UFC 203 was the weirdest card that we have seen in a long time. From potential in-cage brawls between opposing corners to elevator accidents killing off bouts, there were all sorts of odd happenings that overshadowed the results within the cage. Not that the action was all that memorable itself, but there were some notable happenings. The decline of Travis Browne from heavyweight contender to a shell of himself continued as Fabricio Werdum showed him zero respect. In the headliner, Stipe Miocic was successful in his first title defense as heavyweight champion, turning away Alistair Overeem within a round.
Now that I've had a few days to process what happened and hear some of the immediate fallout, here's my thoughts on UFC 203, with every fight and fighter involved broken down:
- Expectations/Results: I know most people were picking Medeiros, but I still thought Spencer's consistent striking approach would penetrate Medeiros faulty defense. I thought it largely played out that way the first round, but Medeiros was looking better at the end of the round. He nailed a round kick about 30 seconds into the next round and jumped all over Spencer to finish with a RNC for the win.
- Medeiros: I've thought welterweight would be a better home for him for a while as he tended to fade in his fights and didn't even bother to use his size advantage in the wrestling department. Though he didn't go into deep waters, it looks like my suspicions were confirmed as Medeiros gained steam the deeper the fight went and looked fresher than he has at any point in his UFC career. I'd want to see what he can do against one of the larger guys in the division next to see how much that would affect him moving forward. In other words, I'm looking at Nordine Taleb as his next test.
- Spencer: It looks like Spencer's employment in the UFC has come to an end. His one-dimensional approach proved to be the beginning of the end for him as opponents never needed to worry about him taking the fight to the ground. While that works for some, Spencer's lack of power doomed him. At 29-years old, he's young enough that he could be called back as an injury replacement, but my guess is the UFC would pick a younger option with more upside if available.
- Expectations/Results: Dober had never looked better in his previous outing against Scott Holtzman and I expected the momentum to carry over despite Gonzalez owning a massive reach advantage. Happy to say I got this one right after bombing on the curtain jerker as Dober landed a hard right hook which stunned Gonzalez. Realizing he had him hurt, Dober went full speed from there to get the finish, putting Gonzalez out on his feet before the ref stepped in.
- Dober: I had called him pillow-fisted before this fight. I may be able to still say that as it took six or seven good shots before Gonzalez hit the mat. That doesn't take away from the fact he has continued to improve since moving his camp to Team Elevation in Colorado. I don't think he is going to end up in the top 15, but I do see him becoming a mainstay for several years whereas I thought he'd wash out soon enough to begin the year.
- Gonzalez: Even if I thought he would lose definitively, I didn't think it would end as suddenly as it did for the newcomer. Some may claim the low blow he ate before Dober caught him with the right hook played a factor, but Gonzalez had five minutes to rest up if he wanted and if he didn't want to take full advantage of that time to recover, he only has himself to blame. Gonzalez does have some unique raw skills that could turn him into a keeper, but he needs to win in his next appearance or he's going to be cut.
- Expectations/Results: Footage of McBride was hard to find, but what was found revealed an unathletic submission specialist with awkward striking who would be hard-pressed to beat a hard-nosed veteran like Lentz. Lentz dominated him from pillar to post in an absolute beatdown to give Lentz his first stoppage victory in four years.
- Lentz: While Lentz was absolutely dominating, this win doesn't really do anything for him. He was expected to lay the smack down on McBride and that is exactly what he did. Perhaps the best thing to be said is that he was able to get a finish, only his third in a UFC career that goes back to 2009. Attempting to put together the Mairbek Taisumov fight once again makes sense, though others such as Abel Trujillo, Rashid Magomedov, or even a resurgent Jim Miller are other options for Joe Silva to consider.
- McBride: Yeah... it's hard to take anything positive away from that performance. He did rock Lentz briefly, thought it appears to be attributed to his awkward striking more than anything else. I will admit that McBride is a very good submission artist from the top position. The problem is that he doesn't have the wrestling at this level to get the fight where he needs to be to be effective. I'm guessing he'll be the underdog in his next contest as well with the anticipation of a short UFC stay.
