-I have documented Georges St-Pierre’s decline as a fighter extensively on this blog. St-Pierre used to be a master of negating his opponent’s offense and not being hit by many strikes. In recent fights St-Pierre has been hit a lot more often. St-Pierre’s knee injury is an easy thing to target but these problems began before the injury when St-Pierre lost two rounds to Jake Shields. It’s clear that the eye poke St-Pierre suffered in that fight, as well as the subsequent injury, were not the cause of St-Pierre taking an increased number of strikes. The reality is that St-Pierre may have held on to his title against Johny Hendricks by the thinnest of margins but it won’t be long before he loses it. I don’t know if it will be Hendricks who takes it away, or if St-Pierre will just choose to retire, but his days as champion are numbered.
-It seemed to me that Hendricks coasted to the finish in round five. This is something fighters have done since there have been decisions in fighting. Dan Henderson in particular used to drive me nuts by coasting late in fights. Needless to say it didn’t serve Hendricks well. I have no idea if Hendricks would have won the round with full effort but it seemed to me that he was fighting with the sense that he was protecting a lead more than anything. It could be that Hendricks really did try hard to win the round. It’s hard to tell sometimes.
–Chael Sonnen is the ultimate front-runner in MMA. When things are going well for him he shines. The moment things start going against him he finds a way out of the fight. Sonnen has spoken at length about anxiety issues in the cage and it seems those haven’t gone away. If Sonnen had the mental toughness to endure through adversity he could have given Rashad Evans a very tough fight. Instead, Evans took Sonnen down, and the fight was finished soon afterwards. I don’t think the skill gap between Sonnen and Evans is nearly as large as it appeared to be but Evans clearly brought his “A” game to this fight.
-I will admit to giving poor analysis for Sonnen vs. Evans. I am much more reluctant to admit that for Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler. MacDonald clearly fought “not to lose” instead of fighting to win. MacDonald’s game plan seemed to be: focus on distance control, don’t get hit by a Lawler haymaker, score a takedown, and perhaps win on points. Even when MacDonald was able to take Lawler down, he did very little on the ground in fear that Lawler would explode back to his feet. Then MacDonald would suddenly start throwing strikes with 15 seconds remaining, and lo and behold Lawler didn’t just explode out of the position. MacDonald was easily the better man when he was aggressive and attacking. Unfortunately he only did that for about one minute out of 15.
-I still don’t buy Lawler as a world-class welterweight. Lawler might be the new Rory MacDonald in that case: a fighter who is clearly one of the best in the world to 99% of the MMA community, while I remain (incorrectly) unconvinced. Lawler was 3-5 in Strikeforce. He’s lost nine times in his MMA career. Granted, many of those losses were not at welterweight, but it’s hard for me to overturn a career of being just “good” in favor of a recent hot streak. I will admit Lawler is better than I gave him credit for. I do NOT see Lawler beating Johny Hendricks or anybody similar. His takedown defense is still a liability – MacDonald landed four takedowns in six attempts on him. (For some reason MacDonald attempted ZERO takedowns until the second round.)
–Josh Koscheck hits the nine-year rule… and boom, two knockout losses in a row. In Koscheck’s defense he’s faced two heavy-handed strikers in his last two fights in Lawler and Tyron Woodley. I’m no body-language expert but I’ll pretend to be one for a minute. Koscheck’s demeanor after losing seemed to be one of relief. He was smiling and laughing. This is a stark contrast to the Koscheck who used to be miserable after losing. In my uneducated, ignorant opinion, Koscheck doesn’t seem to have his heart in the game anymore. He’s in the twilight years of his career at the very least.
-Woodley has the classic combination of wrestling and power punching. He was criticized in his early career as being a boring wrestler but many great prospects start out that way. I don’t know if Woodley is championship material but he’s top ten material in my humble opinion… and a difficult opponent for anybody in the division.
-Watching live, I thought Tim Elliott beat Ali Bagautinov. Joe Rogan seemed to think so too. It seemed like we were the only ones because just about every media/online score I saw gave the fight to Bagautinov, along with all three judges. I’m pretty confident in my ability to score fights live but I’m also not above admitting that sometimes I might have seen a fight the wrong way. Then again, the Fight Metric stats say: 48-43 Elliott in significant strikes, 72-43 Elliott in total strikes, 2-1 Elliott in takedowns, and 1-0 Elliott in submission attempts. This one is worth studying again sometime.
Lightning round for the prelims…
–Donald Cerrone looked awesome against Evan Dunham. His timing with his Muay Thai was excellent and his submission game was on point as usual. Cerrone is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re going to get next with him.
-This is four fights in a row now that Ed Herman has looked very lackluster. It’s also been four fights since Herman hit the nine-year rule. I’m just saying…
-I’ve become a Brian Ebersole fan because of his ability to make up for a lack of athleticism with bizarre techniques and a crafty approach… but that only goes so far. Ebersole’s game just wasn’t going to work against a B+/A- type of talent in Rick Story.
–Erik Perez is a good talent for sure… but at the same time, Edwin Figueroa has no takedown defense whatsoever. Figueroa is the kind of underdog who’s easy to root for but it’s probably best if he gets released from the UFC, for his general well-being.
-I just did a double-take at the Fight Metric statistics for Jason High vs. Anthony Lapsley. High won by unanimous decision with five significant strikes landed. I didn’t even find the fight boring – I thought it was an interesting chess match on the ground. But most fans don’t feel the same way I do about that kind of fight.
-All I’m saying is… Sergio Pettis got taken down four times by a flyweight non-wrestler in Will Campuzano. And Campuzano made it look easy. Sergio isn’t going anywhere until he can defend takedowns better than that. The good news is that takedown defense is a skill that can be learned.
-FPR was half-right about Cody Donovan vs. Gian Villante. Donovan actually landed more strikes than Villante in six minutes… but sure enough, Donovan’s chin failed him as he lost by knockout. That makes four KO losses for Donovan in 12 fights. Not good.