Greetings, fight fans!
UFC 252 has wrapped up, and it saw the title of "Baddest Man on the Planet" remain in heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic's grasp in a fight that showed shades of their first two encounters. It strengthens my finding that these two just match up well, and after every meeting I find it hard to confidently handicap who would win another bout between them. This wasn't a case of Cain Velasquez vs Junior dos Santos or Frankie Edgar vs BJ Penn, where after two fights it was crystal clear who would win the vast majority of subsequent fights between the two; both men have made cases in their favor after each fight even in defeat, and I have to say this was probably the best trilogy in UFC history. Elsewhere on the card we saw a couple hype trains derailed and some once top talent continue to slide, but all in all it was a pretty decent night of fights. Without further ado, let's get down to what the hell happened!
The Main Card
Miocic wins the rubber match, retires Cormier in back-and-forth affair
Stipe Miocic (c) def. #1 Daniel Cormier by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47)
What happened?: Size did matter in the rubber match, and Miocic combined it with his toughness and plenty of those body shots that paved his way to victory in the previous fight to secure a successful title defense. In the end, it was Miocic's control in the clinch up against the cage that really sealed his victory in a fight that was much closer than its scores indicate.
How did that happen?: Coming into the fight I called it essentially a toss-up, and with the fight now behind us, my assessment on the match-up hasn't really changed. These two remain a pair that continuously find singular large adjustments and answers to each others' styles that win fights, and if somehow they were to meet again I wouldn't be surprised at all if Cormier found an answer for Miocic's stifling clinch game (something that, ironically, Cormier usually finds his biggest successes with). The early going of the fight played out more or less as expected, with Cormier still being the quicker of the two, but Miocic picking up where he left off in their previous bout by landing hard punches to the body with aplomb. As a result, the pace was much more measured this time around, as both men seemed pretty cognizant of the stakes of this bout and how their previous mistakes cost them in the first two fights. The opening round had both men showing quite a bit of respect for the other's striking, and Cormier in particular bit pretty hard on Miocic's feints (which isn't too out of the ordinary for him, he usually reacts pretty big). Not a ton of consequence landed in the round until late, when Cormier caught his foe with a big overhand right that visibly stunned him; a shot that more than likely swung things in his favor for the round.
Miocic did much better in the early striking exchanges this time around...
but 'DC' caught him good at the end of the round.
Round two was a pretty back-and-forth round with both men landing well in exchanges. Cormier started to put together some nice combinations later in the round, but once again the most significant offense of the round (and in this cast the fight) happened at the end when Miocic caught Cormier retreating along the cage with a series of right hooks that dropped him against the fence. Miocic managed to mount him against the cage, but with only a few seconds left to go in the round, Cormier was able to hold on until the horn.
Miocic almost had a repeat finish of their second fight here!
In round three Miocic started to turn up the pressure, probably sensing that he could start to take over as the fresher man after badly hurting Cormier just a minute earlier. This is also when he made the adjustment to start reaching in for double underhooks and clinching Cormier against the cage. While not a ton of meaningful offense occurred there, he was able to keep Cormier in place and bank control time while landing short punches and knees. Upon seperation Cormier started to land more, but it was too little too late in a round for him to make it up. Dominick Cruz mentioned on commentary that Cormier says he always takes the third round off, and for the most part it seemed like he did take his foot off the gas a bit to preserve some energy. Unfortunately, it might have cost him, but what also seemed to cost him was the bad eye poke near the end of the round that went unnoticed by referee Marc Goddard and apparently left Cormier blinded in that eye for the rest of the fight.
Yup, got him good with that one!
There seems to be some dissension about this among people, but I thought round four was pretty clearly a Cormier round (much more so than round one). He out-landed Miocic almost two-to-one in significant strikes and really did his best work of the fight with combinations and big right hands. On my score card it was all tied up headed into the final round, and with both men tired but Miocic seemingly a bit fresher, he was smart to rely on his size and force clinch exchanges against the cage for much of the round. With the striking at distance relatively even, it was his stifling clinch work that made the difference in the round and earned him a hard-fought successful title defense.
Let's just appreciate these two warriors' handiwork.
