UFC 178 was one of the most anticipated cards of the year, and it completely lived up to expectations. The main card featured four finishes in five fights, but it was more the way the fights played out that made the event memorable. Each main card result will have a direct impact on its division’s title picture moving forward as well. Despite the fantastic pay-per-view card, the best performance of the night — and perhaps the only fighter who will affect a title change — came on Fox Sports 1. The main event was probably the least anticipated bout on the PPV portion of the card, but flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson did exactly what he was supposed to. The champion came out and dominated the first round against Chris Cariaso with his superior all-around skills. In the second frame he took the overmatched challenger to the ground and locked in a kimura that forced the tap. Even the dominant performance seemed like a bit of a letdown given the rest of the card, but ‘Mighty Mouse’ did everything he could to keep fans interested.
With John Lineker and Ian McCall fighting in just over a month, that seems like a perfect next bout for Johnson, even though he’s undefeated in two bouts against McCall. The flyweight division has several fighters who are on the rise, but haven’t reached title contention yet, so the division will be in a bit of limbo until that happens. Johnson’s toughest test yet at flyweight, John Dodson, will also be returning from a knee injury in the new year, and he could be a good contender in the interim. The co-main event was far more interesting both before and during the fight. Former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez came out in his typically aggressive style, crowding Donald Cerrone and getting off some solid offense in the first round. Cerrone was able to establish his range throughout the fight however, and he’s one of the most dangerous fighters in the world in that kind of situation. The final ten minutes of the bout were fought almost exclusively at Cerrone’s kicking range, and Alvarez was unable to navigate the reach. That allowed Cerrone to land leg kicks which slowed Alvarez and turned the bout into a more stationary affair. With the win, Cerrone has once again established himself as one of the top lightweights in the world, and if this wasn’t a title eliminator he deserves on in his next outing. Khabib Nurmagomedov would provide that challenge, but we’ve seen what has happened before when that fight has been made.
In the most talked about fight of the evening, the legend of Conor McGregor grew even more. After months of trash talk, McGregor finally got in the cage with Dustin Poirier and dispatched him in just 1:46. Once again, the Irishman’s striking and footwork looked superb, and he’s a stiff test for anybody in the featherweight division so long as he can keep the fight standing. McGregor will move into the top 10 at featherweight, but could be advanced to a title shot in short order should the opportunity arise. If the title fight doesn’t happen, the winner of Swanson/Edgar seems the natural choice. Either way, McGregor has an incredible buzz surrounding his fights and himself in general. As good as he looked in the cage, his best performance of the night may have been with a microphone in his hand. The Irishman is able to play the role of the cocky hero/villain (depending on your opinion of him) to perfection, and that’s probably the biggest reason he is where he is right now.
None of those three bouts were even the best of the night however. That honor belongs to the two biggest men on the card, Yoel Romero and Tim Kennedy (Sidenote: What a coincidence that the best card of the year came from an event with no Heavyweight or Light Heavyweight bouts). The 37-year-young Cuban dominated the first round and a half of the fight, landing more and better strikes and completely shutting down Kennedy’s wrestling game. However, Kennedy’s trademark durability and cardio began to pay off late in the second round. With less than ten seconds to go in the round, he landed a series of uppercuts and hooks that had Romero out on his feet. The bell prevented the fight being stopped right there, but that’s when the typical Romero-fight-insanity ensued. After the 10-second whistle to resume the bout, Romero didn’t stand up off his stool and his corner didn’t leave the cage. There was also was too much extra Vaseline over Romero’s left eye, which prompted his corner to be called back in to the cage to wipe the excess away. It was an obvious, albeit brilliant, ploy by Romero’s corner to buy him some extra time, and all-in-all the break between rounds two and three lasted an additional 28 seconds, immediately prompting “Stoolgate”. Romero took full advantage of the time between rounds, as he came out in the third rejuvenated and immediately rocked Kennedy and kept the pressure on until he earned his third TKO finish in the final round in his last four fights. There is no questioning Romero’s skill and physical ability, but he’s going to continue to run into problems later in fights as he moves up the middleweight ladder. Speaking of which, there aren’t many more steps for Romero to take up the stacked middleweight ladder, and even fewer top middleweights available to fight. It almost seems unfair that Luke Rockhold would have to fight again after he beats Michael Bisping, but Rockhold/Romero would almost certainly add another title contender to the list that includes Vitor Belfort and ‘Jacare’ Souza.
Opening up the main card was another fantastic fight, as Cat Zingano came back from a near 10-8 first round against Amanda Nunes to earn her own third round TKO. Both women looked impressive, but Zingano showed incredible toughness which let her skills shine through later in the fight as Nunes faded. Zingano hit a pair of takedowns that resembled a pro wrestling DDT and suplex during the fight, and dominated on the ground from late in the first round through the remainder of the bout. It was an excellent return for her after an extended layoff, but wouldn’t seem to give her much of a shot against Ronda Rousey when that bout eventually takes place.
That does it for the pay-per-view card, although another bout snuck on to the broadcast following the conclusion of the main event. It’s a good thing it did as well, since Dominick Cruz’ absolute bludgeoning of Takeya Mizugaki was the best individual performance of the entire card. Anyone tuning in would have no idea that Cruz had been out for nearly three years with knee and groin injuries, as he moved as well as ever, was explosive into his one takedown attempt, and showed more power than we’ve ever seen out of him. Mizugaki was on a five-fight winning streak and ranked #5 based on the UFC’s own rankings, and Cruz walked through him like nobody has done in his Zuffa career. Cruz may still be the best bantamweight in the world, and his impending bout with TJ Dillashaw should be one of the most anticipated fights of 2015.
It will be hard for the UFC to top this weekend’s event, but perhaps the combination of their cards in Sweden and Halifax this coming Saturday will put together some memorable moments. The odds are already out for the Sweden event, and will be released for the Halifax show early in the week, so stay tuned to MMAOddsBreaker.com for the analysis you’ve come to expect.