Until he stepped into the octagon, CM Punk was having a great week. His three-year legal battle against former WWE physician Dr. Chris Amann had finally ended with a Cook County court ruling in his favor. Punk no longer has a potential $8 million decision hanging over him, and he can focus on his new job now.
Sadly, he’s no good at it. On Saturday, Punk stepped into the UFC octagon for the second time, and got his ass kicked for the second time. He’s probably done for as a UFC fighter. As charismatic and well-known as he might be, it’s very clear that, from an athletic standpoint, CM Punk does not belong in the UFC.
And yet that was only half of what made Saturday’s fight against Mike Jackson such a bizarre experience. Jackson is a former photojournalist whose only other professional experience was an 45-second loss to Mickey Gall in a fight for the chance to beat CM Punk in his UFC debut. Gall won, easily, because Jackson is also not a UFC talent, and he earned the right to choke Punk out at UFC 203 in September 2016. Because there’s little else for a skinny, ineffective welterweight like Jackson to do in the UFC but eat Gall’s scraps, Jackson made as much sense as anyone as the next CM Punk opponent. Weirdly enough, Gall’s first three wins in the UFC came against novelty fighters (he choked out Sage Northcutt months after beating Punk), which I suppose makes him the undisputed champion of the Northcuttweight division.
Anyway, the Jackson-Punk fight was inexplicably given a spot on UFC 225's pay per view card, ahead of actually good bouts featuring contenders like Curtis Blaydes and Claudia Gadelha. The two men did not look like they belonged in the same weight class, as Jackson is a wiry little fellow while Punk carried a good amount of muscle. Once they started fighting, two things became immediately clear: Punk was going to get aggressive, and Jackson was content to coast on his superior knowledge and skills. For all his aggression, it was painfully clear that Punk’s striking is neither refined nor dangerous. He went for a few takedowns and even got one, though Jackson escaped most every attempt simply because Punk couldn’t control Jackson’s hips.
By the second round, Jackson looked like he was going to finish Punk. It seemed that he spent half the fight sitting on the wrestler, who couldn’t wriggle out of Jackson’s ground and pound. But instead of trying to score a knockout or take Punk’s back, Jackson slowed up and just sort of lazily wailed away on Punk’s head. He easily could have ended the fight in the second round or the third round, but instead he chilled. Jackson casually gazed out of the cage as he smashed Punk with elbows and punches. It felt like a work, as Jackson scarcely tried to hide his intentions of carrying the fight to a decision.
At one point, Punk grappled his way onto Jackson’s chest. So Jackson simply slammed him to the mat and went back to work. It’s not that Jackson is good or anything; it’s simply that Punk was out of his depth. It was an embarrassing spectacle, and UFC dictator Dana White was pissed off to the point that he told both Jackson and Punk that they were finished. “I don’t know what that guy did for a living before we gave him this shot,” he said of Jackson. “But whatever it was he needs to go back and do that again. He’s 0-2 as far as I’m concerned ... That’s it for his UFC career. I wouldn’t put that kid in the Contender Series.”
White praised Punk’s chin, but advised that the 39-year-old find something else to do. “We gave him two shots, and he had a lot of heart tonight, and I think he should call it a wrap,” he said. White can be mad all he wants, but he put this carnival act on the same card as the all-timer between Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero. As dumb as this fight was, the UFC will almost certainly find a way to top it sooner or later.