Going into Saturday night, fans expected UFC 226 to be packed with action, and it was, but the event also had some odd moments.
Francis Ngannou vs Derrick Lewis: What the Hell was That?
Ahead of the main event, we saw a very strange heavyweight fight between “The Predator” Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis. On paper, this had fireworks written all over it. Both fighters are known for their knockout power, they both come out swinging and always press the action. But — to everyone’s surprise — it was a complete dud. Instead of brawling, both fighters circled the Octagon and barely engaged each for three full rounds. In fact, just 31 strikes landed the entire fight.
What the hell happened? Well, gun-shy Ngannou almost refused to fight… and has now admitted that his embarrassing loss via decision to Stipe Miocic back in January, where he ran out of gas after the first round, changed his mindset.
“I am not proud of my last performance,” he wrote on Instagram. “I have carried my fear from the last fight to this one. I completely understand the frustration & anger that it has caused to my fans, coaches, teammates, family and friends and I am truly sorry for that. I won’t let everyone down again. All I can do now is prove myself and make you proud again.”
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I am not proud of my last performance. I have carried my fear from the last fight to this one. I completely understand the frustration & anger that it has caused to my fans, coaches, teammates, family and friends and I am truly sorry for that. I won't let everyone down again. All I can do now is prove myself and make you proud again. #UFC226
Lewis tried to engage the once-explosive Ngannou, but was very timid himself, respecting the power. Lewis did just enough to take a decision, though it wasn’t very exciting at all.
Daniel Cormier Spectacularly Dethrones Stipe Miocic
While Ngannou-Lewis was a dud, we had other exciting fights prior, and of course, the main event was headline-grabbing. The heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic took on reigning light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier.
Both fighters are highly skilled and after just one round, we have a winner. DC walked away with a historic victory, when he knocked out Stipe in the opening round. After a clinch, DC delivered a short right hand that dropped the champ and immediately pounced with strikes on the ground that knocked Stipe out, as the reference stepped in.
With the win, Cormier becomes just the second fighter ever to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously, following Conor McGregor, who accomplished the feat in late 2016. It also cements him as one of the greatest fighters in UFC history.
DC Calls Out Brock Lesnar, Who Delivered a WWE-Style Response
The big surprise of the evening came after DC’s win. The new champ took the mic and called out former UFC champ/WWE superstar Brock Lesnar, who was sitting cageside.
“There’s a guy I’ve known for a long time,” Cormier said. “He’s a wrestler. He’s an All-American. He’s a former UFC champion. I never thought I would fight him — but Brock Lesnar, get your ass in here!”
Lesnar immediately obliged, coming into the cage and shoving Cormier. “DC, I’m coming for you, motherf*cker,” he said in the mic, before showing the mic into the camera.
What was all that? A WWE storyline? It sure felt like it, but it was entertaining, setting up Lesnar’s return to the UFC and a big money fight between him and Cormier in the near future. In fact, UFC president Dana White is already saying he’s “going to make that fight”.
Lesnar, 40, hasn’t fought in UFC since July 2016, when he took a unanimous decision over Mark Hunt. However, it was later changed to a no contest after it was revealed that Lesnar had failed multiple drug tests. He is currently still under suspension by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
What Does the Future Hold for the UFC Heavyweight Division?
UFC 226 was one interesting night, but it also leaves a lot of questions about the future of the heavyweight division. What’s next from here?
Cormier is the new champ, but will he defend the title, remaining a heavyweight? Or, will he return to the light heavyweight division? Stipe lost his title, but before Saturday night, he had defeated all the top-ranked contenders in the division, and with Ngannou being a changed fighter, who else is left? Right now, Lesnar’s return, and a potential fight with DC, seems to be the only big draw in the weight class.
Outside of that, there is Alexander Volkov. He’s definitely a contender to watch for, but he’s not a big name just yet.
The heavyweight division needs stars. Will a new star emerge? We will have to wait and see.