No real surprises from this card... and that includes a couple of controversial referee stoppages by normally top of the line ref Herb Dean. If there isn't a judging controversy, there is bound to be a stoppage controversy. A card without one or the other is an anomaly.
Of course the big news is the fact that Ronda Rousey emphatically defended her bantamweight women's title with the match barely lasting over one minute. She showcased her improved striking which had been highly hyped (and apparently justifiable) and put Sara McMann down with a well placed knee to the liver. McMann dropped like a sack of potatoes and Rousey followed with relentless punches to the head. Just as McMann made her move to stand back up, Herb Dean jumped in between the fighters to end the match. While it is easy to understand Dean's caution in moving in to stop the fight as soon as he saw McMann go down, it is hard to justify it with the magnitude of the match. It was a title match for hells sake!
Outside of the main event, Daniel Cormier easily disposed of long shot story Patrick Cummins, Demian Maia and Rory MacDonald went to war for 15 minutes, Mike Pyle beat on TJ Waldburger for longer than necessary (Dean's other gaff), and Stephen Thompson put on a highly impressive striking display.
What needs to be resolved is what to do at this point. So here it is:
* indicates I was right in my pick
* Ronda Rousey defeated Sara McMann via TKO 1st Round
The main event ending felt anti-climatic as the first meeting of two former Olympians in the UFC Octagon lasted a total of 66 seconds. Rousey showed a significant amount of improvement in her striking in just two months time from her last fight and the rest of the fight world should be put on notice. McMann showed power in her striking, but Rousey's aggressiveness and resilience was too much to overcome. Still, the fight will be defined by the early(?) stoppage. Perhaps the only consolation is the fact that most agree that Rousey would have won eventually... but we'll never truly know at this point.
Rousey has added aggressive striking to her already top-notch submission game (even if her submission game is just armbars, its still highly efficient). Her intensity and desire to win and dominate (ala improve in all facets) is unmatched and it could set up a long title reign similar to GSP or Anderson Silva... if Hollywood doesn't interfere. She is taking a break to go and make movies and has many people worried that she'll take a permanent leave sooner rather than later. Rousey recently stated that she is a fighter rather than an action star, but the money could soon prove too tempting. She will be making at least one more title defense and against whom that might be is up for debate. Alexis Davis won earlier on the card and that marked her third UFC win and fifth straight overall and she seems to be the most logical candidate. Cyborg Santos has piped up saying that she wants to attempt to get down to 135 and take the belt away from Rousey. With her no longer having Dana White's archenemy Tito Ortiz as her manager it sounds like it is a greater possibility than it was a short month ago. What happens with Cyborg will determine more than anything what happens with Rousey. If Cyborg is signed, she will likely need at least one match at 135 before she gets a crack at Rousey. If that is the case, Rousey could still face Davis before possibly setting her sights on Cyborg.
It could be said that McMann was thrown into the fire too soon. She had impressive credentials being a silver medalist in wrestling in addition to being undefeated. But she has only been fighting professionally since May of 2011 and hasn't faced much top-flight competition as Shayna Baszler is the only fighter on the UFC roster she owns a victory over... and she has exactly zero UFC victories herself at this point. The fact that McMann is 33 likely played into the decision to rush her into a title shot (in addition to the marketability) so the possibility that she can get back to the summit... got my doubts. Considering WMMA is starting to hit its stride you can expect more and more new talent to begin to emerge making it more difficult for McMann to emerge. Throw in the fact that she has already lost once... Damn. Jessica Eye also fought (and lost) on the card and is a well-known name (largely due to her gaffs with the media) that would be a stern test. Whoever wins makes it back on the short list of possible contenders.
*Daniel Cormier defeated Patrick Cummins via TKO 1st Round
This was a heavily promoted squash match that turned into what it was expected to be... a squash match. I don't know if the UFC was happy with the 79 seconds of action it got out of it... but I guarantee you that Daniel Cormier was happy to get the paycheck he wouldn't have gotten had his fight been cancelled as was expected when Rashad Evans was forced out. We all knew that Cormier is a fantastic fighter and though this did nothing to disprove that, beating a guy who was working at a coffee shop about 10 days earlier doesn't do anything to strengthen his position. At least he proved he can make 205... which is actually what we were more curious about than whether he could beat Cummins.
Cormier looked fantastic at his new weight and seems like he has figured out how to effectively make the weight cut that sabotaged his 2008 Olympics. But now we need to see how he does against some upper echelon talent... or maybe someone who has at least one UFC victory on his resume. There is no way in hell that Cormier gets a title fight based on his victory over Cummins. The current light heavyweight situation might work out perfect for him. Champion Jon Jones is facing Glover Teixeira in May and if Alexander Gustafsson beats Jimi Manuwa in a few weeks, he'll likely get another shot at Jones belt. So Cormier can face the winner of the upcoming Phil Davis-Anthony Johnson match while Jones deals with Teixeira and likely Gustafsson. Another good option would be Antonio Rogerio Nogueira... if he could ever get healthy.
Cummins will get a much needed major step down in competition. No one will blame him for taking the route he did to get into the UFC... you do what you gotta do. The fact that it was only his fifth professional fight shouldn't be lost on people. He is a powerful prospect at light heavyweight and even though he isn't a young prospect, any new blood is welcome in the division at this point. Cody Donovan is the best option as he is capable of putting out his opponents, but seems just as likely (if not more) to be put out himself. It would be a more accurate measuring stick for Cummins.
