Posted 09/28/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA
 
 

UFC 178: Cerrone, Alvarez, McGregormania, and Romero’s Stool

UFC 178 didn’t have a big main event, and the main event it did have felt like an afterthought. (Partly due to the fact that the UFC treated it – rightfully – like an afterthought.) The strength and depth of the undercard/prelims gave it a unique, big-event feel, and after a slow start on Fight Pass/Fox Sports 1, it delivered in the best way. This great night of fights also had its share of controversy.

STUBBORN STOOL

It wouldn’t be a Yoel Romero fight without a controversy surrounding his stool.

Tim Kennedy rocked Romero toward the end of the second round. Kennedy sent him flying into the fence, which looked like the only thing keeping Romero on his feet. Referee John McCarthy seemed content on letting the round end, which it did, allowing Romero to stumble over to his corner.

That’s where it gets tricky. Romero’s corner did the usual corner thing with the UFC-appointed cut man worked on a giant cut over Romero’s left eye. When the minute of rest time ended, Romero’s corner took their time exiting the cage, which Joe Rogan noted immediately. Further, Romero stayed seated on his stool. The UFC cut man, as Dana White later noted, had “globbed” Vaseline all over Romero’s cut, which the commission – and then, subsequently, McCarthy – insisted be wiped down. By the time Romero sat up from the stool ready to fight, some 28 or 29 extra seconds had ticked off the clock. Romero would finish Kennedy a minute into the third round.

There’s a lot of parts to consider here. First, Romero’s corner engaged in a bit of old-school gamesmanship by giving their fighter as long as possible to recover. It’s similar to Angelo Dundee cutting Muhammad Ali’s glove against Henry Cooper (about halfway down the article). Second, the UFC cut man lavished enough Vaseline on Romero’s laceration to upset B.J. Penn’s mom. Third, John McCarthy, who wound up yelling a bunch, lost control of the situation.

Kennedy wound up confronting Romero after the fight. His anger is misplaced. He should fault McCarthy and the Nevada commission, and maybe stick a pin in a cut man effigy to release some mild annoyance in that direction. He’ll appeal, which is well within his rights, but he’ll have a hard time overturning the decision considering the cut man and commission caused the extra delay.

The fan/media response to Romero’s gamesmanship reminds me of Floyd Mayweather’s “sucker punching” Victor Ortiz three years ago. Mayweather’s punch, in my view, was in full compliance with the rules, though some saw it as a dirty tactic against an already overmatched opponent. Romero’s camp skirted the rules, sure, but it’s a brilliant tactic when pulled off at the right moment. And they took a risk, too: Had the Vaseline been properly applied, they risked a point deduction, if not a full disqualification, from McCarthy.

Sports has a long history of rule bending and outright cheating. This is just another (fun and entertaining) example.

PERSONAL PROBLEMS

Cat Zingano suffered a devastating loss in January when her husband and head coach, Mauricio Zingano, committed suicide at the age of 37. There are few things worse than losing a loved one. There are even fewer things worse than losing a loved one who took their own life. Yet, Zingano entered the UFC cage nine months later.

Throughout the night the UFC broadcast team and Dana White hinted at Zingano’s loss in euphemism. She had gone through “personal problems.” “So much had happened.” Joe Rogan, in his post-fight interview, noted it had been a “tough year” for Zingano.

To be fair, the UFC was put in a tough situation of having to acknowledge Zingano’s loss without seeming to exploit it. Part of that, however, results from the promotion controlling its own broadcast. It’s hard to imagine HBO or Showtime hamfisting a similar situation in the boxing world.

As tough a situation as it is, the solution does not seem all that hard. For starters, she didn’t have “personal problems,” which is a loaded phrase (especially in the euphemism-happy UFC) that could mean anything from a drug addiction to a run-in with the law to a psychotic breakdown. If you want to comment without commenting, use something along the lines of “personal tragedy” or “personal heartbreak.”

What would have been even better is to address the information openly, concisely, and with the utmost respect and empathy it deserves. For instance, “In January, Cat Zingano’s husband and coach Mauricio passed away at the age of 37. She’s fighting without him for the first time tonight.” Pause a moment to let that statement settle, then continue the broadcast as normal.

PARTING SHOTS

-Conor McGregor finished Dustin Poirier early with a left hook that landed somewhere behind the ear. It was a legal blow, despite Kevin Iole’s continued line of questioning at the post-fight press conference, and should vault McGregor into either a title eliminator or a title shot. He may not deserve a title shot on merit alone, but the man is magnetic (in a dumb, arrogant sort of way) and featherweight hasn’t had a needlemoving fight in…ever?

-Dominick Cruz looked like he hadn’t lost a step in his return against Takeya Mizugaki. A beautiful double leg takedown led to a Cruz swarm that caught Mizugaki completely off guard. Dana White announced that Cruz will get the next crack at champion T.J. Dillashaw.

-Standing in front of each other, Eddie Alvarez and Donald Cerrone reminded me of Alvarez’s fight against Nick Thompson. In that fight, Alvarez, fighting at welterweight, lost to a less-talented but much bigger Thompson. The 2014 Cerrone far exceeds 2007 Thompson, but Cerrone’s ability to reach Alvarez’s legs at distance came into play in a huge way in the third round. Cerrone’s five-fight win streak is one of the better runs in UFC lightweight history.


Mike Fagan