It was one of the most anticipated cards of the year and that remained true even after it lost the original main event between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. The card delivered on the hype with Conor McGregor leading the way. While Cowboy Cerrone, Cat Zingano and Dominick Cruz did all they could to steal the night away from him. There was also Yoel Romero, Tim Kennedy and a stool tried to steal it from all of them. They all delivered memorable performances that will have title shot implications. For Zingano and Cruz – they are next. While Cerrone and McGregor put themselves in the middle of the mix in two talented and crowded divisions. Romero and Kennedy could be headed to a rematch with the winner in line for a title shot themselves. Before we get into what is next for them, we will take a closer look at the work they put in at UFC 178.
Love him or hate him, McGregor is legit
I understand that the talk turns some people off but for me it is entertaining because he keeps backing it up. I grew up watching a lot of people hate on Muhammed Ali for his brash and bold trash talk but as he kept backing it up you had to respect it. It is one thing to say you will stop someone in the first round from strikes and quite another to go out and do it. It took The Korean Zombie over three rounds to submit a younger Poirier and Swanson could not do it in three rounds. McGregor did it and did it quickly needing just a little over two minutes to finish Poirier. Just like he said he would.
To start the fight, McGregor opened with a hook-kick that missed and a spinning back kick to the body that partially landed. What this does for him is it gives Poirier two things to think about right in the beginning and he attacked two different levels forcing Poirier to be aware of defending against them. McGregor is great at creating distractions in the octagon that keep his opponents off-balance. It often seems like he is just doing crazy wild techniques in the cage but there is a purpose behind them.
Poirier was trying to stick to his game plan which seemed to be based on moving side to side while looking for openings, then exploding into the strikes and covering up when he was in danger while looking to counter and catch McGregor coming into him. Poirier landed a couple of good leg kicks and one solid left hand that did catch McGregor as he was coming in.
It was moments later that McGregor double faked a jab and a third light one that was almost a feint and followed it up by a hard lefthand that cracked Poirier. This got Poirier dancing away from him. It is a technique you see from him in his fights using fakes, feints and combinations to land that hard shot to punctuate the sequence.
Poirier then tried to throw a combination that McGregor avoided easily. From there McGregor continued to stalk him coming forward with his hands down and talking to Poirier. As he came in McGregor threw the long double fake jab and again came back with the left hook. This one clipped Poirier above the ear and sent him down. It took just a couple of strikes from the top to end the fight.
This was another impressive performance by McGregor who continues to takeover the featherweight division. He may have to fight one more time before he gets his title shot but it is coming very soon. There are several fighters who pose possible threats to him but it is getting harder to deny the talent behind his talk.
Whether you like the hype or not McGregor is proving that it is justified and he is star. Many people have been talking about the UFC needing new ones with GSP and others moving on. McGregor is showing that he is ready to step into that role as he is becoming that must see fighter for the UFC. Whether it is to see him knock someone out or to see him get KO’d people are tuning in.
There are challenges for him out there in the featherweight division and many want to see him meet a couple more before he fights for the belt. Do not be surprised if he jumps the line and faces the winner of Jose Aldo vs Chad Mendes depending on that outcome. If Mendes wins and both are healthy than Aldo probably gets the immediate rematch, but if Aldo wins and gets through the fight injury free…then look for McGregor to face Aldo early in 2015 for the title. It might not be fair but that does not mean it will not happen.
A tale of two comebacks Cruz and Cat
Both Cruz and Zingano came into UFC 178 needing wins to get a title shot. For Zingano it was re-establishing herself as the number one contender and reclaiming the title shot she lost when she first injured her knee. While Cruz was looking to regain the title he never lost in the octagon. Instead, like Zingano, he lost his to a series of injuries. The two of them have suffered horrible luck, personal tragedies and made triumphant returns. Dana White confirmed their title shots afterwards and the two performances have fans excited about both prospective fights. When it came to Cruz and Zingano you just did not know what to expect.
For Cruz, here was a fighter whose game was predicated on superior movement and he was coming off two major knee surgeries and almost three full years off. His performances answered many of the questions with one of his most dominant performances of his career as he destroyed the #5 ranked Takeya Mizugaki in a minute. Actually less than a minute, it just took the referee about ten to fifteen seconds to figure it out.
To put Dana’s “no one does that to Mizugaki” comment in a little perspective, Mizugaki was submitted by Urijah Faber in the WEC in 2010 and the only time he was stopped via strikes came back in 2006. He was riding a five fight win streak going into this one and entertaining possible title hopes of his own. Cruz quickly shut those down with brutal and efficiently fast first round finish.
We saw the classic movement from Cruz for a few brief seconds before it flowed into a takedown. His movement is different, or it used to be, but more and more fighters including the current champion T.J. Dillashaw utilize a similar style. Cruz is the one everyone else is copying and epitomizes the saying “often imitated but never duplicated.”
What he does with his movement is beautiful as we saw against Mizugaki. To say that he switches stances is like saying Takashi Miike makes movies. Cruz is constantly shifting and changing his stances rarely staying in one except to throw a strike and then like Keyser Soze he is gone until he comes in from another angle. Cruz uses his movement to set everything up and keep his opponent off-balance and thinking.
