Dive into all the happenings of UFC 214, from Drew Dober’s opening KO to the epic conclusion of the Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier rivalry.
Though it wasn’t all good, UFC 214 had to be considered a huge success for a UFC that is desperate for eyes at this point. Conor McGregor is chasing more money than any MMA fighter will be getting in this lifetime in pursuit of a different sport. Ronda Rousey doesn’t appear like she’ll be coming back any time soon. But at least Jon Jones is back…and is he ever back! Jones effectively ended his rivalry with Daniel Cormier by finishing off the light heavyweight champion with a brutal head kick in the third round and reestablishing himself as the best fighter on the planet. Of course, there were several other happenings on Saturday…
Here’s my thoughts on UFC 214, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.
Drew Dober defeated Joshua Burkman via KO at 3:04 of RD1
- Expectations: Burkman has been showing low energy levels and declining durability, making it difficult for anyone to trust him after a career where he is closing in on 50 professional contests. It was touch and go the first three minutes with clinch work and leg kicks being exchanged, but Dober found an opening about three minutes in that put Burkman to sleep with a single punch, picking up the biggest name in his career, even if Burkman is shot.
- Dober: Dober has made steady progress the last year and a half, continually looking like he could end up making a run at the official rankings. He still has a way to go before that happens, but Dober’s increased power adds a dimension that wasn’t a part of his arsenal before. Before last year, Dober had gone six years without a TKO/KO victory. Now he has two in his last three fights since September. If he can shore up his takedown defense, Dober making a run into the official rankings isn’t as far-fetched as it might initially sound.
- Burkman: Since Burkman returned to the UFC, he has one victory in eight tries. He never should have even been granted this contest. We already know what Burkman has left to offer: nothing. His roster spot should have gone to a youngster whom we don’t know much about. Maybe we would have been pleasantly surprised by someone else. Burkman can’t take damage the way he used to and looks listless in the cage. Please, someone get him out of the UFC!
Jarred Brooks defeated Eric Shelton via split decision
- Expectations: Many hardcore fans were anticipating this contest quite a bit as both Shelton and Brooks are fantastic athletes and high energy. It didn’t play out that way. Brooks circled around Shelton looking for takedown openings, finding success early on. Shelton began getting Brooks’ timing down, landing some hard shots and prodding at Brooks with his jab. Though it was a close contest with Brooks taking the decision, most would agree Shelton was the rightful winner.
- Brooks: I saw nothing out of Brooks to make me believe he’s deserving of being the hyped prospect many see him as. Outside of a counter combination in the second round, nothing in his striking indicated he can be a threat on his feet. Once Shelton realized takedowns were the only thing Brooks was going for, he stuffed Brooks time and again. Brooks’ toughness and persistence were enough to fool the judges this time, but he’ll need more in the future.
- Shelton: Though a bit of aggression would have done Shelton some good, I was impressed with the progress he showed. His timing on his counters looked improved. He showed good power. His submission defense wasn’t bad either. Shelton should be celebrating his first UFC win, but instead we’re wondering if he’ll be brought back onto the UFC roster. If the UFC is smart, they’ll recognize his potential and the BS of this decision and give him one more opportunity.
Alexandra Albu defeated Kailin Curran via unanimous decision
- Expectations: Albu had fought once in four years on the UFC roster, making it impossible for fans and writers alike to know what to expect out of the Russian. However, given Curran’s inability to put together a complete performance led to many picking Albu. It ended up being an all offense, no defense affair. Albu was the aggressor taking the fight right to Curran. Curran struggled early with Albu’s pressure before finally finding her own range. Curran took the last round on the strength of a strong top game, but Albu’s aggression gave her the first two rounds and the victory.
- Albu: While Albu’s performance was highly entertaining, there were a lot of holes that she’ll need to address before she can make a run up the division. Her head movement was nonexistent and she did a poor job of conserving her gas tank. She lucked out that Curran couldn’t finish her in the final round. Also, who pulls guard when winning the striking battle? Apparently Albu does. However, she showed more power in her punches than I thought she would, hurting Curran on multiple occasions. She showed some improved clinch work too. If she can learn to push a proper pace and develop some head movement, she could become a mainstay in the rankings.
