What a great pay-per-view that was!
Stipe Miocic got his UFC heavyweight title back and certainly enhanced his status as one of MMA’s greatest heavyweights, as he ripped apart Daniel Cormier’s body in the fourth round and scored a remarkable TKO in a fight that he was probably losing up until that point. I had it 30-27 for Cormier, but it was way more competitive than that, and I suspected Cormier was more tired than Stipe after 15 minutes. They were connecting on vicious shots repeatedly throughout the contest, but Miocic made a tremendous adjustment by going exactly where Cormier has always been vulnerable: The body.
Those left hooks! Those left hooks to the body were torching Cormier for the entirety of the fourth, and the finishing sequence really was outstanding stuff. Miocic may have had a slow start but he came on strongly and broke down DC emphatically. How can you not be wowed by that? Sure you can question Cormier’s decision to slug it out and largely abandon his wrestling, but Miocic almost certainly needed a finish in the championship rounds and he got it.
What’s next for Stipe? Probably a rematch with Francis Ngannou, unless the UFC throws a shitload of money at Jon Jones to get him to move up in weight for a superfight. For Cormier, who was interviewed post-fight, he said he’d talk with his wife and his family about his future in the sport. He’s accomplished a ton in this sport... I suspect this is the end for him, though. Not in the “he needs to hang it up” sense, rather “he doesn’t need to fight anymore.” He’s referenced it enough times that I foresee retirement for Cormier.
More thoughts below:
- We only got three finishes out of 12 fights. The prelims were a mixed bag, but the quality of MMA on display from Assuncao-Sandhagen to the main event was so high-level and enthralling, and that’s what I look for most. A finish doesn’t mean the fight was good, I value great MMA above all else. We got some great MMA tonight.
- Nate Diaz is back, everyone! His first fight in three years, with the entire arena cheering him on, and he put on a clinic against Anthony Pettis. That one judge who gave Pettis a round must be blind. Pettis put in a good effort and tagged Nate plenty of times, as well as survived Diaz’s submission attempts, but Diaz’s pressure, clinchwork, and volume striking just wore him down. He could not cope with that pace and constant offense in his face, and Nate is now back in the win column. Diaz then called out Jorge Masvidal and oh god please let those two fight each other and please let it be five rounds. Conor who? Jorge and Leon what? Nope, from a pure entertainment perspective, Nate vs. Jorge is the fight to make and ASAP. It’s super necessary.
- MY GOD! Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero went to war. Legitimately one of the best fights of 2019 and the only robbery was the fact that this wasn’t a five-rounder instead of a three-rounder. I scored the fight for Romero, but have no issue with Costa getting the nod. They knocked each other down five seconds apart, landed insanely violent power shots that would’ve knocked most other fighters down or out cold, and were SMILING AND TONGUE WAGGING THROUGHOUT THIS CARNAGE! It was pure savagery that makes watching MMA at its highest level so enjoyable. Shame on the fans for booing Costa. Disagree with the decision but don’t take it out on him. Costa should get huge respect for his efforts, which tell us a lot more about his skills than all of his quick KOs put together.
- Featherweight prospect Sodiq Yusuff survived a serious scare against Gabriel Benitez, as the two engaged in an awesome one-round battle. Yusuff was dropped early, recovered, and later knocked Benitez out with a flush counter right to the chin. Herb Dean let Benitez take a few unnecessary shots afterward, but the result is the same - Sodiq Yusuff by knockout. That’s a good win over a game opponent, and he overcame adversity to get his hand raised.
- Middleweight veteran Derek Brunson could’ve been knocked out in 20 seconds by an Ian Heinisch head kick. Not only did he quickly recover, but he turned in a mature, composed performance in the final two rounds to turn a slow start into a unanimous decision win. The crowd kinda tuned out by round three, as Colby Covington entered the arena at the same time as the fight, so they booed the shit out of him and chanted “Colby sucks!” and “F—k you, Colby!”
- Based on betting odds, Khama Worthy (+650) pulled off the UFC’s biggest upset of 2019, coming in on less than a week’s notice to knock Devonte Smith out in a round. A big counter left sent Smith sprawling, and hammerfists sealed the deal. That’s the best victory of Worthy’s career, and a devastating defeat for one of the UFC’s best lightweight prospects. Who saw that result materializing?
- Cory Sandhagen is for real. The bantamweight has solidified himself as a top-flight fighter with a very impressive decision win over longtime contender Raphael Assuncao. He commands distance extremely well, made the most of his physical advantages, and while his striking largely won him the fight, I liked how he handled most of his scrambles on the mat with the Brazilian. Sandhagen is definitely “in the mix” for a title shot.
- Who pegged Drakkar Klose and Christos Giagos having an action-packed war? Giagos started strongly, then had Klose in trouble with a rear-naked choke, but Drakkar got out of it and turned the tide against a fading Giagos. It was really a brawl for all of round three (plus a cool slam!), and Klose was a deserved winner. I also love the call-out of Gregor Gillespie, and maybe that’s what the UFC does next.
- Casey Kenney really impressed with his upset win over submission specialist Manny Bermudez. This was at a 140 lbs catchweight instead of bantamweight, with Bermudez the way bigger man, but Kenney outgrappled Bermudez in stretches and didn’t get into any substantial trouble with Manny’s aggressive sub-hunting.
Fight Pass prelims
- In the featured FP bout, strawweight Hannah Cifers pretty much sent Jodie Esquibel out of the UFC with a unanimous decision win that uh... was not very high-quality whatsoever. I’ll leave it at that.
- Korean bantamweight Kyung Ho Kang withstood some serious leg kick damage, scored a knockdown, and outwrestled Brandon Davis for a split decision win. It’s not everyday you see a referee stand up a fight from side control, but that’s what happened in the final round.
- Colombian flyweight Sabina Mazo rebounded from an uninspiring UFC debut to demolish Shana Dobson in a lopsided decision. That’s the type of performance I’d expected to see from her out of the gate, but better late than never.