Other thoughts: Something I found really interesting about this fight as it played out was how both men seemed to both learn and and not learn from their previous encounters. Miocic's body shots were the biggest story coming out of their previous fight, and he still did well to use them here. Cormier might have caught some flack following this fight if his loss was more directly related to them, but body shots mess with a fundamental part of Cormier's style: his reaching out and hand-fighting in order to close the distance and misdirect his opponents to land punches over the top. Because he's always the shorter, more compact man, he's constantly reaching out to get inside, and that leaves his body open. If he does lower his hands to protect his body, that leaves his head vulnerable to people that can hit him at ranges he can't hit them, making for a bit of a catch 22 for him tactically. He did seem to pay more mind to them defensively here, and I also believe that they were the reason that we saw him use more low kicks; so that he can equalize the reach between them a bit. Similarly, Cormier won the first fight because of his tendency to sneakily entertain the clinch for a short time before slipping his arm out and throwing tight hooks on the break. While he wasn't able to finish the fight with that technique this time, Miocic repeatedly left himself open in these clinch break situations and ate many punches like the one that dropped him and led to his demise in their first fight. His use of double underhooks in the clinch did prevent Cormier from doing this and hold him in place when he wanted to wear him down a bit, but as the fight went on Cormier seemed to have more and more success landing big punches when they'd separate from clinches. In a sense, part of how both men dealt with their losses to each other was to simply expect their opponent to use the same tactics that worked for them before, and be tougher this time. What I loved about that is that the fight was much more back-and-forth and tit-for-tat as a result. There were many instances where they would trade low kicks and big punches in quick succession, and as someone who takes pretty extensive play-by-play notes during events, this one gave my fingers a workout on the keyboard.
One thing that has been notably absent for Cormier through this trilogy is his wrestling. While it's understandable that he may not want to expend too much energy wrestling with the bigger man and getting tired (and he does tend to tire when he can't bully opponents), I think using a bit more wrestling could have served as a way for him to close the distance besides reaching out and put the threat of the takedown more into Miocic's head. He certainly had his opportunities, since Miocic thew a good amount of low kicks. It's a bit ironic that Cormier mostly abandoned the thing that brought him to the dance, while that very thing, and more specifically a tactic he's used to the tune of much success in his career in stifling his opponent against the cage with clinch work, was actually used against him to essentially cost him his retirement fight.
And on that note, I have to thank Cormier for all the memories. He has his share of detractors, but love him or hate him, he's one of the best heavyweights and light heavyweights in the sport's history, and a fantastic color commentator as well. As someone who enjoys analyzing fights and is constantly looking to get better at it, I've learned a lot from his work in the booth, and he always presents it in a way that is as entertaining as it is informative. I wish him nothing but the best in his future, and I hope we'll continue to see him in the booth; perhaps even more often now that his schedule may be freed up a bit.
Next for Miocic: He's cemented his legacy as one of the best to ever do it at heavyweight, but it's time for that Francis Ngannou rematch. Ngannou has been waiting for it and he's gotten the necessary wins to demand it. Let's get that going.
Next for Cormier: A well-earned retirement from fighting and perhaps a full-time gig as UFC company man.
'The Sugar Show' abruptly canceled, replaced with 'The Chito Show'
Marlon Vera def. #14 Sean O’Malley by TKO via strikes (4:40, R1)
What happened?: The 'Sugar Show' was getting pretty good up until this point, but ended as suddenly and unsatisfactorily as The Sopranos.
How did that happen?: O'Malley started the fight out leaning heavily on kicks and feints to draw Vera out of his shell, and Vera bit on those feints pretty hard. However, rather than coming forward off of them like he normally would, he showed a bit more hesitancy and moved back instead, perhaps aware of what O'Malley was looking to accomplish. The tide began to shift a bit almost halfway through the round when O'Malley appeared to trip along the cage. This was probably the beginning of the leg injury, and Vera began turning up the pressure a bit after this. A matter of seconds later O'Malley attempted to move forward and feint hard on his lead leg from southpaw, and it gave out on him. He stood straight up after that and waited for Vera to approach him before switching to orthodox and moving very gingerly on it, which broadcast out to everyone that there was a major problem there.
O'Malley's a pretty unorthodox guy, but that certainly wasn't part of his gameplan.
