwed,” Weidman said. “I got screwed, and it sucks.”Chris Weidman, on his controversial loss to Gegard Mousasi.

“I don’t make the rules. It was legal and I felt he didn’t want to continue. I think everyone saw that. He didn’t want to continue. How is that my fault? I don’t give a f*ck, I won.” — Mousasi’s counter.

“With the new athletic commission, it’s like we’re in 2001 again.” — UFC president Dana White, on the Mousasi-Weidman situation.

“The toughest fight I can possibly think of was always with myself. That’s just what it is. That’s everybody’s fight. You always battle yourself and not the opponent.” — Johnson, who inexplicably played Cormier’s wrestling game.

“You sit over there pot with your Cialis or whatever it’s called, and you throw it at the kettle, so sit over there pot in detention, Cialis boy.” — Cormier to Jon Jones.

Stock report

Up: Daniel Cormier. Cormier is not the sport’s most under-appreciated champion — not when flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson was consigned to FS1 more than four years into his title reign. But beyond that, yeah, Cormier has yet to get his due credit for one of the sport’s most remarkable runs. This space was the first to call Cormier one of the all-time greats, and since, his legacy has only grown. With 20 fights under his belt, Cormier has run through a who’s who of the best at two different weight classes, including a slew of former world champions. In his first career rematch, against Johnson, Cormier went out and finished one of the sport’s most dangerous fighters faster than he did the first time. And while he has that one loss to Jones, Cormier’s not the one who didn’t make it to the post at UFC 200; Jones was. I’ll say it again: Daniel Cormier is one of the greatest fighters in the history of mixed martial arts.

Hold: Gegard Mousasi and Chris Weidman. If you’re looking for my thoughts the fight-ending fiasco, head down to the “Interesting Calls” section. This is more about the fallout of the stoppage. Mousasi and Weidman were having a tremendous, back-and-forth matchup that lived up to its advanced billing when Mousasi threw the pair of knees that caused everything to blow up. It was just reaching the stage in which you wished the fight was five rounds instead of three. There are obstacles getting in the way of a rematch. Mousasi’s UFC contract is up, and even if he does come back on board, its understandable that he wants to move on after leaving Buffalo with a victory. But the stench of the finish is too strong, and there’s still a logjam at the top of the division with champion Michael Bisping set to fight Georges St-Pierre instead of an actual middleweight contender. Mousasi’s first inclination in the cage, to offer Weidman a rematch “no problem,” was the correct one.

Up: Cynthia Calvillo White went a little overboard in his praise of the Team Alpha Male standout at the post-fight press conference, comparing the first time he saw the strawweight to the first time he saw Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. But it’s also not hard to see why White wants to get that hype train rolling. Calvillo made it two submission wins in as many PPV cards with her third finish of a tough-as-nails Pearl Gonzalez. It’s too soon to rush Calvillo into the deep end of the strawweight division, but it’s just as clear we’ve got a competitor with real potential on our hands, one deserving of the slow, step-by-step star build.

Up: Myles Jury It’s hard to believe the still fresh-faced Jury has been around long enough that you can look at one of his fights and think “that’s the old Myles Jury,” but there you have it. Fighting for the first time since late 2015, Jury mauled Mike De La Torre to earn his first win at featherweight and his first overall since 2014. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee the fighter who started off his career 15-0 will go on another tear, but it’s the first time he’s looked like himself in awhile, and that’s as solid a re-start point as any.

Up: Patrick Cummins Hey, look: Cummins is never going to be the UFC light heavyweight champion. His defense is the MMA equivalent of the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. But Cummins, one of the sport’s most easy-to-like people, is a throwback fighter in the best of senses — that wrestler who is just too damn tough for his own good. Sometimes it means he loses fights he should win, and sometimes it means he wills his way to victory when he should have been finished, like he did last night against Jan Blachowicz. As much as the sport of mixed martial arts has evolved, I hope it never evolves to the point we don’t appreciate a fighter like Cummins, who gets the most he can out of an average skill set, strong cardio, and endless heart.

Interesting Calls

It would be easy to peg the Chris Weidman-Gegard Mousasi fiasco on the hapless New York State Athletic Commission. They’ve done more than their share to earn the criticism flung their way, even if White, knowing how much money the states brings in, has been muted about it, comparing it the earliest days of the Unified Rules era.

