Written by: Remi Se
Dana White put it as softly as possible when he described UFC 208 as “not one of our better events.” In spite of crowning a new champion to kick off a fresh division and featuring one of the all-time greats in the co-main event; post event discussions were focused on poor decisions by a referee and multiple judges. With the exception of Jim Miller vs Dustin Poirier; the card was a combination of one sided affairs and risk averse affairs. There were no big star turns or explosive upsets here. The highlights of the night were strikes after the bell sounded and angry reactions from fighters who felt they were robbed. On the bright side; De Randamie is a champion now and without many signs of an actual division, the road for Cristiane Cyborg to a UFC belt seems paved and ready; Jacare solidified his claim at the next Middleweight title shot; and after his recent losses, his injury and a failed drug test, Anderson Silva finally returned to the win column. So not all was lost with this event, but it will likely fade from memory as Fight Night Lewis vs Browne and UFC 209 are fast approaching.
Holly Holm vs Germaine De Randamie:
Unfortunately the most memorable strike of the fight was De Randamie’s elbow after the second round ended. De Randamie never threatened to finish the fight, but Holly Holm once again struggled to land significant blows of her own. For the opening rounds, the story of the fight was De Randamie’s ability to time and counter Holly Holm’s rushes forward. Holm wisely shifted strategies to force more clinches and takedown attempts that stifled De Randamie, but weren’t very effective in terms of dealing actual damage. The sole highlight of this fight (in regulation at least) came as Holm landed a head kick that would make Luke Rockhold proud in the third. It was the only time either fighter threatened a stoppage. At the end of the bout, judges scored the fight 3-2 in favor of De Randamie which is fair in such a close fight.
The real controversy is less about the judging and more about the strikes after the bell. De Randamie nearly dropped Holm with an elbow that came well after the bell rang. It was literally the most significant strike landed all night for De Randamie. That kind of strike can completely shift the momentum and direction of a fight. To make matters worse, in the very next round De Randamie failed to stop throwing punches after the bell once again. The referee still failed to penalize De Randamie. A point deduction would have been fair and saved Holm from a third straight loss. That said, the prospect of a draw forcing a rematch to this lackluster fight is unlikely to excite anybody.
Anderson Silva vs Derek Brunson:
Following the theme of lackluster fights, Silva and Brunson was marked mainly by tentativeness. Brunson, fresh off taking a KO from his sloppy striking in the Whitaker fight, seemed completely unwilling to engage. This meant opportunities for big exchanges were limited. Brunson’s caution paid off as he outstruck Silva, but the excitement came predominantly when the Spider pushed the pace periodically. From a perspective of landing strikes, it feels impossible to argue that Brunson didn’t win the fight. Where Silva did manage to have an impact however was octagon control. Silva was consistently standing his ground or forcing Brunson to give way during aggressive flurries which swayed the judges. Silva won the fight 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 in spite of being outlanded 118-54 and being taken down twice. Silva did stuff 9 takedowns however and Brunson’s unwillingness to take risks cost him the decision. Brunson’s claim that he “outclassed” Anderson Silva is a stretch, but he did do enough to warrant a close decision and gave Dana White the opportunity to drop one of his favorite phrases “don’t leave the fight in the hands of the judges.” This fight did little to improve the stock of either fighter, but seeing Silva walk away with his first official win in years was a nice consolation. The man is arguably the GOAT and controversial decision or not, seeing his joy in victory was a nice moment.
Jacare Souza vs Tim Boetsch:
Considering that Souza is the likely number one contender after Romero gets his title shot and that Boetsch is ranked 13th in the division; this fight went exactly as the rankings would have you expect. Boetsch landed one quality strike to buckle Souza’s legs but that was the only offense he really mustered. Souza took him to the ground shortly after and finished with a Kimura. Jacare is one of the dominant ground fighters in MMA and watching him advance position is grappling perfection. He made quick work of a lower ranked opponent in what was essentially a tune up fight. This was the only finish on the card by the way, another sign that the PPV was seriously lacking. For Jacare, the case for a title shot was made without needing this submission and Boetsch won’t lose much stock being taken out by a number one contender.
Glover Teixeira vs Jared Cannonier:
Teixeira is a perpetually top 5 ranked LHW while Cannonier’s career highlight so far is a fight of the night victory of Ion Cutelaba and the man has not broken into the LHW top 15 rankings yet. This felt like an apology to Glover for getting thrown into the octagon with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson last time out. Glover was able to take the fight to the ground, seemingly at will. From there he could safely hold Cannonier down scoring points with ground and pound. To Cannonier’s credit, he proved to have competent defense from his back but not enough offense to score sweeps or threaten with submissions. While the two stood, Cannonier flashed serious hand speed for a 205 pound competitor but the promise that shows with his striking will require major improvements to his take down defense and BJJ offense from his guard as well. For Glover, this was a safe fight but he did nothing to improve his stock in the division. He firmly held his spot and not much else. A Gustaffson/Teixeira fight seems like a good idea.
Dustin Poirier vs Jim Miller:
This fight brought the sort of quality that fans should expect from a PPV. Poirier and Miller traded combinations and mixed in grappling to set a tone that the rest of the card was never able to match. Jim Miller is perpetually in exciting match-ups and Poirier’s penchant for power striking tends to force a fast pace. Miller’s performance was defined by heavy leg kicks and combinations that finished with work to the body. Poirier’s performance came down to superior wrestling and closing the distance to work power punches from inside. Both fighters appeared to have finishing opportunities. Poirier hurt Miller multiple times in the second round and Miller responded with leg kicks that almost stopped the Diamond in his tracks. The late scrambles and grappling was no less entertaining than the striking exchanges; both men poured everything into every facet of the fight and neither man backed down. These men get extra credit for being the only ones to put on a show, but this fight would have competed for FotN on most cards.