UFC 202 featured an instant classic in the main event between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz. There has been all sorts of talk about what is next for those competitors, McGregor in particular. We'll delve into them a little bit at the end of the article, but there were eleven other contests on the card that will have consequences. Certainly the seismic waves they produce are minor compared to what the McGregor and Diaz fight produced, but we'll take a look at them nonetheless.
The format is very similar to what Zane did when he was in charge of the Hindsight series. A quick rundown of what was expected along with a brief summary of what happened. Then I take a look at what to expect for each contestant moving forward with the winner being listed first. Let's get down to business!
- Expectations/Results: Though this was largely a toss-up, most pundits seemed to be picking Vettori due to his youth and more well-rounded approach. They ended up right. Uda was too comfortable on his back and took a beating from the young Italian before Vettori snatched a guillotine and fell to his back to elicit a tap.
- Vettori: He was absolutely dominant. While it doesn't mean he is going to be a world-beater as Uda is nothing special, he couldn't have started his UFC career in a better way. I'm much more enthusiastic for his future as he demonstrated heavy ground-and-pound in addition to some submission savvy. He has a bright future.
- Uda: The days of finding success by letting your opponent hang out in your guard are long gone. He doesn't utilize his long reach effective enough either. He's out of the UFC and I'm positive in stating that we'll never see him again.
- Expectations/Results: What happened is exactly what was expected. Griffin did have a little bit of success in the opening minute or two when he was able to stand and trade with the reputable collegiate wrestler. Covington was able to keep the fight on the ground from there, dominating the newcomer Griffin with positioning in the latter half of the first round and ground-and-pound from there.
- Covington: I don't want to comment on his wrestling and ground-and-pound. We know about those things already. What I do want to mention is the progress that we saw on the feet. He wasn't dominant by any means, but he was holding his own with Griffin and even put the striker on his heels briefly in the second round. I don't buy Covington's claim that he will become the most well-rounded fighter in the division, but he is making strides.
- Griffin: I don't want to say that he doesn't belong in the UFC just yet. I was never very impressed with his wrestling to begin with and he performed just as I expected in that area. Joe Silva should match him up with a fellow striker and expect fireworks to fly. If he loses that one, I feel comfortable saying he shouldn't be in the UFC.
- Expectations/Results: This was surprising. Not so much that Larkin won even though Magny was the favorite. The way that Larkin picked apart Magny, who had established himself as a top ten fighter is what was surprising. Larkin annihilated Magny's leg so that he couldn't stand on it, battering it with so many kicks that his own shin busted open. In no way shape or form was Magny competitive.
- Larkin: Larkin gambled on himself and won big. He's entering free agency and ensured that he gets the highest possible paycheck from whoever wishes to solicit his services. He threw a wide variety of strikes at Magny - including some powerful front kicks that knocked Magny on his ass - isolating Magny's leg once he realized it was giving out. I hope he can build off of this performance rather than this being a plateau. He could become a serious contender.
- Magny: This is more deflating than his loss to Demian Maia. Larkin is a great striker, but no one would say that he is THE elite striker the way that Maia is THE elite grappler. It's hard to find anything positive for him to take out of this. It will be difficult to build himself back up to the level he was at before this fight, but it is certainly doable. Another welterweight who suffered a devastating loss on the card that will certainly cause him to drop in the standings. Anyone else up to see Magny tangle with Rick Story?
- Expectations/Results: Expected to be a close contest that went to the wire, Casey took advantage of Markos aggressiveness to secure a finish with less than a minute to go in the first round. Markos left an arm out there for the taking following Markos sweeping Casey onto her back and Casey secured an armbar from guard to get a verbal submission from Markos.
- Casey: I had ripped on Casey for her willingness to hang out in guard in my preview heading into this fight. However, this was a bit different as she was swept into the position and she wasted no time securing the arm. Now with consecutive wins after opening her UFC career with consecutive losses, Casey is marking herself as one to watch. I only see her topping out as a top ten fighter in the division, but I have been wrong before. I like the idea of her fighting Michelle Waterson if the Karate Hottie can stay healthy.
