The best word to describe UFC 209 is lackluster. In what was a highly anticipated event, due to the promise of two explosive title fights, one fight ended up being canceled and the other – let’s just say it – sucked. It would be an understatement to say that the card missed Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
Now the show itself wasn’t that bad. It was the main-event that left a bad taste in the mouths of many. The spectacle of two fighters unwilling to engage put a bit of a damper on what was a fun night (or morning, depending on which side of the planet one lives) of fights. Lando Vannata and David Teymur put on a good show as was expected of them. The heavyweights did what they do best – knock the living lights out of each other. The undercard was solid, which was highlighted by not one, but two come from behind victories. First, Iuri Alcantara tapped Luke Sanders with an amazing kneebar in the Bantamweight division. Then veteran UFC Featherweight Darren Elkins took a terrible beating from previously undefeated prospect Mirsad Bektic, before pulling off a tremendous comeback TKO in the third round. Both Alcantara and Elkins earned a Performance of the Night bonus for their efforts. All in all, the undercard was fun and set up what was expected to be a very good main card. The results were mixed at best.
Let’s take an individual look at each main card fight, starting with the heavyweights.
Alistair Overeem def. Mark Hunt via third-round TKO (1:44)
In a rematch of their fight in 2008 (which Overeem won), Alistair Overeem faced Mark Hunt, looking to redeem himself after getting knocked out against the champion Stipe Miocic last year. He ended up doing exactly that, as he knocked out Hunt with knees to the head in the third round.
Alistair came out trying to hold the range with his kicks, in compliance with the new style that he has been fighting with lately. Hunt looked tentative and was consistently looking for the right had that has put so many to sleep. Overeem used his teep kicks to the stomach to keep Hunt at a distance and countered him when he closed it. Hunt threw some good kicks to the legs and body of Overeem but seemed unable to close the distance. Hunt did manage to hurt Overeem in the second round, but stayed calm and looked for his shots rather than rushing his opponent. Overeem had some good success in the clinch and went to the body with his knees. In the third and final round, Overeem pushed Hunt against the cage and landed vicious knees to the body, followed by a beautiful knee to the head, knocking Hunt out.
Overeem looked really good in this fight. It was announced during the post-fight press conference by Dana White that Overeem was very sick coming into the fight, which makes this performance even more impressive. He undoubtedly has the best knees in MMA and utilized them very well by going to the body of Hunt, before knocking him out. As for Hunt, he looked good in the first round but was unable to close the deal when he hurt Overeem. With his second straight loss (previous loss against Lesnar has been turned to a No-Contest) and his ongoing lawsuit against the UFC, it is not clear what’s next for Hunt. At least he can take solace in the $750,000 payout he received for this fight. Overeem called out Francis Ngannou after the fight, but Dana White indicated that that’s not going to happen. Alistair Overeem came back in a terrific fashion and it would be interesting see where he goes from here.
Cynthia Calvillo def. Amanda Cooper via submission (RNC) (1st, 3:19)
Cynthia Calvillo had a spectacular UFC debut with her submission of Amanda Cooper. Accepting the fight on 10 days’ notice, she was the underdog going into the fight but pulled out a stunning submission. Calvillo took Cooper down from a caught low kick and proceeded to lock in an anaconda choke after a crazy scramble. Another scramble ensued and Cynthia Calvillo proceeded to take Amanda’s back and choked her out in the first round.
It was a beautiful performance by Cynthia, who was making her UFC debut on a big stage and drew eyeballs of the pay per view audience. The thin UFC Strawweight division could use a good talent like her.
As for Amanda Cooper, she would have liked to keep the fight standing and work her boxing, but was unable to do so. This is her second loss in the UFC and she fell 2-3 overall in her MMA career.
Dan Kelly def. Rashad Evans via split decision
Daniel Kelly is definitely a dad bod, but he is a dab bod that can kick ass. Kelly is not the prettiest fighter to look at, style wise, but he is definitely effective. And that’s exactly what he was in his fight against Rashad Evans: effective. He defeated Evans with a pair of 29-28s in an entertaining fight. Rashad did well throughout the fight but seemed to be having some troubles with the southpaw stance of his opponent. Kelly came out with a stance that looks kind of like Chael Sonnen’s. It wasn’t pretty to look at, but it was giving Evans problems. Kelly continued to move to the right, away from Evans’ right hand and was consistently landing with his punches. Evans tried to take Kelly down several times in the fight, but he stood right back up. Likewise, Kelly was also unsuccessful with his takedowns, mostly initiated from the clinch. However, he did repeatedly land uppercuts from the clinch. Rashad tried to get something going in the final round of the fight that he probably knew he was losing, but Kelly proved too tough for him to put away. Kelly came out with a split decision win in a close fight.
Daniel Kelly is generally known as grinder and he lived up to that moniker again in this fight. Even though Rashad hit him with some good shots, he ate them like breakfast and came forward with hard shots of his own. He also employed a strategy of tripping Rashad’s legs after he hit him with a punch. Overall, it was a successful outing for the former Olympian who scored his biggest win to date and improved his UFC record to 6 and 1.
As for Rashad, he just doesn’t look like the guy who knocked out Chuck Liddell and defeated Forrest Griffin to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. He looks old and his punches don’t seem to have the same snap as they did. He didn’t necessary have a bad performance, but this is his third straight loss and 5 in last 7. Let’s see if Rashad still thinks he can hang with the best. He is a warrior and has earned the right to fight as many more times as he wants.
David Teymur def. Lando Vannata via unanimous decision
This fight was promoted to the co-main event after the Nurmagomedov-Ferguson fight fell out and they didn’t disappoint. This was the best fight on the card, and was awarded the Fight of the Night honours with both fighters getting a $50,000 bonus. David Teymur defeated Lando Vannata by unanimous decision after beating him on the feet and scoring several takedowns late in the fight.
David Teymur was an underdog going into the fight, mainly because he was quite unknown. Lando Vannata looked confident going into the fight and also in the first round. Vannata, it looked like, was constantly looking for a highlight reel knockout, as he continuously tried to connect with spinning kicks. He even connected with a cartwheel kick! Teymur, however, looked amazing on his feet and although he was hurt a couple of times in the first round by Lando, he recovered quickly, hurting Vannata in return. The opening round was Vannata’s best round.
After a close round 1, Vannata seemed to gas in the second and Teymur picked up the pace. Both guys threw heavy shots and Teymur started to get the better of exchanges. He even connected with a huge superman punch that Vannata just shook off like dust from his shoulders. Teymur also started to hit Vannata with knees to the body and kept kicking his legs the whole time. Teymur continued to win the stand up in the third round and solidified his lead with several takedowns.
The fight was mostly expected to be a standup battle but Teymur showed his versatility by scoring several takedowns against the former NCAA division 1 wrestler. Vannata once again showed up to fight, engaging Teymur punch for punch. His flashy style may have caused him to slow down later in the fight, but this is what makes this guy entertaining to watch.
The Swedish Muay Thai fighter is definitely another man to look out for in the talent stacked Lightweight division. He is now on a five fight win streak, three of them coming in the UFC and will probably get a ranked opponent next. He showcased his striking, which was overlooked coming into the fight and also displayed his all-round game by taking Vannata down.
Lando Vannata is now 1-2 in the UFC but this is just the beginning of his career. The Jackson-Wink product is a good striker; he was just beaten by a better one. His cardio is still an issue though, as he gassed for the second time in his two UFC fights and the third one ended in the first round. He acknowledged in the post-fight press conference that this is a recurring issue and is something that needs to be dealt with. Sky is the limit for ‘Groovy’ Lando Vannata.
Tyron Woodley def. Stephen Thompson via majority decision
Saying that this fight was disappointing would be a huge understatement. Tyron Woodley defeated Stephen Thompson via a highly controversial majority decision in a fight that could be described as tactical at best, and downright awful at worst. I’m leaning towards the latter.
When this fight was announced, it was met with general acceptance because not only was the first fight a draw guaranteeing a rematch, but it was also one of the best fights of 2016. People were expecting it to be a continuation of the war at UFC 205. If this was a war, it was one of attrition. Both fighters refused to engage for long periods in the fight and waited for the other to come in, to try and counter him. The champ did close the fight strong, knocking down Thompson twice in the final minute, enroute to a couple of 48-47 scores and a majority decision.
The first two rounds were fairly uneventful, with ‘Wonderboy’ walking Woodley down and controlling the center of the Octagon. Thompson had some good kicks and a couple of punches and the champ connected with a couple of good right hands. Other than that, he didn’t do much at all, except stand against the cage waiting for Thompson to come in, which he didn’t.
Woodley showed some sense of urgency in the third round, getting a takedown and scoring some ground and pound. The fourth round, again, was uneventful and both fighters didn’t do much except feints and false starts. Wonderboy connected with some punches and kicks, but nothing hurt Woodley at all. Woodley came out with much needed sense of urgency in the final round. Likely behind on the scorecards, he started head hunting and didn’t get much success until the final minute of the fight. He connected with a big right hand that dropped Thompson and followed up with a flurry that almost finished the fight. This likely saved his title.
Both fighters came out of the fight looking worse than they came in and a strong case could be made that Wonderboy won three rounds. Still, Wonderboy didn’t do enough in the fight himself and in the rounds he won, he failed to do any damage to Woodley at all.
This fight probably marks the end of Woodley-Wonderboy and the champion will move on to other opponents. Likewise, Thompson will also have to win a few more fights to end up in the title picture again.
Also on the card:
- Marcin Tybura def. Luis Henrique via third-round TKO (3:46)
- Darren Elkins def. Mirsad Bektic via third-round TKO (3:30)
- Iuri Alcantara def. Luke Sanders via submission (kneebar) (R2, 3:13)
- Mark Godbeer def. Daniel Spitz via unanimous decision
- Tyson Pedro def. Paul Craig via first-round TKO (4:10)
- Albert Morales def. Andre Soukhamthath via split decision
Overall, this was a fun card that was soured by a lackluster main-event. Most of the fights delivered and there were a couple of crazy finishes, including Iuri Alcantara kneebar. That being said, from the main-event to the cancelled co-main event, this event was mostly disappointing. UFC 210 headlined by Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson has a tough task ahead.