No shortage of surprising results in this one, although I think I can fairly say the results were a little less surprising for me than they may have been for most fans. Here are my thoughts on what we just saw:
-There’s not much I can say about Jose Aldo that hasn’t been said. He’s simply a super-talented fighter, excellent in all facets of MMA. If Aldo ever decides to move up to the lightweight division, I could easily see myself favoring him to beat Benson Henderson – he’s that good. If Frankie Edgar wants to be a UFC champion again, he needs to find a way to tighten up his striking defense. He simply gets tagged by too many hard strikes to win consistently at a championship level. But it’s hard to criticize Edgar too much when he puts up competitive fights against the best fighters in the world.
-From my preview piece: “I do want to submit the possibility that Nogueira out-points Evans with strikes here.” And that’s exactly what happened. Rashad Evans looked entirely unmotivated, like a fighter who knows he’s been the champion in the past, failed in his attempt to knock Jon Jones off the light-heavyweight throne, and didn’t have much left to fight for. As a result, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was able to skate by and win a unanimous decision. This loss also removes Evans as an option to face Anderson Silva. I look forward to the UFC finding a reason not to give Chris Weidman that title shot.
-I didn’t think Alistair Overeem would be knocked out by Antonio Silva, but anybody who’s been following my blog for a while has known that I’ve been beating the drum about Overeem being overrated for a long time now. Overeem easily won the first two rounds, but when he was a light-heavyweight, his fights followed a similar pattern – one of Overeem dominating early, only to gas out and lose by TKO. I do want to give “Bigfoot” credit, but at the same time, he really got shut down in the first 10 minutes. He’s already been destroyed by both Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier, and Junior dos Santos would likely crush him as well.
-With Overeem out of the title picture, it’s hard to imagine who will challenge Cain Velasquez next. Daniel Cormier is clearly the most deserving challenger, but is unlikely to fight his teammate. Junior dos Santos probably needs to win a fight before getting a rubber match against Velasquez. The next man in line after that would be Fabricio Werdum, but Werdum is fighting Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and that fight won’t take place until the summer. Antonio Silva certainly put his name into the title discussion, but Velasquez beat him so brutally that it’s difficult to sell a rematch. I suppose a third fight between Velasquez and dos Santos is most likely, but Overeem’s loss does put the heavyweight division in a tough position.
-It’s time to start naming Demian Maia among the elite welterweights of the world. We all knew he had world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but we didn’t know Maia would be able to consistently take down Jon Fitch and get his back. This, after Maia did the same thing to Rick Story and Dong Hyun Kim. Maia’s skill set makes him a serious threat to beat any welterweight in the world, and it will take a fighter with some excellent takedown defense and grappling to stop him. As for Fitch, well… *cough* 9 year rule *cough*
-If none of the UFC bantamweights had moved down to flyweight, Ian McCall would probably be the champion there. But when Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson made the obvious decision to fight at 125 pounds, they immediately became the two best fighters in the weight class. Outside of a stumble late in the second round, Benavidez was consistently the better striker and overall fighter, and showed that he’s simply a higher level fighter than McCall is. Benavidez will likely fight Demetrious Johnson again next, and I anticipate I’ll favor Johnson to win again. Here’s hoping the flyweight division can produce some new legitimate title contenders soon.
–Gleison Tibau was impressive early against Evan Dunham, but used a lot of energy, and just couldn’t match Dunham’s pace later in the fight. Dunham is the much better boxer, and because he was also more fresh, was able to deny Tibau’s attempts to either control him on the ground or finish him with a choke. I’m not sure why Dunham thought going for takedowns on Tibau was a good idea, but he fought well overall.
-I’ve mentioned the effectiveness of the power punching/wrestling combo before. I think it’s safe to say that Tyron Woodley is the newest addition to that club. Woodley was a SILVA favorite, a fighter identified as a possible star in the UFC, but he hadn’t shown that kind of talent in his actual fights. Now with 12 fights under his belt, Woodley is just entering his prime, and I expect him to make some noise in the UFC welterweight division.
-Never did I think that Jacob Volkmann would lose to Bobby Green by gassing out after one round, but that’s exactly what happened. Credit goes to Green, who certainly played a role in causing Volkmann to gas out. Green is a talented fighter, but I thought this was an awful style match for him, and Volkmann was threatening to submit him late in the first round. Then Volkmann was exhausted, and Green capitalized. Great win for Bobby Green, and a bad loss for Jacob Volkmann.
-I don’t usually single out referees, because so many of them are flawed, and it’s the kind of thing I can only imagine is more difficult than it looks. With that said, I get nervous whenever Kim Winslow is the referee for a fight, because it seems she has a disproportionate number of mistakes and poor decisions. She made another mistake in the fight between Green and Volkmann – Green had advanced to half guard in the second round, and was very active with effective strikes, but Winslow inexplicably stood the fight up anyway. In a sport with great referees such as John McCarthy, Herb Dean, and Josh Rosenthal, it seems wrong that a mistake-prone referee like Winslow would get assignments in the biggest promotion in the world. I understand the Nevada State Athletic Commission has a budget, and has a history with McCarthy… but come on. You can find a way to hire McCarthy to work MMA shows in your state.
-There are some fighters who get by on pure talent, and then there are fighters like Isaac Vallie-Flagg. He doesn’t have great KO power, doesn’t have a great submission game, and doesn’t have dominant takedowns either. What Vallie-Flagg has is conditioning and aggression, and those attributes are what got him by Yves Edwards. I did have numbers that very slightly favored Vallie-Flagg entering the fight – Vallie-Flagg had a 2378 ELO against Edwards’s 2358, and they had an identical early-career SILVA score. But I was a weenie and picked Edwards instead – perhaps I should have more faith in the numbers. With that said, Vallie-Flagg has a relatively low ceiling, but should be able to provide some fun fights at least. As for Edwards, he’s in the worst kind of decline phase – he’s still skilled enough to be competitive, but the sport is just passing him by very, very slowly. It’s easy to like Edwards, but he’s really a low-level UFC gatekeeper at this point.
–Chico Camus clearly has fight IQ issues. Camus was easily getting the better of Dustin Kimura on the feet, and was obviously the better wrestler as well. But Kimura was far better on the ground, to the point that Kimura had the advantage, even from bottom position. Camus should have had little trouble keeping the fight at standing distance and out-pointing Kimura, but for some reason, he kept going for takedowns. Kimura has some serious talent on the ground, and it’s easy to see how he was able to win so consistently on the regional circuit. If he wants to climb the UFC bantamweight ladder, he’ll have to improve his striking and wrestling, because while he was fantastic on the ground, he needed Camus’s help to get the fight there.
–Francisco Rivera got away with one against Edwin Figueroa. I feel like I’m becoming a broken record by saying this, but the single best attribute an aspiring contender can have is striking defense. Rivera clearly does not have that, as he got hit by big punches from Figueroa early and often. I’ll put it this way – needing your opponent to gas out is not a way to win fights on any sort of consistent basis. As exciting as Rivera’s TKO win was, it doesn’t leave me thinking that Rivera is going to perform well against more established UFC bantamweights.