A great night of fights, marred by the ineptitude of the New York State Athletic Commission.
Before I talk about these fights, I have to address the issues the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) had leading up to and during the fights for UFC 210.
Pearl Gonzalez was slated to fight Cynthia Calvillo at UFC 210. Late in the week last week the news broke that Pearl was being pulled due to breast implants that she had previously disclosed to the athletic commission. This is a problem because not only did Pearl disclose the implants, but the rule was implemented for boxing years before MMA was even a thing. The UFC worked it out with the NYSAC, but for a short while it seemed the pay per view was going to lose a fight.
The second issue was Daniel Cormier’s weight cut. The new early weigh-in process was in effect in New York, and when Cormier weighed in he was 1.2 pounds over the 205 lb limit. Seeing as this was a title fight, he was given an extra 2 hours to lose the weight. He weighed in a little over 2 minutes later and hit the mark right at 205. How does a person lose that much weight in 2 minutes? When he weighed in the second time his coaches held a towel up in front of him because he was naked. He put both hands on the towel while he weighed in. This is an old wrestlers trick to hide a few pounds during weigh in. The NYSAC didn’t investigate and accepted the weigh in. The whole thing was super shady, and Cormier’s opponent Anthony Johnson is asking for an investigation and 20% of Cormier’s purse as a result. This was absolutely the NYSAC’s responsibility, and this illustrates their immaturity and lack of experience.
The last issue was by far the biggest, and it had to do with the Weidman vs Mousasi fight. In the second round, Weidman tried to take advantage of the new rule that defines a grounded fighter as a fighter with two hands on the mat. You can’t knee or kick a grounded fighter. Mousasi was aware of the rule, so he used underhooks to lift Weidman up and knee him in the head. The knees definitely did damage, but Weidman appeared to be conscious and capable of competing after they landed. The referee thought the knees were illegal because he had a bad angle, and when Mousasi lifted Weidman it was very hard to tell that the knee was legal, even on replay. Dan Miragliotta was the referee for this one and he usually makes the right call. However this was a super tight call and he had to make a split second judgement.
Another wrinkle to this whole mess is that replay isn’t available to the ref in New York yet, so he wasn’t able to review the tape before stopping the fight. When he stepped in, he told Weidman he had 5 minutes to recover. Weidman played up the injury I think, possibly to try and push for a disqualification win. I don’t like when fighters do that, but he was taking advantage of the five minutes he was told he had. While he was resting, Dan talked to the commission and the doctors and they told him on the replay that the knee was legal. Dan reversed course and ruled the knees legal.
The doctors stepped in and examined Weidman. Despite his protests, they called the fight off and Weidman was given a TKO loss. Many rules and procedures were broken or disregarded throughout the whole process, and Weidman has excellent grounds for a no contest appeal. Mousasi obviously didn’t want to win this way, and the sting of another loss does nothing good for Weidman’s trajectory in the middleweight division.
Any one of these three issues taken on their own would be a big deal. The fact that all three happened on one fight card — and the fact that this kind of stuff is happening regularly when the UFC visits New York — is indicative of the state of New York’s athletic commission. If I was a fighter, I would not accept a fight on a New York card. Hopefully smaller leagues will come to New York and let the NYSAC cut their teeth a bit. But until that happens, I would not advise any of the UFC’s marquee fighters to put their records on the line in New York.
Cormier vs Rumble Johnson
The first matchup between these two was about two years ago. Rumble Johnson is known for his one punch KO power, and Cormier is an all time great wrestler. The first fight was great, Rumble hit Cormier two times cleanly with his powerful right hand. Cormier was able to weather storm both times and grind out a rear naked choke in the third. It was impressive because no one up until that point had been able to eat a clean shot from Rumble and remain in the fight. Rumble has knocked out most of the top 10 light heavyweights at some point in his career. I assumed we’d see pretty much the same fight this time, the only real question mark for me was whether or not Cormier’s chin would hold up. It’s been two years and age has a real effect on fighters, so I could see Cormier getting knocked out if he got hit clean again.
The fight was extremely bizarre because shortly into the first round, Cormier hit Rumble with a right hand that clearly got his attention. After that, Rumble chose to engage the clinch and wrestle with Cormier for most of the rest of the fight. Johnson landed a clean left head kick on Cormier in the second, and while it clearly stunned Cormier, Rumble didn’t press the standup after that. He continued to engage the wrestling, which is Cormier’s bread and butter. Cormier eventually got into a dominant position on the ground and choked Rumble out. Rumble’s best chance to win was in the standup, so it appears that he panicked when Cormier hit him with that right. He went back to his base, which is wrestling. Unfortunately for him Cormier is a far superior wrestler, so Cormier had an easier night than anticipated and retained his belt.
Rumble retired in the ring after the loss. He said he was going to retire if he won or lost, the decision didn’t matter. He has some other lucrative business opportunity that he’s going to pursue. While it is a blow to the division and a blow to me as a Rumble fan, I’m glad to see a fighter going out before CTE sets in. A lot of fighters push their bodies for too long and pay the consequences later in life. I’m happy to see one of my favorite fighters go out in his early thirties, fighting for a title. Especially given the fact that Rumble is a striker and he trains with Henri Hooft, he’s doing his brain a big favor going out like this.
Weidman vs Mousasi
Weidman has had some trouble recently. He lost his title to Luke Rockhold due to an ill advised spinning kick he didn’t know how to throw properly, then lost his comeback fight to a devastating knee from Yoel Romero. A fight which he was arguably winning up until that point. Mousasi is one of those fighters who has the potential to fight at the top level, but always chokes when he fights a top 5 guy. This was supposed to be his opportunity to break through and get a marquee win. Weidman controlled most of the first round, while the second round was a bit more competitive. Mousasi’s stand up is a lot cleaner than Weidman’s and he was winning the striking exchanges. However, Weidman was taking Mousasi down pretty much at will. It was a good fight, up until the knees were thrown. Hopefully the fight is overturned to a no contest due to the incompetence of the NYSAC and the mistake made by Dan Miragliotta. Weidman desperately needs a win at this point, and Mousasi deserves a chance to earn a legitimate win over Weidman.
Calvillo vs Gonzalez
I saw Calvillo fight on UFC 209, and I was super impressed. She’s a team Alpha Male fighter, so living in northern California she’s a hometown fighter for me. At 209 she looked big and mean, and her ground game was excellent. She got the submission so quick at 209 there wasn’t much fight time to analyze. This time we got to see her standup a little more as well as more of her ground game. She was the superior fighter in both aspects against Gonzalez, who I’d never heard of before. This was a good fight to showcase Calvillo and let her get an impressive submission win. Calvillo is a star in the making, and hopefully the UFC recognizes that. She’s a pretty girl with a lot of skills, especially on the ground. Hopefully they can build her up first before throwing her to someone in the top 5 or 10.
Cote vs Alves
This fight was fun because it felt like a throwback fight. Patrick Cote and Thiago Alves were relevant ten years ago, so to see two vets like this fighting each other was cool. Alves looked like his old self, which was fun to see. Cote looked like an older fighter just trying to hang with the younger guys. The big wind ups at the end of the third didn’t do anything to change that perception. I’d like to see Alves find success after this fight, but the 2017 welterweight roster is very strong. I don’t see Alves beating anyone in the top 10. Seeing Cote hang his gloves up at the end of this fight on the main card of a big pay per view was great. I honestly would have liked to see both fighters retire after this one. Cote went out swinging and Alves could have gone out with a win. I don’t see Alves getting many more after this one.
Brooks vs Oliveira
Will Brooks was supposed to be a huge prospect coming in to the UFC. He was the Bellator lightweight champ before making the jump. Considering the fact that Eddie Alvarez came over and won the belt, Will Brooks had a lot of cache coming into his UFC career. He won his debut against Ross Pearson, but he lost to Alex Oliveira last year in a controversial fight. This fight was supposed to get him back on track, but unfortunately for Brooks Charles Oliveira snapped in a choke early on in their fight. Oliveira has been hot and cold in the UFC, and he was coming back up from featherweight after missing weight a few times. Lower weight fighters moving up to a more natural weight has been a positive trend recently, Cowboy Cerrone and Kelvin Gastelum have both seen great success in cutting less weight.
Oliveira looked great, he was not intimidated by Brooks name at all and carried out his game plan. I like Oliveira at lightweight, I hope he stays there despite publicly staying he wants to move back to featherweight. I’m a big fan of fighters fighting at more natural weight classes. For Brooks, he needs to get back in the win column. The loss to Alex Oliveira was controversial, but there was nothing controversial in this fight. Charles Oliveira was just a better fighter Saturday night.