UFC 203 will go down as an anomaly in the promotion’s history. It was certainly one of the most peculiar as bizarre circumstances underpinned what was, in the end, an entertaining maiden voyage to Cleveland for the UFC.
First, there was the out-of-place MMA debut for a former WWE star as CM Punk predictably looked out of his depth.
Then, there was the sight of Fabricio Werdum landing a flying sidekick to Travis Browne’s chin three seconds after the opening bell before the fight descended into pure parody. Browne unilaterally stopped the bout due to a broken finger and referee Gary Copeland wrongly obliged.
And to top it off, Werdum then front kicked Browne’s head coach Edmond Tarverdyan after the decision was rendered.
The strangeness did not stop there either as the main event had its own odd occurrences, too.
Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, in front of his fervent home support, was flattened early in the first round by Alistair Overeem, who then himself was knocked out before going on to wrongly claim post-fight he actually won the fight due to a phantom Miocic tap to a guillotine choke.
Yes, weird just about sums it up. In equal measure, though, it was absorbing. When CM Punk emerged to Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” for his first ever MMA fight against talented prospect Mickey Gall, the debate as to whether he deserved to be there in the first place dissipated and left in its place was curiosity – a first for a fight between two men with two total bouts.
When the action began, though, the interest subsided. Punk was immediately taken down and in under two minutes, Gall had the 37-year-old tapping to a rear-naked choke – a brutal reminder that the UFC is not the place to be ticking off goals for your bucket list.
Punk, though, intends to fight on and if he does, then it should be in the amateur ranks.
“My initial venture into this was gonna be at the lowest level,” Punk said at the post-fight press conference. “This opportunity just got presented to myself and I would have been a fool to say no. I don’t know what happens from here on out. What if I get cut? I don’t know. I think that’s a possibility. Do I want that to happen? No. But who’s to say where I go from here? I don’t know. I definitely want to keep going.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Miocic knows exactly where he is heading and it’s into a title defence against one of the best heavyweights of all time in Cain Velasquez.
The Cleveland native successfully defended the belt he captured at UFC 198 and although it was clear he had won, the fight was marred by the confusion of Overeem’s accusation of a tap. There’s only one thing Miocic remembers, though.
“I just remember signing my cheque and all that good stuff, and I heard boos,” he said. “I asked what they (the crowd) were booing about because I knew he (Overeem) was talking, and they told me that he said that I tapped out. I don’t remember tapping out, I just remember punching his face repeatedly until he was unconscious.”
In the other odd occurrence of the night, Werdum recovered from losing the belt to Miocic in May to grind out a unanimous decision victory over Browne. The fight, save for the first three seconds, was a sleeper but it exploded when Tarverdyan confronted the Brazilian who in turn push kicked the cornerman away from danger.
“I just keep my distance, I don’t want to kick him, I just keep the distance, you know, he’s a boxing coach, and I see in his eyes he wants to punch my face,” Werdum said. “He comes first. He says a lot of things, a lot of bad things.”
Cooler heads prevailed and the trouble dispersed but it all added to a strange night in the UFC.
Gennady Golovkin retained his World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation middleweight titles with a fifth round stoppage of brave British challenger Kell Brook at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday.
It was Golovkin’s 17th world middleweight title defence and reaffirmed the Kazakh’s status as the number one in the division.
His latest victory came after the corner of the previously unbeaten Brook threw in the towel.
The 34-year-old Golovkin’s win extended his unbeaten record to 36-0, with 33 by way of knockout. Golovkin’s World Boxing Association (WBA) belt was not on the line.
For Brook, the IBF world welterweight champion, there was no disgrace in losing to the man widely regarded as the world’s best boxer after he courageously stepped up two weight divisions to face Golovkin, whose rival world middleweight champions have so far refused to fight him.
The legendary Filipino icon, who hung up his gloves after what was supposed to be a farewell victory over Timothy Bradley in April, ended his short-lived retirement in early August.
The 37-year-old fighter is now targeting a slice of the world welterweight title when he faces World Boxing Organization champion Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas on November 5.
Pacquiao had initially planned to focus on his political career after being elected to the Philippines Senate in May.
But politics proved to be no substitute for pugilism in the eyes of the Filipino great, who showed he had plenty left in the tank with his stylish win over Bradley five months ago.
“First when I hung up my gloves I realised,” Pacquiao told AFP on Thursday.
“I felt lonely. And thinking about it over and over, I thought ‘Boxing still likes me. Boxing still loves me.’ So why stop my boxing career? So that’s why I decided to continue my journey as a boxer.”