MMA Review: #660: UFC 230: Cormier vs. Lewis

-Build to this one was fraught to say the least, as the UFC didn’t even put a main event together until like two weeks out when they settled on Daniel Cormier vs. Derrick Lewis for the Heavyweight title – just a month after Lewis had fought at UFC 229. Rest of the card sounded pretty solid and to be fair it looked like a good show in the end, but it was definitely a desperate one too.

UFC 230: Cormier vs. Lewis

New York, New York

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Paul Felder.

Middleweight Fight: Israel Adesanya vs Derek Brunson

After flying through his first three tests in the UFC – including an impressive win over Brad Tavares – this was another big step up for Adesanya, as Brunson was the toughest opponent he’d ever faced by far. Despite the massive gap in experience though I was taking the Stylebender to win here, as Brunson had shown a penchant for wild aggression before and I thought he’d end up walking into something nasty.

Round One begins and Adesanya begins to stalk Brunson from the off, looking remarkably calm. Takedown attempt early on from Brunson leads to the clinch, and he quickly muscles Adesanya into the fence. Adesanya fends him off well and then Brunson earns a warning for grabbing the shorts. They restart out of the clinch and poke some kicks at each other, and then Brunson goes for a single leg. Adesanya defends it really well only for Brunson to grab him again, but he still can’t get the Stylebender off his feet. Good left lands for Brunson as they separate, but he again fails on a takedown. Nice right hand lands for Adesanya and he again avoids the takedown. Brunson keeps reaching for the single leg, but he takes a head kick. Looks like Adesanya’s got the timing down now. Another takedown attempt leads Brunson into the clinch, but again he can’t get the Stylebender down. Adesanya again wriggles free, and this time he lands a SICK KNEE as Brunson leans down for the takedown! Brunson looks stunned and a big flurry ending in another knee puts him DOWN. He manages to get back up, but Adesanya opens up on him with SURGICAL PRECISION and drops him with a head kick, then more incredibly clean punches and that’s all she wrote.

Unbelievable showing from Israel Adesanya as not only did he stuff some close takedown attempts, but he just sliced Brunson apart standing too like he was nothing, not a legitimate top ten contender. If anything this reminded me of vintage Anderson Silva, like the way he took out Chris Leben or Nate Marquardt or something. Whether he can get right to the top I don’t know but shit, he’s clearly a legitimate title contender right now and he’s probably the fastest rising star in the division too. Incredible opener.

Middleweight Fight: Karl Roberson vs Jack Marshman

Prospect Roberson had come off Dana White’s Contender Series with a reputation as a kickboxer, but then went on to tap Darren Stewart in a surprising fight. He’d since lost to Cezar Ferreira and so this was a chance for him to rebound against Welsh brawler Marshman, who hadn’t been seen since a 2017 loss to Antonio Carlos Junior. With Marshman being a guy who clearly belongs at 170lbs I figured Roberson would handle him easily.

Round One begins and Roberson backs Marshman up with a heavy kick that’s just about blocked. Clean counter left lands for Roberson as Marshman steps in. Clinch from Roberson and he moves Marshman into the fence and looks to drag him down. Marshman breaks off, but Roberson tags him with the left counter again and then follows with another. Marshman keeps on swinging, but Roberson looks like the quicker man by far and counters him again. Body kick lands for Roberson. More shots tag Marshman and he’s hurt, but somehow fires back with some wild punches that land too. Roberson slows it down a bit as I guess he felt Marshman’s power, and both men glance on shots from distance. Round ends with a couple more exchanges. 10-9 Roberson but he appeared to be slowing down at the end.

Round Two and a clean left hand snaps Marshman’s head back. The Welshman comes back with a body kick, and then follows with a wild combination. Left hand from Roberson hurts him though and backs him up. Exchange continues and both men are landing pretty well right now. Roberson is still landing the better shots, but Marshman’s definitely not going away. Absolutely WILD exchange sees Roberson clip the Welshman with a left. Takedown for Roberson follows and he lands in side mount. Action slows down a lot as Roberson just holds him down and lands a few punches, and that’s the round. 10-0 Roberson.

Round Three and Marshman comes out swinging but walks right into a really nasty left hand that snaps his head back. Roberson’s not moving quite as well now though and the announcers think he’s injured his left leg. He’s not throwing the kick nearly as much although it doesn’t tend to matter as he’s still landing the better shots than Marshman. Marshman’s a bloody mess in fact. Beautiful left hand counter catches the Welshman stepping in. Big takedown follows as Roberson slams him to the ground. He’s into side mount again and from there he works him over with some punches and elbows before mounting. Less than a minute to go and Roberson remains in full mount, and the fight ends in that position. 10-9 Roberson, got to be 30-27 really.