- Expectations/Results: Magalhaes had scored first round stoppages in his last two victories while all but one of Tavares' UFC victories had come by decision. Thus the thought was if Magalhaes didn't score an early stoppage, Tavares would likely find his range and cruise to a victory. It pretty much played out that way with Magalhaes starting out strong to make an argument for winning the first two rounds. Neither were definitive for him though while Tavares easily took the final round, picking up a victory to end a skid where he lost three of his previous four in a nondescript contest
- Tavares: It shouldn't be a surprise that Tavares took a little while to hit his stride considering it had been 16 months since he last stepped into the Octagon. Stopping Magalhaes takedown attempts wore out the Brazilian while clinch offense and leg kicks being the difference for Tavares. In other words, it was your typical point-scoring performance from Tavares. Until he shows some finishing power, he'll never be more than a fringe top 15 middleweight. I'm in favor of matching him with youngster Elias Theodorou next with the winner getting a crack at a ranked opponent.
- Magalhaes: Considering he picked up a horrible reputation following his blood spitting incident with Josh Samman, it is good to see Magalhaes showing good sportsmanship following a loss. However, it may be too late for him to keep his job after a second straight loss. Talent wise, he probably warrants one last chance to save his job. Whether he gets it I can't even begin to predict. As for his actual performance, he depleted his gas tank looking for the kill shot with every punch and failing to finish his takedowns. He'll never crack the top 15 until he learns to conserve his energy. If he gets another chance, I like a win or go home contest with Anthony Smith.
- Expectations/Results: It was pretty much right down the middle on the picks for who would win this one. Eye started out very strong, establishing her jab and landing the occasional counter on Correia the first round and a half. Correia began to find ways around it, clinching up and finding her own jab to make the fight competitive. All the rounds were competitive and could have gone either way, though I saw the first two in Eye's favor. The home crowd reacted as expected to their local favorite losing a controversial decision as they showered Correia with boos once the decision was read.
- Correia: Someway, somehow, Correia is able to produce beyond her physical abilities and steal fights she doesn't have any business winning based on her talent alone. Her technique and understanding of angles exceeds that of almost anyone else in the division which makes up for her lack of power and speed which means she is going to be a tough out for anyone save the athletic freaks of the division. While that pretty much sums up the ideal gatekeeper, Correia called out Miesha Tate after the win and I like that idea a lot. It gives Correia the chance to prove she is more than just a gatekeeper, something she deserves a chance to prove considering she could just as easily be 5-1 in the UFC rather than 4-2 as many saw the Raquel Pennington fight in her favor.
- Eye: There isn't a loss that hurts more than this one in the midst of Eye's four-fight losing streak. All of the other losses were pretty decisive while this one really could have gone either way. What's worse is it felt like she gave the win away as she was reluctant to engage in the final round. While Eye has faced only top competition throughout this streak, she has also been her own worst enemy throughout the streak and hasn't made the necessary adjustments. Now with four losses in a row - including the last one in her hometown -- it is likely she will be receiving a pink slip. Ouch.
- Expectations/Results: I picked Calderwood believing she would weather the early storm Andrade brings and pick her apart after the Brazilian suffered a drop in energy. Andrade proved to be too much to overcome, dragging the Scot to the ground and landing some hard punches before snagging Calderwood's exposed neck to sink in a guillotine choke. Flawless performance by Andrade.
- Andrade: I fully expected Andrade to have problems with the weight cut to 115, but she hasn't allowed her fights to go deep enough for that to become an issue yet. I'll continue to doubt whether or not she'll have the gas tank to go 15 minutes until I see her do it, but as long as she continues to run over her opposition before that point, it won't matter. The win establishes her as a legit contender in a still developing division as her strength and power is unmatched in her new weight class. Every article prognosticating fights to make has called for Andrade to face Carla Esparza next and it makes a lot of sense for Andrade to face the former champion before getting a title shot of her own.
- Calderwood: So was Calderwood's amazing performance against Valerie Letourneau due to fighting at 125? Unfortunately, this really didn't answer that. Calderwood landed a few kicks early, but she was taken down immediately and never got a chance to stand and trade after that. If anything, I'd say it indicates the move up to 125 had less to do with her success than originally thought as I'd think she'd have a harder time preventing takedowns against larger opponents. I don't think her chances of fighting for the belt are shot yet, but they are on life support. Regardless of who she faces next, she needs a win to keep that hope alive. Tecia Torres and Jessica Aguilar are also coming off of losses to contenders. I'm good with Calderwood facing either one next.
