On the morning of Friday the 9th, the drama of the lead up to UFC 200 continued as the Women’s Bantamweight Champion needed every minute to make weight (134.5 lbs out of 135 lbs) at 10 a/m local time. Welterweight Johny Hendricks , a decorated collegian for the Oklahoma State Cowboys where he was a 4x All-American and 3 time National Finalist as well as a former UFC Welterweight Champion, continued to battle weigh-in demons as he missed weight by a quarter-pound (171.25lbs). In a break from tradition, there was no extra-time given for fighters to lose any weight and Hendricks’s miss cost him 20% of his purse.
All of this was in the shadow of the removal of interim Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones from the main event of the card on Wednesday, when Jones was popped for a potential USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) violation. For those who don’t know, the UFC has transitioned to a heavily-enforced anti-doping policy in recent months, bringing on a hawk in one Jeff Novitzky, the figurehead of anti-doping for the UFC.
Around the 4:00 mark, UFC President Dana White breaks the news to UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier about Jones’s positive test (the entire vlog is quite entertaining nonetheless). For a breath, it appeared that Brock Lesnar (returning to the UFC, from the WWE, for the first time since the end of 2011) and Mark Hunt would headline UFC 200. Late Thursday night, however, Anderson Silva was announced as the replacement for Jon Jones as the opponent for Daniel Cormier, and Miesha Tate’s title defense against rising Bantamweight star Amanda Nunes became the main event fight.
The talk of UFC 200 sparked immediately following UFC 196 when Nate Diaz submitted Conor McGregor in devastating fashion. McGregor, who was fresh off of a one-punch knockout over Jose Aldo for the Featherweight (145 lbs) title and seemingly invincible at 145lbs, had huge momentum coming into the fight and his loss brought immediate speculation of a rematch, perhaps at UFC 200. When McGregor sought to put his foot down and refused to show up for press conferences, the rematch was pulled from the 200-card (and will now be the headline of UFC 202).
UFC 197 further muddied the waters when Daniel Cormier was unable to face Jon Jones in the latter’s return to the Octagon due to a ligament injury suffered in camp. This change to 197 set up a potential DC vs Jones rematch headliner for UFC 200, for the undisputed Light Heavyweight title. As discussed in the introduction, Jones tested ‘hot’ on a USADA test for performance-enhancers/ banned substances.
When the dust had cleared, the UFC 200 card appeared as such:
Of the myriad of things that occurred that altered the destiny of this event, it all lead to this Saturday night in July, UFC superstars lined the card from top to bottom.
Fight Pass Prelims
UFC 200 officially started with a match-up between UFC veteran Jim Miller (in the UFC since 2008 with 22-fights) and MMA legend, “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi (active in MMA since 1998). Gomi entered on a 2-fight losing streak in which both losses were first-round stoppages. Joe Rogan has been on record saying Gomi “looked like a shell of himself” in his last couple outings. Unfortunately, it would be much of the same as Jim Miller secured back-control before using ground and pound to win the fight by TKO in the first-round. This may be the last time we see Gomi in the UFC.
Next, Thiago Santos, an injury-replacement for Derek Brunson, entered the event on a 4-fight winning streak including 3 T/KOs. Santos faced MMA veteran Gegard Mousasi. Late in the first round, the fighters found themselves in an up-down position.
Santos, in the down position, made a tactical error when he attempted to stand-up from his open-guard. Mousasi landed a timely right-underhook and left-hook to take Santos right off his feet before the referee stopped the fight.
To top the Fight Pass Prelims, UFC veteran and past-Lightweight title contender Diego “the Nightmare” Sanchez faced Mr. Bonus and UFC veteran in his own right Joe Lauzon. Sanchez has been in the UFC since 2005, starting when he won the Middleweight contract on the very first season of The Ultimate Fighter . Lauzon started his UFC career in 2006 and participated in The Ultimate Fighter 5 , to date becoming one of the most accomplished UFC lightweights in history (sans a title). In the battle of legends, Joe Lauzon prevailed via first round knockout.
Fox Sports 1 Prelims
The young-star Sage Northcutt (the Ken Barbie doll in-the-flesh) took on Enrique Marin. Northcutt found himself in a dogfight when he got caught in an armbar in the second round. After his (embarrassing) submission loss, the first loss in Northcutt’s young career, Northcutt was adamant to prevail through the position and was able to survive into the third. Marin continued to press the ground game in the third, but Northcutt’s damage earned him the unanimous decision.
A very peculiar match-up followed when TJ Dillashaw, fresh off of a razor-close decision loss to Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight title, faced Raphael Assuncao , who returned for the first time since October 2014. Assuncao was technically on a 7-fight winning streak prior to an ankle injury-induced layoff that included a 2013 split decision victory over Dillashaw. I must note, though, that was pre-Bantamweight Champion Dillashaw. Assuncao answered all the ring-rust questions, earning his #3 ranking in his performance against Dillashaw. Though Assuncao landed a nice takedown, Dillashaw quickly got back to his feet and employed a his striking arsenal while avoiding Assuncao’s big hits. Assuncao was noticeably bigger than the former champ, but Dillashaw’s striking and wrestling was a mark better and gave Dillashaw his decision win.
Johny Hendricks took on The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum. Both men entered the fight on losses, but Hendricks also had to fight the scale as well. The difference in body composition was clear as Hendricks had no answer in the striking game against Gastelum. Gastelum got to his jab and landed at a clearly higher rate than the former Welterweight Champion, landing multiple significant strikes. Though Hendricks showed some signs of championship caliber with his trademark overhand-left and uppercut, it was clearly not enough compared to the output of Gastelum. In the second round, Hendricks thankfully changed strategy and sought to open up the grappling. Using his wrestling, Hendricks was able to secure a takedown and force Gastelum to bear his weight in the cage-clinch. In the third and final round, Gastelum turned the pressure on as Hendricks continued to look to set up the left-hand and use his wrestling to sneak a round (and potentially the fight). It wouldn’t be enough for the former champion, as Gastelum earned a Unanimous Decision victory.
Cat Zingano returned to the Octagon for the first time since losing to then-Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey back in February of 2015. Zingano is notable for being the only person to knockout (UFC Bantamweight Champ) Miesha Tate. Zingano faced The Ultimate Fighter 18 winner Julianna Pena, who was undefeated in the UFC (3-0) to date. Zingano quickly closed the distance and the fighters soon found themselves scrambling in a wrestling match, fighting for top position. Zingano was able to stay in top position for a majority of the round, but Pena was able to keep Zingano at bay with an effective half-butterfly guard and strikes from the ground. In the second, Zingano was able to obtain side-control in the center of the Octagon with about half a round, in pretty solid position to continue ground and pound. Pena stayed active and was able to reverse the position and take over on top in side-control herself. It became Pena’s turn to rain down strikes. In the third, Pena opened with an immediate inside-trip to a takedown, using ground and pound to score big. Pena earned herself a unanimous decision, spoiling Cat Zingano’s return.
Former 2x UFC Heavyweight Champion, JUCO National Wrestling Champion, and 2x Division 1 All-American Cain Velasquez sparked the main card when he faced long-time contender Travis Browne. The former collegian was able to out-strike the taller Travis Browne, using a strategy of closing the distance with his strikes and landing as Browne was forced to back to the cage. Cain used his wrestling when needed, but started to break Browne when he landed two combos started by a spinning wheelkick as well as a huge overhand right that floored Browne.
In the finish, the former 2x Champ rode a leg and a 1-1 tie, dropping right-hands on Browne, forcing the referee to step in with short time in the very first round, Velasquez earning yet another TKO victory.
The former Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo made his much-anticipated return a half-year after being devastated by Conor McGregor for the title. On his plate was a rematch with former Lightweight (155lbs) Champion and Division 1 wrestler Frankie Edgar. Edgar previously lost to Aldo in a Featherweight title fight via Unanimous Decision back in 2013. Since, Edgar strung together a 5-fight win streak including a first round knockout of Chad Mendes. Aldo looked more confident in this entrance and Edgar was just as primed for this, an interim Featherweight title fight (the winner earning a fight with Conor McGregor for the title). After some initial testy exchanges, Aldo was able to land clean on Edgar twice, before Edgar was able to start to change the tempo. Aldo again marked a momentum changer when he landed a big, clean 1-2 combo with :45s to go in the first. Starting in the second, Aldo began to flow a bit better and took control of the fight with a jab and counter-striking. Edgar landed a couple big shots, but Aldo landed more and cut Edgar over the right eye by the end of the round. It’s to be noted Edgar kept the pressure on, leading and forcing Aldo to backstep. In the third, it continued to be Aldo landing on counter combinations. Near the middle of the fight a big exchange occurred, with both men landing big and game to throw. Edgar also mixed in multiple, unsuccessful, takedown attempts. A couple forced Aldo to the cage, as Edgar sought to clinch, but Aldo was able to fend off all grappling attempts. Into the fourth, Edgar started to take over the exchanges, mixing in wrestling and striking attempts and scoring multiple clean combos. Nearing two minutes in the round, Aldo landed a big lead right-hand, and began to take over the striking. Where Edgar had pressure, Aldo had the jab and a timed knee. Mid-way through the fifth, Edgar became the first fighter to log 6 hours in the Octagon. Aldo continued to piece apart the former Lightweight champ, completely nullifying any offense with the counter-jab. With McGregor watching, Aldo allowed Edgar to lead the fight if it meant scoring damage all fight. Jose Aldo became the interim Featherweight title, immediately finding Conor McGregor in the crowd, via unanimous decision.
OK that was a badass promo. Hail UFC.
Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier faced living-legend Anderson Silva in a non-title fight. This fight was incredibly interesting, in part because of the differences in stature. Cormier was a long-time, successful heavyweight before dropping down to light heavyweight. Anderson Silva is perhaps the greatest UFC Middleweight Champion of all-time, with a 3-0 record at Light Heavyweight. Cormier opened with a headkick. Within a minute, the 2x Olympian and World Bronze wrestler secured the takedown and begin raining down strikes on Silva. Silva is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt. Cormier ended the round on top, landing some from top. Silva, the notorious slow starter, came out in the second with a flying headkick, initiating a short exchange that lead Cormier to chase the Spider. Silva dared Cormier to strike with him, but the wrestler wisely caught a kick and tripped Silva to a takedown. With a little over a minute in the second, referee Big John McCarthy stood the fighters up and DC and the Spider exchanged in the pocket until DC initiated the cage-clinch to end the round. In the third and final round, the men were intent to exchange (for about :30s). Silva used masterful striking technique, landing well, with DC answering with a beautiful inside-leg kick, overhand-right combo right into a clean double-leg takedown. With 2:30 left, the crowd began chanting “stand them up,” and as a fan, rightfully so. 2:00 on the clock, Big John stood them up. With :30 to go, Silva landed a beautiful liver kick, hurting DC bad with Silva rushing toward the cage. Luckily for DC, he was able to reverse and push Silva to the cage and stop the damage until the final bell. Some bitter judges managed to score the fight 30-26x3 for DC.
In the co-main event, Brock Lesnar squared off against Mark Hunt in a heavyweight showdown. Lesnar, a JUCO, Division 1 National Wrestling Champion at Heavyweight and former UFC Heavyweight Champion, returned to the UFC for this fight after leaving the sport of MMA in 2011. Former K-1 World Champion and walk-off KO artist Mark Hunt offered Lesnar a warm welcome back to the UFC. An incredibly fit Brock Lesnar entered as the one-punch artist in Mark hunt looked to land his bombs. Lesnar probed with two legkicks, before shooting for the takedown. After initially getting the takedown, Hunt very nearly got to his feet before Lesnar secured side control. Hunt gave up his back and Lesnar easily rained down huge ground and pound from referee’s position. Hunt nearly got stopped before scrambling to his feet, forcing Lesnar to revert back to wrestling. Lesnar ended the round in full-mount, but Hunt survived to fight in the second. Mid-way through the second, the heavyweights exchanged tensely, Hunt almost landing his strikes, Lesnar almost scoring his takedowns. Third round, Mark Hunt began to put his offense on, but Brock Lesnar was able to grab a snatch-single, finally securing a takedown. Lesnar rained some heavy ground and pound down with his superior top position. Hunt continued to strike back from bottom, but was not really able to defend himself. Lesnar ended in top position dealing huge amounts of damage.
In the main event of the evening, Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate looked to stop a surging Amanda Nunes in a 5-round title fight. As the women’s divisions continue to deepen, Nunes is one of few talents that have found themselves overlooked at 135lbs. Nunes entered the fight on a 3-fight winning streak, most notably a submission victory over perennial title-contender Sara McMann. Tate, of course, entered after her remarkable UFC 196 title victory over Holly Holm.
They touch gloves.
Miesha looked to score the takedown, but Nunes's defense opened the champion up right into the strength of "the Lioness" : striking. After avoiding a few increasingly desperate takedown attempts, Nunes landed a hard combination and soon, Tate was wobbled on her feet. Tate was hurt bad, quickly operating on pure heart mid-way into the very first round. It was short work after Tate was unable to take the fight to the ground. When Nunes scored another knockdown, she took Tate's back and locked in a face-crank, forcing the champion to submit to the hold that won her the title. This marks three straight changes of the title, after the dominant Ronda Rousey was felled by Holly Holm, Holm by Tate, and now Tate by Amanda Nunes. I expect Nunes will hold the title for longer, unless she finds herself in as striking war with Holly Holm.