"Jon Jones, get your sh*t together! I'm waiting for you!"
That's what Daniel Cormier shouted before storming out of the cage as the new UFC light heavyweight champion. His win may not have been the most exciting one last night, but it was the most inspiring, since he managed to climb the top of the mountain at 36, which is when most fighters are either retiring or getting clobbered by the next generation of mixed martial artists. Here are my thoughts on this awesome card:
Benavidez vs. Moraga: Moraga put up a valiant effort against Benavidez, including a belly-to-belly suplex in Round 1 and a surge at the beginning of Round 3 to try to seize the victory by KO. Unfortunately, Benavidez's wrestling, chin, boxing, and top control were simply too much for him in the end.
Winner: Joseph Benavidez (unanimous decision)
Browne vs. Arlovski: This freaking awesome match is MMA's equivalent of the first round of Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas "Hitman" Hearns! In spite of taking Browne to striking school early with punches, knees, overhand rights, straight rights, and a reverse forearm strike after a missed right hook, Arlovski looked like he was finished when Browne dropped him with a thunderous right hook. Nonetheless, Arlovski rallied and swarmed Browne against the cage, leaving "Hapa" out on his feet with a right uppercut and a straight right that caused the ref to stop the match.
Winner: Andrei Arlovski (TKO)
Cerrone vs. Makdessi: This fight was actually pretty even up until Makdessi cried uncle with a "timeout" gesture after his jaw was separated by one of "Cowboy's" left high kicks. I know why Cerrone shrugged dismissively afterwards: he himself went three rounds with Nate Diaz in the past in spite of suffering a broken jaw of his own. That being said, I've never had a broken jaw myself, so I can't judge "The Bull" for wanting to call it quits.
Winner: Donald Cerrone (TKO)
Weidman vs. Belfort: "Stop doubting me! Stop doubting me! Join the team! I love you!"
That's what Weidman said after retaining his belt and praising Jesus for getting him through his hardships in life. Although not quite as exciting as "Browne vs. Arlovski", this match was also brief and awesome. In spite of being bloodied by "The Phenom's" trademark blitz, Weidman weathered the storm, got a double leg takedown, moved to mount and punished the Brazilian legend with ground-and-pound. Belfort at first tried to punch back, but finally got overwhelmed and stopped defending himself. I was actually yelling at the screen for the ref to stop the match before it was finally stopped.
I also like how Belfort praised Jesus, too, in spite of his defeat. I have faith that, since Weidman said "yes" when Rogan asked if he could put the beef between Belfort and himself behind him, and Belfort praised Weidman after the match, that these rivals can move forward as brothers in Christ.
Winner (and still UFC middleweight champion): Chris Weidman (TKO)
Johnson vs. Cormier: In spite of eating an overhand right that would have decapitated an elephant, D.C. managed to survive the rest of Round 1, and turned the tide with a massive slam in Round 2. He then maintained top control and attempted a kimura before cutting "Rumble" open with slicing elbows at the end of Round 2. In spite of showing fantastic takedown defense throughout the fight (including punching D.C. in the face while standing on one leg during the latter's single-leg attempt in Round 3), Johnson finally got worn out and finished with a rear naked choke in the third round. While I still don't think he'd be able to win a rematch with Jon Jones (assuming he still has the belt upon the latter's return), D.C. certainly proved me wrong for doubting him tonight with his gritty, hard-fought victory.
Winner (and new UFC light heavyweight champion): Daniel Cormier (submission)