UFC 219 was not a very good card. It just wasn’t. Arguably a fitting end to the UFC’s 2017. There weren’t that many bad fights, but most of them weren’t particularly entertaining or memorable to watch. That there were only two finishes all night, and literally one fight with a knockdown scored tells you how the evening went.
The main event was admittedly quite compelling viewing. It may not have been an absolute thriller, but I did enjoy Cris Cyborg’s win over Holly Holm, which wound up getting Fight of the Night honors, partially by default, and partially because it was pretty damn good. I do not understand how Holm won two rounds on two scorecards when she was outstruck in at least four of those five rounds. Underdog curve aside, Holm actually did better than I expected, she’s just not as good as Cyborg. Nobody really is. Cris was the more powerful striker (a pre-fight disadvantage for Holm), more accurate, varied her combinations, had some excellent work to the body, and actually it was Cyborg who had the more effective kicking game. Holm’s left eye was swollen from the numerous right hands she absorbed, and it’s her tremendous chin that saw her go the distance with a woman who is used to destroying her opponents.
Cyborg also showed off fine cardio, not looking labored at all other than just a few problems with her bloodied nose. I hope this fight spotlighted the fact that Cyborg isn’t some brute brawler who bulldozes her way through opponents because she’s bigger than everyone. Under Jason Parillo, she’s become an even better, more efficient striker than in previous years, and I struggle to see who can provide the Brazilian a challenge. Megan Anderson? Cat Zingano (who’s fighting at bantamweight in her next bout anyway)? I just do not know.
More thoughts on tonight’s show:
- Uhhhhh Khabib Nurmagomedov is scary. Edson Barboza is an outstanding fighter, much better than his early UFC career, and Khabib just beat him to a pulp. That Barboza lasted the distance does not really dissuade me from thinking it should’ve been stopped after the second round. Just look at the scores! The ground-and-pound was vicious, opponents just succumb to his pressure, and he has fantastic cardio. Whether it’s Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson, I just want to see Khabib in a title fight. This guy is something special.
- Daniel Hooker vs. Marc Diakiese was... not good. Like, not good at all. Then Hooker seized the opportunity to guillotine choke Diakiese early in round 3, as Diakiese shot for a takedown and paid the price dearly. That’s another finish for Hooker, and a second loss in a row for Diakiese, who at least walked out to Mans Not Hot, so that was cool.
- Carla Esparza knocked off Cynthia Calvillo by unanimous decision, using her striking in the last two rounds to get the win. Calvillo was upset with the decision, but I don’t really see her case. Esparza landed the better strikes, and surprisingly mixed things up with effective leg kicks to keep Calvillo off balance. Calvillo still has a bright future, but this is two fights in a row where she’s been underwhelming on the feet, and as for Esparza, this was a very good win for her to keep herself among the list of contenders at women’s strawweight.
- Neil Magny beat Carlos Condit by unanimous decision in a fight that I believe was closer than the two 30-27 scorecards (and the Joe Rogan-Dominick Cruz duo) suggested. I thought Magny did deserve the W, as Condit struggled to pull the trigger offensively and Magny used his size effectively to avoid getting slammed with big shots, but Magny wasn’t much of an offensive machine himself. In fact, several of his takedowns yielded little in the way of ground-and-pound or passing to a dominant position. It’s a good win for Magny, I’m just bummed about Condit.
- I am not watching the movie “Bright,” despite the UFC’s attempts to coerce me to do so.
- Michal Oleksiejczuk fought a composed fight and got the win over Khalil Rountree, who sure had me fooled into thinking he’d made strides in his game after his last two wins. Rountree honestly should be on Dana White’s Contender Series or something, because he’s got raw talent, but has terrible cardio and fights like a guy who’s way short on experience. Meanwhile, Oleksiejczuk is only 22 years old, so... do we have an interesting talent at LHW who isn’t ancient? I hope so.
- Myles Jury shut down Rick Glenn and just straight-up outclassed him on his way to a unanimous decision win. It wasn’t a sizzler, but it was a good performance by Jury against a tough opponent in Glenn. Keep an eye on Jury making a run into the top-10 of featherweight in 2018.
- Omari Akhmedov and Marvin Vettori had a fight that was equal parts compelling and sloppy. The end result was a majority draw, which seemed like a fair outcome, as Vettori took a 10-8 final round on two of the three scorecards. It was a very generic middleweight type of fight.
- Matheus Nicolau came back from his 18-month USADA suspension and barely missed a beat, knocking Louis Smolka down three times on his way to a comfortable unanimous decision. Nicolau showed off sharp boxing and a commitment to combination work, plus he outgrappled Smolka in the final round. Smolka has lost four straight, and his UFC days might be over.
- Tim Elliott kicked things off with an anaconda choke finish of newcomer Mark De La Rosa in a bantamweight bout. Elliott was understandably emotional in his post-fight interview, as this was his first appearance since the death of his coach, Robert Follis. The UFC’s PPV broadcast opened up with a tribute to Follis, who passed away two weeks ago.