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Hindsight - UFC 208: Holm vs. de Randamie in retrospect

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Though it may be painful, take a closer look into UFC 208, from the slog that was the majority of the card, to exciting slugfest between Dustin Poirier and Jim Miller.

Hindsight

I’m sure most of you would understand when I say that this was no picnic to do an overview of. UFC 208 was one of the least exciting cards the UFC has put forth in quite a while. Even worse, it was considered to be an underwhelming card to begin with. It did have one contest worth watching again – thank you Dustin Poirier and Jim Miller – but nothing else that anyone will ever rush to view again. And I suppose it did produce a historic moment when Germaine de Randamie was crowned the first women’s featherweight champion…but are we even sure of the future of that division? Not a great night for the world’s preeminent MMA organization.

Here’s my thoughts on the UFC 208 card, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.

Ryan LaFlare defeated Roan Carneiro via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: It was hard to get excited for this contest as LaFlare’s workman-like approach doesn’t produce much in terms of fireworks and Carneiro isn’t going to excite unless he can get submission in transition. Outside of a quick knockdown on a straight left about midway through the second round, it played out as expected. LaFlare worked over the old vet with a steady stream of strikes, clinch control, and top control. Carneiro did have a brief chance at stealing the fight when he got top position off of a late scramble and attempted a triangle choke, but was unable to finish it.
  • LaFlare: Very much a standard LaFlare performance. He picked his spots to attack wisely, avoided any real damage on the feet, and controlled Carneiro for the majority of the contest. Dropping Carneiro was a nice thing to see as LaFlare has yet to score a single finish in six UFC wins. He can do it, he just has yet to do it. He’s proven he can beat those in the middle of the division without much of a problem. He needs to get a step up in competition that isn’t Demian Maia… his only fight against a ranked opponent so far.
  • Carneiro: Even though he ended up on the losing end, I thought Carneiro looked much better in this performance than he did in his previous contest against Kenny Robertson. He was more active on the feet and showed a lot more energy, actively pursuing the finish. It seems like he figured out the weight cut this time, proving that welterweight is a better home for him than middleweight where he was overwhelmed the last time he fought there. At 38, Carneiro’s clock is ticking and he has limited entertainment value. Don’t be surprised if he is served up as a sacrificial lamb in his next contest to an up-and-comer.

Rick Glenn defeated Phillippe Nover via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: After Glenn’s entertaining debut against Evan Dunham at lightweight, many expected him to put on a show against Nover. While Glenn walked out with the win, it wasn’t in the manner expected of him. Nover caught him with some hard kicks at various points and landed a number of counters to win the standup battle. Glenn countered by bullying Nover in the clinch and landing enough leg kicks to convince two of the three judges that he did enough to score a controversial win.
  • Glenn: I feel like Glenn got lucky with the judges. It wasn’t a robbery by any means, but Nover easily took the first round and landed the more effective shots as Glenn was never able to find his range. Fortunately, he was able to control the Brooklyn native after starting each round slow, but his inability to get Nover to the ground has to be concerning considering Nover has never been noted for his wrestling. I’m not sure whether to give Glenn a pass and say it was an off night for him as I’ve seen him perform better. It isn’t as if he was completely outclassed at a distance either. Still, he needs to do better in the future to have a long-term future.
  • Nover: The loss drops the next Anderson Silva to 1-6 in the UFC, including 1-3 in this current run. Even though this may have been the best performance, I can’t see him sticking around with that type of track record. At 33, it isn’t like he’s got a high ceiling anymore either. He may be one of Uncle Dana’s favorites, but that can only carry one so far, especially in this post-Zuffa era.

Islam Makhachev defeated Nik Lentz via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Both Makhachev and Lentz have reputations as grinders, so everyone knew there was a good chance this contest would be a snoozer. Most predicted the newer model – Makhachev – would be able to outclass the old model that is Lentz. I went the opposite route and paid the price. Makhachev outclassed Lentz in every aspect of the fight. Lentz never gave up, showing his trademark feistiness in getting out of some bad situations to survive to the end, but was never in a favorable position outside of a guillotine attempt in the first round. Overall, a dominant performance for the Russian.
  • Makhachev: While Lentz may have looked as slow and old as ever, it shouldn’t take away from Makhachev’s performance in the least. He took Lentz down whenever he wanted with his inside leg sweeps and kept him on his back for over two-thirds of the contest. Even an old and slow version of Lentz is still one gritty bastard. Makhachev manhandled him like no one else ever has, hitting inside leg trip after inside leg trip. At 25 years old, Makhachev may be hitting his stride. Considering the influence that his teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov yields, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Makhachev get a ranked opponent in his next contest.
  • Lentz: This looks like the beginning of the end for Lentz. He’s been in the UFC since 2009 and has had a largely successful run through two weight divisions, so it’s not like he’s short on accomplishment. But Makhachev out-Lentzed Lentz. That’s not a good indication of where your career is going. Lentz has never been blessed with the greatest physical gifts, so to see him as diminished as he appeared to be here is very disconcerting. I’m sure there are still fights he can win given his never-say-die attitude with the right stylistic matchup, but I fear Lentz doesn’t have long for the UFC.

Wilson Reis defeated Ulka Sasaki via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: There was little debate who was going to win this: Reis was expected to destroy Sasaki. Though it played out the way it was expected to for the most part, Sasaki was able to avoid being finished and was even able to find pockets of success himself. Reis was unable to get the finish, which may have been a bit of a disappointment given how heavily favored he was going into the contest. Can’t complain too much though given that he largely controlled the first two-and-a-half rounds by riding Sasaki’s back, but he needed a finish to really put a stamp on his hopes for a title shot.
  • Reis: Now riding a three-fight winning streak without ever having faced Demetrious Johnson, Reis may have as legitimate of a case for a title shot as anyone else in the division. He showed his dominance on the ground by controlling Sasaki for the most part and nearly submitted him a couple of times. Hell, he even had a good amount of success on the feet, primarily with his leg kicks. But he also put himself in a predicament to be finished on the ground in the final minute, a situation that was completely unexpected given Reis’ reputation as a grappler. Knowing that, I maintain my position of preferring to see Joseph Benavidez receiving the shot ahead of Reis. Sorry Zane…
  • Sasaki: Considering Reis was the most skilled opponent Sasaki has faced thus far in his career, I’d say that this was the best version of Sasaki that we’ve seen. He found some success early using his length, picking apart Reis with his jab for a brief period in the first. He survived Reis’ submission attempts. He even got the late advantage on the BJJ ace, forcing Reis to fight off his RNC to close out the fight. Sasaki is improving and should develop into a mainstay at the very least if he continues this way.

Belal Muhammad defeated Randy Brown via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Given Brown’s recent improvements and natural physical gifts, he was favored by most pundits to score an impressive victory. Muhammad’s recent defensive deficiencies further contributed to that idea. Brown did look as though the improvement has continued and Muhammad’s defensive deficiencies haven’t completely evaporated, but Muhammad executed an intelligent strategy, utilizing leg kicks, a steady jab, and well-timed takedowns in order to pull off the short notice upset victory.
  • Muhammad: Muhammad deserves big props for this performance. The belief was that he was on the verge of being cut following a very disappointing performance against Vicente Luque. Instead, he recognized what some of the holes in Brown’s repertoire were and volunteered to step up and face the still inexperienced prospect. Muhammad doesn’t have the physical skills to completely shut down Brown’s offense, which makes his victory that much more impressive. The victory – and willingness to step up on short notice – ensured a spot on the roster for a few more fights and reestablished his reputation as an intelligent fighter…something many had forgotten about.
  • Brown: Brown’s reputation has been all over the place recently. He appeared to be lucky to beat lowly Erick Montano and followed that up with an impressive victory over Brian Camozzi. This performance kind of balanced those out. He landed the more powerful and dynamic strikes on Muhammad, but didn’t have an answer for the leg kicks nor the ability to get back to his feet when Muhammad took him down. Even in the loss, I see growth in the youngster as he did show an improved ability to counter. Still, he is miles away from fulfilling his vast potential. Hopefully the UFC continues to give him appropriate competition.

