MMA Review: #610: UFC 214: Cormier vs. Jones II

-This was being billed as the biggest show of 2017 so far, and it was definitely stacked that way – not only did we have the long-awaited Cormier/Jones rematch, but another TWO title fights as well as Lawler vs. Cowboy! It doesn’t get better than that, really.

UFC 214: Cormier vs. Jones II

07/29/17
Anaheim, California

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Jimi Manuwa vs Volkan Oezdemir

This one was essentially to decide the next #1 contender for the LHW title, as Manuwa had knocked out Ovince St. Preux and Corey Anderson, while Oezdemir had also taken out OSP and then beaten the highly-rated Misha Cirkunov, too. I was taking Manuwa, feeling Oezdemir’s win over Cirkunov was a bit of a fluke, and thought he’d win by knockout.

First round begins and they throw out some feeler strikes before Manuwa clinches. They exchange some knees before Oezdemir begins to work some dirty boxing inside, and evidently he hits HARD as Jimi’s legs look buckled! He stumbles back and Oezdemir follows with a BIG LEFT HOOK and Manuwa goes down and OUT!

Jesus Christ. Oezdemir must hit like a truck to have pulled that one off. I figured the Cirkunov KO was a total fluke shot but evidently not; the guy clearly has hands of steel. It’s so surprising too given he didn’t really look great in the OSP fight at all, but there you go. This was one of the most brutal knockouts of the year and wow, Oezdemir’s gone from a nobody as 2017 began to likely fighting for the title in 2018. Talk about a year!

Welterweight Fight: Robbie Lawler vs Donald Cerrone

This was initially booked for UFC 213 but ended up rescheduled to this show, and to say this was possibly the biggest action fight the UFC could’ve put on was an understatement, as a dull fight from either man seemed impossible, and despite both coming off knockout losses (Cerrone to Jorge Masvidal, Lawler to Tyron Woodley) I don’t think anyone cared. My pick was Lawler but I was expecting fireworks.

Round One begins and Lawler lands a big left from the off and then WORKS HIM OVER with big knees and punches from the clinch! Jesus. Cerrone comes back with a knee of his own but he’s taking a lot of punishment here. They break off and Lawler keeps coming forward and wow, Cerrone’s right eye is looking in a bad way. Back to the clinch, but Cerrone breaks with a knee to the body. Lawler gets right back on it and forces him into the fence, and this time both men land some hard shots from there. Knees and punches both connect for the two and after two minutes this has been just as awesome as everyone figured it would be. They break off and a head kick glances for Cowboy. Nasty knee into the clinch from Lawler but Cerrone fires one back. Body kick from Lawler is caught and Cerrone takes him down into guard. Crowd are chanting for both men on and off. Cerrone passes into half-guard and then into side mount, and from there he slides into north/south. Lawler still looks calm from his back, though. Good knee to the body lands for Donald but Lawler explodes to his feet. Elbow from the clinch stuns Lawler but Cerrone doesn’t quite follow it up. Big head kick does follow, but Lawler manages to block it. Round ends with both men exchanging kicks. That was great. 10-9 Lawler for the fast start.

Round Two and Lawler lands with a sharp leg kick in the opening seconds. Head kick is blocked by the former champ. Big combination lands for Cowboy and Lawler has to cover up. Big Cowboy chant follows that as Lawler glances on a head kick. Nice step-in elbow lands for Cerrone. Another combo ends with a right head kick for Cerrone. Cerrone’s pegging Lawler back in this round for sure. Exchange continues with a Lawler head kick being returned by a combo from Cerrone. Knee to the body lands for Cerrone from the clinch too. Lawler comes back with a body shot of his own as they break off. Big body kick lands for Cowboy. Takedown misses for Cowboy but he makes Lawler pay with a knee and a head kick. More kicks from Cerrone keep Lawler at distance, and then he stuns Robbie with another combination. Lawler swings back but can’t quite catch Cowboy. Seconds to go and they trade low kicks before Cerrone ends the round with another combo. Clearly 10-9 Cerrone to even it up.

Round Three and the crowd are AMPED. They trade punches right away before Lawler connects on a big left head kick. Trio of body kicks follow and Cerrone decides to shoot. Lawler defends and both men land knees to the body coming out of the clinch. Lawler lands another head kick, but Cerrone clinches and lands with another knee to the body. Lawler’s really pushing forward this round again. Exchange continues and Lawler’s basically walking through Cerrone’s combos to land his own now. Couple of telegraphed takedowns are avoided by Lawler who connects on an uppercut. He does walk into an elbow, though. Takedown attempt is again defended by Lawler and he lands with the body kick again. Beautiful combination connects for Lawler but Cerrone eats it and fires right back. This is so fucking awesome. High kick is blocked by Lawler and he keeps on walking in. Takedown is avoided again by Lawler and he continues to wade forward even as Cerrone fires back. Big body kick again lands for Lawler. They clinch with less than a minute to go before Lawler breaks and continues to walk him down. Big combo has Cerrone hurt and wincing, and it’s a trade to the end. Great, great fight. 10-9 Lawler for all the pressure and I’d call it 29-28 for him, but it was a close one.

Judges have it 29-28 all round for Robbie Lawler. Right decision I’d say but I mean, it’s not like Cowboy lost anything here either as he went toe-to-toe for three straight rounds with one of the hardest hitting and most aggressive guys in the sport and almost won. Basically Lawler is still awesome, Cowboy is still awesome and this lived up to all the hype it had going in. Don’t know how much more either man has left really but when they’re on like they were here there aren’t many better men to watch in this sport.

UFC Women’s World Featherweight Title: Cris Cyborg vs Tonya Evinger

Bit of a weird one here – obviously the Women’s Featherweight Title was originally won by Germaine de Randamie in February with her win over Holly Holm, but then she sat out claiming hand injuries afterwards, and when it became clear she had no interest in fighting Cris Cyborg – who the division was made for anyway – the UFC stripped her and made Cyborg vs. Megan Anderson, Invicta champion, for the title here. Except Anderson got hurt and so they had to bring in Tonya Evinger, Invicta champion at 135lbs instead. The word was that Evinger was the only fighter who would take the match, but my personal feeling was more that UFC just wanted the belt on Cyborg and didn’t want to risk one of their potential stars at 135lbs (Holm, for instance) losing to her on short notice. Obviously the clear pick was Cyborg.

First round begins and Evinger doesn’t look much smaller than Cyborg although she’s far less jacked, obviously. Left hand – literally the first one thrown by Cyborg – drops Evinger but she pops up with a leg kick and a right hand. Flurry has her hurt again though and she has to clinch to survive. Evinger ends up pulling guard, but Cyborg’s having none of that and she stands up. Couple of wild swings miss for Evinger and Cyborg hurts her with another flurry. Fair play to Evinger as she survives again and circles out. Couple of hard leg kicks connect for Cyborg. Another combo tags her, but a wheel kick misses and so Evinger ducks under and lunges for the takedown. She can’t get Cyborg off her feet, though. A trip puts her down for a second but she pops right back up. A clean trip plants her properly this time, but somehow Cyborg muscles up and breaks with a hard knee. Eye poke from Evinger forces the ref to call time and the crowd hate that one. Doctor checks Cyborg over and she’s good to go, and they restart with Cyborg landing another hard leg kick. Big flurry to the body hurts Evinger but she manages to clinch again. This time Cyborg tries a takedown and then gives up on it to glance with a head kick instead. Brutal right hand from Cyborg stuns Evinger again but once more she manages to survive well. Seconds to go in the round and another combo has Evinger wobbled. More leg kicks follow. Round ends with Evinger staggered by another right hand. Evinger tried but that round was an absolute massacre; 10-8 Cyborg.

Second round and Cyborg again opens with the hard inside leg kick. Left hand hurts Evinger this time but she fires back to slow Cyborg down a bit. Big head kick lands for Cyborg. Another combo lands for Cyborg as she’s just stalking and teeing off on Evinger now and it looks like Evinger can’t hurt her back with any strikes. Takedown attempt also fails. Another brutal combo connects and she easily shrugs off an Evinger clinch too. Evinger keeps on firing back but she’s got nothing for Cyborg here at all unfortunately and another left hand hurts her, as does the leg kick. Announcers are talking about Cyborg getting tired if she can’t put Evinger away, but it’s actually Evinger who’s breathing heavily. More of the same follows as Cyborg continues to land on her pretty much at will. Round ends in the clinch. Better round for Evinger but come on, it was still massively one-sided. 10-9 Cyborg.

Third round and the announcers are now ripping into Germaine de Randamie for ducking the fight with Cyborg. More of the same follows to begin and this time Cyborg stuns her bad with an overhand right and a head kick. She continues to hang tough, but a flurry drops her and she’s in trouble. Cyborg kicks at the legs and then allows her to get up, and from there she continues the abuse with more low kicks and a hard left. Can’t fault Evinger’s heart at all, that’s for sure. Knees from the clinch send her down face-first though and this time she can’t get up, and the ref calls it there.

Well, the result was never in question, let’s be honest, it was more a question of how long Evinger could last. And she took a good beating, no question, but realistically I don’t know how much we can take from this given Evinger probably isn’t a legit top ten 135lber let alone 145lber. I mean, it’ll be cool to see Evinger get a shot at 135lbs next but I doubt she becomes a title contender there even, although with this she’s earned the chance. I actually think Cyborg is beatable, but it’ll have to be a super-technical striker to do it and so I welcome the Holly Holm fight if they can put that together later in the year. Still not a fan of Cyborg but I guess she draws eyeballs so there you go. This was basically an extended squash.

UFC World Welterweight Title: Tyron Woodley vs Demian Maia

Considering all the noise from Woodley about wanting a “money fight”, it was quite refreshing to see him actually facing the top contender here in Maia, who had earned his spot by beating Jorge Masvidal in May. It seemed like a horrible match for Maia given Woodley’s takedown defense and punching power, but yeah, still cool to see a proper title fight given all the shenanigans in the divisions around 170lbs this year. For the record, I was taking Woodley by knockout.

Round One begins and Maia presses the action and shoots instantly, but Woodley counters with an uppercut and then stuffs the takedown brilliantly. Maia’s left eye is already a mess. Couple more punches land for Woodley as he stuffs a second takedown attempt. A third takedown attempt quickly follows, but Woodley’s having none of that and he remains firmly on his feet. Impressive stuff. Big right hand glances for Woodley. Another takedown attempt from Maia is stuffed. This time Woodley gets a warning for a fence grab, though. They restart and Maia lands a left and almost gets a single leg, but Woodley slides free. Big right hand connects for Woodley. Crowd begin to boo a little as they’re not doing much now outside of feinting. Couple of right hands glance for the champion. Another takedown is stuffed by Woodley. Round ends with Woodley circling out as the crowd boo. 10-9 Woodley as he at least had a couple of offensive strikes and swelled up Maia’s eye.

Round Two and Woodley stuns Maia with a hard right hand in the opening seconds. Leg kick follows. Woodley’s in the centre of the cage now which is different. Big right hand drops Maia and Woodley waves him right back up and starts to taunt him a bit. Decent left lands for Maia but Woodley backs him up with a combo. Single leg is defended well by Woodley and Maia eats another right hand for his troubles. Leg kick connects for Woodley and he avoids another takedown attempt really well. Action slows down a bit from there as both men feint some more, before Maia shoots again and finds himself stuffed once more. Maia’s just having no success with these takedowns. Overhand right glances for Woodley. Left glances for Maia but Woodley dodges a follow-up. Round ends with a lot more feinting. 10-9 Woodley again.

