D. FOX: Post-fight reactions to UFC 198 “Werdum vs. Miocic” from Brazil

By Dayne Fox, MMATorch Contributor

There weren’t too many surprises on this card. The one that did pop up was the event that this card will most be remembered for: Stipe Miocic landed a single punch as he was backing up from an attacking Fabricio Werdum, bringing Werdum’s reign as kingpin of the division to a thudding end as he was sent flat on his face unresponsive. While it may not officially end Cleveland’s title drought, it is good to see some kind of champion returning to the long suffering city.

Aside from the title change, everything else went to plan. Jacare Souza disposed of an aging Vitor Belfort. Cris Cyborg demolished Leslie Smith. There was some Brazilian home cooking for a legendary Brazilian star as well as Mauricio Rua walked out with a largely undeserved victory. The Brazilian home crowd may have been disappointed with the result of the title match, but overall they had to be happy with the results from the card with the countrymen going an impressive 9-2.

Stipe Miocic defeated Fabricio Werdum via KO at 2:47 of the first round

For some reason Werdum fought this fight against type. Never one to chase his opponent looking for the KO, Werdum did just that and paid the price. Up until that point both competitors gave indications that it could have been a classic had it gone on a bit longer as they exchanged punches and kicks at a high volume. Perhaps Werdum got frustrated when Miocic stuffed his lone takedown attempt and decided to go to plan B. Whatever reason, he gave chase and Miocic countered flush on Werdum’s jaw to score the KO and walk out of Brazil with a title around his waist.

For some reason Miocic never seemed like a dude who would ever be champion in my mind but I will admit that I’m happy to see him become champion. He’s a down to earth, hardworking, dude who still maintains a job as a firefighter. What’s not to like about that? There isn’t a division that has had more turnover at the top than heavyweight, so if he really wants to establish his legacy he’s going to have to have a lengthy reign. The good thing is because of the turnover it won’t be as hard for him as it would be for others in the lighter divisions. It seems very much likely that he’ll be fighting Alistair Overeem next which is an exciting fight on paper as both prefer to stand and trade. Early lines on that would likely be pretty even which is a big reason for the intrigue of the fight.

It’s very possible that Werdum will never get his rematch at the age of 38, though I wouldn’t necessarily count it out as this is heavyweight MMA. He didn’t show a noticeable decline of skills in this fight, he just got caught. I could see him getting two wins against top competition and returning to challenge for the title. He just better hope that the title starts to get defended with regularity, as it has been about an average of once a year for the last few years with fans wanting as many fresh faces as possible. The logical choices for him to start the road back to the title would be either Junior dos Santos or Ben Rothwell. The Rothwell fight makes more sense from the traditional matchmaking that Joe Silva usually puts together as both are coming off of losses. From a promotional standpoint, dos Santos makes more sense as dos Santos scored a massive upset in his UFC debut against Werdum, which sent Werdum out of the UFC at the time. If dos Santos’ shoulder surgery doesn’t keep him out too long I’d take that route. If it does take a while, go ahead and give him Rothwell as the dos Santos fight will still be there if Werdum can get past the big Wisconsin native.

Jacare Souza defeated Vitor Belfort via TKO at 4:38 of the first round

Considering Belfort’s last four fights had ended in the first round, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that this one ended in the space of five minutes. The thing that was missing from all of those previous fights was a Belfort flurry that either gassed him quickly or finished the fight in a hurry. Belfort seemed a step slower, not coming close on the one major attempt he made to end the fight (a flying knee) and paid Souza more respect than he usually does his opponents. It wasn’t long before Souza got him to the ground and pounded him out. Belfort was able to hold out for a while preventing Souza from sinking in a sub but was unable to stop the punches which bloodied him up, causing the referee to stop the fight.

Souza looked fantastic. He didn’t exhibit any striking as he was able to get the fight to the ground quickly, taking the fight into his wheelhouse. Despite all of the talk about his submission skills, Souza showed he can just as easily beat up on his opponent with his fists. With the stain on Yoel Romero following his recent PED suspension (whether it was tainted supplements or not, the stain is there), Souza could very well get the next title shot despite Romero beating him in December. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that idea, but it is hard to know whom to match him up with otherwise as well; there isn’t a viable title challenger otherwise if no one wants to put Romero in that position following his PED suspension.

I have a hard time seeing Belfort being able to return into the title picture. He needs to end the fight early and with his last two victories coming over a shot version of Dan Henderson he hasn’t proven that he can win against top competition. That doesn’t mean he can’t remain an attraction and pick up some victories against lesser (but still good) competition. I’ve been harping on the idea of a fight with him and Lyoto Machida for quite a while, though Machida’s suspension for a banned supplement seems like it will put a crimp on that idea. How about a rematch with him and Anderson Silva? If the UFC doesn’t try to match Silva up with Uriah Hall again, it would make a hell of a lot of sense to pair the two aging legends up in the cage one last time.

Cris Cyborg defeated Leslie Smith via TKO at 1:21 of the first round

As expected, this didn’t long. Smith was reluctant to get into a brawl with the larger woman, so Cyborg took the fight to her. Once she did it wasn’t long before she had Smith sprawled on the ground eating hammerfist after hammerfist. The referee jumped in much to the chagrin of Smith, though no one else in the building seemed to think the stoppage was too early.

There was a huge reception for Cyborg which clearly indicates that there is a huge market for her, so I don’t think she’ll be leaving the UFC anytime soon. Will she get a big money fight next? Probably not as she still hasn’t made it to 135 lbs and there has been no word on whether or not she will look to try to cut down even further. Ronda Rousey’s argument that the champion doesn’t go to meet her opposition no longer holds water as she isn’t the champ any more, but she still doesn’t seem to have any interest in potentially challenging Cyborg (or anyone else). Anyone else think it isn’t happening? That’s what I thought too. Germaine de Randamie seems to be the most logical choice of opponent next as she is a large bantamweight who might have a halfway decent shot at dealing with Cyborg’s size. Despite the early stoppage, no one will question Smith’s toughness as she wanted more punishment. She’ll be a gatekeeping action fighter into the ranks which isn’t a bad role to have.

Mauricio Rua defeated Corey Anderson via split decision

We all knew that Brazilian home cooking would come into play at some point and it shouldn’t come as any surprise that it benefited a Brazilian legend. Outside of knockdowns at the end of the first and second rounds by Rua, I can see Rua taking the first round, but not the second. Anderson was in control of the fight with his sound boxing while mixing in takedowns. Rua’s strikes didn’t seem to have the same effect that Anderson’s boxing did as he threw a high number of leg kicks that Anderson seemed to walk through. The two knockdowns clearly stood out in the minds of the judges though as they were the only moments of truly effective offense from Rua the entire fight.

Despite Rua being on a two fight win streak, no one believes that he is on course to be in the title picture any time soon as there were too many moments that he has looked vulnerable between this fight and his bout with Lil Nog last August. He still has some name value which is why the UFC keeps him around as they can build other stars off of his name if they can top him… which is exactly what they were trying to do here with Anderson. Or rebuild a name. I’d like to see Rua face Ryan Bader next as Bader needs a rebound fight in the worst way after being demolished by Rumble Johnson while Bader isn’t too big of a step up for Rua. As for Anderson, the UFC wants to handle him with kid gloves as they have very few prospects who look to have a bright future at 205 and he is one of them. I think a matchup with Francimar Barroso.

Bryan Barberena defeated Warlley Alves via unanimous decision

All aboard the Barberena hype train! Coming off of his much hyped upset of uber prospect Sage Northcutt, Barberena scored an even bigger upset this time around by outlasting Warlley Alves in his own backyard. Alves nearly ended the fight in the first minute with a tight guillotine only for Barberena to patiently work his way out. Alves finished the first round well with his hard punches, but also expended a lot of energy looking for the kill shot. The momentum clearly was swinging in Barberena’s favor halfway through the second round as he continued to land while Alves faded. The third round was even more pronounced which made it easy for the judges to make their decision… even if Barberena is an American!

It’s hard not to root for Barberena. He isn’t a great athlete. He isn’t very big. He doesn’t hit particularly hard. His jiu-jitsu and/or wrestling doesn’t impress anyone either. He just finds a way to out-tough and outlast his opposition despite largely being at a disadvantage in just about every other physical characteristic that matters in fighting. I don’t want to see the UFC throw him into the deep end of the pool despite him picking up the wins he has. I really think he has found his niche as a gatekeeper for prospects on their way up to see if they can dig deep to get past him. Alves officially picked up his first loss in the process (he should have had one after facing Alan Jouban) and though this was unexpected, it shouldn’t be seen as a travesty. He’s still immensely talented and fairly inexperienced so I don’t think he is anywhere near his ceiling yet. For him to take the next step he’ll need to find a way to end fights strong as that is hardly an issue that just popped up in this bout.

Demian Maia defeated Matt Brown via submission at 4:31 of the third round

While many may have found Maia’s grappling dominance to be fairly boring, no one can deny that Maia put on an absolute clinic on how to completely overwhelm your opponent without throwing a single punch. Outside of Brown landing a few good punches early in the third round, he had absolutely no effective offense as Maia took him down early in every round searching patiently for submission openings. Brown showed good defense for the most part in terms of preventing Maia from snaking in a sub. Escaping or sweeping though? Those never materialized as Maia stayed glued to him whenever Brown tried to escape. Maia finally was able to get underneath Brown’s chin towards the end of the fight to elicit a tap from Brown, giving Maia his second submission stoppage in his five fight win streak.

Maia’s case for a title shot received a big boost by getting the finish, though I still have massive doubts that he’ll get it due to his lack of promotional viability. He doesn’t go out of his way to promote himself and his workman-like grappling style doesn’t appeal to fans very much which means he doesn’t sell very well at the box office. So despite having better accolades than the current #1 contender Tyron Woodley, he’ll probably have to fight at least once more, especially seeing as how the winner of Rory MacDonald and Stephen Thompson will probably have more public support. Look for him to be line up against the winner of Johny Hendricks and Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 200.

Brown deserves all sorts of credit for taking a fight that was very much against him stylistically. He isn’t the type to make excuses and I don’t expect him to do so here. The loss here should solidify him as a top level gatekeeper. While this may have been a bit of a downer for most people, no one is going to blame him as when he gets his style of fight, no one walks away disappointed. He’s still a viable test despite having lost three of his last four. I’d like to see him face the loser of Tarec Saffiedine and Rick Story which takes place at the end of the month.

Thiago Santos defeated Nate Marquardt via KO at 3:39 of the first round

Santos didn’t read the script close enough to see that he was supposed to KO Marquardt with a kick, but everything else went to plan despite the KO coming via punches. Marquardt was a step slower than Santos in every way, getting knocked halfway through the round. Santos continued to pepper him kicks before landing a nice punching combination against the fence that sent Marquardt crashing to the ground unable to continue this time around. Hopefully this is the end of the road for Marquardt.

It felt like the UFC was giving Santos a layup by lining him up against Marquardt and it played out exactly that way which gives him four wins in a row. The level of competition can be questioned, the methods in which he has won can’t be as he has scored some awesome finishes along with a clear decision over Elias Theodoreau. I don’t know if he would be ready to challenge a ranked opponent at this point, though I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to that. His punching prowess has improved and he has good takedown defense, but I fear how he’d handle a strong wrestler or grappler. It may be time to find out. As for Marquardt, I don’t want to see him fight again. He can’t take punishment the way that he used to and appears to be fighting in molasses compared to everyone else. I could see the UFC bringing him back for one more fight, but I very much hope they don’t.

Francisco Trinaldo defeated Yancy Medeiros via unanimous decision

Easily the fight of the night with the scores being far more lopsided than what actually transpired. The first part of round one took a while for Trinaldo to find his range, but once he did he absolutely pieced up Medeiros, completely dominating the final two minutes to the point no one would complain if the referee stopped the fight with the horn coming just in time. More of the same occurred to start round two before Medeiros put together a nice combo towards the end of the round and nearly finished Trinaldo before the horn saved the Brazilian. Medeiros came out aggressive to start the third round mixing kicks and punches before Trinaldo landed a few strikes to the body before stumbling Medeiros with a hard left hand. From there it was a battle of survival for Medeiros, leaving many shocked that the referee didn’t step in to stop the fight as Medeiros could barely stand once he got to his feet.

Trinaldo is one of the better stories that has been flying underneath the radar for a while. Owner of six straight wins when one more loss would have likely cost him his UFC job right before the streak started, his success can’t simply be attributed to luck (or bad judges decisions) at that point. None of his victories have come against ranked opponents, but with performances like this one it isn’t impossible seeing him pull out a win over those decorating the UFC rankings. I wouldn’t be opposed to him getting a ranked opponent, but my personal favorite choice would be to see him face Adriano Martins. Medeiros will never have his toughness questioned at this point after the beating that he took. I would have liked to have seen the fight sooner as I’m sure that he lost a few brain cells he didn’t need to in the process. Hopefully we won’t see him in the cage for at least six months (seriously, the beating was that bad) and he can come back and see if he can advance beyond being an action fighter.

John Lineker defeated Rob Font via unanimous decision

Perhaps it is unfair to say that this fight didn’t live up to expectations since the expectations for it were pretty much unrealistic, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations. That doesn’t mean that the fight sucked, but it was missing the wild striking exchanges that we were all expecting. That’s largely due to Lineker fighting an extremely smart fight, picking his spots to jump into Font’s range by using good angles and countering Font’s selective striking. Living up to his reputation, Lineker did a great job of mixing his strikes to the body and head while landing the cleaner shots. The only round that Font was able to make competitive was the second round, landing his jab a fair amount as Lineker’s didn’t find as many opportunities as he did in the other two rounds.

Lineker is making a hell of an impression in his new division. Though Font isn’t a ranked opponent, he is considered to be one of the better up-and-comers and Lineker had few problems with him. Even more impressive to me is that he didn’t need a flash KO to deal with Font. If only he could apply the same amount of discipline to his weight cutting…. He’ll get a fight with a ranked opponent next for sure with John Dodson being my preferred choice, though Cody Garbrandt is another good option if Garbrandt can get past Thomas Almeida. The loss for Font was the first in four years with Lineker representing a huge leap in competition from what he had previously faced. Giving him a step down against the likes of Leandro Issa or Ian Entwistle. Regardless of how good he becomes, I still like his potential to hang around as an action fighter for a long time.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira defeated Patrick Cummins via TKO at 4:52 of the first round

The old man still has a bit left in the tank. Most were picking the younger and less shopworn Cummins to upset one half of the most legendary set of twins in the sport, and he was controlling most of the fight for the short amount of time that it lasted as he stayed outside of Lil Nog’s range and landing kicks. All it took was one good punch from Nogueira for the momentum to change. Cummins got clipped with just under a minute in the round to go and Nogueira jumped all over his visibly wobbled opponent. Cummins fell to the ground and was able to stand back up as Nogueira continued to throw and land before the referee had seen enough and jumped in with Cummins still on his feet.

Though the win hardly signifies that Nogueira is going to be able to make a run to the top of the light heavyweight division, but it might be a good thing for the overall development as it shows that he isn’t completely finished and the shallow division badly needs viable fighters to test those ready to jump from fighting at the bottom of the division and the win here allows him to remain in that role.

Cummins has now lost two in a row, but he shouldn’t be in danger of being cut due to the lack of bodies in the division. He may be 35, but he is still young in the sport which means he still has room to improve. He won’t be facing a name opponent in his next bout as it is more important for him to get back into the win column after dropping three of his last four. While he isn’t going to become a contender like the UFC had hopes, he can still be a viable fixture in the division. Tom Lawlor would seem to be the best option to get him a rebound fight.

Sergio Moraes fought Luan Chagas to a split draw

I feel like the judges got this one wrong. I can see where one judges awarded Chagas a 10-8 round in the first round as he landed a head kick that put Moraes on his butt, but he didn’t capitalize enough to fully deserve the 10-8 score. That score was still a lot more justifiable than whatever judge decided to award Chagas the second round. True, Chagas landed a few hard strikes at the beginning of the round. The issue is that Moraes did the same and completely controlled Chagas the last two minutes with his grappling. He may have been on the bottom, but he completely controlled him from there working on a submission. The third was no question in favor of Moraes, again controlling a gassed Chagas in the grappling department.

While it’s true that Moraes didn’t get an undeserved loss, he does have his four-fight win streak snapped and all the momentum that accompanies it. It is as good as a loss though considering he was facing an opponent who only had two weeks notice to take the fight who was also willing to go to the ground with him, a no-no for most. It is likely he would have gotten a step up in competition with the win as it is tough to ignore five wins in a row. No it seems he is going to be stuck middling in the division for the rest of his UFC career. As for Chagas, outside of a flash win this result ended up being about as could be expected. His head kick in the first round was the pivotal moment in the fight and showed more diversity in his striking than was expected. At 22, he has a bright future ahead of him. Hopefully the UFC can give him some weaker opponents to allow him to develop… something they haven’t always done.

Renato Carneiro defeated Zubaira Tukhugov via split decision

Very much a blah match as neither fighter did a whole lot to distinguish themselves. Tukhugov scored a takedown in the first after a pretty even striking match to take the first round while Carneiro stated to find his range in the third round, landing more consistently to easily take the last round while sprawling out on Tukhugov’s takedown attempts. The second was the one up for debate as it was similar to the first round in terms of trading strikes as neither was able to take control. As a result it was hard to determine which fighter was going to take the decision, though I had a hunch it would be Carneiro thanks to some Brazilian home cooking.

Even though this was a good win for Carneiro, there is going to be a bit of stigma attached to it as there were few moments of action. That shouldn’t overshadow a win over a dude who was 3-0 in the UFC coming into the fight, but it probably will. His biggest enemy has been his body as he has been unable to stay healthy enough to fight often as this was his first fight in over 500 days. If he can stay healthy, look for his name in the top 15 in a year or so. Tukhugov is similarly talented and just as capable of jumping up the ranks like that as well. I was surprised that his offensive wrestling wasn’t more effective. Then again, I knew it would be difficult to navigate Carneiro’s length. This isn’t a devastating loss for him. He should be back on track pretty quickly.

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