But this one comes down to referee Dan Miragliotta, a veteran out of New Jersey, which has one of the most well-respected commissions in the country. Miragliotta ruled that the second of two knees thrown by Mousasi was illegal. Here’s where things get tricky.

I’m not going to criticize Miragliotta’s initial ruling, because, guess what? It took us all several replay viewings, along with Joe Rogan screaming like a six-year-old who just had way too much sugar, to make it clear one of Weidman’s hands came off the mat before Mousasi’s knee hit, which makes it legal under the newly instituted ruleset. Miragliotta had to make the split-second judgment in the moment.

From here, New York’s rules don’t allow for replay evidence to come into play. Miragliotta changed his ruling midstream, and the bedlam which played out in the interim demonstrated why a referee needs to stick with their call in this situation.

Maybe you think every state in country should have replay. That’s an entire reasonable position to take. I’ll likewise not argue if you feel some sort of karmic justice was done to Weidman for playing the “hands down” game. But referees need to follow the guideline they have, not the ones we wished they had. Miragliotta didn’t follow protocol, and as such, Weidman has clear-cut grounds to have the decision overturned.

Fight I’d like to see next: Mousasi-Weidman 2

I mean, I suppose I should stump for Cormier vs. Jon Jones, here. But, Jones isn’t yet reinstated. White, at least for now, is saying that he’s not going to headline a fight card with Jones right away. And Cormier-Jones has actually been delivered about a quarter of the times it’s been pushed. So I’m not going to get excited about that one until we actually see them both in the Octagon with Bruce Buffer announcing their names.

So with that out of the way, the only thing that really screams “must make” is Weidman vs. Mousasi, for all the reasons I’ve already gotten into. It’s not like Mousasi is getting a title shot next anyway, so why not clear things up once and for all?

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UFC 209 Aftermath: Was Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson the worst title fight ever?

Tim Sylva vs. Andrei Arlovski 3. Ken Shamrock vs. Dan Severn 2. Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia.

Those fights, all-time stinkers, were not the fights the UFC 209 rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson were supposed to conjure. Not after Woodley and Thompson fought to a memorable draw which took Fight of the Night honors the first time out on the historic UFC 205 card.

And yet this is where we stand on Sunday, after Woodley and Thompson engaged in a staring contest for the better part of 25 minutes at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, with Woodley spending minutes at a time with his back to the cage and Thompson coming off like a video game character whose buttons kept getting stuck when it was time to strike.

Oh, and since the participants and UFC president Dana White were all defensive about the criticism of the fight, let’s say this up front: Yes, people who don’t fight get to criticize. Woodley and Thompson would blast all of us in a matter of seconds if any of us were in the cage with them. That absolute truth doesn’t make this fight any less bad. You don’t have to actually shoot heroin to hold the opinion shooting heroin is bad for you. Some things are obvious, and that this was an awful fight is one of them.

Woodley, in particular, has made a habit of placing a chip on his own shoulders without any prompting. He’s an honest and upstanding man and he’s made valid and important points about the state of racial relations in mixed martial arts. But the building of a star isn’t entirely on the promoter. Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey became megastars because they went above and beyond in building their personal brands.

You can’t put on a performance like UFC 209’s main event and say it’s all the UFC’s fault you’re not breaking through.

So was this actually the worst title fight the UFC has produced? I’m going with “no, it wasn’t.” Woodley deserves credit for digging down deep in the fight’s final moments and proving his championship mettle. That counts for something. Contrast that with Sylvia-Arlovski 3 at UFC 61, which was orders of magnitude worse and didn’t have the blitz at the end, or Shamrock-Severn at UFC 9, which resonates in its badness all these years later in part because it was the last thing most of us remember before the roof caved in on the SEG era, or Silva-Maia at UFC 112, which was so bad it became bizarrely compelling toward the end.

But the simple fact Woodley-Thompson is being mentioned in the same breath as these fights speaks for itself. The fans who are being lectured not to give their opinions, have come away from back-to-back pay-per-views saying they just wanted to forget the night even happened. That’s not exactly the way to move the business forward.