At that point Vera really turned up the pressure on his compromised foe, doing well to head him off at the pass as he moved along the cage with low kicks. With a little more than 30 seconds left in the round, O'Malley decided to put on a little pressure himself and landed a couple right hands in a blitz, but it was short-lived as his foot gave out on him again and he fell to his seat before going to his back. Vera wasted no time, immediately jumping into O'Malley's guard and uncorking a huge elbow that appeared to flash knockout the prospect before a couple more prompted the stoppage. The stoppage has been called out for being too quick, but it was pretty understandable considering how compromised O'Malley was, and you certainly didn't see him griping about it after the fact.
Other thoughts: O'Malley has gotten a lot of flack for his colorful (literally) persona that has developed over his time in the UFC, but I don't really get any satisfaction out of seeing him suffer his first loss this way because it didn't really give us any answers. Vera didn't find some exploitable hole in his game to hand him his prospect loss, he just capitalized on a freak injury. That's no knock on Vera at all; he came in there and did his job like he was supposed to, and for all we know it may have been kick-started (no pun intended) by a checked kick or a low kick from him. But for all the talk of O'Malley's hype train being derailed, it's hard to say that with much certainty because the loss didn't prove or disprove anything about him other than proving that his legs really aren't that sturdy. A leg injury also seriously hobbled him in his fight with Andre Soukhamthath, but he was able to survive that due in part to some truly questionable displays of fight IQ from Soukhamthath in being a striker and choosing to wrestle a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Vera is not one to make the same mistake. So it's not so much that the hype train was derailed, but more that it has a bad wheel that needs repairing and has to take a detour before heading back on the route to its destination. I'll be interested to see how he responds to this loss and whether or not it will spurn a bit of a change in his style. He uses a kick-heavy style predicated on constant stance switching, heavy feinting on his lead leg, and directional shifts, and those things always open up the possibility of leg and foot injuries; O'Malley might just not be built for it anymore. It immediately brought forth memories of Travis Browne and how he had to pear down his movement-heavy style after blowing out his knee against Bigfoot Silva. You already have someone in front of you trying to hurt you; it's best to limit the risk of hurting yourself out there.
When talking about overachievers at 135 lbs, who comes to mind more than Vera? He's always had some talent, but expectations for him certainly weren't high when he came to the UFC off of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America. Since starting his UFC run with a middling 4-4 record, he's gone on to six of his last seven and is currently on a six-fight winning streak at bantamweight. Over the years he has transformed from a guy with a formless game who couldn't stop fouling Davey Grant to a legit top 15 fighter with great durability and finishing instincts. It's been nice seeing his game come along so dramatically under Colin Oyama.
Next for Vera: I think it's time for him to get a crack at the top 10. Rob Font sounds about right to me, though I also wouldn't mind a rematch with Yadong Song at their proper weight.
Next for O'Malley: It's a tough loss for the vaunted prospect, but one that thankfully for him doesn't portend any real negatives about his game. He could take on the loser of Ricky Simon vs Brian Kelleher, or if they want to ease him back into the win column a bit more they can give him Alejandro Perez.
Rozenstruik hands 'JDS' his third-straight stoppage loss
#6 Jairzinho Rozenstruik def. #5 Junior Dos Santos by TKO via strikes (3:47, R2)
What happened?: A mostly measured kickboxing bout went awry for dos Santos once Rozenstruik landed a solid right hand and got him on the defensive. Shortly thereafter, a left hook-right hook combo dropped dos Santos along the cage, and Rozenstruik went wild with hooks as he tried to get back to his feet, dropping him back down to the canvas as soon as he did manage to stand. He got a few more shots in, but dos Santos was done when he hit the ground.
How did that happen?: Rozenstruik merely waited for his opportunity and pounced once he saw it. Minute-to-minute, Rozenstruik is a pretty dedicated counterpuncher with little movement to his game. He doesn't pressure or retreat in an attempt to draw out countering opportunities; he mostly just stands his ground and essentially dares his opponent to enter the pocket so he can meet them and counter in exchanges. We saw this numerous times when dos Santos would throw his big overhands or punches to the body, and Rozenstruik would respond by fading back a bit and kicking his lead leg to disrupt his balance and set up followup opportunities. He was also quick to look to counter dos Santos' overhand rights with right hands of his own since dos Santos tends to commit a lot to that punch. Dos Santos' Achilles heel has been pressure, and since Rozenstruik isn't much of a pressure fighter, it gave the Brazilian a bit of a false sense of security that led to him setting up his big shots less and throwing a few rather unattractive wheel kicks at range.
