This time the action returned to the Apex in the fight capital of the world Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 252! The MMA leader had a very successful stint in the Emirates but it was time to go back stateside and there was no better event that the culmination of an epic heavyweight trilogy. Once more Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier will seek to do battle to finally find out who goes down in the history books as the top dog in the Heavyweight Division.
The Apex has already seen some epic battles over the past few months and I like every other fight fan on the planet was hoping that this would be another one of those nights. But all of that will come later on in the night, and before we get there, there is another stacked card for this UFC event. So to whet our appetites a little before the main course there was the undercard to get to, now just like always, I will pick up the action in the late-prelims.
Livinha Souza (BRA) def. Ashley Yoder (U.S.A.) — (Unanimous Decision — 30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
The former Brazilian judo player Souza got the better of this encounter on the scorecards and looked good value for the victory. Yoder was improved in the final round but looked sloppy and awkward for most of the contest. The American never took advantage of either her reach or height and was made to pay by Souza’s better technique, especially the low calf kicks. Souza looks like she might be a tough challenger for the higher-ranked fighters but she will need to improve her conditioning because she began to fade in the final round. Even though Souza’s output dipped in the 3rd she was by far the tidier of the two fighters.
Danny Chavez (U.S.A.) def. T.J Brown (U.S.A.) — (Unanimous Decision — 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
This one was for sure a case of better late than never for 33-year old UFC debutant Danny Chavez, who after 14 years in the fight game finally got to turn out for the big boys. Chavez got off to a fast start with some sharp, hard-hitting strikes to quickly take over in this contest. The first round was just a sign of things to come as Chavez continued to overwhelm Brown with his non-stop pressure, followed up with some fierce low calf kicks. Due to Chavez’s intensity Brown was unable to get a foothold in the fight except for round 3. When Brown did attack Chavez showed some very neat defense, this was just another layer to the great all-round performance from Chavez on his long-overdue debut.
Virna Jandiroba (BRA) def. Felice Herrig (U.S.A.) — (Submission – RD 1— Armbar)
The third fight of the late-prelims saw more action from the Women’s Strawweight Division, unfortunately for the returning Herrig, this one did not run long. From the get-go, Jandiroba jumped all over the American and used her mightily impressive Brazilian Ju-Jitsu to gain an early advantage. The two fighters scrambled for a bit but it was during this scramble that Jandiroba was able to use her fluid movement to change up and sinch in a serious armbar to claim the victory. The Brazilian looked so strong, she dominated the proceedings and will be a tough challenge for anyone in this packed division. Jandiroba’s technique is immaculate and I for one am really looking forward to seeing who she fights next.
Vinc Pichel (U.S.A.) def. Jim Miller (U.S.A.) — (Unanimous Decision 29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
This one was always going to be a close contest, the two wily veterans were never going to give up any ground easily and this fight quickly turned into a war of attrition. The action from this one took place mostly on the ground and both men showed excellent grappling, but Pichel just looked the more powerful of the two. Although Miller came back a bit in the final round it was too little too late for the UFC legend as he was worn down from the earlier exchanges on the ground. This one ended with Pichel coming out the deserved winner, and I’m sure that he will be happy with his performance after his return from injury. If Pichel can stay fit then he will be a stern test for any other fighter in this division, and I’m sure he will be looking to get back out before the years’ end.
Now after exciting prelims, it is time to get to the Main Card, with Daniel Cormier in action Jon Anik and Joe Rogan were joined by Dominick Cruz at the commentary table. Not only did we see the return of Joe Rogan behind the mics we also saw the return of Jon Anik’s mustache in all its glory. I for one am enjoying watching the progression of Anik’s whiskers into full-on Selleck territory but that is neither here nor there. The trio always works together so well, and Cruz is so knowledgeable about the fight game. Cruz is so good at calling fights and figuring out tactics in real-time.
Anik and Rogan’s chemistry is flawless and their excitement is beyond comparison, the UFC is great at putting excellent commentary teams together, which goes a long way at keeping the viewer glued to the screen even without the audience in attendance. During these past few months, I don’t think any other organization has excelled as much as the UFC not just in numbers but the consistency of the quality of the product that they keep putting out, and this card was no different. Now with that bit out of the way let’s get to the first action of the Main Card of UFC 252.
Merab Dvalishvili (GEO) def. John Dodson (U.S.A.) — (Unanimous Decision — 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
This contest was an interesting clash of styles, on one side there is the intensity combined with the grappling of Dvalishvili and on the other, there is the slippery, smooth style of the veteran John Dodson. Their two contrasting fighting styles really made this one a chess match. The Georgian could not keep Dodson pinned down but his energy levels never waned so even though he failed in most of his takedown attempts he never stopped trying. It was this boundless energy that prevented Dodson from throwing his big shots and went a long way to nullifying him as a threat. This lead to Dvalishvili edging every round by the finest of margins and securing a well-deserved victory.