UFC 209 quotes

“He’s probably the best counter-attacker in our division, so I had to be cautious, I had to be patient, I had to really block out the boos.”Woodley

“The fans, they paid for a show. It’s our job to go out there and put on a performance. But then again, you’re thinking about our safety as well. The one shot could be the end of your career.” — Thompson’s take

“It’s easy to sit in your seat, drink some beer and eat some popcorn and boo some people. But, you’re not in there fighting Tyron Woodley and Wonderboy.” — White on the fight

“I had zero energy, and if i felt today as I did yesterday I would not have been able to perform.” — Alistair Overeem, detailing the case of food poisoning which nearly sidelined him from his win over Mark Hunt

Stock Report

(Note: The main event was so odious, it’s obscuring the fact that up until that point, UFC 209 was chock full of fun performances. So I’m going to focus on those here).

Up: Alistair Overeem. As bad a taste as UFC 209 left for fans, between the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson fallout and the non-memorable main event, the crazy thing is, we ended up finding out later it could have been worse. At the post fight-news conference, Overeem revealed he had been hosptialized the previous day with food poisoning. You wouldn’t have known it in his performance against Mark Hunt, which came off like two dominant rams locking horns for hours before one wore the other down and took control of the herd. And as you remember how dramatic Overeem’s TKO win was, imagine how much worse UFC 209 would have been without it. Overeem not only did the show a solid, but he emerged as someone still a force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division.

Up: Darren Elkins. See this recap? It was written entirely from scratch after the fight, because I had already written the “Mirsad Bektic wins” recap and was simply waiting on the official score and Bektic quote. That’s how far behind Elkins was on the scorecards (officially, he was down 20-17 going into the third) before rallying for one of the most memorable comeback victories in the history of the sport. The ultra-tough Indiana native dug down and found a way to rally in the sort of manner that reminded you way you were attracted to this sport in the first place. For me, Anderson Silva’s fifth-round submission over Chael Sonnen is still the sport’s greatest comeback due to the stakes involved, but Elkins-Bektic is right up there with fights like Cheick Kongo-Pat Barry and Scott Smith-Pete Sell on the list of the sport’s all-time great rallies.

Up: Iuri Alcantara. It’s not often a fighter takes a beating for eight minutes, including a blatant illegal knee to the head, and ends up on the “up” side, but when you’re as sneaky a submission artist as Alcantara, these things can happen. Alcantara took advantage of a split-second opening and earned a nifty submission over Luke Sanders, his 14th career submission, and just like that, the Brazilian vet finds himself with two straight wins and three in his past four.

Up: Dan Kelly. What’s not to like about a fighter who is 39, has been through the grind of Olympic judo on four separate occasions, has a physique that suggests more time spent at the local pub than the gym, and has an Australian accent, to boot? Kelly’s window is likely to be short, given both his age and a knee that he admits needs surgery, but he can’t afford to take a year off at this stage. Which makes his victory over Rashad Evans all the more sweet. Kelly relentlessly pressured Evans, never let him be comfortable, never let him get into his groove, and turned the bout into an oddly compelling affair. This could end up being Kelly’s signature moment, but either way, it will be fun to see how much further he can take this.

Up: Cynthia Calvillo. On one level, there’s only so much you can learn from a short fight with the 2-3 Amanda Cooper. On another, the level of skill Calvillo showed in her lightning-fast transition from an anaconda to getting Cooper’s back and sinking-in an RNC makes her look like a fighter with a seriously bright future. Team Alpha Male, meanwhile, is showing no signs of slowing down in Urijah Faber’s retirement.

Interesting stuff

So much to get into, here …

*First off, kudos to ref Marc Goddard for deducting Sanders a point on a flagrant illegal knee to the head in Alcantara-Sanders. Far too many refs do the “hey, if you do that nine more times, I’ll consider giving you an official warning” thing. Goddard, who you may recall practically had to beg to be licensed in Nevada a few years ago, got the call right.

*Any time spent quibbling over 10-10s, 10-9s, and 10-8s in Woodley-Thompson — other than to note Sal D’Amato’s 10-8 for Woodley in round five was pretty ridiculous — is time keeping us from moving on from this fight.