In the second round Rozenstruik started to get a feel for dos Santos' timing and although he still kept his shot selection conservative, he did start to focus on pressuring a bit to get dos Santos' back to the cage. As we've seen before, when dos Santos gets his back to the cage, he often tries to circle off of it with his hands down and it always gives his opponents open shots to his head. After landing a solid right hand, Rozenstruik pressured dos Santos back to the cage, and set him up nicely for the finish by taking an angle to his left and landing the left hand to cut dos Santos off from moving to his right. This forced dos Santos to circle to his left at close range, right into the power side of Rozenstruik, who took advantage of his defensive negligence with that big right hook that felled him. The fight essentially went as I thought it would to a T; a measured first round would lead to Rozenstruik eventually finding his shot in round two on a retreating dos Santos and finishing the fight. It always feels good to call a fight exactly!
Other thoughts: Rozenstruik may not be the most intriguing fighter throughout the course of his fights, but his power and ability to set simple traps for his opponents are big assets in the heavyweight division. He's going to shine brightest in fights like these where he has no worry of being clinched or taken down, but is lack of aptitude in those areas may keep him from going too far in the division against more defensively responsible fighters. At the same time, his power does remain late in fights, which allowed him to take out a relatively defensively responsible fighter in Alistair Overeem just seconds before he would've lost a decision. He has that in common with Derrick Lewis, who also reached greater heights than most thought he was capable of on the back of just being able to hit hard even when tired.
It's hard not to feel for dos Santos. A former champion and perennial top heavyweight, his time in the sun appears to be at a close. I think a lot of the blame for this can go to the fact that he never really evolved as a fighter when it came to fixing his deficiencies. I definitely wouldn't say he's had zero improvements over the course of his career, but he's still being beaten by fighters exploiting the same holes in his game that were exposed years ago. He's become more cognizant of the fact that he needs to stay off the fence, but he's never actually improved his defensive footwork so that he's backed up to the fence; he just gets put there like he always does, then has an "Oops, I'd better get away from the fence!" moment where he corrects his position. As mentioned, even during this correction, he rarely minds his defense and still gets caught. Also, while he's never been a huge jabber, it seems to have all but disappeared. His jab arguably laid the foundation for how he landed his overhand right to win the title, and rather than fall in love with the tool he used to set up the finish, he fell in love with the tool that directly caused the finish: his wide, looping overhand right that a lot of fighters see coming these days. If these were the dos Santos of a few years ago I might have picked him to beat Rozenstruik, but the current version, while still in solid shape, is more predictable, a bit slower, and less durable. Being that he's still relatively quick and athletic for the division, he's long overdue to actually start incorporating some wrestling into his game, even if just to put that into his opponents' heads. Even so, I think this marks the end of him being anywhere near contention, and I'll be curious to see how he responds to the loss since he's generally one to come out of losses pretty positive about where he's at.
Jeez, the man can't even be sad for two seconds even after he loses.
Next for Rozenstruik: It may have been a mistake for him to call out Ngannou, but he went right back to moving up the ranks here. If Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes don't end up fighting each other, Rozenstruik could fight either one of them. If they do fight relatively soon, he could take on the loser, since the winner would probably be in line for a title shot after Ngannou.
Next for dos Santos: Even with his current career-worst skid, I don't think it's time for him to hang 'em up. He does deserve to take a bit of a tumble down the rankings though, and there are a lot of options there for him. Either the loser of Overeem vs Augusto Sakai, Cyril Gane vs Shamil Abdurakhimov, or Walt Harris vs Alexander Volkov would make sense for him.
Pineda returns to batter overweight Burns in his own domain
Daniel Pineda def. Herbert Burns by TKO via strikes (4:37, R2)
What happened?: Already the better fighter on the feet, Pineda tagged Burns on the feet before willingly engaging him on the ground. It seemed inadvisable at first, but over time Burns faded, and Pineda turned up the heat until he dominated the decorated BJJ player in the grappling and scored the upset TKO win.