Dustin Poirier defeated Jim Miller via majority decision

  • Expectations/Results: Though expected to be an entertaining contest, very few expected Miller to walk out the victor. Miller was unable to do so in the end, but he did come very close to pulling off the upset. Focusing the majority of his attack on Poirier’s legs, Miller began to focus on the right one as it became clear that one had suffered some serious damage from Miller’s onslaught. Poirier persevered throughout the fight, landing the harder punches as Miller was backed into the cage a number of times. It took a pair of late takedowns by Poirier to seal the victory as his leg weakened, securing what would easily be the most entertaining contest of the night.
  • Poirier: Poirier may not have had the dominating performance some expected, but that was more attributable to Miller exceeding expectations than anything Poirier did wrong. If anything, Poirier fighting through a severely injured leg only enhances his reputation as one tough SOB. It was good to see him use the wrestling when needed as Poirier hasn’t used that very often in recent years. If he hopes to make himself a viable title contender, he needs to use everything in his arsenal as I don’t ever see him fully closing the defensive deficiencies that have prevented him from doing that. Otherwise, he’ll merely be a high-level action fighter. Not a bad role, but Poirier is capable of more. It’s hard to guess where he goes from here as his leg injury is likely to keep him sidelined for some time.
  • Miller: This performance more than any of Miller victories in his recent three-fight win streak is what convinced me that Miller’s late career resurgence is for real. An asterisk could be attached to every one of those victories in terms of quality or whether or not he truly earned the W. In this contest, he was fighting a guy with a legit argument as a top ten lightweight in the world and gave him everything that he could handle. Considering where we saw him after his loss to Diego Sanchez less than a year ago, there is no way we could have realistically asked for more out of him. He identified a weakness on Poirier and attacked it and it nearly delivered him a victory and showed that most pundits – myself included – have underrated his standup. He may have reclaimed his standing as the preeminent action fighter at lightweight.

Glover Teixeira defeated Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Coming off of an incredibly entertaining brawl with Ion Cutelaba, the UFC saw an opportunity to promote Cannonier as the next up-and-comer at light heavyweight. All he had to do was eliminate longtime contender Teixeira. Cannonier showed why he was a live dog going into the contest, winning the standup battle, surprising the hard-hitting Teixeira with a quick jab and a few hard shots. The problem was that he couldn’t keep the fight standing. Teixeira took the fight to the ground in every round, successfully taking Cannonier down with a single-leg and keeping the big man on his back. Teixeira didn’t do a lot of damage from there, but he did enough to keep the fight there for the majority of the time to score a clear decision victory.
  • Teixeira: Teixeira showed he still has enough in the tank to remain near the top of the division, but his performance did nothing to convince anyone that he’ll ever be able to capture the title. Hell, it didn’t do much to convince anyone he’ll stay near the top for very long. Teixeira has long been considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the division. He didn’t want anything to do with the standup with Cannonier after trying to trade with him for just a few moments. Did his KO loss to Anthony Johnson sap his confidence? I don’t fault him for playing it safe. It was the smart thing to do. But I expected him to look better on the feet. Given the lack of options in the shallow light heavyweight division, expect the UFC to continue to throw unproven talent at him in hopes someone can beat the Brazilian… provided they don’t match him up with Alexander Gustafsson.
  • Cannonier: Cannonier was taken down six times against Cutelaba back in December. I couldn’t pick him in this contest knowing an unproven talent like Cutelaba was able to take him down whenever he wanted. Two months isn’t nearly enough time to fix a problem like that against Teixeira. That proved to be Cannonier’s downfall. He’s skilled and powerful enough on the feet that he could end up in Teixeira’s current position as one of the best 205ers in the world. That won’t happen until he can develop some takedown defense. He’ll probably need to change camps to do so. Who knows if he ever will.

Jacare Souza defeated Tim Boetsch via submission at 3:41 of RD1

  • Expectations/Results: You have to admire Boetsch. He was a heavy underdog, but was willing to step in there with Souza when plenty of others who had the opportunity to do so wouldn’t. Then again, there was a reason why no one else who would be seen as a more viable opponent would agree to face Souza. Aside from fighting off Souza’s initial takedown attempts, Boetsch found no success whatsoever. Souza got him down on the second try and was able to elicit a tapout from Boetsch when he cinched in a kimura.
  • Souza: Who didn’t expect this? Souza has been able to submit all but the elite of the division with relative ease early and everyone knows that Boetsch isn’t elite. The only thing we didn’t know was how he’d do it. He made getting the mount position look routine and showed his incredible strength in cranking the kimura with little resistance. It’s pretty much impossible to deny Souza a chance at the middleweight championship with this victory. The only person who has been able to pin a loss on his since Souza came over from Strikeforce is Yoel Romero who will be facing Michael Bisping for the title at some point. Hopefully that contest gets booked soon enough so the division can progress. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if Souza is willing to fight someone else. He doesn’t seem keen to sit on his hands for a long period of time.
  • Boetsch: Seeing as how everyone expected Boetsch to be submitted, this loss didn’t do anything to hurt Boetsch’s standing. It may have even improved it given that he was willing to go into the cage with Souza. It has been well-publicized that this was the last contest on Boetsch’s contract. Considering the UFC has been releasing a lot of their longtime gatekeepers, don’t be too surprised if the UFC doesn’t want to pony up the dough for Boetsch. Otherwise, his two-fight win streak before this contest showed he still has a bit in the tank.

