Stars were born. Other stars faded. UFC 198 marked the changing of the guard and the arrival of the next big thing in MMA.
Cris Cyborg and Stipe Miocic have arrived. Vitor Belfort and Fabricio Werdum may be on their way out. Let’s look at the big takeaways from UFC 198 and what it means for MMA fans going forward.
5. Cris Cyborg is the next big thing in MMA
Aggression. You can’t teach that. For Cris Cyborg, there was no fight plan. No strategy. No covert path to victory. Her plan was to punch Leslie Smith in the face. And that’s what happened. If Cris Cyborg ever steps inside the cage with Holly Holm, Miesha Tate or Ronda Rousey, she won’t have a master plan for how to get a victory. And that’s why Cyborg will probably emerge as the hottest thing in MMA.
Cyborg absolutely smashed Smith and let’s be real about that stoppage: it was a good stoppage and it saved Smith from an even worse beating. Once you give up your back, you are basically running while on the ground. You can’t blame the referee for stepping in.
We don’t know who Cyborg’s next opponent will be. Clearly finding fights will be her toughest challenge. Can Cyborg get to 135 or does she have a career at 140 with special attraction fights. If the UFC plays its cards right, we might have the Brock Lesnar of women’s MMA.
4. Vitor Belfort May Want to Chat With Bigfoot Silva
Belfort had a nice run, knocking out Luke Rockhold, Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson. That run is over, though. Belfort looks physically smaller than he did a couple years ago and he doesn’t fight with the same aggression inside the cage. Belfort should forget about his middleweight title dreams and focus on special attraction fights. He may even want to consider ending his career against lesser competition in Bellator. Once Belfort’s fight went to the ground against Jacare Souza, he had nothing, but there was just no way he was going to defeat Jacare. The wild, powerful leg kicks aren’t there anymore.
3. Jacare Souza is Coming For Luke Rockhold
Souza’s last real loss was against Rockhold in 2011 in Strikeforce. He lost to Yoel Romero by split decision in December, but Romero tested positive for performance-enhancement drugs. Souza is dangerous on the ground, with wicked Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He dismantled Belfort not with his jiu-jitsu, but with his strikes, which shows that anyone is in a lot of trouble when they go to the ground with Souza. The Rockhold vs. Souza rematch should happen once Rockhold gets past Chris Weidman. Souza will probably be a tougher challenge for Rockhold than Souza. In their first fight, Rockhold fought perfectly to score enough points to win. Can he do it again? We need to find out.
2. We Need A Corey Anderson vs. Shogun Rua Rematch
Anderson probably won the fight. Neither did enough to convincingly win the fight and it’s clear Rua got the hometown decision. Let’s give Shogun credit for fighting well enough to win a controversial decision. He has endured more than a decade of MMA fighting and he is still competitive with top guys. Anderson may have been overwhelmed under the pressure, but clearly he needs to do more to convince us that he is a title contender. Rua did enough to win, but both guys need to do more defeat each other.
1. Heavyweight Hot Potato
And NEW … Stipe Miocic is the new heavyweight champion. For how long, no one knows. He knocked out Fabricio Werdum with a right hand. Somewhere Cain Velasquez was watching, wishing he had traveled to Mexico City a couple weeks earlier. Werdum looked flabby and unprepared for the fight. Miocic looked hungry. Werdum’s strategy in most fights is to take it to the ground. He never got a chance this time. Werdum will be back, but his best days are probably behind him. Look for Cain Velasquez to win the title back from Miocic, setting up a rematch with Werdum next year, this time in Las Vegas. The UFC heavyweight division badly needs someone dominant to step up. Could Jon Jones be that guy? If he beats Daniel Cormier, there’s nothing left for him in the light heavyweight division.
Follow Joshua Molina on Twitter: @JECMolina.
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