UFC 214 was undoubtedly the most stacked MMA card of the year so far. After a lackluster first half of 2017, UFC could use an event where everything came together, all fighters showed up to their scheduled bouts, and delivered enterntaining action. The MMA gods were on our side – while it was’t perfect, UFC 214 turned out to be pretty damned good. The televised prelims were all exciting fights, capped off by Ricardo Lamas destroying Jason Knight in what was in my opinion the best performance of Lamas’ career. Here are my thoughts on the Pay-Per-View bouts.
Volkan Oezdemir vs Jimi Manuwa
This fight didn’t last long, after the fighters clinched up Volkan rocked Manuwa with some dirty boxing, forcing Jimi to back off. Volkan landed another hard shot, tossed his opponent to the ground and finished the fight with a few follow-up strikes that were probably unnecessary and left Manuwa grappling with the referee. Another quick knockout for Volkan, who is now 3-0 in the UFC with back-to-back first round knockouts over very game opponents. Way to make a name for yourself! Oezdemir called for a title shot, which he is not likely to get at this point in time. More on that later.
Robbie Lawler vs Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone
Lawler came out firing on all cylinders, grabbing a clinch and punishing Cerrone with hard knees and elbows. Robbie was looking for an early finish but Cerrone survived, landing some elbows of his own and scoring a takedown to even things up a bit. In the second round, Lawler coasted and hardly threw any strikes, giving away the round. He got a second wind in the third and final round, but Cerrone was more prepared this time, making for a great technical battle. Cerrone tried for a couple more takedown attempts but was not successful, and lost a unanimous decision in a fight that could have gone either way. Crowd booed the decision, but Lawler is back on track and will likely find himself in the title picture again with this win.
Christiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino vs Tonya Evinger for UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship
My initial thought at beginning of this fight was that Evinger looked out of shape, while Cyborg was in excellent shape. It was obvious that one fighter had to cut weight, while the other was moving up a weight class. This fight went pretty much as everyone expected, the only surprise being that Evinger lasted two rounds before getting destroyed in the third. Evinger poked Cyborg in the eye with an open-handed jab in the first round; we see this happen in every event and this one was no exception. Referees should be more stringent with penalizing eye pokes. After the second round, slow motion replay showed that Evinger saw many of Cyborg’s strikes coming but was not fast enough to block them or move out of the way. The best she could do was to roll her head with the punches. Cyborg showed why promoters have such a hard time lining up opponents for her; it sucks that she can’t make 135 lbs where she would face some stiffer competition. Women’s Featherweight division doesn’t have much to offer and she will have to continue fighting smaller opponents who normally fight at Bantamweight. I guess Holly Holm is up next.
(C) Tyron Woodley vs Demian Maia for UFC Welterweight Championship
Second title fight of the evening. I loved the fact that Maia walked out to Linkin Park, a moving tribute to recently deceased lead singer Chester Bennington. The fight was a total dud. Woodley was obviously quicker and stronger than Maia, but not at all aggressive. He was content to defend takedowns and do just enough to win rounds, when he could have pushed harder for a finish. The fight looked similar to Maia’s last title shot (at middleweight against Anderson Silva) but even less enterntaining. Woodley landed punches in the first and second round that left both of Demian’s eyes swollen almost shut. Maia was exhausted by the fifth round and kept diving for takedowns that didn’t even come close to completion. Woodley won an easy decision on all judges scorecards. This fight completely took away all the momentum that was built up from previous fights. What a disappointment.
(C) Daniel Cormier vs Jon Jones for UFC LightHeavyweight Championship
Cormier was very hyped up and energetic in his Octagon entrance. I really thought he was going to beat his rival in this rematch, but it was not meant to be. The first two rounds were close and competitive, with Cormier landing a number of good punches when he was able to close the distance, while Jon Jones’ best weapon seemed to be knees to the body. I had Jones winning the first round and gave Cormier the second. The tide turned in the third when Jones landed a left high kick that Cormier was not expecting. This was the beginning of the end for Daniel, as Jones finished the fight with brutal ground-and-pound. Jones regains the title that he’s never lost in the first place. Both men were crying in their post-fight interviews. Jones called for a fight with Brock Lesnar, saying something along the lines of “do you want to find out how it feels to get your ass kicked by a man who’s 40 lbs lighter?” Even though Lesnar has to sit out for a minimum of six months and pass USADA testing before he is eligible to fight again, this seems like a perfect time for Jones to take a fun but meaningless “super fight”. If Jones wants to stay active, a rematch with Alexander Gustaffson is another good option in the meanwhile. While Volkan Oezdemir made his case for a title shot, he’s not a big enough name to fight Jones just yet. Another win or two and it would be a different story, especially if Volkan continues performing like he has been in his last two fights.