Anderson Silva defeated Derek Brunson via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Who knew what to expect in this contest? Silva hadn’t won an official fight since 2012 against Stephan Bonnar. On the other hand, Brunson, seemingly in the physical prime of his career, paid the price for fighting erratically in his most recent contest against Robert Whittaker. What we got was…interesting. Silva showed flashes of his former self, ducking and avoiding the attack of Brunson with the occasional return attack. But more often than not, it appeared as though Brunson was getting the better of the legend, landing multiple flurries of punches in the clinch and scoring a pair of takedowns to seemingly do just enough to score the win. All three judges disagreed, giving Silva the decision, one of them inexplicably giving Silva all three rounds.
  • Silva: Silva’s flashes of his old self showed that he can still compete. The flying knee he landed in the second round didn’t land clean, but it sure brought back memories of what The Spider was able to do during his long title reign. But he still struggled to pull the trigger when it mattered and was dominated in the clinch by Brunson, an area where Silva was once thought to be the most dominant fighter in the sport. Still, it hurts to see an all-time great struggling with those who are not or never were amongst the best in the sport. I’d rather see him fighting other greats who are past their prime. Vitor Belfort and Rashad Evans have been mentioned multiple times as potential future opponents and I have to agree with that idea.
  • Brunson: I’ve already established that I felt Brunson deserved the win. However, I’m not going to declare that Brunson was robbed. There are two things that I believed doomed him. Number one was his inability to properly set up his takedowns. Silva saw the attempts coming from a mile away. Second, Brunson was clearly in awe of the fact he was actually in the cage with Anderson Silva, resulting in a slow start that allowed Silva to take the early advantage. I understand he technically wouldn’t have won the contest had he been able to unanimously win the first round, but it very well could have changed the course of the rest of the fight. With the loss, Brunson is now riding a two-fight losing streak. He’s not in any danger of being cut, but he does badly need a win in his next contest. A contest with Boetsch actually makes a lot of sense if anyone values my opinion…

Germainede Randamie defeated Holly Holm via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: This was a well-matched contest as de Randamie appeared to favorably matchup with Holm. Holm on the other hand had plenty of big fight experience and the advantage of brilliant strategist Greg Jackson in her corner. Not having a strong feeling one way or another, I largely just took in the contest without picking either side. De Randamie took the early advantage, countering Holm every time she came in. Holm made some adjustments over the course of the fight, landing a head kick that stumbled de Randamie at the end of the third round and another strike that wobbled de Randamie in the fifth. However, the major story was de Randamie landing illegal strikes at the end of not just the second round, but the third as well. You’d expect the ref would deduct points, at least after the second time. Nope. De Randamie took the inaugural women’s featherweight title in a close battle while turning herself into a heel in the process.
  • De Randamie: Nobody is going to remember de Randamie putting together the best performance of her career…at least for the first three rounds. The hard counters landed by the first Dutch UFC champion since Bas Rutten stunned Holm a number of times before de Randamie began to fade. She also stuffed every one of Holm’s attempts to take the fight to the ground and dominated the clinch before tiring down the stretch. No, the only thing people are going to remember is de Randamie’s late strikes. The first one was particularly damaging as Holm was on shaky legs walking back to her corner. De Randamie claims that she isn’t a dirty fighter in her post-fight interview. I might believe it if it only happened once. But twice with de Randamie sticking out her tongue following the second time? Nope. I lost a lot of respect for her after that. To her credit, she is NOW taking the right approach by offering Holm an immediate rematch…but is that simply a ploy to delay an inevitable contest with Cyborg?
  • Holm: Holly’s performance certainly wasn’t her best, but I feel many have been too harsh on her. She made some adjustments and in the midst of the contest to close the fight stronger than de Randamie, something she struggled to do in her previous contest against Valentina Shevchenko. That tells me she is making some sort of progress. Unfortunately, de Randamie was a bad stylistic matchup for her from the beginning. Holm tried to negate de Randamie’s countering with an outside attack heavy on kicks, but it didn’t stop de Randamie from finding her. Perhaps most damning was her inability to get de Randamie to the ground. Like Brunson, she could have helped her cause by setting up the attempts. Where does the former champion go now? Does she get a rematch with de Randamie? I doubt it as few care to see this fight again. Return to 135? Most likely. Regardless of where she goes, it’s a good bet her days as a headliner are over.

Well, those are my collective thoughts. Until next time...