Saturday’s UFC 220 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Boston, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at TD Garden.
1 – Stipe Miocic
How dominant was @StipeMiocicUFC on Saturday?
As the rounds went by in Stipe Miocic’s win over Francis Ngannou, I couldn’t help flashing back to Jens Pulver’s seminal win over BJ Penn in 2002. Expected to get wiped out by rising star Penn, Pulver instead gutted out a five-round decision victory. Before the fight, I talked to Pulver, who couldn’t believe that there were those who thought he didn’t even need to show up on fight night, that he should just hand the belt over to Penn and walk away. When I wrote the story, I used the perfect Alice in Chains lyric to describe the situation: “You'd be well advised, not to plan my funeral before the body dies.” Miocic pulled a Pulver on Ngannou on Saturday night, putting together a supreme example of what mixed martial arts is. Sure, Miocic could knock people out, but at TD Garden he mixed things up, using striking to set up takedowns, using his weight to wear on the challenger, and then doing just enough on the mat and against the fence to retain control. It was a master class in MMA, and it shows why many are calling the Clevelander the greatest heavyweight of all-time today. He’s got the UFC record for most consecutive successful title defenses and he’s beaten the best of his era, so it’s hard to argue with anyone making that call.
2 – Daniel Cormier
"I felt like I was fighting for a vacant title again. I fought for a vacant title and I got the job done. So, I'm the UFC champion again." @DC_MMA #UFCReebokMoment pic.twitter.com/tcZAEkAFh4
— UFC (@ufc) January 21, 2018
After the disappointment of his 2017 rematch against Jon Jones, there were so many questions around Daniel Cormier before his co-main event with Volkan Oezdemir. Was he focused, did the knockout by Jones leave him gun-shy, was Father Time creeping up on him? Well, after stopping Oezdemir in the second round, we can safely say yes, no, no. Cormier put on one of his most complete performances last weekend, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the king of the 205-pound weight class. So what’s next for DC? He has stated that 2018 might be it for him, the key word being “might,” because if he can keep looking this good, he might be tempted to stick around into 2019. Either way, a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson could be nice, Jimi Manuwa and Glover Teixeira haven’t gotten a crack at Cormier yet, and Ovince Saint Preux has been making a nice surge as of late. Then there’s always Jones if he makes a return this year, and speaking about returns…DC back to heavyweight? Yeah, we need to hope the champ remains in the Octagon for more than another 11 months.
3 – Calvin Kattar
"I've dreamt about this moment. Talking to you Joe Rogan, at the Garden, in front of all these Boston fans." @CalvinKattar after his win at #UFC220 pic.twitter.com/1YfcG2IT9f
— UFC (@ufc) January 22, 2018
In breaking down the UFC 220 bout between Calvin Kattar and Shane Burgos, my key to victory for the New Englander was to use Burgos’ aggression against him. And that’s just what Kattar did. He started out smoothly behind a stiff jab in the first, saw the fight even up in the second, and in round three, with Burgos continuing to stalk and throw punches, Kattar lowered the boom. It was the second patient – and impressive – performance from Kattar, who is going to be in some more good fights in the featherweight division this year.
In a division full of scary fighters, Abdul Razak Alhassan is rapidly becoming one of the scariest. 3-1 in the UFC with three knockouts, the Ghanaian is almost too quiet for someone making such a loud noise on fight night. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s remarkable that he isn’t getting more attention, because he is a legit knockout artist who also has an impressive judo background that he hasn’t even been forced to use yet. If I’m making the sleeper pick for Breakout Fighter of 2018, I’m putting my money on ARA.
5 – Rob Font
BOSTON, STAND UP@RobSFont impresses for the hometown! #UFC220 pic.twitter.com/wwqRR734RX
— UFC (@ufc) January 21, 2018
For a while in Saturday’s main card opener, Thomas Almeida looked like he was going to have a good night. His striking was sharp, his movement was good, and he was moving his head well. But when you’re in there with a sniper like Rob Font, all it takes is a little lapse defensively and the fight’s over, and that’s what happened, as Font finished Almeida in the second round. It was a big win because it took place less than 15 minutes from Font’s home, but in the great scheme of things, it was even bigger because Font got the kind of showcase positioning where there will be a lot more people eager to see him fight from here on out. Yeah, he’s still a work in progress, but 5-2 in the UFC with five finishes has him on the right track, for sure.