UFC 209 Review

6 Mar , 2017,

It’s been a while since I did one of these event review blogs. I was actually going to write up a preview as I was very much looking forward to the event. Just as I was finishing up, the news got out that Khabib Nurmagomedov was hospitalized after a failed weight cut, cancelling his interim lightweight title bout with Tony Ferguson, which on paper was the most interesting matchup of the card. I was too bummed to re-write my preview, and decided to spend the evening playing video games instead.

Despite losing the co-main, and the main event which turned out to be a stinker, the card wasn’t bad overall. It had a couple of fun come-from-behind finishes, a good heavyweight scrap (in addition to two bad ones), and an early candidate for fight of the year in Vannata-Teymur. Here’s how the televised UFC 209 fights went down.

Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)

[#72 HW] Mark Godbeer def. [#164 HW] Daniel Spitz by unanimous decision

A sloppy heavyweight striking battle to start off the night. Godbeer had the clear power advantage and landed some good shots but could not put Spitz away. Both fighters gassed badly halfway through the second round. Not much else to say about this fight.

Aftermath: Can we just pretend this fight didn’t happen? It’s pretty clear at this point that Godbeer will not make it past being a low-level gatekeeper in the UFC, if he doesn’t wash out in his next few fights. Spitz is young and has plenty of time to develop, but his career would be better served by doing this development in smaller leagues. But the UFC’s heavyweight division needs all the warm bodies it can get, so both guys are guaranteed at least one more fight in the Octagon. I have very little interest in watching their next fights, whoever the opponent might be, so I’ll take the lazy approach to matchmaking with a winner-loser matchup against the participants of the other sloppy heavyweight bout of the night (Tybura – Henrique).

[#10 BW] Iuri Alcantara def. [#27 BW] Luke Sanders by submission (knee-bar)

Sanders took the fight to Alcantara out of the gate, and had Iuri in all sorts of trouble after scoring a takedown and pounding away from the dominant position.  Alcantara survived, and with less than a minute left in the first Sanders nailed Iuri with a blatantly illegal knee to the head of a downed opponent. A point deduction followed, though Sanders likely still won what should have otherwise been a 10-8 bout.  Sanders used the same strategy in the second round, until Alcantara rolled for a knee-bar and got a quick tap.  Great come-from-behind victory and a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus for Iuri.

Aftermath: With 14 UFC fights, Iuri Alcantara has been around the block a few times, and at 36 he is nearing the end of his prime.  This win earns him a place in the Top 10, and gives him an opportunity to make one last run at the top.  If [#7] Marlon Moraes signs with UFC, Alcantara would be a good option to welcome the WSOF champion into the Octagon.  Otherwise, [#6] John Lineker would make for an interesting matchup of styles.

Luke Sanders suffers the first loss of his career in the fight he was winning in a dominant fashion.  Sanders made some obvious mistakes against a veteran fighter, and could still be a force in the division with minor adjustments to his game. If [#34] Michael McDonald is planning to take a fight any time soon, he’s a good pick for Luke’s next matchup.

[#9 FW] Darren Elkins def. [#51 FW] Mirsad Bektic by TKO

Bektic utilized his top game to completely dominate Elkins in the first round, turning Darren’s face into a bloody mess and coming close to stopping the fight from a crucifix position reminiscent of a prime Matt Hughes.  Elkins was able to escape and survived the round.  More of the same followed in the second, but Bektic started to slow down, allowing Elkins to attempt some submissions and land a few strikes off his back. The wheels completely fell off Mirsad in the final round, and Elkins landed a punch & high kick combination that finished Bektic.  Neither strike landed clean – Mirsad’s exhaustion had as much to do with the TKO ending as the damage from Elkin’s strikes. Nonetheless, another amazing comeback, earning a 50K bonus for Darren.

Aftermath: Darren Elkins earns his fourth consecutive win and the highest ranking of his professional career. Skill-wise, I don’t believe he truly belongs in the Top 10, and this is probably his ceiling. However, a 12-4 record in UFC can’t be argued with and he needs to be matched up accordingly.  Let’s have him face [#10] Brian Ortega or [#14] Renan Barao next.

Bektic is another prospect saying goodbye to an undefeated record, largely due to wearing himself out trying to finish a very tough opponent. Endurance and pacing can be fixed and I still see him as a very viable prospect. Can he take a solid wrestler like [#62] Gray Maynard down as easily as he did Elkins? I won’t mind finding out.

