Well, UFC 200 and the UFC Fight Weekend are in the books. Fighters are back with their families, winning ESPYs, hell, the UFC has already held another event this past Wednesday in Sioux Falls. And, as I mentioned in my UFC 200 predictions piece, I didn’t see a damn second of it. With that in mind, it’s time to break down this past weekend’s events and talk about what’s in store in the coming months.
First and foremost, we have two new champions! In the main event on Thursday night, Eddie Alvarez put away Rafael dos Anjos with a barrage of first-round strikes to capture the UFC lightweight belt. Alvarez clipped dos Anjos with a punch that put the champ on rubbery legs, and would not be denied after that. He pursued dos Anjos with reckless abandon, eventually prompting referee Herb Dean to stop the fight as dos Anjos covered up against the cage. After two lackluster performances en route to his title shot, Alvarez couldn’t have made more of a definitive statement in winning the title.
The weekend was capped off with a women’s bantamweight championship fight between defending champion Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes. After a brief takedown by Tate, it was all Nunes, as she battered ‘Cupcake’ with punches and strikes from the clinch. As Tate, broken nose and all, attempted a desperate takedown attempt, Nunes flattened her out, secured Tate’s back, and locked in a rear-naked choke to seal the victory. With the win, Nunes is the 4th female bantamweight champion in 8 months, and also the first openly gay UFC champion.
As the night’s co-headliner, Brock Lesnar made a successful return to the UFC after more than four years away, winning a decision over former kickboxing champion Mark Hunt. Lesnar was able to successfully take Hunt down on multiple occasions and inflict damage on the ground while preventing Hunt from opening up in striking exchanges. However, the celebration was short-lived as on July 15th, Lesnar was informed of a potential anti-doping policy violation, stemming from an out-of-competition test taken in late June. So Lesnar now finds himself in the same position as Jon Jones, who was pulled from UFC 200 when he was informed of a potential violation in the days leading up to the event. Granted, in Lesnar’s case, I don’t know how many of us were surprised that a jacked-up 40 year-old who hadn’t competed in sanctioned competition since 2011 might be taking a banned substance. If a violation is confirmed, Lesnar could face a 2-year suspension, which would likely signal the end of his MMA career.
As a result of Jon Jones being pulled from the event on short notice, former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva stepped in to fight Daniel Cormier in a light heavyweight non-title fight. Perhaps not surprisingly, Cormier- who had little to gain and everything to lose- used a fairly grappling-heavy strategy, taking the former champion down in all three rounds. Aside from a couple of brief submission attempts, Cormier was never close to finishing the fight, but won comfortably on all three judges’ scorecards. The performance was met with boos from the Las Vegas crowd, but was understandable due to Silva’s striking arsenal and the unusual circumstances surrounding the bout.
Earlier on the pay-per-view, Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar met for the second time, with the interim UFC Featherweight title on the line. Just as in their first bout, Aldo’s tremendous takedown defense and pin-point striking were on display, as he cruised to a decision victory. In capturing the interim belt (which, in most cases, is nothing more than a glorified top contender label) Aldo is primed for a rematch with UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor. McGregor is slated to face Nate Diaz in a rematch at UFC 202 next month, but UFC President Dana White stated over the weekend that after UFC 202, McGregor would return to featherweight to defend his title. Then again, Dana says a lot of things, including that women would never fight in the UFC, so take that statement with a grain of salt.
To open up the pay-per-view portion of the card, former UFC heavyweight champion defeated current Ronda Rousey boyfriend Travis Browne, putting him late in the first round. A minute or so in to the fight, Velasquez threw a spinning heel kick (not historically part of his striking arsenal) at Browne, and while the kick missed, Velasquez connected with a follow-up punch that put Browne on rollerskates and set the course for the next few minutes. Velasquez would go on to knock Browne down and beat him up with his trademark tireless ground-and-pound, and when Browne eventually returned to his feet, Velasquez continued his onslaught and Browne crumpled to the canvas for good with just 3 seconds left in the opening frame. A vintage performance from Velasquez,who was very rusty in his last outing in which he lost his heavyweight title to Fabricio Werdum last June. When he’s on his game, ‘Cardio Cain’ is a problem for anyone in the division.
For those of you keeping score at home, I went 1-for-5 on my main card predictions (shout-out to Daniel Cormier for saving me from an 0-fer). I fared much better on the preliminary portion of the card. On the Fox Sports 1 portion of the preliminary card, Julianna Pena, Kelvin Gastelum, TJ Dillashaw, and Sage Northcutt all captured decision victories over their respective opponents. On the UFC Fight Pass portion of the event, Joe Lauzon, Gegard Mousasi, and Jim Miller all picked up first-round (T)KO victories. (Reading about) Lauzon’s win over Diego Sanchez was probably the highlight of the weekend for me, as Lauzon is my favorite fighter and Sanchez is notoriously tough. Unfortunately, the first three finishes set a tone that fans and UFC officials were hoping for, but the rest of the card failed to meet the expectations set on it by fans, UFC brass, and the media. Also, what was up with the yellow canvas?