- Curran: What irritates me the most with Curran is her absolute lack of a process. What was her game plan? She let Albu dictate where the fight took place, even when Curran spent the majority of the third round in top position as Albu effectively gave her the position. Now she’s sitting at 1-5 in the UFC. She is still young, but needs more seasoning. I said this last time, I’ll say it again: let her go to Invicta for more seasoning.
Calvin Kattar defeated Andre Fili via unanimous decision
- Expectations: Though most expected the contest to be entertaining, Fili was anticipated to light up his short-notice opponent before the end of the contest. Kattar was not only there until the very end, he was the one doing the lighting up. Kattar never had Fili in any real danger, but he was landing the cleaner shots as Fili danced around looking for openings. Kattar was patient, landing his jab economically and securing takedowns at the end of a couple of rounds. It wasn’t a runaway victory by any means, but it was enough for Kattar to score a clean sweep on the scorecards.
- Kattar: Can’t say I know anyone that was expecting that performance from the newcomer. Kattar had typically showed a bit of a wild streak on the regional scene that often led to his contests breaking down into a brawl. Perhaps realizing he couldn’t compete with Fili’s power and athleticism, Kattar waited time and again for Fili to come into his range so he could score his offense. Very disciplined approach from Kattar that leaves me curious if we’re going to see more performances like this out of him moving forward.
- Fili: Am I the only one who noticed Fili’s corner yelling at him to go to the southpaw stance? He didn’t seem to listen. When Fili did go southpaw, he did pretty well. Problem is, he spent most of his time orthodox. He’s always been someone of questionable fight IQ and that hasn’t changed in the four years since he came into the UFC. I was sold on Fili emerging as a threat to the top ten following his win over Hacran Dias. Now I don’t think he’s ever going to be more than a gatekeeping action fighter who will pull off the occasional upset thanks to favorable matchups. Kind of a bummer given the high expectations many had for Fili upon his UFC entry.
Brian Ortega defeated Renato Moicano via submission at 2:59 of RD3
- Expectations: Though Moicano was hardly a heavy favorite, he received more picks from the media than Ortega given Ortega’s porous defense and Moicano’s discipline shown against Jeremy Stephens. For two rounds, that’s exactly how it played out. Moicano pieced Ortega up with punching combinations, at times seeming to land three shots to every one of Ortega’s in the second round. Ortega persisted though, staying in the Brazilian’s face and inducing a takedown attempt from Moicano in the third. Though the takedown attempt was successful, Ortega caught Moicano in a guillotine that gave Ortega his record fourth straight third round stoppage.
- Ortega: Why do I keep picking against this man? He doesn’t ever back down, even when he’s clearly on the losing end of exchanges. While that trait has allowed him to remain unbeaten thus far, I can’t see him maintaining this type of success as he moves up the ladder. For the second time in a row, he was down two rounds going into the final frame. Then Moicano hands him the win by going for the ill-advised takedown. Ortega should send Moicano a gift basket as a thank you, seriously. Nonetheless, I admit thar I enjoy watching Ortega do his thing as no one is better at pulling out a last-minute victory and the dude can take some punishment. Plus, it did look like he has sharpened up his standup. Would I be asking for too much if I requested a contest with Cub Swanson for Ortega?
- Moicano: While there is a part of me that wants to chew out Moicano, I’m sure he’s already doing that. Everyone knows Ortega is most comfortable on the ground and Moicano was dominating the standup as it was. Why go to the ground? All I can surmise is he was tired as Ortega forced him into a faster pace than he has pushed in his previous UFC contests. Still, I’m more excited about his future than I was heading into this contest. He was disciplined for two rounds before that, executing a fantastic game plan that would have led to a clear victory had he not suffered the type of mental error that typically plagues young fighters. It’s hard not to expect Moicano to grow from this loss. He’ll be fine moving forward.
Aljamain Sterling defeated Renan Barao via unanimous decision
- Expectations: Though Sterling was the betting favorite, many prognosticators – myself included – thought Barao was a horrible stylistic matchup for the New York native. It appeared we were right early on. Barao outmuscled Sterling in the opening round, getting him to the ground and scoring some effective ground-and-pound. Sterling recovered the next round, taking down Barao – the first time anyone has taken down Barao in his UFC career – and controlling him from the back. Most impressive, he delivered some uncharacteristically heavy elbows to bloody Barao. The third saw Sterling piecing up an exhausted Barao on the feet, securing Sterling’s biggest win to date.
- Sterling: I’m hesitant to say that Sterling has arrived…so I’ll say that he may have arrived. Sterling executed an awesome strategy that saw him wear down the former bantamweight kingpin and flashed huge improvements in his standup and ground striking. However, I’m not completely ready to declare anything since no one knows where Barao is anymore. The Brazilian clearly isn’t an elite fighter anymore, but is he at least a top ten bantamweight? I don’t know. If Barao is still a quality opponent, great win for Sterling. If he isn’t, at least it’s a win for Sterling. All I know for sure is that Sterling is moving in the right direction.
- Barao: Anyone else see this level of decline coming for Barao? I suppose it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise given the high number of fights earlier in his career. In his last six fights, he’s 2-4 with his victories coming over Mitch Gagnon and Phillipe Nover. Yikes. Barao did look good on the scales Friday, giving me reason to believe he could secure a much-needed win. Then the wheels fell off after round one, with Barao offering nothing by the time the third rolled around. Something went off in his head when he lost to T.J. Dillashaw the first time as Barao hasn’t been the same fighter since. It’s a shame as he was a lot of fun to watch back in the day. Now he appears to be a washed up. The one thing I can take for sure out of this contest: Barao needs to stay at featherweight; imagine how much worse he would have appeared had he cut all the way to 135.
Ricardo Lamas defeated Jason Knight via TKO at 4:34 of RD1
- Expectations: Even though I know I perpetually underrate Lamas, I still picked Knight as I’d picked against him in his last few contests only for him to prove me wrong. Basically, I wasn’t comfortable picking either way. It started out competitive enough, Lamas getting an early takedown and Knight having some success from the guard. Lamas rocked Knight with about 90 seconds left in the opening frame and continued to lace Knight with hard punch after hard punch. Miraculously, Knight didn’t go down for quite a while, but that only extended the damage. Knight finally did go down and Lamas finished the job with ground-and-pound.
- Lamas: I guess I’m expecting Lamas to age as he now sits at 35. Why else did I pick against him? Instead, Lamas is aging like a fine wine as an argument could be made his last two performances have been his best. Lamas’ accuracy as Knight tried to stay in the fight was immaculate, seeming to catch Knight with every punch. Bottom line: Lamas did what he did best by capitalizing on the opening Knight provided for him and finished the contest early. Given Lamas has lost to every elite fighter he has faced though – Max Holloway, Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes – it’s hard to see him in the title picture unless Frankie Edgar finds a way to take the belt away from Holloway. Expect Lamas to wait until that fight plays out before scheduling his next fight.
- Knight: Well, we found Knight’s ceiling…at least for now. I can’t say I’m surprised Hick Diaz refused to go down after receiving kill shot after kill shot from Lamas as few have shown more heart than Knight, but I was getting sick after watching him take all the punishment he did. Hopefully Knight has learned there is such a thing as being too tough for your own good. Given his continued progress leading into this contest, I think he’ll learn something from this loss…hopefully some respect for opponent’s punching power. I’m sure it’ll be a while before he’s cleared to fight again, but expect Knight to come back stronger than ever whenever he does get cleared.
Volkan Oezdemir defeated Jimi Manuwa via KO at 0:42 of RD1
- Expectations: Lady Luck had seemingly been Oezdemir’s companion through his first two UFC contests, upsetting Ovince Saint Preux on short notice and disposing of Misha Cirkunov with ease. How much more luck could he have within him? Apparently, a lot more. Manuwa clinched up early, looking to bully Oezdemir. Oezdemir landed a perfect short left hook to the side of Manuwa’s head, stumbling the Englishman from there. Oezdemir followed up with a few more punches as Manuwa went to the ground, putting him out cold to complete the upset.
- Oezdemir: Oezdemir wasn’t even in the UFC at the beginning of 2017. Now he could conceivably be looking at a title shot. WTF? This is as close to a Cinderella story as it gets. And yet…the fans don’t really seem to care. Oezdemir just eliminated the guy that it would make the most sense to give the title shot to and all fans can talk about is either Jon Jones-Brock Lesnar or Jones-Alexander Gustafsson II. I get it, those are intriguing fights. But no love for the perennial underdog? If Oezdemir doesn’t get a title shot, who does he fight next to stay busy? The UFC doesn’t want to eliminate contenders like Oezdemir. Given that, it’s hard to figure out another fight that makes sense.
- Manuwa: Did Manuwa get a little overconfident in the cage? I’d say it’s safe to make that assessment. He paid the price as he’s got a long road ahead of him to jump back into title contention. Well…that would be the case in any other division. Given the shallow nature of the light heavyweight division, it’s plausible that Manuwa could pick up a couple of wins within a year and put himself right back into contention. Seriously, wins over Shogun Rua and Glover Teixeira are plausible and would put Manuwa back in the position he was before this contest. However, it’s also easy to forget that the Poster Boy is already 37 years old. Regardless, Manuwa is still a major player in the division.
Robbie Lawler defeated Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision
- Expectations: How could you expect anything else other than fireworks when two of the all-time great action fighters collide? Nobody really cared who won, though I did notice a slight edge going to Lawler in the picks. Lawler wasted no time engaging, clinching up with a series of hard punches, forcing Cerrone to clinch up in turn to support himself. Cerrone eventually recovered and the fight proceeded as the fans hoped it would, though Lawler’s early flurry gave him the first round. Lawler took the second round off as Cerrone picked him apart, only to recover for a razor-thin final round. All three judges scored in favor of Lawler, though most fans felt robbed that the fight wasn’t five rounds.
- Lawler: Now that is the Robbie Lawler we love and remember! After going five rounds in five of his last six contests before his first round KO loss to Tyron Woodley last year, Lawler looked like he was in major need of a break. Coming back after a year off, Lawler looked like he was having fun in the cage again, something that wasn’t readily apparent in his contests with Woodley and Condit. He was fighting smart too, rocking Cerrone with that early attack and mixing up his punches and kicks expertly to the head and body. Lawler gave no indication that he’s interested in making a run at the title, though he may be pushed into it. Uncle Dana has been less than amused by Woodley’s inactivity during his recent title defenses and may be longing for the days of Lawler’s reign. Don’t be surprised to see the brass try to push Lawler back into a title shot.
- Cerrone: Cerrone may have lost, but his stock went up in this contest. After surviving an early scare from Lawler, we saw a vintage Cerrone throw down with Lawler and we were all entertained. What more did we want from Cerrone? It is encouraging to see him withstand the hard shots Lawler landed on him and still be standing, indicating his chin may not be as eroded as some were speculating. Maybe that had something to do with this being Cerrone’s first contest in six months. One has to believe the time off for Cerrone did him some good as he was very sharp…once he overcame his slow start. So long as Cerrone can remain sharp, I’m fine with him having longer breaks in between fights. Knowing him though, I’m not counting on that.
Cris Cyborg defeated Tonya Evinger via TKO at 1:56 of RD3
- Expectations: Do you really need me to explain what was expected? This is Cyborg! The last featherweight champion opted to vacate the title rather than face her! Evinger looked like all she was trying to do was survive, picking and choosing her opportunities judiciously in between Cyborg’s heat seeking missiles. Evinger was dropped early and rocked on several other occasions, but was determined to be the first to go to decision. Cyborg was patient, never overstepped herself, and eventually landed the kill shot that sent Evinger to the canvas with knees in the clinch. A few followup punches later and it was all she wrote.
- Cyborg: That Evinger lasted until the third round is no reflection that Cyborg is slipping. Cyborg fought a smart fight and wasn’t going to rush anything and risk providing an opening to Evinger. Cyborg made Evinger work for every bit of offense she did land. Even if the fight lasted far longer than your typical Cyborg fight, it was pretty much your typical Cyborg fight. Now the question is who Cyborg faces now that she has the belt. Does Megan Anderson got next? Is there any other featherweight who is worth bringing aboard? Pretty much, all is normal in the normally chaotic world of Cyborg.
- Evinger: Reports came out that Evinger was upset she was unable to go the distance against Cyborg. While I understand where she is coming from, that should tell you all you need to know about her chances of winning. Evinger was game, but it was clear from the very beginning that she was in survival mode. At least it got her into the UFC. She’ll return to the bantamweight division and could end up contending for the title. However, much like Manuwa, Evinger is older than people realize at 36. It isn’t just her age, but Evinger has been in the sport for a long time and hasn’t been easy on her body if the stories of her training habits are to be believed. Time will tell.
Tyron Woodley defeated Demian Maia via unanimous decision
- Expectations: Even though most MMA fans were ecstatic to see Maia finally get a well-deserved title shot, few were happy about the stylistic matchup between him and Woodley. Maia, the best pure grappler in the sport, needed to get Woodley to the ground, something only Rory MacDonald has been able to do in the UFC. Maia did try to get Woodley to the ground – a lot – and proved unsuccessful in 21 attempts to get the fight there. Unfortunately, Woodley didn’t do much else other than stuff takedowns. When he did land the few punches he threw he did damage, as Maia’s eye swelled shut before the first round was over. But Woodley never made an active attempt to end the contest, content to cruise to a decision much to the chagrin of fans and Uncle Dana.
- Woodley: With three successful title defenses, Woodley deserves credit for doing what he needs to do to hold onto the belt, especially given that he tore his labrum early in the contest. Unfortunately, nobody wants to watch him anymore after two of the worst title fights in the history of the UFC back-to-back. As money-driven as the current UFC ownership is, Woodley has effectively killed any motivation they might have had to give him a push. That was evidenced by Dana White declaring he’s lost the opportunity to face Georges St-Pierre with this performance. That would easily have been Woodley’s biggest payday. Woodley may have dug himself a deeper hole with the brass by threatening to blackmail the organization if he doesn’t get a public apology from Uncle Dana. Keep close watch on how this plays out.
- Maia: Even though I expected Maia to lose, I was hoping he’d be able to find some success by getting Woodley to the ground at least once. Nope. Woodley’s All-American wrestling background ensured that didn’t happen and it seems unlikely the 39-year-old BJJ expert is unlikely to ever get another title shot. Kind of a shame considering Maia is one of the ultimate good guys in the sport. It can’t be said that Maia didn’t try to end the contest as he made multiple attempts to get the fight to the ground. That has spared him the same criticism as Woodley as the fight remained where Woodley wanted it to and he sat back on his haunches. Until he begins showing serious decline in durability and skill, look for Maia to serve as the ultimate gatekeeper at welterweight.
Jon Jones defeated Daniel Cormier via KO at 3:01 of RD3
- Expectations: Cormier hadn’t looked as sharp since his loss to Jones, leading many – myself included – to believe that we’ve already seen the best of Cormier. Thus, Jones was an easy pick for me even if he was coming off a 15-month layoff. I was wrong…sort of. Cormier looked to be at his absolute peak, landing punches that sent Jones head rocking back on multiple occasions. Even though Jones was landing more volume – and attacking the body — Cormier’s harder shots had many believing he was winning the fight. Come the third, Jones output went up even more before he scored on a devastating head shot that rocked Cormier. Jones followed up with a series of punches that eventually put Cormier out cold and crowned Jones undisputed champion once again.
- Jones: Jones is back. I won’t say better than ever as he didn’t appear to be at the peak of his powers, but he was pretty damn close to being in prime form. Jones peppered Cormier with kicks and jabs from the opening bell, making it hard to see how Cormier would be able to walk through Jones’ arsenal. When Cormier did walk through, Jones turned up the volume before finally finding the ending head kick that was set up with all the earlier leg and body work. It’s hard to argue he isn’t the GOAT at this point as he disposed of his greatest rival after well over a year away from the sport. The question now is where does he go next? He called out Lesnar which would be a lot of fun, but Lesnar’s status as a retired fighter and remaining suspension isn’t entirely clear. Until we get confirmation from USADA and Lesnar that he is back in the testing pool, I wouldn’t count on that. Gustafsson on the other hand…
- Cormier: It was hard to see Cormier handle the loss the way he did, especially given this was the best iteration of Cormier that we had ever seen. Sure, he took a lot of damage due to Jones’ length, but he also landed harder shots and rocked Jones’ head back on more than one occasion. His performance was that of a great fighter who ran up against the greatest fighter of our generation. Cormier is still an all-time great. He’s just not the GOAT. When Cormier woke up after being KO’d, he was an emotional wreck. He sold himself short when he said there wasn’t a rivalry between him and Jones since Jones won both contests. He did push Jones like no one else has save for Gustafsson. I’m curious to see if Cormier stays at 205, moves up to heavyweight, or retires. I could see all three being plausible. Staying at light heavyweight makes the most sense to me, but I’m not making career choices for him.
Well, those are my thoughts. Until next time…