MMA Review: #544: UFC 198: Werdum vs. Miocic

-Where UFC 197 seemed to be flying under the radar a little, this one definitely felt like a BIG SHOW even with the shitty rumors of Mayweather vs. McGregor somehow dominating news pieces. First time in a Brazilian soccer stadium? Check. Big title fight in the main event complete with a fresh combination at HW for the first time in a while? Check. Absolutely loaded card with practically every Brazilian star possible (outside of Anderson Silva but even his injury didn’t dampen things too badly!)? Check. This was clearly the best card of 2016 thus far on paper and my expectations were sky high.

UFC 198: Werdum vs. Miocic

Curitiba, Parana

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Brian Stann.

Welterweight Fight: Warlley Alves vs Bryan Barbarena

This fight was elevated to main card status when Anderson went down, and while there was a better prelim (Demian Maia vs. Matt Brown) UFC likes to have a “main event” for each portion of their cards (which I disagree with, but that’s a tangent…) and so this one got bumped up, no complaints from me as Warlley is one of my favourite prospects to watch right now and had looked awesome in his previous few fights. Barbarena was of course coming off his big win over Sage Northcutt, but this one felt like a step way too far for him and I didn’t expect him to escape the first round, really.

Round One begins and Alves comes out fast, landing a body kick before catching a kick and forcing Barbarena down. Guillotine attempt follows and it looks TIGHT, and the crowd go pretty mad given Warlley is a guillotine expert. Barbarena gives the thumbs up though and he seems okay, despite Alves tightening the guard up around him. He works free nicely and then looks to escape the guard, but Warlley tries the choke again. Barbarena pulls free quicker this time but the Brazilian begins to use the fence to work back up, taking a couple of punches en route. Knees to the legs from Barbarena as they remain clinched, but Alves breaks free and narrowly misses with a wheel kick. Big exchange follows with neither man landing cleanly. Nasty head kick from Alves and he follows with a combo, but Barbarena takes it well and clinches. Good elbows inside land for Barbarena and he separates. Alves wings to the body though and forces him right back into the fence. He isn’t letting up at all here. Big uppercut inside the clinch lands for Warlley and they break off. Right hook connects for Barbarena. Two minutes to go and Alves lands with a left hand from close range. Looks like Alves might be breathing a bit heavily. Good low kick from Barbarena but he takes a pair of hard body kicks in answer. Head kick glances too and Barbarena has to clinch. Dude is tough as nails though and he lands a couple of his own shots from the clinch. Just over a minute to go now and they break off again. Inside leg kick drops Warlley for a second but he pops right back up. Looked like a kick to the calf, Bendo style. Makes sense as Barbarena is from his team. Left hand to the body from Alves and he clinches, but can’t take the American down. Good body kick from Barbarena and he lands another sharp low kick. Clinch from Warlley but he eats a knee. Round ends there. Close round but I’d go for the aggression of Alves; 10-9.

Round Two and Barbarena begins with another sharp low kick. Good body kick from Alves but he takes another low kick and then a left hook. Barbarena definitely looks like the fresher man here. Good combo from Barbarena as Warlley pushes forward with another hard body kick. Good right hand follows and then he lands a heavy combo ending in a body kick. Barbarena is tough as leather. He takes another body kick but comes right back with another low kick. Warlley begins to back up now as he’s clearly tired, and Barbarena begins to land more shots on him and backs him up with a straight right. Right to the body answers for Alves. Exchange continues and both men land some solid shots before clinching. Barbarena breaks off and Alves is definitely gassed. Another low calf kick lands for Barbarena but Alves comes back with a body kick. Barbarena lands one of his own and backs Warlley up before the Brazilian clinches. Hard elbow separates for Barbarena and he’s really pushing forward now. Good left hand from Barbarena. Trio of kicks follow to no answer from Warlley. Beautiful combo connects clean for Barbarena. He tags Alves with another combo and the TUF Brazil winner looks like he might be in trouble. He’s firmly on the retreat now. Another combo lands for Barbarena before Alves clinches. Seconds remaining and Barbarena separates with the elbow again, then lands a body kick. Round ends there. 10-9 Barbarena as he totally took over as the round went on.

