MMA Review: #597: UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson II

-Despite a couple of odd fights this was largely being seen as the UFC’s first “loaded” PPV card of 2017, as the main event between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson had been building for a long time, and Weidman/Mousasi as a co-main sounded pretty cool. Being a UFC show in 2017 there was of course a ton of controversy in areas, but we’ll get to that later.

UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson II

Buffalo, New York

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

Lightweight Fight: Will Brooks vs Charles Oliveira

The booking of this fight almost seemed like an inside joke – not so much that it was a bad fight, more that Brooks’ last fight had come against a Brazilian Oliveira who couldn’t make weight, and now he was faced with *another* Oliveira unable to make weight. Of course this time Charles was moving back up to 155lbs rather than failing to hit that mark and coming in overly heavy. Anyhow, despite fears surrounding him fighting over three rounds rather than five (he’s a bit of a slow starter) I was taking Brooks to win this one by basically out-hustling Do Bronx.

Round One begins and Brooks pushes forward, landing a glancing jab that backs Oliveira up. Body kick lands for Oliveira as does a leg kick, but Brooks comes back with a low kick and body kick of his own that hurts Oliveira. The Brazilian clinches though and trips the former Bellator champ down into full guard. Brooks works back towards the fence and works to wall-walk as Oliveira tries to keep him down, and he manages to get up, only for Oliveira to slam him back down into side mount! Beautiful transition from Oliveira allows him to take the back with both hooks as Brooks stands, and from there he works for a rear naked choke and it looks like he’s got it! Brooks desperately tries to fight it off, but Oliveira sneaks the arm under the chin and TIGHTENS IT UP! Brooks has to tap there. Big upset, wow.

Post-fight Brooks looks gutted with the loss and understandably so. Unbelievable win for Charles Oliveira to come back to 155lbs with and man, if he’s smart he’ll stay there too because Brooks wasn’t an easy out by any means and Oliveira made it look easy in beating him. Dude could be a contender if he can keep up this type of form. As for Brooks I don’t see the UFC cutting him after this but boy does he need a win next time out. Crazy opener.

Welterweight Fight: Patrick Cote vs Thiago Alves

This one was a classic example of one of those fights that surprisingly hadn’t happened before, when you consider the tenure of both guys – Cote in the UFC since 2004, Alves since 2005. Despite Alves only fighting sporadically in recent years and not looking great in a loss at 155lbs to Jim Miller, I thought he could win out here using cleaner striking, as Cote to me has really slowed down now.

First round begins and both men come out circling and throwing some feints. Leg kick glances early for Alves. They trade with some more low kicks and Alves lands a heavy one, before Cote misses with a sweeping body punch. Nice inside leg kick from Cote and it looks like he’s pushing the action a little more. Right hand follows for the Canadian. Striking exchange continues before a quick flurry from Cote is met by an Alves knee, and it looks like Cote might’ve been a little stunned. Hard inside leg kick follows for Alves but Cote comes back with a quick combo. Another leg kick lands for the Brazilian. Clean counter right lands for him too as Cote steps forward. Punches land for both men as the crowd begin a mild “Cote” chant. Big trade pops the crowd for a second before Cote backs out. Hard inside leg kick lands for Alves. One minute to go now and Cote throws a low kick, but eats a left hand counter that puts him down, and Thiago pounces into the guard and begins to land some further punches before passing to half-guard. Cote manages to slow him down though, but the round ends with a quick flurry from Alves. 10-9 Alves for the knockdown and late work.

Second round and they circle to begin with Cote missing a Liddell-style haymaker right hand. He manages to back Alves into the fence for a quick flurry, and then clinches, muscling the Brazilian back. Nice short elbow and a left hook from Alves stun Cote though and he follows with a hard leg kick and another left hand. Alves is looking really good here. Superman punch glances for Cote and he takes another leg kick. Left hand and another leg kick land for Alves and he does a great job of dodging Cote’s shots too. Alves continues to get the better of the exchanges, but Cote does land with a decent right hand and another combo to back him up a bit. Step-in knee glances for Alves. Couple more leg kicks follow as Cote tries to counter with a right hand. Cote wades in, but walks into a NASTY counter right that buckles his legs! He dives for a takedown out of instinct but can’t get it, and Alves separates with a knee to the body. Cote’s hurt here. Crowd are buzzing now but Alves doesn’t get wild to try to follow up, smart move. Flurry misses for Cote and Alves lands with a couple more leg kicks. Round ends with another inside leg kick from Alves which Cote can’t really answer. 10-9 Alves again.

Third round and Alves opens with a low kick that catches Cote in the groin. He recovers quickly though and the ref gets things restarted. Nice combination from Alves as Cote pushes forward. Cote is coming in swinging now and he lands a pair of shots to the body and a sweeping right hook that lands cleanly. Takedown attempt follows but Alves shows tremendous defense to remain on his feet. Cote instead forces him back into the fence in the clinch, and they exchange short strikes and jockey for position. Inside trip takedown from Alves puts the Canadian on his back in half-guard. Good job from Cote to escape back to guard as Joe Rogan claims he can’t remember a submission win for Alves in the UFC, forgetting his choke of Papy Abedi at UFC 138 in 2011. Good punches get through for Alves from the guard. Looks like Cote wants to go for an armbar as he swings his hips a couple of times but doesn’t actually attempt it. Eventually Alves just stands with two minutes to go, and boy is Cote busted open badly. Beautiful leg kick into a combo from Alves. This is the best I’ve seen Thiago look in years. Inside leg kick lands to set up a left hand for the Brazilian. Cote continues to push forward, but he just can’t seem to catch Alves and he takes another leg kick. Pair of uppercuts do land for Cote to back Alves up and now he’s really swinging, forcing the Brazilian to attempt to clinch. Cote shrugs him off though and continues to wing shots, but Alves stays cool and circles away. Fight ends with Cote walking right into a nasty jump knee. 10-9 Alves and 30-27 for him I’d say.

Judges all go 30-27 for Alves and Joe Rogan is all set to interview him….until Cote drops his gloves in the Octagon and announces his retirement – thanking all of the old Zuffa guys but none of the new owners which is probably telling. Pretty emotional stuff actually from a guy who while he was never outright the best at any point, was always a solid contender who nearly always put on fun fights. I’ll miss him but it’s definitely the right time for him to go I’d say. As for Alves, he looked tremendous here and I think if he can keep this sort of form up he could become a contender again at 170lbs which suddenly isn’t that stacked right now. Really good fight overall.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Cynthia Calvillo vs Pearl Gonzalez

This was a weird choice for a main card bout but I guess after her impressive debut at UFC 209 the powers-that-be were looking to push Calvillo as a possible star. Opponent Gonzalez was coming in largely as an unknown but garnered a ton of publicity at the weigh-ins, when the NYSAC decided to pull the fight due to her breast implants (!) before suddenly deciding to allow it again. Weird commission for sure.

Fight begins and Calvillo comes out firing kicks as Gonzalez looks to fire back. Lot of movement from Calvillo though and she’s landing some nice strikes here early on. Decent counter right lands for Gonzalez as she continues to cover up well to avoid damage. Beautiful combo does get through for Calvillo. She lands another one to follow, connecting cleanly with a left uppercut. Takedown attempt follows but Pearl blocks it and escapes from the clinch. Gonzalez keeps coming forward but she’s taking shots whether they’re landing clean or slightly blocked. Really nice combination gets through for Cynthia. Couple more combos are absorbed, but Gonzalez isn’t firing back enough really. Takedown attempt from Gonzalez and she forces Calvillo into the fence, but can’t get her down. Really nice knee to the body hurts Gonzalez and Calvillo hooks up a front choke attempt as she doubles over, but she can’t finish it off and they wind up against the cage again with Gonzalez going for a single leg. Calvillo defends it again but this time finds herself on her back. Somehow though she immediately transitions to take the back, then switches to a triangle attempt, but the round ends before it can be finished. 10-9 Calvillo and that was very close at the end!