*Kudos to Nevada Athletic Director Bob Bennett for showing up and answering questions at the post-fight news conference. With situations like the infamous Nick Diaz five-year suspension, NAC had developed a reputation as an out-of-control, unaccountable organization. Getting out in public and answering critics is a big, positive step in the right direction, and hopefully one other major commissions will begin to emulate.

*Nurmagomedov missed a flat $ 500,000 payday by not showing on Friday. Ferguson made his $ 250,000 show money, since he weighed in. It came out on Friday that UFC wanted Ferguson to take a pay cut to fight Michael Johnson, which Ferguson turned down. We don’t know how much exactly that suggested pay cut was, but we do know this: At the end of the day, WME chose to nickel-and-dime Ferguson, who did everything he was supposed to do. And in doing so, they chose to make UFC 209 an objectively worse product for the people who bought tickets and ordered the pay-per-view, a decision magnified by the lousy main event. If WME manages to fumble away this boom period, it will be due to a death by a thousand little cuts.

Fight I’d like to see next: Woodley-Robbie Lawler 2

Yeah, I know, Demian Maia, blah blah blah. Anyway, Georges St-Pierre is fighting Michael Bisping. Conor McGregor has many options besides Woodley. The welterweight division is missing the fire of the Robbie Lawler era, so at this point, just for the sake of seeing something exciting, I say bring the former champ back for another crack at the belt.

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UFC 208 Aftermath: How Anderson Silva stays relevant in his old age

First things first: Anderson Silva knows he’s not the fighter he used to be.

“I’m old,” said the former longtime middleweight champion, who turns 42 on April 14. “I’m very old.”

And yet, regardless of what you think about Silva’s highly debatable unanimous decision victory over Derek Brunson in the co-feature bout of UFC 208, there’s little doubt “The Spider” was the most compelling character on an evening at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center most would otherwise rather forget.

Silva entered the cage Saturday night without an official victory since his first-round finish of Stephan Bonnar in Oct. 2012. Since then, there were two infamous losses to Chris Weidman, a one-sided decision over Nick Diaz which was turned to a no-decision after a drug-test fiasco, a questionable decision loss to Michael Bisping, and a bout against light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier accepted on a couple days’ notice.

And yet, still, after all these years, Silva’s fights still have a buzz about them, a tension that comes from the hope that maybe we’ll see one more highlight reel finish along the lines of his legendary face-kick knockout of Vitor Belfort.

That sort of memorable moment never happened on Saturday night. But Brunson appeared so apprehensive of being on the wrong end of a highlight reel clip that he opened the path for a wily veteran to take off with the decision.

Brunson dominated in the clinch when they engaged. But otherwise, the combination of Silva stopping the bulk of Brunson’s takedown attempts in the first two rounds, and the partisan crowd oohing and ahhing over every flashy strike Silva threw (whether or not they connected) was enough to sway the judges.

If this was a robbery, then it was one that occurred after the victim left his door unlocked and put all his valuables right out on a table in the front hallway.

Which brings us back around to what Silva had to say at the press conference right after calling himself an old man: “I have a lot of experience, and I have perfect timing. This is more important.”

He also happened to sign a quite lucrative, eight-fight deal right before the roof caved in against Weidman, and is going to collect every last dollar.

So where does Silva go from here? Perhaps there are “fun fights” to be found. Perhaps he’ll get stubborn and try to make another run at a title. Maybe he’ll parachute in like UFC 200 and try to save another show.

But the young Anderson Silva who wowed crowds with incredible feats has given way to a fighter who is moving around the twilight of his career in a manner far more deft than most. And given Silva’s all about speed and elusiveness, should that be any surprise?

UFC 208 quotes

“Wow unreal I put my heart & soul out there on 3 weeks notice only to get it taken from me. I just outclassed the greatest of all time” — Derek Brunson on his decision loss

“It wasn’t meant for me to hit her after the bell. It was in the heat of the moment. I apologize. I’m not like that.” — Germaine de Randamie on striking Holly Holm after the horn in two rounds.

“A lot of times, the first one they give a warning, that’s kind of normal. I wouldn’t expect them to take a point after the first one, even though it was intentional. The second time, at that point you think they’d do something.”Holm’s retort

“I feel like the ref from New York shouldn’t be reffing a main event fight. They don’t have enough experience. He should not have been in there. But again, we don’t make those decisions. The commission does. That was a bad decision by them.” — UFC president Dana White on NYSAC’s bad night.

