Mookie Alexander recaps a terrific night of action at UFC 214, including Jon Jones’ dramatic knockout win over Daniel Cormier in the main event.
The rivalry between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones ended tonight at UFC 214. It was an enthralling, back-and-forth affair through two rounds, with Cormier making a major adjustment to not waste time shooting for takedowns. Big shots were exchanged throughout, but none bigger than the flush head kick Jones landed in round 3, which had Cormier on wobbly legs and stumbling all over the place. Once Cormier fell down and he was prone to Jones’ otherworldly ground-and-pound, it was all about how long it would take for Jones to finish the fight. At 3:01 of round 3, Jon Jones became the first man to stop Daniel Cormier, and he’s once again the undisputed UFC light heavyweight champion.
To quote ABC’s Wide World of Sports, you saw the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Cormier was badly hurt and couldn’t remember what happened, and he broke down in tears. He wasn’t even present for the official result announcement. Jones was in tears for a different reason, having recaptured the belt he lost through his own reckless actions. After much speculation over how he’d look off a 1+ year layoff, plus the failed drug test behind him, I thought Jones fought a damn good fight. Cormier also fought a damn good fight and cracked Jones several times with flush punches, but Jones is just a special talent, and don’t let any personal dislike of him every cloud that judgment. He is a phenomenal fighter and he just stopped Daniel Cormier.
More thoughts on tonight’s event:
- Jones’ best work all night was to the body. I have a feeling Cormier would’ve been worn out had the fight gone on much longer. Jon’s kicks, knees, and punches to the midsection were fantastic, and you could tell Cormier was feeling the effects as the fight progressed. They may not be as flashy or eye-catching as a Cormier power punch, but the body work was pivotal in propelling Jones to victory.
- Screw it, if we’re in for wacky fights, Jon Jones vs. Brock Lesnar might as well happen. Assuming Ronda Rousey never returns, Jones is the #2 draw in the UFC. A fight between him and Lesnar sells better than anything else the UFC can feasibly book. I’d rather see Jones vs. Miocic myself, or Jones vs. Gustafsson 2, but we know that Jones is fleeing the mighty Volkan Oezdemir (more on him later).
- Who’s buying Jon Jones’ sincerity in calling Cormier a true champion and a great person? This is how he praised DC in the post-fight interview, and then he hugged a crestfallen Cormier afterward.
- We didn’t need an interview with a very emotional and concussed Cormier. Evidently it was Joe Rogan’s call, too. I don’t see the upside.
- I thought the commentary on the main event was (unsurprisingly) heavily biased towards Cormier. This is the issue I have with having active fighters doing regular studio work, as it leads towards a path where you can be unintentionally slanted towards one side. Both UFC Tonight pundits picked Cormier (nothing wrong with that!). Cormier also co-hosts UFC Tonight frequently. Both Jon Anik and Joe Rogan have called fights with Cormier. By all accounts, Cormier is a nice guy and watching him break down tonight was heartbreaking, but I felt a lot of quality work from Jones was completely glossed over. Again, that’s just my opinion, maybe you guys in the comments section beg to differ, even if you had Cormier 20-18 up. I had it 19-19 with Jones winning round 1 and Cormier taking round 2.
- Tyron Woodley beat Demian Maia in an awful fight. That was the worst case scenario of Maia not getting a takedown and Woodley content to win a low output striking matchup on his way to a decision. I suppose Woodley fights Georges St-Pierre next, and whoa boy if that fight fails to deliver excitement. We won’t go any further into this stinker.
- Cris Cyborg systematically destroyed the tough but overmatched Tonya Evinger to win the UFC women’s featherweight title. There’s a strong argument that had Evinger somehow escaped round 3, the corner should’ve called it. In boxing they’d have thrown in the towel. It was scarcely competitive, despite Joe Rogan’s best efforts to drum up suspense that it could be if Cyborg gassed. Evinger can return to 135 and be an instant contender there. It was always unlikely she’d pull off the upset so there’s nothing to be ashamed of. What’s next for Cyborg, though? Possibly Holly Holm. I know Cat Zingano really wants to fight her. Depending on Megan Anderson’s personal issues, she’s at least an actual 145er. Those are all on the table for the Brazilian. I have a feeling the potential Ronda Rousey matchup has sailed.
- Robbie Lawler came out guns blazing in round 1 against Donald Cerrone, but Cowboy fought back and closed that frame well and clearly took round 2. The third round was close but it ultimately went to Lawler for (presumably) the more damaging strikes, even though Cerrone landed more. I have no problem with the decision at all, and this fight lived up to the hype. I only wish it was five rounds. These are two tremendous warriors who entertained for the fans yet again, and they both fought very well.
- So uh … Volkan Oezdemir is for real? I don’t know what to say. He just obliterated Jimi Manuwa in 42 seconds. It started in the clinch and then he ended it with a left hook. I said that if he won and got himself a title shot (and he might get one? Or he’ll fight Alexander Gustafsson next.) that I’d pick him to beat either Daniel Cormier or Jon Jones. I can’t walk that back.
- Ricardo Lamas survived Jason Knight’s dangerous guard, then walloped him with a series of concussive blows on the feet, and somehow Knight survived… until a desperation takedown led to him getting put away with ground-and-pound. When “The Bully” has an opportunity to finish someone, he makes the most of it. Knight was too tough for his own good and Lamas showed why he’s still a top-5 featherweight.
- Aljamain Sterling turned in the best performance of his career, as he overcame a tough round 1 to Renan Barao, became the first man to take him down in the UFC, and thoroughly dominated the Brazilian in round 2. He did enough to win round 3 and thus the decision. Sterling has shown a lot more confidence in his striking and his ground-and-pound on Barao was vicious. On the flip side, Barao’s days as a relevant contender are over. He’s 30 years old but he’s an old 30, and he’s neither durable nor fast enough to be a factor at 135 or 145, let alone the one-time “Baraoweight” of 140.
- With all due respect to Yoel Romero, Brian Ortega is the most dangerous third-round fighter in the sport. Tonight was his FOURTH straight third-round finish, this time a guillotine choke of Renato Moicano in an otherwise brilliant fight. Both men showed great striking, with Ortega in particular looking improved, and I think his body shots at the end of round 2 turned things in his favor and may have made the Brazilian shoot for that ill-fated takedown. Ortega is must-watch TV and he continues to rack up the wins at 145.
- Calvin Kattar turned in a great performance on short notice, outstriking Andre Fili and earning a unanimous decision over the Team Alpha Male prospect. That’s a bad loss for Fili given how well he performed against Hacran Dias, but take nothing away from Kattar, who’s yet another quality fighter added to the comically stacked featherweight division.
- Coming off a two-year layoff, the athletic and powerful Alexandra Albu won an entertaining contest over Kailin Curran, who is just sadly not showing enough improvement to justify a spot on the UFC roster. Curran now has a pro record of 4-5 and I think she’s best served going to Invicta FC.
- Jarred Brooks edged out Eric Shelton by split decision in an unexciting fight, save for a Brooks guillotine in round 1 and Shelton knocking Brooks down in round 3. I scored it 30-27 Shelton but rounds 1-2 were close. I thought Shelton had more meaningful offense in the first to negate the three takedowns + late guillotine. At least Brooks gave an honest assessment of his performance, as well as a lot of expletives in his post-fight interview.
- Drew Dober smoked Josh Burkman with a vicious left hand to kick off the night. That’s Dober’s second big KO in as many wins, while Burkman surely isn’t going to fight again after suffering his sixth loss in seven fights.