How did that happen?: Pineda came out aggressive on the feet as expected; much of his style is built on his unyielding aggression and confidence wherever the fight goes (for better or for worse). He held back little with his striking because his bread and butter is also his grappling, and when Burns took him down early he immediately looked for a guillotine before escaping and then taking Burns down. Despite the perceived skill gap between the two on paper, Pineda stayed tight on top, passed Burns' guard, and landed solid shots on the ground, while avoiding everything Burns threw at him off his back. In the second round Burns started out strong with a hard right hand into a takedown, and eventually managed to get to mount and flatten his foe out, but Pineda was too wily and managed to not only escape, but reverse position and end up in half guard when Burns was on his back. By then Burns was clearly fatigued, as evidenced by how easily he was reversed, and Pineda passed to side, and finally to the crucifix position, leaving Burns tired and in a harrowing position. Pineda thought about a straight armlock, but instead let it go and opted for some hard elbows. Pineda landed many unanswered shots and Burns had nowhere to go and the referee had no choice but to stop the fight before he took too much more damage.
Other thoughts: This was yet another fight on the card where I saw the underdog as pretty live. I sided with Burns because I thought Pineda's willingness to grapple would get him into trouble, but it turned out he was more than capable of handling himself. It was mentioned on commentary, but a lot of it came down to MMA grappling vs pure BJJ grappling; the key difference being that MMA grappling is much more focused on doing damage with strikes on the ground to open up opportunities for positions and submissions, whereas many sport BJJ fighters tend to disregard striking in favor of working more diligently on furthering their situation on the ground. It makes sense with there being no striking in BJJ, and it's a habit a lot of notable BJJ players learn the hard way to overcome in MMA. We've seen it successful even in back and forth fights, where a fighter will be outstruck by his opponent by a good margin, but because of their positional control and submission threats on the ground it was clear that they won the fight.
An example of that would be Olivier Aubin Mercier's win over Tony Sims, where he landed a paltry three total significant strikes (one in each round, and none of them on the ground) and was out-landed 23-to-1 in significant strikes in the final round, but through takedowns and positional control clearly won the fight and even received two 30-27 scorecards. He, like many others, learned the hard way that it pays to hit your opponents on the ground. As they say, every time a grappler gets hit in the face, they go down a belt level. Burns does great work when he's on top, but veteran grapplers like Pineda have seen a lot on the ground, and while Burns didn't do much to actually damage Pineda when he had the advantage, Pineda was constantly landing shots and doing damage to Burns. Pineda's method is simply much more effective over time. Pineda wasn't going to get as tired from grappling Burns as Burns was going to get taking punches and elbows from Pineda.
Next for Pineda: Not many on the card made out as well as he did. He not only returned to the promotion for the first time in over six years, but he pulled off a pretty dominant upset win and got a performance bonus out of it to boot. I wouldn't mind seeing him take on another fighter he returned to the UFC on short notice to pull off an upset in Julian Erosa.
Next for Burns: He had a bit of hype behind him because of his brother, but honestly Burns hadn't really done much to warrant much hype. Submitting Evan Dunham is always notable, but we can't ignore the fact that Dunham had been on the slide for a while before that and had actually returned from retiring following his fight with Francisco Trinaldo. It'd be kind of cruel to Chase Hooper to suggest they fight, but I wouldn't mind seeing it. Alternatively, Jordan Griffin is a possibility.
Dvashvili uses pressure and wrestling to frustrate 'The Magician' and make his offense disappear
#15 Merab Dvalishvili def. #12 John Dodson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
What happened?: The aptly nicknamed "Machine" never gave Dodson a moment's rest. He used constant takedown attempts, clinch control, pressure, and feints on the feet to shut down his offense and cruise to a clear-cut decision.
How did that happen?: There's not a ton else to it other than that. Dodson has had a career-long battle with needing to dictate his own (often slow) pace, and if he can't do that then he tends to get frustrated and shut down a bit offensively. He likes to hang around on the outside feinting and waiting for opportunities to blitz or counter, and when those opportunities arise he strikes; when they don't then he just continues bouncing around and moving on the outside. It's the quintessential Dodson fight, and Dvalishvili refused to give it to him. He remained constantly in Dodson's face throwing a ton of feints and really only committing to right hands ahead of takedown attempts. One such attempt in the first round led to an extensive clinch sequence that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the fight, as Dodson would find himself trapped in place in a rear waist lock being repeatedly kneed to the thigh and kicked in the calf. Following the round he went back to his corner visibly and audibly frustrated that his opponent wanted to wrestle him, and when Dodson gets frustrated, things don't usually go up for him from there.
