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Hyperbole runs rampant in professional mixed martial arts. Every card needs to be the first, or the best, or the most stacked in order to engage exacting fans who expect nothing but the greatest fights ever.
Cards without big names are easily dismissed by the paying public, who lambast promotions for their attempts at growth. But sometimes, just sometimes, the most unsuspecting events deliver some of the most surprising and exciting results. Which is exactly what happened at UFC 177.
I mean, seriously, when else have you seen, or even heard of, a finish by reverse guillotine choke? How often does an event’s finish to decision ratio come out to 3:1?
Rare-to-never. And that’s why UFC 177 may go down as the most underrated Pay Per View card of all time; at least the most unsuspecting of 2014.
This August has been one of the unluckiest months in recent memory for the UFC. Forced to cancel UFC 176 just weeks prior to the event, the promotion found itself in hot waters, pulling a Pay Per View card for just the second time in history.
Things seemed to look up, however, as light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and challenger Daniel Cormier exchanged in one of the more memorable out-of-competition brawls, providing antics that at least kept MMA fans entertained while the promotion weathered a difficult month. But it was all for naught, as Jones suffered a training injury a week after his press conference fisticuffs with DC, prompting the UFC to supplant a flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso, originally intended to co-main event last night’s card, to the UFC 178 headliner.
Suddenly, the UFC 177 lineup looked depleted, and cries of “worst card ever” came trolling through blogs and forums, irate MMA fans calling for Dana White’s head as if the UFC stole their first born.
The decimation of the UFC 177 fight card was met with drastic and dramatic disdain. But surely a bantamweight title fight between T.J. Dillashaw and Renan Barao would provide sufficient fireworks to warrant a 60-dollar buy-in; no matter what your thoughts of the immediate rematch scenario, the contest would be worthy of a Pay Per View headliner.
And then Renan Barao blacked out while cutting weight, and the whole card came crashing down.
Or did it…
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
There is no denying that the UFC 177 fight card ultimately played out as a shadow of its intended self. But somehow, an event with only eight bouts and a substitute title contender—an Octagon newby at that—was able to deliver impressive results, normally reserved for events with hall-of-fame headliners and super star support.
In total, only 13 of the originally scheduled 20 fighters on the UFC 177 fight card actually competed at the event. In addition to Barao’s scratch, flyweight newcomer Henry Cejudo failed to make weight, knocking veteran Scott Jorgensen out of the lineup. TUF veteran Justin Edward suffered an undisclosed injury 10 days before his fight against Yancy Medeiros, prompting matchmaker Joe Silva to offer a main card slot to newcomer Damon Jackson. As for heavyweights Ruslan Magomedov and Richard Odoms, well, they never made it to fight week. Even ring card girls Arianny Celeste and Brittney Palmer bailed on the Sacramento card.
And just when everyone believed that this may actually be the UFC’s least impressive offering ever, newcomer Chris Wade kicked off the evening with a first round guillotine choke victory.
Too often, UFC fights are determined by the judges, but Wade seized his Octagon debut, grabbing opponent Cain Carrizosa with underhooks, implementing a picturesque hip toss. Wade worked a few submission attempts, ultimately sinking in a guillotine to choke Carrizosa out cold, before he was even able to tap.
Next up, Anthony Hamilton and Ruan Potts hooked up for a heavyweight affair. And while Potts proved a stinker, lounging on the mat and refusing to engage with Hamilton on the feet, the contest featured a rare outcome, a TKO via grounded strikes to the body.
Held up in side control, Hamilton consistently hammered rights to Potts’ midsection. And while he never tapped or was unable to return blows, Potts proved himself unable to intelligently defend the body shots, as Hamilton’s fists left a massive contusion on his left side. It’s still unclear if Hamilton broke all of Potts’ ribs with those beastly punches, but it was enough for referee Steven Davis to waive it off.
The final bout of the three-fight undercard was clearly the low point of the evening, as middleweight Derek Brunson rocked the old “lay-and-pray” to victory. But for those times that he was able to get off his back, Lorenz Larkin landed some thunderous kicks to the body, even going for a capoeira style spin kick at the buzzer.
And that’s when things started to get interesting.
Leading off the main card, Yancy Medeiros was desperate for his first UFC win after his only previous victory was recalled on account of a little too much reefer close to his TKO win over Yves Edwards last November (the match was ultimately ruled a “No Contest”).
Well aware that a loss would most likely result in his termination from the company, Medeiros delivered one of the most surprising finishes of 2014, a reverse guillotine choke that will certainly be in contention for “Submission of the Year,” when all is said and done.
$50,000 richer for his “Performance of the Night,” Medeiros exited the Octagon to make room for another pair of lightweights: Carlos Diego Ferreira and Ramsey Nijem, who exchanged in the evening’s “Fight of the Night.”
With both fighters landing knockdowns in the first round, Ferreira came out throwing in the second frame, counterpunching to Nijem’s pressuring offense. Ultimately, Ferreira landed a well-placed right hook, square on Nijem’s chin, sending the former TUF contestant crumpling to the floor.
For the evening’s featured bout, UFC newcomer, and TUF alumnae, Shayna Baszler chose the evening’s best walkout song, Metallica’s “Four Horsemen” from their debut LP Kill ‘Em All, for her Octagon debut, a grudge match against ladies’ foil Bethe Correia. Her entrance was easily the raddest of the evening, it even moved UFC heavyweight, and cornerman, Josh Barnett enough to lip synch, but after surviving a few submission attempts in the first round, Correia delivered a sick-nasty barrage of elbows and punches that left a gassed Baszler unable to intelligently defend.
Women’s MMA haters can say whatever they like, but Correia was a straight up beast in this contest, and the beating she delivered to Baszler could easily cement her status as a viable title contender, sooner rather than later.
And just as wild as any of these finishes was the UFC 177 co-main event between Danny Castillo, a Sacramento native, and Tony Ferguson, which provided a bit of controversy for the card.
Having already proven himself to be an exciting, balls-to-the-wall fighter, mixing striking with his unorthodox 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, Ferguson looked sharp early on, nearly finishing the contest in the first frame with his signature d’arce choke. But riding the hometown energy and momentum, Castillo outlasted the submission, and managed to finish every round on top.
Ultimately it wasn’t enough to sway the judges, but many people scored the fight for Castillo, who received tremendous support from his hometown crowd in the losing effort.
Wild finishes and controversial decisions would normally be enough for any UFC card. But on this night, an event that was derided for its lack of star power, bantamweight champion and hometown favorite T.J. Dillashaw was intent on delivering a transcendent performance against late substitution, and former training partner, Joe Soto.
Dillashaw started slow, telegraphing a pair of head kicks that left the door open for Soto takedowns. Soto was making the most of his last-minute title fight, eating every punch that Dillashaw threw, countering with his own approach.
Originally set for only three rounds, Soto stepped up huge to take the contest into the fifth. But ultimately, champion Dillashaw was able to land a sharp head kick and straight left to Soto’s chin, earning his second-straight fifth-round knockout finish.
And with that head kick and punch finish, T.J. Dillashaw proved that a card’s success can not be based on names alone.
Four KO/TKOs, two submissions, a split verdict, and a unanimous one, UFC 177 may ultimately go down as the most unsuspecting card of 2014. It’s certainly a shame that the event was marred by injury and scheduling, but the 16 fighters, both men and women, that participated demonstrated that sometimes the least likely to impress can summon enough energy, power, and promise to deliver a world class fight card.
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