Here are some brief thoughts on last night’s fights…
-I haven’t really given Tarec Saffiedine the respect he deserves, and it’s about time I give him that respect. There’s something to be said for a fighter who is skilled in all areas of MMA, and is an active enough striker to out-point any opponent he’s matched up with. Saffiedine is tough defensively everywhere – he’s hard to hit cleanly, and hard to take down. He’s still not as much of a finisher as I would like, but he’ll prove a tough opponent for most welterweights in the UFC.
-I did allow for the possibility that Saffiedine would out-point Nate Marquardt if Marquardt fought at a slower pace. That’s exactly what happened – the first two rounds featured a lot of staring from Marquardt, and not a lot of action. By the time Marquardt picked up the pace, he was tired and hurt, and Saffiedine just kept pouring it on with those chopping leg kicks. To be sure, a lot of this is a credit to Saffiedine’s kickboxing ability, but Marquardt did himself no favors. Marquardt is on the decline, and I don’t expect him to be a title contender at 170 pounds in the UFC.
–Daniel Cormier fought an extremely safe fight against Dion Staring, to the point that I would say he was “fighting not to lose,” instead of fighting to win. He would generally wait for Staring to engage with strikes, and immediately clinch. When Cormier opened up, and engaged with offense, Staring couldn’t stop anything he did. I’ll say a couple things about Cormier: one, this was only his 11th professional MMA fight. There is still some potential for growth in his game. And of the heavyweights brought in to lose, Staring is easily less bad than Nandor Guelmino. Still, elite fighters typically put over-matched opponents away in the first round. I’d love to side with Cormier in a potential fight with Jon Jones, but I can’t say Cormier is ready for that fight yet.
-The only thing surprising about Josh Barnett’s fight against Nandor Guelmino was that Barnett needed two takedowns to finish instead of one. While I can see Dion Staring succeeding at a low level in the UFC heavyweight division (against the Oli Thompsons of the world), I don’t see that in Guelmino.
-We all know that Dana White can be vindictive, but it would be awfully stupid of him not to offer Barnett a reasonable contract to fight in the UFC. The UFC badly needs talented heavyweights, and Barnett would give them one. Yes, Barnett has baggage with three positive drug tests. Yes, it’s painful to listen to Barnett on the microphone when he wins. But top ten heavyweights don’t grow on trees…
-Speaking of talented fighters, there are few in the world who are more talented than Gegard Mousasi. I remain convinced that if Mousasi decided to stand and trade with Mike Kyle, that Mousasi would have proven to be the much better striker. Instead, as I predicted, Mousasi passed on the striking match altogether, and instead took Kyle down, passed his guard, and submitted him. Mousasi should easily be a top ten light-heavyweight in the UFC, and possibly top five.
-Let’s not get too hyped up about Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza yet. I know we want to, and Souza’s looked fantastic in his last couple fights, but keep in mind that this is the same fighter who lost to Luke Rockhold, and perhaps should have lost to Tim Kennedy. It’s good that Souza looked impressive in wins over Bristol Marunde, Derek Brunson, and now Ed Herman, but Souza has yet to prove that he can beat a top 15 opponent in the middleweight division.
-I respect Ed Herman for being the one UFC fighter to move over and fight in Strikeforce, but he put himself in a no-win situation by doing so (and that’s why we saw Cormier and Barnett fighting obscure opponents). Herman’s stock rose higher than it should have been with wins over Tim Credeur, Kyle Noke and Clifford Starks. Really, Herman is a “C” middleweight, a fighter who is good enough to beat opponents on prelims, but not good enough to take out ranked opponents and main card guys.
–Ryan Couture had a good chance to upset K.J. Noons, but to do so, he needed to avoid the striking game. By deciding to stand at distance with Noons, Couture played to his opponent’s strengths instead of his own. I have no doubt the UFC will push Couture, as he’s a natural fan favorite waiting to happen, but… wait, what? The judges gave that fight to Couture?? Oh…
-I was not blown away by Tim Kennedy’s performance against Trevor Smith. Smith was noticeably bigger than Kennedy, and proved tough to hold down, but an aspiring contender should be able to take him out without too much difficulty. Kennedy won by submission, but only after an ugly first two rounds. Kennedy is going to struggle in the UFC, and I think dropping to welterweight would be a very good idea for him.
-It’s not hard to figure out why Pat Healy keeps getting buried on prelim fights against lower-level opponents like Kurt Holobaugh: as good as Healy is, his fights simply aren’t that exciting to watch. Healy is now 9-1 in his last ten fights, against a series of underrated opponents, like Mizuto Hirota, Caros Fodor, and Maximo Blanco. The result is that Healy is going to be ranked in the top ten at lightweight, when I produce my ELO rankings on this blog. Not helping matters is that Healy rarely dominates a fight, more often barely skating by. His luck will run out eventually.
-While Ronaldo Souza is a mixed martial artist with world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Roger Gracie is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master fighting in mixed martial arts. Gracie doesn’t have much in the way of striking or wrestling, and he clearly lost the first round of his fight against Anthony Smith before finally landing a takedown in the second round. Against opponents like Smith and a shot Keith Jardine, Gracie can win, but the moment he faces a UFC fighter with striking, takedown defense, and discipline, he’s done.