There was more striking from distance in the next two rounds, but the psychological damage had already been done in that opening stanza. Dodson became much more hesitant to commit because he was too busy looking for the window of opportunity for the perfect shot that just wouldn't present itself because of the constant feints and takedown attempts. He just never could get into the fight. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Robbie Lawler's performance against Colby Covington. To his credit, Dodson's historically fantastic takedown defense held strong in this fight, as he defended all but two of twenty offerings from Dvalishvili; and even when he was brought to the canvas, he would immediately pop back up like a rubber ball. It's rare you see a fighter picked up over his opponent's head and slammed the mat repeatedly, and in the same breath separate and spring right back to his feet. It was really the only impressive thing about Dodson's performance, but it won him no favor in the eyes of the judges. Coming into the fight I actually thought Dodson had a good shot to pull off the upset, but the main reason I ended up siding with Dvalishvili is pretty much exactly what ended up presenting itself in the fight: once Dodson gets frustrated he can't be trusted to make the right decisions in the cage, and Dvalishvili knows how to frustrate guys. I could see a possible outcome where Dodson was able to stuff the takedowns, make Dvalishvili pay, and separate the way he'd done to other wrestlers, but especially with the size difference and the way Dodson has looked lately, I just couldn't bank on that.
Also, this happened.
Other thoughts: Of course the main takeaway of this fight for me is that Dvalishvili's cardio is still insane. He'd demonstrated it in his other fights, but it never fails to impress just how furious a pace this man is able to push for the entirety of a fight and still be less winded that just about anyone else would be. He seems to be improving on the feet as well; there are still a few too many spinning back-fists in his arsenal, but he seems to be taking a Khabib Nurmagomedov-like track to striking improvement in that he's evolved from someone who wildly crashes forward into range throwing looping shots so that he can transition to the clinch into someone who actually has a process to his striking, first showing his wrestling to get his opponents preoccupied with it, then using awkward movement and feints (for strikes and level changes) along with their strikes to craft an 'ugly but effective' style. I'm not sure what his ceiling is in the division, but this was the type of win he needed to show that he's ready to move up in the division. Of course not too high, since his main training partner Aljamain Sterling is right there in the title hunt.
Next for Dvalishvili: Much like Vera, a top 10 opponent is probably in order. Thinking about it, Vera himself wouldn't be a bad choice, or Rob Font, who I suggested for Vera. If they want to move him up the ranks a bit more, Jimmie Rivera or Cody Stamman are also options.
Next for Dodson: He's had a rough time since moving back to 135 lbs, never managing to win two straight, but he also hasn't gotten a break in the competition department as well. He should probably get one of those. How about Rani Yahya?
Vinc Pichel def. Jim Miller by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
It's always a bit of a bummer to see Miller catch a loss since he's one of the most enduring veterans and all around good guys of the sport. After a solid first round where Miller took Pichel down, got his back, and threatened with a rear-naked choke, arm-triangle, and a calf slicer, Pichel's size and strength just proved to be too much for him down the stretch. Miller's stamina has been an on-and-off issue for him for years now, but Pichel's size just bolstered his wrestling and heavy top control. It was a good performance by Pichel, who thus far has only lost to bigger, stronger wrestlers than himself that he couldn't bully, and Miller just isn't that guy.
Virna Jandiroba def. #15 Felice Herrig by submission via arm bar (1:44, R1)
I don't know how much stock I put into beating Felice Herrig in 2020, but Jandiroba definitely demanded attention after swiftly becoming the first woman to finish Herrig in a pro bout. I specify pro bout because she was submitted by Randa Markos on The Ultimate Fighter, which really means nothing to me because it exists in its own pocket universe where you can't judge fighters' abilities based on it. Herrig came out and landed a single low kick before immediately being taken down and held under the Brazilian's heavy top game. It wasn't long before Jandiroba worked her way to mount, landed some hard ground and pound, and confidently stepped over for an armbar that Herrig initially defended well, but one readjustment and it was over almost as fast as it started. A commanding performance from Jandiroba, and definitely worth the performance bonus she received. Also, with her haircut and apparent extra muscle packed on, Jandiroba's out there looking like a mini Ediane Gomes.