Stock report

Hold: Germaine de Randamie So, it’s tough to give someone a “down” after winning a championship and scoring their fifth victory in their past six fights. But it’s also hard to get enthused after the way the first women’s featherweight champion conducted herself in Brooklyn. In an a best-case scenario, GDR didn’t hear the horn before drilling Holm in the head after the end of the second and third rounds — the former of which might have been the biggest blow she landed in a fight. A worst-case scenario would be that she knew exactly what she was doing and took advantage of an inexperienced referee. Only she knows the true answer.

But then de Randamie compounded matters in her postfight interview by referencing a ligament injury suffered three fights ago, when asked about fighting Cyborg Justino any time soon. And she didn’t show for the post-fight press conference, even though a battered Holm did. If there’s been a less auspicious start to a UFC title reign, we can’t remember it.

Down: Holly Holm. This is a tough one to hand out, since 1. Holm was on the wrong end of poor officiating and poor sportsmanship; 2. If referee Todd Anderson had docked de Randamie for even one of the two infractions, we’d be looking at a draw this morning; 3. You can make the case Holm won rounds three through five, anyway, which would make the rest moot. But facts are facts and Holm is now 0-3 since defeating Ronda Rousey. I’m not going to say Holm’s done, considering she was winning her fight against Miesha Tate until she got caught and last night was a cluster. But she’s 35, she had a long pro boxing career before getting into MMA, and its undeniable her window for turning things back around is shorter than most.

Up: Jacare Souza At least one fighter did what they were supposed to do at UFC 208. Faced with a tough and unpredictable foe in Tim Boetsch, Souza took care of business, earning a first-round submission for his 10th win in his past 11 fights. Most of the momentum for the next middleweight title fight still seems to be tilting toward Michael Bisping vs. Yoel Romero, but Souza, the former Strikeforce champ, will be damned if he doesn’t do everything in his power to make sure he makes the title conversation an uncomfortable one.

Down: Derek Brunson. Brunson probably should have gotten the call against Silva on Saturday night. But he also performed in a manner that left a path open for the judges to give the call to Silva. Brunson, coming off a knockout loss to Robert Whittaker, started off too tentative, as if he was standing in front of the Silva of 2006 and not the fighter who will soon be 42. He found success in the clinch but didn’t follow up. So by stuffing most of Brunson’s takedown attempts and throwing enough flashy strike attempts to wow the crowd, Silva was able to take the decision. Should Brunson have gotten the call? Probably. But nor did he do himself many favors along the way.

Up: Dustin Poirier and Jim Miller. Finally, let’s end with some words for two fighters who just about always deliver, win or lose. Poirier and Miller threw down for a wild 10 minutes over the first two rounds of their lightweight, main-card opener. Then Poirier adjusted to a leg injury suffered through Miller’s wicked leg kicks and took the fight to the ground, where he sealed a decision win. The duo took Fight of the Night honors. They’ve combined for 15 postfight awards, and last night demonstrated why.

Interesting stuff

Remember back at UFC 205, when a score-reading snafu marred the end of the Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson welterweight title fight? We were willing to give the New York State Athletic Commission a bit of a pass there because it was their first major mixed martial arts event.

But three months later, there’s no excuse for not having the kinks worked out. UFC 208 was, quite frankly, a sh*tshow and an embarrassment for a place that fancies itself one of the world’s fight capitols. Bad scorecards were the norm throughout the night, and the evening was topped by the inadequate performance by referee Todd Anderson, who lacks big-fight experience. Anderson let GDR get away with clobbering Holm after the end of back-to-back rounds, then stopped in too soon near the end of round five.

NYSAC is making a substantial chunk of money off last night’s $ 2.3 million gate. We routinely see smaller states with far smaller budgets fly in top-of-the-line officials like John McCarthy and Herb Dean to handle the main fights on smaller shows. There’s absolutely no valid excuse for New York to refrain from doing the same.

