The UFC held their biggest event to date over the weekend with UFC 200, marking the promotions 200th pay-per-view card. UFC President and figurehead, Dana White, made sure to stack this card like no other before, but ran into a series of misfortunes when it came to the main event. Originally, the plan was to headline 200 with a rematch between legendary trash-talking Irishman, Conor McGregor, and legendary face-slapping American, Nate Diaz. But when McGregor refused to attend promotional events, the UFC stood their ground and pulled the fight from the card, replacing it with a rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight championship.
This was actually a more deserving main event, since Jones has proven to be the best fighter in the world and Cormier is also one of most accomplished athletes in the UFC. Not to mention these two have a longstanding hatred for each other that far predates the McGregor/Diaz rivalry. But this headliner also fell apart just days before the event when Jones failed a drug test administered by USADA.
The card was saved by Anderson Silva, who held down the title of greatest fighter alive for several years before Jon Jones took over. Silva offered his services to fight Daniel Cormier on just two days notice, allowing UFC 200 to boast five epic fights on the main card as they originally planned. While Silva is definitely past his prime, and it seemed very unlikely he’d beat Cormier on short notice, this was still an exciting matchup between two all-time greats. For MMA fans, it was kind of like learning your girlfriend who you want to marry is breaking up with you, but the cougar who lives across the street is down for casual sex. While the event didn’t really produce a classic fight, there were some very impressive performances and each fight had major implications for the future of the promotion. So what’s next for the big winners of UFC’s massive event?
For most of his career, Cain Velasquez was a nearly unbeatable heavyweight. But in recent years, he’s struggled to stay in the octagon. Due to a series of injuries, Velasquez’ only fight since 2013 was a disappointing loss to Fabricio Werdum last summer at UFC 188. Leading up to his return to MMA, fans didn’t know if the once dominant Cain Velasquez would show up. He most certainly did. Cain annihilated Travis Browne, taking control of the fight early and scoring a knockout in the finals seconds of round one. Now we know the Cain Velasquez that once ruled the heavyweight division is back. As long as he can stay healthy, Cain should get the next title shot against the winner of the Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem fight, set to take place in Miocic’s hometown of Cleveland in September. Both Miocic and Overeem are excellent fighters in their own right, but no one in the UFC is stopping a full-strength Cain Velasquez from reclaiming his heavyweight belt.
Like Cain Velasquez, Jose Aldo was recently considered one of the best fighters in the UFC. Aldo had a stranglehold on the featherweight belt for almost four years before he was knocked out by Conor McGregor last December, in a fight that lasted all of 13 seconds. An ill-timed bathroom break meant $60 down the drain! Aldo clearly let McGregor’s months of hard trash-talking get in his head, as he charged Conor off the opening bell and was uncharacteristically careless. But Jose Aldo put the McGregor knockout behind him on Saturday night, and took full control of Frankie Edgar, who came in with a five-fight winning streak. Aldo stuffed all of Edgar’s takedown attempts, kept the fight in the middle of the octagon, and consistently landed clean strikes to earn a unanimous decision victory.
Aldo now holds the interim featherweight belt, which means his next fight should be the rematch against McGregor that he wants so badly. McGregor is taking a break from defending his featherweight championship to fight Nate Diaz two weight classes up, because McGregor wants to prove a point and McGregor gets what he wants (except UFC 200 I guess). As long as Conor is still interested in cutting back down to 145 pounds to defend his belt, that will be Aldo’s next fight. If for some reason McGregor decides to move on from the featherweight division and continues to fight in bigger weight classes, he would have to give up his belt, and Aldo’s champion status would change from interim to full-blown. In this case, Aldo would likely face Max Holloway, who has won his last nine fights in the division. Regardless, based on what we saw Saturday night, Jose Aldo and Cain Velasquez are looking like dominant fighters once again.
Daniel Cormier is the Rodney Dangerfield of the UFC. He’s beaten everyone in his path except for Jon Jones, who is widely considered one of the best fighters in MMA history. Yet for some reason, fans never show him any respect. He was booed after beating Anderson Silva, which was partially because UFC fans love Silva, and partially because it was not a very exciting fight. But Cormier did his job. He smothered Silva for three rounds, using his expert wrestling skills to prevent the dangerous striking Brazilian from landing big blows. For all the fans complaining that DC is boring, his job is to win, which is what he does. And he has won some very exciting fights. If you want proof, watch Cormier’s epic battle against Alexander Gustafsson, where DC stood on his feet with the much taller striker and beat Gustafsson at his own game, earning a unanimous decision victory in one of the best fights of 2015. Cormier is becoming the Tim Duncan of UFC. He’s not the most exciting guy, he’s not the most popular, but he has quietly become one of the all-time greats and he has always gone about his business with class.
After defeating Anderson Silva, Cormier said his next opponent should be the winner of the Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira fight on the UFC 202 card in August. Whoever wins that fight would be the most worthy contender for Cormier, assuming Jon Jones is temporarily out of the picture, but beating Jones is the only thing left on DC’s bucket list before he hangs up the gloves. Unfortunately, Jones could be facing a two-year suspension. At 37, it’s hard to tell if Cormier is going to hang around long enough to get another shot at his biggest foe.
Fake wrestler turned real fighter, Brock Lesnar, caused a major stir during UFC 199, when the announcement came out that he would be returning to the octagon for UFC 200. Lesnar’s brief, but exciting, previous run with UFC came to an end over four years ago after suffering consecutive knockout losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem. Before those losses, Lesnar shocked the MMA world by knocking out the great Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight championship. He then followed up that victory with two title defenses. Now returning at 38, fans weren’t sure what Brock Lesnar they would see. Facing Mark Hunt, who’s known for his heavy punches and walk-off knockouts, Lesnar came in with a patient approach. He eventually took control of the fight by taking Hunt down several times and scoring shots in the ground-and-pound as he went on to win by unanimous decision. While Hunt was a top ten heavyweight and certainly not an easy out, Lesnar still looked a little rusty. Despite his god-like stature, his strikes weren’t doing a ton of damage for UFC heavyweight standards.
With his WWE stardom, Brock Lesnar is quite possibly the biggest draw in the sport. This explains why the same Las Vegas crowd that booed Daniel Cormier for smothering his opponent with wrestling techniques cheered wildly when Lesnar did the exact same thing. Former champion Junior Dos Santos called out Lesnar on Twitter, looking to cash in on a huge payday, but that’s a fight Brock would be wise to avoid. If Lesnar puts his massive foot down and says he won’t fight again unless it’s a title shot, the UFC would likely give it to him, knowing Brock’s return to the fighting could be brief and they want to take full advantage of it.
The smartest move for Lesnar, and he is a smarter than your average muscle head, would be to schedule a fight with Derrick Lewis, who just beat Roy Nelson in a controversial decision two nights before UFC 200, or the winner of the upcoming Josh Barnett vs. Andrei Arlovski bout. Derrick Lewis does have scary knockout power, but Roy Nelson (known for his incredible chin and even more incredible beer belly) was able to expose Lewis’ lack of takedown defense and endurance, which could give Lesnar the edge. Arlovski and Barnett are both seasoned MMA vets, but like Brock, they are both in their late 30s and their best days are behind them. Much like Conor McGregor, Brock gets what Brock wants. In this case, Brock would be wise to take another winnable fight before messing around with the guys in the top five.
The only shocker on the main card came in the main event, as Amanda Nunes defeated Miesha Tate by first-round submission for the women’s bantamweight championship. Although we shouldn’t be too surprised, since Tate shocked the world when she beat Holly Holm last March, who had just shocked the world even more by knocking out the seemingly unbeatable Ronda Rousey last November. The constant passing of the belt is starting to become a trend in the women’s bantamweight division. At 28, Nunes is in her athletic prime and she’s riding a four-fight winning streak, so maybe she’ll be the one to break that trend. The question is, who will she face?
Dana White has made it clear that Ronda Rousey will fight for the title as soon as she’s ready to return from her personal hiatus that involves remaking Roadhouse and terrifying Paige VanZant. But Rousey seems to be taking her time, and Nunes probably isn’t a big enough draw to bring her back any faster. That leaves Nunes with two options: Holly Holm, assuming Holm wins her upcoming fight against Valentina Shevchenko later this month, and Juliana Pena, who just beat Cat Zingano on the UFC 200 undercard. Holm is the bigger name, due to the Roadhouse-style beatdown she put on Ronda Rousey, which means that’s bigger payday. This is also what the UFC wants, because if Holm gets the belt back, Rousey will most likely come back for revenge! (I wanted to make another Roadhouse reference here, but it wasn’t exactly a revenge movie…) As long as Holly Holm takes care of Shevchenko, she will be in position to face Amanda Nunes for the title. If Holm gets her belt back, it’s Swayze time! I mean Rousey time!