Into the 2nd and they exchange jabs in the opening seconds with Pearl adding in an inside leg kick. Gonzalez looks like she might be slowing down a bit though and she takes some combinations again from Calvillo. Takedown attempt from Gonzalez and she dumps Calvillo down and manages to take full mount in a scramble, but a slick reversal allows Calvillo to get on top despite Pearl attempting an armbar. Calvillo manages to take side mount, where she controls Gonzalez well and then manages to take the back in another nice transition. Calvillo is fantastic on the ground. Two minutes to go and she’s got both hooks in and it looks like she has the choke sunk, but Gonzalez manages to defend it pretty well. Body triangle now for Calvillo and she remains in control although it doesn’t look like she’ll get the choke. Gonzalez tries to roll to escape, but she winds up mounted instead and then gives her back again. Few punches get through for Calvillo from back mount but the round ends before she can finish. 10-9 Calvillo again.

Third and final round begins and Gonzalez pushes forward, landing a decent right hand that Calvillo returns fire to with some shots of her own. Solid leg kick lands for Pearl. Takedown attempt is shrugged off by Calvillo pretty easily. Heavy right hand sneaks through for the debutant. Both girls are looking a bit tired now as they continue to exchange. Low kick is caught well by Calvillo and she trips Gonzalez to the ground and immediately slices through into half-guard. Arm triangle attempt from Calvillo and she desperately works to break the half-guard to attempt the finish, but gives up on it to take full mount instead. Beautiful ground work there. Gonzalez gives her back again and Calvillo again slaps both hooks in, and then goes for the body triangle. Choke looks sunk this time too and Gonzalez tries to peel the arm away and manages it somehow, but another attempt is more successful and Pearl has to tap out there. Real nice persistence for the finish from Calvillo.

Fight was fun and Calvillo looked really good throughout, particularly on the ground although she didn’t look bad standing either although she slowed up as the fight went on, and I think it’s time to move her up the ladder now. I mean, no offense to Gonzalez but there’s only so much you can learn from a fight against a debutant and it’s not like the UFC are short on gatekeeper types in that division – give her someone like Kailin Curran or Angela Magana next and we’ll see where Calvillo is really at. I totally get why the UFC want to push her though as she’s a great character too, almost like a female Diaz in a way, even busting out the “I’m not surprised motherfuckers” line post-fight here!

Middleweight Fight: Chris Weidman vs Gegard Mousasi

This was an excellent match on paper with a bunch of other interesting stuff going on behind the scenes too, what with it being the last fight on Mousasi’s contract – meaning he was desperate for a win to net him a hopeful title shot (or a big offer from Bellator for the UFC to perhaps match) – and Weidman coming off two losses and needing a win to stay relevant to the title picture. It’s a bit sad when you consider neither man was likely to get a title shot even with a big win thanks to the whole Bisping/GSP fiasco but there you go. I was picking Weidman for the record but it was a tough call.

Round One begins and the USA chants are pretty fucking loud here. Both men begin with a few feints before Mousasi glances on a super-quick right hand. Nice jab from Mousasi is met by a jab from Weidman which sets up a big right that narrowly misses. Body kick lands for Weidman but Mousasi catches it, only for Weidman to pull free. Takedown follows for Weidman and he grabs a front headlock when Mousasi scrambles and he looks to set up a high-elbow guillotine, but Mousasi defends really well and escapes to his feet. Big combo misses for Weidman and Mousasi manages to shrug off a clinch. Low kick is met by a left from Mousasi that knocks Weidman off balance. Takedown responds though and Mousasi’s on his back again. Weidman passes into half-guard but again Mousasi manages to reverse to his feet. Wild swings miss for Mousasi and he eats a body kick. Weidman follows with another takedown attempt, but Mousasi gets his back to the fence to defend it. Good elbows to the head from Mousasi connect as he continues to defend, but he can’t shake Weidman off him. Right hand breaks for Mousasi but he eats a big combination from Weidman that wobbles his legs for a second. Jab fires back for Mousasi but Weidman ducks under and shoots again. Good sprawl from Mousasi allows him to defend, but Weidman drives through and gets him down anyway. A switch from Mousasi allows him to get to his feet though and he breaks off again. Combination glances for Mousasi before Weidman shoves him to the ground coming off a brief clinch. Round ends with Weidman on top and clearly goes to the New Yorker, 10-9.