Finally, reviews seem mixed on the UFC’s three-man booth of Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier, and Joe Rogan. That it will take time for chemistry to form is understandable. But one positive that jumped out immediately: With three people looking to make points, it forced Rogan to up his game. Rogan can be among the most astute and knowledgeable commentators in the sport, but he often coasted with former partner Mike Goldberg. In a three-man booth, there’s less room for Rogan to go off on tangents, and that led to more concise and cogent commentary Saturday night.

Fight I’d like to see next: GDR vs. Cyborg Justino

So what do you do with a division which consists of three fighters: A champion who says she needs to get surgery on an injury from 2015; the fighter nearly everyone considers the best in the world, but currently has a USADA cloud hanging over her head; and a competitor who has lost three in a row? I’d say, let’s pretend last night didn’t happen and start a 125-pound division instead, but that’s not among the options. The bottom line is, for all the baggage that comes attached, Cyborg is the world’s best women’s featherweight, and until she competes for the title, GDR’s reign will have an asterisk attached, so the sooner we get on with this, the better.

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UFC 206 Aftermath: Sleeper show cuts through the clutter in spectacular manner

When Daniel Cormier had to pull out of his scheduled UFC 206 main event against Anthony Johnson with an injury, there were questions about whether the UFC would have to shift the card from pay-per-view to cable television, or maybe cancel the event altogether.

There were even calls among Canadian fans for a boycott of the Toronto show, after a string of lackluster lineups in their country.

It’s not hard to understand why fans were upset. UFC 206 at the Air Canada Centre had a lineup which was thin on star power, particularly in contrast to the loaded UFC 205 and 207 events.

The show’s seemingly skippable nature was further underscored by the glut of combat sports events in recent weeks. The UFC and Bellator put on three shows apiece in an eight-day span. And that’s before you factor in Glory and boxing cards. No wonder the casual fans wait for Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey and let their hardcore fan friends fill them in on the rest of the details.

But then, some nights, the best cards break out when you’re least expecting them. And UFC 206 was one of those nights.

The first hint of magic in the air came when Lando Vannata added his name to the Knockout of the Year contenders with a picture perfect spinning wheel kick against John Makdessi. Then Toronto’s Misha Cirkunov brought the crowd to life with a first-round finish over Nikita Krylov which established him as a legit force at light heavyweight.

The crowd’s enthusiasm sustained throughout the main card, which seemed to give the fighters an extra shot of adrenaline. Emil Meek and Jordan Mein threw down for a round before Meek asserted his will over their fight. Kelvin Gastelum rallied past Tim Kennedy in a face-saving battle.

Then a fight of the year contender broke out. Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi was the classic tale of the old dog proving he’s still got some bite and still had a thing or two to prove to the young, up-and-coming hot shot. Fifteen minutes of sensational action, in particular a back and forth round two which will never be forgotten, had the crowd in Toronto rocking and chanting “ole, ole” in the fight’s final minute.

(An aside: While I loved this fight, Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit is still my choice for fight of the year. As great as was Swanson-Choi round two, Lawler-Condit’s all-time classic round was a round five.)

Then Donald Cerrone and Matt Brown went out and tried to top Swanson-Choi, and nearly succeeded. Ten minutes of down-and-dirty brawling went down before Cerrone decided enough was enough and blasted Brown with a head kick.

By the time Max Holloway made a little history of his own and became the first fight to finish Anthony Pettis, a performance which would have been the big story on most other nights, the crowd was pretty much spent.

UFC 206 was simply that good.

I’m not going to lecture you and tell you how to spend your money. If I wasn’t paid to do this for a living, I, like a lot of other people, likely would have looked at the November and December schedule, decided I was watching UFC 205 and 207, and taken a pass on 206.

But you never know which shows will be the ones which stand out. And Saturday’s show in Toronto was one of those nights which reminded you why you got into this wacky little sport in the first place.

UFC 206 quotes

“3 to 1 underdog is pretty ridiculous to me. I know he had a lot of hype but I took offense to that.” — Swanson, taking offense at the Choi hype train.

“I think if I’m offered a fight that interests me at 185, I don’t see why I wouldn’t stay here. But I think 170 is my optimal weight class.” — Gastelum, who beat Kennedy at middleweight at UFC 206 following yet another welterweight weight mishap at UFC 205.

