Well, that was fun while it lasted. Last night’s main fight card delivered many storylines, including but not limited to: the coronation of the GOAT; a new contender rises; a champion is put out to pasture; and an introduction to a division. Let’s just get into it.
Main Event: Heavyweight Division
Daniel “DC” Cormier(C x2) 22-1-1 vs Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis 21-6-1
This fight ended like many experts, pundits, and Vegas predicted: a dominant wrestling clinic by Cormier leading to a finish. Cormier controlled the fight from the outset and rag-dolled a man at least 30 lbs. heavier than him for two rounds. He took Lewis down in the first round and used ground and pound and top control to begin to wear his opponent down. When Lewis did power back up, Cormier used his Olympic-level wrestling to drag Lewis back down to the mat to continue his onslaught. Eventually (or inevitably), Lewis made a mistake, and Cormier capitalized on it, sinking in a rear-naked choke in the 2nd round.
Where do they go from here?
Daniel Cormier is now in the discussion of greatest MMA fighter of all time, and the fight almost didn’t happen. He is a two division champion and has beaten a list of who’s who in MMA. The only problem is the one blemish Cormier has on his record is another fighter that is in the discussion of greatest MMA fighter of all time, Jon Jones. Cormier immediately called out Brock Lesnar in what seems to be an inevitable fight to be made in 2019, but as a fan I absolutely hate that fight. Lesnar as an opponent checks all the boxes for Cormier: Heavyweight-check; Former UFC Champion-check; Huge draw- check; Legacy builder-check; and biggest payday he’s ever seen-check.
Lesnar, in MMA, is coming off a decision win against Mark Hunt over two years ago in a fight in which he was caught using performance-enhancing drugs. This fight led to the UFC being sued by Mark Hunt for allegedly conspiring with Lesnar to circumvent the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s strict PED testing rules. A fight against Lesnar would be a clear money grab for all parties involved. I wouldn’t’ be mad at Cormier for getting his bag while he can, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth knowing a final, legacy-cementing/G.O.A.T-confirming fight with Jones is right there for the taking.
As for Lewis, he lost when everyone thought he would lose. He stepped in on short notice and knew his only path to victory was getting a knock out. I am a little confused as to why he then decided to throw so many kicks. Kicking a wrestler is inviting him to take you down.
Lewis didn’t hurt himself too bad in the standings, and there is a clear opponent for him going forward; former Champion, Stipe Miocic. If Cormier hadn’t beat Miocic earlier this year, we would more than likely have seen this fight last night, but instead we can settle for a number one contenders fight between these two men who have both been humbled by Cormier.
Co-Main Event: Middleweight Division
Chris Weidman (#3) 14-4 vs Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza 26-6-0-1 NC
One of these men was going to put the other out of championship contention for the rest of their careers. For two-and-a-half rounds, it looked like former champion Weidman was going to regulate Souza to gatekeeper in the middleweight division. Souza had a bad first round and competitive second, but he was clearly down two rounds going into the third. He dug deep and continued to battle through a likely broken nose. He kept digging to the body and pressuring Weidman, forcing him to use his movement to stay away from danger.
The game plan worked, and by the middle of the third round, Weidman had no answer to the pressure and couldn’t keep Souza from walking him down and throwing bombs. One of those bombs, a thunderous right hand, landed squarely on the top of Weidman’s head putting him to sleep. The ref stepped in after two unneeded hammer fists by Souza.
Where do they go from here?
Souza is back in title contention with a big statement knockout of a former champion; however, the two fighters at the top of the division, Robert Whitaker and Kelvin Gastelum, have both beaten him soundly in the past eighteen months. This leaves Jacare one win away from a title fight and there is a fighter from one of last night’s other fights that he’ll need to derail to get his shot.
Weidman is done as a contender in a stacked middleweight division. He has lost 3 of his last 4 fights by knockout or technical knockout. It’s been a pretty remarkable fall from grace for the former champion that wrested the Championship from the best Middleweight in UFC history when he beat Anderson Silva in 2013. He defended the title three times and will go down as a champion that had potential taken from him through injuries, long layoffs, and the level of his competition rising while he was declining. He will still get fights but his chin is no longer capable of taking three rounds of damage from the top of the division.
