UFC 200 | A Performance Review (Review)
Written By: Josh Hemeon
A major difference between sports and sports-entertainment is the unpredictability of sporting events. In the early 2000’s Shane McMahon of the WWE attempted to convince his father Vince that they should buy the UFC. The UFC was failing at the time and potentially could have been bought for ~$4 million USD, peanuts compared to the 4.2 billion USD it recently sold for. Vince turned down the acquisition arguing that he could not produce stars if he could not control the outcome of the fights. Regardless of how you may feel about the UFC being controlled by the McMahon family, UFC 200 partially vindicates Vince’s argument. Don’t get me wrong, UFC 200 was a good event. The problem is it wasn’t particularly special. The card was utterly stacked with nine champions or former champions, an interim championship and UFC championship on the line, and despite missing some stars in Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, and Rhonda Rousey, the card held up fine. The problem is that unlike WWE events like Wrestlemania, a stacked card does not necessarily translate into a good MMA event.
When I watch UFCs at the bar I always try to get there super early. The reason for this is that good matchups in MMA do not require the fighters to be superstars. For instance, the very first fight on the early preliminary card for UFC 199 between Marco Reyes and Dong Hyun Kim was an absolute war! You owe it to yourself to watch that fight! It was like a scene from an action movie and one of the best fights I have seen in years. If you appreciate the technique, heart, and toughness you see in well-known fighters, you will also find those qualities in fighters you never of. If you are an MMA fan chances are you heard of every single fighter on UFC 200’s card. And while UFC 200 was not a poor show by any means, it was not the special event the UFC was trying to make it.
The early preliminary card saw three first round TKOs, with Jim Miller ground and pounding Takanori Gomi, Gegard Mousasi and Joe Lauzon beating their opponents Thiago Santos and Deigo Sanchez with standing punches. Everyone loves a finish and these fights were no different; a solid start to the card.
The prelim card saw rising lightweight star Sage Northcutt defeat Enrique Marin via unanimous decision; after a close first round Northcutt almost got his arm broken in round two before outpointing Marin in round three. A solid performance and an entertaining fight, especially for fans of grappling. Next up former UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw avenged a loss against Brazilian Raphael Assuncao. In what was mostly a technical striking exchange Dillashaw out struck Assuncao, not brutalizing him but enough to pick up a shutout victory on all scorecards. Then came The Ultimate Fighter season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum who defeated former UFC Welterweight Champion Johnny Hendricks by unanimous decision. Gastelum set a pace that saw Hendricks fade later in the fight and Gastelum won decisively. Headlining the prelim card was a bantamweight face-off between contenders Cat Zingano and Julianna Pena. Cat Zingano is known for having victories over both Meisha Tate and Amanda Nunes fighting in the main event and Julianna Pena is known for assaulting staff at a local bar in her native Spokane. The two grappled for three rounds, Zingano taking round one and Pena taking two and three decisively giving Pena the nod. Four decision victories on the prelim card, none controversial, none particularly exciting or boring, there was something for everyone with enough brawling, technical striking, and grappling to go around.
Next is the first fight of the main card, a heavyweight fight between the former champion, Cain Velasquez of the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) and Travis Browne, better known as Rhonda Rousey’s boyfriend. As AKA is notorious for its fighters getting injured in camp the question on everyone’s mind was whether or not Velasquez, who has been plagued by injury, would come into this fight 100%. Velasquez came in healthy enough and brutalized Travis Browne at the end of round one picking up the TKO. This puts Velasquez back into heavyweight title contention.
Next we have the Interim Featherweight Championship between top two contenders Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar. This was a rematch from February 2013 in which Aldo took a close decision. The question on many fans minds was whether or not Aldo would recuperate from his embarrassing 13 second KO loss to current champion Conor McGregor who was sitting front row. Aldo proved too fast and too technically proficient as the American pressure fighter was unable to find an answer (pun!) for Aldo’s counterstriking and head movement. The Brazilian timed power shots that bloodied Edgar and Aldo easily shrugged off Edgar’s takedown attempts. Judges scored the fight 49-46, 49-46, and 48-47 all for Aldo. I scored the fight 49-46 Aldo, giving Edgar only the third round. Aldo then called out McGregor whom he will presumably face to unify the Featherweight Championship. It is unclear whether or not McGregor will return to featherweight given commitments in other weight classes but if he does I expect a much better fight than their first encounter. No Fight of the Night was awarded but it would be my pick given the level of technique each fighter displayed. Good fight!
