Robbie Lawler (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Sunday Morning Cornerman: A Look Back at UFC 195 and Rizin FF

The 170-pound division, while down at times, has always been a Cadillac division for the UFC. It has housed some of the best champions, fighters and fights in the history of the UFC. Matt Hughes, Georges St-Pierre and B.J. Penn, all Hall of Famers (well, GSP will be) have held the belt. On Saturday night, another page was written in the storied history of this great division. Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit put on a war that was an instant classic and so good that it forced prisoner of the moment types to place it in higher historical perspective than it probably deserves. But that’s the fight game, where it’s common to get so caught up in a fight that you forget about everything that happened before it. So we had an epic fight, but was it a robbery?

Let’s examine that and all the other relevant combat sports of the weekend.

Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit

Right out of the gate, let’s talk about this robbery business. I don’t think it was one, but let’s also keep in mind that there is getting your car stolen and then there’s getting your pocket picked. Both scenarios count as theft, but on two drastically different levels. Condit probably got his pocket picked on Saturday night. Something was taken from him, but he could have prevented it. I had the first, third and fourth rounds for Condit, just like UFC President Dana White did. Condit was the more accurate and active fighter and 75 to 80 percent of the fight was fought the way Condit wanted it to be fought. However, in the end, that’s not what matters.


The thing that matters is the fifth round. If you want the MMA gods to smile on you and grant you a championship belt, you have to finish the fight strong. Of course, this is easier said than done. However, if survival is the goal of a round, then you have to be pretty confident you are up three rounds to one in the fight and if you were that dominant, you would have probably had some near finishes along the way. Lawler is the champion today because he won the fifth round and Condit merely survived it. That’s what separates champions from contenders.

Technique talk: The other piece I want to touch on is what I call the Brian Foster theory. The reason Brian Foster won his same-night rematch with Joao Zeferino in the eight-man tournament at World Series of Fighting 25 is because he recognized, as he told me in our post-fight interview, that he figured out where Zeferino was better and stayed away from that area. On Saturday, Condit the brawler robbed Condit the complete mixed martial artist of championship gold. It’s not that he can’t hang with Lawler in a brawl, but that’s the fight Lawler wants to fight. You don’t win by fighting the other guy’s fight.

What’s next: There are a lot of savages looking to take advantage of the holes that Condit exposed in Lawler’s game. Here’s the good news for Lawler: None of them have the technique of Condit or Rory MacDonald. Those are the two guys that have the Lawler antidote. The problem is that they let Lawler goad them into a gunfight.

This might be it for Condit. He has come so close to championship gold and just can’t get over the last hump. He has a really good perspective on his career and he’s happy with it. He also has a bright future in the sport. He could make a mark doing anything from training to broadcast work and be great at it. Here’s hoping he finds the next thing for him and finds happiness there. If this is it, then thanks for all the great fights, Carlos.

Stipe Miocic vs. Andrei Arlovski

Well, what can you say about a fight that was over pretty much as soon as it started? Arlovski looked a little not himself when he entered the cage. But that’s not the story. The Miocic right hand is the story. He dropped the former UFC heavyweight champion, got to his back and finished by bombing heavy strikes. Let’s give the credit here to Miocic while still being mindful that people just don’t do that to Arlovski, so it may be important to keep an eye on what may have been wrong on his end as well.

Technique Talk: What could have been Arlovski’s issue? Miocic’s size? Probably not. He just fought Travis Browne in his last fight. His speed? Probably not. He trains regularly with Jon Jones. Maybe the combination of both and the fact that he had to be mindful of Miocic’s wrestling? This is a theory I can buy, but sometimes a guy just finds an opening and ends the night. This is probably what happened here. An interesting thing to keep an eye on is Arlovski’s chin and what’s left of it. Browne folded Arlovski before the Belarusian came back to win.

What’s next: It looks like an undeniable title shot is next for Miocic. The Junior dos Santos loss still sticks out as a red flag, but fortunately for Miocic, dos Santos just lost badly and the UFC doesn’t want the Brazilian fighting Cain Velasquez again. So the path is relatively clear to the shot. However, Miocic needs to understand the gap between Werdum and Velasquez and the rest of the division is a big one. If he wants to win the belt, he needs to close the gap in training. What he did against Arlovski will not happen against either of those two. Also, keep an eye on the UFC matching Miocic up with Alistair Overeem as a title-shot eliminator.

A case could be made for a fight between Arlovski and Overeem, but a fight with dos Santos is much more appealing. Both men are now coming off a loss and this may a great way to figure what they have left or, at the very least, a way to convince the public that the winner is still relevant. Arlovski and dos Santos seem destined to be retired by the cage rather than their own volition, and it’s clear a stand-up dogfight is what they want at this point in their careers. Let’s make it happen.

Dustin Poirier vs. Joe Duffy

It’s clear why this fight was booked. Poirier and Duffy have a connection to Conor McGregor, and this was the UFC’s attempt to take the temperature of the long-term prospects of either of them rematching the champ.

The first round of this fight showed a lot of promise. Duffy had good head movement and pinpoint striking of the head and body. He had Poirier rocked with a right hook. Big credit to Poirier from that point on. He turned the first round into a tale of two halves. While the first 2:30 belonged to Duffy, the second 2:30 was Poirier hurting the Irishman with an uppercut/hook combo from the clinch. That may have stole the round for Poirier. From there on out, he took Duffy down and owned the top position.

Technique Talk: What Poirier did in this fight was to realize that the contest was even on the feet. He could either continue to go that route and maybe eke out a win or maybe even lose, or he could take Duffy down and see how big the gap was on the ground. It turns out the gap was huge. Duffy spent most of the second and third rounds on the ground while Poirier cruised to the victory.