Official scores are 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27 all for Karl Roberson. Pretty workmanlike showing from him as he did enough to win without really coming close to finishing Marshman, but to be fair the Welshman showed a ton of grit and kept on coming, so it was still a pretty impressive win overall. Not the best fight but not the worst of all time either.

Middleweight Fight: David Branch vs Jared Cannonier

Branch had picked up a big win over Thiago Santos in April and was originally supposed to fight Jacare Souza in a bit of a step up here, but when Jacare jumped up the card to fight Chris Weidman (more on that later) Cannonier – who was training for a fight at 185lbs a couple of weeks after this – took the fight on late notice. I was taking Branch to win, figuring he’d take Cannonier down and deal with him on the ground.

First round begins and Cannonier opens with a sharp low kick. Takedown from Branch plants him on his back, but right away Cannonier scrambles up. Branch stays on him and looks for another takedown, and sure enough down he goes. He tries to take the back, but Cannonier shrugs him off and they end up clinched. Ton of aggression here from Branch. Cannonier breaks off though and lands a quick combination, then narrowly misses a big right hand. Jabs land for both men and Branch goes for the takedown again and gets it. This time he works to take the back with one hook, and he tries to get the neck from there but Cannonier defends it. Few punches get through for Branch and he does well in control, but Cannonier manages to work to his feet. Elbow breaks for Cannonier. They exchange punches and a takedown misses for Branch this time. Exchange continues and it’s Cannonier pressing forward, but Branch forces him back into the fence and gets him down again. Cannonier pops right back up, and then works with a flurry against the fence including a spinning kick. Round ends with Cannonier defending another takedown. 10-9 Branch largely for the takedowns he did get.

Second round and Cannonier lands a good low kick. He’s swinging heavily too but Branch fires right back at him. BIG RIGHT HAND drops Branch hard though and he’s in trouble! Cannonier pounces on him and keeps on landing bombs and the ref has to stop it there!

Wow, big win for Jared Cannonier. Didn’t expect him to take to 185lbs quite that well but he looked explosive on his feet and was able to shrug off a very dangerous ground artist despite giving up a handful of takedowns too. Dude could definitely be a contender in this division and this was a tremendous performance from him with a nice finish, too.

Middleweight Fight: Chris Weidman vs Jacare Souza

Initially this would’ve seen Weidman facing off with Luke Rockhold in a rematch of their 2015 encounter that saw Weidman suffer his first career loss, but when Rockhold got injured, Jacare – who was booked against David Branch – stepped up instead, making a super-intriguing fight between two of the best grapplers in the division. I was picking Weidman as I felt he was better on the feet and could stop Jacare’s takedowns, and I was pretty buzzing to see the fight in general.

Fight begins and Weidman circles on the outside as Jacare stalks forward. Crowd are massively into Weidman. Couple of jabs land for Weidman and then he gets the plum to land a knee before quickly escaping a takedown. Pair of big right hands miss for Jacare. Nice combo lands for Weidman and a one-two buckles Jacare’s legs. Weidman refuses to wade in though and keeps his cool, staying on the outside to land some more punches. Low kick from Jacare but Weidman again lands on him with the one-two. Big crowd chant for Weidman as Jacare uses nice head movement to avoid some more shots from him. Few shots do get through and land cleanly though and Jacare’s got a bloody nose. Hard leg kick lands for Souza. Trio of nasty body shots land for Jacare but Weidman catches him with the hard right again and he looks hurt. Round ends on the feet with Weidman pressing the action. 10-9 Weidman in a fun round.

2nd round and Jacare opens with a leg kick again. Weidman comes back with one of his own this time before Jacare glances on an overhand right. Weidman begins to work his jab again though and then lands another low kick. More jabs from Weidman but Jacare finally lands a big right hand on the counter. Wild combination from Jacare forces Weidman back and they brawl for a few moments. Jacare’s coming in with dirty boxing now really trying to push the pace. Couple of left hooks land for Jacare but Weidman comes back with a right hand. These guys are SWINGING now. Clinch sees both men land knees and they separate with right hands. Big right hand wobbles Jacare again and Weidman does wade in now, but the Brazilian fires right back albeit not landing cleanly. Wild combination does land for Jacare shortly after. This is one of the best rounds of the year. Big combo from Jacare has Weidman hurt a little. Weidman seems to have slowed down with the jab and that’s allowing Jacare to gain more confidence. Exchange continues and Weidman dumps him to the ground off a caught head kick, then forces him into the fence. They exchange from the clinch and Weidman muscles Jacare down again, but the Brazilian scrambles and gets to his feet. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 Weidman but it was a razor-close round compared to the first.

Final round and Weidman begins to jab again to start the round off. Body kick and a right hand follow but Jacare comes back with a left to the body and a low kick. Big exchange sees both men swinging for the fences and landing, and Jacare backs Weidman up with a huge right hook. This is an unbelievable fight. Combo leads to a big knee from Weidman but Jacare keeps on firing back. Nice uppercut from Weidman. Big right hand follows and Jacare looks hurt and has to back up, but he manages to recover. Kick to the body fires back for Jacare. Big USA chant from the crowd as they continue to trade punches, and again Jacare lands the better shots when he gets in close. Weidman backs up and they throw right hands at the same time….but Jacare’s lands FLUSH ON THE TEMPLE and Weidman goes DOWN AND OUT! Disgusting ref job follows though as Dan Miragliotta ignores Jacare’s pleas that Weidman’s gone and forces him to land two hammer fists before stopping it. Jesus.

Incredible fight and an incredible win for Jacare, probably the biggest win of his UFC career in fact. Story of the fight was that Weidman was slapping him around in the first round, but he slowed his jab down and that allowed Jacare to wade in with this brawling style that had Weidman hurt, and when Weidman started to oblige and go into a firefight it was anyone’s to win. And of course, Jacare landed the killer blow first. Bad break for Weidman but it is what it is, I do worry about him now though given the knockouts he’s taken during his career. This one was especially bad too due to the criminal ref job from Miragliotta. But yeah, total FOTYC and hopefully it nets Jacare a title shot in 2019 once Whittaker vs. Gastelum is done.

UFC World Heavyweight Title: Daniel Cormier vs Derrick Lewis

Well, it took the UFC a LONG TIME to get to this fight; initially the show had no main event and the rumour was that the UFC were looking at a Jon Jones return to fill the gap, but when that proved impossible they announced Valentina Shevchenko vs. Sijara Eubanks (!) for the Women’s Flyweight title, which of course the fans balked at for an MSG main. A couple of days later though this was announced, surprising me as I didn’t expect to see Cormier prior to the planned Brock Lesnar fight in 2019. Still, this sounded like a relatively risk-free fight for him due to Lewis’s dodgy ground game – but with Lewis’s punching power, you couldn’t totally count the guy out. I was still taking Cormier via early submission, though.

Crowd appear to have totally bought into the Lewis underdog story as he’s CRAZY OVER with the fans upon his entrance while Cormier gets some clear boos.

Round One and Lewis open with a body kick and a leg kick. Big head kick misses for Lewis and Cormier crowds him with two left hands that set up a single leg attempt. Easy takedown follows and Cormier gets on top in half-guard. Crowd do not sound happy with this at all as Cormier grinds with some elbows and keeps Lewis firmly trapped on his back. He gives his back and tries to get up that way, but takes some big punches before he does actually stand. Cormier stays on him though and then easily drags him back down with a single leg. Half-guard again for Lewis but he looks thoroughly overmatched here. Big shots land for Cormier and Lewis might be hurt. He gives his back again and eats some more shots, then Cormier calmly drags him down when he attempts to stand and lands more punches. Round ends with Cormier in firm control. 10-8 round for Cormier as Lewis basically did nothing.

Round Two begins and they circle with Cormier glancing on a body kick. Combo glances for Lewis and he throws a head kick that misses too. Couple of big swings miss for Lewis and Cormier goes for a single leg and easily trips him down. Lewis stands right back up this time, but DC grabs a front headlock and lands a couple of knees. He forces Lewis down and then gets an ankle pick to put him on his back again, and from there he takes side mount. Back mount follows and Lewis is in trouble. Both hooks in for Cormier and he slaps on a rear naked choke and that’s it as Lewis taps out.

Well, that went exactly how I figured it would. Lewis simply had no answer for the takedown of Cormier – few people do really – and on the ground it was a total mismatch as Cormier just worked him over before choking him out comfortably. Lewis is a tough guy but he’s not on that level and this was about as easy as Cormier could’ve hoped for.

Post-fight Cormier puts Lewis over big time for taking the fight and being a dangerous opponent, and then he tells Brock Lesnar to bring his WWE title with him for their fight as he fancies taking that one too. Ha, that would be hilarious really but I’m not even so sure we see Lesnar go back to the UFC after he’s signed a new WWE deal. We shall see!

-Show ends with some plugs for the upcoming shows and a highlight reel.

Final Thoughts….

The UFC are on a real roll with their PPV shows right now as this was the third fantastic one in a row, with Roberson/Marshman being the only weaker fight and even that was good in parts. Best fight was obviously Jacare vs. Weidman, just a fantastic brawl, but Adesanya/Brunson and the main were good for one-sided fights and Branch/Cannonier was fun too. Easy thumbs up for this one then, highly recommended.

Best Fight: Jacare vs. Weidman
Worst Fight: Roberson vs. Marshman

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: