UFC 210 went just about as expected. That is, up until the last two fights of the evening where we saw an out of nowhere retirement of a top challenger and a head-scratching stoppage after a legal blow and a good deal of discussion.
Saturday’s main event between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson went very similarly to their first fight, with Cormier surviving some heavy shots early on only to capitalize on a tired Johnson and secure the submission. The aftermath of the fight may have been more notable than the fight itself when Anthony Johnson took the mic to announce that win or lose, this was to be his last fight. Johnson only referenced a “commitment” to a new career, but left little detail on what that may be, leaving fans and media to speculate on what may be next for “Rumble.”
One early theory had Johnson joining the Los Angeles Rams NFL squad after Johnson changed his Twitter background photo and added Rams hashtags to his profile, but Johnson was quick to shoot those rumors down. “Why would I go into another sport that’s the same thing as this, and you take all this impact and stuff?” Johnson said at the post-fight press conference. “That’s absolutely insane.”
With Johnson now in his past, Cormier immediately shifted his focus to what’s next for him, but instead of calling out a former foe and longtime champion Jon Jones, who was sitting at cage side observing, Cormier looked to the other side of the arena at the rising Jimi Manuwa as a potential next opponent. Cormier heckled Manuwa from the cage as the official announcement was being read telling him that “you’ll get it to.” When Joe Rogan tried to steer Cormier’s focus towards Jones, Cormier reminded everyone that Jones isn’t even eligible to fight.
Jones will be eligible to fight in less than three months.
UFC 210’s co-main event saw its controversy happen during the fight itself. Mid-way through the second round of a middleweight clash between Chris Weidman and Gegard Mousasi, Mousasi had a hold of Weidman’s head with Weidman bent at the waist and his fingertips on the mat. Mousasi landed one knee to Weidman’s head while one of Weidman’s hands was in contact with the mat and a second knee landed just as Weidman’s two hands were lifted off the mat through the momentum of Mousasi’s strikes. Ref Dan Miragliotta paused the action as his initial reaction was that the one or both of the knees were illegal blows.
After some apparent confusion and consultation with other referees and New York State Athletic Commission officials at ringside, Miragliotta told Weidman and Mousasi that the knees were, in fact, legal after seeing a replay despite the fact that instant replay is currently not a part of MMA in New York. Miragliotta continued to allow Weidman a five-minute break after declaring the knees to be legal. Meanwhile, Weidman was being assessed by commission doctors who declared that Weidman was not fit to continue and Mousasi was ruled winner by TKO.
It was a confusing mess of a situation on several levels and taints what was an entertaining fight up until that point. Mousasi was less than elated with getting the win the way he did and offered Weidman, who plans to appeal the decision, a rematch.
After four UFC events in New York since November, three of them have had significant decisions from the commission occur before and during fight night that has raised eyebrows. There have been issues now with weigh-ins, judging, refereeing, and even breast implants, all in the span of a few months. What once was UFC’s final and most lucrative state to secure has turned into something of a nightmare.
Hiscoe’s Analysis: Rumble’s retirement came out of left field for sure. There’s still no indication what he might be doing next. I’m in the camp that it might be something military-related based on the way he used the term “commitment” and how it came off like there was a hard deadline he was adhering to after this fight. Losing Anthony Johnson is a big blow to an already weak Light Heavyweight Division. Imagine the mess if he had won the title and then retired.
Cormier isn’t going to win any fans by dismissing Jon Jones and pretending like Jimi Manuwa is a logical next fight for him. Jones was sitting cage side for a reason and Cormier should understand that. It was a missed opportunity to create a moment to breathe some new life into the Cormier-Jones feud. Manuwa only makes sense as a top contender from a timing perspective if Cormier wants to fight before July. Assuming Jones can fight sometime in July or even August, he against Cormier is the fight to make as Jones against anyone else in the timeframe doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The Weidman-Mousasi thing was a complete mess. It was perfectly excusable for the ref to stop the fight when he did because it was such a close call. We’re talking a matter of millimeters separating Weidman’s hands from the mat. It’s because of those millimeters that referees should be allowed to use instant replay to make these determinations. Referee Miragliotta took it upon himself to consult the replay anyway and that’s where things got screwy. If his original call was that the knees were illegal, then that’s fine, give Weidman his five minutes and then continue the fight. Further muddying the issue is that it was determined Weidman couldn’t continue. If he was too rattled from the knees to fight, then it was the right call. If he was playing it up to try and get a DQ win, as Mousasi has suggested, then Weidman got what he deserved. So while it was a mess, in the end, the right guy won.
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK ITEMS…
-Patrick Cote retired following his unanimous decision loss to Thiago Alves on the main card last night. Cote first appeared at UFC 50, losing a three-round decision to Tito Ortiz.
–UFC announced last night that Urijah Faber will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame during International Fight Week. The ceremony will be held July 6 in Las Vegas.
–Fox Sports reported that the Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw bantamweight championship fight will co-headline UFC 213 on July 8 alongside an as-of-yet unnamed main event.
-Daniel Cormier had some choice words for Jon Jones during the post-fight press conference, calling him “Cialis Boy” and saying Jones needs to “get his academics together” before he can compete again.
-Gegard Mousasi told media that he felt Chris Weidman was lobbying to get a DQ win after the too-close-to-call knees in their fight and that Weidman was “looking for a way out.” Weidman plans to officially appeal the decision with the New York State Athletic Commission.
-Dana White described the growing pains with the NYSAC as “2001 all over again,” referring to when Zuffa bought the company and began having it regulated in new states.
-Post-fight bonuses went to Charles Oliveira and Gregor Gillespie for their first round wins last night and to Shane Burgos and Charles Rosa for having the fight of the night.
-Bellator 176 was yesterday afternoon from Torino, Italy. Rafael Carvalho retained his Bellator Middleweight Title in the main event over Melvin Manhoef with a fourth round head kick knockout.
UFC 210 POST-FIGHT PRESS CONFERENCE
NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: SATURDAY NEWS DIGEST 4/8: Gonzales pulled due to implants, NYSAC comments on Cormier weigh-in, more (w/Henry Analysis)
(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)