First of all, I have to say “rest in peace” to Shawn Tompkins, one of MMA’s most famous and most successful trainers. He passed away at a far too young age of 37. It’s a bitter loss for the MMA community and he will be sorely missed.
1. Edwin Figueroa (19.47 SILVA) def. Jason Reinhardt (23.76) by TKO (Punches), 0:50 round 2
This is no surprise, as my personal pick to win was Figueroa based on Reinhardt having a broken SILVA score. The fact that Figueroa had his back taken by Reinhardt, and was forced to defend rear naked choke attempts, serves as an indictment of his abilities to compete at the UFC level. Figueroa did eventually turn the fight around and won in emphatic fashion, but Reinhardt is an opponent who really needs to be defeated faster than that. Reinhardt really has no business being in the UFC.
2. Jacob Volkmann (34.27) def. Danny Castillo (30.97) by Decision (Unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
I’m not sure what round Castillo won (probably the first, I guess), but he was on the defensive for almost the entire fight against Jacob Volkmann. I wondered who would have the better wrestling, and Volkmann answered that question by taking Castillo down numerous times throughout the fight. On the ground, Volkmann must have decided that what he really wanted was a win by D’Arce choke, because he attempted it… over and over and over again. Castillo has some serious D’Arce choke escapes. With that said, you can’t win a fight if you’re constantly having to escape D’Arce chokes.
3. Cole Miller (27.27) def. T.J. O’Brien (25.51) by Submission (Guillotine Choke), 2:38 round 2
Without a length advantage, O’Brien doesn’t have much going for him. His career has been built on being a tall, lanky lightweight who knows how to apply a triangle choke. Against a similarly tall, lanky lightweight in Cole Miller, O’Brien just didn’t seem to know what to do. O’Brien really didn’t offer much in the way of striking or submissions. It’s a decent win for Miller, who never appeared particularly vulnerable, but for a guy who’s been in the UFC as long as Miller has, I’d really like to see him facing better, more relevant opponents.
4. Jim Hettes (21.66) def. Alex Caceres (5.24) by Submission (Rear Naked Choke), 3:12 round 2
Just as I feel that Edwin Figueroa needing two rounds to beat Jason Reinhardt is a bad sign, I feel that Hettes probably losing the first round to Alex Caceres is a bad sign. Caceres is a pretty slippery kind of fighter, but he also landed quite a few strikes in the first round against Hettes. Hettes was more aggressive in the second round, eventually winning by submission, but he showed quite a few holes in his game. You’d better believe that most UFC featherweights are going to find ways to exploit those holes.
5. Ronny Markes (29.73) def. Karlos Vemola (26.20) by Decision (Unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
This is the other fight that I argued SILVA was getting wrong, but SILVA wasn’t wrong this time. It was a horrible fight though. Vemola expended pretty much all of his energy in the first round throwing awful arm punches from his hip, and that allowed Markes to employ a clinching, wrestling kind of game that was extremely painful to watch. Not helping matters was the fact that Vemola spent so much time trying to stall and recover his energy. Vemola’s muscular body is not conducive to MMA, and he needs to be much, much more energy efficient with his techniques in the future. Markes, on the other hand, got the job done, but here’s hoping that next time he can put on a better fight, presumably against a more well-conditioned opponent.
6. Ed Herman (26.73) def. Kyle Noke (30.25) by Submission (Heel Hook), 4:15 round 1
Surprise! Ed Herman is a guy who has done submissions in the past, but I felt that Noke had the better jiu-jitsu going in, and Herman had the better wrestling. As it turns out, it was Herman on his back, and it was Herman who attempted submissions. I’m all kinds of impressed with Herman, because after being out for nearly two years with knee injuries, he’s come back and scored two quick victories in a span of about two months. Noke, on the other hand, will have to go back to the drawing board; Ed Herman isn’t bad or anything, but losing to Herman the way Noke did is not a good sign.
