Bizarre is one way to put it. Dana White alluded to it being a bad card, noting that those do happen from time to time. However you look at it, UFC 208 was not what any of us were expecting.
The featherweight title fight headlining UFC 208 on Saturday seemed like an imposter from day one, if we’re being real about it. However, the strangeness of the event didn’t stop there.
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At weigh-ins the day before, short notice heavyweight replacement Justin Willis was barred from competing as he was deemed medically unfit to fight. His bout with Marcin Tybura was canceled, and just a day later, before the requisite “whatcha talkin’ bout, Willis?” jokes were even over, lightening struck for what felt like the 1,000th time for Ian McCall. The unlucky flyweight was pulled from the card after falling ill and being taken to the hospital.
It was Groundhog Day all over again, minus “I’ve Got You, Babe” and Bill Murray.
If the strangeness of UFC 208 stopped there, it would be worthy of no more than a passing mention. It didn’t.
First, you had Wilson Reis, once a proposed challenger to Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson’s flyweight title, buried on the prelims. Fighting Ulka Sasaki, who entered the night 2-2 in the UFC. Not exactly a number one contender’s match. Reis disposed of Sasaki with relative ease, though the Japanese fighter proved to be game. Still, did Reis show anything that would give Mighty Mouse pause? Not really. Yet there are precious few options at flyweight in the UFC.
Which means that the next contender, who was previously a contender but never got to actually contend thanks to an injury to the champ (and then being passed over by the winner of a TV show), may have regained his status with a relatively average undercard bout.
Sometimes, shots are based on merit, sometimes on timing. Sometimes, there’s just no other viable option — though the UFC may pull a rabbit out of its hat.
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Halfway through the main card, meanwhile, it was pointed out that the night’s first (and what turned out to be only) finish was recorded when Jacare Souza locked in a kimura on Tim Boetsch. Now, finishes shouldn’t matter unless you’re in the “Just Bleed” contingent, but it’s rare to see so many decisions on a single card, especially with the names involved. Jim Miller and Dustin Poirier fought a great match that went to a decision in Poirier’s favor, mind you, but the night certainly seemed stuck in first gear for quite a while.
The UFC seemed to agree, giving Jacare the lone performance bonus, and Poirier vs. Miller Fight of the Night honors. Consider that a Performance of the Night bonus could, in theory, be given to a fighter who won a strong decision. The UFC didn’t go that route, which is quite an indictment. It’s rare that the UFC doesn’t hand two performance bonuses.
Back to Jacare. Someone get that man a title shot. Of course, immediately, Yoel Romero began a Twitter campaign reminding everyone that he had already defeated Souza. Bisping vs. Romero seems set in stone. However, the winner should, without question, be fighting Jacare, who long ago earned his shot.
The weirdness just kept getting weirder. Anderson Silva won a controversial unanimous decision against an obviously awestruck Derek Brunson. Brunson was gun-shy through most of the fight but seemed to do enough to win it. Maybe, maybe you could argue a 29-28 for Silva, who did put on some flashy striking displays, but one judge had it 30-27, which is inexcusable.
Speaking of inexcusable, referee Todd Anderson, who officiated the night’s main event, wound up drawing considerable ire, and rightfully so. Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie was an okay fight not nearly strong enough to headline the card in retrospect, but the biggest injustice was de Randamie connecting with shots after the bell not once, but twice! Yet in neither instance did Anderson choose to deduct a point, when there clearly were grounds to do so. Holm was rocked after the first incident, and that certainly could have changed the course of the fight.
Had Anderson deducted a point for at least one of the infractions, there could easily have been a draw. All three judges scored the bout 48-47 in favor of de Randamie, after all. White’s statement post-fight in regards to that? That would have been “the only possible way this night could be any s***ier.”
Yet the officiating and judging flaws apparent at UFC 208 will be felt for months to come. Like it or not, Anderson Silva now has his first official win since 2012. It’s hard to root against the man, who after the final bell admitted that his time has passed — but stated that fighting was his life and that he still loved it.
Silva’s victory is a win for the UFC, because five or so months from now, when the uproar over judging has subsided, the UFC will be able to book him into a marquee bout. Maybe even a title shot, if they decide to go the Dan Handerson route with The Spider.
Mind you, that shouldn’t happen — but it very well may.
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Then there’s the fallout for the UFC women’s featherweight division, which right now has all of three fighters on board. Holm has every right to be irritated, and beyond, yet she lost, is on a three-fight losing streak, and needs to win a fight or two before she comes near a title again. =
Germaine de Randamie was booed heavily following her big win, and is being viewed as a placeholder until Cyborg Justino is back. Yet what happens if Cyborg winds up with a lengthy suspension?
Considering that the featherweight belt was created with her in mind, you suddenly have a division floundering right out of the gate. The UFC should simply have signed up most of Invicta FC’s 145-pounders — it’s not a large bunch and wouldn’t hurt Invicta much if at all — and made 145 a real weight class. Instead, there’s a question as to whether there will still be a 145-pound division in the UFC a year from now.
The fallout from this event will be felt for some time to come. It muddied the waters at middleweight, threw a wrench in the works at women’s featherweight, possibly anointed a contender in the men’s flyweight division. It may even have set up a bout between Nik Lentz and B.J. Penn, if Penn decides to continue fighting, since Lentz was handed a loss by Islam Makhachev.
So oddly, this underwhelming start to the UFC’s 2017 PPV year may turn out to be its influential, for all the wrong reasons. In the end, it might not have been a great card — but it certainly turned out to be an interesting one.