- Markos: I can't see Markos making a run up the standings after this loss. She has alternated wins and losses since coming off of TUF, falling short every time she gets a step up in competition. Considering she was favored in this contest, this was probably her most disappointing loss. She still has a place as a fun action fighter, but she has lost all of the momentum she accrued from TUF.
- Expectations/Results: This contest had a fun premise as Lobov came from McGregor's camp and Avila trains with the Diaz brothers, but those in the know weren't expecting much in terms of high-quality action. Avila was tentative with the majority of his punches coming just short while the much more experienced Lobov connected at a higher clip as he kept the pressure on the youngster.
- Lobov: I'll give Lobov credit. He made great use of leg kicks and used good head movement to avoid Avila's strikes. Despite that, I still feel like Lobov is one of the least talented fighters on the roster. But being fearless and having experience under the bright lights counts for something and Lobov didn't wilt under the spotlight. So long as the UFC feeds him fighters who get the call to the big show too early - like Avila - he'll remain employed. If he goes back to fighting guys who are rightfully in the UFC, he'll soon be back on the regional scene.
- Avila: I admit that I picked Avila due to his massive reach advantage and the probability that he would improve significantly from his last fight thanks to his inexperience. I also acknowledged that he may not have been ready to leave the smaller stage. The latter proved to be true. He had zero response for Lobov's leg kicks and didn't put enough commitment into his own attack. I'm sure he'll get another fight as it is rare the UFC cuts someone after one fight. Don't expect him to win. He may find success in the UFC someday, I just don't think it will be in his first run.
- Expectations/Results: This felt like a contest to help Pennington gather more momentum as she is a favorite of Dana White. Not that Phillips couldn't win. It's just that it felt like Pennington did everything Phillips did just a bit better. That's how the fight played out as Pennington was more accurate with her strikes and had more success in the wrestling department in a contest fought mostly in the clinch without any definitive moments.
- Pennington: I like the progress Pennington has made since making it to the UFC. She has avenged one loss to Jessica Andrade with her other loss coming to former champion Holly Holm. Don't get me wrong, she isn't a contender. She is a top ten fighter in a shallow division who will give contenders a run for their money while turning away pretenders. With three wins in a row, I'll be shocked if she isn't given an opportunity against the likes of former title challengers Sara McMann or Liz Carmouche.
- Phillips: To be fair, Phillips did look better against Pennington than she did in dispatching Jessamyn Duke, indicating improvement. That said, she still feels like she is in the bottom tier of the division. She faded following a competitive first round, never seriously threatening in any way after a first round guillotine attempt. There are some winnable fights for her out there, but she could also end up being cut. If she can avoid the chopping block, contests with Sarah Moras or Lauren Murphy make a lot of sense.
- Expectations/Results: There were mixed feelings about this contest. Some felt Mizugaki would provide a stern test against the young phenom. Others felt Garbrandt was far superior physically and would quickly dispose of the aging veteran. The latter proved to be true as Garbrandt's hand speed overwhelmed Mizugaki in less than a minute as the Japanese representative was saved from going out cold only by the referee.
- Garbrandt: I have to give Garbrandt credit. He has marketed himself well enough that he has likely leaped ahead of former teammate TJ Dillashaw for a title shot against Dominick Cruz. While Dillashaw may be more deserving, his refusal to promote is costing him an opportunity to regain the belt many felt he never rightfully lost. Garbrandt has called out Cruz at every opportunity and that resulted in the FS1 broadcast hyping a potential contest with Cruz. I think it is safe to say he's getting the next shot. I'd rather see Dillashaw and Cruz go at it for a second time and have Garbrandt challenge Bryan Caraway to be the #1 contender, but I don't make these decisions.
