A fast start followed by dominating performances highlighted the pay-per-view portion of Ultimate Fighting Championship's return to Buffalo.
But a controversial ending did its best to steal the show at KeyBank Center in the first UFC bout to take place here in more than two decades.
Big-time mixed martial arts returned to Buffalo for the first time since 1995, bringing with it intensity, déjà vu, clear frustration and trash talk in an interesting co-main event.
The agreeable aspects of the aforementioned surrounded a defending champion. A former champ experienced the frustration due to a conclusion that proved to be out of his control.
Daniel Cormier enjoyed a déjà vu moment as he defended his light heavyweight title and sent Anthony Johnson into retirement by earning a second-round win via submission to end UFC 210. It's the second time the two have squared off in the octagon with Cormier ending it, again, via rear naked choke hold.
"I trained for a submission," Cormier said. "We trained for an improved version of Anthony Johnson. We thought we could eventually break him down but it happened a little faster than I anticipated."
A no-doubt-about-it tap out ending to the first UFC card to take place in Buffalo since 1995 proved to be more satisfying to the sellout crowd of 17,110 than the penultimate bout that served as the co-main event of UFC 210.
The bout between former middleweight champion Chris Weidman and Gegard Mousasi left folks and the combatants angry. They made that pretty clear after the announcement of the controversial TKO triumph by Mousasi at 2 minutes, 13 seconds of the second round.
Two knees to the head of Weidman, who had one hand on the ground proved to be the blows that spelled the end of this one.
Except, Weidman – bloodied – wasn't knocked out. A couple gaffes happened in this situation.
The referee at first believed Weidman had both hands on the ground – which would have made the knees to the head illegal. The referee halted the fight, to give Weidman time to recover from the blows with doctors tending to him. A ring-side official informed the referee during the delay the knees were legal -- leading to a reversal of the initial call. Replays showed Weidman -- crouching -- only had one hand on the mat after being lifted in the air slightly by Mousasi prior to the knees landing against his head.
That meant the kicks were legal under a recent rule change regarding grounded fighters. A combatant must have two hands and feet touching the mat in order for kicks or knees to the head to be deemed illegal.
The gaffe became compounded when ring-side physicians checked out Weidman. They ruled Weidman unfit to continue fighting – much to the former middleweight champion's displeasure.
Doctors wouldn't have examined Weidman in the cage if not for the initial mistake.
"I thought I was going to win because of the illegal knee," he said. "It's a crappy situation. ... I was told I had five minutes. The next thing I know they're telling me it was a legal knee. I've been through way worse than that.
"It shouldn't have been stopped but at the end of the day the referee made a judgement call."
The fans and Weidman aren't the only ones dissatisfied with the ending.
“It’s not the way I wanted to win and I wanted to continue to fight," said Mousasi, who has won his last five bouts and improved to 42-6-2. "I wasn’t thinking, I was just in the moment of the fight. If he wants a rematch, he can have his rematch.”
Weidman plans to appeal the ruling in hopes of getting the loss overturned and get a rematch, although Mousasi's contract with UFC ended after this fight.
The finish extends a frustrating time in Weidman's career as the competitor from downstate Baldwin has dropped three straight bouts after a 13-0 start to a career that started in 2009.
"I'm still kind of in shock," said Weidman, who has lost twice in his home state. "I was going to win the fight."
Johnson (22-6) thought he too was going to be triumphant but history repeated itself on a historic night in the 7-1-6.
Just like the first fight between the two, Cormier's wrestling and mat skills proved to be the difference. He got Johnson on the floor, eventually securing a rear naked choke hold that prompted a tap out.
After the fight, Johnson announced it was his last -- opting to retire as he committed to another undisclosed job.
"I love you all," said Johnson, who planned to walk away win or lose. "I didn’t even tell (UFC President) Dana White. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t want there to be any distraction. I have to thank you all for being there for me.
"I'm tired of getting punched by guys and rolling around the mat. ... I enjoyed the UFC."
Cormier said his foe has more to give to the sport and was disappointed to hear about the retirement.
