For the first time this year, there’s something happening at a UFC pay-per-view worth getting legitimately excited about. Jon Jones has returned and finally — finally! — it appears his long-awaited comeback fight against light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is actually, for real, like, really going to happen.
No one missed weight, no one failed a doping test, no one’s injured. It’s like the MMA gods got together and opened the doors to the heavens. Or at least the UFC octagon, where these two big dudes are set to settle their long-standing rivalry after years of missed opportunities.
Tonight’s card will be about more than just Cormier and Jones. There are two other titles on the line, including the welterweight strap between champ Tyron Woodley and No. 1 contender Demian Maia. The women will also have a title fight for the featherweight belt when former Ronda Rousey foe Cris “Cyborg” Justino takes on Tonya Evinger. Rounding out the card are Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone and Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir, all of whom rank in the Top 6 of their respective divisions.
Make sure to bookmark this page for live, round-by-round analysis from Patrick Wyman and color commentary from Marissa Payne because this is a UFC night for the ages. Now let’s go!
On now: Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia
At long last, Demian Maia finally gets his well-deserved shot at champion Tyron Woodley. Woodley’s title run has been odd, to say the least. After knocking out Robbie Lawler last July, he had two slow, inconclusive fights with Stephen Thompson, while Maia ran through opponent after opponent until he could no longer be denied. Maia is one of the best grapplers in the history of the sport, a genuine wizard on the mat. Woodley has incredible takedown defense, though, and Maia is no match for Woodley on the feet. Look for Maia to push Woodley back toward the fence, where he can chain takedowns together and avoid Woodley’s big-time power. Woodley would be well served to seize the initiative and push Maia back himself to lessen the danger of Maia’s takedown and grappling games. This could be slow and grinding or it could be over inside a minute.
Cris Cyborg def. Tonya Evinger via TKO, Round 3, 1:56
That was a near-perfect performance from Cris Cyborg. It’s not just that she’s stronger, faster, and more powerful than her opponents; she’s also slicker, more technical, and has more weapons in her toolbox. If there’s a better fighter in all of women’s MMA, I don’t know who it is. To her credit, Evinger hung tough, but she would’ve needed an act of divine intervention to beat the version of Cyborg who showed up tonight. Evinger is still an elite bantamweight, though, and deserves to hang around in the UFC. As for Cyborg, maybe Holly Holm would get her to break a sweat.
Round 1: After coming out to a Portuguese version of the Christian ballad “Holy Spirit,” which temporarily threw fans off, Cyborg hits Evinger with the first punch she throws, a slick counter left hook.
— #UFC214 (@ufc) July 30, 2017
But Evinger stays up! She’s working a nice jab, but gets tagged hard and backs up to the fence. Evinger, rocked, pulls guard, but Cyborg lets her up. Cyborg is picking her shots carefully, maintaining a steady distance and avoiding Evinger’s rushes. Every time Cyborg lands, it moves Evinger. Evinger is game thus far; she’s throwing heat and looking for takedowns. Briefly, Evinger gets Cyborg to the mat, then a second time, but can’t hold her there. Cyborg lands a big knee on the way up. This is smart from Evinger — she’s putting herself in position to grind against the fence and look for takedowns, where Cyborg can’t hurt her as easily. It could pay off later in the fight if she can drain Cyborg’s gas tank. An eye poke from Evinger briefly stops the action, but Cyborg says she’s fine and gets back to pressuring. She’s eating up Evinger’s legs with low kicks, something that could pay off later if she does enough damage. Big combination from Cyborg, and Evinger buys time by clinching. A counter right hand lands from Cyborg, then a head kick. Evinger is getting beat up against the fence and Cyborg is exploiting her side-to-side head movement by trying to catch her with kicks. A vicious right hand lands for Cyborg and then a knee as the round ends. 10-9, maybe 10-8, for Cyborg.
P.S. Check out the referee’s beard.
— Adam Ornelas (@TheAtomRay) July 30, 2017
Round 2: Cyborg is doing a great job of maintaining distance, and in that vein, she starts the round with a series of low kicks and jabs. Evinger is turning her head as she tries to escape the pressure and Cyborg is going to catch her with something big if she keeps doing that. Cyborg’s forward movement is crisp and technical; she’s backing Evinger up at will and maintaining the initiative, which allows her to set the distance and pick and choose her leads and counters. Slick stuff. Evinger lands a right hand as she’s backing up but Cyborg stays on her, landing a few punches and a knee in return. The counters are the story of the second round; Cyborg has Evinger’s timing and range, and she’s more comfortable staying close, seeing Evinger’s shots coming, and firing back with a few of her own. Evinger’s got an insane chin on her; she’s eaten big, flush punches and kicks from Cyborg. To Cyborg’s credit, though, she’s still measured; she’s not loading up or wasting energy. 10-9, maybe 10-8 again, to Cyborg. 20-18 at worst for Cyborg.
Round 3: Cyborg looks fresh to start the third, and she gets right back on the horse with the pressure. A hard right hand lands flush for Cyborg, then she grazes her with a head kick, then a combination drops Evinger to the mat. This is getting ugly. Even Cyborg’s body jabs are landing hard. She backs Evinger up to the fence and goes to work in the clinch with a series of knees that plant Evinger on the mat once and for all, and the referee steps in to stop the fight.
Meanwhile, Jon Jones is backstage looking a little nervous. Or maybe just excited.
Robbie Lawler def. Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
That was a razor-thin fight and a great example of what MMA has to offer as a sport. Cerrone put together the best technical performance of his career and came up just shy, while Lawler used every ounce of his considerable veteran savvy to make adjustments and find ways to land shots and take rounds. Cerrone has now lost two in a row, but it doesn’t much matter; he’s a fan favorite and a big name, so he’ll get fun fights. As for Lawler, another title run may happen, but he’s a shoe-in for interesting matchups.
NASCAR star Kevin Harvick must be a little bummed…
— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) July 30, 2017
This fan might be happy, though, after converting to a Lawler fan thanks to his adept walkout song choice of “Ain’t No Grave” by Johnny Cash.
Rooting for Cowboy but now that I’ve heard Robbie Lawler’s entrance song I might have to switch. #UFC214
— Antonio Castro (@wctony) July 30, 2017
Round 1: Lawler opens up on fire, blasting Cerrone with a barrage of punches, knees, and elbows in the clinch. He’s sticking to Cerrone like glue and not letting him establish his preferred long distance.
— #UFC214 (@ufc) July 30, 2017
Cerrone survives the flurry, though, and gets his range. Lawler dives into the clinch again. This is smart; he’s bigger and stronger, and the closer they are, the more Lawler’s power will tell. Lawler’s pressure is relentless. Cerrone is competitive in the clinch, but long-term, those battles don’t favor him. Lawler is doing a great job of landing short shots inside. Cerrone shoots a slick takedown as Lawler comes forward and manages to get the strong defensive wrestler to the mat. Cerrone is staying busy on top and passes to side control, but Lawler times his explosion perfectly. Back on the feet, Cerrone stumbles Lawler with an elbow in the clinch and then grazes him with a high kick. As the round ends, it’s Cerrone pressuring. 10-9 Lawler by a hair in a great first round.
Round 2: Cerrone seems looser, like he’s found his range and timing, and Lawler isn’t as aggressive as the second round opens. Cerrone is getting his kicking game going early, then launches a nice, fluid punching combination. This is his range. Lawler gets into the clinch again, and Cerrone has that nice elbow waiting for him. The momentum is trending in Cerrone’s direction. Cerrone is doing a fantastic job of disguising his kicks, mixing up the timing and level after flashing his hands. Lawler is looking a bit flummoxed here; he’s a bit too far outside and Cerrone isn’t afraid of his power anymore. Cerrone launches a beautiful sequence, going from a feinted takedown to a knee to a kick on the break. Gorgeous stuff, and Lawler doesn’t have any answers at the moment. More slick combinations from Cowboy follow. To his credit, though, Lawler is calm and collected as he heads back to his corner. 10-9 Cerrone in the second and 19-19 overall.