- Expectations/Results: While it was obvious Faber was no longer the elite fighter he once was, it wasn't clear just how far he had fallen. This contest answered that question as Rivera pulled out a pretty easy win. Faber couldn't land a single takedown and was countered almost every time he crept into range. The most significant part of the fight was Rivera kicking the legs out from Faber on multiple occasions as part of a barrage of leg kicks he landed on the former WEC featherweight champion.
- Rivera: While this was Rivera's biggest win of his career, it didn't feel like he performed to the best of his abilities. However, I would say that was due to him not needing to take unnecessary risks against a Faber who was throwing a single strike at a time. Thus, I'm encouraged by Rivera's fight IQ as he did what he needed to do. Nothing more, nothing less. Now that he has a signature win, he needs to start promoting himself as he has done nothing to make fans excited about seeing him in a title fight. The easiest way to do that is to start throwing barbs at Cody Garbrandt who is a protégé of the man he just beat. Garbrandt has his sights on Dominick Cruz, but he has shown himself to be a bit hot-headed. Rivera might be able to get that fight if he plays things right by getting under the youngster's skin. Otherwise, Bryan Caraway is a guy fans love to hate. The problem is getting Caraway to agree to a fight. Another name I haven't seen mentioned but think would be a good choice is Raphael Assuncao, even if the Brazilian is coming off of a loss. There are a lot of options for Rivera moving forward.
- Faber: Make no mistake that Faber can still win fights in the UFC. He just can't compete with the best in the division any longer. Faber has enough going for him that I'd expect he'll call it quits soon enough rather than eeking by lesser opposition in the twilight of his career. However, there is an upcoming card in December in his hometown of Sacramento and I think we'll see at least one more performance from the one of the biggest stars the lighter divisions have ever seen. Considering Faber has been one of the busiest fighters in the division, it's a bit difficult to find an appropriate opponent he hasn't faced yet. Johnny Eduardo represents a winnable yet competitive contest for Faber to close out his career if that is what he is looking to do. Otherwise I'd expect the young blood of the division to do what Rivera just did and capitalize on Faber's name value.
- Expectations/Results: We were all expecting a train wreck and that is exactly what we got. Punk landed zero offense as Gall took him down within seconds of the fight starting and landed a series of hard punches before searching for the RNC. It took a little while as Punk showed heart in defending the choke, but Gall eventually got what he was looking for to put a merciful end to the slaughter just over two minutes into the contest.
- Gall: To Gall's credit, he knows that he doesn't have much - if any - credibility with the victories that he has picked up over Mike Jackson and CM Punk. That's why he called out Sage Northcutt in his post-fight speech. Northcutt's management has responded favorably to the callout which leads me to believe we will see that contest. Northcutt has a lot to learn himself, but Gall has even more to learn which leads me to favor Super Sage. Gall could turn out to be a legitimate prospect or he could wash out in a few fights. Only time will tell.
- Punk: I pray we don't see Punk back in the UFC cage. I'm sure he boosted sales for a PPV that lacked much market appeal and that is all the UFC was looking for out of the former WWE superstar. Could he sell more PPV's in a second appearance? Probably, but it won't approach whatever he did here now that the novel has worn off. Thankfully Dana White has indicated that he probably shouldn't get a second opportunity. That doesn't mean it won't happen. I was fine with seeing the sideshow happen once. Please don't give us a second helping.
Fabricio Werdum defeated Travis Browne via unanimous decision
- Expectations/Results: We had seen this fight once before with Werdum picking the big Hawaiian apart over two years ago. Werdum was a lot more creative this time, including starting the fight with a running side kick to the head of Browne. About the only positive taken out of this for Browne would be his durability as he took a hell of a beating. The contest was also marked by two odd moments. In the first round, Browne tried calling time after dislocating his finger only for Werdum to attack when the referee didn't signal time. Technically, that should have been a TKO loss right there as Browne couldn't continue. The second occurred after the fight. Browne's head coach Edmond Tarverdyan was mouthing off to Werdum who responded by offering a push kick to the incensed corner man which nearly incited a brawl between both camps. Both Werdum and Tarverdyan were lucky to avoid suspensions from the incident. Easily one of the most bizarre contests seen in a long time.
- Werdum: Werdum was looking to get the finish in the first round and didn't look that great later in the contest as he faded down the stretch when those efforts proved unsuccessful. He did later claim to have a broken foot going into the fight which would help explain why he didn't look his best. Nonetheless, Werdum scored a dominant victory that makes for a reasonable case to get a chance to regain his title belt. With Cain Velasquez also waiting in the wings, I don't think Werdum will get it given he lost to Miocic in the opening round without a single successful title defense on his resume. Perhaps he can get a modicum of revenge and add another former notable champion to his list of victims by going against Junior dos Santos.
- Browne: What in the hell has happened to Browne? The man was a killer who disposed of Overeem and Josh Barnett in brutal fashion back in 2013. That Travis Browne has been MIA ever since changing camps to Glendale Fighting Club under Tarverdyan. He looked tentative, standing there as Werdum did whatever the hell he wanted. Browne pushed the pace a bit in the third round, but was still outstruck 2-to-1 in that round according to FightMetric. Aside from maintaining his relationship with Ronda Rousey, there is no benefit for Browne staying at the camp as he not only looks worse than he did before the switch, he has looked worse with every subsequent appearance. I've seen Ben Rothwell mentioned as a potential next opponent, but I like the idea of pitting him against Roy Nelson better who has had a difficult stretch himself. Nelson has to get past Bigfoot Silva later this month for that to be a possibility, though I have little doubt that happens.
Stipe Miocic defeated Alistair Overeem via KO at 4:27 of RD1
- Expectations/Results: It may not have lasted a single round, but there was a hell of a lot of back-and-forth drama packed into this one for a 25-minute fight. The slight favorite Miocic pushed the early pace before eating a left hand from Overeem that sent him on his ass. Overeem tried to capitalize with a guillotine choke that he believed Miocic tapped from only for video replay to prove the Dutchman wrong. Overeem gassed hard from his attempt to finish the fight with Miocic capitalizing on Overeem's lack of energy as he stalked him for the rest of the bout. Overeem would cover up against the fence when he wasn't running, occasionally throwing a hard strike. Miocic caught a kick with just under a minute to go and flung Overeem to the ground, easily getting mount and knocking the challenger out cold with punches.
- Miocic: For some reason, Miocic never seemed like championship material to me. When he won the belt, it didn't seem like he'd hold the belt for long. He has defended the belt once now, but he also had shaky moments which keeps my doubts alive. Some will say he took some heavy shots from Overeem, which is true. But he was also close to dream street and didn't sound like he had all of his faculties in the post-fight speech. I still don't think he'll be the first heavyweight champ with more than two consecutive title defenses. My guess is that he'll get Velasquez next as Velasquez looked as good as he ever has in destroying the aforementioned Browne in July. If the UFC wants to make that contest, they'd be wise to schedule another high profile heavyweight contest underneath it considering Velasquez's injury history.
- Overeem: Does the big man realize how big of an ass he made himself out to be by claiming Miocic tapped? Overeem's air of cockiness has always been a turnoff for the vast majority of fans, but this was over the top. To be fair, he did just wake up from being KO'd when he made the statement and may not have been all there. With that out of the way, I'm not ready to write off Overeem's chances of getting another shot at the title. If Miocic loses the belt any time soon, Velasquez and Werdum are the likely candidates to take the belt. Overeem has never fought Velasquez while he beat Werdum the last time they squared off. If Overeem can go back to fighting smart as he was in the stretch leading up to the contest, he can get back in the mix. He does have a lot of tread on the tires, but he hits as hard as anyone and his 36-years of age aren't too big of a deterrent in the heavyweight division. I stated last week that I'd like to see Barnett face dos Santos. Given the way things have played out, I'd rather see him face Overeem at this point and I've seen others echoing that sentiment.
Those are my collective thoughts. The UFC will be in Texas this upcoming weekend for one of the better lightweight matchups in quite some time between Dustin Poirier and Michael Johnson. We'll have an in-depth look ready for you shortly after. Until then!