The best and worst of UFC 226

UFC 226:  Miocic v Cormier
Daniel Cormier claimed a victory over Stipe Miocic in the main event
Scott Newman

Nobody is about to argue the case for UFC 226 being the best UFC show of all time – or of 2018, in fact – but only a fool would deny it was highly memorable.

We got a Heavyweight title change – and afterwards, one of the most remarkable confrontations in UFC history – and beyond that the show featured some cool fights, interesting finishes, and a couple of stinkers, too.

Here are the best and worst parts of UFC 226.

#1 Best: DC stakes his claim as the greatest of all time

UFC 226: Miocic v Cormier
Daniel Cormier now holds two UFC titles at once and is one of the greatest of all time

Prior to Saturday’s show, Daniel Cormier was already recognised as an all-time great, albeit with a Jon Jones-shaped asterisk alongside his name.

The former champion had been the only man to ever defeat ‘DC’, who outside of those fights remained unbeaten at both Heavyweight and Light-Heavyweight.

But the general consensus was that – partially due to Jones’ positive drug tests – if Cormier could beat Stipe Miocic to win the UFC Heavyweight title to go alongside his Light-Heavyweight crown, then his credentials as the greatest fighter to ever perform above 205lbs would be pretty convincing.

And beat him he did. It was a hard-hitting fight with both men looking hurt at points, and the idea that Olympic wrestler Cormier would have a grappling advantage over Miocic was largely proven false.

In the end though, it took one thudding right hand – from extremely close quarters – for Cormier to drop Miocic, and some punches on the ground then brought his title reign to an end.

Cormier will now apparently fight Brock Lesnar in his first title defence and the current rumour is that he’ll be retiring after that.

If that is the case, then I don’t see how he doesn’t go down as the best “big man” in the history of MMA. Jokes aside he’s simply dominated everyone he’s ever faced. And as one of the sport’s perceived “good guys”, this result was by far the best moment of UFC 226.

#1 Worst: UFC’s treatment of Lesnar makes a mockery of the idea of a “clean sport”

UFC 226: Miocic v Cormier
Brock Lesnar brings eyeballs to the UFC, but he's still a drug cheat

Okay, so it was extremely memorable when former UFC Heavyweight champ and current WWE champ Brock Lesnar stepped into the Octagon after Saturday’s main event was over to square up to the newly crowned champ Cormier, apparently to set up a title fight for later in 2018. But what kind of message does this really send out?

Remember, Lesnar is a 40-year old man who – outside of one fight in 2016 – hasn’t fought regularly since 2010 and originally retired in 2011.

The last time he picked up an official win in the UFC was in July 2010. Of course, he did beat Mark Hunt in that 2016 return, but tested positive for the PED clomiphene afterwards and has been suspended by USADA ever since.

The UFC has never had any qualms with preferential treatment for fighters who draw the most money – think Conor McGregor or Nate Diaz – but this is the first time they’ve ever really brought the idea of a “clean sport” – something they’ve been pushing since joining forces with USADA in 2015 – into question.

Lesnar’s not only a totally undeserving title challenger, he’s also a proven drug cheat. What kind of message does allowing him to casually walk back in to probably the biggest fight of 2018 really send out?

The wrong one, basically – however, cool his confrontation with Cormier was.

#2 Best: Could it be Showtime again?

UFC 226:  Chiesa v Pettis
Could Anthony Pettis be on a resurgence after tapping Michael Chiesa?

Coming into his fight with Michael Chiesa, the feeling was that former UFC Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis was probably shot as a fighter.

‘Showtime’ had never really looked comfortable in the cage since losing his title to Rafael Dos Anjos back in 2015, and despite a slight resurgence in 2017 in a win over Jim Miller, his last fight saw him lose to Dustin Poirier in brutal fashion.

Last night though saw somewhat of a return to form. Noted grappler Chiesa managed to largely ground and stifle Pettis in the first round – the preferred gameplan for most who’ve beaten Showtime over the years – but in the second round, the former champion seemed like a different animal entirely.

He dropped Chiesa with a right hand, followed that up with a flying knee, and when he couldn’t lock up a guillotine, he switched off to a triangle choke and forced Chiesa to tap out. It was Pettis’s first submission win since his career-high victory over Gilbert Melendez in December 2014.

