MMA Review: #488: UFC on Fox: Dos Santos vs. Miocic

-The UFC’s final Fox show of 2014 was the first show to take place in the state of Arizona – a bit of an MMA hotbed – and it was unsurprisingly stacked – not only did we have three massive Heavyweight matches on the main card including the long-awaited (and twice-cancelled) Junior Dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic match, but we also had the return of Nate Diaz against the streaking Rafael Dos Anjos. All in all, it looked AWESOME.

UFC on Fox: Dos Santos vs. Miocic

Phoenix, Arizona

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Heavyweight Fight: Matt Mitrione vs Gabriel Gonzaga

Interesting matchmaking here as Joe Silva usually matches previous winners with previous winners, but Mitrione was coming off a big win over Derrick Lewis while Gonzaga had last been beaten by Stipe Miocic in January. Despite Gonzaga being far more skilled than Meathead I was leaning towards Mitrione – the dude hits hard if nothing else and Gonzaga’s chin seems gone to me.

Fight gets underway and Mitrione shows a lot of movement, dancing around on the outside while Napao stalks forward. Few big swings miss for both men early. No sign of a takedown attempt from Gonzaga. Right hand to the chest from the Brazilian sends Mitrione stumbling backwards but he seems fine. Combinations glance for both men without doing damage. Short right hand lands for Gonzaga. He comes forward but walks into a BIG LEFT HAND that buckles him and drops him to his knees! Mitrione immediately pounces and lands some BIG PUNCHES to seal the deal and send the crowd into rapture.

Fight went literally exactly how I expected – Gonzaga didn’t make any takedown attempts and got caught by the heavier and quicker striker and it was all over. I think at this point Napao ought to be considering whether it’s worth carrying on – he’s in his late thirties taking some horrible knockouts from dudes who hit like trucks. As for Mitrione this was probably the biggest win of his career – I still think he’s too limited to make a title run but it might be worth pushing him up against someone in the top ten again now. Brutal knockout.

Heavyweight Fight: Alistair Overeem vs Stefan Struve

Not only was this the two top Dutch fighters in MMA facing off, but it was also a very important fight for both men as they had their backs against the wall. The Reem was coming off his disappointing loss to Ben Rothwell in September and really needed to win here to stay relevant, while Struve hadn’t fought since March 2013 after some serious heart issues and then a panic attack that kept him off UFC 175. It was a fight that could’ve gone either way but naturally I was siding with the Reem.

Round One and man is it odd to see Reem looking outsized. He stays way on the outside early on as Struve stalks forward. Oblique kick lands for Overeem and he continues to avoid Struve. Takedown attempt from Overeem and he forces Struve back into the fence in the clinch. They muscle for position before Struve separates. Kick to the body from Struve. Knee to the body follows. Overhand right glances for Overeem. Takedown attempt from Overeem and this time he gets it beautifully, spinning around and forcing Struve onto his back in guard. Reem immediately postures up to drop a big right hand down through the guard as Struve tries to work from his back. Couple more shots connect too. He’s doing an excellent job of blasting through Struve’s guard here. Reem stacks him up and then stands over him, kicking at the legs before avoiding upkicks to drop back into the guard. Just over a minute to go now and Overeem stands over him again and this time drops some BIG PUNCHES from above that have Struve hurt! Struve covers up and Overeem OPENS UP with some CRUSHING SHOTS that knock him silly!~!

Big and much-needed win for Alistair Overeem. I think a lot of people expected him to stand with Struve as he’s the more decorated kickboxer and Struve’s had chin issues too, but in hindsight this was much smarter – Struve’s historically had issues with ground-and-pound and while he does have a good guard, Overeem’s an excellent grappler who’s not likely to get caught with something from the bottom and with his own chin issues why risk standing with a dude who hits hard? This arguably saved Overeem’s UFC career in fact as I could’ve seen Zuffa cutting him loose with a loss here and now he’s back in the thick of the title picture! Such is the Heavyweight division.

Lightweight Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos vs Nate Diaz

Talk about a ridiculous situation – this was Diaz’s return to action following about a year on the shelf due to contract issues – basically the guy apparently had an issue with his pay following his signing a new deal in 2012 – even though since signing the deal he’d gone 1-2. I mean sure, I’m all for fighters being paid well but the time to try to get more pay is surely when your contract is up rather than in the middle of a current deal when you’re not actually doing that well anyway. You know who I never see complain about his contract? Donald Cerrone. And that guy gets PAID. Why? Because he fights all the time, wins the majority of his fights and he’s exciting to watch and he never complains. There’s a reason Zuffa favours guys like him and Michael Bisping. To make matters worse for Diaz he also came in and failed miserably to make weight (160lbs) as well as doing the usual Diaz nonsense of missing open workouts and walking out of interviews and stuff. Guy is a baby, sorry. His opponent Dos Anjos – naturally given very little fanfare due to all the shenanigans around Nate – was coming off his biggest win thus far against Benson Henderson and the word was, with Khabib Nurmagomedov on the shelf, that he’d get a title shot with a win over Diaz. I saw this as a winnable fight for Nate but picked RDA due to all the issues surrounding Diaz.

Round One and they circle a bunch before Dos Anjos lands a sharp leg kick and a body kick. Pair of left hands follow for RDA. Lot of good movement from RDA and he lands a few more leg kicks that clearly have Diaz hurting. Diaz is coming up short on his punches. RDA is really backing him up now and a leg kick buckles him badly enough for him to switch stances. This is a whitewash. Brutal leg kick hurts Diaz badly and he’s limping all over the place. Dos Anjos throws him down like a child and opens up with some ground-and-pound as Diaz tries to get full guard. Diaz gives his back and takes a lot of punches before rolling for a possible leglock. RDA’s having none of that though and he easily pulls free. He remains on top and passes into side mount. Full mount follows and he opens up with some hard punches. Crowd are LOUD. Buzzer sounds with RDA in firm control. 10-8 round for me as RDA just owned Diaz everywhere.

Round Two and Diaz looks flat footed. Well, you would if you’d had RDA kick the shit out of your legs for five minutes straight. RDA opens with – what else? – a vicious leg kick. Diaz just has nothing for this guy as his boxing-oriented attack just won’t let him get into range and he’s taking kicks every time he does. He goes for a clinch but RDA just tosses him aside. RDA goes to the body now with the kicks and then back to the leg and Diaz can’t even mask the pain at this point, wincing with every shot. Straight left connects clean for RDA and then he goes to the left leg rather than the right. Jesus. Pair of left hands land for RDA and he easily takes Diaz down and gets right into half-guard. Joe Rogan tries to trump Diaz’s chances on the ground but shit, RDA is the same guy who hit a fucking CALF SLICER on Tyson Griffin a few years back – no way is he getting subbed from the bottom. Sure enough he feeds Nate a series of nasty elbows and then pounds away as Diaz turns his back too. Diaz looks busted up. Back to the feet now and RDA separates and nails him with another pair of leg kicks. Ref calls time to check Diaz over as he’s cut badly over the right eye. Doctor decides he can continue though. Body kick lands for RDA off the restart. More leg kicks follow as Dos Anjos continues to own Diaz. Fair play to Diaz for trying to swing back. High kick puts him down though and RDA follows down to land some shots on the ground until the round ends. 10-9 Dos Anjos.

Round Three and Diaz comes out swinging, but he takes a hard leg kick right away. Diaz is almost in a sideways stance now trying to protect the leg. Takedown from RDA and he lands in the full guard. Short elbows land for RDA and he continues to work Nate over before standing over him to kick the legs some more. Back into the guard and RDA avoids a possible leglock attempt to continue to land shots. Action slows down a bit now as RDA seems to be slowing himself down, and really why would he need to go crazy given how far ahead he is? Elbows connect for him though as Nate tries to talk some trash, which is just laughable at this point. More elbows land for RDA and Diaz decides to SLAP HIM from the bottom. Ha. RDA decides to turn things up and lands a series of nasty shots to end the fight. 10-9 Dos Anjos for a lopsided 30-26. Could even call it 30-25 as R2 or R3 could’ve been 10-8’s too.

