MMA fans finally got what they’ve been waiting for all year, and what they’re always waiting for, a great UFC Pay-Per-View. There have been great fights and even great cards (hopefully y’all checked out that FOX card last month) so far in 2017 but when it comes to PPV’s its been tough sledding. UFC 208 featured the inaugural women’s featherweight championship, a close but lackluster affair that crowned a title holder who has since disappeared off the face of the map. Its also still the only women’s 145 pound fight ever three months later. UFC 209 looked like it was going to be great until the highly anticipated Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov fight got called off at the last minute and the Stephen Thompson vs. Tyron Woodley rematch was one of the worst title fights in the history of the company. UFC 210 last month wasn’t terrible but all of the weird stuff with the commission and controversy in the cage took away any of the shine that could’ve been developed. But here we were in Dallas, Texas. The UFC loaded up the event and despite losing two fights including one from the main card it was enough to ensure high quality and entertaining fights ensued.
Stipe Ties A Pathetic Record - The record in question is most consecutive heavyweight title defenses and Stipe Miocic got there by knocking out Fabricio Werdum to win the belt, Alistair Overeem to defend it in his hometown of Cleveland, and now Junior Dos Santos on Saturday night. He ties Cain Velasquez, Brock Lesnar, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, and Randy Couture and will look to break past that cursed number in his next time out. Hes certainly been impressive during this run knocking out five consecutive fellow heavyweights, this last one defending his last loss. JDS beat him by close decision in December of 2014 in a back and forth war that could’ve went either way. Since then it looks like Miocic has improved his energy conservation and most notably the accuracy of his punches. Hes always been a guy with real power but it seems like lately hes able to hit guys right on the button at will, from all angles. Hes also been pretty smart inside the cage. Dos Santos was effectively using low leg kicks early on in this fight and looked to have hurt Stipe as he limped after him. Maybe sensing trouble if they kept up over the course of five rounds Miocic turned up the heat, pressuring JDS against the fence looking for and eventually getting the finish.
There are no clear title contenders at heavyweight so its not easy to guess who Stipe will get to attempt a third title defense against but there are some options. The man who he beat to win the belt, Fabricio Werdum, fights Alistair Overeem in July and if he wins that match will be on another modest winning streak that would be deserving of a title shot. Theres also Derrick Lewis who is on a six fight win streak, five of them knockouts, most recently a thrilling comeback win against Travis Browne. He fights Mark Hunt next month and with an impressive win could jump to the front of the line. Francis Ngannou is 4-0 in the UFC, most recently obliterating Andrei Arlowski, and doesn’t have a fight lined up at the moment so he could be free if they want to give Stipe a quick turnaround. He should rack up at least one more win before getting a title shot but hes been so impressive and improved so much in such little time that its not out of the realm of possibility. Lastly theres Cain Velasquez who many thought would be the guy that broke that title defense record. Werdum was the guy that derailed that train and since he lost his belt in June 2015 Velasquez has only fought once, beating Travis Browne in an impressive performance. If he can get and/or stay healthy he could easily regain his throne.
Joanna Champion, GOAT - Joanna Jedrzejczyk also tied a title defense record this weekend. Her fifth title defense tied her with Ronda Rousey for most title defenses for any woman in UFC history. Of course thats a small history but considering how well Ronda was thought of during her run I’d say its noteworthy. And I don’t see Joanna completely folding at the first sign of adversity. After dominating Jessica Andrade over five rounds in what looked like a clinic on the art of MMA striking shes now pretty much cleaned out the women’s strawweight division. Rose Namajunas would be the last real contender but shes lost to two of Joanna Champion’s victims already and as good as she looked against Michelle Waterson its hard to see her as the one to displace the champ. Especially after the way she just made Andrade look who had decimated her competition in three fights since dropping all the way down from 135 pounds. Jedrzejczyk was able to take her best shot, keep her at distance, and then pick her apart once she got tired. With news that the next season of The Ultimate Fighter will introduce and crown the first women’s flyweight (125 pounds) champion its not hard to envision Joanna joining Conor McGregor as a two weight class champion. There are alot of intriguing fights there for her between current 135 pounders dropping down and noteworthy 125 pounders that are already out there but for now she’ll just have to keep cementing her legacy as the greatest female fighter of all time.
Maia Clinches UFC Nightmare - Demian Maia didn’t have to take this fight against Jorge Masvidal. He was on a six fight win streak against progressively better competition since losing back to back fights to Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields. Most notably his last four in that run were against Neil Magny, Gunnar Nelson, Matt Brown, and Carlos Condit. Not only did he dominate those fights, winning three of four by submission, he embarrassed high level fighters without taking almost any damage. His thing lately has been to grab someone, stick to them like glue, and either win a unanimous decision or eventually choke them out. He could’ve waited for a title shot but instead wanted to stay busy and guarantee that he was next in line. Risky, especially against as tough a guy as Masvidal who was on a three fight win streak of his own. He knocked out another top contender in January, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, essentially derailing his path to a title fight and he almost did it again in Dallas. In the first round on Saturday it looked like more of the same as Maia got ‘Gamebread’s’ back and worked for a submission for something like three minutes but Masvidal ended the round by landing some shots on the ground. Masvidal won the second round and looked like he was going to win against a tiring jujitsu artist but Maia was able to get a hold of him in the third to win a close round. The UFC has to be pissed because they almost have to give him his title shot now despite that being a fight that will be incredibly hard to sell. I’m thoroughly entertained by the cat and mouse game Maia plays but the casual fans could easily find his style boring and coming off the Thompson/Woodley fight that wouldn’t be great for the division. Just imagine if Maia is able to win the belt…
Frankie Leaves Yair Looking for ‘Answers’ - Maybe my most anticipated fight of the night was this veteran vs. prospect match between Frankie Edgar and Yair Rodriguez. It didn’t turn out to be very competitive as ‘The Answer’ had all of them especially once he was able to get the fight on the ground. He battered Yair with punches and elbows leaving him with an eye so swollen when the round ended that I thought they might end the fight. Which they did after the second round resulted in more of the same. It was a bad loss for the young exciting fighter but at the same time it could be used as a learning experience. He now knows that hes not at the elite level despite how impressive hes looked at the early stages of his career. Hes not a Conor McGregor but he can still become a champion one day with the right improvements. All the offense he has is meaningless in fights against someone who can nullify that with a takedown and good top control. Edgar on the other hand just made a statement. Hes not slowing down. Hes not getting old. Hes only lost to one man over the past five years and that man, Jose Aldo, just happens to be the champion. Its a tough spot because it would be hard to give Frankie another shot against Aldo especially after the last fight was so one sided. If Max Holloway beats him for the title next month then Frankie Edgar would be a no brainer next challenger but if Aldo defends (and doesn’t move up to lightweight) Edgar has some decisions to make. He can keep putting in work at featherweight until theres a change at the top, he could drop down to bantamweight and immediately become one of the top guys there, or in a long shot he could go back up to lightweight where he once reigned as champion. No matter what hes not a guy many people will want to fight.
Off the Chart Prelims - It didn’t take long to realize we were finally getting the first great event of the year. As good as the Pay-Per-View portion of the evening was, the prelims were even better. At least as far as the quality and entertainment value of the fights on display. Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier put on arguably the fight of the year or at least round of the year until Alvarez hit Poirier with two illegal knees. The fight was called a no contest despite clear evidence that at least the last knee was blatantly illegal. Dustin may be able to get that changed to a DQ win in an appeal. But before that moment Poirier was dominating Alvarez in his first fight since losing the belt to McGregor. It looked like ‘Diamond’ was close to putting an end to the fight but Alvarez continued to show hes at his best when hes getting hit by anyone not named Conor. It just makes him mad and punch harder. Which he did and turned it into a back and forth brawl that could’ve gone either way until those damn knees. Even if the fight gets overturned I wouldn’t mind seeing them run it back to get some closure. Both guys upped their value with that scrap.
In the fight before that Jason Knight defeated Chas Skelly by TKO in the third round but it was a thrilling back and forth affair before that. Both guys landing on the feet and finding success on the ground. Knight, known lovingly as ‘Hick Diaz’ as a reference to his toughness and fighting style similarities to the Diaz brothers, was constantly scrambling on the ground looking for submissions but it was his gas tank that eventually got him the win. Skelly got tired, Knight didn’t, and that was enough for him to put the finishing touches on the fight. It was the people’s fight of the night even if the actual fight of the night honors went to Chase Sherman and Rashad Coulter. Those guys put on a show as well but that was more of a sloppy brawl between two heavyweights that probably aren’t quite good enough to be on the UFC roster. But Coulter showed toughness coming in to fight on late notice and fighting through serious damage he received from Sherman’s leg kicks. Sherman should’ve just kept spamming those kicks because when he wasn’t doing that he was almost getting knocked out by overhand rights. The short notice might’ve played a role in the end of the fight as well when he got knocked out by a standing elbow. He collapsed to the ground but it appeared to be more from exhaustion and his leg giving out than being knocked out cold. The rest of the fights were entertaining as well but they’re not worth getting into the details. You had to be there and if you were, you enjoyed yourself.