Daniel Cormier made history as a two-division champion in the UFC 230 main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York, becoming the first fighter to defend an Ultimate Fighting Championship title while still an active champion in another division. Moreover, Cormier did so in style, as he took out hard-hitting brawler Derrick Lewis with a second-round rear-naked choke. The end came just over two minutes into the second frame and followed an opening round in which Cormier managed to quickly and effectively implement a takedown-heavy game plan and eliminate the threat of being on the receiving end of a big bomb from Lewis.
The fight began with Cormeir coming forward, wading in with caution while looking to avoid the power of “The Black Beast.” Lewis patiently sat on the outside and bided his time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to land a heavy shot on his opponent; that time never arrived in the opening frame. Cormier quickly moved in and changed levels on Lewis, shooting in on a double-leg takedown and dragging his opponent to the floor resulting in a dominant round for the dual-division champion.
Round 2 was more of the same for Cormier, who quickly moved in and avoided Lewis’ power. Two minutes into the round, “DC” sealed the deal with the final takedown of the fight. Cormier landed heavy ground-and-pound, causing Lewis to turn over in an attempt to stand, which allowed the champion to take his back and quickly sink the fight-ending rear-naked choke.
Into the Deep End
Ronaldo Souza and former middleweight champion Chris Weidman exchanged blows in an action-packed co-headliner at UFC 230, resulting in the event’s “Fight of the Night” and a memorable middleweight showdown. It saw “Jacare” earn quite possibly the biggest win of his career and potentially put him in position for a title shot, as he knocked out Weidman with a gigantic overhand right that put the “All-American” out of the fight before he hit the floor.
Though the bout was between two of the division’s best grapplers, the middleweight clash was contested almost entirely on the feet. “Jacare” pressed forward throughout, displayed impressive cardio and landed early and often on an equally game Weidman, who also displayed excellent striking throughout. The fight came down to a single punch in the final frame after neither fighter had managed to visibly rock his opponent over two and a half rounds. After Souza managed to back Weidman close to the cage, the duo exchanged shots. A huge right hand from Souza bounced off Weidman’s forehead, putting him down for the count.
Once the shot landed, “Jacare” knew the fight was over. Although referee Dan Miragliotta was not eager to call for the stoppage, a reluctant Souza landed several follow-up shots that finally sealed Weidman’s fate. Afterward, the classy Brazilian thanked Weidman for the opportunity and looked to the future and a potential title shot against the winner of Robert Whittaker-Kelvin Gastelum. They are slated to throw down in February.
Carpe Diem at Its Finest
Jared Cannonier jumped on the opportunity to take on Top 10-ranked middleweight David Branch on the main card and made the most of the opportunity, knocking out the former World Series of Fighting champion in his 185-pound debut early in the second round. In doing so, Cannonier established himself as a name to watch in the division after experiencing mixed success during runs as a heavyweight and light heavyweight.
The fight began with Branch immediately looking to make use of his grappling advantage, pressing his opponent against the cage and looking for takedowns early and often. However, Cannonier managed to thwart the majority of his attempts, much to Branch’s surprise. He went back to his corner at the end of the round looking a bit spent after trying to keep Cannonier bottled up. At the start of Round 2, Cannonier came out on the attack, launching hard right hands at Branch, who attempted to shoot for a takedown but ditched the attempt and was immediately laid down by a right hand from Cannonier. From there, Cannonier rained strikes until referee Keith Peterson called a stop to the fight.
Karl Roberson took a unanimous decision from Jack Marshman in a three-round middleweight showcase. Roberson shined under the bright lights, and despite suffering a knee injury early in the bout, he managed to seal Marshman’s fate with damaging strikes and dominant grappling … Israel Adesanya left The Big Apple with the most important win of his career, as he knocked out Derek Brunson in the first round of their main-card opener. The victory pushed Adesanya to 15-0 and put him in the discussion as a legitimate title contender in the middleweight division.