UFC 209 was a night of “what ifs.” What if Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson decided to fight in the final round instead of hoping for a decision victory? What if Rashad Evans had done the same, and went for the knockout early? What if Khabib Nurmagomedov’s weight cut didn’t force him out of the fight? Now the lightweight division remains in disarray.
Let’s dive into our UFC 209 takeaways with the speed precision of an Alistair Overeem knee to the face. Unlike Evans and Thompson, there was a guy who wanted to win a fight.
Rashad Evans: Too Little, Too Late
Evans finally let his hands loose in the final moments of the third round, but it was too late by then. Daniel Kelly stayed busy and flustered Evans with his left-handed stance. Kelly jabbed and dictated the pace of the fight, landing several hard punches. Evans’s body looked like a million dollars, but he never really let loose until the end of the fight. He landed a few combinations as the fight ended. Evans in his next fight needs to get busy earlier and trust his hands. Evans was fighting like a guy who didn’t want to get knocked out, but fighting overly defensive can also cost a fighter.
Kelley has just enough of an awkward style to be dangerous. He’s tough, strong and slippery, which means he can go deep in the middleweight division.
Hunt Should Stop Finger-Pointing
Mark Hunt has a right to complain about fighting guys who have tested positive for performance enhancement drugs. He also needs to focus more on himself. Hunt didn’t look like he was ready to fight Alistair Overeem. Hunt basically stalked Overeem, hoping to land one big punch. Hunt was gassed by the second round, and it cost him the fight. There’s really only one way to beat Overeem – push the action and hit him on the chin. Overeem is too skilled from the outside to expect an easy one-punch counter knockout.
Hunt will probably never win the UFC heavyweight championship. But if he has a chance of getting a title shot, he will need to get into better physical shape, and fight one-round fights — knockout or be knocked out. He’s not going to win a lot of fights going the distance against who are better conditioned and more well-rounded as fighters.
Alistair Overeem Deserves Another Title Shot
Overeem fought smart and exploited Hunt’s weaknesses. Overeem might be the best heavyweight in the division, if only he had a chin. So knowing that he can’t take a big punch, Overeem fought from the outside and then from the clinch, where he clobbered Hunt with Muay Thai knees. Overeem fought to his strengths. Overeem has a shot against any heavyweight in the world if he can fight a perfect fight. He showed Saturday night that if he sticks to a game plan, he can win. Overeem was clearly the star of the main card.
Khabib Nurmagomedov Choked
Weight cuts are difficult, but when you are looking to win the lightweight championship and gain $500,000, you need to find a way to show up. This was his big moment, a chance to win the title and prove that he was championship material. It’s too bad that he had a health a problem related to his weight cut because this could have been his big night to shine through and send a message to Conor McGregor.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson Failed to Pull the Trigger
Thompson had the fight won, but then he got careless in the final round and lost the fight, while nearly getting knocked out. Here’s the thing: You can’t expect to win the championship by coasting. You have to go out there and take the title from your opponent. Thompson was winning a close fight, but he needed that final round, and failed to deliver. Thompson isn’t going to get a rematch after that weak performance. His best bet is to win his next fight and hope for a Woodley loss because NO ONE wants to see a guy try to win a championship on points.
Tyron Woodley Won’t Gain Any New Fans
Woodley has no one to blame but himself for his lack of popularity. He didn’t actually go out there looking to defend his championship. He was looking to skate to a decision victory. Woodley was outpunched and out-skilled in the fight, and short of a takedown and right hand, he would have lost. If Woodley ever wants to gain popularity with the fans, he’s going to have to put together a few fights with some convincing knockouts. Woodley showed heart in digging deep to land a right hand, but it’s not going to overcompensate for his lackluster performance before that point. Woodley needs to go for the knockout early in his next fight because the first time he gets in there with someone who wants to fight, not get by with a decision victory, he’s going to have trouble.