Round Three and Warlley comes out swinging and lands with a hard combo, but Barbarena seems okay. Good low kick answers for the American and Warlley’s output has slowed again already. Barbarena slips on a jumping kick though and Alves pounces, looking to lock up the guillotine again. Barbarena fights his way back up though and they’re clinched again. Another elbow lands in the clinch for Barbarena. Nice trip from Barbarena allows him to land a combo as Warlley gets back up. Both men are still swinging heavily. Front kick lands for Alves. Big combo lands for Barbarena. Another one follows before Warlley glances with a flying knee. Elbow answers for Barbarena and he follows with two more from close range. Hard knee fires back for Alves. This is a hell of a fight. Good knee too for Barbarena and they break. Low calf kick from Barbarena. Another combo follows and a left snaps Warlley’s head back. Big combo has Warlley stunned but he’s still standing and firing back. This is awesome. Both men look exhausted now. Nice jab from Alves but he takes a couple more shots in reply. One minute to go and Barbarena keeps pushing forward, backing Alves up although both guys are landing some solid shots. Big combo from Warlley but he misses a wheel kick. Seconds to go now and Barbarena pressures him back again with another beautiful multi-shot combo. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 Barbarena for a pretty wild upset, 29-28, barring any home cooking.

Judges have it 29-28 all round for Bryan Barbarena. I’d call this a huge upset when you consider he was a five-to-one underdog fighting in his opponent’s home territory, but basically the difference was that Barbarena was just tough and managed to gut out the early storm before wearing the flashier fighter down. Whether this is a testament purely to his toughness or more because Warlley is the second coming of Erick Silva I don’t know just yet but I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Tremendous opener at any rate and massive kudos to Barbarena for pulling out a real surprise in my book.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Shogun Rua vs Corey Anderson

Despite Shogun’s star status in Brazil, despite him actually coming off a win (over Lil’ Nog last August) and despite Anderson usually winning his fights via decision rather than brutality, in all honesty I didn’t really want to see this fight as I believe Shogun should’ve hung it up probably after the loss to OSP if not even before that maybe. I just couldn’t see Shogun winning this one and figured Anderson – despite being worryingly hittable judging on his last fight – would be able to take him down for a decision or a ground-based TKO.

First round and Shogun pushes forward as Anderson tries to show a lot of movement. Couple of jabs land for Corey but nothing too heavy and Shogun fires off with a glancing overhand right. Good leg kick lands for Shogun. Jab answers for Anderson. Good combo follows for the TUF winner. Crowd are hugely into Shogun as you’d imagine. Another nice low kick lands for Shogun and he follows with an uppercut. Counter right hand from Shogun but Anderson glances on a left. Good combo from Shogun has the crowd going wild. Both men land some quick jabs before Shogun lands an uppercut into a leg kick. This is the best he’s looked in a while. Low kick from Anderson is almost caught, but Shogun slips in the process and eats a combo. Corey tries to follow with a flying knee but jumps right into a right hook. Clinch follows and Anderson drops for the takedown, but Shogun defends before a nice combination separates for Anderson. Just over a minute and half to go now and Anderson lands with a jab. Combo glances in reply for Shogun. Wild exchange follows with Anderson landing the better shots. Head kick misses for him though. Exchange continues with both men landing, Anderson following up a combo with a decent leg kick. Right hand follows. Shogun tries to clinch but gets shrugged off and takes a combo. Seconds to go and Shogun DROPS HIM WITH A COUNTER LEFT! Crowd go INSANE as Shogun tries to finish, but Anderson is saved by the buzzer! Wow. Close round but 10-9 Shogun for the near finish right at the end.

Second round and Anderson seems recovered. He takes a low kick, but he seems to be moving fine. Clinch from Anderson and he lands some solid blows as Shogun tries to break off. Really nice inside leg kick connects for Shogun. Anderson fires back with a combo and he’s chasing Shogun all over the place even though he’s not landing cleanly. Nice double leg does work though and he plants the Brazilian down in half-guard. Crowd boo immediately. Shogun looks to kick him away, but eats a big right hand before scrambling back to his feet. Crowd go crazy but Anderson stays on him and looks to get him down again. He keeps Shogun clinched against the fence before the former PRIDE champ breaks off. Quick double jab from Anderson and he shoots again, but Shogun actually shows some excellent defense and remains on his feet. Good knee inside from Shogun but Corey has him pressed against the cage here. He drops for another takedown attempt, but Shogun continues to defend well. Nasty elbow connects for Anderson as they break. Two minutes to go and some wild swings miss for Shogun. Combo glances for Anderson and he shoots again but Shogun stuffs it. Wild overhand right misses for Rua. Anderson’s doing well in these exchanges. He follows with a double leg and dumps Shogun down, but the Brazilian pops right back up. Knee breaks for Shogun. Solid jab connects for Anderson but Shogun shrugs off a clinch attempt. Round ends with Shogun catching a kick and dropping Anderson with a right, although it wasn’t a proper knockdown if you will. 10-9 Anderson for me as he did more work overall on offense.

Third round and Shogun opens with a hard leg kick. Nice left hook from Anderson but he eats an overhand right in answer. Takedown attempt from Anderson and he drives Shogun back into the fence, getting deep on the hips and finally he forces Shogun to the ground. Shogun gets to full guard, but although Anderson isn’t all that active he’s doing enough to keep the fight down despite Shogun’s attempts to stall for a stand-up. Crowd are naturally horrified by this. Shogun finally manages to stand by giving his back and using it to scramble to his knees, but he takes a hard knee to the hamstring from the TUF winner before they break. There’s not much left on the clock though and it looks like Shogun needs this round to win. Another takedown attempt from Anderson follows and again he drives Shogun back, but this time Rua manages to defend and stay on his feet. Anderson keeps driving though and forces him down for a second before he pops back up. Anderson keeps trying to get him down and although Shogun’s defending he isn’t getting any offense in. Seconds to go and Shogun can’t seem to shake him off. They finally break, but Anderson comes right back in with a jumping knee and another takedown attempt. Round ends there and has to go to Anderson, so I’d call it 29-28 for him.

And we have a split decision….29-28 Anderson, 29-28 Shogun and 29-28 for Shogun Rua to pick up the win. Hmm, if I’m honest I think that was a bit of hometown judging there as I just don’t see how Shogun won either the second or the third round, especially the third as he spent at least half of it on his back. I mean it wasn’t a great showing from Anderson either as again – like in the Tom Lawlor fight – he proved to be way too hittable, but I didn’t think outside of the first that Shogun hit him with all that many clean shots and offensive-wise Anderson’s striking looked much improved and he was tagging Rua with plenty of combos as well as taking him down. Shogun really should hang it up but he’s now on a two-fight win streak so I guess he’ll end up with a couple more fights yet, and to be fair 205lbs is such a wasteland these days that I don’t have a clue who you’d match him with next. Decent fight though if nothing spectacular.

Women’s Catchweight Fight: Cris Cyborg vs Leslie Smith

When the rumors of Cyborg making her UFC debut on this card initially began I was cynical as I didn’t ever expect to see her in the Octagon to be honest, given she doesn’t seem willing or capable of hitting 135lbs and UFC don’t seem willing to build a 145lbs division around her. But I guess the need to sell extra tickets in Curitiba kicked in and there you go. Couple of weird points – the fight was at 140lbs, I guess to allow Cyborg to show she couldn’t go any lower, and Smith as an opponent was largely unknown and basically unranked. Apparently Holly Holm turned down the fight which makes sense to me and so Smith was the one willing to step up. On paper this was a squash as per usual – Cyborg had her usual size advantage and Smith had been boxed up by the much smaller and less powerful Jessica Eye – but I guess the idea was to please the Brazilian crowd more than anything else.

Big crowd pop for Cyborg as – in Brazil at least – she’s definitely got a lot of star power. Poor Smith looks every bit the sacrificial lamb in her corner during the intros, despite being backed by the Diaz brothers although they’re not with her here.

Round One and sure enough Cyborg looks much bigger. She pushes forward right away swinging, landing a clean combo early on. Low kick into a jab follows. Big body shot from the Brazilian. Smith seems calm but she’s had no offense thus far. Cyborg is just pot-shotting her. BRUTAL combo from Cyborg and Smith goes down with just over a minute gone. Punches on the ground follow and the ref decides to call it there despite Smith claiming an early stoppage. Looked like she was done to me. Crowd go insane.

Okay so first off, as expected this was a one-sided squash match in favour of Cyborg, but then we all knew that going in. Squashes in MMA unless they’re totally ludicrous – and this one wasn’t really – are usually fun, so there was that. But the bigger issue is of course what happens to Cyborg now. Post-fight she outright states that she wants to defend her 145lbs title back in Invicta next and although we’ve got the likes of Germaine de Randamie calling her out, it looks like Invicta is indeed next for her. It is a tough one because I don’t think UFC wants to bring in 145lbs and push Cyborg like they did Ronda for a myriad of reasons (the talent pool isn’t there – witness consensus #2 Marloes Coenen being tapped by Alexis Dufresne who washed out of the UFC at 135lbs; Cyborg is a convicted steroid abuser amongst other things) but obviously she draws eyeballs and so they seem to want to use her a bit, just not *too* much. Which just makes things awkward really. For me, unless they can put together the Ronda Rousey fight at a Catchweight I just don’t see the point in putting on any more Cyborg Catchweight fights and so I’d let her go back to Invicta. It isn’t like she’s a Conor McGregor level draw after all and hey, they missed on Fedor and did fine.

Middleweight Fight: Ronaldo Souza vs Vitor Belfort

Big fight here with title implications, basically the winner was probably going to get a title fight later in the year due to the issues surrounding Yoel Romero, and with Belfort holding a previous win over Luke Rockhold and Jacare being a fresh opponent for both Rockhold and Chris Weidman (of course, this was before it changed to Rockhold/Bisping…) the stakes didn’t get much higher. My feeling was that it would come down to whether Vitor could get Jacare out of there in an early rush, as if he couldn’t then the fight was probably Jacare’s to lose. My pick was Jacare via submission to capture the title shot.

Fight begins and the crowd seem pretty even in terms of support. Jacare pushes forward early as Belfort circles on the outside. He doesn’t look nearly as threatening physically these days. Jumping knee from Vitor misses but he sprawls to avoid the takedown. Low kick lands for Souza. Takedown attempt from Jacare and he drives Vitor into the fence, but can’t get him down initially. Good job from Vitor to shrug him off and he’s free. Body kick glances for Jacare. Another low takedown attempt follows and this time he gets Belfort down into half-guard with an ankle pick of all things. Short elbow lands for Jacare as he looks to advance position. He grinds on Vitor with his forearm and continues to look to pass, and then he postures up to deliver some absolute BOMBS to the side of the body and the head. Vitor is cut badly. Referee calls time to check him over and boy do the crowd hate that call. Looks like it’s a cut over the right eye. They decide to let it go and restart in the same spot, with Jacare firmly in control. Two minutes to go and Jacare decides to walk up the fence to pass guard and then goes for an armbar in a risky move, but it allows Vitor to hit a scramble and get to his feet! Jacare stays on him though in the clinch and lands some knees inside, and in a surprising move Vitor appears to jump to guard. Don’t get that at ALL. He tries some upkicks but Jacare immediately begins to pummel him again and then slices right through into full mount. He’s doomed. Jacare continues to bomb on him from the mount and sure enough Vitor is DONE, taking some more shots before the ref shows mercy.

Massive win for Jacare and post-fight he calls out Luke Rockhold for a title shot, and of course it would’ve been enough to net him one when Chris Weidman dropped from UFC 199, had he not injured his knee in the process, allowing Michael Bisping to slip into the spot instead. It might get him a title shot yet I guess depending on how Rockhold/Bisping goes and what happens with Weidman. As for Vitor, I hate to rag on fighters but it felt like he just gave up after he was taken down and cut, and I don’t think he has much left in the tank. Maybe time to hang it up, who knows. Surprisingly one-sided fight but part of me did feel good to see Vitor get beaten down again.

