I was excited last month for the main event of UFC 210, as: light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was set to re-match top contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Sure, they were in reality fighting for the title of second-best light heavyweight on the planet, what with Jon “Bones” Jones’ legal entanglements, but it was probably the most highly-anticipated MMA bout of the year thus far nonetheless.
In their first fight two years ago, Rumble, known as perhaps the hardest-punching human being on planet earth, cracked Cormier with a right hand that knocked him across the octagon and down. “D.C.” survived the crushing shot and subsequent onslaught though, and in the second round, took down a visibly weary Johnson, easily got his back, and submitted him via rear naked choke. It was a fight that showcased the best attributes of both fighters, and also one man’s glaring weakness. Cormier’s toughness and wrestling won the day over Rumble’s ferocious power, but it was Rumble’s lack of stamina that truly proved his undoing.
In the re-match most believed Rumble would come into the bout with a much better gas tank, keep it on the feet, and try to carry his power into the later rounds. Cormier would have to grind it out with his wrestling and relentless pace, and avoid his opponent’s scary stand-up for presumably more than just the opening round. Lots of clinch work and takedown attempts from Cormier were expected.
And then Rumble inexplicably came out looking to wrestle. It was bizarre; the absolute worst strategy imaginable. Besides Bones, Cormier’s the best wrestler in the division, has endless stamina, and relishes grind-it-out dogfights. Rumble has the scariest one-shot knockout power—with hands or feet—arguably in MMA history. His wrestling is only decent, and his stamina a career-long issue. Why the hell would he want to wrestle with a cardio machine like D.C.?
I’m not sure, but Cormier was more than happy to oblige. Predictably, Rumble wasted tons of energy in one unsuccessful takedown attempt after the next as he pinned Cormier to the cage. Finally he scored a takedown late in the first round but it proved to be a Pyyrhic victory.
As in their first fight, Rumble came out looking slow in the second. This time though, it wasn’t because he got gassed unloading bombs trying to TKO a hurt opponent, it was because of his bizarre game plan to wrestle for the entire opening frame. Human pitbull Cormier pounced, scoring a takedown of his own early into the round that immediately gave him control of Johnson’s back. From there it was a matter of time, and Cormier forced the tap shortly thereafter.
Some of the confusion over Rumble’s strategy were answered as he unexpectedly and abruptly retired in his post-fight press conference, saying this was going to be his last fight regardless of the outcome. An emotional Johnson told fans, “I have to thank you all for being there for me.” He went on to classily give former twenty-year UFC commentator who got needlessly and thanklessly canned a few months ago, Mike Goldberg, or “Goldie,” a shout-out. “I wanted him to be here for my last fight but Mike, I love you baby. Peace out.” A final grab at the mic was to address Bones sitting cageside, saying that maybe they’d fight in the next life, also telling him to “Stay up” and he has “Nothing but love” for him. A class-act til the end.
So why did Rumble leave? You might say greener pastures.
Turns out he’s co-owner of a giant medical marijuana facility. With legalization imminent in Florida, the business can only continue to exponentially grow like the many, many weed plants it houses. Good for fuckin him.
Instead of getting hit with blunt force trauma, he’s just hitting the blunt.