What’s next: Poirier wants big top-10 opponents, and he should get them. Poirier should go up against Beneil Dariush next. A fight with Benson Henderson would be cool, but Henderson’s weight and contract status are very much in flux. Poirier will not be able to easily do to Dariush the same things he did to Duffy, so we can see what we have in Poirier as a guy who may be three fights away from a title shot.

The assessment needs to be made of whether or not this fight was an anomaly for Duffy or if he was exposed. Throw him right back in there with another wrestler. Al Iaquinta comes to mind, but he hasn’t earned that fight. So, for now, let’s settle for a couple of ground guys like Michael Chiesa or Myles Jury. Duffy has to improve his wrestling and ground fighting in training in order to prepare for either of these opponents, and he will be tested once again on the ground in the cage. If there isn’t an improvement in at least Duffy’s takedown defense in his next fight, then we know he may not have what it takes to chase titles.

From the Notebook: UFC 195

It’s a dangerous game that Brian Ortega played. He has so much confidence in his jiu-jitsu that he is willing to standing in the pocket with a heavy-handed fighter — in this case, that fighter was Diego Brandao — just to have him float into the deep water. It’s a lot like watching a guy in a movie trying to defuse a bomb. You are pulling for him to make it happen before time runs out. Ortega made it happen this time, but it might be a tough thing to do consistently.

Lorenz Larkin’s fight with Albert Tumenov was an interesting study in how the judges will view attacking different parts of the body. It’s hard to argue that Tumenov did more damage to Larkin’s head than Larkin did to Tumenov’s leg. Fight fans will always view a fight as ultimately an attack of the head over anything else.

Let’s not jump the gun and say that Michael McDonald is back, but the kid looked good against Masanori Kanehara. I liked the fact that he got a ground finish, too. Young guys shouldn’t fall in love with knocking people out. It looks good and fills the seats, but it’s a lazy approach to getting wins. This is also a wonderful approach to building McDonald’s career rather than giving him early shots at big names.

Rizin Fighting Federation

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Jaideep Singh

Watching Fedor Emelianenko fight now reminds fans of the old days when he was the baddest man on the planet, fighting every killer that Pride could throw at him, beating them all and finishing most. But that was then and this is now. Fabricio Werdum destroyed the aura, and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Dan Henderson destroyed the man. Since then, Emelianenko has had some fights with guys either past their primes or just out of his league. He’s scored some wins, too. Here’s a theory, though. Emelianenko fights for checks at this point, because he is past the point where winning these fights means anything. However, there is an outside chance that he tries to stay active to ensure he’s ready should a real fight ever materialize. In the meantime, when he fights, I’ll still watch. But I’ll watch for the same reason I would watch if someone told me Michael Jordan was playing a pickup game of basketball down the street. I will always be curious as to what Emelianenko has left and watch in hopes of catching flashes of what he was in his prime.

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal vs. Jiří Procházka

Lawal is a moneyweight fighter of the highest order. On this night, the money was in Japan and at heavyweight. I don’t know much about Procházka, but I’d wager he was put in the ring to be a guy who King Mo could knock out. That’s precisely who he ended up being. King Mo did what he was supposed to do, represented himself and Bellator well, made some money and got a cool belt.

From the Notebook: Rizin Fighting Federation

I don’t want to discredit Shinya Aoki in any way, but Kazushi Sakuraba is probably shot. Watch his retrospective on Fight Pass and you’ll see that he was a killer in his day. That day has passed. It was obvious in how easily Aoki obtained and kept the mount. Fighters just didn’t mount Sakuraba like that when he was on his game.

Kron Gracie is legit. However, the way his career is being handled, we will never see a fully formed Kron vying for big-time gold in a big-time organization. He may have a career much like that of his father, Rickson, where there is a lot of “what he could have been” talk. The presumptions about Rickson’s career are based more in the time that he existed in the sport. Kron, meanwhile, is being protected. I’m not sure why. Gracie looked a little vulnerable in his fight against Erson Yamamoto. He was reversed a few times, and Yamamoto got out of what looked to be a pretty solid armbar. In the end, though, Kron found the triangle and finished. Kron should either make the move to a big organization or stick with jiu-jitsu.

Trending up

King Mo. Mo has been on a good little run. Taking out three men in two days is impressive, too. Not to take anything away from his run, but it will be a shame if we don’t see him against the best in the world.

Michael McDonald. The kid looked good. Hopefully, given his age, we can see him adequately brought along and developed into a future champion.

Stipe Miocic. He took a super durable guy and finished him quickly. He’s got everyone saying he should get the next shot at the title. He should.

Trending down

Andrei Arlovski. He’s been doing this for a lot of years and just when you think he’s done, he manages to make himself relevant again. However, the chin may be gone, folks.

Diego Brandao. This was the fight that should have righted the ship, but he got finished by a guy right when he wanted to finish him. He put up an admirable fight, but he needs to diversify himself and do something about that gas tank. People are factoring it into their game plan to find victory.

Kazushi Sakuraba. It’s over. It’s not my job to tell guys when it’s time to hang up the gloves, but the writing’s on the wall.

Not for nothing, but…

…fighters need to stop letting Robbie Lawler get away with being such a one-dimensional fighter.

…if a commentator is touting someone’s boxing, then the two things they should have are good defensive footwork and head movement. If you don’t have these things, it doesn’t matter what your record was as a boxer.

…Justine Kish should be getting more props for getting a victory after a two-year layoff.