Danny Chavez def. TJ Brown by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
This was a fun fight at featherweight where Chavez broke down Brown over two rounds with crackling low kicks in the first to limit his movement and drop his guard, and then putting his punches and kicks together more up top in a relatively dominant second stanza where he nearly finished Brown following a right hand that rocked him badly. Realizing he was down on the scorecards, Brown brought the fight to Chavez in the final round, turning up his aggression and tagging him with several hard shots and forcing him to retreat for portions of the stanza. Chavez would turn to his wrestling to finish out the fight, landing an impressive string of them in the latter part of the fight. It was a spirited effort from Brown, but Chavez did enough good work in the first two rounds to take home the decision.
Rolling Germans are a welcoming addition to any card.
Parker Porter def. Chris Daukaus by TKO via strikes (4:28, R1)
What can I say? This was a heavyweight MMA fight. One of these guys was going down in a heap, and it happened to be Porter. Daukaus appeared to have the speed advantage without sacrificing much in the way of power, and as we've seen time and time again, that's a dangerous combination in the division. Daukaus had already dropped Porter once with a blistering four-punch combination, and from there he really just couldn't keep up. We got a pretty nice finishing sequence when Daukaus landed a 1-2, pulled back to avoid a counter right hand from Porter, then fired back another 1-2 followed by several left and right hooks that had Porter stumbling back toward the cage. When Porter hit the cage, Daukaus nailed him with a knee on his way down, and the fight was over.
Daukaus showed some pretty quick hands for a heavyweight.
Livinha Souza def. Ashley Yoder by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Imagine my surprise when I hope onto MMA Decisions and see that this fight was actually somewhat controversial. Ten of seventeen media outlets scored the fight for Yoder, as well as 73% of fans who submitted their scorecards. I thought Yoder definitely won round three while Souza clearly won the opening round, but I didn't think the second round was that much of a toss-up, let alone a clear Yoder round. Even reading play-by-play accounts where Yoder was given the round, they actually read like Souza should have gotten the nod. So it may be an unpopular opinion, but I think the judges got this one right (except for Dave Hagen, who gave Souza the third). Either way, neither woman impressed much. Souza was basically just an overhand right and an inside low kick on the feet and not much else, and we didn't get to see much of Yoder's grappling, which is her bread and butter. Souza came to the UFC from Invicta with a few expectations, but her game has not really evolved at the pace it needs to for her to become a factor in the UFC strawweight division.
Kai Kamaka III def. Tony Kelley by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
It's rare that a prelim opener gets Fight of the Night, especially when we got a pretty damn good heavyweight title fight to close out the card, but you couldn't not give it to these guys, who just left it all in the cage. Both men landed a total of 114 significant strikes each. Kamaka threw everything but the kitchen sink at Kelley in the opening round and battered him pretty thoroughly, and continued in the second until Kelley came right back and started to turn the tide of the fight. By the third round Kamaka was tired, but still firing off big hooks to Kelley's body whenever he'd clinch up and look to throw knees. We basically got 15 minutes of two men who weren't afraid to constantly crash into each other and throw extended combinations, and it made for a helluva fight, and a close one as well. It was a unanimous decision win, but an argument can be made for giving Kelley the second round. In fact, judge Michael Bell did, but mindbogglingly gave Kamaka the third round. In the end, it didn't really matter, but it's yet another sign that judging is a problem in the sport. Still, it did nothing to ruin this thrilling fight.
JUMPING GUARD ON GUILLOTINES LATE IS A BAD IDEA. When will people get this?
And that's it for UFC 252! We didn't get a storybook career-ending for Cormier (unless that storybook has the protagonist being blinded in one eye and going home with nothing), but he has everything to be proud of in his career despite being a bridesmaid in two divisions (and still winning gold in both, which says something). What we did get was Miocic continuing his story as the greatest UFC heavyweight champion of all time, as he looks to add many more chapters to that storybook. Next up we have UFC on ESPN 15, which will be headlined by Frankie Edgar's debut at bantamweight against Brazilian slugger Pedro Munhoz. A card that as an Edgar fan I hope I won't be sad at the conclusion of. Until then, sado out!
UFC 252 took place from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday, August 15. Miocic defeated Cormier by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47) to cap off their trilogy.