“It’s too much to make the cut. I was dying from the weight cut. They literally had to pull me out the sauna. I depleted my body. It’s too much to cut.” — Pettis, afterhis loss to Holloway.

“Jose’s over here he wants to retire, unretire. Then he gets the belt, now he wants to go up a weight class. Most true fans know these story lines, and most true fans thought this should be for the real belt.” — Holloway, saying he’s the real champ at 145.

Stock Report

Up: Holloway What’s left to be said about Holloway’s rise that hasn’t been commented upon already? The heir to B.J. Penn’s Hawaiian MMA throne became the sixth fighter in UFC history to compile a double-digit win streak, putting him in the company of Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson, and Royce Gracie. He also became the first fighter ever to finish Anthony Pettis, something no one in the weight class above Holloway was ever able to do, and he did it before the championship rounds. Featherweight might not have Conor McGregor’s star power any more, but nor will the action in the cage be boring as long as Holloway’s around.

Down: Pettis Yeah, this one seems pretty obvious. It’s hard to fault Pettis for wanting to go down to 145. He had, after all, lost three straight decisions at 155. And it seemed the right call after his featherweight debut against Charles Oliveira. But he came out of UFC 206 with a weight miss, a broken hand, and the first finish loss of his career. It’s hard to see Pettis regaining his mojo of a few years ago back at 155, but if nothing else, credit him for recognizing 145 isn’t going to work out sooner rather than later.

Hold: Gastelum It’s easy to see both sides of the Gastelum’s situation. The TUF 17 winner is a little too big for welterweight and not as big the larger middleweights. That was obvious from the jump when you simply saw him in the cage with Kennedy last night. But then you saw a Gastelum who didn’t have to cut weight pick up steam as Kennedy faded, then absolutely pick apart and finish one of the toughest fighters in the game. Still, it’s hard to see Gastelum due the same to, say, Luke Rockhold or Yoel Romero. And yet, on the other hand, his weight cut issues at 170 have thrown a monkey wrench into one too many shows. There’s really no easy answer here.

Down: Kennedy Was Saturday night’s performance against Gastelum a mere matter of ring rust? He hadn’t fought since 2014, after all. Was all the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association talk a distraction? Is juggling a television series and a fight career too much for one person to juggle? Is it all of the above? Fighting’s a difficult enough business without all manner of outside distractions, even for someone as legendarily disciplined and hardnosed as Kennedy. No one would begrudge Kennedy if he walked away, but nor can he afford too many nights like he had at UFC 206.

Up: Vannata Last night confirmed that our eyes weren’t deceiving us back when Vannata went toe-to-toe with Tony Ferguson on short notice over the summer. Vannata wasted little time against one of the most patient and methodical performers in the lightweight division in John Makdessi before using a picture-perfect spinning back kick to knock Makdessi out. While I wouldn’t rush Vannata back into the cage with another contender the caliber of Ferguson — who exposed the holes Vannata still needs to work on — nor should he be babied in his matchmaking. Vannata’s legit.

Interesting stuff

It was one of those nights in which everything went well on the officiating and judging front. There were six unanimous decisions, none of which were remotely controversial. And there were six finishes, all of which were finished on point.

So we’ll turn our attention instead to the MMAAA, or the lack of mention thereof, even with two reps from the would-be association competing on the card. Kennedy, in fairness, wasn’t in position to talk about the group after his loss to Gastelum. But his Thursday interviews hardly sounded a ringing endorsement. And Cerrone had the opportunity both in his postfight interview and at the press conference to make a pitch for MMAAA. He didn’t in the former. In the latter, when asked, he never mentioned the group by name, and even went so far as to compare his talks with Dana White on the subject to a father being disappointed in his son. That’s far from the momentum builder Bjorn Rebney’s group needed out of the gate.

Fight I’d like to see next: Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway

There’s no getting around the fact that Conor McGregor beat both fighters whom the UFC currently recognizes as having claims on the 145-pound belt. That’s never going to change. So the sooner Aldo and Holloway meet and get one of these titles out of the picture, the better. And it certainly helps that, on paper, Aldo vs. Holloway has the makings of one absolutely spectacular matchup. In an ideal world, someone wins this fight in impressive fashion, then has to the good sense to chase McGregor up to 155 put a rest to the dismissive chatter once and for all.

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