Granted it wasn’t a flawless performance, and Pettis still didn’t look to be in the kind of chiselled shape that he was when he was champion, but it was still an impressive win, and as he’s still only 31, the idea that Showtime could be on a real return to form is interesting indeed.

#2 Worst: What’s the deal with Holloway?

UFC 226 and The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Open Workouts
The health of Max Holloway is a worrying question mark

A week ago UFC 226 looked like possibly the most loaded show of 2018, and a lot of that was to do with its co-main event.

A Featherweight title match between champion Max Holloway and challenger Brian Ortega sounded absolutely mouthwatering – a meeting between two of the UFC’s most entertaining and most aggressive fighters, with a concrete pick to win seemingly impossible to make.

That all changed on Wednesday when Holloway was forced off the card with “concussion-like symptoms”.

This was the third time Holloway’s been forced out a fight in 2018, and while the first two withdrawals – a knee injury and an issue with a weight cut on late notice – were understandable, this one sounds far more worrying.

UFC President Dana White has already said he’s got no idea how long the champ will be out and the most recent reports have even suggested nobody’s actually sure what’s wrong with the Hawaiian.

Considering his style has always been to take three punches to give a harder one back, it could prove to be something extremely concerning indeed.

Hopefully we’ll see the Holloway/Ortega fight at some point in 2018 but for now I’m just hoping Holloway can get healthy again soon. Lesnar shenanigans aside, the loss of Holloway was the worst part about this show by far.

#3 Best: Is Costa a future champion?

UFC 226: Hall v Costa
Paulo Costa beat Uriah Hall in scary fashion

Brazilian striker Paulo Costa burst onto the scene in 2017 with three straight knockout wins, but UFC 226 was his toughest test to date.

Faced with vaunted striker Uriah Hall – a man usually considered to be in or around the top ten at 185lbs – it felt like the first time Costa would possibly meet his physical match.

In the end though, ‘The Eraser’ not only came away with his hand raised, but his intimidating reputation is now cemented in the eyes of everyone.

It wasn’t like Hall didn’t try. Renowned for being gunshy at times, Hall certainly wasn’t last night as he popped Costa with a stiff jab early in the fight, landed some heavy shots, cut him open around the mouth and even dropped him at one point.

But it was the Brazilian who was always stalking, seemingly not even concerned with Hall’s punching power.

In the end, Costa simply walked through Hall’s offence to deliver some far nastier shots of his own. Hall was left unconscious, face-down, after absorbing one of the most brutal combinations in recent memory.

It was an eye-opening win and was probably the most violent of the night, even topping Cormier’s KO of Miocic and another impressive knockout – Khalil Rountree’s one-punch KO of Gokhan Saki.

Costa is clearly the real deal, and it’s time for the UFC to give him a step up in competition. At this rate, he could replace the ageing Yoel Romero as the scariest physical specimen in the Middleweight division.

#3 Worst: The Lewis/Ngannou debacle

UFC 226: Ngannou v Lewis
Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou put on possibly the worst fight of 2018

When the UFC made a fight between Francis Ngannou – ‘The Predator’ – and Derrick Lewis – ‘The Black Beast’ – for this card, it sounded almost worthy of having its own monster movie. A clash between two of the UFC’s heaviest hitters, most fans figured that a knockout was almost guaranteed to happen, and probably a violent one too.

Instead, the fight turned out to be one of the dampest squibs in UFC history. Circle, feint, circle, a feint was the story of the fight, as Ngannou fought one of the most passive fights in recent memory, and Lewis was barely any better – although he did just enough to ease out a unanimous decision victory.

The image that summed up the fight up? The moment in the second round when referee Herb Dean had to warn both men for timidity, and demand that they actually stand and fight.

And surprisingly enough, they didn’t really heed the warning and went back to circle and feint.

Quite what was wrong I’m not sure. Lewis claimed he had back spasms, while it appeared that maybe Miocic took Ngannou’s soul when he beat him down badly back in January.

To say the shine has now gone off both men would be an understatement – this was the worst televised fight of 2018 thus far.

What did you think about UFC 226? Sound off your opinions in the comments section below!

Edited by Alan John


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