*Rory MacDoanld defeated Demian Maia via Decision
Its hard to think of a fight that had such a turn of events between rounds 1 and 2. Maia took MacDonald down in the first stanza and never gave him any breathing room in route to dominating the round. MacDonald was able to stuff Maia's takedowns the next round and press the action using a nice combination of kicks (especially to the body) and punching combinations. Even though the third round was definitively MacDonald's, Maia had his moments and never threw in the towel, pushing for the takedown with under 10 seconds left. Likely the defining factor was the fact that MacDonald's stamina held up much better than Maia's.
MacDonald showed a lot of gumption by overcoming the rough first round that would have broken most other fighters. MacDonald's mental toughness was under scrutiny even before the fight as no one knew how he would react after his highly disappointing loss to Robbie Lawler. The fact that he not only got the W but overcame a difficult first round shows that MacDonald has the mental toughness to keep climbing the ladder. He still isn't ready for a title fight and will need at least one more victory. Jake Shields and Hector Lombard face off next month and the winner will be in a similar position as MacDonald. Depending on how the title picture shapes up, that fight could determine the next #1 contender around that time.
Maia is going to have an excruciatingly difficult time getting back into title contention. He is 36 and coming off of back-to-back losses and likely doesn't have the necessary time in his prime to climb back into the picture. He can still serve as a high level gatekeeper at this point though and if that what he is relegated to there is absolutely no shame in that. But in the meantime it would be good to restore some of his legitimacy. The best way to do that would be to give him a favorable match. The UFC tried to match him up with Josh Koscheck last year before injuries derailed that. Koscheck's chin seems to be gone, but Maia isn't much of a striker. It would likely result in a fun and competitive match and one of the two (most likely Maia) gets on track and gains back some credibility.
*Mike Pyle defeated TJ Waldburger via TKO 3rd Round
Herb Dean's first gaff of the night came on the stoppage of TJ Waldburger. After two competitive rounds that both started with Waldburger getting the best of Pyle before Pyle was able to close the distance and score some takedowns and clinch strikes, Pyle eventually got a dominant top position and Waldburger offered no resistance to the GNP Pyle rained on him. True, Pyle wasn't laying it on thick, but Waldburger was clearly done. He had no fight left in him. Dean let the fight go on for about 30 seconds longer than was necessary. That will likely be the dominant conversation piece regarding the match rather than the back-and-forth nature of the fight.
Pyle looked good, but certainly not great in this fight. Waldburger is far from a reputed striker, but was getting the better of Pyle a good portion of the time. He showed he still has a solid chin though. Pyle is 38 at this point and believes he still has a potential title run left in him. While in reality it is doubtful, there is no reason not to offer him an opportunity as everyone loves a Cinderella story. One match that will offer the UFC a win-win situation no matter who comes out on top would be Erick Silva. Pyle gets to continue his run if he wins and the UFC can continue to push Silva (whom they want to succeed) if he wins.
I fully admit that I underestimated Waldburger's striking and believe he could improve enough to potentially KO an opponent. But he suffered a violent KO loss for the second fight in a row and could end up having a long medical suspension. He is still young at 25, so a long layoff won't hurt him as much as a past his prime vet. He is worth keeping around for at least one more fight to see if he can get back on track. The loser of the Zak Cummings-Alberto Mina match would be a solid test to see if he should hang around. Neither are much of a KO threat, but between Waldburger and whoever he faces, it would be a hell of a grappling war.
*Stephen Thompson defeated Robert Whittaker via TKO 1st Round
It may sound hard to believe, but Stephen Thompson is now 4-1 in the UFC. Thompson dealt the tough and scrappy Whittaker his first KO/TKO loss of his career by wearing him down throughout the fight with an excellent combination of kicks and punches before a straight right hand got through Whittaker's defenses square to the chin and dropped him. Whittaker tried to get back up, but Thompson continued the barrage until Whittaker was clinging to his leg eating punches. Its not so surprising that Thompson put Whittaker out, but the fact that he did it with his fists rather than his feet caught many off-guard as the consensus was that Whittaker was the better boxer.
Thompson looked very impressive as he mixed in a little bit of everything into his striking and simply wore down Whittaker in less than a rounds time as Whittaker seemed weary even before the final blows came. It isn't like his fists were ever a liability, but they seemed vastly improved from the his last venture to the Octagon. I wouldn't throw him in there with a Top 15 caliber yet. There is still one more style of test I'd like to see. Patrick Cote and Kyle Noke are both large welterweights having formerly competed at middleweight for an extended time. They fight each other soon and whoever emerges victorious would be a great test... though I admit due to Thompson training some at Tristar it would be unlikely he'd face Cote.
Whittaker is now riding a two fight losing streak after winning his first two UFC bouts. Being a TUF winner he shouldn't worry about being cut quite yet and has plenty of time to right his ship at 23 anyway. He needs to learn to implement more of his karate background (i.e. kicks) into his arsenal since everyone knows his boxing is coming. He has a lot of raw talent so I see no reason why he can't put it all together. The best thing the UFC can do for him is get him some confidence which means setting him up for victory. Chris Clements only owns one UFC victory over 4-time loser (with 0 wins) Keith Wisniewski and is a veteran near the end of the road. He is tough as nails and can put his opponent down though. Pitting him with Whittaker seems to be the best option.
Record for Card: 10-1
Record for Year: 49-19
Feel free to share an opinion or criticism... only if you want.