“There is a story behind every journey into the Octagon, and every story invariably includes adversity and heartache — almost certainly to a much greater degree than triumph. Success is built on a mountain of Ls, and in order to suffer through those losses and keep trudging onward, there must be an aquifer of personal pride somewhere beneath the bedrock of whatever other motivation propels fighters forward. Though nebulous and amorphous, pride is an essential piece of the fight game. There was no shortage of it at UFC 216 on Saturday in Las Vegas, especially at the top of the card…”
“UFC 215 on Saturday in Edmonton, Alberta, is an above-average offering. While the undercard is mostly what you would expect from an undercard, it still features two top-15 women’s bantamweights and two top-five flyweights, which is more than a lot of Ultimate Fighting Championship events can boast.
The main card, however, is all bangers. The Jeremy Stephens-Gilbert Melendez fight is high stakes and should be high action, as well. The fight between Ilir Latifi and Tyson Pedro, who share a combined six first-round finishes in the UFC, is likely to end quickly and dramatically. On top of that, former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos will look to stake his claim as a force at welterweight against perennial contender Neil Magny. These are all good, relevant bouts that coalesce into a fitting buildup for two title fights at the top of the card. Those two title fights are where things start to get a little messy…”
The Paradox of Perfection
“Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White was the first to take the dais after UFC on Fox 24 in Kansas City, Missouri. He announced the usual business — gate numbers, bonus winners, compliments to the host city — before telling the press about how he overheard Demetrious Johnson asking coach Matt Hume what he did wrong in his one-sided drubbing of Wilson Reis. White answered on behalf of Hume and really anyone else who witnessed the fight: “Nothing.” When asked about Robert Whittaker’s win, he was just as effusive: “He fought a perfect fight.” As for Rose Namajunas: “[She] fought a flawless fight.”
Perfect, perfect, perfect. It’s typical promoter hyperbole, but in a lot of ways, White wasn’t wrong. None of the winners in the top three fights had to overcome any real adversity. Namajunas utterly dismantled Michelle Waterson; Whittaker completely stifled Ronaldo Souza; and Johnson? He Mighty Mouse’d Reis, landing more significant strikes than his opponent even attempted before adding demoralization to dominance by submitting the jiu-jitsu ace. For Whittaker and Namajunas, it was the best performance of their careers thus far. For Johnson, it was business as usual.
Of course, this wasn’t just any old fight for the flyweight phenom. This was his opportunity to tie Anderson Silva’s title defense record, the most hallowed record in the promotion, if not the sport. However, with Johnson, the results of his work, as impressive as they tend to be, are never as impressive as the work itself. He was overwhelmingly favored to make his 10th title defense, which took some air of that narrative, but the manner in which he did was, well, perfect…”
The Many Faces of Pound for Pound
“For the most part, all went according to plan at UFC 197 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Four out of five betting favorites on the main card won comfortably, and the only upset — Edson Barboza’s win over Anthony Pettis — was the closest betting line of the night. At a closer look, how the favorites went about winning led to both pleasant and unpleasant surprises, namely how Yair Rodriguez and Demetrious Johnson won easier than expected while Robert Whittaker and Jon Jones took longer than anticipated. Overall, though, it was what we thought it would be.
As such, the post-fight atmosphere didn’t offer much in the way of new information. Jones will go on to fight Daniel Cormier as was originally planned; Johnson is still untouchable at flyweight; and Barboza, Whittaker and Rodriguez are still at varying points on the continuum of prospects and potential title contenders.
The absence of buzz was probably due to a mixture of things: the ongoing tug-o-war between Conor McGregor and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the lost luster of a Cormier-less headliner and the fact that the substitute main event was a dud of a fight. Whatever it was, the discussion after the fight centered on the mythical pound-for-pound rankings, specifically who deserved the number one spot between Jones and Johnson.
It goes without saying that pound-for-pound rankings are a little silly. To be fair, the entire light heavyweight belt situation is pretty silly right now, and that doesn’t seem to stop people from taking it seriously. There’s no need to be That Guy in the movie theater reminding everybody that what they’re watching isn’t real..”
UFC 197 Statistical Matchup Analysis
“The word ‘underappreciated’ comes to mind when discussing Demetrious Johnson.
Having already dispatched nearly every defensible contender, the man they call “Mighty Mouse” is knocking on the doors of MMA history. He was last seen in September, when he took a clear-cut unanimous decision over John Dodson. That was his seventh title defense, tying him with former featherweight champion Jose Aldo for the fourth-most title defenses in Ultimate Fighting Championship history. In each of those defenses, Dodson was the only one who managed to steal any rounds from him, making Johnson arguably the most dominant champion the UFC has ever seen. He fought twice in 2015; this is his first fight of 2016.
Standing across from him in the UFC 197 co-main event on Saturday will be the highly touted Henry Cejudo. The undefeated prospect and former Olympic gold medalist made his UFC debut in December 2014 and has only fought four times in the promotion. However, he has impressed in each bout, utilizing his athletic and technical gifts to take one-sided decisions every time out. He was last in the Octagon in November, when he beat Jussier da Silva in what was perplexingly judged a split decision. It was the third fight of the year for “The Messenger,” who was dubbed a potential heir to Johnson’s throne in his first UFC fight; this will be the first time he fights in 2016.
Here is what the Tale of the Tape tells us…”