Judges have it 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27 for Rafael Dos Anjos. Totally one-sided ass kicking in the end as Diaz just had no answer for RDA’s leg kicks or his ground game or well, anything RDA did really. For all the shit Diaz talked coming in this was a bit of an embarrassing performance for him really, coming in overweight and then having absolutely nothing for Dos Anjos who has become a MONSTER at this point with basically no weaknesses – an incredible transformation given he was literally a one-dimensional BJJ guy with crap striking and takedowns when he debuted back in 2008. Wildly entertaining fight though even though it was one-sided, just because it’s nice to see someone who behaves like Diaz get beaten up like that. And you could probably argue for it being RDA’s coming out party too – although the Bendo fight in August was probably that – as the fight had a ton of hype and was on Fox and everything. Should’ve foreshadowed RDA’s title win in March but I guess people – myself included – chose to overlook it a bit due to all the Pettis love coming off his win over Gilbert Melendez.

Heavyweight Fight: Junior Dos Santos vs Stipe Miocic

This one was originally set for UFC 173 and then the TUF Brazil 3 Finale, but injuries to Dos Santos prevented it from happening until this show. Awesome fight on paper – JDS hadn’t fought since his October 2013 loss to Cain Velasquez and there were question marks over how well he’d return, while Miocic had been climbing the ranks and had picked up two big wins in the form of Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson (as well as a squash of Fabio Maldonado) to put him into title contention. While JDS was the heavy favourite due to his experience and crazy list of victims (Mir, Velasquez, Hunt, Gonzaga, Werdum, Nelson etc) I was favouring Miocic here – I thought he could replicate Cain’s gameplan from the second and third Velasquez/JDS fights by using his clinching and wrestling game to wear Junior down for either a decision or a late stoppage.

Fight begins and it’s a slow beginning, with both men looking tentative and throwing out some feints. Unsurprising given the punching power both guys have. Wild overhand right glances for JDS. Miocic backs him up into the cage and shoots, and they wind up clinched. Looks like he’s going for the Cain strategy as he keeps JDS against the cage with a single leg attempt as soon as the Brazilian tries to shrug him off. JDS does well though and separates without taking any damage. Short left hand lands for Miocic and he avoids a body shot. Another takedown attempt follows and he manages to get Dos Santos down for a split second before landing a BIG COMBO on him as he pops back up! JDS manages to separate but he got hurt there. He glances on a couple of shots but Stipe’s doing an excellent job thus far of staying out of range. Left jab sets up another clinch but JDS shrugs him off, taking a glancing left on his way out. Good left hook lands for JDS as he steps in. Big one-two lands for Miocic and sets up the clinch, and he tags him with another right as he exits. Takedown attempt from Stipe and he drives Junior into the cage and clips him with a right hand on the break. He’s doing really well landing on the exit and JDS seems rattled. Nice combo from Miocic and JDS retreats but returns fire. Big right cross lands for Dos Santos and he follows with a haymaker right, but Miocic takes it well. Uppercut lands for JDS. Dos Santos seems to be getting more confidence suddenly. Big right hook from Miocic misses but a second attempt lands flush and it has JDS hurt again. Stipe chases him down into the clinch, and it looks like JDS is badly marked up. They break and Miocic circles on the outside before JDS ends the round with a pair of left hooks. Close round to call but I think Miocic had Dos Santos backing up more and landed the better shots. 10-9 Stipe.

