UFC 214 was another excellent event, where some truly elite talent got to shine.
We witnessed absolute greatness from this show. It’s yet another event where there was a bit of everything for everyone, with some history-making moments and true top-level action.
True, not every fight was a violence carnival — or whatever the Just Bleed crowd thinks the sport should be — but we got one of the best main card lineups in recent memory that for the greater part, actually delivered. Let’s face it, the UFC has not had a truly great year due to various factors. This was more than a breath of fresh air, it’s a shot in the arm that accomplishes the task of setting up the best against the best and pleasing fans all around.
And the UFC really doesn’t have anything to complain about. Imperfect, but still amazing? It’s a compromise we should gladly take. And for one night – even if only for that one night – the seemingly impossible task of overshadowing the farce that is Mayweather vs McGregor actually happened. Not via controversy or manufactured conflict, but through the highest exponents of the sport putting everything on the line. If you were a lapsed fan that needed a reminder of why you liked the sport in the first place, this event had plenty of reasons for that.
Jon Jones – He had a bit of a rough patch in this fight, taking more damage than he may have expected. For a rematch, it seemed like Cormier was able to find more opportunities to land shots than before. Jones was in a bit of trouble, but continued to show he has an iron chin, landed a wide array of strikes and kept Cormier guessing for most of the fight. The headkick that led to the final assault was picture perfect, and his follow-up was vicious. The show of respect towards Cormier after the fight and recognition of his personal failings was one thing, but the gratitude towards those around him really made for a bigger moment. Jones essentially completed the elite MMA post-fight trifecta – wins a fight in spectacular fashion, heaps praise on his opponent while showing respect, and calls out another opponent that’s for an even bigger fight. Everything came up aces tonight for Jones, and the sport is richer for having him back and in top form.
Cris Cyborg – For the past few years I wondered if the UFC needed Cyborg more than she needed them. She was out in the wilderness while Ronda Rousey was killing the game, but was kept on the Zuffa payroll while she was in Invicta and made her way to the UFC to continue brutalizing the opposition. Justino nailed Evinger with heavy damage, eventually causing Tonya’s body to quit. After being villainized and being called “Wanderlei in a dress“, she’s wearing UFC gold – and it was Dana White himself that had to put that belt around her waist. Another fighter that won extra big here, considering she fought the most legit opponent she’s faced since the Marloes Coenen rematch, gets the title for the division that was pretty much created for her, and she’s got a contract negotiation coming up. I can’t overstate how much of a boon this is for her.
Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone – I can respect the opinion of those that disagree with the decision, but you can’t deny that both fighters had their profile elevated here. Robbie bounces back from this knockout title loss while Cerrone bounces back from the Masvidal loss. Can we really complain? We got a dream match that fans were salivating over, and the only thing that disappointed was that this wasn’t a five-round fight. Massive props to both gentlemen. With Maia’s loss and Condit’s inactivity, Cerrone may not even move an inch in either direction in the rankings. Normally, that would put him in the “neither” category, but this fight was too good and there’s a good argument for him earned the decision here as well. As for Lawler, we’ll have to see what the matchmakers have to say.
Volkan Oezdemir – Coming in at #5 and taking on #3 in your third UFC fight? Not bad. Even better, he’s got two consecutive finishes and continues to upset the betting lines. He wasn’t “supposed” to win in any of his three UFC wins, but here we are. From a short left hand to a big shot that led to the knockdown, Volkan shows an ability to do big damage even in a short space. The follow-up shots on the ground really had malice behind them, and Oezdemir might – might – be knocking on the door of a title fight.
Ricardo Lamas – Lamas seemed more annoyed than anything at Jason Knight’s leg attack game, and promptly dominated once the fight became a striking battle again. After that, it looked like target practice. Two straight wins since the loss to Max Holloway last June in what ended as a barnburner, and Lamas isn’t slowing down. It’s almost like he’s really in his prime now, and he solidifies his position at #3 in his division. Shame that the #1 and 2 fighters are currently in limbo, but he may leapfrog them both for a rematch against the champion. Maybe.
Aljamain Sterling – Sterling’s UFC record is now 6-2, and he managed to put the hurt on a former champion that had been dominant for most of his career. Sterling didn’t just capitalize on the ground with his positional control and striking, but he ended up getting the better of Barao on the feet. While Sterling’s striking isn’t the best, it was functional enough to disrupt Barao’s timing and get through to do damage. Much like featherweight, the top of the bantamweight division is a bit complicated right now, but he should move up a spot or two.
Brian Ortega – Ortega’s got a tendency to be reckless, but he can take a shot and refuses to get outworked. He was able to go toe-to-toe with the more technical striker and snatch up a fantastic submission win. He remains undefeated with four straight UFC wins in his pocket.
Invicta FC – We just saw a champion vs champion Invicta bout, only on a UFC PPV. It’s a testament to Invicta’s scouting and work keeping the women’s scene active, allowing for Evinger’s career resurgence and Cyborg’s evolution. Shannon Knapp’s kind words after the fight add to that, and their contribution to the sport cannot be overstated.
Drew Dober came back big from his last fight, a submission loss to Olivier Aubin-Mercier. A knockout against a veteran does well in management’s eyes, so he’s good here. Calvin Kattar gave Fili more than he might have expected, and now has nine straight wins with a good win for his UFC debut against a recognizable fighter. Aleksandra Albu took a lot of damage, but ended up with the win to remain undefeated as well. Another undefeated fighter is Jarred Brooks, who finally makes it to the UFC after bouncing around international organizations to earn a win over a fighter that did well on one of the most talent-rich seasons of TUF.
Jimi Manuwa – So much for the David Haye thing, amirite? No? Well, that was a brutal loss, and even in a division like light heavyweight it sets him back quite a bit. Oezdemir may not be Rumble Johnson, but he found the off switch. This kind of loss undoes a lot of the good work he’s done as of late. Manuwa may fall a few spots considering the moving pieces in the top ten right now. And his teammate Alexander Gustafsson may get the next title shot as well. Not good for Jimi.
Jason Knight – Not sure if Knight stumbled here or actually hit his ceiling. He lost his UFC debut and rattled off four straight wins. If this were a decision loss, it wouldn’t be so bad. But a loss like this shows he may not be ready for the elite of the division, at least not yet. He wasn’t as competitive as many felt he could be, and this loss could have him tumble in the division, even if only for a bit.
Renan Barao – The dropoff here has been really sad to witness, and it’s hard to tell how much longer he should even be fighting for. Barao took a lot of damage on the ground and had few answers. For a fighter with a career as long as his, it’s clear his prime is over. His game got figured out, though. The Dillashaw fights ruined him, and now the blueprint for beating him is out there. He has nothing to be ashamed of, though. He was defiant to the end, especially with that back take. Well, at least we’ll always have this.
Renato Moicano – Despite being 3-1 in the UFC and this being his first professional loss overall, he takes a bit of a hit here. After remaining technical and winning a lot of the exchanges standing, that ill-advised takedown now raises questions about his fight IQ and how well he’d fare against the top fighters in the division. Getting submitted by one of the best BJJ players in the sport is what it is, but getting careless in your approach like that sets him back, even after the win over Jeremy Stephens.
Eric Shelton ends up with his second straight loss, leading to a 0-2 start to his UFC run. I personally hope he sticks around, because he’s talented and can put on some great performances. These losses haven’t been a representation of his talents. Andre Fili has been alternating wins and losses throughout his UFC run, and continues to have trouble against larger pressure fighters or guys that are better overall athletes than him. Kailin Curran showed some great now wrinkles to her game, but it isn’t enough. All five of her losses have happened in the UFC, and she’s almost guaranteed to be released. Here’s hoping she gets a shot at Invicta and is able to turn things around. Josh Burkman is definitely getting cut after his fourth straight loss and a 1-6 (1NC) UFC record. That no-contest was the beating of a lifetime issued by Hector Lombard, which was overturned. I was worried for Burkman’s overall health and well-being after that fight, and it hasn’t gotten better. Let’s hope he’s able to recover from all of this.
Dishonorable mention – Joe Rogan: I have a lot of love and respect for Joe, but come on, man. He’s discussed not interviewing fighters that had been knocked out, and still pushed to interview Cormier, who was clearly not totally there and emotionally distressed. At least Cormier didn’t answer with names of random perfumes. His attempt at explaining his reasoning after the fact wasn’t good, either. Dude was concussed, and I really hope he sticks to his previous position from here on in. Leave the guy alone if he’s been slept.
Daniel Cormier – As noble kilt-wearer Iain Kidd mentioned on the Three Amigos Podcast (which you really should be listening to), Cormier’s greatest misfortune is being one of the best ever fighting in the era of the best ever. During Jones’ absence, he defeated the other top two men seen as the greatest threats to Jones. Cormier has been an exceptional talent and got some great offense in this time, even reversing a takedown and tagging Jones with some brutal shots. It wasn’t enough, but how bad is it to have your only two losses be to a man that could very well be the greatest of all time? This loss puts him in a strange sort of limbo where he may not get another shot against Jones as long has Jon holds the belt, but he could pair up well against any other fighter in the division. He’s not done, not by any measure. He’ll just need some time off and maybe move up to heavyweight depending on how things go for his teammate Cain Velasquez.
Tyron Woodley – Let’s get the first part out of the way – Woodley shutting out Maia’s takedown game for the entirety of a five-round fight was an outstanding accomplishment. There’s no argument against that one point. Woodley was cautious and countered Maia’s game beautifully. Problem is, it wasn’t exciting. Then again, I look at this the way I did when Woodley fought Jordan Mein in Strikeforce – it takes two for a fight to be good or terrible. Be mad at him all you want, the other guy stuck to one thing. There’s no magic rage meter attack that Woodley could have pulled off to end the fight in an instant. He wasn’t going to needlessly go to the ground, and preferred to have his opponent gas himself out while winning on the feet. Rag on the fight for not being exciting, it’s a fair assessment to make. Not every fight is going to be Takayama/Frye. Besides, Americans love tension. It confuses me why that doesn’t seem to MMA as often. American football is wrought with it, having a lot of buildup during the course of play. Hell, westerns work the same way, with a lot of tension that leads to even the smallest detail bringing out a reaction from the viewer. This wasn’t the staring contest that the second fight against Wonderboy was, it was more like their first fight. And it worked. From a technical perspective, this was a good fight. It’s not Tyron’s fault that it looked like a sparring session, at least not entirely. Woodley still has the belt, and anyone that doesn’t like that is free to root against him. That’s fine. He’s not getting paid to be reckless, he’s getting paid to compete and win. It doesn’t do him any favors and public opinion of him wasn’t exactly amazeballs to begin with. He stays in a holding pattern. As for his opponent?
Demian Maia – Again, not the most exciting bout. Then again, look at the murderer’s row he went through to get here and how easy he made successive fight look. Think about that, and don’t this fight color your perception of him as a fighter nor where he stands in the division. Sure, as I mentioned above, he got shut out. That says more about Woodley than it does about Maia, but seeing as all the hate is being heaped on Woodley, Maia’s image and standing take no damage whatsoever from a public relations perspective. Much like Cormier, the window is closing for his career, and he may not get another shot. That doesn’t mean he’s washed up or that he can’t get another title shot under some funky circumstances. It’s happened before.
Tonya Evinger – Aside from this being her UFC debut, she hung in there against one of the most feared women on the planet, held her own and never mentally broke. It wasn’t until exhaustion and damage did their job that she was unable to fight back. Was it pretty? No, Evinger’s game isn’t pretty overall, but she managed to land some decent shots and a takedown in a fight where she wasn’t expected to be competitive. Did I mention that this isn’t even her weight class? And that she was open to taking this fight back when both were still in Invicta? Much like Cerrone, she earns a ton of respect and gets a UFC contract.