Five Takeaways from UFC 208
UFC 208 is in the books. In the grand scheme of things, it was not a very notable show. A champion was crowned with the division’s best fighter sitting ringside. Anderson Silva had to rely heavily on the judges to get a victory. There was questionable refereeing and judging, and just one fight in which the judges weren’t needed. Overall, it was a strange night. Here are five takeaways from UFC’s first pay-per-view offering of 2017:
1. The NYSAC put its worst foot forward. The main event was marred by controversy as Germaine de Randamie threw blows after the horn in two consecutive rounds. After the second round, de Randamie wobbled Holm with a right hand that was thrown after the round had ended. She also threw punches after the horn in the third round, although none connected. Despite the punch after the second round being significant and attempting to strike after the horn in the third round, no points were deducted from de Randamie, which was technically the correct call. Officially, a round does not end until the referee separates the fighters. Since de Randamie stopped throwing strikes once referee Todd Anderson stopped the action, she didn’t break the rules.
Instead, the fault falls to Anderson, who wasn’t quick enough to halt the fighters once the horn sounded. Although Anderson lacks big fight experience and probably shouldn’t have gotten the call for the main event, it’s tough to criticize him for the punch at the end of the second round. He was close to the fighters and immediately moved to stop them once the horn sounded, but in the second it took for him to reach out to them, de Randamie’s punch was at its target. However, that experience should have made him more aware to jump in before a similar thing could happen again in the fight. When it happened again the next round, it was Anderson’s fault.
It will be interesting to see if more fighters begin to continue fighting after the horn until the referee breaks them up, if only to avoid eating a shot like Holm did at the end of round two.
The night also had some questionable judging.
The only bad judging call was Anderson Silva’s unanimous decision victory over Derek Brunson, which it appears the vast majority of observers scored for Brunson. The fight was close, but by most accounts Brunson took rounds one and three, if not round two as well. Judge Derek Cleary had it 29-29 for Silva, giving him rounds one and three. Douglas Crosby, who we’ll get to again for another decision in a moment, gave Silva rounds two and three. Eric Colon scored all three rounds for Silva. I had rounds one and three for Brunson, with Silva getting a close second. It wasn’t the worst call we’ll see this year, but it was not the right call.
Earlier on the card, Islam Makhachev beat down Nik Lentz. Most observers had at least one 10-8 round in either the first or the second round for Makhachev, and judges Eric Colon and Chris Lee scored both of those rounds 10-8. Judge Douglas Crosby scored each round 10-9 for Makhavhev, which, although perhaps a bit generous, isn’t awful scoring if taken at face value. However, Crosby is reportedly friends with Lentz. That does not mean Crosby could not have possibly judged the bout without bias, however he should not have been assigned to the fight, and once he was assigned to it he should have recused himself. Of course, this had no bearing on the outcome of the fight, but if it had been a close fight, it would have brought a lot of questions that the New York State Athletic Commission would not want to consider.
2. It was a long night. Even though UFC 208 was far from the best card on paper, it still could have delivered a good night of fights. Instead, we got mostly average or below average fights that went the distance, which hardly made for the best viewing experience. The first seven bouts on the card went to a decision, with the excellent Dustin Poirier vs. Jim Miller fight being the only one that separated itself from the pack. Then, after Jacare Souza ended the streak, Silva and Brunson began the streak anew, and de Randmie and Holm followed suit. By and large, these weren’t the type of fights that create new fans.
3. He didn’t deserve the win, but now we have a better idea of where Anderson Silva stands. It’s been a weird few years for Anderson Silva. His past few fights made it clear he was in decline, but in between his taunting and passivity against Michael Bisping last year, there was some brilliance. His midsummer bout with Daniel Cormier couldn’t have provided any answers as to where exactly Silva is at this stage, so it was up to the fight with Brunson to answer that question.
The answer: He’s old and he knows it. We didn’t see Anderson try to fight with the aggression that he did in the first half of his title reign or the ultra-cocky counter striker he gradually became in the second half of his reign. Anderson still looked to counter, but there wasn’t his famous taunting to bait Brunson into attacking so he could counter; his speed has fallen too much to do that against someone of Brunson’s quality and he knows it. There was still a bit of fun and showboating, but it was limited and intended to throw Brunson off. His takedown defense is as good as ever, and his defense on the bottom on the ground is still very strong. He’s still crafty on the feet; there were some very good jabs, and he’s better than anyone at rolling with punches.
Anderson has talked of getting back to the title, but this performance by no means merited him passing over Yoel Romero and Jacare Souza to get to Michael Bisping. As long as Bisping holds the title, Silva will be in the mix, but he won’t beat any of the division’s best fighters. However, the changes he’s made to his fighting style should allow him more longevity at the end of his career than other legends have had. He still has enough ability and craftiness that will allow him to hang with most middleweights.
4. Only one top contender put on a title shot-worthy performance. Three fighters went into UFC 208 with varying degrees of realistic title shot hopes. The first of those to fight, Wilson Reis, was clearly better than the rangy Ulka Sasaki, although Sasaki had some bright spots in the fight. However, Reis, who lost his flyweight title shot last year when Demetrious Johnson went down with an injury, didn’t have the performance he needed to push his name ahead of Joseph Benavidez’s in the title hunt.
There were two middleweights gunning for title shots. As noted, Anderson Silva wants to fight Michael Bisping for the title, and although he still has an outside chance since he’s the biggest draw of the top contenders, he is by far the least deserving contender. Before Silva edged past Derek Brunson, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza breezed past Tim Boetsch, submitting him with a kimura in the first round. There appears to be too much momentum toward a Bisping-Yoel Romero fight to stop the fight from happening, but Jacare undoubtedly proved he’s deserving of a title match.
5. It appears the show did better than expected. When the show was announced with Holm vs. de Randamie in the main event, I expected it to do poorly on pay-per-view – somewhere in the 150,000-buy range. The addition of Anderson Silva boosted that prediction a bit, but preliminary indications are that the show did much better. UFC President Dana White did a lot of media for the card, and there was a heavier media presence in Brooklyn than you’d get for the typical 175-200,000 buy card. On Friday, the show did more than 50,000 Google searches; it’s extremely rare for small UFC pay-per-view shows to do significant search numbers the day before. Since Friday, the show has had more than 500,000 searches. These are of course only rough indicators of how a show may have done on pay-per-view, but those numbers would usually mean better than 300,000 buys on pay-per-view. Considering the main event was thrown together for lack of anything that made sense, that would be a good number.