On Saturday night, the UFC returned to Cleveland, Ohio with UFC 203. Emanating from the city's Quicken Loans Arena, the card was headlined by a heavyweight title fight between champ Stipe Miocic and challenger Alistair Overeem, and highlighted the MMA debut of pro wrestling star CM Punk.
Though the card was hurt by the last-minute cancellation of a whopping three of its scheduled fights, it ultimately delivered as a fun one for those watching live in Cleveland, and on screens around the world.
Here's a recap of the action for those who missed it!
The Main Card:
Miocic Buries Overeem in the First
The main event of the evening saw Stipe Miocic attempt to defend his UFC heavyweight title against former Strikeforce, Dream, and K-1 heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem. He did so to the roar of his hometown fans.
Though the Cleveland-based champ was dropped with a stiff punch early in the fight, he quickly regained his composure and began stalking Overeem around the ring. Then, after tagging his decorated foe several times, he grounded the fight, and nailed his foe into the canvas with a salvo of savage ground strikes. Miocic's KO win occurred at the 4:27 mark of the first round.
With the win, Miocic moves to 1-0 as heavyweight champ, and improves his overall record to 16-2. Overeem, who claimed to have felt Miocic tap during a brief Guillotine attempt (only to be shut down by Joe Rogan in a truly awkward moment), experiences the 10th knockout loss of his near 60-fight career. He's now 41-15-0 in sum.
Werdum Takes Decision from Browne in Strange Fight
The co-main event of the evening saw recent heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum take on Travis Browne, who stepped up on short notice to replace an injured Ben Rothwell. The bout marked a rematch of a 2014 bout, which Werdum won by unanimous decision.
This time around, Werdum won another unanimous decision—though it was a bit of strange fight. The bout began with Werdum rocking Browne with a wild flying kick to the chin. Moments later, he seemed to injure Browne's finger with a punch, which arguably should have marked the end of the bout, as Browne retreated in attempt to force a break in the action. For the remainder of the fight, Werdum continued to tag Browne with strange strikes, before kicking Browne's coach Edmond Tarverdyan in the stomach moments after the official decision was read.
Controversy aside, the win moves Werdum back to the win-column after his recent knockout loss to champ Stipe Miocic. He's now 22-6 overall. Browne, meanwhile, falls onto a two-fight skid having been mauled by Cain Velasquez in his last fight. He's now 18-5-1 overall.
Gall Spoils CM Punk's Fairy Tale with First-Round Choke
Perhaps the most compelling—and most polarizing—feature of the event was the MMA debut of former WWE star CM Punk. The former pro wrestler took on 24-year-old prospect Mickey Gall in the middle bout of UFC 203's main card.
As so many fans expected—and as the odds suggested—Punk's jump to the Octagon did not go as he planned. Seconds after bravely marching across the Octagon to trade with his young opponent, he was taken down and mauled on the mat, fighting off submission attempts as he absorbed strike after strike after strike. Once Punk was sufficiently softened up, Gall slapped on a rear-naked choke, forcing the tap at the 2:14 mark of round one.
With the win, Gall improves to 3-0 as a pro. Post-fight, the young fighter made a bold call out of fellow prospect Sage Northcutt. Punk, on the other hand, now owns an MMA record of 0-1, though he assured he is not ready to give up yet. What that means for his fighting future remains to be seen.
Rivera Decisions Faber for Career-Best Win
The second bout of the main card saw long-time bantamweight contender Urijah Faber take on rising star Jimmie Rivera in a classic, veteran vs. prospect bout. This time around, the prospect came out on top.
Over the course of this three-round contest, Rivera scored big with chopping leg kicks and big punches. And while Faber was not without his moments, his efforts were not enough. The judges sided unanimously with the up-and-comer.
With the win, Rivera moves to a perfect 4-0 in the UFC, and a fantastic 20-1 overall. Having scored the biggest win of his career, he's now in sprinting distance of a bantamweight title shot. Faber, meanwhile, falls onto the first two-fight streak of his long career. The three-time UFC bantamweight title challenger is now 33-10 in sum.
Andrade Subs Calderwood for Career-Best Win
The main card was kicked off by a women's strawweight bout between Scotland's Joanne Calderwood and Brazilian Jessica Andrade. Given the ferocity with which both women destroyed their most recent opponents, many expected a finish from this one. That's just what we got.
Andrade wasted no time in grounding the fight. From there, she was able to soundly out-grapple her Scottish foe, eventually locking up an inescapable guillotine choke for an awesome, first-round W.
With the win, Andrade moves to 2-0 as a strawweight and assumes an overall record of 15-5. Calderwood, on the other hand, has a two-fight streak snapped by the defeat. The fan favorite Scotswoman is now 11-2 in sum.
Correia Steals Split Decision from Cleveland's Eye
The undercard was wrapped up by an exciting bout between struggling female bantamweights Jessica Eye and Bethe Correia.
Contested nearly entirely on the feet, this fight was a close as they come. At the end of the three round encounter, however, the judges gave it to Correia, depriving Eye of a win in front of her hometown fans.
In victory, Correia rebounds from a pair of losses to Ronda Rousey and Raquel Pennington. She's now 10-2 overall. Eye, on the other hand, now finds herself on an ugly, four-fight streak, and may well get her UFC walking papers as a result. She's now 11-6 overall.
Tavares Outguns Magalhaes in Action-Packed Fight
The second last bout of the undercard saw Hawaii's Brad Tavares take on Brazil's Caio Magalhaes in an intriguing middleweight pairing.
It was a very entertaining fight, as the two fighters blasted each other on the feet for the majority of the three-round affair. Overall, however, Tavares was the sharper man—particularly in the fight's action packed third round. This success earned him a split decision win, though a unanimous win was probably deserved.
With the win, Tavares rebounds from a KO loss to the streaking Rob Whittaker. He's now 14-4 overall. Magalhaes, meanwhile, falls onto a two-fight skid, having been tapped by Josh Samman in his last bout. He's now 9-3 in sum.
Lentz Clobbers Newcomer McBride
Bout three saw lightweight grappler Nik Lentz take on the debuting Michael McBride, who replaced Mairbek Taisumov on just 9 days' notice.
Though McBride showcased some serious resilience, he was ultimately unable to contend with his far more experienced foe. At 4:17 of round two, Lentz took the debutant's back, flattened him out, and poured on the punches for a nice TKO win.
With the win, Lentz moves to 2-0 since returning to lightweight, and assumes an overall record of 27-7-2. McBride, meanwhile, has a four-fight streak derailed by the loss, and moves to 8-2 overall.
Dober Smashes Gonzalez in One
The second bout of then night occurred in the lightweight division, as Drew Dober welcomed TUF veteran Jason Gonzalez to the Octagon.
Gonzalez's debut did not go as he planned. Mere moments into the first round, Dober unleashed a hellacious salvo of punches that left his debuting foe slumped against the cage. The stoppage came at 1:45 of round one.
With this fantastic KO win, Dober builds on the momentum of a recent defeat of Scott Holtzman. He's now 17-7 overall. Gonzalez, meanwhile, has a 6-fight streak snapped by this loss. He's now 10-3 in sum.
Medeiros Chokes Spencer in the Second
When CB Dolloway was forced out of his undercard bout with Francimar Barroso after a freak elevator accident, the UFC 203 Fight Pass Prelims were reduced to just one fight. That fight was a welterweight scrap between Sean Spencer and former lightweight Yancy Medeiros.
This one was all Medeiros. After a strong first round, the Hawaiian welterweight capped things off in the second, dropping his foe with a beautifully-timed head-kick and following him to the mat to lock up a rear-naked choke.
With the win, Medeiros rebounds from a loss to Francisco Trinaldo and assumes an overall record of 13-4. Spencer, meanwhile, falls onto a three-fight skid and now sits at 12-6 in sum.
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