In other significant fights over the weekend, former Bellator champion Will Brooks (who captured the title vacated by Alvarez) made his UFC debut on Friday night, defeating seasoned UFC veteran Ross Pearson by decision. Brooks’ ceiling as a UFC lightweight is still in question, but at the moment I’d say he’s comfortably in the top 15. In Friday’s main event, women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (JJ) defeated rival Claudia Gadelha via decision to retain her title. Gadelha seemed to fare well early on in the fight, but tired in the later rounds (as I predicted Nunes would against Tate… whoops) and JJ put on a clinic over the fight’s final three rounds to win by decision.
Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena
This is a fight I was actually hoping to see made before the UFC gave Nunes her title shot. Now that Nunes has the title, I think Pena should get the first shot. On Saturday night, Pena rallied after dropping the first round to former title challenger Cat Zingano, winning the final two rounds to score her fourth straight victory. Pena lobbied for her title shot at the post-fight press conference, pointing out that Zingano holds wins over both Nunes and Tate. If not Pena, I expect the title shot to be given to the winner of next weekend’s showcase bout between former champion Holly Holm and Valentina Shevchenko (which I’ll have you know I spelled right on the first try).
Miesha Tate vs. Raquel Pennington
Tate may be out of action for a while after suffering what appeared to be a badly broken nose against Nunes. Pennington has won her last two fights after losing to Holly Holm in Holm’s UFC debut. Tate would be a good litmus test for Pennington, as a win over Tate would solidify Pennington as a contender, while a win over Pennington would put Tate back in the title conversation.
Mark Hunt vs. Derrick Lewis
If Lesnar is revealed to have taken a banned substance (to the shock of, well, no one) his win over Hunt will likely be turned to a no-contest. Lewis, on the other hand, defeated longtime gatekeeper Roy Nelson via decision in Thursday’s co-main event (another fight I predicted incorrectly). While he wasn’t able to finish the durable Nelson, Lewis was the more aggressive fighter which ultimately earned him the nod from the judges. Hunt would be an appropriate step up for Lewis, and one that would likely stand and trade with him. Someone’s going to sleep.
Brock Lesnar vs… USADA, and somebody at WWE SummerSlam.
Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson/Glover Teixeira winner (UFC 202)
Teixeira and Johnson were originally slated to compete on next week’s UFC on Fox event, but the bout was rescheduled for UFC 202 next month. Johnson and Cormier fought at UFC 187 in May 2015 for Jon Jones’ vacated light heavyweight title, with Cormier winning by third-round submission. However, Johnson staggered Cormier in the first round before succumbing to Cormier’s superior grappling skills. Teixeira, who challenged Jones for the title in 2014, is on a three-fight winning streak and a victory over Johnson would surely grant him a fight with Cormier.
Anderson Silva vs. Uriah Hall
As I mentioned in my UFC 200 preview, Silva and Hall were scheduled to fight at UFC 198 in Brazil before Silva was forced out of the fight after needing gall bladder surgery. Hall has yet to be scheduled for another fight, and Silva didn’t incur a significant medical suspension after his loss to Cormier. No reason to upset the status quo here.
Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor (UFC featherweight championship)
McGregor is expected to return to featherweight after his rematch with Nate Diaz next month, and Aldo has to be eager to avenge his 13-second knockout loss to McGregor. I could foresee a situation where McGregor opts to stay at lightweight, relinquishing his featherweight title in the process, and in that case I would hope to see Aldo fight Max Holloway, who is on a 9-fight win streak, for the vacated title.
Frankie Edgar vs. Ricardo Lamas.
Edgar finds himself in a difficult position, having lost to Aldo twice. However, I could see him making a third run for the featherweight title if Conor McGregor returns to 145 and defeats Aldo again. Lamas is a former top contender who has only lost to Aldo, Holloway, and three-time title contender Chad Mendes during his UFC tenure. A fight between Edgar and Holloway would be entertaining, but I’d like to see Holloway get his title shot.
Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum/Ben Rothwell winner (UFC 203)
Werdum and Rothwell are fighting in September, and the winner should find himself back in title contention. If we’re being candid, I expect Werdum to win, setting up a rematch with Velasquez. The two fought for Velasquez’s title last June at UFC 188 in Mexico City, where Werdum won by submission. However, Velasquez was coming off a lay-off of over a year and a half, and the high altitude clearly took a toll on his performance. A rematch at sea level would answer a lot of questions and give the winner a good case for another title shot.
Travis Browne vs. Roy Nelson
Both Browne and Nelson lost this weekend, and the heavyweight division is incredibly shallow. The winner would insert himself in to the title conversation one last time, and the loser may find himself contemplating retirement or a spot on the Bellator roster.
Cat Zingano vs. Sara McMann
TJ Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz (UFC bantamweight title fight)
Raphael Assuncao vs. Thomas Almeida
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Gunnar Nelson
Johny Hendricks vs. Tarec Saffiedine
Sage Northcutt vs. Kevin Lee
Joe Lauzon vs. James Krause
Gegard Mousasi vs. Derek Brunson
Jim Miller vs. Francisco Trinaldo
Eddie Alvarez vs. Tony Ferguson
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Edson Barboza/Gilbert Melendez loser (UFC on Fox 20)
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas/Karolina Kowalkiewicz winner (try saying any of those last names three times fast)
Claudia Gadelha vs. Tecia Torres
Will Brooks vs. Michael Chiesa
Thanks for reading!