An action-packed UFC 178 witnessed a rude welcome for a highly-touted newcomer, a championship-caliber performance by a returning former champion, and a coming-out party for one of the most sensational mixed-martial artists on the promotion’s roster.
And all that happened before the main event.
Eddie Alvarez knocked the Cowboy off his horse. But the Cowboy got back on to spoil one of the most anticipated octagon debuts in UFC history.
Alvarez teed off in the clinch two minutes into his fight with Donald Cerrone. After dazing Cerrone with an unanswered series of dirty-boxing rights, Alvarez again hurt the New Mexican, this time through a more traditional boxing combination. Cerrone got back in the saddle with knees and chopping leg kicks in the second frame. To start the third, Alvarez caught the kickboxer in an awkward spot with a right that nearly knocked him off his feet. Cerrone quickly tagged the Blackzillian. Vicious kicks to Alvarez’s left thigh left their mark literally and figuratively, ultimately felling the Philadelphian. Cerrone followed him to the mat and dispensed perfunctory ground-and-pound. The clear rounds resulted in identical 29-28 scorecards for Donald Cerrone, who wins his fifth in a row and perhaps a shot at the lightweight belt after Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis battle in December.
The loudmouthed Conor McGregor, the man the fans came to see, backed up his words with actions. After trading blows to start the fight, the Notorious One appeared to clip the back of Dustin Poirier’s head with a left that sent the 25-year-old to the mat. Hammerfists, rights, and a stoppage followed. “I don’t just knock them out,” the Irishman said of himself. “I pick the round.”
In the almost anticlimactic main event, Demetrious Johnson again showed himself the class of the 125-pound division. He defeated Chris Cariaso in strikes, the clinch, the ground, and ultimately in the submission game.
Mighty Mouse scored a beautiful takedown in the second minute of the first round. Later controlling Cariaso against the cage, the champion weakened the challenger with knees. He inflicted more damage through a thudding kick to the body. Seconds before round’s end, Might Mouse hurt Cariaso with an overhand right that prefaced a perfectly placed knee to the chin. Johnson capitalized on a Cariaso slip early in the second by dropping punches and elbows in a near crucifix position that eventually shifted into a kimura that coaxed not one but several taps by an overmatched Cariaso.
Johnson, the only flyweight champion the UFC has ever known, appears to have exhausted all credible opponents five defenses into his title reign. The ease with which he has defended his title has made Mighty Mouse a victim of his own success, a fighter whose matches aren’t highly anticipated for the reason that they all strike fans as highly predictable.
A woman’s match launched the pay-per-view card. Amanda Nunes dropped vicious ground-and-pound on Cat Zingano who searched for a submission that never materialized. The roles reversed in the second frame as Zingano punished the Brazilian from the top position. The rubber round saw Zingano unload knees from the clinch before gaining a full mount on Nunes. From the top position, Zingano let loose a barrage of fists and elbows that let loose blood. At 1:21 into the round, referee Jason Herzog had seen enough barbarism from the beauties. Zingano improved perfection to 9-0.
Tim Kennedy had Yoel Romero out on his feet at the conclusion of the second round. After some machinations from Romero’s corner extended the break well past one minute, the hulking wrestler exploded in the third with a straight left hand followed by an overhand right that dropped Kennedy. The Cuban pursued Kennedy, stopping him on strikes 58 seconds into the final round. The conclusion to the exciting back-and-forth battle elicited boos from fans believing the elongated hiatus prior to the final frame rejuvenated the muscle-bound “Soldier of God.” A perplexed Romero alchemized the boos into cheers by professing his love for Jesus Christ and the United States of America in non sequitur fashion after a question by Joe Rogan about the fight.
UFC 178’s most important fight strangely took place on the Fox Sports 1 undercard.
Dominick Cruz’s octagon respite lasted for more than 1,000 days. His return lasted one minute. The Dominator lived up to his nickname by absolutely destroying Takeya Mizugaki, the bantamweight division’s fifth-ranked fighter, lifting him in the air and then dropping him on the ground before dropping a series of unanswered lefts and then a series of unanswered rights on a defenseless Mizugaki wedged against the cage. Cruz announced his intention to take his belt back–stripped after injuries sidelines him in 2011–from Team Alpha Male’s T.J. Dillashaw by saying he looks forward to beating up another “alpha fail.”