Derek Brunson (#6) 18-7 vs Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya (#9) 15-0
This fight is the one I was most excited about, and it did not disappoint. “The Last Stylebender” is on a meteoric rise in the middleweight division only comparable to those of Jon Jones and Anderson Silva. Adesanya easily handled the awkward but dangerous fighting style of Derek Brunson. Throughout the first round, Adesanya dominated the spacing and did not allow Brunson to get anything going offensively.
Instead, Adesanya made Brunson make several tactical mistakes and finally used one of those mistakes to put a knee on the chin of his opponent, putting him on skates. Adesanya wasted no time and continued to punish Brunson on his feet, knocking him down several times until the accumulation of punches and kicks forced the ref to step in and stop the fight.
Where do they go from here?
As I alluded earlier, the only fight for Adesanya is going to have to be against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a title eliminator fight. #6 Brunson just lost to Adesanya, #7 David Branch lost to an unranked fighter, #5 Jacare beat #3 Weidman, #2 Luke Rockhold is injured, #4 Kelvin Gastelum is fighting the Champion Robert Whitaker, and #1 ranked middleweight Yoel Romero is hurt and has #8 Paulo Costa waiting for him. Thus, only ‘Jacare’ and ‘The Last Stylebender’ are without dance partners, and are a match made for each other. Adesanya would jump at this fight and Souza has no recourse but to try and derail the hype train to secure a title shot and rematch against the winner of Whitaker vs Gastelum. The anticipation is already building.
Brunson is now coming off back-to-back losses to Souza and Adesanya, both by TKO. He should now be relegated to gatekeeper of the top 10 in the division or to welcome new fighters to the UFC. He is too streaky and awkward to string together enough wins to merit a top contender’s fight. He is still exciting and has a lot left, but these two losses really demonstrate where he is in the pecking order of the best middleweights in the world. A second fight against Uriah Hall or a fight against Antonio Carlos Junior in Brazil could potentially be in his future.
David Branch (#7) 22-5 vs Jared Cannonier 11-4
Jared Cannonier was making his introduction into the middleweight division after two consecutive knockout losses in the light heavyweight division (and also previously competing the heavyweight division.) Seventh-ranked Branch dominated the first round by controlling the distance on the feet with a pesky jab and then switching it up and taking Cannonier down several times.
This gameplan would have been a great path to victory for Branch had he not used all his energy keeping the very explosive Cannonier down in the first round. Once he was gassed and Cannonier realized Branch didn’t have the power to hurt him, Cannonier simply walked Branch down, and 30 seconds into the second round, unloaded a right hand that sent Branch to the canvas. Cannonier followed up with ground and pound and forced the referee to step in and put an end to the damage.
Where do they go from here?
Cannonier made a statement knocking out the seventh-ranked middleweight in the world in his first fight in this division. He will be ranked in the top 15 and will probably draw Thiago Santos or Elias Theodorou, both of which present intriguing style matchups.
Branch has alternated wins with losses since his second stint in the UFC began in May of 2017. He’s not in danger of getting his walking papers just yet, but he is surely on thin ice. A fight with Uriah Hall or Brad Tavares looks right.
The undercard had several exciting fights, including Sijara Eubanks earning the worst possible win you can after failing to make weight. Eubanks’ days fighting at featherweight are over since she has missed weight several times. Fan favorite Ben Saunders took the L against a surging Lyman Good who looked like his namesake in dispatching ‘Killa B’ early in the first round. Sheymon Moraes defeated Jorge Arce via split decision in a bloody brawl that saw Arce get off the canvas several times to make the fight competitive. Karl Roberson looked decent beating Jack Marshman via decision in a fight that was meant to prop up Roberson since he was coming off a bad loss.
Overall UFC 230 was a very entertaining fight card that delivered in different ways than initially expected. I’m now looking forward to the November 9th One Championship: Heart of a Lion fight card that is immediately followed on November 10th by UFC Fight Night Denver. What a time to be a Combat Sports fan!