My picks were pretty terrible for this event, going just 4-6. It seemed like almost every bad break or near coin flip fight went against me. That’s how it goes sometimes.
And I have to warn you, this post is going to be mostly negative. I hate to be that way, but it’s hard not to after what was a pretty awful night of fights.
-Everybody knew that Vitor Belfort was capable of knocking out Michael Bisping early in the fight, although I didn’t anticipate that he would do it with a head kick. Belfort’s immense power gives him a chance to win any fight he’s in, but his historic flaws of conditioning and being put on his back were not tested. I was disappointed by Bisping’s game plan – I figured that either Bisping would look for a takedown, or that he would at worst attack with his typical high-volume striking. Instead, Bisping seemed to fight very tentatively, and understandably so. But he played Belfort’s game by doing that.
-There’s a lot of talk about who Anderson Silva should fight next, now that Bisping was knocked out. If pay-per-view buys were not a consideration, there is one clear, obvious choice, and that is Chris Weidman. Those who have made other suggestions obviously have the business side of the sport in mind. I’m beyond frustrated with the UFC’s handling of their up and coming fighters and prospects. By now, casual UFC fans should be buzzing about Weidman and his chances of beating Silva. Instead, many of them probably don’t know who he is, as his crushing defeat of Mark Munoz was shown on Fuel TV on a Wednesday. The message to fighters like Weidman and Johny Hendricks is clear – if you want a title shot, winning is important, but it’s more important to be an outrageous trash talker like Chael Sonnen.
–C.B. Dollaway won a decision over Daniel Sarafian, in the way Dollaway almost always wins. He was hurt by strikes as always, but was able to fight through it and barely beat Sarafian. Nothing has changed with Dollaway – he’s a very good wrestler with poor striking and doesn’t take strikes well at all. As for Sarafian, there’s nothing there to suggest future UFC stardom. Sarafian has some striking offense, has some submissions, and is a physically strong fighter. There are also a bunch of holes in his game, and as he showed against Dollaway, his conditioning leaves a lot to be desired. He might stick in the UFC a while, but if he does, it will be the same way as a guy like Matt Brown, winning against lower-level UFC fighters, but losing against mid-level guys.
-The less said about Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Ben Rothwell, the better.
-I wish we had gotten to see more of Khabib Nurmagomedov against Thiago Tavares, but Khabib put Tavares away early with strikes. Nurmagomedov is not a fighter I’m enthusiastic about as far as being a title contender is concerned. He does have a good wrestling and Sambo base, paired with striking that looks sloppy, but seems to hit hard. Right now, I see Nurmagomedov as an average UFC lightweight, at the same level as fighters like Danny Castillo. I still think that Nurmagomedov will be in trouble once he faces a wrestler with good boxing.
-When Milton Vieira made his UFC debut against Felipe Arantes, it seemed like he had pretty clearly lost the fight, but the judges somehow scored it a draw. In his following fight against Godofredo Pepey, it seemed Vieira had pretty clearly won two rounds to one, but the judges somehow gave the fight to Pepey. It’s amazing how it seems we can’t go even one UFC or Strikeforce event without the judges doing something bizarre.
-If it was an objective of Ronny Markes to win a decision with the least amount of offense possible, then mission accomplished. I know Markes is capable of more than he showed against Andrew Craig, but it’s awful hard to get excited about Markes when all he can do is land five significant strikes in an entire fight. As for Craig, he fights like he has seven rounds to work with instead of three. He’s gotten away with a lack of urgency in the past, but this fight showed that nobody can consistently fall behind, only to make a comeback late. Unless Craig improves his takedown defense or gets a lot more aggressive, he’s going to struggle to tread water in the UFC.
-I thought Diego Nunes would be able to at least fight back against the wrestling game of Nik Lentz. I thought wrong. Lentz was all over Nunes from the beginning of the fight, and Nunes had no answer for it. Credit has to go to Lentz, who was a fairly good wrestler at lightweight, but appears dominant with takedowns at featherweight so far. Lentz is a very flawed striker, so he needs those takedowns to be successful at a high level. Fortunately for him, he seems to be well aware of this, and goes for takedowns pretty regularly. Now, if only he could find a way to be more exciting with his ground game, maybe he could find his way to a main card fight.
–Edson Barboza and Lucas Martins are both aggressive strikers, but Barboza looked tighter, faster, and more powerful. Barboza also clearly had better hands, which was not something he showed much in his past UFC fights. It might be fair to call Martins a poor man’s Barboza; a Muay Thai fighter with good kicks, but middling hands and a tendency to eat more strikes than he should. With a lack of footage of Martins online, and a short fight in his UFC debut, I really need to see more of him before I have a good grasp of just how good he is.
-I really don’t like to accuse a fighter of faking an injury or being hurt, but that really appeared to be the case with Pedro Nobre. It wasn’t surprising that Nobre, a fighter who has competed at flyweight before, would be overpowered by Iuri Alcantara. But the way Nobre reacted to Alcantara’s strikes was just not consistent with the way a fighter looks after being genuinely hurt. I’ll put it this way – there’s being dazed, and then there’s looking like a soccer player trying to fake being fouled. Nobre looked a lot more like a soccer player to me.
-I had never gotten on the Wagner Prado bandwagon, but from what I saw, I thought he would be able to take out Ildemar Alcantara. Instead, after Prado seemed to be getting the better of the striking game, Alcantara exposed him on the ground. It’s one thing to be submitted by Phil Davis, but losing to Alcantara by kneebar is another thing entirely. The best fighter Prado has beaten to date is Luis Eduardo da Paixao, who was 4-0 when Prado fought him and is now 7-4-1. For those in the MMA community who considered Prado a great prospect (and I respect many of them), this is a great reminder that it’s easy to look good on tape against cans.
-Part of me doesn’t want the UFC to cut C.J. Keith, after a loss to a tough opponent like Francisco Trinaldo. The other part of me thinks Keith should be cut, not just for getting stopped in both his UFC fights, but for having tremendous difficulty making 155 pounds both times. Keith looked pretty good on the regional circuit, but competed as a welterweight at the same time. I would suggest that Keith try competing at 170 pounds again.