Into the 2nd and Stipe ducks under a left hook and goes for a takedown, but JDS stuffs it well. Good body kick into a right hand from Miocic and he goes for the takedown again. JDS defends and drops some nasty hammer fists, but Miocic drives him right back into the cage. Good job from Junior to defend and they wind up clinched on the cage. Knee to the body lands for Miocic before they break. Jab from Stipe. Couple of lefts to the body land for Dos Santos. Big right hand misses for JDS and Miocic lands with a lunging right hand into an elbow strike. Left hook also connects for Stipe. Looks like Junior is cut under the right eye. Stiff jab from Miocic. Pair of big right hands from Stipe back JDS up and he’s also busted up BADLY. Clinch follows and he forces JDS into the cage. Junior breaks but eats a big right hook, only to land one of his own to answer as Stipe quickly clinches again. Nice left hook catches Stipe cleanly as he breaks off. That was one of Junior’s best shots of the fight. Good combo from Dos Santos ends with a left to the body and he follows with a right to the body too. Jab follows and lands clean. Miocic comes back with two of his own. Big right cross from Miocic and he follows with a left into the clinch. Miocic has definitely landed the heavier shots thus far. Elbow lands in the clinch for Stipe. He drops for the takedown and gets it, dumping JDS onto his back in guard with seconds to go. Dos Santos scrambles and gives his back, but gets to his feet as the round ends. Another close round but I’d call it 10-9 Miocic again giving him a big lead going into the 3rd.

Third round and Dos Santos looks like he’s been through hell already judging by his face. Dude is almost as busted up as he was in the Cain fights. To be fair Miocic doesn’t exactly look unscathed. Both men open with left jabs to the body. Nice stiff jab to the head from Miocic and he crowds Dos Santos to the fence with a pair of right hooks. Takedown attempt follows and he gets JDS down, but the Brazilian hits a reversal and gets on top, almost taking the back. Nice scramble from Miocic though and he gets back up and nails JDS with a heavy right. Another takedown attempt is stuffed by JDS. Both guys look tired now and understandably so. Left to the body from JDS. The body shots from Dos Santos might be what’s tiring Miocic out actually. He’s landing a lot of jabs to the body in this round. Couple of jabs land for Miocic too. Big right to the body from Dos Santos. Right cross lands for Miocic and stuns Dos Santos but as he wades in to follow up, JDS LEVELS HIM WITH A LEFT! Miocic FOLDS and dives for a leg and Dos Santos is on him instantly looking to finish! Hammer fists connect for Dos Santos but somehow Miocic gets up and pushes forward. Dude has a HELL of a chin. Big jab from JDS slows him back down though. Right haymaker narrowly misses for JDS. Single leg from Stipe is stuffed. Jabs land for both men. JDS is still going to the body a lot. Looks like Miocic is bleeding badly from the mouth. Nice left to the body from Miocic. Brutal right hook from Dos Santos but Miocic takes it well. More shots land to the body for JDS. Miocic looks exhausted. Good body shot from Junior and he forces Miocic to cover his midsection then goes to the head with a right hook. Round ends with a glancing haymaker from JDS. 10-9 Dos Santos for the knockdown and the harder shots in the round. This fight is AWESOME.

4th round and Stipe’s left eye looks like hell. Left hook opens for JDS. Body kick from Miocic but it connects to the groin and Herb Dean has to call time. Crowd boo like crazy for that one as Junior has to take some time to recover. Looked like Stipe’s heel clipped him low as the shin hit the body. They restart and Dos Santos goes right after the body with the left hand. Single leg attempt from Miocic and he drags Junior down, but the Brazilian pops right up and separates, taking a deep breath. Good left hook from JDS but Miocic answers with a right. Couple more jabs from JDS. Exchange continues and JDS lands with a right hand. Miocic’s pace has definitely slowed although he’s still walking Dos Santos down. He manages to punch his way into the clinch but Dos Santos breaks quickly. Big uppercut glances for JDS. Nice combo follows. Miocic comes back with a hard combo of his own and JDS has to retreat straight backwards. Clinch is broken though and Miocic looks totally out of steam. This is a real war of attrition now. Miocic sucks it up though and lands with a big right hand, then follows with a VICIOUS COMBO on the wobbled JDS! Dos Santos has to clinch this time but they separate quickly. This fight must be taking years of both men’s careers. Good job from Junior to shrug off a takedown and he continues to snipe at the body with the left hand. Left hook connects hard for JDS. Knee glances for Miocic and he wades into the clinch with a right again. BEAUTIFUL trip out of nowhere from Dos Santos though and he lands on top in guard! Did not expect that. Miocic immediately works for a switch though and then reverses to his feet. Dos Santos looks like Frankenstein’s monster again just like the Cain fights. Round ends with a quick combo from JDS. Amazing. Hardest round to call yet too as Dos Santos landed a lot of body shots and landed that takedown, but I thought the hardest shots came from Stipe with his combinations. 10-9 Miocic and I have him 39-37 up going into the final round. Could easily be 38-38 though!