[#27 HW] Marcin Tybura def. [#101 HW] Luis Henrique by TKO

Another ugly heavyweight affair, this one slightly more enterntaining than the FS1 opening fight. Tybura showed an edge in striking, which Henrique wanted nothing to do with, so Luis spent most of the fight clinching and pushing Marcin against the cage.  Henrique had some success with body-lock takedowns, but could not get any offense going on the ground. In the third round, Tybura was able to get his back in a scramble. From there Marcin went on to mount, and scored with mild ground-and-pound.  None of the strikes seemed to hurt Henrique badly, but he was hopelessly gassed and unable to escape, forcing referee Herb Dean to take mercy on Luis (and the fans) by stopping this hot mess of a bout.

Aftermath: Weighting in at a flabby 241 lbs, Tybura is not the most physically imposing heavyweight and making 205 is not out of the realm of possibility. I don’t see him being elite in either weight class, but if he remains at HW he will likely be at a serious power and strength disadvantage against the bigger guys in the division. Henrique at 23 years of age is just a baby in a largely geriatric weight class, but would have to make big improvements in every area of his game to become a contender. Similar to Daniel Spitz, Luis ended up in the UFC before he was truly ready for this level of competition. Assuming Tybura stays at HW, and Henrique is not released from UFC, Tybura vs Godbeer and Henrique vs Spitz make for serviceable card fillers.

Main Card (Pay-Per-View)

[#3 HW] Alistair Overeem def. [#7 HW] Mark Hunt by KO (knee)

Hunt starts out as the aggressor, stalking Overeem and throwing leg kicks.  Alistair quickly figures out Hunt’s timing and checks a kick, which results in a gnarly gash on Hun’t shin that bleeds heavily and leaves bloody footprints with every step, until his corner plugs the cut with a huge glob of Vaseline in between rounds. Towards the end of the first, Hunt hurts Overeem with a punch.  Alistair turns his back and runs away; Hunt corners him against the cage and things are looking grim, but the clock runs out.  As the fight progresses, Overeem takes over.  Hunt still throws kicks with his injured leg, and occasionally scores with punches and short elbows. Overeem turns and sprints out of danger whenever he’s hurt and the crowd boo’s. In the third round, Overeem traps Hunt in a clinch and lands knees. One is right on the button and Hunt is out on his feet.  Another knee misses it’s target completely as Hunt does a delayed reaction, Rick Flair-esque face plant. Brutal.

Aftermath: With a big win, Overeem is back in the mix – it doesn’t take much in the heavyweight division. Another victory might earn Alistair his last opportunity to hold a UFC title. ‘Reem’ expressed interest in fighting [#8] Derrick Lewis or [#10] Francis Ngannou next; the Ngannou matchup seems like the more enticing of the two.

Mark Hunt really should retire.  His legendary chin is clearly not there anymore, and it’s not a good look for the former K-1 champion. Alas, he promised to press on. Put him in with [#11] Travis Browne or [#12] Andrei Arlovski in what would likely be the last UFC fight for the man who doesn’t come out victorious.

[#31 W115] Cynthia Calvillo def. [NR] Amanda Cooper by submission (rear naked choke)

This fight didn’t last long, as after the initial striking exchanges Calvillo catches a kick and earns a takedown. From there she threatens an anaconda choke and uses it to take Cooper’s back in a scramble. Calvillo locks on a rear naked choke; Cooper fights it off for a bit but eventually succumbs and taps out.

Aftermath: This fight was too short to really gauge Calvillo’s skills but she did show some solid grappling. It’s good to see an influx of fresh blood in the women’s strawweight division.  [#28] Alexa Grasso would be a good test for Calvillo.

As a Michigander, I like to root for local fighters, but this fight puts Amanda Cooper’s record at 2-3, and someone with 5 pro fights and sub-.500 record does not belong in MMA’s elite league. Still, I have a feeling she will get another fight in UFC, if only because she’s blonde and somewhat attractive.  If that’s the case, pair her with [#45] Bec Rawlings.

[#17 MW] Daniel Kelly def. [#28 MW] Rashad Evans by split decision

Rashad Evans appeared very excited to make his long-awaited middleweight debut, after being denied a license to fight in his last two scheduled bouts, for undisclosed medical reasons. He even did a little dance after entering the cage – giving us a preview of his strategy for this fight. The fight itself was fairly uneventful. Kelly’s judo and Rashad’s wrestling largely cancelled each other out, though Kelly did have success with few nice trips that likely gave him an edge on the scorecards.  He also appeared to have a slight edge in striking, and won a split decision in a close fight that really could have went either way.

