An outstanding welterweight championship matchup on paper did not disappoint at UFC 195, as defending champion Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit delivered what could absolutely finish as 2016's fight of the year when all is said and done.
Ultimately, Lawler (27-10) recorded his second title defense via split decision. Final scores read in Lawler's favor: 48-47, 48-47 and 47-48. Did the judges get it right? And how did UFC 195 performances stack up overall? Let's get into it in this week's Report Card.
Lost to Robbie Lawler (SD)
To the surprise of no one, Condit came out with a very effective game plan. The genius minds of Jackson-Wink MMA called for a lot of volume and Condit delivered that, as he threw an absolutely absurd 497 total strikes. Should he have won the title? You can certainly argue he should have. Heck, one of the rounds that seemingly everyone scored for Lawler was the second, probably because that was the round in which Condit got knocked down. But really, Condit recovered from the shot instantly, was back on his feet no worse for the wear moments later and arguably won the rest of the round. It was a superb performance by Condit, one that Lawler repeatedly referred to as "clever." He dictated range, used space as the game plan called for and held up to the pace of the fight. He did, however, lose the fifth round. Rule No. 1 since Georges St-Pierre vacated the title: Win the fifth round.
Defeated Carlos Condit (SD)
There were definitely moments of Lawler's performance that I didn't love. I'll say that right now. "Finishing fights" defines Lawler's approach -- I get that -- but you have an opponent standing in front of you who has a history of trouble defending takedowns. It was an insanely close fight and you don't try a single takedown during the entire 25 minutes? Not even to seal a round or plant a seed in your opponent's mind? I can't not question that decision a little bit. And along those same lines, Lawler falls into these weird trances where he just doesn't throw anything. It's basically part of his DNA at this point. When he won the title against Johny Hendricks in 2014, the image of Pat Miletich and Matt Hughes pleading with him to throw more is forever burned in my memory. That said, this man wills himself to victory in the fifth round unlike anyone else right now. And that was the difference in the fight.
Miocic and UFC president Dana White shook hands during the postfight press conference on Saturday, agreeing that Miocic would get the next crack at the heavyweight title. There's really no bad choice between Miocic and Alistair Overeem, who is currently in need of a new UFC contract (he finished his old one in a win against Junior dos Santos last month). There was a time, really not that long ago, when it seemed Miocic was probably too green for that kind of opportunity. That's no longer the feeling. There will be some who dismiss Arlovski following this result, but the fact is the guy came in on a six-fight win streak and is less than one year removed from knocking out Travis Browne. This is a legit win. It's not easy in the heavyweight division to rack up sub-minute knockouts over UFC-caliber competition. Miocic now has three of them.
Poirier is still just 26! I don't know about the rest of you, but that seems impossible to me. He has 14 fights' worth of experience in the UFC, and you saw some of the benefits of that experience in this fight. There were certainly opportunities for Poirier to lose on Saturday, and I truly believe past versions of Poirier would have likely found a way to lose. Duffy is a big lightweight with legitimate finishing prowess. Poirier stood up to Duffy's power on the feet and was able to control him on the ground, which was probably the most impressive aspect of this fight. Duffy can be a web on the floor, and there were moments when the two were grappling that you knew Poirier was fighting somewhat hurt. His focus was razor sharp in those ground exchanges, though, and he left no doubt on the judges' scorecards. I'd love to see Poirier vs. Nate Diaz.
If you want to consider Tumenov as an elite-level prospect, of course it's a little disconcerting to see him struggle to defend basically one attack from his opponent. A lot of people talking about the judging of the main event might also want to take a look at the judging of Tumenov's win over Larkin. There was a case to be made for Larkin pulling this one out, based on his leg kicks alone. On the other hand, it's not hard to find the potential in the 24-year-old Tumenov. I thought Larkin's speed advantage was going to be very visible. It wasn't. If there was anything that made you wince more in this fight than Larkin's kicks, it was Tumenov's left hook to the body. There were some holes exposed in Tumenov's plodding, straightforward style in this fight -- but great young fighters can have that happen, find a way to still win and then plug those holes between appearances. We'll see if Tumenov does so.
Ortega was down 20-18 on all three scorecards going into the third round. And while the final sequence of his triangle submission was profound, it appeared Brandao's awful gas tank greatly aided it. Ortega was basically doing anything he could to drag Brandao to the floor in that final round (including pulling guard), and if it weren't for Brandao being one of the worst late-round fighters in the UFC, I'm not sure Ortega would have ever been in position to pull off this comeback. Now, maybe that was all part of the plan. Maybe Ortega and his camp knew, like the rest of us, that Brandao tends to fade and the plan was to take it to him in the third. But, honestly, the first two rounds weren't that high pace. Brandao's gas tank waned more because he's just Brandao and not because of anything Ortega did. Don't get me wrong, great win, talented kid. Personally, I thought he was a little fortunate to pull it off, though.
Defeated Albert Tumenov (SD)
Spinning leg kicks! Larkin threw some interesting shots in the third round of this one, let me tell you. Ultimately, though, I think we saw Larkin's ceiling play out in this fight. He's an exciting welterweight and capable of looking downright spectacular when a fight is going his way, but against a pressure fighter like Tumenov who has the technical know-how and athletic ability to not cave to speed, Larkin's effectiveness is come and go. He's talented enough to surprise you. There are upset wins in this 29-year-old's future that will turn heads, but the consistency required to put a long steak together will be a problem.
There are no secrets about McDonald. He's very good. Everyone knows this. It's how he has managed to basically remain a top-10 bantamweight since late 2013, despite zero appearances during that time. But I don't think you'd find anyone who would say this was a good performance coming off a two-year layoff. McDonald was rusty and basically slow to adapt at first. That transition out of the arm-triangle and into his own rear-naked choke was the first glimpse of the real McDonald in that fight, and it produced a finish. His next performance will likely be better.
Lost to Dustin Poirier (SD)
Duffy found Poirier time and again early on with that counter right hand, but as a whole, he didn't dictate the distance and tempo of the standup as he has done in previous fights. The most disappointing moments of the fight for Duffy probably came in the scrambles, when he allowed Poirier to keep him on his back after expending so much energy trying to create space and get back to his feet. A late standup by the referee in the third round gave him some real life late in the fight, but a tired Duffy was taken down moments later. This was a step up in competition for Duffy and a chance to prove he was ready to really break into the top 10. Considering that, it has to be considered a large setback. Personally, I still believe in Duffy's skills. He stands out as a potentially elite lightweight. But this was a disappointing performance, making you wonder if the concussion he suffered late last year left a lingering effect.
Lost to Stipe Miocic (TKO1/0:54)
I can't bring myself to write a failing grade next to Arlovski, result be darned. Was this a product of "anything can happen in the heavyweight division"? Or was it the product of slightly delayed reaction speeds and recovery times based off a long, winding career in the fight game? Probably a little bit of both. Do we write off Arlovski to the scrap heap? Again? I'm not ready to do so. Not in this division. With one or two more wins, Arlovski is essentially right back where he was. His next fight will be incredibly important for what's left of his title aspirations, though.