7. Joseph Benavidez (38.13) def. Eddie Wineland (28.30) by Decision (Unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
I was hoping that this would be a battle between the wrestling of Benavidez and the striking of Wineland. As it turns out, it was just a striking battle, in which both guys appeared pretty darn tentative. If Wineland, a striker, can’t win a striking match, then he will unfortunately be relegated to gatekeeper status in the bantamweight division (if he’s not there already). For Benavidez, it’s a nice enough victory, but I’d really like to see him get a little more aggressive in the future.
8. Jared Hamman (30.90) def. C.B. Dollaway (32.61) by TKO (Punches), 3:38 round 2
I’ll admit to not giving this fight the preview coverage it deserved, mostly because I just didn’t know much about Jared Hamman. I know now. Hamman was in severe danger multiple times in the first round, first due to an arm-triangle choke attempt by Dollaway that looked pretty darn deep to me, then to some big strikes near the end of the round. (I did notice that Dollaway could have shifted his base to tighten the choke further by turning his hips, but I’m still surprised he didn’t finish with it.) Then Hamman came back with a vengeance against a noticeably fatigued Dollaway, throwing punches non-stop until Dollaway could no longer defend himself intelligently. It’s a gutsy, exciting comeback victory for Hamman, who will survive in his UFC career. For Dollaway… it’s probably the end of any serious title aspirations.
9. Duane Ludwig (25.05) def. Amir Sadollah (30.74) by Decision (Unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
I went into this fight thinking that Ludwig might be the better striker, but Sadollah is the better mixed martial artist. After the fight, I’m not so sure. Ludwig was certainly the better striker, as he landed with more power and more often. But I don’t know if Sadollah is the better mixed martial artist, after a fight in which he mostly struck with Ludwig, but otherwise was unable to mix in takedowns or submissions. It’s certainly fun to see a guy like Ludwig win, but at the same time, we can probably dismiss Sadollah’s chances of becoming any kind of title contender in the welterweight division.
10. Donald Cerrone (36.93) def. Charles Oliveira (32.92) by TKO (Punches), 3:01 round 1
On the one hand, I’m happy that my one underdog pick turned out correct (although Cerrone was an underdog by the slimmest of margins). On the other hand, I didn’t call how it would take place correctly at all. Ultimately, a visibly larger Cerrone pushed Oliveira around, and completely out-struck him. I don’t think Cerrone knocked Oliveira down; it appeared to me that Oliveira was attempting a leglock. Even then, Cerrone used the superior position to launch a flurry of strikes Oliveira’s way, and was able to get the finish. This is a terrific victory for Cerrone, who has to be moved up the ladder at lightweight now. For Oliveira, I know a lot of people will dismiss this as him being a young guy, but I think it’s a very bad sign for his ability to make a real run in a very deep division.
11. Ben Henderson (35.83) def. Jim Miller (48.82) by Decision (Unanimous) (30-27, 29-28, 30-26)
I went into this fight thinking that Miller was a little bit better in all areas. I left thinking the same about Henderson. Henderson’s strong wrestling was on full display here, and Miller made things difficult for himself by attempting high-risk submissions. While I still don’t believe that Henderson is impossible to submit, it’s clearly very difficult, and Miller just didn’t fight a particularly smart game by going to that. Henderson capitalized big time, as he pummeled Miller in the second and third rounds. Just a fantastic victory for Henderson, and he’s going to be moved into title contention for sure. For Miller… it’s a bitter defeat, as he loses his number one contender status.
12. Chris Lytle (28.67) def. Dan Hardy (34.02) by Submission (Guillotine Choke), 4:16 round 3
I predicted that this fight would be 15 minutes of standandbang. As it turns out, it was 14 minutes of standandbang, and it was 14 minutes that showed that Lytle was the better man. At that point, I can only imagine that Hardy, a loser of three straight fights going in, saw his UFC career flashing before his eyes. At that point, Hardy shot in for a takedown. I never thought I would have seen that from Hardy (although he had tried that once earlier in the fight as well). Lytle took full advantage to win by submission. It’s a great way for Lytle to go out: not only did he get to put on the fight that the fans wanted, but he was able to finish it as well. Good to see Lytle ending his career on a high note, the way that so few MMA fighters seem to be able to do.