Aftermath: There will be some calls for Rashad to retire, but I think he deserves another chance to establish himself at 185 lbs. He looked to be in the best physical shape of his career, and was light on his feet. His problem was the inability to pull the trigger and commit to any offense, which we’ve seen from Evans before, even in his prime. Just because I am a glutton for punishment, how about matching him up with [#8] Anderson Silva for a three-round dance-off.

And what is the UFC supposed to do with a 40 year old prospect like Dan Kelly? Throw him in the deep end, of course. Since George St. Pierre stole [#2] Yoel Romero‘s well deserved title shot, keep Romero busy by matching him up with Kelly.

OK, I’m totally kidding with my fantasy matchmaking here.  Of course absurd matchups seem to be the new norm in WME-UFC, so I won’t be too surprised if either of the above matchups actually come to fruition. But I’ll try to be more realistic… Rashad Evans can test his mettle against another shop-worn veteran [#27] Nate Marquardt, while Kelly can welcome the recently signed two division WSOF champion, [#14] David Branch back to the Octagon.

[#56 LW] David Teymur def. [#124 LW] Lando Vannata by unanimous decision

Vannata was a heavy favorite going into this fight, and for a while it looked like the odds were spot on when Lando laid it on Teymur early. Teymur ate the big shots and returned fire, knocking out Lando’s mouthpiece. As the fight progressed, Vannata continued to throw a lot of unorthodox strikes, including a capoeira kick that actually landed, and catching Teymur’s kick just to counter with a spinning kick of his own. Teymur’s most significant landed strike was a superman punch in the second round, he also scored several times in the clinch with a body-body-head knee combination – each time, Vannata blocked the body shots but ate the knee to the head. Teymur was succesfull with a couple of takedowns in the third round, and while Vannata popped right up after every takedown, these probably sealed the deal for Teymur. I thought the fight was even going into the third, but apparently the judges didn’t agree as all three scored the fight 30-27 for Teymur.  David didn’t seem to think that he won the first round either – the look on his face was pure shock as the 30-27 scores were announced, as he was preparing to be robbed until his name was called as the winner. I suppose scoring the first round for Teymur made more sense than scoring the second and third for Vannata. Anyhow, the questionable judging was nothing compared to what we saw in the main event. Either way, this was an amazing fight and a no-brainer for the ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses.

Aftermath: Fundamentals overcame flashy attacks as David Teymur’s formidable kickboxing experience earned him an underdog victory. Not sure if he will every be a contender, but at the very least he solidified his spot on the roster as an exciting action fighter. Either [#29] Paul Felder or [#33] Mairbek Taisumov will provide a step up in the competition and almost certainly make for another crowd pleasing bout.

Landon Vannata’s stock doesn’t fall much with the loss, as he built up a rep for being the guy who doesn’t just throw spinning shit – he throws it with fight ending intentions, and more often than not finds his target. On the other hand, while his striking can be described as ‘next level’, he might have skipped a couple of levels to get there. Vannata needs to work on his clinch, in-range fighting, and defense. He’s now 1-2 in the UFC, earning a performance bonus in all three bouts. [#90] Erik Koch would be a fun matchup.

[#1 WW] (C) Tyron Woodley def. [#2 WW] Stephen Thompson by majority decision to retain UFC Welterweight title

For most of the fight, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson stalked the champion, while Tyron Woodley was content to circle out of the harm’s way. Neither fighter generated much offense. Woodley landed a takedown in the third and had a period of ground control, which won him the round. More stalking and staring followed, until Woodley dropped Thompson with a right hand, with about 30 seconds left in the fifth. Thompson was in trouble but survived the round, and I though he won three of the five. When a 47-47 score was announced, I was terrified that the fight would once again be ruled a draw and we would have to see this for the third time. Fortunately the other two judges somehow scored three rounds for Woodley, giving him his second title defense. I don’t agree with the decision, but am glad that we can put this series behind us.

Aftermath: Tyron Woodley’s next opponent is obvious – the winner of the upcoming bout between [#4] Demian Maia and [#5]  Jorge Masvidal will be the clear-cut #1 contender. Wonderboy will need a more impressive performance to earn another shot at the title (which will never happen for as long as Woodley hangs on to the belt). He needs to fight someone who will force the action; [#3] Robbie Lawler or [#5] Donald Cerrone fit the bill perfectly.