The Monday After: UFC 252
Source: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
This article may start off sounding like a love letter to Daniel Cormier but I just can't help looking back on a career that is so excellent that seems to have come to a close. Cormier has ALWAYS been criminally overlooked, period. From his days in college, to the Olympics, then Strikeforce, and of course the UFC, DC has made a living out of proving himself right and others wrong.
But despite all the success, Cormier has always faced someone who was just a tad better. Sanderson in the NCAA finals, Gatsalov in the Olympic Semi's, or even most recently Jon Jones. Cormier's greatness has always had to take a backseat to someone else's, However, his resume speaks for itself, he fought everyone at 205 when Jones was out, and even defended the belt at Heavyweight. Epic stuff.
No more lovey-dovey talk though as we need to give Stipe some props for creating his own legend. He played this fight perfectly. Yes, he did get help from a vicious eye poke that left DC with one eye, but from a tactics standpoint he did what he had to do in order to take the rubber match. Was it entertaining? Yes. Was it what they billed it up to be? No. At the end of the day this was a forgettable fight.
I have to say both sides looked to lacked desperation, especially in the dying moments of each the 4th and 5th rounds. Both men seemed to decide to not throw strikes in the last 30 seconds in each round, and in my eyes (no pun intended), that was a clear error on DC's part. Now, to be fair he was blind in one eye, and was probably worn down from Stipe's constant pressure, and his own pace as well. Just seemed odd.
After the fact DC, was visibly disappointed, rightfully so, while Stipe seemed oddly relived to be finished with this chapter his fighting career. I'm sure we'll still see DC on the broadcasting end, but it was a rather bitter ending for the all-time great. As for Stipe, a long break has been earned, but so has a rematch with Francis Ngannou, when one hellish door closes another opens.
UFC 252 was also co-mained by the most hyped young fighter since the days of a young Conor. Suga Sean O'Malley took on his biggest test to date in Marlon Vera and it was.well...not what we were expecting. After throwing multiple feints in an attempt to mess with Vera's timing, O'Malley injured his right foot to the point where he couldn't put weight on it. Vera pounced and finished the fight.
Say what you want about Hern Dean's stoppage, but clearly it was the right decision. O'Malley wasn't getting up and had just received a massive elbow, more punishment was soon on the way. But three things make a fighter a box-office draw: Skill, personality, and activity. Clearly some believe he has at least two of those three, but the activity has eluded him, and more specifically his health. Cruz was able to come back after chronic feet problems, so maybe this kid has it in himself as well, we'll see.
O'Malley aside, this was a huge victory for Chito. He got robbed in his previous fight, and O'Malley was talking a loooooooot of junk, so it's rewarding to see the underdog come out on top. With that said he should get a crack at the top ten in his next fight, and who knows, we may just see a rematch of this tilt some time down the road.
As for the rest of the card, grappling was really the driving force for the majority of the wins. Pineda, Dvalishvili, Pichel, and Jandiroba all controlled their fights thanks to their mat work. We always crave knockouts but it's nice to see some attention given to the ground game. But I have to say Merab and Jandiroba look like they'll be an absolute handful at their respective weight classes.
Oh and Rozenstruik won via KO, and in a wise move did not call out Ngannou. Learn from your mistake folks!