Round Two and Mousasi opens with a quick jab. Big right hand misses for Weidman and Mousasi stuns him with a jab and a big combination that has the former champ reeling and covering up! Weidman has to really retreat before Mousasi surprisingly shoots, but Weidman stuffs it easily and looks like he’s going for a potential guillotine. Weidman’s nose appears to be bloody. Mousasi works some knees to the legs before ref Dan Miragliotta breaks them off, and from there Mousasi lands a jab only to be taken down. This time Mousasi looks to lock up a guillotine, but it doesn’t look at all tight and Weidman pops his head free and works to pass. Mousasi gets butterfly hooks in and attempts to scramble while landing elbows from the bottom, but he can’t shake Weidman off. Nice work from Weidman allows him to pass into half-guard and then full mount! Weidman postures up to land a couple of shots and then takes the back as Mousasi rolls, but Mousasi manages to catch hold of his leg and turns into the guard. Beautiful reversal from Weidman puts him in mount again, but Mousasi slips out the back door and they’re standing again! Fantastic sequence. Another takedown attempt by Weidman is stuffed and Mousasi lands a knee to the head on the way out for good measure. Trio of stiff jabs land for Mousasi and Weidman leans for a takedown but gets caught in a front facelock. He drops his hand down as Mousasi lands a pair of NASTY KNEES but apparently they were illegal as Weidman goes down and Big Dan calls time. Weidman’s badly hurt and busted up.

And now it’s CONTROVERSY TIME as the replay reveals that Mousasi actually pulled Weidman’s hand up as he threw the knee, making it LEGAL. Doctor comes in to check Weidman over as Big Dan still thinks it was an illegal blow, but again the replay confirms the legality. And now Big Dan decides to check the replay himself and realises the truth. And now it’s CHAOS as Joe Rogan is screaming that Weidman shouldn’t get time to recover from a legal blow while poor Dan is just confused as fuck and keeps giving him more time. Weidman seems okay to continue anyway as the quacks continue to check him over. And then MORE CHAOS insues as Marc Ratner joins us to explain that the NYSAC doesn’t use replays and so because Big Dan saw it as an illegal shot that’s how it’s being treated. The fuck? It looks like they’re ready to restart, but suddenly the doctor tells Miragliotta to call the fight as I guess he should never have called time due to a legal blow?

Crowd are furious, naturally, and Mousasi doesn’t seem happy at all despite getting the TKO win. What a fucking mess. To be fair watching live, alarm bells were ringing for me as soon as the blow was shown to be legal, because I remembered the Sakara/Irvin debacle from 2010 where Irvin called time due to what he figured was an eye poke but was actually a punch, and while he could’ve continued it had to be called as a TKO. Similar stuff I guess, just a lot more forgettable.

So yeah, good fight but where do we go from here? I’d say a rematch is smart given the division is in a logjam right now thanks to GSP, but then that assumes Mousasi re-signs with the UFC – I hope he will but I could easily see Bellator throwing a ton of money at him so who knows? Hopefully we get a rematch because shit, this was a terrible, terrible ending, like all-time bad stuff. Total downer on the show as well.

UFC World Light-Heavyweight Title: Daniel Cormier vs Anthony Johnson

This one had been a long time coming – basically since Jon Jones got suspended for the juice and moreso since Johnson knocked out Glover Teixeira so easily in August. Cormier had been on the shelf with knee injuries since July though hence the semi-long wait. And naturally we had some controversy coming in as per usual when Cormier apparently missed weight, was allowed another chance by the NYSAC (?) and then apparently abused the towel and the laws of physics to make weight. Who knows really? My pick for the record was Cormier as I still thought that despite all of his knockout power, Johnson was still the same guy who fought at 170lbs that would fold against someone who he couldn’t bully or knock out quickly.

First round begins and Johnson actually looks like he’s walking Cormier down, throwing kicks and seemingly closing the distance. Big combo glances for the challenger but DC fires back with a nasty overhand right of his own. Combo sets up a surprising clinch for Rumble and he forces Cormier into the fence and looks for the takedown! Such a bizarre gameplan for the guy. Cormier defends the takedown how you’d imagine, and the action really slows down from there. Good elbows from Cormier and he pops up as soon as Rumble gets him down for a split-second. This is baffling. Cormier ends up getting a front headlock and forcing Johnson into the fence, and Joe Rogan is just as baffled at Rumble’s gameplan as me. Crowd begin to boo as they exchange some short punches from the clinch with Cormier seemingly in control. Finally Rumble breaks and throws a short flurry, but DC gets right back on him in the clinch. Finally Big John McCarthy separates them, and Rumble lands with some big strikes including a pair of head kicks that hurt Cormier. He recovers well though before Johnson clinches AGAIN and tries for the takedown. This is just fucking weird. Round ends just as Rumble gets the takedown. Tricky round to score, probably 10-9 Rumble purely for that big head kick and the takedown, but it was an odd round to say the least.

Second round and they trade strikes early with DC glancing on a head kick of his own. Cormier looks pretty confident exchanging strikes actually. He catches a knee to the body though and drives him into the fence, where they jockey for position again inside the clinch. Crowd don’t like it one bit and keep on booing, before Rumble drops for the takedown and gets it. Cormier reverses right back up though and seems chilled, then drops for the takedown of his own and forces Johnson down, taking his back in the process. Johnson looks like he’s in trouble right away and Cormier slaps both hooks in and flattens him down, and from there he peppers him with shots to the side of the head before SINKING THE CHOKE. And in a carbon copy of the first fight, Rumble weakly taps out there. Crowd aren’t happy but fuck them.

And of course post-fight it wouldn’t be a UFC PPV in 2017 without some TOTAL WEIRDNESS as Johnson puts over Cormier and his coaches…..and then RETIRES ON THE SPOT citing not wanting to get beaten up for a living anymore and the fact that he’s got a new job in the pipeline. Whoa, did not expect that at ALL but fair play to him if he wants out. I guess that explains the clinch-heavy gameplan if he didn’t feel like getting hit in the head a bunch of times? And then Cormier goes FULL HEEL in his interview – although he doesn’t badmouth Rumble like a TRUE heel would’ve done – slamming both Jon Jones and Jimi Manuwa to set up a future date with both guys. Cormier just GETS IT as he’s usually a full babyface but decided to just go with the flow as people have been booing him anyway. Brilliant. Still a weird fight though with Rumble’s odd gameplan and subsequent retirement, and it wasn’t that great due to all the clinching, but it wasn’t bad like Holm/de Randamie or anything.

-Show ends with some discussion on the potential Jones comeback – complete with some shills for Cruz’s buddy Alexander Gustafsson – and then a highlight reel. And we’re done.

Final Thoughts….

This is a really weird show to rate because I mean, four of the five fights ended before the final buzzer and the fight that did go to a decision was pretty good, but the Weidman/Mousasi debacle leaves such a sour taste in the mouth and well, Cormier/Johnson wasn’t very good due to the clinching and Brooks/Oliveira was somewhat odd too. I dunno, the UFC just can’t seem to hit a PPV out of the park this year. Maybe UFC 211 is the one? Thumbs leaning slightly down for UFC 210.

Best Fight: Cote vs. Alves
Worst Fight: Cormier vs. Johnson

Overall Rating: **

Until next time,

Scott Newman: