MMA Review: #649: UFC 226: Miocic vs. Cormier

-The UFC had built this show as the biggest one of the year to this point, as the main event was the big superfight between Heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic and Light-Heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier, and we were also supposed to get an amazing-sounding Featherweight title fight too between Max Holloway and Brian Ortega. That one ended up being scrapped due to a health scare for Max, but the card overall still sounded like one of the strongest of 2018.

UFC 226: Miocic vs. Cormier

07/07/18
Las Vegas, Nevada

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

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Khalil Rountree vs Gokhan Saki

Former K-1 favourite Saki had debuted successfully in September 2017 with a win over Henrique da Silva, and although there were still a ton of questions around him – namely his ground game – not many people were expecting Rountree, a fellow striker, to answer those questions. Despite Rountree showing ruthless striking power before, I figured in a pure kickboxing match – which it was likely to be given Rountree’s own weaker ground game – he’d be toast against ‘The Turkish Tyson’.

Round One begins and Rountree circles on the outside as Saki takes the centre and looks pretty confident. Low kick lands early on for Saki. Head kick follows but doesn’t land cleanly. Wild combo misses for Rountree. Big exchange sees Saki land a heavy right hand. Low kick lands well again for Saki but as he throws another, Rountree LEVELS HIM WITH A LEFT HAND!~! Couple of hammer fists follow and that’s it.

Unbelievable knockout for Rountree – basically it just goes to show that with the smaller MMA gloves, just because you’re amazing in kickboxing you’re not necessarily going to be great in MMA, similarly to what Alistair Overeem found out a few years back. Replay shows it was just a perfectly timed – and insanely powerful – punch. Massive win for Khalil Rountree who could still be a contender if he can sort that ground game out.

Lightweight Fight: Anthony Pettis vs Michael Chiesa

This fight was initially supposed to take place at UFC 223, but ended up being scrapped after Conor McGregor’s infamous rampage resulted in Chiesa being sidelined temporarily. Pettis was then in talks to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov but couldn’t come to a deal and so the UFC just re-booked the fight for here. Given Pettis’s general decline over the past few years I was taking Chiesa to win. Slight issue coming in however was Chiesa missing weight and basically saying he probably couldn’t fight at 155lbs again.

Fight begins and Chiesa pushes forward but walks into a quick right hand. He manages to close distance and slam Pettis down, landing in half-guard, but Pettis instantly looks for a guillotine. It doesn’t look tight though and he moves out, looking for a possible arm triangle. Pettis avoids that but eats some punches instead, and then Chiesa takes the back in a slick move. Pettis scrambles free of that though and takes Chiesa’s back instead, but a Sakuraba-style kimura almost puts Chiesa back in control. Pettis frees himself and stands back up, and they separate and exchange kicks. Takedown is blocked by Pettis this time and they jockey for position inside the clinch. Beautiful trip takedown plants Pettis on his back, but he goes for a triangle choke right away. Chiesa postures up to avoid it and then settles into the guard, but as he stands back up Pettis somehow hits him with a wild kick from the bottom! That was amazing. Body kick from Chiesa but Pettis pushes forward and snipes at him a bit. Low kick lands hard for Pettis. Another follows and he narrowly misses a spin kick. Right hand follows. Kick from Chiesa is caught and he winds up on the bottom and eats a right hand, and as he comes back up Pettis narrowly misses a tornado kick! Round ends with a quick flurry from Pettis. Close round to score but I think I’d lean to Pettis for the strong finish.

Into the 2nd and Pettis opens with a hard body kick. Chiesa comes back with one of his own, but gets hurt by a right hand and then a flying knee from Pettis puts him down! Takedown attempt from Chiesa but Pettis goes right into a guillotine attempt and then switches to a triangle and he GETS IT SUNK, and Chiesa has to tap out! Nice!

Super-exciting fight there with probably the best Anthony Pettis performance since his win over Gilbert Melendez in 2014, surprisingly enough. Dude looked confident on his feet, was active from his back hunting for submissions and he even dealt with Chiesa’s forward pressure well. Really impressive stuff from a guy I figured was done at this point. Guess he’s got something left in the tank after all.

Welterweight Fight: Mike Perry vs Paul Felder

Initially both of these guys were supposed to fight different opponents – Perry was meant to fight Yancy Medeiros, Felder James Vick, but when both opponents ended up withdrawing the UFC just matched Perry and Felder against one another instead. First time at 170lbs for Felder too, but I figured he’d still win as it seemed like the book on how to beat Perry had been written at this point – just be more of a technical striker than him.

Round One begins and Felder lands a nasty leg kick. Combination from Perry opens up a cut on Felder’s forehead and they trade off into the clinch. Might’ve been a clash of heads in fact as Perry is cut in the same spot too. They jockey for position inside the clinch and exchange a couple of elbows, but Perry’s one seems to hurt Felder a little. Felder breaks with an elbow of his own, and Perry jabs at him with a couple of low oblique kicks. Big right hand connects for Felder but Perry takes it well. These dudes are SWINGING. Sharp left elbow lands for Perry but Felder eats it right up. Exchange continues with both men landing hard shots. This is a great round, wow. Nice front kick to the body from Felder. Head kick glances too. Perry keeps on going to the oblique kick. Nasty low kick lands for Felder. Clinch from Perry with just under a minute to go but he ends up breaking it himself with an elbow. Couple of leg kicks answer for Felder. Seconds to go now and they exchange to end with Felder landing a clean spinning backfist. 10-9 Felder by a hair for me, but you could go either way.

Round Two and they pick up where they left off with Felder glancing on a head kick in the first exchange. Good leg kick from Felder but Perry wades into the clinch and picks him up for a slam to guard. Felder scrambles but ends up giving his back, but Perry can’t capitalise and they end up clinched on the fence again. Hard elbow lands from the clinch for Perry. They break off and Felder throws out a couple of right hands and then misses on a spinning kick. Perry’s output seems to have slowed down a little now as Felder strikes at him from the outside. Announcers seem to think Felder’s right arm or hand could be broken, though. Big uppercut lands for Perry and busts Felder open pretty badly around the right eye, and he looks wobbled. Clinch follows and holy shit Marc Goddard calls time as Felder is POURING WITH BLOOD. Doctor decides he’s good to go and they restart inside the clinch, with Perry landing the elbow again. Takedown follows and Perry lands on top in half-guard. Felder rolls, but eats some punches on his way up. Big shots land for Perry from the clinch but Felder nails him with an elbow in return, and they break to end the round. Jesus this is a bloodbath. 10-9 Perry to even things up.

Round Three and Perry comes right out with a hard left hook to the cut. Clinch from Felder but Perry muscles him off before both men miss some kicks. Big left hook lands for Perry. Spinning backfist – with the broken arm – misses for Felder this time. Nasty counter elbow lands for Felder as he slips a right hook. Body shot follows for Felder. Perry keeps stalking forward, although he’s having a hard time catching Felder cleanly. Right hand does get through and now Felder’s pouring with blood again. Wheel kick misses for Felder. Nice combination connects for the Irish Dragon. Body kick follows and also connects well. Takedown attempt from Perry with 1:30 remaining and he manages to muscle Felder down and then take his back as he stands. Big knees to the legs land for Perry. 30 seconds to go and they break off, and now Perry’s nose looks busted up as Felder fires some combos at him. Round ends with a pretty wild exchange. 10-9 Perry for a 29-28 I’d say, but you could potentially go either way.

Judges have it 29-28 Perry, 29-28 Felder and 29-28 for Mike Perry to take the split decision. Well earned win in the end I’d say although I wonder how it would’ve gone had Felder not broken his arm. To be fair though both guys put on a great performance, and I thought this was the best Perry had looked in ages – the difference between this and his fight with Max Griffin in February was insane. Maybe he won’t end up as the modern-day Phil Baroni after all. This was a super-fun, energetic fight.

Heavyweight Fight: Francis Ngannou vs Derrick Lewis

Big fight in the Heavyweight division right here as Ngannou had of course basically looked like the uncrowned champ until Stipe Miocic put an end to that hype train in January, while Lewis had won 7 of his last 8, including a knockout of Marcin Tybura in February. Despite the Miocic loss I was taking Ngannou here as I felt he had more ways to win than Lewis – most notably a better ground game.

First round begins and both men look somewhat tentative as they come out of their corners, probably due to the insane punching power of both. Crowd start to boo a minute in as basically nothing’s been thrown. Body kick lands for Lewis and he dodges a HUGE right hook on the counter. Jumping head kick follows for Lewis but it doesn’t land cleanly. Another kick glances for Lewis. Ngannou hasn’t even landed a punch yet. Crowd are furious with this. Takedown attempt by Lewis is easily shrugged off but Ngannou doesn’t really follow it up with anything outside of a glancing jab. Couple of strikes glance for Lewis and the boos are LOUD now. Round ends with more staring. 10-9 Lewis I guess? At least he landed some strikes.

Second round and they pick up where they left off in the first, with MORE STARING. And feinting, can’t forget that. Stats show that in 6 overall minutes, 7 strikes have been landed between them. Right hand gets through for Lewis and he goes for a takedown, but Ngannou shrugs it off. Jumping kick glances for Lewis. This is one of the all-time most disappointing fights I’d say. More circling and staring follows and then Herb Dean has to call time to threaten them for timidity. That’s insane. Jab lands for Ngannou off the restart but Lewis comes back with a body shot. More pressure from Lewis forces him back a bit, and Ngannou just seems too gunshy to do anything. Round ends there. 10-9 Lewis.

Third round and Ngannou comes forward but still won’t really throw anything. Crowd have absolutely had enough now. Couple of kicks land for Lewis but basically nothing happens. This is one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen. Announcers even mention that they might break the record for least strikes landed currently held by Jens Pulver vs. Joao Roque back at UFC 26! Seconds on the clock and literally nothing’s happening. Left hand does land for Ngannou but he only follows it up with feinting. Lewis manages to close the distance and lands a knee and a low kick, but again nothing else happens and the fight ends with Ngannou nearly getting a takedown. 10-9 Lewis, 30-27 Lewis in one of the worst UFC fights of all time.

Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Derrick Lewis. Crowd at least cheer that as I guess Lewis tried a little more? This was a diabolical fight but I don’t think Ngannou necessarily deserves hate for it – clearly he was horribly gunshy coming off the big loss to Stipe Miocic and probably should’ve been matched lower or something? I don’t know but I do worry that we’ll never see the pre-Miocic version of Ngannou again and that’s unfortunate. As for Lewis, it was a big win and in the future I guess people will just forget how bad the fight was and point out that he’s got a win over Ngannou, so that’s good for him I guess. Still, one of the worst fights in UFC history, point blank.

UFC World Heavyweight Title: Stipe Miocic vs Daniel Cormier

Well, for once this was a Superfight that made sense for the most part, as both Miocic and Cormier had defeated the top contenders at Heavyweight and Light-Heavyweight respectively (ignoring the steroid-abusing Jon Jones for a moment) and neither division had a legitimate top contender waiting, plus of course, Cormier was undefeated at Heavyweight and had been ranked in the top five there before dropping down in 2014. As far as a winner? I thought Stipe’s power would pull him through but I really wasn’t sure. Great fight on paper at any rate.

Fight begins and thank God the crowd are fully back into the show now. Cormier doesn’t appear to be giving up any size at all actually. Miocic stalks forward early on and the crowd are behind him as he looks to close the distance. Brief clinch sees Cormier glance with an uppercut. Combination misses for Miocic and he takes a low kick and another uppercut from close range. Clinch from Stipe now and he drags Cormier down, but DC unsurprisingly pops back up. Stipe stays on him from back control and lands some strong punches, but Cormier slows him up with overhooks and the action grinds down a little. Good knee to the body from Cormier. Knee breaks for Stipe and he snipes at him with a combination. Right hand answers for Cormier and a jab follows. Big shot misses for Miocic and then he shoves Cormier back and lands a heavy knee into the clinch. Knee breaks again for Stipe but DC pushes forward. Beautiful low kick from Cormier. Stipe looks like he’s cut up from the jab. Big combination lands for Stipe. Jab hurts him a little though and DC follows up with a big combo of his own. Eye poke follows though and Marc Goddard has to call time. They restart and exchange kicks, and both guys are swinging heavily here with Stipe landing a hard right. Big exchange sees both men land. Clinch follows and this time DC LEVELS HIM WITH A RIGHT HAND! Miocic goes DOWN and Cormier follows up and SWITCHES HIS LIGHTS OUT!~!

Replay shows it was a perfectly placed right hook coming out of the clinch that did the damage and Miocic was basically gone as he hit the canvas. Amazing knockout from Cormier, reminiscent of his 2011 win over Bigfoot Silva actually. And with that Cormier is the second fighter – after Conor McGregor – to hold two UFC titles at the same time. Phenomenal stuff. And a great, heavy-hitting fight too as both men really went for it and it could honestly have gone either way. Total contrast to the previous fight and in all of the best ways, too.

And of course post-fight the BIG STORY happens as BROCK FUCKING LESNAR crashes the Octagon and shoves Cormier and apparently that fight will be ON for 2019. Still not sure how I feel about it to be honest but it’ll be HUGE. Probably the most eventful UFC PPV ending since, erm, UFC 51 and the whole Tito/Chuck/Shamrock debacle? Yeah, probably.

-Show ends shortly after with everyone going apeshit over the Lesnar appearance, naturally, complete with Joe Rogan outright dropping a nice f-bomb on live television. Word!

Final Thoughts….

Shitty Ngannou/Lewis fight aside this was an AWESOME SHOW with everything working well from the massive DC win and Lesnar confrontation down to Pettis surprisingly regaining his mojo, Rountree knocking Saki dead and a hell of a fight between Felder and Perry as a bit of a bonus. Totally recommended show but skip over Lewis/Ngannou for the good of your health.

Best Fight: Pettis vs. Chiesa
Worst Fight: Lewis vs. Ngannou

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com