The scheduled main event of UFC 215 may have been postponed, but the card still had plenty of head-turning (and head-scratching) moments. Here’s a few of the highlights that stuck out to me:
With Demetrius Johnson and Ray Borg getting scrapped, Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko took the top spot on the card. Nunes got a split decision razor-thin win to retain her title. I don’t think I was the only one surprised by the decision. The fight announcers also seemed a little perplexed, but I’ve always said if a championship fight goes to decision, it’ll go to the current champion unless the challenger DOMINATES for 5 rounds. I was proven right, yet again. Shevchenko was pretty upset afterward, and wants a rematch immediately. I don’t think it’ll happen as fast as she wants, but I want to see this fight again; not because it was good, but because it felt so disappointing. It was a tense chess match the entire time where each fighter was hesitant to engage. That’s fine for the first two rounds or so, but then people want stuff to actually start happening. I know enough to where I understand the WHY of it, but I’m still a fan who would rather have a decisive champion than one who baaaaaaaaarely retains the title. Let’s do it again, and this time HIT EACH OTHER.
While the main event was a bit of a letdown, the other fights on the main card provided ALL the entertainment you needed. It all got started when Jeremy Stephens kicked Gilbert Melendez in the leg so hard it looked like it was broken immediately. I mean HOLY SHIT this was one of the most vicious leg kicks I’ve ever seen. Melendez could barely stand afterward, and it was quite audible in between rounds when he wanted to stop the fight. His corner, on the other hand, talked him into staying in the fight. Maybe they thought they were talking him out of quitting and doing him a favor, but when a leg looks like there is a grapefruit underneath your skin…..maaaaybe quitting is a good call. However, Melendez stayed in the fight, and the result was pretty predictable: Jeremy Stephens got the win, and he got that win while looking as good as he ever has. If it wasn’t for being sidetracked with Melendez’s toughness, everyone would be ONLY talking about how crisp Jeremy Stephens looked. He was accurate, technical, mobile, and SMART (which was the most surprising). He seems to be transitioning from pure brawler relying on toughness to actual MMA fighter using his skills and power. I can’t wait to see who he gets next. Melendez, though, was handed a fourth straight loss, and may want to think about his career.
For those wondering what the welterweight title picture is looking like, make sure you put Rafael Dos Anjos in whatever you’re picturing. He looks reinvigorated and reignited with HUNGER since his move up to welterweight. He went up against a younger and bigger Neil Magny, and came away looking like he could challenge for the belt immediately. Dos Anjos made an arm-triangle look like the simplest thing in the world. He made it look like going up against naturally bigger guys is no big deal. Even better, he called out champ Tyron Woodley in the post-fight interview. That is a fight that needs to happen, and soon. Woodley’s last outing against Demian Maia was….not very entertaining, and he needs an interesting fight to promote himself. He seems like he’s waiting for the winner of Bisping vs. St Pierre, but I don’t like that move, and I don’t think the UFC does either. Dos Anjos makes more sense, and has the pull as a former champ to make the right moves to get the fight. Let’s hope it happens.
The flyweight belt wasn’t on the line tonight, but we know who is likely getting the next title shot after Ray Borg (because Johnson is probably not losing that fight). That would be gold medal Olympian Henry Cejudo, who smoked Wilson Reis in round 2 with can only be described as “violent, repeated punches to the face”. Cejudo looked like the next great thing when he debuted. He looked like the Mighty Mouse killer, until, of course, he went up against Mighty Mouse himself. Demetrius Johnson handed Cejudo his first loss, and made it look pretty easy. I think it says something about Mighty Mouse that all these other guys look like monsters until they fight HIM. But Cejudo was landing shots that can’t even be seen with the naked eye they were so fast. I swear to god there was a punch I couldn’t even comprehend until they showed the slow-motion replay. He looked GREAT, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t get next bill for a flyweight title shot.
Oh, and have you ever seen an armbar that makes you immediately squeamish? If you watched Sarah Moras get an armbar on Ashlee Evans-Smith, yes you have. Moras had one of the best scrambles on the ground followed by one of the sneakiest armbars in history. We were just watching an ordinary fight and then OH MY GOD HER ELBOW JUST DISLOCATED. Yeah, I don’t blame you for tapping, Ashlee (with the good arm, at least). Sarah Moras can grab a top-tier opponent now, and with another win will propel herself into the title picture.
Let’s pause for a second to talk about Edmonton, Canada. Now, I’ve never been there, and I don’t know much about it. The only time I remember talking about the city is when the name Tim Hague is mentioned. For those unfamiliar with that name, Tim Hague was a former MMA fighter who had a boxing match in Edmonton. During this fight, he suffered many knockdowns, and took a lot of damage. So much so that he died later that night at the hospital, which brought people to question the athletic commission and why he was allowed to take so much punishment before the fight was called. I bring up that story to talk about the fight between Rick Glenn and Gavin Tucker. Rick Glenn gave a BEATING to Gavin Tucker. He dished out PUNISHMENT. He dominated so much that it was very clear at the end of the second round that Tucker should not fight any longer, but not only did the ref let it continue, so did his corner, and Tucker was forced to suffer for 5 more minutes. It got so obvious the fight should be stopped that Rick Glenn was just pleading with the ref while punching Tucker in the face like, “you just gonna let this continue?…Seriously?” He mentioned it after the fight saying he wished it would have stopped sooner, and no one would disagree. Except the ref and the corner that ignored a young fighter’s safety. That fighter now has four broken bones in his face. I hope that SOMETHING gets investigated with this commission to figure out what the hell is going on. Either people aren’t being trained enough in fighter safety, or they are told not to stop a fight unless there is finality. I realize violence is a part of the sport, but it’s supposed to be controlled, and the refs and the corners are a part of that control. Both of those safety measures failed in this particular fight.
The card may have been a little better served with some fights that had to be dropped, but I’m too much of a fan to let it get to me.
Next fights: Luke Rockhold vs. David Branch Sep 16