This was definitely the wildest UFC I’ve seen in a long time. So many upsets, and so many shocking KOs. After a number of “ho-hum” UFC events, a night of fights like this was exactly the shot in the arm the organization needed.
1. 135 lbs: Jeff Hougland (20.28 SILVA) def. Donny Walker (25.96) by Decision (Unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
This was a very entertaining fight to start the night, featuring good striking and submission attempts. Throughout the fight, Hougland had better striking, with good straight punches and kicks, while Walker was throwing slow, looping punches that often missed. On the ground, Hougland was better also, as he was constantly threatening Walker with submissions, twice nearly finishing with guillotine choke attempts. Walker showed great heart in surviving Walker’s second-round guillotine choke attempt, and really putting in an effort to finish Hougland in the third round. Ultimately, I felt that Hougland was just the better fighter, and as tough as Walker was, it’s difficult for me to see him making any sort of run in the UFC without significantly improving his technique.
2. 155 lbs: Anthony Njokuani (34.21) def. Andre Winner (28.45) by Decision (Unanimous) (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
As it turns out, Andre Winner didn’t follow my advice to take this fight to the ground. He paid the price, as he ate a steady diet of punches and kicks throughout the fight, including a series of powerful strikes near the end of the first round that threatened to stop Winner. Njokuani did a masterful job of staying out of Winner’s punching range, effectively countering and landing a lot of kicks. As Joe Rogan pointed out, boxing alone just isn’t enough in the UFC, and as fast as Winner’s hands are, he really needs to incorporate more of a mixed martial arts game if he wants to have more success in the future.
3. 185 lbs: Aaron Simpson (28.41) def. Brad Tavares (20.80) by Decision (Unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
I was super impressed with Brad Tavares’s takedown defense in this fight, as the only clean takedown Simpson was able to land was very late in the third round. Unfortunately, you need more than defense to win a fight, and Tavares just couldn’t get out of Simpson’s clinch. Simpson landed more than enough punches and knees to win a clear, if sloppy, unanimous decision.
4. 135 lbs: Brian Bowles (39.26) def. Takeya Mizugaki (27.56) by Decision (Unanimous) (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
This was a very disappointing fight in which both competitors fought very defensively. As soon as one threw strikes, the other would immediately jump backwards out of range. The striking was relatively even, except for a Bowles punch that likely caused his hand to break, leading to an extremely painful to watch third round. In that round, Bowles was able to take Mizugaki’s back, but was unable to do anything with it. Bowles was the rightful winner based on landing the biggest strike and achieving a dominant position twice, but neither he nor Mizugaki should be happy with their respective performances.
5. 155 lbs: Rafael dos Anjos (28.48) def. George Sotiropoulos (29.68) by KO (Punch), 0:59 round 1
Wow! Who knew that dos Anjos had that kind of KO power? All I’ll say is that there is a precedent for Sotiropoulos being quickly knocked out, as he was suddenly stopped by Tommy Speer in the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter season 7. It’s a bitter pill for Sotiropoulos to swallow, as his seven-fight UFC win streak has been followed by a two-fight losing streak. Great win for dos Anjos, who needed it to really make a name for himself in the lightweight division.
6. 155 lbs: Melvin Guillard (31.54) def. Shane Roller (35.76) by KO (Punches), 2:12 round 1
For once, my hedging against SILVA’s prediction was the right thing to do! One thing about SILVA is that, as an objective rating system, it doesn’t account for subjective factors such as a troubled man turning his life around. Guillard’s combination of speed and power is absolutely devastating, and now that he really appears to have matured as a person, he’ll be a dangerous opponent for every fighter he faces. I will say that Roller didn’t do himself any favors by going in the pocket and swinging wide, looping punches; he really opened himself up to get countered by Guillard.
7. 170 lbs: Carlos Condit (35.86) def. Dong Hyun Kim (44.06) by TKO (Flying Knee and Punches), 2:58 round 1
Usually, the flying knee is a technique that I don’t like seeing employed, because it typically leads to the fighter throwing it being taken down. Carlos Condit, however, threw a beautiful flying knee that landed on the jaw of Kim and effectively knocked him out. Condit may well be the next welterweight title challenger, and as impressive as his performance was against Kim, I still would like to see him beat one of the division’s top fighters. Maybe a top contender match against Jon Fitch would be a good idea (I really think Fitch deserves to at least fight for another title shot at this point).
8. 205 lbs: Tito Ortiz (30.60) def. Ryan Bader (44.80) by Submission (Guillotine Choke), 1:56 round 1
Tito Ortiz just pulled off the biggest upset of the year in the UFC so far. A big right hand knocked Bader down, and Ortiz immediately cinched up a guillotine choke that forced Bader to tap out. Tremendously clutch performance by Ortiz, who was likely to be cut from the UFC with a loss. I doubt that he’ll be able to turn the win into long-term success, but for now, it’s just a tremendous moment for the former UFC light-heavyweight champion.
9. 155 lbs: Dennis Siver (30.51) def. Matt Wiman (32.33) by Decision (Unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
I don’t know how many examples people need to realize that the ten-point must system is horrible for MMA… but here’s another one! Matt Wiman was clearly the more effective fighter for the entirety of the fight, particularly with his ground-and-pound in round 2, opening multiple cuts on the forehead of Siver. The problem is that it’s defensible to give Siver rounds 1 and 3. I hate it, but it’s defensible. The ten-point must system NEEDS TO GO.
10. 185 lbs: Chris Leben (31.66) def. Wanderlei Silva (33.52) by KO (Punches), 0:27 round 1
As great as the win was for Chris Leben, who showed once again what kind of power he has in his punches… for me, there’s a dark cloud hovering over this match. Wanderlei Silva is now 2-6 in his last eight fights, with four losses by brutal KO. He was a legitimately great fighter in PRIDE, but his reckless fighting style was always complemented by a terrific chin. Silva obviously doesn’t have that anymore. As a big fan of Wanderlei, I really hate saying this… but the time has come to retire.
I don’t want to take anything away from Leben though. He’s always had terrific power in his hands, and being able to score such a quick victory against a legend like Wanderlei Silva has to be the high point of his career thus far.
11. 135 lbs: Dominick Cruz (46.64) def. Urijah Faber (44.31) by Decision (Unanimous) (50-45, 49-46, 48-47)
Dominick Cruz did what Dominick Cruz does: he out-pointed Urijah Faber in this fight by landing a very high volume of punches and kicks. As much as Faber had periodic success with a power punch or a takedown, it wasn’t nearly enough. In my estimation, Faber lost because he played Dominick Cruz’s game: by fighting a striking match, he did what Cruz likely wanted him to do. It’s tough to tell where Faber will go from here; perhaps the UFC will do its best to promote a rubber match.
Equally tough is telling who will challenge Cruz next. Giving Brian Bowles another chance would’ve been a possibility if Bowles had put together a better fight with Takeya Mizugaki. No matter who the challenger is, he will have an extremely tough assignment ahead of him, as Cruz is legitimately the best fighter in the bantamweight division.