There was something that wasn’t quite right about UFC 191, and it wasn’t that it was a Demetrious Johnson headlined card that was doomed to fail commercially. No, the big thing wrong with UFC 191 was that former flyweight John Lineker and bantamweight slugger Francisco Rivera weren’t on the main card. Instead, TUF winner Corey Anderson and Jan Blachowicz had a spot on the pay-per-view, as did Paige VanZant in one of the most obvious squash matches the UFC has booked in some time. If Lineker and Rivera were at least the featured prelim on Fox Sports 1 it would have made some sense to me — as the UFC will often try to put an exciting fight on just before the PPV — but they didn’t even get that distinction. It was truly bizarre card construction by the UFC, and Lineker and Rivera showed exactly why in the 2:08 whirlwind of a fight they provided. The two men combined for 100 strike attempts in a 128-second fight. That is absurd. John Lineker showed off perhaps the best chin in MMA, moving up a weight class, taking on perhaps the hardest hitter at that weight, and simply eating everything Rivera hit him with… and Rivera hit him with some clean shots. It was remarkable to watch the smaller man wade into the pocket with no regard for his opponent’s power, and land massive shots of his own. It ended up being Lineker who rocked Rivera, didn’t let up, and eventually slapped on a guillotine as his opponent was stumbling around in a daze from all the shots he had taken. While it didn’t have the single collar tie, this was about as close as you’ll see in 2015 to two fighters trying to recreate the legendary Don Frye/Yoshihiro Takayama exchanges from PRIDE. And it was glorious. Sorry, Demetrious Johnson, I would’ve loved to talk about your seventh consecutive title defense and all-around excellent performance last night, but this happened:
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) September 6, 2015
So in closing, I never want to hear anyone say anything negative about John Lineker. He could show up to his next bantamweight bout weighing 170 pounds and I still wouldn’t care. As for his next fight, I don’t want to see any wrestlers across the cage from John Lineker. Cody Garbrandt said he wanted the fight, but he’d resort to wrestling quickly if that were to happen. The fight I want to see is Lineker against fellow Brazilian Thomas Almeida. We know that Lineker can take punches, but can he walk right through Almeida’s knees as well? And that does it for this week’s video highlig… oh, there were other fights last night too? In the main event of the evening, Demetrious Johnson dominated John Dodson (and turned Dodson’s face into a pile of rubble) to retain his flyweight title and status as the UFC’s only flyweight champion. Johnson won with his usual mix of, well, everything. He was faster to the punch than Dodson, which was supposed to be the challenger’s biggest advantage in the bout, better in the clinch, and mixed in takedowns as the fight went on. Dodson was game, but simply does not possess the tools to beat Johnson. Their first meeting was as good as it will get for Dodson while the champion is still around.
Johnson’s next opponent should probably be Henry Cejudo, should the gold medalist get past Jussier Formiga in his upcoming bout. I still think it’s too early for Cejudo to face ‘Mighty Mouse,’ but it would be hard to deny him with such an impressive win in the division. In the co-main event, Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir at least showed up. They didn’t do much after that however. Arlovski threw a couple of punches, Mir threw a couple of punches. Oh! Mir got a takedown at one point! That was exciting… then Arlovski just wrapped him up until John McCarthy stood them up. They both got really tired. Does that count as a thing? In the end, Arlovski moved to 4-0 since returning to the UFC, with two fantastic fights (Travis Browne and ‘Bigfoot’ Silva) and two dreadfully horrific ones (Mir and Brendan Schaub). It is cool that he’s in the UFC heavyweight title picture in 2015, but it’s also really sad that heavyweight MMA has to go through its existence being heavyweight MMA. I’m not even going to post the ‘highlight’ video for this one, because your time would be better served elsewhere. As for Arlovski’s next bout, I wanted him to get the title shot coming off his win over Browne, but the UFC decided to bring a surprisingly interesting heavyweight division to a screeching halt by booking Fabricio Werdum against Cain Velasquez again. Now, it’s nearly impossible to give Arlovski a title shot coming off of that win, so if both Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos win their upcoming bouts, Arlovski should get whichever one of them doesn’t get the next title shot after Cain. Anthony Johnson almost let himself get dragged down into the mud that was the UFC 191 main card, but then he remembered that he is Anthony Johnson, and when you’re Anthony Johnson you don’t wrestle some British guy (no matter how easy it is), you just knock him out. So that’s exactly what ‘Rumble’ came out and did in the second round of his bout with Jimi Manuwa after controlling the first and reminding us all that he can wrestle a bit if need be. The man with the scariest power in MMA just needed one right hand to drop Manuwa, and then followed it up with a couple of well-placed shots on the ground to remove his foe’s consciousness in his particularly brutal fashion.
Johnson’s best hope to not get stuck in line for a title shot would be for Alexander Gustafsson to beat Daniel Cormer at UFC 192. That would likely result in ‘Rumble’ immediately being inserted as the #1 contender given his previous win over the Swede. Should Cormier emerge victorious however, he’ll likely face the winner of Rashad Evans and Ryan Bader, which would leave ‘Rumble’ to face the winner of Glover Teixeira and Patrick Cummins. Jan Blachowicz is extremely lucky he didn’t face Anthony Johnson last night, because with the performance he put on against Corey Anderson, I doubt he would’ve been able to leave the Octagon under his own power against ‘Rumble.’ Blachowicz looked alright in the first round, landing a few kicks, scoring a takedown, and almost hitting an armbar, but he was dead tired by the end of the round. Anderson took over from there, scoring easy takedowns and punishing Blachowicz on the ground for the majority of the final two rounds. All three judges scored rounds two and three as 10-8’s for Anderson, even though he wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire himself. This is another one I’ll spare you the “highlights” of, and from now on you won’t ever have to think about it again. Opening up the PPV, Paige VanZant did was a -1400 favorite should do, and beat the brakes off of poor Alex Chambers for about 11 minutes, before snatching a fairly impressive armbar. Chambers scoring her miracle comeback win over Kailin Curran was probably the worst thing for her, as it only resulted in her being led to slaughter against a fighter the UFC is very high on. VanZant still needs to refine a lot of things technically, but her ability to get in an opponent’s face and never stop pressuring them is enough on its own to find a good deal of success in the strawweight division.
The UFC is trying to build VanZant slowly, but in such a shallow division that’s a tough task. Unless given another unranked opponent, VanZant’s next test will be a significant step up in competition, and a win there could put her in the unenviable position of having to face Joanna Jedrzejczyk depsite lacking any sort of striking defense.