Round Three and Maia’s face is a real mess considering the stats say Woodley’s only landed 15 (!) strikes to his 5 (!). Doctors check his eye in fact before they start the round. Maia presses forward to begin but unsurprisingly he can’t take Woodley down again. Counter right hand glances for Woodley as Maia comes forward. Right hand connects to the body for the champ now. Crowd are booing lightly now as Woodley glances on some strikes from long range as it’s becoming a bit of a staring contest. Big leg kick connects for Woodley off a threatened punch. More booing follows though as Woodley stays on the outside and Maia seems at a loss. He lands a decent left, but can’t get even close to a takedown as Woodley easily sprawls. Couple of low kicks connect for Maia but nothing else, and that’s the round. 10-9 Woodley and the crowd hate this fight.

Round Four and Maia again pushes forward, but takes some glancing punches from Woodley who doesn’t seem at all fazed by the booing. Takedown attempt is once again easily stuffed by Woodley. Maia just can’t do a thing here because every time he gets close he takes a glancing shot or two. Another takedown attempt sees him drive Woodley into the cage, but Woodley once again defends masterfully. More of the same follows as Woodley glances on some more strikes and defends another takedown. Decent counter right lands for Woodley but this is becoming a painfully bad fight. One minute to go and Woodley tags Maia with another right hand but doesn’t really follow it up. I get Woodley’s tactic here but it’s just dull. Round again peters out. 10-9 Woodley and Maia definitely needs some sort of finish to win.

Round Five and Woodley lands a right to the body as the boos continue to rain down. Another takedown is easily stuffed by the champion. And another. Can’t fault Woodley’s takedown defense but I mean, nobody pays money to see Tyron Woodley defend takedowns, do they? Couple more glancing punches connect for Woodley. And really there’s not much point explaining the rest of the round as it’s just more of the same, Woodley landing on the odd punch and then defending takedown attempts. Crowd even do the lighters-in-the-air deal with their phones as they’re so bored. Call it 50-45 for Woodley.

Official scores are 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46 for Tyron Woodley, no surprise there. Crowd hate the announcement though and boo him out of the building. Basically this fight stunk; you can’t knock Woodley’s gameplan as it was smart and his takedown defense was fantastic, and in a lot of ways Maia was more to blame for the whole thing as he had no other plan outside of spamming the takedown attempt, but if Woodley wants money fights he needs to be more entertaining, sorry. I get that he couldn’t be too reckless, but he could’ve been slightly more aggressive surely? And it looked like he could’ve gotten Maia out of there early, but he just didn’t pull the trigger enough. The whole thing reminded me in fact of Josh Koscheck’s 2007 win over Diego Sanchez, and hey, the crowd hated that one too. I’d be tempted to say this was worse than Woodley’s second fight with Stephen Thompson in fact.

UFC World Light-Heavyweight Title: Daniel Cormier vs Jon Jones

This was undoubtedly the biggest UFC fight of the year to this point, especially with no McGregor or Rousey fights booked on the horizon – the big return of Jon Jones from over a year away after his suspension for PEDs – a suspension that had been reduced after Jones claimed the positive test came from “dick pills”, basically an excuse that nobody was buying. Cormier in that time had defended his title against Anthony Johnson and was clearly the best non-Jones 205lber on the planet – and he’d improved since their first meeting in 2015 too – so this was a super-intriguing fight in every possible way. I was leaning towards picking Jones because of how that first fight went, but it was a close pick as Jones had huffed and puffed his way past Ovince St. Preux in his previous fight, and who knew how Jones would look off the PEDs?

Round One begins and these guys look INTENSE. Jones comes out swinging, and both men exchange from the off with a pair of hard uppercuts connecting for DC from close range. Spin kick glances for Jones before ref Big John McCarthy calls time to replace Jones’ mouthpiece. Into the clinch and Jones gets a takedown, but Cormier reverses up instantly. Nice left hook lands from range for Jones as Cormier looks to get inside the reach. Low kicks get through for both men before Cormier manages to clinch, but Jones throws him right off. Lot of low kicks land for Jones and he follows with a hard knee to the gut. Some low kicks land for Cormier in answer but he takes another knee to the body. Jones continues to strike from distance, but a sweeping left hook connects for Cormier. He’s still finding it tricky to get inside the reach, though. He keeps coming forward with kicks, but keeps walking into the woodchipper too. A body kick finally sets up a decent combo for Cormier and he clinches to add some uppercuts, but Jones breaks off. Seconds to go and it’s Cormier pushing forward, although he’s still taking shots as well. 10-9 Jones for me despite some good shots for DC.

Round Two and Jones opens with a kick down the middle. He continues to snipe at Cormier from range, landing a really hard knee to the body, but Cormier comes back with some solid leg kicks. Couple of right hands land for Cormier and Jones circles out. Single leg is blocked by Jones and he lands an accidental headbutt on the way out. Big John calls time, but DC’s fine and they continue. More oblique kicks land for Jones but Cormier clips him with a combination on his way in. Nice combo lands for Cormier, set up by another low kick. Jones continues to snipe at the legs with low kicks, keeping him back, but Cormier keeps pushing forward anyway. Combo lands for DC but Jones fires back with a right. Cormier taunts him though and then lands a clean combo that forces Jones to clinch. Uppercuts break for Cormier and he continues to press the action. Another clinch sees Cormier throw Jones down, but he slips and has to scramble to his feet. Big combo again lands for DC and forces Jones but clinch, but this time Cormier breaks with a low kick into a glancing head kick. Strikes from the outside are blocked by Cormier who lands a couple more shots as the crowd chant his name. Round ends with a big overhand right from Cormier. 10-9 Cormier for me as he really pushed the action and landed the better shots.

Round Three and Cormier again presses forward to begin as Jones again uses the oblique kicks to the legs, stopping him from really wading inside the reach. Nice left hand connects for Jones and he’s forcing Cormier to come up short in this round. Step-in knee lands for Jones but DC answers with an uppercut into a left hook. Jones is doing a tremendous job of soaking up all this pressure from Cormier. Glancing combo from Cormier backs Jones up almost into the fence, but Jones circles out smartly. Cormier continues to chase forward, but he’s having a hard time actually reaching him. Suddenly Jones uncorks a BIG LEFT HEAD KICK, and Cormier is wobbled! Low kick sends him all over the place, and a flying knee glances for Jones but sends DC CRASHING DOWN! Jones pounces from there and DESTROYS HIM WITH ELBOWS AND PUNCHES and finally Big John calls it as Cormier’s unconscious. God damnit.

Cormier tried, but the whole fight was just a masterclass from Jones; even though he took some shots, he always kept Cormier at range by sniping at him with low kicks and shots to the body, and once he spotted an opening he took it in style, landing the head kick and putting Cormier away ruthlessly.

Post-fight Jones puts Cormier over as a great rival and motivator, and pays tribute to the fans, before a tearful Cormier goes on to ask whether it’s even a rivalry if one guy loses twice. Really sad to hear.

Well, this would’ve been one of the all-time great title fight performances from Jones….except about a month later it came to light that he’d tested positive for steroids AGAIN. Really ridiculous situation and now the result’s been turned into a No Contest, Cormier’s got the belt back and lord only knows what happens to Jones from here. Probably a long – and deserved – suspension and perhaps his career will be over this time. Hopefully it will in a way as he’s clearly just a bad guy. The whole mess basically rendered this fight pointless which is insanely frustrating. Worse still, I’m wondering if Cormier will ever be the same again.

-Highlight reel rolls and that’s it from UFC 214.

Final Thoughts….

Got to go with the thumbs up really – Woodley/Maia sucked and Cyborg/Evinger was a squash, but outside of that, Lawler/Cowboy was fantastic, Jones/Cormier was fantastic and you’d have to be insane to complain about a crazy KO like Oezdemir’s over Manuwa. Woodley/Maia keeps it from all time classic status but this was still a great PPV from the UFC.

Best Fight: Lawler vs. Cowboy
Worst Fight: Woodley vs. Maia

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com