Johnson was the only fighter to receive kind words from Cormier, who unloaded verbal shots at a couple of others in attendance during his post-match interview -- including suspended former champion Jon Jones.
When the subject of Jones came up ...
"Who?" said Cormier, the only man to beat him in 20 career fights.
“Is that guy even eligible to fight yet,” Cormier continued. “Don’t talk to me about a guy that’s ineligible. When you get your (expletive) together, I’m here waiting for you, young man. I’ve been waiting for two years.”
Cormier, who just made the 205 weight limt on the second try during Friday's official weigh-in, looked like he has plenty left in his 38-year-old tank of a body. He pounced on Johnson, a lethal striker who tried to engaged the grappling with Cormier. That played into the former Olympic wrestler's hands, who wore out Johnson on the mat -- getting him into a submission hold that resulted in a tap out at 3:37.
"I couldn't believe he was actually forcing the wrestling," said Cormier, who suffered an apparent broken nose on a kick but avoided further potential damage. "We were OK giving up the first round. I didn’t want to take the head kick, but I knew as we went on, I would eventually get to him.”
Charles Oliveira, Thiago Alves and Cynthia Calvillo earned triumphs to start the pay-per-view portion of UFC 210 on Saturday night.
While a couple nearby neighbors from Rochester -- including former University at Buffalo standout wrestler Desmond Green -- got the crowd worked up and into this entertaining extravaganza during the preliminary card, the headliners wasted little time keeping the crowd's attention with the first bout failing to go the distance.
The lightweight bout between Oliveira and Will Brooks just got to the midway point of the first round as Oliveira won for the 22nd time in his career.
The match was all but over once Brooks tried to get to his feet after being taken down for the second time in the match. That time, Oliveira (22-7) didn't let go as he had Brooks (18-4) right where he wanted him, securing a rear-naked choke hold that forced Brooks to tap out just 2 minutes, 30 seconds into the three round fight.
At first it seemed like Oliveira failed to take advantage of a take down of Brooks as he failed to land anything significant. That changed once Oliveira took Brooks down a second time. Brooks tried to get up, but Oliveira rode him piggy-back style and locked in the choke hold near the the fencing of the octagon.
Oliveira climbed the cage, basking in the glory of the cheers and imploring the fans to make more noise after his post-match interview.
“I trained a lot to be able to execute that move," said Oliveira, who snapped a two-fight losing skid. "I’ve done this submission before in the UFC and I heard my corners yelling for me to hold the position and not to give it up and he tapped. Everybody said that I have a lot of pressure on me for this fight to win, but it’s not real and I felt very comfortable."
Thiago Alves had reason to feel comfortable in the octagon. He too threatened to make short work of his welterweight foe, Patrick Cote, before settling for a no-doubt-about-it victory via unanimous decision.
"It's been a long time since I've had my hand raised," said Alves, the former title contender who snapped a two-fight losing streak to improve to 27-11. "I'm excited."
Alves, nicknamed "The Pitbull," nearly ended this three-rounder in the first as he absorbed a kick from Cote and then floored his foe with left to the face. Alves pounced from there, landing a flurry of punches. The end of the round provided the only escape for Cote.
Alves just missed getting Cote in a submissive position in the second round but corraled him in the final round -- getting him on the mat and working him over some more and bloodying him.
Cote, who wore a half mask of crimson on the right side of his face from the punishment, placed his gloves in the center of the ring after the bout -- the symbol that this was his final match.
"(I said) win or lose, this would be my last fight," said Cote, who ends his 15-year career 23-11.
Calvillo improved to 2-0 in UFC and 5-0 overall, as she was the clear aggressor throughout against Gonzalez (6-2), who's making her UFC debut. Calvillo roughed up Gonzalez on the mat for most of the second round. While Calvillo nearly locked in choke holds several times, she was finally rewarded for her persistence late in the fight. She applied a rear-naked choke hold on a bloody Gonzalez, securing a tap out with 1:15 left in the fight.
"This is my life; I love doing this," Calvillo said.
“I’m definitely going to take some rest," she continued. "This is my fifth fight inside eight months. ... I just want to sit back and soak it all in because I haven’t had a chance to yet.”