UFC fighters and analysts Daniel Cormier and Dominick Cruz got into a heated debate on Saturday night after the UFC on Fox 28 main event ended in controversy.
After being dropped in the opening round of his featherweight showdown with Josh Emmett in Orlando, Jeremy Stephens roared back to finish Emmett in the second. A beautiful left hook signalled the beginning of the end, dropping Emmett near the fence. A frenzied follow-up assault from Stephens put Emmett to sleep but that assault seemed to be a blend of legal and illegal strikes. Several elbows that Stephens threw appeared to land on the back of the head, while ‘Lil’ Heathen also threw a knee at a grounded Emmett. Whether the latter strike actually landed or not was the main point of contention between Cormier and Cruz.
During the discussion, Cormier rightly pointed out that Emmett’s own movement put the back of his head into the path of Stephens’ controversial elbows. Thus, it would have been harsh to halt the fight and penalize him for those strikes.
“I thought the elbows landed to the back of the head of Josh Emmett but Josh Emmett moves his head,” said Cormier. “When he moves his head, he puts himself in a position where the elbow lands [to the back of the head], which makes them not illegal.”
Cruz agreed with Cormier on that point.
However, while Cormier felt that Stephens landed with the subsequent knee, Cruz felt that it only grazed the back of Emmett’s head as Stephens was putting his foot back on the ground following the missed attempt.
“As long as it hits your opponent, it is an illegal shot,” Cormier said. “It doesn’t have to hurt Josh Emmett. Dom said something to the effect of, ‘That was a nasty knee, if it landed it would have been over immediately.’ It doesn’t have to be over immediately. As long as it makes contact, it is an illegal blow and it’s over.”
Cruz, who is Stephens’ teammate at Alliance MMA, asked Cormier to point out in a slow-motion replay where the knee had landed. The pair went back and forth while they examined the replay, with Cormier getting very animated, but neither man would change his opinion.
“You can admit, hey, your boy got away with one,” Cormier added later. “It’s like me robbing a bank and getting away with it. You can’t be mad at me. The shot landed, Dom.”
“I disagree,” said Cormier. “I disagree. You’re wrong. You’re wrong. He missed.”
After the fight, Emmett’s team told Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting that they plan to file an appeal. Strangely, even though Cormier believes the knee landed and was illegal, he wasn’t suggesting that the commission overturn the result.
“I am not suggesting this fight gets overturned, or anything,” said Cormier. “Jeremy Stephens finished the fight. I am just telling you what I saw, as I am allowed to Dominick Cruz. You are not going to bully me.”
“What is the point?” asked Cruz. “What does that do?”
“The point is that we are calling fights and I saw what happened in the fight and I am giving it to the viewer,” responded light-heavyweight DC. “I am not going to sit here and pretend I didn’t see what happened.”
“But the review saw something different,” said bantamweight DC.
You can watch the debate below…
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) February 25, 2018