Before I get bombarded with hate, let me say up front that I was dead wrong about Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz. I badly underestimated Diaz’s striking skills, to the point that I almost found it a given that Cerrone would beat him decisively. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and it’s probably about time I give the Diaz brothers the respect they deserve; I’ve been underestimating them since I started writing on this website, and they need to be given their due.
It’s been a while since I wrote a proper results and commentary post, but I figured tonight was remarkable enough that it deserved my writing one again. I’ll have plenty to say about Brock Lesnar’s retirement in a separate post. For now, here are my thoughts on the fights that went down at UFC 141.
For those who may be unaware, the fight between Luis Ramos and Matt Riddle was canceled, apparently because Riddle was too sick to fight (according to the UFC’s twitter account).
1. 145 lbs: Diego Nunes (64.16 SILVA) def. Manny Gamburyan (43.25) by Decision (Unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Nunes may be ranked as a top seven featherweight by a lot of sources right now, but my (imaginary) bets are against Nunes being able to maintain that status. His wins are rarely of any flavor of dominant; he’s been skating by a lot of opponents in the UFC, and he skated by Manny Gamburyan. If Nunes is matched up against top ten talent in 2012 consistently, he’s going to lose at some point.
2. 155 lbs: Jacob Volkmann (67.17) def. Efrain Escudero (47.81) by Decision (Unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Speaking of skating by opponents… I documented in my preview post for this fight that Jacob Volkmann has been winning fights despite being out-struck, and wondered if it was a sign of bad things to come for the wrestler. Another fight, another win for Volkmann, but once again, he wins in a way that is uninspiring as far as his future potential is concerned. It’s hard for me to envision Volkmann enjoying great success against tougher opponents in his UFC future.
3. 170 lbs: Dong Hyun Kim (68.34) def. Sean Pierson (40.43) by Decision (Unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
While I was pretty confident that Dong Hyun Kim would beat Sean Pierson, I didn’t anticipate he would break out his best Anderson Silva impersonation in the process. It was nice to see Kim be able to win a striking battle against a pretty decent striker in Pierson. I love to see great judo employed in the UFC, but I’ll take the front kicks and the overall display that Kim put on against Pierson in this fight.
4. 155 lbs: Danny Castillo (53.99) def. Anthony Njokuani (33.90) by Decision (Split) (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Now THIS was skating by. If I ruled the MMA world, Anthony Njokuani would have been awarded the decision in this fight, as I felt he landed more techniques that actually contribute to fight finishes than Castillo did. Castillo did a great job in the takedown game for sure, but ultimately failed to do much to Njokuani when on the ground, as Njokuani was very good at maintaining his balance, and getting back to his feet after being taken down. My suspicion that Njokuani was very weak on the ground was incorrect, and mark Njokuani as a fighter who appears to be very underrated by SILVA at the moment.
5. 145 lbs: Ross Pearson (50.95) def. Junior Assuncao (41.49) by Decision (Unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
I’m not sure what to say about this one, except to say that it looked very much like a Ross Pearson fight. Junior Assuncao had his moments, but his offense wasn’t quite as consistent as Pearson’s.
6. 145 lbs: Jim Hettes (47.22) def. Nam Phan (23.78) by Decision (Unanimous) (30-25, 30-25, 30-26)
OK, it’s official, Jim Hettes is more than just a submission fighter. He was able to take Nam Phan down repeatedly throughout their fight, and when on the ground, landed a lot of good strikes, gained dominant position, and even attempted a couple submissions. Hettes is much more well-rounded than I gave him credit for, and I’m now fully willing to call him a prospect to watch out for in the future in the featherweight division.
7. 205 lbs: Alexander Gustafsson (73.66) def. Vladimir Matyushenko (68.31) by TKO (Punches), 2:13 round 1
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Alexander Gustafsson to title contention in the light-heavyweight division. Gustafsson isn’t quite championship material yet, as he still absorbs more strikes than I would like to see, but he has very good striking, and just took out a very tough opponent in Vladimir Matyushenko in short order.
8. 170 lbs: Johny Hendricks (80.82) def. Jon Fitch (81.11) by KO (Punch), 0:12 round 1
Forget for a moment that SILVA favored Fitch to win by the narrowest of margins. This fight, in a nutshell, was a huge triumph for almost all of the research I’ve done in the past year. I know that I wasn’t the only one to say that Johny Hendricks stood a great chance of defeating Jon Fitch, but ever since I’ve been working on statistical analysis in MMA, I’ve had Hendricks as one of the very best welterweights in the UFC. Add to that the fact that Fitch was knocked out in his first fight after surpassing the 9-year mark of his career, which I’ve identified as being the point at which a lot of MMA fighters tend to either decline or collapse, and suddenly, the fact that SILVA got this one wrong ultimately means very little to me.
9. 155 lbs: Nate Diaz (46.86) def. Donald Cerrone (76.31) by Decision (Unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
This is the one fight where I feel I was just dead wrong in every sense of the word. I genuinely thought Donald Cerrone would go out and put on a clinic, and instead, it was Nate Diaz who took on the role of clinician. I will say that I felt Cerrone did himself a huge disservice by fighting emotionally in the first minute; he appeared fatigued by the middle of the first round, and Diaz started landing punches regularly. Still, Diaz deserves credit. He’s a much better fighter than I thought he was.
10. 265 lbs: Alistair Overeem (74.05) def. Brock Lesnar (74.29) by TKO (Body Kick and Punches), 2:26 round 1
I’ve been on the “Overeem is overrated” train all year, and that sentiment looked pretty accurate back in June, when Overeem had a poor performance against Fabricio Werdum. Even after Overeem crushed Brock Lesnar, I’m not ready to get off the train. Sure, Overeem looked terrific in landing huge knees and kicks to Lesnar’s body, but there are a couple things holding me back from fully endorsing Overeem as a championship-level heavyweight. The first is that Lesnar inexplicably decided to try to strike with Overeem, only attempting one takedown, and not even putting full effort into that one attempt. By doing that, Lesnar pretty much handed the fight to Overeem on a silver platter. The second is that we know Lesnar has suffered from diverticulitis, and his being crushed only continues the trend established by Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez. If Overeem goes on to beat Junior dos Santos and win the UFC heavyweight title, I will eat my crow, but it would be too easy to suddenly change my mind about Overeem, and for now, I’m sticking to my guns.