“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 on Fox 17, which took place Saturday night from the Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. Rafael dos Anjos vs Donald Cerrone UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos defended his title for the first time by flooring number one contender Donald Cerrone in just 66 seconds. The Brazilian came out in his usual aggressive fashion and hit a well-executed knee to Cerrone’s liver that left “Cowboy” helpless. A vicious series of punches following the knee forced referee Herb Dean to stop the fight. This is a great win for dos Anjos because it silences much of the criticism and allegations that have been thrown his way regarding his physique and alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. What we saw was a great mixed martial artist that is now one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world. Dos Anjos’ next opponent is not clear at the moment, though he has made it known that he is open to challenging UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor if “The Notorious” chooses him as his next foe. Performance Grade: A+ Junior dos Santos vs Alistair Overeem This long anticipated heavyweight contest was not what most fans were expecting for the majority of two rounds. Both fighters respected the other’s abilities and very few strikes were thrown. Overeem, the much more active fighter since the two were originally scheduled to compete at UFC 146 in 2012, eventually started to land hard leg kicks and left hands. Dos Santos, meanwhile, struggled to get his boxing game going. Overeem eventually landed a brutal left hook that starched dos Santos and forced the referee to call the fight. This is Overeem’s biggest win of his UFC career and it sets him up nicely for both a title shot and a lucrative new contract. While this fight ended violently, it was an almost painful fight to watch for the first nine minutes. Fight Grade: D- Michael Johnson vs Nathan Diaz The return of Nate Diaz was quite entertaining, as he outboxed #5 ranked lightweight Michael Johnson and earned his first win in more than two years. The beloved native of Stockton, California was cheered loudly by the Orlando crowd, especially in the final two rounds. Diaz’s sharp boxing and taunts caused Michael Johnson to abandon his gameplan and take on more of a head-hunting approach. Both fighters exchanged hard punches in the pocket, but Diaz consistently got the better of most exchanges. This win puts Diaz back on the map in a big way because he is a big name in a division that lacks fighters that can draw an audience. He also threw his name into the running for the Conor McGregor lottery, but that is considered a longshot. Fight Grade: A Randa Markos vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz Kicking off the UFC on Fox 17 main card was a strawweight bout between The Ultimate Fighter season 20 semifinalist Randa Markos and Polish newcomer Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The gritty Markos is a plus athlete but is still quite raw. She lacks the experience and ancillary skills of a polished veteran fighter. Her opponent, Kowalkiewicz, is a more technical fighter but she lacks Markos’ strength and frame. This contest was edged out by Kowalkiewicz, as she took the first and third rounds on most observers’ scorecards. Kowalkiewicz’s more varied striking attack, solid grappling, and superior cardio were the deciding factors in the fight. Markos drops to 1-2 in the UFC, while Kowalkiewicz picks up her first win inside the Octagon and remains undefeated at 8-0. Fight Grade: C- Thoughts: This was a solid event, all the way from the prelims to the headlining title bout. Many hardcore fight fans had been looking forward to this eventshow since it was announced and it delivered. The card featured several excellent performances and a slew of underdog winners. Rafael dos Anjos made a statement that he is every bit as good as he seems, while Alistair Overeem and Nate Diaz picked up big wins in their bouts. On the prelims, there were strong performances by Charles Oliveira, Nate Marquardt, Vicente Luque, and Tamdan McCrory. Final UFC on Fox 17 Grade: B+
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