Fifth and final round. Crowd are absolutely deafening. Couple of jabs open for Miocic as Dos Santos goes right back to working the body with the left. Good right hook to the body too for JDS. He’s really connecting to the body well thus far in this round. Right hook lands for Dos Santos in an exchange. Stiff jab connects for Miocic in answer. Nice combo from JDS. Takedown attempt from Miocic but JDS shrugs it off. Beautiful body shots from JDS and he’s being far more active in this round. Good right hand from Stipe and a left hook follows. Big right cross lands for JDS. Stipe looks exhausted. Big rights land for both men in an exchange and JDS follows with a combo. Two minutes to go and Miocic really needs to pick it up. Good right hand from Miocic and suddenly he’s got JDS in trouble with another two big right hands. JDS has to clinch to slow him down. They break but Miocic quickly clinches again. One minute to go now and they break off. Both guys really swing back into the clinch but Miocic breaks with a big combo and now he’s on the attack. He wades in with a big combo and Junior has to clinch again. BRUTAL left hook breaks for Dos Santos but Miocic answers and goes for the takedown. Junior stuffs it but he ends up taking a big right from Miocic and they brawl into the clinch as the buzzer sounds. Dos Santos’s round I think which makes it 48-47 overall for Miocic. I could see it 48-47 the other way though or even 49-46 for Stipe if you gave him the fourth and fifth. Super close fight.

Official scores are 48-47, 49-46 and 49-46…..all for Junior Dos Santos! Unbelievable and it gets a big mixed reaction from the crowd. At the time watching live my initial thought was that Miocic had been robbed, but on a rewatch I’m not as sure – 49-46 JDS is a bullshit score for sure as there’s no way he won either of the first two rounds – but I think you could make a case for him coming back to win the final three, at least definitely the third and fifth. The fourth was the hardest to score but I’m guessing that big takedown swung it for JDS. If you use old-school PRIDE scoring then I think Miocic wins for sure as he certainly did more damage and hurt Dos Santos more often, but yeah. Story of the fight was basically Stipe having a lot of early success with the Cain gameplan of walking JDS down, forcing him to clinch and work and then hitting him hard in the transitions, but what caught up with him was basically a combination of that being an incredibly cardio-sapping gameplan to follow for five rounds, Junior’s work to the body doing a lot of damage to his gas tank and of course sustaining that big knockdown in the third. The other story of the fight was that in all honesty, for however good Stipe looked, JDS did not look like the same fighter he was before the third Velasquez fight – a beating that seems to have taken time off his career. Whoever cornered him for that fight ought to take a look in the mirror as the towel should’ve been thrown in long before the fifth round.

In terms of fight quality? I thought this was an amazing fight. An absolute war of attrition and probably a low-end FOTYC for 2014. As far as where it sits on the overall pantheon of UFC Heavyweight fights I think it’s top five – the only ones that come immediately to me that I’d argue were better are Couture-Rizzo I, Couture-Rodriguez, Couture-Nogueira and maybe Lesnar-Carwin. This was seriously that good of a fight. I’ve probably missed something glaring there but still.

-Show ends abruptly with JDS in celebration mode looking like he’s been in a car wreck, holy shit.

Final Thoughts….

Fantastic show overall. All of the HW fights delivered in spades, with two brutal knockouts and then one of the best HW fights in the promotion’s history in the main event, and while Dos Anjos vs. Diaz was insanely one-sided it was still great to see Nate get beaten down like that if I’m perfectly honest. Best Fox card of 2014 and one of the best UFC main cards of the year overall.

Best Fight: Dos Santos vs. Miocic
Worst Fight: Diaz vs. Dos Anjos

Overall Rating: ****3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: