LAS VEGAS -- There was something about the eyes. They were intense and beaming forward, yet as Amanda Nunes walked through the tunnel leading out to the main floor of the T-Mobile Arena for UFC 200 on Saturday, you could not help but feel an ease behind her gaze.
On the other hand, defending UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate looked down as she walked to the Octagon, shaking out some of the nerves.
This was supposed to be Tate’s night, but the Brazilian “Lioness” did not let that happen.
Nunes (13-4) turned Tate’s face into bloody mask in pulling off an upset before 18,202, winning the UFC women's bantamweight title by stopping Tate at 3:16 of the first round.
“I always have things to work on and try to make things happen in my life,” Nunes said. “Miehsa’s a tough opponent. Everybody knows that. I respect Miesha a lot and I’m the new champion. For years I’ve been working hard for this moment. I feel amazing. I’m going to go back to Brazil and visit my family. Now I’m going back to Brazil and bringing this belt with me.
“When I saw she was hurt, I controlled myself because I know she can come back. I made sure she couldn’t come back anymore."
Nunes seemed in charge from the start. She nearly nailed Tate’s head with a right knee that barely missed. A second later, she connected on a right, Tate (18-6) rocked back and the sway of the fight immediately turned in Nunes’ favor. She began pounding away on Tate, getting her down and forcing Tate to tap to a rear-naked choke.
“She caught me fair and square. I made some mistakes. I was really careless, and it cost me really big,” Tate said. “Right now, I’m going to go back Ontario, Canada, and get my thoughts together.”
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Lesnar Triumphant in Return
When the MMA world last peered in on crossover curiosity Brock Lesnar (6-3), he was down on his left knee, with his hands over his face getting pounded by former Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem at UFC 141. Lesnar was slow and indecisive, and after one kick to his midsection, he was hurt and finished.
Against stubby punching machine Mark Hunt, Lesnar’s dubious chin was going to get tested at UFC 200. As he approached the Octagon, Hunt wore this sly smirk that connoted confidence. It did not last.
There was no real contact until about 70 seconds into the fight. With just under two minutes left in the first round, Lesnar pulled Hunt down. Lesnar then pounded away against Hunt, who appeared to be in some trouble. Hunt managed to escape, but Lesnar was on top of him again, taking him down late in the opening round.
Lesnar, to his credit, looked good through the first five minutes. The question: After four and a half years away from the Octagon, would he have enough lasting endurance? Lesnar tried to shoot with just over three minutes left in the second round and missed, but Hunt (12-11-1) was not doing much of anything himself. Both fighters seemed exhausted and willing to take the round off.
At the start of the third, Lesnar shot and pulled down Hunt again. Lesnar dominated the round, though he was not dominating. He tried lobbing tired arms into Hunt’s face. The crowd began booing as Lesnar stayed on top, occasionally hitting Hunt with rights to the head.
It was not the most aesthetically pleasing display, and it may not stir a great throng of fans demanding that Lesnar make a full-time commitment back to the UFC. However, at least Lesnar broke his two-fight losing streak, winning a unanimous decision of 29-27 on all three scorecards.
“It took me a little while to get acclimated,” Lesnar admitted. When asked about his next step, he said, “One day at a time.”
Lesnar made sure to implore the crowd to pay homage to all of the men and women in uniform, which brought on great applause. Then Lesnar left, with a swollen left eye.
They showed a video montage of how Jon Jones had changed his life around and then showed a clip of UFC President Dana White telling light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier that his title defense was off because Jones tested positive for a banned substance. Cormier stomped the floor in anger.
It was a not-so-subtle dig at how “Bones” nearly messed up UFC 200.
All-time great Anderson Silva was called in to ameliorate the situation. However, Anderson Silva has not been Anderson Silva in at least four years. The only way “The Spider” was going to beat Cormier was if he had a time machine with him and found a way to hit Cormier over the head with it.
Silva, 41, has not won a fight since he submitted Stephan Bonnar on Oct. 13, 2012. Since then, he had gone 0-3 with 1 no-contest. Silva was called in on two days' notice.
Cormier, meanwhile, was all business as he walked through the hall to the main arena. Someone was going to pay for his frustration and his roiling insides. Cormier yearned to avenge his one loss and had his chance robbed from him.
Cormier (18-1) did what he was supposed to do over the scheduled three-round fight, and Silva (33-8) -- somewhat in decent shape but not in “championship” shape to take on an in-his-prime fighter like Cormier -- hung in as long as he could.
In the second round, a cascade of boos fell from the rafters; the sellout crowd apparently forgot that it was watching an exhibition instead of a fight. Silva showed some spark by flicking a few punches and some kicks, and Cormier smiled and walked through it all as if they were pebbles thrown at him. When Silva appeared as if wanted to make it a real fight in the third round, Cormier simply picked up the Brazilian and dropped him. Silva may have even hurt Cormier with a kick late in the third, but Cormier again quelled the threat by tying up the legend and ending it.
