By Tony Cline, Staff Writer
Buffalo, NY was the site of UFC 210 on Saturday night, and the event was an emotional and entertaining one. On the FightPass early prelims, Magomed Bibulatov, Katlyn Chookagian, and Des Green all scored decision victories over their opponents while Gregor Gillespie knocked out Andrew Holbrook 21 seconds into their fight. Once the prelims moved over to FoxSports1, Patrick Cummins weathered a vicious first round assault from Jan Blachowicz and came back to earn the decision victory. In the Fight of the Night, Shane Burgos and Charles Rosa endured a back-and-forth war before Burgos finally knocked Rosa out in the third. Kamaru Usman followed that up with an impressively lopsided decision over Sean Strickland, and Myles Jury rounded out the prelims with a first-round KO of Mike de la Torre.
The main card brought excitement, intrigue, and surprise. Former Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks faced off with Charles Oliveira in the latter’s first lightweight division fight in almost six years. This one ended halfway through the first round as Oliveira was able to slip onto the back of Brooks and sink in a rear naked choke for the submission win. In the second fight of the pay-per-view card, fans watched as Thiago Alves, coming off two consecutive losses, controlled Patrick Cote on his way to a unanimous decision victory. The Buffalo crowd, which included many of Cote’s Canadian fans, then received a shock as Cote announced an end to his 15-year career. The next fight saw Cynthia Calvillo control the majority of her match against Pearl Gonzalez before sinking in a rear naked choke and getting the tap with a little over a minute remaining in the fight.
The co-main event brought some surprise and intrigue of its own. Chris Weidman, former UFC middleweight champion, controlled much of the first round with his wrestling. However, in the second, Gegard Mousasi seemed to take over and put on a striking display. Then, the New York State Athletic Commission struck. New York only approved professional mixed martial arts in the last year, and their inexperience in the sport showed on Saturday night. A little over halfway through the second round, Weidman found himself in a fairly compromising position as he was standing in a bent position with his head near Mousasi’s knees. As Chris reached for the mat to place his hands down (thereby making him a downed opponent and ineligible to be kneed in the head), Mousasi delivered a wicked knee less than a second before Weidman’s second hand touched the ground. Mousasi followed this up with another knee to the head, and referee Dan Miragliotta immediately called a foul and stopped the action. Miragliotta then conferred with the commission and fellow referee John McCarthy who informed him that video showed the knee was legal. Unfortunately, video replay is not allowed in New York. The third error in this debacle happened when, rather than immediately restart the fight, Miragliotta allowed the doctor to continue to examine Weidman. This was followed up by the doctor deciding that Weidman could not continue, despite Chris having clearly recovered from any effects of the knee and shouting that he was fine. The referee waved the fight off and awarded a TKO victory to Weidman. The errors and sheer incompetence under pressure shown in this situation are inexcusable when a guy’s pay and livelihood are at stake. The referee’s original call of the knee as a foul was wrong, but just by a fraction of an inch. It was an error, but an easily understandable one given the speed of the action and the very close call that had to be made. However, the introduction of video replay, in complete contradiction of NYSAC rules, was highly inappropriate. The foul call should have stood and Weidman been allowed the five minutes. However, if you are going to introduce the video, the fight should have been restarted immediately and not continued to be paused for the cageside physician to examine the fighter (that is proper only for a cut that may be obstructing vision). Finally, the doctor should never decide if a guy is knocked out. That is the referee’s call, and it rarely comes while the fighter is jumping in the air yelling that he is fine. This embarrassment should be overturned on appeal.
After all of that excitement, we were still left with the main event, a title bout that saw Daniel Cormier defend his light heavyweight strap against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. These two have met before, with Cormier eating a few shots from one of the most feared strikers in the sport before taking him down and submitting him. This fight went much the same direction, only Cormier was able to sink in the rear naked choke a round sooner to retain his title. After the fight, Johnson stunned the already shell-shocked crowd by announcing that one of the most popular, gentlemanly fighters in the UFC was calling it quits.
Finally, the champ took to the microphone. The crowd rained down boos on Cormier, as he asked if they would love him if he announced his retirement. Then, Daniel did exactly what he needed to do: he went full heel on the crowd, telling them, “Boo me! I’m getting money and championship belts! What’s up?” Cormier then taunted contender Jimi Manuwa, who called out Daniel after winning his latest fight last month, telling him that he has nothing for Cormier and to sit down. When asked about Jon Jones, the former champ who beat Cormier in January 2015, before being stripped of his belt and serving two different suspensions in the last two years, Cormier said, “Who? Who? Who? Is that guy even eligible to fight yet? Don’t talk to me about a guy that’s ineligible.” He then turned to face Jones, sitting cageside, and said, “When you get your act, when you get your shit together and are ready to fight, I’m here waiting for you, young man, and you know it.” This is exactly what Cormier needs to do. If he ever wants the fans’ adulation, he needs to look like he doesn’t. That fans will cheer a criminal like Jon Jones while booing a nice guy like Cormier is odd to me, but that is just the way things are in this day and time. Ask John Cena and Roman Reigns. Fans today want to cheer an anti-hero, not a hero. Daniel Cormier is Captain America in a Punisher world.
UFC 210 presented us with some great fights, a complete clusterfuck of a commission, and the surprise retirement of two popular veterans. Hopefully, the NYSAC will get their shit together, as I am pretty certain that Madison Square Garden is where the UFC would like to hold the Jon-Jones-Daniel Cormier rematch. Good luck to Cote and Johnson as they pursue other endeavors. Thanks for the memories, guys.