UFC 177 was the card that, with the exception of cancellation or tragedy, could have not gone more wrong before the event even started. A little history of the card; originally Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson were supposed to have their highly anticipated rematch for the light heavyweight championship at this event, but after Gustafsson tore his meniscus, Daniel Cormier was pinned as a replacement and the bout was initially moved to UFC 178. After that bout was changed for a second time, the flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso was moved to UFC 178. A heavyweight prelim fight between Ruslan Magomedov and Richard Odoms, as well as, Yancy Medieros’ original opponent Justin Edwards, were off the card due to injury.
Then came the travesty that was weigh in day, and what a day it was. First Henry Cejudo, 2008 freestyle wrestling Olympic gold medalist, was off the card due to medical complications from cutting weight, and the main event of the prelims, his highly anticipated debut against flyweight veteran Scott Jorgensen, was cancelled. Then just over an hour before the weigh ins started, the former bantamweight champion Renan Barao, who was cutting weight to get revenge against TJ Dillashaw, the man who took his title back in May, had complications while cutting weight. Barao stood up while in his hotel bathtub, and fainted, hitting his head as he fell down, and forcing his camp to call for an ambulance. Barao was still 3 lbs over the 135 lbs limit, and was forced to stay in the hospital to have electrolytes put slowly back into his system. The UFC had to make a very tough, yet obvious decision to pull Barao for the main event, and with a pay per view coming up in less than 36 hours lacking a main event, a replacement seemed like the best way to go. Joe Soto, former Bellator featherweight champion and former Tachi Palace Fights bantamweight champion, was the most suitable replacement, as he was making his highly anticipated debut after already owning 2 major belts. Soto accepted the fight in a heartbeat. The pay-per-view was secured. In five of the fights, only 2 fighters are on the top 15 list in their respective division, but the card had 8 total fights, leaving the 2 hours of prelims on Fox Sports 1 with only 3 fights.
After these unfortunate events took place, the UFC’s production truck also caught fire, but was able to run still as no person and little equipment was damaged in the process. Critics have consistently been slamming the UFC for their oversaturation of the market. They have already had 3 days with 2 fight cards on the same day, and they are planning 2 more days, just this year. They are expecting to have an 45 events in 2014, at the moment. Pay-per-view sales, the traditional bread and butter for the UFC, have been lacking, more fights have been put on TV for free to the pleasure of many fans, and UFC Fight Pass, the UFC’s digital network, has been airing smaller cards from foreign countries. What used to be stacked pay-per-view cards, have become cards with a solid main event, and maybe one or two big fights on the televised prelims. This new format for pay per views is harder to sell, and the numbers leading up to UFC 175 were the lowest in years. UFC 175 came together in all the right ways and blew everyone out of the water with excellent fights, but UFC 176 was cancelled when the main event fell out.
UFC 177 was a thin card with 8 fights where no single fight had two opponents listed in the top 15 divisional rankings, and critics were bashing the card, blatantly telling fans to avoid buying it. Luckily for the fans who decided to still attend the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, watch the televised prelims and purchase the pay per view, it was evident that good fights can be put on without featuring the best fighters. The UFC promises two things, to put on good fights and feature the best fighters, and usually they succeed at both of these, although they often miss out on a few fights that are highly desired. Putting on good fights is always a gamble. Some fighters have a tendency to throw caution to the wind and always fight with their heart on their sleeve, but sometimes guys simply have an off night, a bad stylistic matchup, or other causes can also make a good fight on paper turn into a dull 15 minute affair.
The UFC usually does a very good job of motivating fighters, and that was clearly the case as the fights were very good overall, fulfilling half of their usual promise. The other half of the UFC's usual promise flat out failed at UFC 177, as it lacked star power in a big way. If the UFC wants people to continue to do big numbers on pay-per-view, they need to have their most marketable stars featured on a consistent basis, as anyone can turn on the TV and see great fights, especially with the number of free cards on Fox, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, Bellator on Spike, and the World Series of Fighting on NBC and NBC Sports Network. The UFC needs to sell pay-per-views with fighters who fans really care about, and want to see fight, because in addition to having that star power, most often due to a love or hate personality, or life events that fit into one of those two categories, they can, and will, engage in good fights with worthy opponents.
This discussion leads us to the fights that actually took place on Saturday because despite the negativity surrounding them they were very good overall. In the main event the recently crowned bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw defended his belt against newcomer Joe Soto, and while many expected Dillashaw to decimate Soto, Soto had very different plans for the evening. Dillashaw used his superior movement and output throughout the entire fight to confuse and tag Soto at will, but Soto's defense was very tight and he wasn't afraid to throw punches at Dillashaw, landing many good blows and even giving the champ a black eye and cut to accompany it.
Dillashaw won every round, somewhat handily as time went on, but Soto didn’t sit back and let himself get tagged, he blocked many of Dillashaw’s shots and threw many of his own, that got through at a higher percentage at times, but not overall. Dillashaw relied heavily on his movement, ability to switch stances and speed to pick apart Soto slowly, getting Soto to drop his hands in the fifth round and knocking him out with a head kick, eerily similar to how he dethroned his originally proposed adversary Barao. Dillashaw is on track to meet either Raphael Assunsao or the winner of Takeya Mizugaki and Dominic Cruz next, and Barao will definitely be out of that conversation after missing weight according to Dana White.
Only 1 fighter besides Dillashaw was ranked, but there were some good fights and good finishes. Whether or not most of those fights made a difference in the divisional landscape where they took place is debatable at best.
Unquestionably the second most important fight was horsewoman killer Bethe Correia facing another one of the four horsewomen, Shayna Bazler. Correia made headlines for putting up 4 fingers and knocking 1 down, leaving 3 remaining upon beating Jessamyn Duke earlier this year, and with the rivalry that she has built up it is hard to imagine that Correia will not fight for the title in the near future, especially given Ronda Rousey’s brutal dominance over the division. Correia outclassed Bazler on the feet, tagging her repeatedly throughout the first round and scoring a standing TKO in the second round, after she had Bazler so dazed that she had dropped her hands and was eating perfectly placed shots at the hands of Correia. Correia repeated the 4 fingers gesture again after this win, but instead knocked 3 of her fingers down leaving 1 remaining and made a belt signal, indicating that only Rousey is left since the other horsewoman, Marina Shafir, is not in the UFC, and Correia wants to face Rousey for the belt. Rousey apparently demanded the fight, and after Rousey is coming off a 16 second demolition of Alexis Davis. I don’t think there’s a bad fight for Rousey, someone has to challenge her, and the storyline between the two is sure to sell tickets.
Outside of those fights the co-main event featured Team Alpha Male’s Danny Castillo facing Ultimate Fighter Season 13 winner Tony Ferguson. The fight was largely an uneventful lay and pray battle for Castillo, who took more damage on top than he was able to dish out, and the split decision was awarded to Ferguson for that reason. Both these fighters need to go back to the drawing board big time, because neither are ranked and no one is screaming to see either of them fight again. Both Ferguson and Castillo have shown knockout power on top of other attributes, and they need matchups where they will either dominate their opposition or be dominated themselves in order to be entertaining, based on this fight.
The fight of the night unquestionably went to the second fight on the main card, Ramsey Nijem vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira. The two lightweights engaged in a back and forth battle that favored both fighters in the first round The slugfest continued into the second round and Ferreira got the TKO win, upsetting the predictions of many analysts, including myself. Its hard to have a real loser in a fun fight like this one, and there is a bright future for both of these fighters in the UFC.
Two of the fights featured very odd choke finishes to open up both the main card, and the prelims. On the main card Yancy Medeiros choked Damon Jackson with a reverse bulldog choke to earn a tap just under two minutes into the second round, earning Medeiros a performance of the night bonus on top of the impressive win. Opening up the night of fighting, Chris Wade put Cain Carrizosa to sleep in just over a minute with a modified guillotine choke, and if it weren’t for Dillashaw’s dominance over Soto, this choke would have most likely earned the second performance of the night bonus. The remaining two fights on the prelims not yet discussed were the lackluster heavyweight battle between Jack May and Ruan Potts, both coming off of unsuccessful debuts, and it was apparent that there two fighters are on the lower end of UFC caliber at the very best. Potts likely earned himself a release after having his internal organs shaken up en route to losing via TKO due to unanswered punches to the body near the end of the second round, and while May won he has some work to do before facing fighters who are on the path to the bottom of the rankings. The main event of the prelims saw Derek Brunson dominate Lorenz Larkin with his superior wrestling and top game, earning a clear 30-27 to remain a threat in the division, while Larkin will likely need to drop from middleweight to welterweight to remain competitive in the UFC.
What were your thoughts on these fights on this pay per view that was seemingly doomed from the start? Please comment and leave feedback below.