Next came the battle of the dad-bods between AKA’s Daniel Cormier and the widely considered greatest of all time Anderson Silva who took the fight on two days’ notice. Silva was chosen to replace Jon Jones who was removed from the card due to an anti-doping violation earlier in the week. Silva who was seen backstage before the weigh-in eating pizza, weighed in at 198.5 to Cormier’s 206. Aside from a well-placed kick to the liver in round three, Silva was not able to generate any offence as Cormier outwrestled him, taking him down at will and controlling him on the ground. Fans booed Cormier mercilessly in this fight chanting “stand them up” and booing every takedown while cheering Silva’s flashy strikes. All judges scored the fight 30-26 Cormier and I agreed. I honestly don’t get why fans booed Cormier’s performance. While Silva was unable to get to his feet without help from the referee, he was able to lock down Cormier in his guard enough to prevent being finished by Cormier. A valiant effort by Silva, but Cormier dominated the underprepared former Middleweight Champion.
Next up came the fight many of us were waiting for: Brock Lesnar versus Mark Hunt. Every time Brock Lesnar made an entrance in the UFC I always hoped that maybe, just maybe, he would come out to his WWE theme. A guy in the room even told me it was going to happen tonight. When the lights went out and Metallica’s Enter Sandman played, it was a huge letdown. Not as much of a letdown as the fight however. Lesnar was able to steer clear of Hunt’s power shots and secure several takedowns and control Hunt on the ground. Lesnar took a unanimous decision victory with all judges scoring the contest 29-27. Keep in mind this is an incredible accomplishment given Lesnar has been off for five years and Mark Hunt competed in a title eliminator less than a year ago. Nonetheless it was not a very entertaining fight as Lesnar spent much time evading Hunt and using his weight to smother Hunt on the ground. Lesnar got off some ground strikes but nothing that came close to finishing Hunt. From one white boy, to all nationalities, this fight sucked!
Finally, the main event was underway for the Women’s Bantamweight Championship between Brazilian challenger Amanda Nunes and newly crowned champion Meisha Tate. At UFC 196, the night that Tate choked previous champion Holly Holm unconscious to win the championship, Nunes also defeated Valentina Shevchenko in a lackluster performance. Nunes repeatedly touched the ground to avoid knees from Shevchenko (In UFC there are no knees allowed to the head of a grounded opponent, one hand on the ground qualifies as being grounded, this is widely seen by MMA fans as a cheap way to avoid a standing knee strike). This fight was a title eliminator that earned Nunes a shot at UFC gold. After her performance that night I did not give her a chance against either Tate or Holm. I was wrong. Nunes jumped all over Tate, who is known to be a slow starter, Nunes dropped Tate in a standing exchange and swarmed her early breaking Tate’s nose. As Tate turtled to avoid further strikes Nunes took the champion’s back and sunk in a rear naked choke to win. Nunes becomes the first Brazilian woman and first openly gay fighter to win a UFC championship.
Overall I would give this card a 3.5 out of 5. This is because although UFC 200 was an outstanding fight card it only translated into an above average UFC event. A card that was supposed to be the biggest PPV ever was largely outshined by other International Fight Week cards such as the UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs Alvarez which saw many exciting finishes andThe Ultimate Fighter Season 23 Finale which was capped off by an all-out war between Strawweight Champion JoannaJedrzejczyk and challenger Claudia Gadelha. Preceding UFCs such as UFC 196, 198, and 199 also materialized into incredible performances despite not receiving near as much hype. It just goes to show that in MMA you cannot manufacture a good fight card and appeal to casual fans at the same time.