UFC World Heavyweight Title: Fabricio Werdum vs Stipe Miocic

Nice booking from the UFC right here – basically for those who’ve forgotten it was supposed to be Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez at UFC 196 but when Cain pulled out it was changed to Werdum vs. Miocic. Then of course, Werdum pulled out and that card became a Fight Night. Thankfully though – I guess throwing Stipe a bone and also due to the overall apathetic reaction to another fucking rematch – they kept the Werdum/Miocic pairing and made it the headliner here. Tough fight to call too – for me it came down to whether Miocic could use his wrestling to get inside without getting hurt by Werdum’s clinch game, and whether he could get takedowns without falling prey to the champ’s BJJ game. I was giving Stipe a fair chance due to him hitting hard, having an excellent top game and shit, just because it’s HW, but I was taking Werdum as I felt he had more tools to win.

Round One begins and both men throw out some feints before exchanging low kicks. Miocic pushes forward a bit but doesn’t land anything clean. Good low kick from Werdum. Right hand misses for Stipe. Body kick lands for the champion and he backs Stipe up a bit with a flurry that doesn’t really land. Right hand glances for Werdum and he lands another low kick. Low kick answers for Stipe. Nice right hand connects hard for Werdum and he begins to chase forward a bit but Stipe seems okay. Low takedown attempt is easily stuffed by Miocic. Combo glances for Miocic ending in a right hand. Low kick from Werdum but Miocic is beginning to open up a bit. Good left hand from the challenger. Right hook glances for Werdum but he eats a jab. The champion comes charging forward, but walks into a right hand counter that stops him for a second. He quickly comes back with another flurry, but leaves himself open and walks into a BEAUTIFUL RIGHT HAND COUNTER THAT DROPS HIM FACE FIRST!~! Miocic doesn’t even need to follow up as Werdum is OUT. Crowd go ABSOLUTELY SILENT as Miocic celebrates wildly, screaming “I’m the world champ!” as if he can’t even believe it himself. Incredible.

Replay of the finish shows it was almost a carbon copy of Chuck Liddell’s knockout of Randy Couture back in 2005, as Werdum walked into a hard shot that stunned him and just got too wild trying to fire back, and then walked into a perfectly placed killshot and got knocked out cold. Beautiful striking from Stipe Miocic, and with that yet another Heavyweight champ falls. Incredibly the only fighters to ever defend the belt more than once have been Cain Velasquez and Randy Couture, and Brock Lesnar if you count his win over Frank Mir at UFC 100 as a title defense. Crazy stuff but it just shows the unpredictability of the division. That’s not to take anything away from Miocic – he has the skills to remain at the top for a while when you consider the worst match for him (Cain) seems permanently banged up these days, but I could also see another title change when he fights Alistair Overeem in September – possibly my most anticipated fight of the year as it’s FINALLY a title shot for the Reem. Not much of a fight here but hey, I’d call it a contender for best knockout of the year given the circumstances and everything. Bad ending for the Brazilian fans who clearly wanted to see the hometown hero Werdum win, but them’s the breaks!

-Show ends with….well, technically it doesn’t end as I think they showed Lil’ Nog vs. Pat Cummins, but the version I’ve got doesn’t have it so there you go. Highlight reel most likely!

Final Thoughts….

This was the most loaded PPV of the year thus far on paper and I’d probably say in execution it delivered, too. We didn’t get any bonafide classics, admittedly – which is why you could argue for UFC 195 being better I guess – but we did get three highlight reel finishes, one of which was one of the most memorable title changes in some time, along with a really great fight in Alves vs. Barbarena. Shogun/Anderson wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either and then tremendous atmosphere of such a huge crowd helped things too, which means it’s an easy thumbs up for UFC 198. Check it out if you missed it first time around.

Best Fight: Alves vs. Barbarena
Worst Fight: Shogun vs. Anderson

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: