Recapping the Gold Standard: A Look Back at UFC 200

By: Ray Higginbotham
July 9th, 2016 will go down as a historic event in the sport of MMA and the sports world in general, and while some fans went to bed early this morning feeling unsatisfied, there was plenty to like about what was arguably the most stacked card in UFC, if not mixed martial arts, history. The official gate and attendance numbers were record-breaking for the UFC, at $10.7 million and 18,202 respectively. Whether or not the fighters put on the performances expected of them is up for debate. For now, let’s take a look back at UFC 200.

UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims

The early preliminary bouts featured on UFC Fight Pass gave fans a delectably violent appetizer to help prepare them for the main course later in the evening.

Much of the flame that propelled “The Fireball Kid” to stardom in Pride FC has been snuffed out during his time in the UFC, and Jim Miller may have thrown water on any embers that were still burning in Gomi’s belly by scoring a lopsided first-round TKO over the former lightweight notable.

Gegard Mousasi also stopped his opponent, Thiago Santos, in less than 5 minutes via TKO (strikes) in a fight that was far less competitive than most originally thought it would be. Santos seemed like he was in a daze throughout the fight, and before he knew it, was on his way to the locker rooms with a new loss on his record.

Fans expected Diego Sanchez vs. Joe Lauzon to be a barnburner and the fight delivered on that expectation, although the fight wasn’t very competitive at all. Lauzon will forever go down in history as the first man to stop Diego Sanchez via strikes.

Sanchez, an icon for a large number of fans who rode the TUF wave into MMA addiction, seems to have plateaued over the last half decade, and after last night’s performance does not appear to be evolving anymore at this point in his career.

FS1 Prelims

The prelims on FS1 kicked off with a fight between the up-and-coming Sage Northcutt, who was hospitalized for a staph infection during his training camp, and Enrique Marin, whose biggest piece of offense came in the form of a nasty armbar that nearly broke Northcutt’s arm in the 2nd round.

Northcutt eventually got the nod from the judges with a performance that doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to the hype surrounding the 20-year-old martial artist.

In an important bantamweight fight, T.J. Dillashaw showed why he’s still one of the very best at 135- lbs. with a decision win over a man who had defeated him before in Raphael Assuncao. Dillashaw’s style lent itself well to Assuncao’s rather flat-footed, counter-heavy approach as he found his way in and out of the pocket with relative ease. Assuncao didn’t look horrible; Dillashaw just looked better.

This was a win Dillashaw needed to get back in the title picture at bantamweight, where Dominick Cruz is playing “Dominator.” A rematch between the two should happen sometime in the future.

Speaking of title rematches, it doesn’t look like Johnny Hendricks will be earning one anytime soon. One can’t help but compare the career trajectory of Johnny Hendricks to that of another former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.  Sort of like Assuncao did in his fight against T.J. Dillashaw; Hendricks didn’t look absolutely horrible, but he certainly didn’t perform like the man who was expected to sit atop the 170-pound division for years. This was a big setback for “Bigg Rigg.”

Julianna Pena’s win over Cat Zingano surprised me. Zingano looked primed to get back on the winning track and seemed to be well-prepared coming into this fight with a successful weight cut that was chronicled on social media. Instead, Zingano found herself on the ground with Pena, who would do more damage over the 15-minute fight and secure herself a unanimous decision win in the process.

With the win over Zingano, Pena can put her name on the list of contenders vying for a shot at Amanda Nunes. More on her later.

PPV Main Card

The main card of UFC 200 took a major blow when the UFC yanked Jon Jones from his title fight with Daniel Cormier, but there was still a lot to love about what left over. On paper, that is. The consensus from many of the casual fans that I heard from was that they were left wanting more – a testament, perhaps, to the UFC’s ability to market and hype major events.

The first fight on the main card reminded us why Cain Velasquez is such a savage, as he put on a classic “Cain” performance that saw him break Travis Browne and finish him via first-round TKO (punches). The win was undoubtedly a morale booster for Javier Mendez and AKA, whose team members must have let out a collective sigh of relief as their team captain was warming up for his fight against Anderson Silva. If Cain’s recent surgeries have had an adverse impact on his ability to compete, it wasn’t evident in his fight against “Hapa.”

The next fight up was a rematch between two of the best fighters in MMA history: Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo. This matchup had a “big fight” feel going in.

Many questions needed answers regarding Jose Aldo leading up to this fight: What kind of mental damage did the knockout loss to Conor McGregor have on the former 145-lb kingpin?  Would the loss be the first of many? Would he end up looking like his friend and training partner Renan Barao, whose soul was seemingly snatched away by T.J. Dillashaw?

Aldo put on a stellar performance against one of the toughest, most resilient fighters on the UFC roster in Frankie Edgar, who happened to be on a 5-fight win streak before Aldo shut him down with a unanimous decision win last night. Fact is, Jose Aldo has Frankie Edgar’s number, and it’s hard to see that changing in the future. This game is unforgiving and has a way of reminding its fighters of that. See B.J. Penn vs Frankie Edgar 1, 2 and 3.

The aura of Anderson Silva was alive and well in his fight against 205-pound champ Daniel Cormier, but “DC” proved to be a glitch in Silva’s matrix as he took him down repeatedly and used his wrestling-heavy offense to secure a unanimous decision win over the “Spider.” “DC” fought a smart fight, much to the chagrin of the crowd in attendance, and will most likely defend his title against the winner of Glover Teixeria vs. Anthony Johnson.

I’m just going to go ahead and say it – Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt was awesome. The fight went much longer than most pundits thought it would, but the spectacle of the whole thing was great, and seeing Lesnar defeat a Top 8 opponent after 5 years away from the sport was fantastic. Phrases like “freak of nature” and “once-in-a-lifetime athlete” are often hyperbolic, especially in the scripted world where Lesnar became famous. I’m not so sure that’s the case with Lesnar.

Sure, his boxing isn’t going to win him any gold medals, but his ability to dominate other (much more skilled) men through sheer force should not be overlooked. As Lesnar stated himself in the post-fight press conference, he’s got some work to do if he plans on getting back in the Octagon for another run at the title.

That said, a motivated Brock Lesnar is a horribly scary one, especially now that he’s learning new techniques on the ground, which will only compliment his wrestling pedigree. Can you see him now?

UFC 200 was capped off with a bantamweight title fight between Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes, which saw the latter secure an upset win via rear naked choke in round 1. From a sporting standpoint it’s great for the division, but from a marketing perspective, it’s not the best for the UFC, which will probably have a hard time making money off of Amanda Nunes’ name, although she is the first openly gay UFC champion in the promotion’s history.

Summary

UFC 200 hit a few rough patches during International Fight Week, but all-in-all it was an A- event. With a yellow/gold canvas, gold UFC logos, and a nice package detailing UFC’s rise from the days of NHB to the most respected MMA organization in the world, UFC 200 felt memorable. When you add in the return of Brock Lesnar and the emotional drama surrounding several fights, it became something special that we’ll look back on favorably when UFC 300 rolls around.

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