Anthony Johnson’s Coaches Weren’t Happy With His UFC 210 Gameplan Against Daniel Cormier Either

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UFC 210 went down on Saturday night from Buffalo, New York and featured a light heavyweight title fight between champ Daniel Cormier and challenger Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson. While both guys have extensive wrestling careers, it was clear how the division of talent went: Olympic wrestler Cormier’s path to victory came via turning the fight into a dirty grapplefest, while Rumble needed to throw them bombs and knock Cormier out.

But strangely enough, Johnson spent the majority of the fight engaging with Cormier against the fence, missing several opportunities to pull apart and actually attempting several takedowns on DC. Halfway through the second round, Daniel capitalized and took Anthony down, getting into mount and forcing Rumble to give his back. It wasn’t long after that he secured a rear naked choke, ending the fight at 3:32 of round 2 in the exact same fashion as their first bout (watch the finish here).

So what was the deal? Did Johnson come into this fight with a gameplan to turn the tables on Cormier and outwrestle him? Listening to the corner audio from Rumble’s corner, the answer is clearly no. For the full eight minutes the fight went down, Johnson’s corner encouraged, cajoled, and pleaded with Anthony to get back to doing what he does best: power punching. Check out this transcript, featuring head coach Henri Hooft and the rest of Johnson’s coaches (via MMAJunkie):

Round 1
Voice: Take your time. Nice. Take your time. Don’t take him down.
Hooft: Don’t wrestle him.
Voice: If you’re going to go, go single.
Hooft: You don’t have to wrestle him, AJ. Just relax.
Voice: Don’t wrestle him.
Hooft: Get out of there. Get out of there.
Grappling coach Neil Melanson: OK, stud. Now, let’s get your hands hot.
Voice: Why is he wrestling him?
Hooft: This is stupid.
Voice: Why is he wrestling him?
Hooft: (Expletive) it, man. Just get off the cage.
Voice: Get out of there.
Voice: Why isn’t he listening?
(Johnson and Cormier are broken up by referee John McCarthy, and Johnson lands kicks.)
Voice: He’s tired already, DC. He doesn’t need to do this.
Voice: Why isn’t he listening?
Hooft: I don’t know why he’s doing that. We have no (expletive) eyes.

Break between Round 1 and Round 2
Hooft: Can you tell me why you’re wrestling? Now, you’re not going to wrestle. You take your distance. Stay away, two steps away. Why are you so worried about everything? The kicks and the knees are really good, but no kicks. Where’s your hands?
Voice: You’re doing great. Don’t (expletive) wrestle him.
Hooft: If you stand your distance, it’s an easy game. Why make it difficult?

Round 2
Hooft: Movement. Athletic. Movement. That’s it. Take your distance.
(Johnson reverses against the cage and goes for another takedown)
Hooft: You need distance.
Hooft: I’m not saying nothing.
(Cormier has Johnson on the mat and is setting up a choke)
Hooft: It’s going the same as last time.
(Johnson submits to Cormier via rear-naked choke)
Hooft: Why, why the (expletive) does this happen every (expletive) time, man? Crazy.

Afterwards, an emotional Rumble retired in the cage, which may go a ways to explaining why he was fighting the way he was. So much of competition is mental, and who knows what kind of headspace Johnson was in with the decision to walk away from the sport on his mind? All of a sudden, his desire to avoid taking blows to the head and keep the fight in the clinch begins to make sense. During his retirement speech, Johnson specifically mentioned being sick of getting punched in the head as a factor in leaving. And really, who wants to risk a concussion when they’re no longer fully invested? Especially when, as Anthony said, he has another career lined up and waiting for him outside of combat sports?

That’s not going to stop a lot of the frustration coming from his coaches or his fans who were hoping for a better performance from Rumble. The worst part of it all? Johnson looked great when he followed the original gameplan, staggering Cormier with a hard kick to the belly and a punch that broke the champion’s nose. But Cormier continued to show the grit that earned him the light heavyweight belt, coming out in the second round with a giant divot in his face and getting right back to work.

In that regard, it’s too bad that we aren’t spending more time talking about Daniel Cormier and his gutsy performance. But with Anthony Johnson leaving so much on the table in this rematch (and in his UFC career), it’s hard to focus on that.

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(corner transcript via MMA Junkie)