“Grading the card’’ is an article written by Mike James after every major UFC and Bellator event. Every main card fight and the fight card itself is briefly discussed and given a letter grade. This article covers UFC 192, which took place Saturday night from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Daniel Cormier vs Alexander Gustafsson In another epic light heavyweight title fight, Sweden native Alexander Gustafsson gave current champion Daniel Cormier everything he could handle for five rounds. The Swede’s defensive wrestling and striking frustrated the former Olympic wrestler and forced him to switch game plans, which is something he was unable to do against Jon Jones. However, Cormier had more success against Gustafsson, as he was able to repeatedly force a clinch and hammer him with damaging uppercuts. Gustafsson’s face was a mess by the end of the third round, which was the same round Gustafsson dropped Cormier with a knee and follow-up punches and almost scored a finish. While that was a huge moment in the fight, Cormier was able to survive and push the pace during the final two rounds, which won him the fight. Cormier’s pressure and Gustafsson’s constant retreating was likely a big factor when two judges scored the fight for Cormier (49-46, 48-47). One judge scored the fight for Gustafsson (48-47), though I am not sure how you can give him more than two rounds. While Cormier managed to retain his belt, Gustafsson managed to earn the respect of every viewer and fan in attendance. The feeling has to be bittersweet for him, as he once again comes up short in an amazing five round title fight. Cormier, on the other hand, will hopefully get his rematch with Jones early next year. That will hinge on whether Jones gets reinstated by the UFC and chooses to return, which seems like a likely scenario. Fight Grade: A+ Ryan Bader by Rashad Evans Getting a win over Rashad Evans is a big deal, but not as big of a deal as it would have been two years ago. Evans was slow, rusty, and far too hesitant to pull the trigger. He would pressure Bader and trap him against the cage, but then fail to engage. That happened over and over, and Bader took advantage of it. Bader landed the cleaner strikes throughout the fight, especially with his right hand. A few takedowns were also landed here and there by the former Arizona State University wrestler. Bader is in a tough position. He has won five in a row, all by decision and over an increasing level of competition. However, he has failed to capture the interest of the fans and a returning Jon Jones will likely take his number one contender position if he returns soon. Bader has not done himself any favors in his fights, as he has failed to finish any of his recent wins and does not have a charismatic personality that fans find attractive. Fight Grade C- Ruslan Magomedov vs Shawn Jordan The UFC’s heavyweight division could have used a breakout performance from either fighter, as the division is weak and suffering from a lack of young prospects. Magomedov is a talented fighter on the feet and has ever improving takedown defense, but he lacks finishing skills and works at a glacial pace. He really should have finished Jordan in the second or third round, as Jordan was suffering from an injury and there for the taking. Magomedov did just enough to win, which is the kind of style that will be tough to implement against top fighters. As for the fight itself, there were a few good exchanges but the pace was very slow and there was a bit too much stalling against the fence. Fight Grade: D Joseph Benavidez vs Ali Bagautinov Joseph Benavidez finds himself in a tough position in late 2015, as he has established himself as the second best fighter in the division but has already lost to the reigning champion twice. A quick check of his record will find that the only losses in his entire career are to current pound for pound kingpin Demetrious Johnson and former UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. While he may be the second best fighter in the division, a third title shot against Johnson will likely not be taking place anytime soon. Against Bagautinov, the Team Alpha Male fighter used his speed, striking, and scrambling ability to frustrate the Dagestani native over the course of three uneventful rounds. An unimpressed crowd never got into the contest and showered the fighters in a chorus of boos. Fight Grade: C- Julianna Pena vs Jessica Eye Jessica Eye continues to make baffling decisions in her fights that end up costing her dearly. Eye was clearly the better striker in this matchup, but instead of breaking free from the clinch and creating space, she would often continue to engage Pena in close quarters. Continuous clinch fighting allowed Pena to hit trip takedowns and gain top position, which is where she held a big advantage. In fact, the only round Eye won is when Pena thought it would be a good idea to pull guard, which caused her to spend the majority of the second round on her back. However, Eye inexplicably kneed Pena in the head while she was on the ground, which resulted in the referee taking a point from her. Eye’s decision-making will continue to be a problem if she does not make some changes. As for Pena, she did some good things in this fight from top position, but struggled on the feet and from her back. She almost got choked out with an arm-triangle in the second, but survived because she never allowed Eye to get out of her half-guard. Further, Pena’s striking defense and recklessness are serious concerns going forward. A fight against current champion Ronda Rousey is not a good idea until she tightens up her game and beats a few more contenders. Fight Grade: C- UFC 192 Card: The main card of UFC 192 featured a terrific light heavyweight title fight and four other fights that were rather lackluster. Cormier and Gustafsson put on one of the best light heavyweight title fights in the promotion’s history, no doubt about it. That fight was worth the price of the card alone. The rest of the card saw some fighters pick up some big wins in uneventful fights. The preliminary card was much more action-packed, as there were five finishes in seven fights. However, my grade is for the main card only. Overall UFC 192 Grade: C (Main card only)
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