One of the most stacked non-PPV cards of the year certainly lived up to its hype. UFC Vegas 11 provided wall to wall action that excellently wrapped up the UFC’s stint in the Apex before heading over to Fight Island again next week. Here are some thoughts on what went down last Saturday night:
Have a night Colby Covington
Colby Covington was back to his usual dominant self last Saturday, working at a blistering pace and securing a TKO win in the 5th round over Tyron Woodley. He utilized solid clinch work against the fence throughout the fight while unleashing strikes off of the breaks. In the fourth, he took Woodley down and opened him up with elbows that caused visible damage, leading to a 10-8 round across the board. Finally in the 5th, Woodley attempted to get off the canvas with a guillotine but popped his own rib, effectively ending the fight. Covington immediately jumped up and started calling for his belt back, signaling for a title shot rematch against Kamaru Usman.
And that was only one part of the Colby Covington show for the night.
He continued calling out Usman in the post-fight show, and Usman “coincidentally” was working as a commentator that night. They were able to go back-and-forth on the broadcast, providing compelling material for a rematch that absolutely needs to happen.
But more significantly in his post-fight interview, Covington received a call from none other than the President of the United States. No matter what your political beliefs are, it was exciting to see Covington and the UFC in general receive attention from the most respected office in America. After all, the sport of MMA was only legalized in all states four years ago, so this marks significant progress in pushing the sport forward fully into the mainstream.
Covington’s performance inside the cage and then his noteworthy post-fight moments certainly reminded us that he is one of the best of the welterweight division. He has kept the door open for some exciting fights, potentially against Usman, former best friend Jorge Masvidal, or darkhorse Leon Edwards. The UFC cannot go wrong with any of these three options, and hopefully we can see something official on the books soon.
Retirements on the horizon?
It was a rough night for two veterans of the fight game.
Tyron Woodley continued his recent trend of getting dominated from start to finish and ultimately suffered a severe rib injury to end his night. He started a little better this time around, throwing hard shots and fending off some takedowns. But then his striking output diminished significantly into the later rounds, and it seemed as if he had all but given up by the end of the fourth. The conclusion was just a formality, as Covington would have swept Woodley in all five rounds should it have gone to a judges decision.
Even though Woodley has looked undisputedly awful in these past three fights, it is important to acknowledge that these fights were five-rounders against the three best fighters in the division, all of whom fight relatively similarly with high pace and dominant control. Nevertheless, the manner in which he has lost these fights is no doubt concerning. It is almost as if he has lost the will to come forward and inflict damage on his opponent. If he couldn’t get past this mental block against Covington, someone who he genuinely hates, then who else could he do it against?
In the co-main event, Donald Cerrone got off to a rough start against Niko Price. Cerrone seemed to be on the verge of getting finished several times in the first round. Somewhat miraculously, Cerrone survived the round and proceeded to make it a more competitive fight. He was able to connect on multiple punch combinations and even mixed in two takedowns. But Price’s shots seemed to land heavier and with greater frequency. A point deduction for Price due to eye-pokes led to a majority draw.
Dana White mentioned retirement for both fighters in his post-fight interview.
“I think that [Woodley] should start thinking about hanging it up,” White said. “He’s had a great career. He’s had a great run. He’s made money.”
On Cerrone, he stated, “I know this is going to f*cking crush him and break his heart, but it’s time to have a conversation with him.”
Both fighters stated their desire to continue to fight after their matches, but after consecutive disappointing outings, we might be seeing them at the end of the road.
The Chimaev hype train has no brakes
Many doubts or reservations that fans had about Khamzat Chimaev were quickly answered on Saturday night with a resounding one-punch knockout in seventeen seconds. Every time Chimaev steps into the Octagon, he reveals a tiny bit more of his game to the mainstream audience. We have seen his overwhelming dominance in the cage using his wrestling, but little did we know that he has the hands to match his grappling. Gerald Meerschaert had to figure this out the hard way. He started the fight circling the cage with his hands slightly low, anticipating the takedown that led to the demise of Chimaev’s past two opponents. But Chimaev released an absolute missile of a right hand that connected square on Meerschaert’s chin, bringing the fight to an abrupt halt.
It will be interesting to see what the UFC does next with Chimaev. The plan was to match Chimaev up with Demian Maia in a few weeks. The problem with the Maia fight is that win or lose, Chimaev would be stuck in the upper echelon of the middleweight and welterweight divisions. As dominant as he has been, there are still several questions that have yet to be answered inside the Octagon. For example, can he fight at the same pace in the later rounds? Can he implement his takedowns against good wrestlers, like a Kamaru Usman, or even Michael Chiesa or Neil Magny? And if not, will his kickboxing hold up against these faster, more skilled opponents?
But White also mentioned in the post-fight press conference that Chimaev might get another fight even before that, which seems to be the better option for all parties involved. We the fans get treated to another smesh spectacle, the promotion can continue to grow his name and give him a typical UFC superstar build-up, and Chimaev himself can hopefully get more Octagon experience if he so chooses.
We very well might be getting the answer to this within the next couple of days, but regardless of what happens, it is safe to say that Chimaev has firmly established himself as the next big thing in the UFC.
A refreshing dose of realism
In this era of brazen self-promotion, it was great to see fighters be more introspective and be their own worst critics. Kevin Holland fought in a three-round war against Darren Stewart, ultimately coming up with the split decision win. He battered Stewart for the better part of the first two rounds by putting on a flashy striking performance. Stewart then started to pour it on in the third, taking down Holland and throwing brutal ground-and-pound until the final bell.
After the fight, he told White that he shouldn’t have won the fight and was willing to run it back, expressing his desire to finish fights and not leave it in the judges’ hands. The boss seemed to appreciate it, and after a great scrap like that, us fans would not mind seeing it again.
In an aforementioned bout, Donald Cerrone seemed dejected by his majority draw decision, stating, “Had I not gained a point, I would have lost the fight…I definitely count this as a loss. This is five in a row.” It was tough to see Cerrone so down on himself after impressively clawing back from a seemingly inevitable defeat. But him displaying this mindset was a reminder of why we all love ‘Cowboy’ so much. He has always been one of the realest in the game and simply lives to fight.