In this fight he used it to flow from a right hand into a takedown blending together the elements of MMA. The takedown was not a haphazard one leading to a scramble. Instead, Cruz lands right in side-control and starts peppering away at Mizugaki briefly taking the back for second before he continued on with the strikes until the referee finally stopped the fight.
This was a little different Cruz than in the past. You could see that he appreciated being back, that he had missed it all. He was a little more violent in the fight and had fun outside of it. Overall it was great to see an artist practicing their craft again. This sets up a fight with Dillashaw for the title. A fight that I am personally very excited to see.
Meeoooow! The Alpha Cat is back
For many fans the Cat Zingano versus Ronda Rousey fight is the one we have wanted to see. Zingano is the one fighter that has the type of skills to threaten Ronda and her reign. We saw them all on display in this exciting comeback win over Amanda Nunes. It was not only Zingano’s return to the octagon but she also had to comeback in the fight itself.
Typically Nunes got off to a fast start while Zingano took her time to get going. It looked like she may not get a chance as Nunes had Zingano down on the ground raining down strikes. Nunes’ had finished her first two UFC fights in exactly this fashion. When she got the early takedown and was pounding away at Zingano it looked like she was going to get another first round stoppage but Zingano is entirely different kind of cat than Nunes had faced before.
Zingano weathered Nunes’ attack and then was able to reverse it before the end of the round. Nunes had clearly won the round with more damage and top control but Zingano was able to take back the moment in the last-minute and a half of the round. She carried that over into the second round and dominated Nunes landing 55 total strikes in the second round to Nunes’ four. Zingano was able to do this because she also spent 4:39 of the five-minute round on top.
This carried over into the third round where Zingano showed Nunes what ground-and-pound is all about. In the third, Zingano shut her out completely landing 24 strikes overall to Nunes’ zero. That is right, zero. Over the last two rounds Zingano out struck Nunes 79-4. It was complete and utter destruction by Zingano.
This sets up the title fight we have wanted to see for the last year and half. Zingano had suffered injuries and personal tragedies during that time it was great to see her back in the octagon stronger than before. Zingano seems to be one of the few fighters that can match Ronda’s crazy intensity as she has insane resiliency. Her ability to comeback is unprecedented in and out of the octagon. That along with her other skill sets and intensity are the reasons that many think she will be the one to dethrone Ronda. We find out very soon.
Cowboy being Cowboy
In someways he is the same old Cowboy Cerrone out doing crazy shit that annoys Dana before the fight but inside the octagon he is very different. A much more patient and smarter fighter. With this impressive win he is poised to fight for the title himself. Though he will probably fight at least one more time before that happens as he cannot just sit around.
It was unfortunate for Eddie Alvarez that he made his debut against Cerrone. If had been fighting someone else he probably would have finished the fight in the first round with his vicious uppercuts. Somebody apparently forgot to tell him that you are not going to stop Cerrone by hitting him in the head. Sure you can rock him like Melvin Guillard did in their fight but that just result in Guillard getting KO’d himself. The only person to stop Cerrone via strikes was the champ Anthony Pettis and he did it by attacking the body.
Cerrone survived the uppercuts in the first to take a closely fought second round and then dominated Alvarez in the third to take the UD. Cerrone finds himself sitting in position where he could probably wait a little and then fight for the title but he has ADD when it comes to fighting so expect an announcement soon of some kind. For Alvarez there are several possible fights to make. I personally think one with him and Myles Jury sounds about right for both fighters.
Romero, Kennedy, a Stool, a language barrier, some Vaseline and a held glove
This fight had a little bit of everything including the night’s controversy. The battle between these two took FOTN honors and was unfortunately marred by Stoolgate 2014. The simplest thing would be to just rematch these fighters but we need to stop acting like the holiness of the 60 seconds between rounds was violated. In this fight alone there was 1:12 between the end of the first round and the start of the second. Dana again made the situation worse by calling it the oldest dirtiest trick in the book. Personally, the intentional nut shot is the dirtiest and oldest trick in the book.
Also, Kennedy’s outrage is a little ridiculous given his holding of the glove to land a key uppercut. The argument that it happened in the heat of the battle does not work for me. I am sure that Kennedy did not look to grab the glove anymore than Romero came to the corner thinking I will stall as long as possible. The fact is they both benefitted from illegal actions whether they were intentional on their part or not.
All of this takes away from what was a great fight. Romero was winning it almost easily through most of the first two rounds. He dominated the first and was winning the second until Kennedy rocked him with the uppercuts and hooks. Somehow Romero stayed upright until the bell it was like he was channeling a champion limbo player.
Then the UFC cut man put too much vaseline on his face in his corner, not someone he was personally paying. It took referee John McCarthy a few seconds to get everything straightened out and the fight resumed. Whether Kennedy let it get into his head or not only he really knows. What did for sure happen was a nasty left-right combo that rocked Kennedy. From there Romero swarmed him and finished it on the ground.
The simplest thing is set up a rematch and that is probably the smartest way to take care of this. Most of the other top middleweights are already busy and the fight was close enough overall to warrant another fight between them. Nothing else really makes much sense for either of them and it will be the easiest way to settle this.
cover image via Getty
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