- Mizugaki: Going off of his last four fights, it appears Mizugaki's days as a ranked fighter are over with the now-released George Roop representing his lone win in that time. Then again, Dominick Cruz, Aljamain Sterling, and Garbrandt are all quality opponents. Still, he hasn't posed much of a challenge for any of them and the UFC needs to stop giving him top ten opponents. Putting him on the senior circuit with the likes of Johnny Eduardo and Frankie Saenz would be appropriate. Perhaps he can continue to be a gatekeeper, just not at the level he once was.
- Expectations/Results: Homasi accepted the fight on just over a week's notice. As such, he wasn't given much of a chance against the experienced veteran Means. Those expectations came to life as Means picked him apart from a distance and busted him up with elbows and knees in the clinch. Homasi was a bloody mess by the time the referee stepped in to end the onslaught.
- Means: Coming back from his suspension, Means was looking to make a statement and he did just that. There wasn't an area on the feet that Means didn't dominate the contest. Once Means was able to hurt Homasi, it was only a matter of time. With six wins in his last seven contests, Means deserves a noteworthy opponent. Keep in mind he was scheduled to face Donald Cerrone before the drug test failure. Zane suggested Santiago Ponzinibbio which would be a lot of fun to watch, but I favor Ryan LaFlare as Means should be tested against a wrestler, something he has struggled with in the past.
- Homasi: Homasi didn't look bad in the first round. He took Means down a couple of times and landed his fair share of strikes. I think part of it was simply the adrenaline dump that often comes with UFC debutants. I expected he'd wash out in short order, but overall I liked what I saw out of him in the first round. If he continues to mix takedowns with his powerful strikes, he could be a fixture in the mid-tier of the division.
- Expectations/Results: Perry had the deck stacked against him. He's still exceedingly green and had only two weeks to prepare for the contest. It didn't matter. He knocked the massive Korean to the mat three times in less than four minutes as Lim rushed in time and again only to be countered by the newcomer. It was a shocking outcome as there were few who believed that Perry was ready for the big stage.
- Perry: There was never any doubt that Perry had talent. It just didn't seem like the talent had been properly developed after watching his fights on the regional scene. While I want to fault Lim for walking into the same kind of counters time and again, Perry did his part to time them correctly. Plus, I liked the crucifix he put on Lim as well. There are still things the youngster needs to iron out before I'm willing to declare him a hot prospect, but he's got the tools to do it. It will be very interesting to see who the UFC matches him up with next.
- Lim: I'm willing to forgive the first time he got dropped. Maybe even the second occasion. There is absolutely no excuse for him rushing in to be dropped a third time. Lim has never learned how to use his length and it cost him dearly here. As sad as it is to say considering the promise he once showed, he could be cut. I think he'll survive as bouts with the likes of Kyle Noke and Brandon Thatch make a lot of sense, but Lim has damn near fought himself out of the UFC.
Donald Cerrone defeated Rick Story via TKO at 2:02 of RD2
- Expectations/Results: I'm not going to hide from it. I picked Story going into this. I thought he was going to be too big for the former lightweight and would expose Cerrone's weakness to body shots. I could not have been more wrong. Cerrone set the tone right away with a surprising takedown to start out the fight and tore up Story from the outside and in the pocket. Story paid a heavy price any time he tried to go to his wheelhouse in the clinch and began to show hesitancy to do so. Cerrone ended his night with a beautiful combination to be the first man to stop Story with strikes.
- Cerrone: I thought Cerrone would just be dallying in the welterweight division as a way to get more fights to make more money. I was dead wrong as Cowboy is proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with. He's never looked better as he is deadly from all ranges at this juncture and has truly mastered the use of the step-in knee. Damn. He's expressed an interest in going back down to challenge Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title. Considering he is the only one to beat the champ in the UFC, it isn't a hard to believe proposition. However, his team and Dana White want him to stay at 170. With that said, I don't think he is getting Alvarez next. Cerrone already has some bad blood with McGregor. Why not manipulate that and pair him with McGregor's teammate Gunnar Nelson? Others have suggested pairing him with Lorenz Larkin which is also a great idea, but I'm going to be in the minority and call for Nelson.
- Story: And just like that, Story's resurgence was over. I didn't think Story was going to challenge for the title, but I thought he could end up hovering around the top five as he became more of a boxer and less of a thrower. He should be able to stick around the top ten for a few more years and continue in his seemingly eternal role as a gatekeeper. I'd love to see him try to rebound against another top ten welterweight who came crashing down in Magny. But that seems like a fight that makes so much sense that it isn't going to happen.
- Expectations/Results: 90% of the MMA world expected a KO of some sort with the other 10% thinking a submission by Teixeira was plausible. Of the 90% expecting a KO, about 80% expected Johnson to unleash his ungodly power upon Teixeira. One right uppercut from Johnson later, Teixeira was out cold and missing a tooth. I'm not surprised at the end result... but thirteen seconds!? Wow. The end result didn't leave much to analyze besides what to do next.
- Johnson: The original thought would be that Johnson was getting the next title shot against Daniel Cormier even if Jon Jones suspension only lasts six months. The UFC doesn't want to set a bad precedent by giving a title shot to someone coming off of a drug suspension, even if it turns out to be due to a tainted supplement. However, Dana White has tossed around the idea of matching Johnson with Jones rather than Cormier. While I admit I really want to see that match, who does Cormier defend against? There is no one else in the neighborhood of deserving a title shot. Cormier hasn't defended his belt since last October. He can't not defend it, especially with all the turmoil surrounding McGregor. Expect Cormier to rematch Johnson and Jones to return against Alexander Gustafsson as there is still high interest in seeing that rematch.
- Teixeira: The Brazilian got caught by the most powerful striker currently in the sport. I hope Teixeira is alright with fighting strictly for money now as I don't see him challenging for a title ever again. There isn't an obvious fight to make for him at this juncture. I wouldn't want to go with Shogun Rua as I'd rather use Shogun's name to build up an up-and-comer. But who else is available? It'll probably be either Shogun or Lil' Nog due to a lack of options. Eventually I'd like to see Teixeira fight Gustafsson, but that probably won't happen for a while.
Conor McGregor defeated Nate Diaz via majority decision
- Expectations/Results: Fighters and analysts seemed to be siding with Diaz while fans appeared to be choosing McGregor. Fans were right on this one, but the fight was close enough that those that picked Diaz had nothing to be ashamed about. In fact, the fight was an instant classic with the near finishes and momentum swings that you would hope for in a 25-minute war. The outcome left no doubt in anyone's mind that a third fight would happen. The question is simply when.
- McGregor: McGregor deserves a lot of credit for this victory. He executed a smart strategy heavy on leg kicks and counters. It was expected that the longer the fight went the greater it would favor Diaz. That proved to be true, but McGregor was still able to steal the fourth round when Diaz was having vision problems. If he continues to fight as smart as he did here, the loss to Diaz could be the best thing to ever happen to his career. Whether he decides to defend his featherweight belt or vacates it to try for the lightweight title is up to him at this point, but it would be silly to underestimate the Notorious One at this point.
- Diaz: Like most fighters, Diaz didn't want to make excuses. Like most fighters, Diaz did make excuses anyway. Something did seem amiss as it took him a while to find his rhythm, longer than it did in the first fight so there appears to be some validity to his claim that he fought injured. I also believe that he would have performed better in the fourth round had blood not continually ran into his eyes, but that is part of the game just as injuries are. He lost the fight fair and square. He seems adamant that he won't fight again until he gets the rubber match and I'm fine with that. He made $2 million for this fight, getting exactly what he wanted. And to think, his base pay just this past December was $20K to show and $20K to win. How times have changed...
Those are my collected thoughts. We've got a long list of events coming up and here is hoping I can keep up with the barrage of events seeing as how the UFC doesn't offer a week off until October. Until next time!