The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) became the center of attention at UFC 210, between towel gate, implant gate and at the show itself, hands-on-the- ground gate.
Aside from questions about Anthony "Rumble" Johnson not listening to his corner and implementing a mind-boggling gameplan of trying to beat Daniel Cormier in a five-round wrestling match, the most talked about thing was the weird ending of the Gegard Mousasi vs. Chris Weidman co-main event.
It was a pivotal fight because both are championship-level fighters in one of the deepest divisions, filled with so many legitimate title contenders that neither man could afford a loss.
Weidman controlled much of the first round with his wrestling. Both men traded offense in the second round until Mousasi got back up after Weidman had him in dominant positions on the ground. Mousasi threw a knee, and then it was time for new rules gate.
Weidman, after taking the knee, put both of his hands on the ground, to use the rules to protect himself from taking another knee. Under the old rules, had he put one hand down, he could have used the other hand to at least try and block the knee if it was thrown illegally, in his mind. With the new rules, if the opponent decides to throw the knee, the downed fighter is essentially a sitting duck.
At the time Mousasi threw the knee, Weidman would have been a downed opponent. Mousasi, while throwing the knee, was able to lift Weidman's arms to where his hands were off the ground at the point of impact. It was a legal move. Worse, Weidman, because of the new rules, in assuming Mousasi couldn't throw the knee, had no way to defend it.
Then it got more controversial. Referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight to give Weidman five minutes to recover, thinking the knee was illegal. It was the wrong call, but it's hard to get on Miragliotta's case given it appeared in real time, without seeing the slow-motion replay, that he made the right call. Technically, New York's rules don't allow use of a replay for a referee, which is a regulation that needs to be amended as soon as possible.
The knee to a grounded opponent rule has been controversial since it was first put on the books in 2000, when the New Jersey commission put together what became the unified rules. But this new version, at least in this situation, created a more dangerous scenario. Should a fighter be able to throw a knee while lifting the opponent from an underhook position?
Yet, Miragliotta overturned his own call after being informed, based on information from others who did see the replay, that the knees were legal. At that point, the doctors ruled Weidman unable to continue, even though he was willing. He was rocked hard enough that there had to be fear that he suffered a concussion from the blow. If there's a chance of a concussion, a doctor (and there were two in the cage at the time) can't afford to allow the fighter to go back and risk a second concussion in a few minutes. That could not only could be devastating to a career, but also damaging in later life.
Weidman was in a bad situation after Mousasi's second knee connected. One could argue that with as devastating as that knee was, that the end was near for Weidman. But we'll never know. People have come back from far worse on almost a weekly basis in the UFC. The public saw a TKO ruling on a fighter who was up and begging to fight when it was called. Then again, when Weidman was asked what month it was, and he answered February (per Miragliotta in the captured corner audio), that trumps how bad the stoppage looked and how frustrating it felt to fans in the arena and watching on television.
Still, it did feel that Weidman was wronged. He thought he was in a safe position. And in trying to adhere to the new rules, feeling he was safe from a knee, he left himself wide open.
It's doubtful, considering how long people have tried to change the rule in question, that they'll go back to the old way. And perhaps such a situation itself was a fluke that won't be repeated often. When the new rule was put into effect, it's doubtful anyone was thinking what that would lead to in Saturday's fight.
In the cage, Weidman and Mousasi both talked about a rematch. Dana White wasn't as strong on it, and Mousasi later that evening was more willing to take credit for his TKO win instead of feeling that he was given a win that fans didn't accept.
It's more confusion in a log-jammed division with two fighters long overdue for title shots, Yoel Romero and Ronaldo Souza, as well as two former champions who have dominated the division until recently in Luke Rockhold and Weidman.
And while all that is going on, Michael Bisping, the surprising champion, is slated to face Georges St-Pierre, because that's the biggest money fight. But if St-Pierre wins, as talented as he is, he seems too small for the likes of Romero, Souza, Weidman or Rockhold, and would he even come back to defend that title?
If St-Pierre wins, does he vacate the title, and if Bisping wins, how long is the division held up, particularly if Bisping vs. St-Pierre isn't finalized for July 8?
Let's look at how Fortunes Changed for Five at UFC 210
DANIEL CORMIER — While Cormier struggles with fan acceptance, his 19-1 record, winning a loaded Strikeforce heavyweight tournament, capturing the UFC light heavyweight title, and his list of victims puts him in a category pretty close to an all-time great.
But no matter the guts he showed in outstriking Alexander Gustafsson while giving up a ridiculous amount of height, reach and striking experience, or his finishing of Anthony Johnson twice, or never even losing a round at heavyweight, he may end his career being in the shadow of Jon Jones.
To the fans, Cormier may have the title, but Jones beat him when they fought and Jones has never legitimately lost a fight. The continued delays of their second meeting only benefits Jones, who is only 29, and is in his prime years as a fighter. Cormier, at 38, is at best clinging onto the end of his prime.
For all the talk of Jimi Manuwa, or Dana White saying that he can't trust Jones enough to headline with him, the reality is that Cormier needs the Jones fight as quickly as he can get it. And for the UFC, in a year with few marquee fights, Jones vs. Cormier will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest of 2017. Cormier vs. Manuwa simply doesn't fit the bill.
GEGARD MOUSASI — A rematch with Weidman is probably going to be Mousasi's biggest fight from a public interest standpoint. But if St-Pierre and then Romero are getting the next title shots, and if Anderson Silva vs. Rockhold is put together, Mousasi's only other viable option would be the winner of Saturday's Souza (24-4) vs. Robert Whittaker (17-4) fight in Kansas City.
Souza and Romero have a background, having fought twice, with Mousasi winning via knockout in 2008 in Japan and Souza winning by submission in 2014 in UFC. Mousasi is also now a free agent. Souza will be after the Whittaker bout.
CHRIS WEIDMAN — With three losses in a row, Weidman is really in a position where he simply can't afford another defeat. If the next fight isn't Mousasi, Weidman's next opponent should either be the loser of Souza vs. Whittaker, or Kelvin Gastelum (14-2).
THIAGO ALVES — Alves (27-11) is only 32, but has gone 5-6 since early 2009, a time when many felt he was the second best welterweight in the world and a possible successor to Georges St-Pierre.
Alves had a crowd-pleasing win over Patrick Cote in what appears to be the Quebec star's last fight. A good next fight would be Alex Oliveira (16-4-1), as Alves still has a good name for Oliveira, and if Alves can beat Oliveira, his stock will rebound greatly.
CYNTHIA CALVILLO — With two submission wins in just over one month, both on consecutive pay-per-view shows, Calvillo (5-0) has gotten a lot of exposure in a short period of time.
One possible next opponent would be Alexa Grasso (9-1). With just five fights, it wouldn’t make sense to rush her to match with top-10 competition this early.