On a night when T.J. Dillashaw shocked the mixed-martial arts world by upsetting Renan Barao for the bantamweight belt, UFC 173 witnessed two blasts from the promotion’s past head in different directions on the fight’s main card.
Dan Henderson won two fights at UFC 17 sixteen years ago. He looked as though he had already fought two men midway through his UFC 173 fight with the much larger Daniel Cormier.
The 8-1 favorite lands an amazing takedown forty seconds into the match that sets the tone for the lopsided bout. Cormier didn’t do much more than tire the smaller man from the top position in the first round. But in the second Cormier again lands atop Henderson, imposing his size on the smaller man. Henderson, reminiscent of the rounds he spent beneath Jake Shields, provides absolutely no answers from below as DC cut his fellow Olympic wrestler with solid ground and pound.
An exhausted Henderson eats two kicks to start the third round. Cormier than elevates Henderson above the octagon for a highlight-reel, professional-wrestling style body slam in an otherwise boring wrestlefest. A minute into the round the combatants are in a familiar positions with Cormier inflicting damage from the top. The shrunken heavyweight grabs a guillotine from the blown-up middleweight. Henderson valiantly refuses to tap and goes to sleep.
After winning every second of his bout with one of the sport’s all-time greats, Cormier immediately called out light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Henderson refused to call it a career, vowing a return–possibly at middleweight.
Whereas Henderson’s future as a title contender appears bleak, Robbie Lawler, who debuted in the promotion with a win over Aaron Riley more than a dozen years ago at UFC 37, showed himself deserving of an immediate rematch with welterweight champion Johny Hendricks after his perfect performance at UFC 173.
Lawler nailed Ellenberger with two kicks to the head and one to the breadbasket in the opening minute that make the former Marine hesitant to engage throughout the round. An energetic Lawler stalks in the second. Ellenberger attempts to engage but the wrestler finds himself in a boxing match that he’s ill-equipped to win. Ellenberger scores a takedown but Lawler literally laughs it off and quickly reverses spots. Ellenberger scores another takedown with less than a minute left that Lawler escapes after eating a few forearms. In the third, Ellenberger lets leather go to great effect, hurting Lawler–and his own hand in the process. Ruthless lives up to his nickname by following a knee to the head with a barrage of punches to a turtled Ellenberger that coaxes a stoppage at 3:06 of the final round.
In a lightweight bout, Jamie Varner battled James Krause–and a broken ankle. With Krause exploiting the injury, coming about a minute in, through low kicks, and Varner collapsing to the mat several times without contact from his opponent, the result appeared a fait accompli. Sitting on the mat after the horn blasts, Varner–who amazingly scored a takedown and landed several good shots despite the injury–told his corner, “Dude, my ankle’s broke,” and his corner told the referee to stop the fight.
Takeya Mizugaki dropped Francisco Rivera with a clipping right hand on the ear 90 seconds into their bantamweight scrap that foreshadowed the result of the three-round tilt. Though Rivera cut his Japanese opponent, he did little else in a lethargic performance that gave way to a too-little-too-late swing-fest in the last frame’s last minute. Mizugaki wins his fifth straight by unanimous decision.
Other notable fights from Las Vegas on Saturday night included Michael Chiesea decisioning and dominating Francisco Trinaldo, Tony Ferguson rebounding from early trouble to score a first-round technical knockout of Katsunori Kikuno, and Chris Holdsworth defeating a game but outmatched Chico Camus through the judges.