Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.
MMA fans had a full plate of combat sports action on Saturday, with UFC 198 and Bellator 154 popping off on the same night. The main course was the heavyweight championship fight between Fabricio Werdum and Stipe Miocic, while there were plenty of appetizers from which to choose across the rest of the two cards. My small plate of choice had to be Cristiane Justino’s debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in front of her countrymen in Curitiba, Brazil, but I wouldn’t argue if you liked the Phil Davis-Muhammed Lawal scrap that headlined the Bellator bill.
Werdum, Out Go The Lights
I was about 100 percent certain Werdum was going to coast to a win over an always game Miocic, right up until I saw him walk out to the cage before 45,000 screaming Brazilians. He looked like one of those people who hire Bruce Buffer to announce their arrival at their wedding reception. He was mugging for the cameras looking like he hadn’t a care in the world. No matter how good a heavyweight fighter may be, he still has to head into a locked cage with a guy who is capable of turning out his lights.
Miocic did just that less than three minutes into the first frame, as he dropped Werdum with a short right hand he slotted onto his chin while in full retreat. It was a devastating strike that rendered Werdum unconscious before he face-planted on the mat. Miocic, a mammoth hitter, did what he needed to do to get the UFC gold wrapped around his waist, but I can’t help think that Werdum’s mindset might have played as big a role in the title exchange as Miocic’s nuclear right hand.
Werdum had no excuses for his loss, stating that Miocic was the better man in the cage, but he made his case for an immediate rematch, potentially at UFC 200. I think we can safely assume that will not be happening, but I guess a rematch could be a possibility. I’d prefer to see either Cain Velasquez or Alistair Overeem get a shot after such a definitive finish, but you never know what matchmaker Joe Silva and the rest of the UFC brass have in mind or which way the promotional winds may blow when it comes time to book the next heavyweight title fight.
I’m sure Werdum is pretty bummed out after dropping the strap, but he might be doubly depressed if he has to wade back into a muddled contender’s field before getting a chance to redeem himself. My guess is he’ll have to wait until sometime in 2017 to try to reclaim the title.
Justino looked like a million bucks in her long-awaited UFC debut. The powerful striker showed off her wares in an 81-second unraveling of Leslie Smith. “Cyborg” blitzed her way to a technical knockout in typical fashion, overwhelming her outgunned foe with faster, heavier strikes.
Smith, a tough and durable fighter, was not happy about what she thought was an early stoppage and voiced her displeasure after the bout was called off by referee Eduardo Herdy. While I tend to agree the stoppage was a hair premature, I don’t think anyone can argue that the outcome was more than an eventuality at that point. Herdy has had a couple “WTF” moments in his UFC appearances, and this one is nowhere near as egregious as some of his greatest hits.
As for “Cyborg,” maybe she was riding the emotional high of getting her first UFC win, got caught up performing in her home country on such a big stage or just plain brain farted, but she lost a great opportunity to state her case when Brian Stann interviewed her after her fight. The woman who has been a vocal foil to the UFC’s favorite daughter, Ronda Rousey, let the “Rowdy” one off the hook entirely, claiming she was the Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder and wanted to defend her belt.
Call me crazy, but I doubt we’ll see her back in the Invicta cage anytime soon. The UFC pays her contract, and while I know the powers that be want to push Fight Pass, I can’t imagine a company that is so heavily reliant on its stars to build pay-per-view cards will allow her to wander back into obscurity after such a successful debut.
I understand there is a weight class issue at the center of this conundrum, but she has the potential to be a decent draw for the UFC. The organization needs to figure out what her role is going to be and build some competition for her going forward. It’s obvious she doesn’t want to have to make 135 pounds, and with the new weight-cutting policy being implemented for UFC 200, I don’t think it’s feasible to think she will even attempt the cut again.
If her place is at 145 pounds, it might just be time to add that along with the 125 pound women’s division. The dearth of talent could make it hard, but with the aforementioned weight cutting policy, it might be a necessary evil at this point. Either way, more “Cyborg” in the Octagon will be a good thing, no matter what.
Some Kind of ‘Wonderful’
Davis is now slated to take on Liam McGeary for the Bellator MMA light heavyweight championship after eking out a controversial decision over Lawal in San Jose, California. In the eyes of the only three people who matter, Davis did enough to win a unanimous decision, with two judges inexplicably giving him every round.
I couldn’t watch it live because I don’t have an east coast feed -- c’mon Spike TV, let’s stop tape-delaying sports, fellas -- but I watched it after UFC 198 concluded and thought Lawal did enough to win the first two periods. He clearly took the first on my card, while Davis was the obvious winner of the last round. That left a close round two as the decider, and I felt Lawal did just enough.
Remarkably, the officials saw it differently, and though most observers seemed to think Davis needed a finish in the third, in reality he had the fight locked up as long as he made it to the final bell. I’m sure a salty “King Mo” will have plenty to say about the decision, but he’s going to have to sit back and watch Davis get a crack at McGeary and there isn’t much he can do about it now.
As for Davis, the same old criticisms keep being recycled with him. He had Lawal hurt after staggering him with a big shot in the third round but chose to shoot for a takedown and work on a submission. He’s a stubborn fighter who does not like to get out of his comfort zone. Not that I blame him, as winning is and should always be the more important thing, but it hasn’t done him any favors with the fans. I’m pretty sure this fight isn’t going to be the one that gets the masses on board as he gets his crack at Bellator gold.
Sherdog.com Executive Editor Greg Savage can be reached by email or via Twitter @TheSavageTruth.