MMA Review: #530: UFC on Fox: Dos Anjos vs. Cowboy II

-Since its inception in 2012 the December Fox show has been one of the more stacked cards of the year for the UFC and this was no exception – despite it being overshadowed by the hype on UFC 194 the weekend before, this was basically a high-end PPV card with four extremely intriguing fights.

UFC on Fox: Dos Anjos vs. Cowboy II

Orlando, Florida

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs Randa Markos

Poland’s Kowalkiewicz was making her debut here and she was bringing in a big reputation from Invicta and KSW where she’d gone 7-0, while TUF 20’s Markos – a fighter who seems to have become underrated due to most ranking sites ignoring her TUF run where she tapped Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig – was coming off a win in April over Aisling Daly. Tough fight to call due to both women’s general inexperience and Kowalkiewicz making her debut, but due to the success of other fighters coming in from outside that TUF bubble (Maryna Moroz, Valerie Letourneau, etc) I was going for the newcomer.

Battle of entrance themes goes to Kowalkiewicz for using Iggy Pop’s The Passenger which is badass, although to be fair I love Machine Gun Kelly and Markos is using Invincible so it’s a close call.

Round One and right away they trade punches before Kowalkiewicz circles out. Nice combination lands for the Pole but Markos seems okay and fires back with a right hook. Good right hand counter lands for Karolina as Markos pushes forward. Combo from Markos and she tries to clinch, but eats a big knee. Kowalkiewicz quickly breaks off and then backs away before popping Markos with a double jab. Nice combination lands for Karolina. Both girls miss with big right hands as they continue to circle. Another combo lands for Kowalkiewicz. Clinch from Markos and she muscles Karolina into the fence, looking to trip her down. Karolina defends well and they muscle along the fence, before Markos almost pulls guard. Kowalkiewicz is having none of that though and she tags her with a pair of uppercuts on her way back up. Counter right hand lands for Markos as they continue to exchange. Front kick to the body lands for Karolina. Seconds to go and Markos lands a trio of leg kicks to set up another clinch, but Karolina lands a knee. Right hand breaks for Markos but Kowalkiewicz fires back with a right of her own and a pair of knees from the plum as the round ends. Really tight round but I’d call it 10-9 Kowalkiewicz by a hair.

Round Two and Karolina opens with some low kicks and then tags Markos with a right hand, before going back to some more kicks. She seems to be beating Markos to the strike early in this round. Beautiful combination lands cleanly for the Pole. Hard leg kick follows. Takedown attempt from Marks and she spins to take the back and looks to suplex Karolina down. The Pole blocks it and remains standing, but Markos keeps hold of the rear waistlock and she drags her down and slaps both hooks in. Back elbows from Kowalkiewicz but they don’t land cleanly and so she stands with Markos in the lemur position. Body triangle from Markos and she begins to work for the choke as Karolina grabs the arm to defend. Markos desperately tries to force her to the ground and the crowd seem to be popping due to Kowalkiewicz’s top slightly riding up. They fall to the ground with Markos still in back control and with just 1:30 to go it’s looking firmly like the Canadian’s round even if she can’t finish. Seconds remaining now and Markos looks content to just hold position. Sure enough the round ends with her in back control. 10-9 Markos to even it up.

Round Three and Kowalkiewicz connects with a big overhand right in the opening exchange. Both girls are swinging pretty wild now but it looks like Karolina is the better striker and she’s landing the cleaner shots. Couple of really nice combinations land for the Pole. Good right hand lands for Markos but she’s telegraphing the big right and it’s allowing Kowalkiewicz to dodge and put together combos. Hard body kick lands for Karolina. Clinch attempt from Markos but Kowalkiewicz avoids it and continues to tag her with quick combos. Spinning backfist lands flush for Karolina but Markos takes it well and manages to force her into the fence where she begins to look for a trip. Knee breaks for Markos when she can’t get Karolina down. Two minutes to go and Kowalkiewicz continues to get the better of the exchanges, but Markos hits a trip takedown. Kowalkiewicz scrambles as they hit the ground though and takes top position in half-guard. She begins to work to pass into side mount and then takes full mount and Markos might be in trouble. She tries to swing her legs over for a sweep attempt but can’t manage it and Kowalkiewicz begins to tee off with punches. Randa rolls onto her side but she’s taking some big shots and Herb Dean’s hovering over them. She manages to get to half-guard, but Karolina adds in some knees to the body for good measure before Markos escapes to her feet. Seconds to go and Karolina continues to press forward, but Markos swings right back and they trade until the buzzer. Got to be 29-28 for Karolina Kowalkiewicz I’d say.

Judges score it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Karolina Kowalkiewicz. No idea how you’d give her a 30-27 as the second round was clearly Markos’s, but the right girl won in the end. Really hot opener as both women fought their hearts out and left everything in the cage, and basically Kowalkiewicz just about managed to outwork Randa in the end, beating her on the feet and doing enough on the ground to avoid being tapped in the second and then dominate there in the third. I think both are probably top ten talent though and you could make any number of fights with them at 115lbs and it’d be really cool. Either one facing Carla Esparza for her comeback fight would be fantastic, for instance.

Lightweight Fight: Nate Diaz vs Michael Johnson

After Johnson got dicked by the judges in his August fight with Beneil Dariush, Zuffa were promising him a big fight next time around and he was definitely given it here, not so much in terms of ranking but in terms of profile as while Diaz hadn’t fought since the 2014 December Fox show, he still gets people talking like very few others at 155lbs. I was taking Johnson as I didn’t think he’d be dragged into a brawl by Nate and I thought he could pick him apart with his movement and striking skill, but it was interesting as coming in we’d heard nothing from Nate with regards to whining about his pay, and he looked to be in his best shape for a long time.

First round begins and they circle with both men feinting before Johnson lands with a pair of outside leg kicks. Jab connects for Johnson as Diaz comes up short with a pair of lead right hands. Body shot and another leg kick land for Johnson. Low kick lands for Nate but Johnson continues to move around a lot and he lands a couple more hard leg kicks. Good counter right lands for Diaz as Johnson steps in and then he lands with a left hand too. Combo misses for Johnson and he eats a stiff jab. Leg kick attempts from Johnson are countered by a couple of jabs, and now Diaz begins to laugh at him as he slips a combination. Head kick is blocked by Diaz. Diaz is using his long reach well to connect with his jab, but he does take another leg kick. Good combo from Diaz and he’s definitely getting the better of the punching exchanges but he’s taking a lot of kicks too. Seconds to go and Diaz tries to taunt him, but Johnson ignores that and lands with the low kick again. Overhand left and a right hand land for Diaz and he taunts Johnson at the end of the round despite taking another leg kick. Crowd are going insane for Diaz .Closer round than I was expecting but I’d give it to Johnson for the effective kicks, 10-9.

Second round and Diaz comes out looking confident. He takes another leg kick and a one-two and then almost goes down off another leg kick. Diaz switches stance to protect the leg, but then goes back to southpaw quickly. Nice one-two lands for Diaz and he slips the counter and cracks Johnson with a jab. Couple more jabs land for Diaz as he again uses his reach effectively. Another one-two lands for Diaz. He’s beginning to keep Johnson at the end of his punches. More jabs connect for Diaz but Johnson fires back with a hard left hand. More jabs are countered by a low kick from Johnson but he’s still coming up short with his punches. Big combination lands for Diaz as Johnson seems to be getting dragged into trading punches with him. Crowd are chanting loudly for Diaz. He’s got Johnson backing up now. Left hand lands for Johnson but Diaz laughs at him and snaps his head back with a jab. Trade sees both men land but Diaz continues to taunt Johnson by folding his arms. Trio of heavy combinations really have Johnson on the retreat now. Leg kick from Johnson but Nate cracks him with a one-two and then taunts him. Left hand follows and Diaz seemingly tells Johnson that he knows he hurt him. Big left hand answers back for Johnson but Nate shrugs it right off and tees off again before more taunting. Johnson’s pretty much given up on the movement and kicks now and he’s being dragged into boxing with Diaz and he’s losing even though he’s landing some hard shots of his own. Trio of one-twos land for Diaz. Head kick into another combo follows. Diaz looks amazing in this round. Big combo from Diaz ends with Johnson clinching, but he gets met with a knee and a right on the break. Crowd go crazy as the round ends. 10-9 Diaz for sure.

Third round and Diaz slips a combo in the opening seconds and pops Johnson with the jab again. Another combo misses for Johnson and Diaz lands on him with counters before almost turning his back on him with a taunt. Good left hand connects for Johnson in an exchange. He’s really swinging for Diaz. Big one-two lands for Nate. Combo from Johnson is largely blocked and Diaz shakes his head at him before landing a one-two and another one. Combo has Johnson a bit stumbled and Nate follows with a hard right and a head kick. Big left hand from Diaz and he follows with some more sharp boxing. Johnson tries to clinch but he eats some knees en route to forcing Diaz into the clinch. Nate quickly breaks off though and pops him with another one-two. Another combo from Nate and he’s landing the jab to the body now too. Beautiful combo from Diaz and Johnson is running out of steam. Jab snaps his head right back and a one-two swiftly follows. Diaz is just owning him with his boxing. Big counter left lands for Nate and he blocks Johnson’s punches and taunts him before jogging out of range. Another combo lands for Nate before he slips for a second, but Johnson lets him up. One minute to go and another one-two lands before Nate slips a counter combo. Combo does land for Johnson but Diaz seems fine and he goes right back to stinging him with the jab and one-two. Seconds to go and Johnson gets tagged again and comes in swinging, and in the exchange he ends up going for a takedown. Diaz defends as the buzzer goes….and then he decides to roll for a kneebar anyway and straightens the leg WAY after the fight’s over, causing Johnson to kick him in the face. Ref is furious but Diaz of course doesn’t care as he’s won the fight! 29-28 Diaz unless you’re blind.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Nate Diaz in a bit of an upset I guess. I think you could make a case that he used his taunting and stuff to get inside Johnson’s head and draw him into a brawl and while that did have a bit to do with the way he won, I think it’s also doing him a disservice as Nate didn’t really brawl with Johnson – he drew him into boxing exchanges where he used his reach advantage and superior hands to land the bigger, better shots, which in turn made Johnson forego his gameplan of leg kicks in an attempt to land big punches back, an effort that was always doomed to failure because that’s not how you beat a Diaz. Best performance from Diaz since he beat Cowboy in December 2011 I’d say as the Gray Maynard win came against a guy well past his sell-by-date. Post-fight Diaz cuts one of the most wild promos I’ve ever seen in MMA, literally turning the air blue LIVE ON FOX in an attempt to call out Conor McGregor (who else?) and while I doubt we see that fight just yet, I hope it means Nate’s here to stay this time and he’ll fight again soon, as on this form he’s as legit a contender as you can get at 155lbs. Fight was tremendous fun, naturally.

Heavyweight Fight: Alistair Overeem vs Junior Dos Santos

To say I was pumped for this would be an understatement, naturally. It’d been building since 2012 when they were first set to fight at UFC 146, but of course Overeem had popped for elevated testosterone and since then plenty of things had changed – Overeem had lost about 30lbs and had completely changed his style from plodding KO artist to a more rounded kickboxing game and suddenly seemed to be on his best run since the dreaded Ubereem run of 2008-11, while Dos Santos had taken two of the worst beatings in UFC history against Cain Velasquez and had been in one of the most gruelling wars in UFC history with Stipe Miocic, and after those he’d seemed to have aged overnight and looked like a shadow of the guy who’d cut a swathe through the whole division en route to winning the title back in 2011. While JDS’s knockout power – and Overeem’s shaky chin – made the Brazilian still incredibly dangerous, I thought that the Reem could use his more mobile and varied style to take advantage of JDS’s more flat-footed style to take a mild upset.

Round One begins and JDS actually looks bigger than the Reem which feels crazy given what these guys looked like back in 2012. Lot of feints from both men and there’s literally not a strike thrown in the opening minute. Both men look unbelievably tentative here. We’re now two minutes in with no strikes landed outside of a clash of legs on low kicks. Head kick is blocked by Overeem and he seems fine despite Joe Rogan exploding on commentary. Good inside leg kick lands for Overeem. Lunging left hand follows but misses. Crowd begin to boo a little before Overeem connects with a knee to the body, but takes a glancing left hand counter. Left hand glances for Overeem. Still no really big shots from either man. Just over a minute to go and the Reem does land with an overhand left. Best shot of the round thus far. Dos Santos looks extremely gunshy. Crowd are openly booing in the waning seconds of the round. Round ends with more largely tentative circling. Really weird round. 10-9 Overeem for landing a couple of decent strikes at least.

Round Two and Overeem throws a leg kick, but gets caught by a low blow which forces referee Dan Miragliotta to call time right away. He then inexplicably tells Overeem “I think it just barely hit the cup” as a replay shows it was a PUSH KICK right to the balls. He does let Overeem recover at least and they restart. Heavy leg kick lands for the Reem but he takes a glancing body kick in reply. Overeem is switching stances a lot here. One minute in and the crowd are booing slightly again. Hard body kick lands for Overeem but he comes up short with an oblique kick. Junior keeps on following him and plodding forward but he walks right into another body kick. Big wheel kick attempt misses for JDS. He’s still looking very gunshy. Step-in knee lands for him but he doesn’t follow up. Leg kicks land for both men. Couple more low kicks and a body kick land for the Reem. Right to the body glances for Dos Santos but he takes another leg kick. Big left-right combination from Overeem wobbles JDS. He’s bleeding from his right eye. JDS recovers well though and with about thirty seconds to go he manages to back Alistair up and finally opens up with a combo, throwing hard shots to the body and head, but he allows Overeem to circle away from the fence. Overeem pushes forward again and as Dos Santos throws a left, he counters with a CRUSHING LEFT HOOK THAT DROPS JDS LIKE A TON OF BRICKS! Hammer fists follow and Big Dan stops it as JDS tries to wobble to his feet. Insane.

Post-fight JDS tries to claim an early stoppage but there’s no way, the replay shows the left hook knocked him silly and it might’ve even been the follow-up shots that brought him back around. It actually looked reminiscent of JDS’s own knockout of Gilbert Yvel in a bit of cruel irony. Tremendous knockout for Alistair Overeem who is firmly back on track now and I’d say it even eclipses his finish of Brock Lesnar to be his best one in his UFC career thus far. Hopefully it also earns him a title shot or in the very least, a fat new contract from Zuffa (this was the final fight on his previous deal) because damnit he deserves it! All hail the Reem, baby. This was AWESOME even if most of the action leading to the knockout wasn’t great.

UFC World Lightweight Title: Rafael Dos Anjos vs Donald Cerrone

This was of course a rematch from a largely forgotten 2013 fight between the two that saw Dos Anjos walk away with a decision in what was a mild upset, but like the fight before it so much had changed in the years following that meeting – Cerrone had reeled off a remarkable eight wins in a row to gain this shot, but it was RDA who’d come the furthest – beating Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis all in vicious fashion to become the new champion in arguably the UFC’s most loaded weight class. For me this was a tricky fight to call – my heart was saying Cowboy would win just because he’s one of my favourite fighters to watch right now, but my head said RDA would replicate the gameplan he used in their first fight – walk Cerrone down, pressure him and force him onto the back foot from the off – and walk away with a decision and with the title still around his waist. Or over his shoulder, whatever.

Fight begins and the crowd as you can imagine are behind Cowboy. They circle and an early left hand from RDA snaps Cowboy’s head back but he seems okay. Low kick answers for Cerrone and both men glance with left hands. Left to the body from RDA and a knee to the midsection follows and Cerrone steps back and he might be hurt. BRUTAL body kick follows for RDA and a HUGE COMBO knocks Cerrone backwards and he looks just about done! Dos Anjos smells blood and begins to hammer him with a flurry as Cowboy desperately tries to survive, covering up along the fence, and then he retreats out and lunges wildly for a takedown. RDA gets a front headlock and snaps him down to all fours and from there he spins and lands some unanswered punches….and Herb Dean stops it there! Incredible stuff.

Replay shows it was the knee to the body that initially hurt Cowboy, and then the body kick and follow-up punches basically killed him dead and the rest was academic, just extra stuff to put Cerrone away as he was tough enough to still be standing. RDA has become an absolute MURDERER and to see him put Cowboy away like that was unbelievably impressive. Like one of the most impressive title defences in UFC history in fact. He might not be a bankable star in terms of personality, but I think this confirmed that the Pettis fight wasn’t an outlier and RDA is definitely for real. And hey, he’s in for a MASSIVE payday now Conor McGregor is next for him in that big champion vs. champion match. How will that go? It’s hard to pick against RDA after seeing that performance but well, I can’t pick against Conor in good conscience. Awesome fight to look forward to regardless. I was disappointed with this one though as I was expecting an exciting war and got a squash in the end, and of course I was gutted to see Cowboy lose like that, but such is MMA sometimes. Hell of a violent finish to end the night however.

-Show ends with a quick highlight reel and that’s that for 2015.

Final Thoughts….

This was the most loaded Fox card of the year in my opinion and it totally lived up to the promise with two great fights to start us off in Kowalkiewicz/Markos and Diaz/Johnson and then two pretty incredible knockouts to finish the show with. Overeem/JDS wasn’t much of a fight prior to the knockout but I’d say the crazy finish made up for that, and while RDA/Cowboy also wasn’t the classic we’d hoped for, I’m never going to complain about a violent finish like that. Definitely a show to check out.

Best Fight: Diaz vs. Johnson
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: