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UFC 192: 'Cormier vs. Gustafsson,' The Report Card

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. What a main event.

For all those complaining about Alexander Gustafsson getting a title shot after getting knocked out by Anthony Johnson, the Swede took the champ to the absolute limit, just as he did against Jon Jones back at UFC 165.

Unfortunately for "Gus", Daniel Cormier was just a little bit better, handing the Swede an 0-2 record inside of UFC title fights and likely setting back any opportunity for a third attempt by several years.

The main event salvaged what was essentially a fairly terrible waste of money for a pay-per-view. After all, the best parts of the UFC 192 card were aired free on Fox Sports 1.

There were some spectacular finishes on the "prelims" portion of UFC 192, at one point stringing together four stoppages in the very first round forcing Fox Sports to fill out the time slot with idle chatter and commercials.

At any rate, who got top marks and who failed to pass in this week's "Report Card"? Find out below:


Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Poor Gus. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride. There are so many examples of guys who choke in title fights but I don't think Alexander Gustafsson is that kind of person. On the contrary, I think he rises to the occasion and gives performances that may actually be beyond what his skills should allow for. Unfortunately, he didn't get it done, despite taking both Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones to the limit in both fights.

Didn't see the fight? Watch the highlights to the fight here first!

Credit goes to Cormier, however, who proved he's much more than a "paper champ" by showing heart and courage in the face of great adversity. If there's a man with more will than Cormier in the cage it might only be his adversary, "Bones", as the wrestler returned fire and kept pressing forward the entire fight. The relentless pressure, so reminiscent of his teammate Cain Velasquez, eventually broke Gustafsson in the "championship rounds" and won him the fight.

It was far from easy though. I was floored when I saw Gustafsson take the former Olympic wrestler down in the second round. Twice. And at one point late in the third round I was certain the Swede had knocked out Cormier with a knees and punches combination that had the champ sprawled against the fence. His chin is not to be doubted.

This was an exciting fight, one that proved Gustafsson is far from done after losing to Anthony Johnson, while also showing that Cormier is a relentless competitor who will not be an easy out for Jones in any potential rematch.

Speaking of which, the next question is no doubt going to be about when that happens. It's a fight I'm sure fans would want to see, however it would be an insult to Ryan Bader, who has quietly and patiently been racking up wins in the UFC.

An immediate title shot for Jones might sound like the most logical thing to do, but why reward the man? I have a better idea. Let's give Bader his title shot against Cormier some time in first half of 2016. Meanwhile, let's book Jones against Johnson. It's the fight fans wanted to see in the first place, before all this unpleasantness happened back in April.

That way we'll get two exciting fights between guys who have never competed before, with great build-up to possible rematches between Cormier and Jones, Bader and Jones or Cormier and Johnson. Hell, you could even get a completely new matchup between Bader and Johnson, as impossible as that sounds. Book it.


Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Before UFC 192, Daniel Cormier predicted Rashad Evans would take this fight. But with a caveat. He said Evans has a tendency to "skate by" in some fights, not living up to his true potential when it counts. I couldn't have said it any better.

Watch the highlights to the fight right here.

The question with Evans is always about which version of the fighter we're going to see. The beast who broke down Chael Sonnen in just four minutes? Or the gunshy pattycake player who was touched by up senior citizen Nogueira?

The answer is of course, the latter. Evans was outright terrible in his comeback after yet another prolonged layoff, unable to pull the trigger all night long even as he stalked Bader against the fence. And even when he did land, Bader simply responded with a combination to win the exchange.

It's almost as if Evans believes he's a knockout artist simply because he cracked the glass chin of punch drunk Chuck Liddell a century ago. He isn't. The fact he lost a striking battle with a wrestler who began learning to box the same year Evans won the light heavyweight title is an embarrassment.

Not to take away the improvement of Bader. I mean, the guy's gotten a hell of a lot better on the feet. He may not be exciting, fun to watch, have any knockout power, possess any risk of finishing anybody, do anything remotely interesting or surprising or worthy of discussion in any way, but dude is effective. As in, Jon Fitch effective.

Having said that, I stand by my belief he should get the next title shot for the reasons I already stated. First, it gives us a chance to get rid of him for a while. UFC was forced to do that with Fitch as well, courtesy the epic beatdown GSP laid on his ass. So, we can endure something similar here.

As for Evans, I don't know what he does now. He's 36 years old and is 2-3 in the last three years. Maybe he should take his ass back up to heavyweight where he started, see about one last run at relevancy.


Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The only reason to put Shawn Jordan on a pay-per-view card is in the hopes he'll land a sloppy slobbery goodnight kiss on his opponent that can be used to hype up the fans for bigger and better to come. Because you sure as shit aint gonna get any technique or finesse from a Jordan fight.

Russian point fighter Ruslan Magomedov ruined those plans, surviving the early onslaught by Jordan to pick him apart at range in what amounted to a fairly tedious 15 minutes of "action". Jordan had some success with the takedown to start the fight, but soon winded himself chasing the elusive Russian around the cage and was eventually forced to swing wild, useless punches in the hopes of catching a lucky break.

Magomedov is a strange creature for the heavyweight division. A man seemingly dispossessed of power, he fights somewhat like Carlos Condit, using unpredictable kicks and counter strikes while circling away from his opponents to minimize damage to himself. Unlike Condit, however, he seems to have the finishing instinct of a toddler.

How else do you explain a 6'3", 236-pound man with six consecutive wins all by decision? Like Bader, he's incredibly effective at what he does, but it sure doesn't make for exciting viewing.

It does make me wonder if the Dagestani fighter could somehow shed 31 pounds and come test his mettle in the light heavyweight division. Still, you know what they say. If it aint broke, don't fix it. Brandon Vera dropped down and look what happened to him.


Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When this fight ended I honestly had no idea who won. I figured it would probably go to a split decision. Which is why I found it strange when the judges read out the scorecards of a clean sweep, refusing to even give Ali Bagautinov even one of the close first two rounds.

I thought that the Russian fighter competed very well and landed some of the most impressive shots in the fight. He was elusive, quicker than Benavidez during many exchanges, and kept the pace for the entire fight. Still, according to Fightmetric.com, Benavidez was the more accurate striker.

Honestly, I know I sound a bit like a broken record on this one but you might need to go to Andrew Richardson for a better breakdown of these guys. The flyweights are just too quick, too fleet of foot, and their recovery from punches and kicks makes it nearly impossible for me to tell who's winning in a close fight.

So why did I give the guy who lost a better grade than the guy who won? I really thought that Bagautinov was gifted his title shot against Demetrious Johnson, plowing through two guys who aren't even on the roster anymore and a Flyweight who is now at 135 pounds. So I figured that a guy like Benavidez, who is 11-0 outside of Johnson fights was going to cream this guy.

Instead, Bagautinov showed he's a pretty legit fighter at 125 pounds, landing some impressive shots, outwrestling the Team Alpha Male wrestler, and if I recall correctly, even suplexing him once in the second round. From that perspective, this was a fairly good showing of promise from Bagautinov, even though the judges didn't quite see it that way.


Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I've been watching fights live for something like eight years now. Before that I was a casual who used to pick up the odd pay-per-view when Georges St-Pierre was fighting. But I've gone back in the Fight Pass library and watched every event back to the beginning. I also did watch the early UFC cards when they first came out for the novelty of it all.

Why the rambling preamble about that? Because I was honestly fucking lost while watching this fight. Two girls with cornrows in their hair, black fight gear, white and black shorts, same sponsor symbols. Thanks, Reebok, ya friggin' geniuses. If a hardcore fan is lost watching the fight what do you think the casuals are going to do? At least with Invicta they wear crazy shit like this:

Yes, that's an ugly cat onesie. But at least I can tell who is who.

Anyway, about the fight. Jessica Eye once again choked in a big fight, dropping her second straight and third of four. Not only that, but she faltered in similar fashion as she did against Miesha Tate back in July.

Eye always seems to come out gung-ho, with guns blazing, ready to punch a hole in somebody's chest. And then she fades and then she loses. It's like some kind of cookie cutter recipe with her. So long as you survive the first half of the fight, chances are you're going to beat her.

Not that Julianna Pena didn't look good in her return to the Octagon. She matched the pace set by Eye early and had surprising success on the feet. Where she didn't fare altogether that well is on the mat.

Pena spent entirely too much time on her back in the second round, and likely would have lost it if not for the insane decision by the referee to dock a point from Eye for kneeing her opponent in the head while Pena had her in side mount. I've seen some terrible referee calls before, but that's among the worst.

"The Venezuelan Vixen" turned it up a notch for round 3, finishing in convincing fashion. She then absurdly called out Ronda Rousey in the post-fight interview. Hm. A certain somebody was on Team Tate on The Ultimate Fighter 18 as I recall...

Quick Hits From The Undercard

  • Yair Rodriguez (A) was his usual flashy self last night, outclassing Kiwi fighter Daniel Hooker (C). Although the scorecards made it look like a blowout, this fight was not even remotely like that. Hooker pressed the action the entire time and took every shot from Rodriguez like an absolute champ.
  • Albert Tumenov (A+) very likely has the best boxing at 170 pounds for a fighter not ranked in the top 15. That should soon change after destroying the very capable Alan Jouban (C-) via first round knockout.
  • Adriano Martins (A) was spectacular in toppling an undefeated Dagestani prospect with a flash knockout, despite getting picked apart in the early going by Islam Makhachev (D). It just goes to show that losing to Donald Cerrone doesn't mean you're not an elite fighter.
  • Rose Namajunas (A) landed the second straight standing rearnaked choke in consecutive UFC events as Angela Hill (D) unwisely gave up her back without an afterthought to the grappling skills of her opponent. Rookie mistake.
  • Sage Northcutt (N/A) looked impressive in his UFC debut with a flash technical knockout over the very durable and tough Francisco Trevino (N/A). However I can't grade a fight marred by a terrible referee stoppage. Herb Dean is quickly becoming the worst in the business, stopping fights where there is no need to stop them or prolonging fights when they should have been called ages ago. Watch the replay: Trevino wasn't knocked down, he was taken down. He wasn't stopped, he was covering up, mainly due to illegal shots to the back of the head. Herb Dean gets an "F" and a dunce cap.
  • Sergio Pettis (C) had another terrible third round against Chris Cariaso (C-), nearly throwing away another fight he had been dominating early on. I don't know if Baby Pettis realizes fights are 15 minutes but it seems like he only brings his talent for half. To celebrate a win after getting nearly finished in the third round is ridiculous.
  • Derrick Lewis (B+) gets huge respect from me for sticking it out against the blanket grappling of Viktor Pesta (D) and coming back to win in dominating fashion. He showed some real heart.

That's a wrap! I'll be back in a couple of weeks to recap the UFC Dublin card. See you then!