UFC 209 offered some exciting moments and fun highlights throughout Saturday night in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The main event, however, did not.
The highly anticipated welterweight title fight between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson fizzled in the face of high expectations en route to a majority decision for the champion.
Sometimes a rematch between two evenly matched foes will take two opponents to an even higher level. The familiarity bred in the first fight leads to more action in the second. This bout was the antithesis of that.
Knowing the danger each fighter presented, neither were all that willing to gauge. According to MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani, a whopping six significant strikes were landed in the first round:
Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani
Lots of feeling out in the first. Bit tough to score, only 6 significant strikes landed combined! I'll give Wonderboy the nod.2017-3-5 05:23:33
That trend continued in what turned out to be as much of a snoozefest as a title fight could possibly be. It was hard to find many people who could honestly say they enjoyed the fight. Bleacher Report's Josh Gross summed up the fight's disappointing job of closing out the night:
Josh Gross @yay_yee
UFC 209 could've been one of those cards where everything worked out in the end, but that main event was not good.2017-3-5 06:03:30
Even when either fighter engaged, it was only for a moment before going back to playing defense. Thompson didn't capitalize on kicks that he landed, like the one posted by the UFC:
Head kick from Thompson lands as he avoids the champ's flurry #UFC209 https://t.co/8JL6yvIsst2017-3-5 05:44:00
Woodley didn't do much with takedowns and only poured on a final flurry at the end of the fight with less than a minute left, hoping to steal a late finish.
In the end, both fighters addressed their reticence. Woodley praised Thompson for creating the space that was hard for him to overcome:
Woodley: I was extremely nervous. Stephen made it very hard for me to came close. I wish I would have gone in the last round earlier.2017-3-5 05:53:01
Meanwhile, Thompson spoke of the power he knew he had to respect from Woodley, thus explaining his own inability to pull the trigger very often:
Bleacher Report MMA @BR_MMA
Thompson: "I had to play it smart. I thought I had it, but you live to fight another day." #UFC2092017-3-5 05:54:39
The championship fight wasn't the only notable action from UFC 209, though. The card lost a huge lightweight fight in Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, but it still featured the middleweight debut of Rashad Evans, some intriguing prospects and a huge heavyweight fight between Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt.
Here's a look at the full results from the night and a closer look at each of the main card bouts.
UFC 209 Results
- Tyron Woodley def. Stephen Thompson, majority decision (48-47, 47-47, 48-47)
- David Teymur def. Lando Vannata, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Daniel Kelly def. Rashad Evans, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Cynthia Calvillo def. Amanda Cooper, submission (Round 1, 3:19)
- Alistair Overeem def. Mark Hunt, knockout (Round 3, 1:44)
Fox Sports 1 Prelims
- Marcin Tybura def. Luis Henrique, TKO (Round 3, 3:46)
- Darren Elkins def. Mirsad Bektic, TKO (Round 3, 3:19)
- Iuri Alcantara def. Luke Sanders, submission (Round 2, 3:13)
- Mark Godbeer def. Daniel Spitz, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Fight Pass Prelims
- Tyson Pedro def. Paul Craig, TKO (Round 1, 4:10)
- Albert Morales def. Andre Soukhamthath, spit decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur
Fight fans may have been robbed of a great lightweight co-main event in Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, but they still witnessed a great matchup of 155ers in the penultimate fight.
Lando Vannata and David Teymur turned out to be a beautiful pairing of two high-level strikers with a flair for the creative. They traded heavy leather throughout three rounds, including a cartwheel kick landed by Vannata:
WHAT THE HECK KINDA TOM FOOLERY WAS THAT @GroovyLando?! #UFC209 https://t.co/eKfbbC3J9w2017-3-5 04:45:21
Vannata's flash dominated the early going in the fight, but Teymur had his moments as the fight wore on. The Swede had his success in the clinch and matched Vannata's stand-up prowess with counters of his own.
The UFC posted some of the damage Teymur was able to afflict in the clinch:
The Swede @DavidTeymur landing NASTY knees! #UFC209 https://t.co/8Cl2JwVEI92017-3-5 04:54:47
This was supposed to be a chance for Vannata to show his promise as the next big thing in the lightweight division. Instead, Teymur proved he's been sold short as a promising prospect in his own right. The 27-year-old now moves to a perfect 3-0 in the Octagon and could be in line for a ranked opponent next time out.
This fight certainly wasn't Nurmagomedov-Ferguson, but it was a fun fight that fans wouldn't mind seeing again down the road when both of these guys are likely bigger names.
Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Kelly
What was set up to be the glorious debut of Rashad Evans at middleweight turned out to be the finest moment of Daniel Kelly's career.
The former Olympic judoka brought the pressure to the former UFC champion. The bout was close, but it was almost always fought in close quarters, where Kelly turned the fight into a bit of an ugly slugfest.
The UFC captured the typical exchange in the bout:
.@SugaRashadEvans lands the nice body kick, but @DanKellyJudo gets in the clinch, then lands the right hook! #UFC209 https://t.co/jSS1DeYE0o2017-3-5 04:17:23
There were moments where Evans appeared to be a new man at his new weight class, but they were few and far between. Kelly's suffocating pressure gave Evans few opportunities, and Suga's boxing appeared to be a shadow of itself.
While this win will launch Kelly into new heights, it casts doubt on where Evans will go from here.
At 37 years old, the former champion is getting long in the tooth and just didn't generate the kind of performance one would expect from a man who had another run in him. This could be the end of the road for someone who was once one of the best fighters in the sport.
Cynthia Calvillo vs. Amanda Cooper
Chances are you had never heard of Cynthia Calvillo before her UFC debut on Saturday. After all, until the day before the event, she was scheduled to make her first appearance for the promotion on the Fight Pass Prelims.
Instead, she was given the opportunity to fight Amanda Cooper on the main card of a pay-per-view event and responded with a first-round submission victory.
Calvillo showcased some serious moves, including a slick transition from an anaconda choke to back control. Josh Gross gave the newcomer props for the impressive performance:
Josh Gross @yay_yee
Cynthia Calvillo with all sorts of grappling fun against Amanda Cooper. Finishes in R1 with an RNC. That anaconda-to-back move was sweet.2017-3-5 03:52:38
The 29-year-old debuted as a professional just seven months ago. Now she has a win on a UFC pay-per-view card on her record.
Taking a fight on short notice and then having it promoted to the main card is about as fortunate as it gets in this sport, but credit has to go to Calvillo for maximizing the opportunity.
It wouldn't be surprising to see her fast-tracked for a promotional push and much bigger things on the horizon for the Team Alpha Male product.
Mark Hunt vs. Alistair Overeem
In terms of fights with the most impact on their division, the heavyweight scrap between Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt was only second to the title fight between Thompson and Woodley.
Overeem looked like a man who will be fighting for the title again sooner rather than later. He lost his last fight against Stipe Miocic for the title, but showed that he's still one of the best fighters in the division with an outstanding performance against Hunt.
The Reem showcased his newfound technical, methodical approach to the striking game throughout the fight. In the first round, he went to work picking apart the shorter Hunt from the outside with leg kicks, but he became more aggressive as the fight went on, taking the battle to the cage.
From there, Overeem was able to land a vicious elbow-knee combination that dropped Hunt like a big-game trophy.
UFC Canada shared the highlight knee:
UFC Canada @UFC_CA
THAT KNEE!!!!! #UFC209 https://t.co/GDhL4FxGBo2017-3-5 03:36:39
After the bout, Overeem made it clear he still has big plans in the heavyweight division, per Helwani:
Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani
"We're not done yet." - Alistair Overeem2017-3-5 03:35:23
After a complete performance like that against a striker the caliber of Hunt, it's hard to argue with the man.