Round 3: Lawler comes out hot again. He’s firing off kicks, trying to take away that distance from Cerrone. He’s pressuring again, but this time, Cerrone is the one winning the clinch exchanges. Lawler, it seems, gave away the second round to have the gas to attack hard in the third. While Cerrone has done a good job of throwing combinations, Lawler’s high guard and active parries have made it really difficult to hit him cleanly to the head. More kicks from Lawler as he looks to press Cerrone backward. A big combination lands for Lawler, but Cerrone takes the shots well and returns fire. He’s not as hard a puncher, but he’s not letting Lawler get away with planting his feet and throwing. This is the most mature technical performance of Cerrone’s career, just gorgeous stuff from him. Instead of diving into the clinch, Lawler has adjusted by backstepping and throwing short, tight combinations in the pocket. This is move and countermove at the highest level. With 20 seconds left, Lawler is attacking hard, letting everything go with big pressure and combinations. Cerrone fires back and both men raise their hands in victory. Great fight. 10-9 to Lawler in the third and 29-28 to him overall on our card.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram likes this fight so much he’s watching it on two screens.
— Mark Ingram II (@MarkIngram22) July 30, 2017
Volkan Oezdemir def. Jimi Manuwa via TKO (punches), Round 1, 42 seconds
Well, that’s one way to start a UFC card. Oezdemir landed a couple of short shots in the clinch that rocked Manuwa, and then pursued him relentlessly, eventually planting a flush left hook on him and then finishing on the mat. This makes it three in a row for Oezdemir, who apparently has big power in his hands to go along with a great pace and excellent technical skills on the feet. There’s really nobody else available to fight for the title against the winner of tonight’s main event, and Oezdemir is fresh blood in a division that has been dominated by the same fighters for the last half decade. Why not? It should be fun.
Also, maybe Manuwa’s should’ve chosen some different walkout music…
— Marcus Vanderberg (@marcowill) July 30, 2017
Well, at least WWE superstar Cesaro is happy!
— Cesaro (@WWECesaro) July 30, 2017
And maybe comedian Hannibal Buress.
Manuwa? More like Man U Wanna stop punching me in the face?
I’ll see myself out. #UFC214
— Hannibal Buress (@hannibalburess) July 30, 2017
On another note, the title contenders are in the building in Anaheim. THIS IS HAPPENING!
— #UFC214 (@ufc) July 30, 2017
Plus, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s in the house!
— #UFC214 (@ufc) July 30, 2017
Here’s the full card.
MAIN CARD, 10 p.m., Pay-per-view
- Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones (five-round title fight)
- Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia (five-round title fight)
- Cris Cyborg def. Tonya Evinger via TKO, Round 3, 1:56
- Robbie Lawler def. Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Volkan Oezdemir def. Jimi Manuwa via TKO (punches), Round 1, 42 seconds
UFC 214 kicked off with a strong slate of preliminary action on FXX and UFC Fight Pass that delivered both action and relevance in equal measure.
Brian Ortega announced himself as a true featherweight contender with a come-from-behind submission win over fellow undefeated up-and-comer Renato Moicano. Longtime prospect Aljamain Sterling broke through into the elite with the biggest win of his career. He overcame a tough stylistic matchup in former bantamweight champion Renan Barao, beating up Barao on the ground and edging it on the feet. In the main event on FXX, former title contender Ricardo Lamas staked his claim for another shot at the top with a vicious finish of the rising Jason Knight.
- Ricardo Lamas def. Jason Knight via TKO, Round 1, 4:34
- Aljamain Sterling def. Renan Barao via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 30-26)
- Brian Ortega def. Renato Moicano via submission (guillotine choke) Round 3, 2:59
- Calvin Kattar def. Andre Fili via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
EARLY PRELIMS RESULTS
- Alexandra Albu def. Kailin Curran via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Jarred Brooks def. Eric Shelton via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Drew Dober def. Josh Burkman via KO, Round 1, 3:04
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