UFC 198 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Brazil
Another UFC heavyweight title fight...another UFC heavyweight champion. UFC 198 saw Fabricio Werdum's title reign end at zero defenses, courtesy of a sweet right hand from newly crowned king Stipe Miocic.
It was an odd performance from the hometown favorite. Despite being the superior grappler, Werdum unwisely chased after Miocic following a few minutes of back-and-forth leg-kicking and was clocked cleanly as a result. It was somewhat disappointing for anyone who was hoping to see the submission wizard work his magic on the ground, but alas, there are no guarantees fighters will stick to their strengths in MMA.
Obviously, the biggest winner of the night is Miocic. He's a champion, dang it! How could he not be?
While it may seem like low-hanging fruit, Werdum is the biggest loser of the night. The master of funny faces was being stacked up among the greatest fighters in heavyweight MMA history, courtesy of his wins over Cain Velasquez, Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Alistair Overeem. Furthermore, one of the biggest topics of discussion entering UFC 198 was what it would take for him to become the consensus leader.
Alas, it was not to be. While this doesn't necessarily hurt Werdum's place in that discussion, with one or two defenses of his title, it would have been next to impossible to argue against him. Now he's just a part of the shuffle.
Who were the other real winners at UFC 198? Who were the real losers? Read on and find out.
Real Loser: The Reputation of Brazilian MMA Officiating
The card started with the referee ignoring Renato Moicano's nutshot-focused kicking game. Then an unsatisfying split decision draw followed. Then came a scarily late stoppage in the Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Patrick Cummins fight. Then came another poor performance by the referee in Yancy Mediros vs. Francisco Trinaldo.
Nearly every single fight had some level of poor officiating. Surprising? Not at all, but it's disappointing how the UFC, and fans in general, seem to accept it.
Real Winner: Old Men Who Have a Country
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira's career has always felt like it was missing something. He never held a major title. He never won a Pride Grand Prix. He never won an Olympic medal or anything of that sort. He never had that one "moment" that justified all those years of physical calamity.
At UFC 198, he got that moment. Facing the tricky Patrick Cummins, Nog the Littler scored an impressive knockout win, chinning the American with a hard right hand and sealing the deal with a barrage of lefts. It was clearly an important win for the 15-year veteran, who wept on his way to the cage and was equally emotional when the massive crowd at Arena da Baixada erupted over his victory.
While Nogueira isn't going to retire on this high note, indicating in his post-fight interview that he intends to return, this still goes down as the greatest moment in an illustrious career. Hopefully he doesn't undo it by getting destroyed in his next fight!
Real Loser: John Lineker Fans
Bantamweight slugger John Lineker has become a fan favorite based on his ability to consistently knock out opponents. Unfortunately, those fans went home wanting at UFC 198. While Lineker dominated the action from start to finish in his fight with Rob Font, and landed more than a few massive punches during the proceedings, the American managed to hold on.
The lack of a finish doesn't take away from Lineker's impressive performance, of course. He extends his winning streak to four and could break into the top 10 with that win. But, of course, fans want to see that climactic finish to his fights.
Unfortunately, despite his popularity, he finds himself far away from a title shot. The bantamweight top 10 is absolutely stacked right now, and Raphael Assuncao, TJ Dillashaw, Aljamain Sterling, Thomas Almeida and Bryan Caraway are all ahead of him in line.
Still, if he can keep the crowd behind him and continue posting wins, it's only a matter of time before he gets his shot.
Real Loser: Yancy Medeiros' Long-Term Career
Theoretically, fighters are supposed to have three layers of protection in the cage. There are rules that protect them from things like eye pokes, rabbit punches and groin strikes. There is a referee there to make sure the rules are enforced and to decide when the action needs to be stopped. Finally, there is supposed to be a team of coaches and representatives with the capacity to withdraw a fighter from the bout if the risk of continuing outweighs the potential reward of a comeback.
Readers can probably piece together which one of those three layers hasn't been working. At UFC 198, fans were given yet another example of a corner failing its fighter during the preliminary-card matchup between Francisco Trinaldo and Yancy Medeiros.
For 10 minutes, the bout was exciting, back-and-forth action. Trinaldo was in control for the most part, but Medeiros managed to keep things competitive and landed some hard shots on the hometown favorite.
In the third round, however, Trinaldo started asserting himself as the superior fighter. Then he started roughing up Medeiros. Then he started dominating him.
Everyone watching the fight, outside the referee, knew Medeiros was done the second he lost the capacity to stand up. Still, the fight went on...and on...and on. There was no comeback. There was no moral victory. There was nothing gained by absorbing two minutes of uncontested punches to the head.
MMA corners' incompetence has quietly been one of the biggest MMA problems for years now. Unfortunately, change is unlikely to come until a serious injury or death occurs.
Real Loser: The UFC 198 Crowd
This isn't to say that the crowd lost at UFC 198. It was, for the most part, an action-packed event where most of the the local favorites won. No, this is to say that some in the UFC 198 crowd were acting like losers in terms of their behavior.
Brazilian MMA fans had already turned mouths sour with their many chants of "you're gonna die" at competitors at UFC events. They upped the ante in a big way at UFC 198 when not one, not two, but three fans took swipes at welterweight contender Matt Brown as he made his walk to the cage to face Demian Maia. While this was likely due to Brown playing the heel at the weigh-ins on Friday, giving them the double-bird, there's no justification for the fans' behavior.
The fight itself was signature stuff from Maia. He worked his trips, got Brown to the ground and effortlessly passed to Brown's back in all three rounds, before locking up a rear-naked choke in the final frame.
Maia is now on a five-fight wining streak and could be in line for a crack at the title. The win, unfortunately, was a bit tainted by MMA fans who took their antics too far.
Real Loser: Every Prospect in the UFC
Do you have a bright future ahead of you in the sport of MMA? Do you fight at either 155 or 170 pounds? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then, for the love of God, do not get into the cage with Bryan Barberena.
Fresh off his upset win over super-prospect and Dana White pet project Sage Northcutt, Bam Bam set foot into the cage against another hot up-and-comer, Warlley Alves. Alves, who first rose to prominence by dominating the competition on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3, and has been generally excellent in the Octagon, racking up a 10-0 record with little difficulty.
The assumption, just like with Northcutt, was Alves would storm his way through Barberena with his superior athleticism and finishing skills. The result, just like with Northcutt, was Alves was exposed as having a subpar fight IQ.
While the difference in strength and quickness was obvious early on, Alves punched himself out early and slowed down more and more as the fight went on. Eventually, Barberena had control of the striking game and fed Alves a steady stream of soft, but accurate, punches.
That advances Barberena to 3-1 in the Octagon with three wins over fighters who were supposed to squash him. His ceiling still seems incredibly low, but, dang it, it's almost impossible to pick against him at this point.
Real Loser: Making the Most of Your Minutes
Cris "Cyborg" Justino, at long last, stepped into the Octagon. In front of the biggest crowd in Brazilian MMA history, coincidentally in her hometown of Curitiba, she posted a dominant, emphatic win over an overmatched Leslie Smith. It was the biggest stage in Cyborg's career, and she seemed to get even better under the spotlight.
With the hurdle of joining the UFC finally cleared, there was very little separating her from the long-awaited superfight with Ronda Rousey. When a live microphone floated in front of her immediately after the win, fans and pundits all psychically sent her the same message: "Please, please call out Ronda Rousey. Please."
She did not. Instead of setting herself up for a blockbuster match, she talked about...I don't know, something boring.
That, fight fans, is what people in the business call a "wasted opportunity."
Fighters are generally awful at making the most of their camera time, and Cyborg is no exception. While she could have set the mainstream sports world on fire by cutting a promo on Rousey, she instead waffled about whether or not she would return to Invicta to defend her featherweight title.
"Make the most of your minutes" is something pro wrestlers are told to do—and for good reason. It's time fighters started doing the same.
Real Loser: The Credibility of 'Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt' Status
I wrote up the following in 2013:
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going" may be a tired tautology, but it rings very true when it comes to analyzing fighters. ...
Vitor Belfort, the majority of the time, does not get going, and gets swallowed up by whatever fighter drags him into deep water. Sometimes his tentativeness leads to an emphatic knockout like the one Anderson Silva laid on him. Sometimes he simply crumbles as tougher fighters like Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Jon Jones press him.
Belfort's record is chock-full of fighters who have taken him down and experienced little resistance from then on. Randy Couture. Kazushi Sakuraba. Dan Henderson. Chris Weidman. And now Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. Each and every one has been able to handle him with relative ease, despite his status as a "Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt" under Carlson Gracie.
This wasn't a surprising outcome, obviously. This has been happening time and again since 1997. But, boy, it's still astounding that fans will attach a level of intrinsic value to that moniker.
Real Winner: Cleveland Sports
It's been a good long time since Cleveland was home to a champion, but now it has one in Stipe Miocic.
After back-and-forth feints and leg kicks, heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum started chasing Miocic. Full-on, hands-down, knees-up chasing him.
Why? I don't know, but it led to an Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin-style fadeaway chin shot that sent the hometown favorite crashing to the canvas. Miocic landed a few more academic shots on the ground from there, but it was a true one-punch knockout that earned the Cleveland native UFC gold.
It's obviously not the same as the Cavaliers, Browns or Indians bringing one home, I know. But it's something. And Cleveland sports fans have needed something, anything, to get behind for a good 50 years now.
Miocic has a few different and interesting challengers coming down the pipe. It will be a lot of fun seeing how the new UFC heavyweight champ handles them.