Over the last couple of years, I have found MMA, and more specifically, the UFC to be a complete bore. The lack of stars and divisional relevance along with the oversaturation of events has made the majority of the fights a standard affair as opposed to something special. That all changes, at least for one night, as UFC 225 from the United Center in Chicago, produced meaningful fights from top to bottom.
– Curtis Blaydes defeated Alistair Overeem via 3rd TKO
Top-ranked heavyweights collided as divisional mainstay Alistair Overeem faced Curtis Blaydes in the Fox Sports 1 headliner. It was somewhat surprising to see Overeem on the prelim card considering he is one of the highest paid fighters on the UFC roster. The younger and faster Blaydes took some punishment early but used his superior wrestling game to control the action before slicing open Overeem forehead with a barrage of elbows for the stoppage. Overeem has now dropped two straight while Blaydes will probably be in line for a high profile fight in his next outing.
– Mike Jackson defeated CM Punk via unanimous decision (30 – 26 across the board)
It took almost two years for the former WWE Superstar CM Punk to find his way back to the octagon. The Chicago native showed a lot of heart and made a case for winning the first round. However, it went downhill from there as Jackson picked him apart on the feet with his boxing. Punk went for several failed takedown attempts and his cardio wasn’t up to snuff. It looked as if Jackson could have finished Punk in the third round but played it safe earning a dominant decision. UFC president Dana White stated at the post-fight press conference that Punk (and Jackson) would not get a third fight with the organization. It makes sense considering Jackson was the most comparable opponent to Punk’s skill level. If he couldn’t get it done here, I don’t like his chances should he sign with Bellator or another MMA organization.
– Tai Tuivasa defeated Andrei Arlovski via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)
Tuivasa is being primed as the future Mark Hunt with devastating power, rock solid chin and no real ground game. Arlovski presented an interesting challenge, as he is highly skilled in all areas of the game. However, the former champion prefers to stand and strike, which is scary to watch because he is prone to one-punch knockouts, exactly the type of threat Tuivasa brings to the table. Arlovski has dropped a couple of times in the fight and stalled out Tuivasa on the ground until the referee stood up both fighters. Both fighters traded solid punches. Tuivasa hit harder but Arlovski hit him more often while mixing it up on the feet. I scored the fight for Arlovski and so did many I spoke to on social media. Tuivasa had some exciting moments and appeared to more damage, which is what probably swayed the judges. It will be interesting to see where the 39-year-old Arlovski goes from here. Tuivasa is an exciting prospect to promote but unless he develops more of an all-around game, his career will be stuck in the middle of the road.
– Holly Holm defeated Megan Anderson via unanimous decision 30-27, 30-26, 30-26
Megan Anderson told anyone who would listen that she wanted to fight Cyborg for the 145 lbs. Title. The idea of Cyborg finally fighting a true featherweight was an intriguing prospect, however, Holly Holm put those plans on hold. Holm outclassed the much larger Anderson at every turn. Holm can now punch her ticket to either a featherweight or bantamweight title shot but her post-fight interview made it clear that her heart desires the latter. Holm is a class act and you can’t help but to root for her. Anderson has a lot of potential but she got a reality check in showing the world that she is not ready for a fight with Cyborg.
– Colby Covington defeated Rafael Dos Anjos via unanimous decision to become the Interim Welterweight Champion. (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)
MMA is littered with fighters who talk a lot of trash but fail to live up to their false bravado. Colby Covington is the polar opposite of that equation. He talked himself into a title fight kept a game Dos Anjos on his heels for the majority of the fight. Covington fought at a fast pace that seemed ill-advised since it was a foregone conclusion that it wouldn’t last. Well, it lasted and despite getting in some good shots, Dos Anjos could never find a measure of comfort. Covington’s anti-Brazilian, President Trump supporting tirade could be nothing more than a pro wrestling character that he developed during his brief time in Impact Wrestling. He was never outspoken before his wrestling stint and now, he’s done something that no one else has been able to do. Make people want to see Tyron Woodley step back into the cage.
– Robert Whittaker defeated Yoel Romero via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Robert Whittaker won the first fight against Romero, at UFC 213 to become the interim middleweight champion while injuring his knee in the process. Later on, he was promoted to undisputed champion when Georges St. Pierre vacated the title.
Romero missed weight in his last fight where he was no longer eligible to win the interim middleweight title. That didn’t stop him from knocking out Luke Rockhold in devastating fashion. He missed weight for this fight as well, had to forfeit 30% of his purse to Whittaker as a result and again, no longer eligible to win the world middleweight title.
The Illinois athletic commission halted Romero’s second weight cut before the allotted time had expired. This is why some feel the Olympic silver medalist missed weight by 0.2 pounds. Video of Romero needing help to get to his dressing room following the weigh-in confirms the commission made the right call.
Romero looked weak heading into the cage and played defense the first two rounds as Whittaker kept hitting him from a distance. Round three told a different story as Romero dropped the champion with lighting fast overhand right. It was also in that round where Whittaker broke his right hand. Round four was a tossup, and Romero won the final round to the point of dominance. The judges scored it a split decision in favor of Whittaker.
I’m not a fan of Yoel Romero, and I scored the fight him, three rounds to two. Despite the weight fiasco and now being 0-2 against the champion, people are clamoring for a third fight. Whittaker and Romero produced a fight of the year candidate and put on a round of the year during the third frame. Both fights were great, and one more go around with no injuries, or weight controversy could be a thing of beauty.
Other News: Fight Pass action saw Clay Guida, Joseph Benavidez and Rashad Evans lose their respective bouts. All three fighters are fan favorites in their own right, but Evans’ loss is the most damning of the three. The undefeated adversary of every professional athlete, father time loomed in his last four bouts, and this Saturday’s 53-second knockout loss to Anthony Smith made it five straight loses for “Suga.”
Final Thoughts: UFC 225 was the first time in a long time that I was not only excited for an MMA show but blown away by the outcome of the fights. UFC holds too many events. However, I can’t blame them considering ESPN is going to pay them $1.5 billion over the next five years to produce twenty-five events a year for the network. That doesn’t even include the unknown number of Fight Pass (UFC’s streaming service) cards and the twelve pay-per-view events. Oversaturating and a lack of compelling fights has made things boring for me. Last Saturday, at least for one night, UFC felt special again.