More boos came, but no one was hurt. Not surprisingly, Cormier won a unanimous decision.
“Hats off to Anderson,” Cormier said. “I got him with some good elbows early and landed some hard shots, but he just kept going. It’s a dangerous fight anytime you face Anderson. This is a big accomplishment for me. I appreciate the UFC for getting me this fight. I’m a happy man.
“I’m going to go back to work on TV. I haven’t done that for a while. I also want to take my family on vacation. I’ll just wait to see what happens between Glover Teixeira and Anthony Johnson.”
Then Cormier was booed again -- unjustifiably -- by the capacity crowd. And in appreciation, Silva received a great ovation.
“With Jon Jones not getting to fight tonight -- a fight he trained so hard for and that I have no doubt he would’ve won -- I did what I had to do,” Silva said. “I only had one day to train, but I did this for my team and for my family. At this point in my life, I just want to be happy. I will take any big fight at 185 or 205 [pounds] that is offered to me.”
Aldo Wins Easy
Apparently the power of Conor McGregor not only carries immediate blunt-force trauma but also lasting force. Seven months after McGregor stopped Jose Aldo, “Scarface” was still feeling it. How else could anyone explain the patient, countering way Aldo fought against Frankie Edgar (20-5-1) for the UFC interim featherweight title?
The last time Aldo fought he lasted a whole 13 seconds against McGregor. The shot he took still resonates -- obviously. Against Edgar, Aldo won the interim title by picking and choosing his spots to attack.
This rematch never cooked. It simmered, spiked with brief interludes of action. There was a lot of feeling out in the first minute. Aldo was content on waiting for Edgar to approach and counter. It was the template for the rest of the fight. Edgar kicked at Aldo a few times, but that was about it over the first two minutes. It was clear Edgar would be the aggressor, at least early on.
Then in the last minute of the first, Aldo struck with a right. Then he tried stealing the round. He came alive with a flying kick, followed by a left that caught Edgar off-balance and knocked him down.
The second round brought more of the same, with Edgar chasing after Aldo and the Brazilian star letting him approach and countering him. A trickle of blood began pouring from the corner of Edgar’s right eye in the second, and as the round progressed, a red stream flowed more demonstratively down his right cheek.
It proved to be another great tactical round for Aldo, who dictated the pace and the distance over the first two frames. Edgar did finally manage to get a hold of Aldo (26-2) in the final 15 seconds, grabbing his right leg, but Aldo tossed him off.
Sensing he had to do something desperate, Edgar went lunging at Aldo’s waist in the opening minute of the third. Aldo just swung him off. It became tactical again, with Aldo standing and retreating, hoping to catch Edgar with pot shots. The two did exchange rights to the chin, and Edgar had Aldo pinned against the cage in the final minute. Aldo, however, spun out and escaped again. He closed the third with a right knee into Edgar’s ribs.
By the fifth, Edgar was pretty busted up against Aldo’s patient tactics. He was bleeding from both eyes. He had no answers for Aldo. It certainly was not crowd-pleasing, but it was effective.
All three judges had Aldo winning a unanimous decision. Two judges scored it 49-46 and one had it 48-47, with McGregor watching ringside and motioning to Aldo to come over toward him.
“I feel really good,” Aldo said. “This is one step to getting the belt back. The next time you’ll see me as the true champion.”
Velasquez Destroys Browne
There was a little more expected from this, but Cain Velasquez (14-2) made sure the scheduled three-round heavyweight fight was not competitive at all.
Within the first 15 seconds, Browne, the No. 7-ranked heavyweight entering the fight, landed a right hand. Velasquez tried to take down Browne, but missed his knee. It was the only mistake Velasquez made. For someone that had a five-inch height advantage, Browne did not exert much use of a jab or any of his length to keep Velasquez away in the opening round. Velasquez closed the distance and attacked each chance he got.
Eventually, Browne (18-4-1) paid for it.
With around 2:20 left in the first, Velasquez landed a spinning back kick, stunning Browne, who fell back against the cage. Velasquez had Browne in trouble again in the last minute, on top and pounding away. A Velasquez right to the back of Browne’s head started it. That is when referee John McCarthy looked in close and finally waved it over at 4:57.
It was a thoroughly dominating performance by the two-time UFC heavyweight champion.
“I’m never happy with what I have,” Velasquez said. “My timing was a little off as far as being able to close the distance. Yeah, it’s good to get a win, but I always want to be better. It’s about improving on those little things as a fighter. That’s just the way I am. I want the winner of [UFC heavyweight champion] Stipe [Miocic] and [Alistair] Overeem. I’ve always said I want to fight the best guys out there.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.