UFC 178 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Johnson vs. Cariaso
The reason behind its head-scratchingness is simple. First, the card was astoundingly deep, rife with a richness of talent and storylines rare in an age when the average pay-per-view event is only a mile marker on the larger interstate of fandom. But at the same time, it was bereft in the spot that usually matters most.
That's the main event we're talking about, where flyweight champion Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson defended the strap against Chris Cariaso, a plucky challenger who nevertheless had never defeated a serious contender in the thin 125-pound division when the UFC deposited this title fight in his lap.
As for Johnson himself, he's garnered a reputation as one of MMA's most talented competitors, but he isn't exactly the go-to guy when you want to generate copy for a fight card.
Luckily, Johnson got a little help from his friends. The charisma cavalry came in the form of one Conor McGregor, the 26-year-old Irish sensation who has earned a frenzied following after only three contests in the UFC Octagon. The Blarney-blessed knockout artist wasted no time making his fight with Dustin Poirier—easily his toughest opponent to date—an intensely personal matchup, and fans around the world were tuned up accordingly.
McGregor, as is becoming his habit, quickly outshone the rest of the card with his bottomless appetite for interviews and adoration, but there were metaphorical powder kegs stashed across the MGM Grand Garden Arena when the curtain rose Saturday evening.
Former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez made his debut against the hard-charging Donald Cerrone; no way that one doesn't end with some fireworks. And former UFC bantamweight titlist Dominick Cruz returned to action after three long years of recovery from a litany of serious injuries.
And there was plenty more intrigue to go around. As usual, the final stat lines only reveal so much. Here are the real winners and losers from UFC 178. (Full card results available at the end, if you're one of those types.)
Winner: Conor McGregor
There shouldn't be any more talk about the talk. Conor McGregor is here, he's awesome and that's it.
That's the only conclusion you can reach after his flash knockout of Dustin Poirier in the first round Saturday night. Personally, I thought Poirier would have a grappling advantage and would win it. I was wrong. McGregor didn't give anybody a chance to even think otherwise.
It was a heavy left hand behind the ear that did the job. And to see that single shot fell a fighter as tough and talented as Poirier was nothing short of a revelation.
McGregor's posture was fluid in the cage, insouciant and brash but at no time unnatural, the whole thing not unlike a vintage Anderson Silva. Not that I'm comparing the two as fighters; just their looseness. He taunted Poirier, and Poirier seemed to tighten. McGregor was so relaxed he nearly began to ooze. Then bang.
McGregor proved himself as the star of the card, carrying the in-cage and out-of-cage water for Johnson. In a way, it was a stroke of brilliance for the UFC, allowing their quote-averse champ to simply fight while McGregor seized all the headlines.
After the fight ended, the crowd, no small number of whom had made the trip over from Ireland to support their countryman, was in full-blown frenzy as McGregor told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage that he was "after that world title."
Can you imagine McGregor vs. Jose Aldo in Rio, or Dublin, or Boston? If not, better start imagining.
Winner: Donald Cerrone
Another highlight-reel performance for "Cowboy" Donald Cerrone.
This time, he welcomed a former champion into the ring in ex-Bellator belt holder Eddie Alvarez.
The first round belonged to Alvarez, who used his boxing, particularly a heavy right hand, to hurt Cerrone.
But as the fight went on, Cerrone found his groove, brandishing a length advantage and some sharp Muay Thai kicks and knees to leech the starch out of Alvarez's attack.
Cerrone's leg kicks were the true fulcrum of the action, and in the decisive third round, Alvarez finally (literally) collapsed, his lead leg used up. Almost mercifully, Cerrone jumped on top of Alvarez and rode out the final minute.
If you're not scoring at home, that's five in a row for Cerrone, over the following opponents: Evan Dunham, Adriano Martins, Edson Barboza, Jim Miller and now Alvarez.
The only blemish for Cerrone's night? No post-fight bonus. That snaps a four-game streak of extra checks. Looks like that new bungee cord, or whatever the adrenaline junkie had on his wish list, will have to wait.
Is anyone interested in seeing Cerrone take on Khabib Nurmagomedov, as they were originally scheduled to do before Khabib fell injured? I know I am. The winner would surely deserve a title shot in this deep and intensely exciting weight class.
Winner: Demetrious Johnson
Given the freneticism of McGregor vs. Poirier and Cerrone vs. Alvarez, the crowd was clearly tapped by the time the main event rolled around. To those watching at home, the arena rang hollow in the same way it does for the opening prelims. It was surreal, but perhaps not a tremendous shock, given those previous bouts and the lopsided nature of the current one.
Demetrious Johnson, to his perhaps strange credit, did nothing to dispel or change any of this.
He was faster than Chris Cariaso from the get-go and toyed with him on the feet, with takedowns and then on the ground.
A nasty kimura ended the proceedings almost exactly halfway through the second stanza. According to stat keeper FightMetric, Cariaso landed six of 27 significant strikes. But I'll be danged if I counted more than three. For his part, Johnson landed exactly as many (27) as his opponent attempted.
Who's next for the champ? It's hard to tell; he's really good, and the rest of the weight class is really thin.
If John Lineker can defeat Ian McCall in November, he might have the next crack. Still, it's hard to imagine a wildly different outcome than the one that happened Saturday and all the other ones before that.
Loser: Chris Cariaso
Sorry, Chris. You were out of your league.
Everyone is quick to offer bouquets of respect to the lovable underdog in cases like this. And Cariaso certainly deserves props for stepping in with the champ, and for winning enough to get the UFC's attention in the first place.
But he was overmatched in there, and that's just the way it is. He was slower from the word go, was unable to defend Johnson's takedown shot and didn't land any offense of significance beyond a single early leg kick.
Sometimes, underdog stories are possible. Sometimes, they aren't. This was one of those times the cartoon movie script writers didn't want to tell you about.
Loser: Eddie Alvarez
It was a valiant but unsuccessful UFC debut for Eddie Alvarez.
His boxing looked great early on, but ultimately Donald Cerrone was the more athletic and well-rounded fighter. Cerrone worked Alvarez over from the clinch and, as the contest wore on, landed plenty of knees and kicks. Alvarez's leg and right eye bore the evidence of the attack.
Alvarez will win fights in the UFC. But maybe wasn't quite ready to be thrown into the very top level of a dense lightweight division.
Winner: Dominick Cruz
What a wonderful evening for Dominick Cruz.
You can't say enough about the former bantamweight champion's return to competition Saturday night. He was away three years. A torn ACL. Then a re-repair of the knee. Then a torn groin.
Ring rust wasn't even the main issue. Would he even be the same fighter? Could he still move around in there? Would his unorthodox boxing game still arrive in full effect?
The answer to everything was yes, and then some.
Half a minute into the contest—against the UFC's fifth-ranked bantamweight in Takeya Mizugaki, no less—Cruz charged forward and landed a double-leg takedown. Mizugaki didn't appear to know what hit him. Cruz landed torrents of power strikes, as noteworthy for their precision as with the almost joyous abandon with which Cruz threw them.
Mizugaki worked hard to get up, but he was simply overwhelmed. The referee called the stoppage 61 seconds in, and it could have come significantly earlier.
In the cage after the decision was read, Cruz called out any "Alpha Fails" who might wish to face him. That's interesting, considering that Team Alpha Male is home to the bantamweight champ, T.J. Dillashaw, not to mention Cruz's longtime personal rival, Urijah Faber.
"I saw red," Cruz told broadcaster Ariel Helwani after the fight when discussing the bout's final moments. "It just felt good to punch something."
It felt good to watch him do it, too.
Winner: Cat Zingano
Dominick Cruz wasn't the only one with a great return story to tell.
Cat Zingano weathered an early ground-and-pound onslaught from Amanda Nunes, then used superior strength and grappling to control the second round and dish out her own ground attack in the third, forcing the ref to call the stop.
In the past year or so, Zingano—at the time poised to coach against and then fight Ronda Rousey—tore her ACL, then suffered through the tragic suicide of her husband.
What can you say about her reappearance in the Octagon, other than that she's stronger and more determined to do this sort of thing than most people. Perhaps more than any other fighter on the UFC 178 card, she deserves every tip of every cap.
Loser: John McCarthy
Yoel Romero could be one of the new title contenders in the UFC middleweight division.
His TKO of fellow elite Tim Kennedy should be proof positive of that. But it's not.
Romero was controlling a competitive fight as the second round wore down. But in the final ticks, Kennedy landed a big uppercut, then ferociously followed it up along the fence. Romero was covering up as Kennedy poured it on, sensing victory. And then, the horn sounded.
Romero, having been saved by the bell if such a concept had ever occurred, weebled gingerly over to his corner. But as the third began, a funny little thing happened. Romero remained in his corner, sitting on his stool, his cornermen surrounding him.
Kennedy, feeling the momentum and ready to fight, waved toward Romero in disgust. Referee John McCarthy was on top of the action, but he did little more than attempt to (unsuccessfully) coax Romero off the stool. He could have taken a point, or more. But he didn't. Making a complicated situation worse, he then asked the cornermen to wipe Vaseline off of Romero, which burned through still more time as Kennedy looked on in vain, waiting in frustration for the action to restart.
Romero, as a result, had an extra 20 or so seconds of recovery time. And he put it to good use, knocking Kennedy all over the cage at the beginning of the round and earning the aforementioned TKO.
Did the stool itself knock Kennedy out? No. But the delay did give Romero precious time he wasn't supposed to have, and it robbed Kennedy of the momentum he had earned. McCarthy, one of the most famous and normally most reliable MMA referees, was right on top of the action, but this time he failed to appropriately act.
Full UFC 178 Card Results
Demetrious Johnson def. Chris Cariaso by submission (kimura), 2:29, Rd. 2
Donald Cerrone def. Eddie Alvarez by unanimous decision
Conor McGregor def. Dustin Poirier by TKO, 1:46, Rd. 1
Yoel Romero def. Tim Kennedy by TKO, 0:58, Rd. 3
Cat Zingano def. Amanda Nunes by TKO, 1:21, Rd. 3
Dominick Cruz def. Takeya Mizugaki TKO, 1:01, Rd. 1
Jorge Masvidal def. James Krause by unanimous decision
Stephen Thompson def. Patrick Cote by unanimous decision
Brian Ebersole def. John Howard by split decision
Kevin Lee def. Jon Tuck by unanimous decision
Manny Gamburyan def. Cody Gibson by submission (guillotine choke), 4:56, Rd. 2
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