UFC 209 — Dark Cloud with a Silver Lining
UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2

Well, this one was weird. There could’ve been a lot of things done right here, but it just unraveled. UFC 209 was so unlucky, I thought that bad luck would pass onto me, so I didn’t immediately watch this event live. Actually, my net was being poop during that time. But there was no way I couldn’t write about this because the pre-fight developments were more interesting than much of the event itself. That’s just too bad; if only this were a Fight Night instead.

Meanwhile, I also agree with Joe Rogan in regards to the UFC missing out on a huge payday by not having the Diaz brothers fight in this event that bears the now-famous area code of their hometown. Then again, that may just be the Joe Rogan Experience fan in me.

UFC 209 Main Card

Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson

Guess what, it’s a repeat of the first fight. These two are just way too evenly matched for one to convincingly come on top, just like in the first fight. However, the judges gave it to Woodley this time around, thus keeping Thompson from realizing his championship dream yet again.

You charge in on Woodley, he either hits you with a big right hand or shoots in to put you on your ass. You charge in on Thompson, you get a foot to the face every time. They were just nightmares for each other, thus making them each other’s fateful nemesis. However, the judges gave it to Woodley, although one of the scorecards ended up being rather questionable.

If only Woodley wasn’t such an unlikable whiner, fans would actually be happy with him being the winner in this encounter.

Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

This was the tragedy of UFC 209. If a fighter is going to come in to weigh in, you’d think they’d only need to shed five to ten pounds of water and be good. But for some reason, Khalabeeb’s electrolytes may have been low or his kidneys may have been leaking battery acid due to rhabdomyolysis.

Whatever it was, it landed him in the hospital, apparently without supervision from UFC medical staff if Dana White is to be believed. Also, Khabib’s dad wasn’t able to get into the country thanks to Trump, so maybe that was a blessing in disguise somewhat. Whatever the case, it wasn’t a good day for Khoolerbib.

This was pretty much one of the two matches in the card that I was excited for (I didn’t care that much for the main event). All the analysis, predictions, and pre-fight hype are replaced with what-if questions and headscratching. Tony Ferguson is still fresh, so he can be put in another card if he wants. But from how he refused any replacement fights (completely understandable and smart on his part), he most likely won’t take anything less than a title shot.

But the real winner here is Conor McGregor. Without an interim champion to wait for him, he has a lockdown of the lightweight division like he did with the featherweight division. While he continues to expand his influence outside the cage while keeping the belt in a cupboard somewhere, the rest of the division have to fight for scraps.

I hope Ferguson got his $250,000 without throwing a punch.

David Teymur vs. Lando Vannata

This is a fairly competitive fight between two lightweights. Lando Vannata had been a Tony Ferguson opponent, being finished by him in the second round, and he had since gotten on the winning track. Meanwhile, the Swedish fighter David Teymur was a contestant in the 22nd season of The Ultimate Fighter and is known for having knockout power.

Most of the fight saw Teymur being pretty sharp with good takedown defense and an active clinch game with hard knees. Lots of movement early in the fight, with Vannata rocking Teymur for a bit. Teymur then returned the favor in the second and started to chew his opponent up.

Vannata showed a good bit of heart all the way through, but Teymur was just better all around. I’d like to see more of the Swede in the near future.

UPDATE (2017.03.09 5:30AM): Jack Slack’s analysis of this fight is interesting and eye-opening.

Daniel Kelly vs. Rashad Evans

Poor Cuba Gooding Jr. But at least he got to make out with Helen Mirren in Shadowboxer.

It may really be time for Rashad to hang them up after this stumble in UFC 209. I’m sure he can do better in subsequent excursions in the middleweight division. However, with him not being able to reclaim to his form after his loss to Jon Jones back in 2012 (from what I can tell), he certainly isn’t like he used to be. Now on a three-fight skid, perhaps he should consider a permanent move to his media role.

But it’s not to say he didn’t do any good here. This is a split decision loss to Daniel Kelly in his middleweight debut, and perhaps he’s just not used to fighting in that weight class just yet. While Kelly is already 39, he’s now riding a 4-fight winning streak and taking the most significant win of his career against a former UFC champion. His only loss is to Sam Alvey, who has been making waves as well.

From the looks of things, it looks like Evans is locked into a gatekeeper role like in his post-championship run in the light-heavyweight division. Hopefully, he can get one again, unless WME-IMG actually decides to cut him. With this new management, anything is possible.

Cynthia Calvillo vs. Amanda Bobby Cooper

The only UFC 209 main card fight to go quick and easy, with Calvillo chained submissions to get the win. It seemed like a fairly routine ground operation until they tumble in the scramble, after which Calvillo got a D’Arce choke attempt in. While Cooper was able to get her head out of it, Calvillo had already taken her back and her arm around her neck. All Calvillo had to do then was sink it in and squeeze until tap or nap.

Calvillo’s transitions were beautiful and her submission game is pretty tight. Pretty good UFC debut for the strawweight fighter from Team Alpha Male.

Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt

We saw here in UFC 209 the tactical Alistair Overeem that got me to like him during his annus mirabilis of 2010. He actually isn’t that good when he just packs on muscle and forces the issue with power; I think that earned him his now-infamous glass jaw. Detractors may say he ran throughout this fight, and my response to them is that they would too if they were to be smart about fighting Mark Hunt in this day and age.

Jack Slack analyzed this fight and pointed the nuances that made this fight notable, including what led to the finish with Overeem’s knee to Hunt’s head. After watching this fight, I realized that maybe Overeem had the right style to counter Hunt’s seek-and-destroy strategy with his signature shifting footwork and ability to control pace and range.

Perhaps Hunt’s best chance was to land a right hand whenever Overeem is in orthodox or when he’s on the outside. But with how much Overeem was moving throughout the fight, it would’ve been hard for Hunt to get a bead on him.

My favorite Overeem technique had always been the cheat step into knee strike. There’s a bit of that in the finish as it was his right knee (again) that finished the fight, but it had been in the clinch. The key here was Overeem actively disengaging in order to re-engage under his own terms. He was not shy, but he chose when and how he’d go in and out.

Throughout the fight, Overeem was either in the clinch or on the outside. Getting in between that would’ve made him prime target for a Hunto bomb, and he certainly knew this. There were times when Hunt would hit home with a right, but they weren’t that flush.

Getting hits would seemingly wake Overeem up to getting back into the game plan of using his kicks to maintain distance, constantly switching stances to keep Hunt from getting a clear shot, and getting into the clinch when it was getting too dangerous.

UFC 209 Preliminaries and Other Comments

Some pretty good fights in the UFC 209 preliminary card. For instance, Tyson Pedro impressed me with how solid he was against Paul Craig. With Cezar Ferreira becoming a dud lately, as evident in his last fight, I now hereby latch on to Tyson Pedro as the light-heavyweight prospect to watch out for.

Then there’s Iuri Alcantara with the sweet kneebar on Luke Sanders after spending a good part of the fight being pounded in the face. Kneebars are rare in this day and age since just about everyone knows how to defend against them now, so that was quite a sight to behold.

But what stole the show was Darren Elkins vs. Mirsad Bektic. To think this outshone the main card due to Elkins’ incredible comeback makes the disasters the event experienced somewhat worth it. Any show of incredible resilience in combat sports is worth any media or matchmaking disaster. Props to Bektic as well for a good performance, but this is what happens when you hold back in going for the kill the first time around.

Lastly, Dominick Cruz was excellent as a commentator in this event. Despite how fairly disappointing this event turned out, listening to his analysis offered consolation from all the mishaps. At least that makes it not as dismal as UFC 200.

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