A redemption story can very easily be called a cliché in sport. Jon Jones’s Round 3 KO win over Daniel Cormier is a redemption story for sure, but not a clichéd one.
UFC 214 had all the makings of being the most entertaining fight card. As UFC’s ‘main draw’ Conor McGregor tests water and quadruples his networth by boxing Floyd Mayweather, UFC needed this card as well. 2017 has been an underwhelming year in terms of Pay-Per-View buys and luck has not been on their side.
Fighters pulling out at the last time, good matchups not delivering and controversial decisions dominated the headlines. Everything felt awry, like UFC was fighting a battle against a power they could not quite overpower. Barring UFC 211, which had the memorable Miocic vs Dos Santos clash, the word ‘disappointing’ resonated. This would have alarmed the owners, who’ve only recently acquired the company for $4.2 billion. They gambled by making UFC 214 a heavy card, and thankfully, it paid off.
The Jimi Manuwa vs Volkan Oezdemir clash was the curtain-raiser for the main card. No 3 Manuwa taking on No 5 Oezdemir was an important fight for the Light Heavyweight Division. Whosoever won that fight would either fight for No 1 contender or fight for the title based on how the outcome came against the winner of the Main Card — Cormier and Jones. Manuwa was the favourite to win against the man from Switzerland, Oezdemir, who’s had a meteoric rise in rankings despite this being only his third fight in the UFC. To the shock of everyone, Oezdemir knocked out Manuwa in 22 seconds of the very first round. “I’ve got dynamite in my hands, man,” he said in the post-fight interview. With that, the scene was set for an explosive night.
Robbie Lawler vs Donald Cerrone was up next and the fans cheered wildly when the preview of the fight was shown on the big screen. Considering that these are two brawlers going head-to-head, this was the fight all MMA fans were looking forward to the most apart from the main event. Former Welterweight champ Lawler made his way to the octagon for the first time after losing to Tyron Woodley. The fight was a slug fest, where both fighters tried to take each other’s head off, with Lawler edging the decisions after three rounds.
Cris Cyborg, arguably the best female MMA fighter of all time and a fan favourite, now had her chance to finally add a UFC belt under her list of achievements. UFC built the Women’s Featherweight Division just so they could retain Cyborg’s services. She was going up against Tanya Evinger, who was undefeated in her last 11 fights. Cyborg started as an overwhelming favourite and deservedly showed why dismantling Evinger in every single way before getting a TKO win over her in third round. She was undefeated in 12 years, but finally has a UFC belt around her waist.
In the co-main event, the Welterweight title was on the line as champion Tyron Woodley took on arguably the best jiu-jitsu practioner in MMA, Damian Maia. From the onset, experts predicted it to be a dull affair as striking will be limited given the pedigree of Maia’s grappling and they were spot on. This fight went on for five rounds, and broke a record nobody wants to break — of ‘least significant strikes landed’.
Woodley survived all 23 takedown attempts of Maia. The 16,000-odd spectators’ boos were ricocheting around the Honda Centre. Woodley won the fight by a unanimous decision. Even though this was his third defence after claiming the title for the first time, fans still don’t see him as the dominant champion he claims to be.
All things aside, the entire world was now ready. The elusive fight that all the fans were fretting over was here: Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier vs Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.
As ‘the champ is here’ played in the arena, an emotional Jones walked out. It was almost visible from his face that he was done taking his talent for granted again and again. His single-hand cartwheel entry was done, and he waited for Cormier to emerge. DC came out running, looking ever so determined to put on a beating, and they were off.
The lingering doubt over Jones’ return after 15 months of no action was of ring-rust, a factor which he showcased in his last fight which also came after a layoff. Those doubts were diminished within seconds as he started the round strong, controlling the fight, using his reach to his advantage. He got right down to brass tacks, punching Cormier’s body, kicking his knee in. Cormier did clip him in the latter stages of the first though, and momentum was seen shifting towards him even though Jones took the first round.
Round 2 was a slugfest, where both Jones and Cormier went after each other, trying to hurt with whatever they could. Whether it was upper-cuts of Cormier in a Thai Clinch, or Jones’ kicks to Cormier’s body, the impact was evident as both were more focused and looked sharper. Cormier edged that round just by being more aggressive, but if you give Jon that round, many people won’t argue with that call. Cormier’s prediction was coming true, he was finally showcasing how good he really can be.
Round 3 began with Cormier again being the aggressor of the two. Jones was technical and tactful the entire fight — he was working the body and the head simultaneously, and not just swinging for the fences as Cormier was in Round 2. He was being precise and following his gameplan, not bothered about losing the last round. He saw an opening and raised his long left leg to make his bare shin connect with DC’s face.
After his win over Rumble Johnson in UFC 210, DC claimed he always envisioned being knocked out by a head-kick. Now, his worst nightmare had unfolded. DC was rocked and started wobbling, Jones followed, tripped him, and laid one of the most vicious ground and pound, until the referee intervened and called the fight. DC had never been finished before.
After receiving the belt, Jones fell on the ground, hands on his head, crying. In his post-fight interview the first thing he said controlling his emotions was, “I made it back, man.” DC was visibly shook and was having a hard time controlling his tears and Jones settled the beef by thanking him for being his biggest rival, and that he had learnt to be the better man, husband and father from him.
Jones has come full circle with this win, not only by regaining his title, but by the uncanny similarity this win had with his first title win when he was 23 and fighting the then-champion, Shogun Rua. Both fights were finished in the third round. At both times, Jones’ was overwhelmed with exhilaration. The question whether Jones is the best fighter of all time was asked before this fight. He settled that as well, knowing he’s still just 30. “I’m about to enter my prime.”
Just as he was about to leave the octagon he dropped a name-bomb that made the whole arena roar. “Brock Lesnar, if you want to get your a** beat by a man who is 40 pounds lighter than you, meet me in the Octagon.”
Updated Date: Jul 30, 2017 20:03:45 IST