Daniel Pineda (U.S.A.) def. Herbert Burns (BRA) — (Technical Knockout RD3 — Referee Stoppage)
On what was Daniel Pineda’s return to the UFC he couldn’t have looked more impressive. In round 1 Pineda pinned Burns up against the cage, working him over with vicious ground and pound. This domination at the beginning of the fight was a sign of things to come. Pineda was just all over Burns, he fought with amazing aggression and just overwhelmed the Brazilian—who is the younger brother of welterweight Gilbert Burns—for the entirety of the contest. Burns did try and mount a comeback in round 2 but this didn’t last long, and in the next round, Pineda resumed business as usual. Eventually, Pineda’s pressure led to him catching Burns in a crucifix position, unloading on him with more ground and pound before the referee called a halt to the action.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (SUR) def. Junior Dos Santos (BRA) — (Technical Knockout RD2 — Referee Stoppage)
The first heavyweight clash of the night saw a generational battle as former UFC Heavyweight Champion “JDS” took on the up and comer “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik. This was an interesting battle, both men were well aware of each other’s power and they fought intelligently from the off. Rozenstruik used his low calf kicks to try and neutralize Dos Santos’ accurate striking in round 1, this left the first round at a bit of a stalemate but the second round would not go the same way. As the round began Dos Santos looked sharp, but just like Alistair Overeem found out, all Rozenstruik needs is one moment to blitz his opponent and this was no different, out of nowhere the Surinamese destroyer unloaded a huge check hook uppercut to drop Dos Santos, within a matter of seconds the fight was over with the referee stepping in having seen enough.
Marlon Vera (ECU) def. Sean O’Malley (U.S.A.) — (Technical Knockout RD1 — Referee Stoppage)
This fight was probably the most disappointing of the night but it was no one’s fault, an unfortunate injury to the formerly undefeated hot prospect “Sugar” Sean O’ Malley pretty much ended this as a contest. It was a terrible end to what could have been such an exciting fight. O’Malley may have been undefeated coming in but Vera was coming off a 5-fight win streak at Bantamweight and every fight fan was looking forward to seeing this one play out. It started well, and when the action was beginning to pick up O’Malley stumbled and injured his foot. This left Vera with a massive advantage and he did not take long to press it home. Vera got O’Malley to the ground and the referee—who was well aware of the injury—intervened quickly to end the contest.
Heavyweight Division — Title Fight
(C) Stipe Miocic (U.S.A.) def. Daniel Cormier (U.S.A.) — (Unanimous Decision — 48-47, 49-46, 49-46)
Now its time to get to the Main Event of the evening, and what a way to end the night. This fight saw the conclusion of the legendary rivalry for heavyweight supremacy between Stip Miocic and Daniel Cormier. The two icons of the fight world know each other so well and this showed in how the action played out. As soon as the bell rang the feeling out process began, Miocic looked lean and strong but kept having problems in the clinch, taking multiple shots on the break on many occasions. Even though Cormier was excellent in the pocket it would become clear as the fight went on that the champion was more than up to the task of taking his best shots. The same could not be said for Cormier as at the end of round 2 Miocic sat him down with some big punches as Cormier looked to get on his bike.
The round ended with the champion on top and Cormier was saved by the bell but left clearly dazed by the onslaught. After the end of the second Miocic continued his dominance into the next round. Unfortunately, Cormier took a deep eye poke to the left eye, which left his vision impaired for the final two rounds. This helped turn the fight even more in Miocic’s favor and even with Cormier not giving up he just didn’t have an answer for Miocic’s pressure up against the cage. The last two rounds pretty much consisted of this with the champion pressing Cormier up against the octagon, this only increased Miocic’s advantage on the judge’s scorecards and he eventually ran out the winner, retaining his title and winning the trilogy outright.
UFC 252 saw some really impressive performances, the standouts from the prelims were Virna Jandiroba and Vinc Pichel. Jandiroba’s proficiency in BJJ was extremely eye-catching, I believe she will be a real dark horse in the division and her future looks bright. The other standout Pichel looked great after returning from a long layoff. He was amazingly physical against Jim Miller and has all the tools to give problems to anyone in the Lightweight ranks. On the main card, the real big performance came from another returning fighter, Daniel Pineda looked so sharp and caused a big upset against the favored Burns, he is an exciting fighter with a great work rate, and maybe another dark horse going forward.
Although these performances were definitely noteworthy the main talking point came from the night’s main event. Miocic’s victory and successful title defense cemented his position as the best heavyweight in UFC history. It also saw the last fight from the two-weight champion Daniel Cormier, who said post-fight that this will be his final turn in the octagon. It was a momentous night for Miocic and not the swansong that Cormier wanted but Miocic looked very good and in excellent shape, his win may have been the best thing for the division overall as I think, win or lose Cormier was always going to step away, thus vacating the title.
I think now with Miocic holding the strap the title picture is clearer and should see a rematch between the champion and Francis Ngannou but that’s for another time. Next up is the insane showdown for middleweight supremacy as Isreal Adesanya will face Paulo Costa in what might be the best middleweight matchup in history. Now just like everyone else, I will have to wait to see who’s 0 is going to go, I will be counting the days until next month, but until then I’m signing off, and I’ll be back with all the action from UFC 253.