Close but no cigar for Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Despite being stunned, Rashad Evans went on to defeat Jackson via decision at UFC 114. Photo by UFC.com
UFC 114 was considered by most fans to be a rather lackluster event in spite of the hype surrounding the main event of Rashad Evans vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Stylistically, the fights didn't present an explosive package as a whole, but rather some very tactical match-ups. Despite the criticism, we did witness a miraculous flash knockout of Todd Duffee at the hands of Mike Russow, the welcoming of John Hathaway to the middle-echelon of the UFC's welterweight division, and a spirited effort by Jason Brilz against the very tough Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. But much of the post-fight animosity toward the event sat heavily on Rashad Evans' victory over Jackson.
Hardcore fans can appreciate the way in which Rashad Evans was able to out wrestle Jackson, and they can even look at the way Evans clinched with Jackson as a means to avoiding being pummeled with power. Casual fans, on the other hand, viewed the action with a disappointing attitude, and that's to be expected.
I grew a bit tired of the clinching tactics as they really didn't lead to takedowns early in the fight, and Herb Dean's action to restart the fight in a standing position on multiple occasions was probably a godsend for Jackson. Unfortunately, Evans would continue these same exchanges with Jackson for much of the fight, some resulting in takedowns that effectively took time off the clock. Some liken it to the way Couture completely neutralizes strikers against the fence, and I'd agree in that regard.
Interestingly enough, some of the arguments I've heard hint at the fact that the idealogy of the ring versus the cage has come full circle. Some fans I've talked to believe the cage creates these types of gameplans that Evans implemented, and it hurts the UFC's ability to market a guy like Evans. To be perfectly honest, Evans lost more in victory than Jackson did in defeat with the largest segment of the fanbase. But a win is a win, and Evans will move on to battle Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in a match-up that is somewhat intriguing due to the fact it'll be five rounds and a disparity in styles with the added danger of Shogun's underrated BJJ ground game.
The win over Jackson wasn't the prettiest, but his gameplan was effective and his wrestling proved to be better. While it may have been boring to some fans, Jackson had no answer.
Jackson's future is an attractive conversation topic following the loss. He's stated that it's very tough to juggle both an acting career and a fighting career, but he did say he wanted a rematch with Evans in the future. Will Jackson be motivated enough to defeat his next couple of opponents on his way to a rematch with Rashad? Or will Jackson head off to an acting career in Hollywood? My gut says he'll stick around, and I would think Forrest Griffin may be at the top of his list of potential opponents as it would allow him to avenge his past loss to him.
- Michael Bisping proved he's, at the very least, a solid mid-level UFC middleweight, but he'll need to gain some power in order to be truly threatening toward the top of the division if he intends to use technical boxing and ground and pound to win. I wouldn't mind seeing him be tested against Alan Belcher as Belcher does have power, and Bisping would have to be weary of that along with his sneaky submission ability.
Miller is unfortunately lacking power and technique in his stand-up game, and that isn't going to cut it against the better strikers near the top. If he ever wants to progress, he needs to find a way to improve immensely in his striking skills and footwork.
- What can we really say about Todd Duffee vs. Mike Russow? Russow's incredible chin kept him on life support for the entire fight up until the flash knockout. The only things we can take away from this fight are that Duffee needs to improve his conditioning, and Russow needs to add some muscle in order to effectively implement the gameplan he wanted in wrestling Duffee to the floor. Duffee's hype completely deflates with the loss, but I'm sure he'll be back in the mix in a year with some impressive wins.
- Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Jason Brilz was a complete surprise in the context of the action and the outcome. It was definitely a solid chess match on the floor, and Brilz deserves praise for hanging tough on the ground with Nogueira and being very effective in his top control game. Rogerio was visibly having problems with Brilz on the feet, which was a surprise, and I think it was probably due to the fact that Brilz is well-known for being a takedown and pound fighter.
The decision wasn't the worst in MMA history, but it was pretty bad. Brilz won the fight hands down in my mind, but we've been dealing with these types of decisions for a very long time. Ultimately, the UFC will do Brilz right and give him some opportunities while Rogerio may have had his sails deflated a bit with the performance.
- John Hathaway has arrived, and hopefully fans won't sleep on him anymore as I did in the lead-up to this fight. His reach in combination with his striking was more than enough to stop Sanchez in his tracks, but his takedown defense and wrestling was the true decider of this fight. When Sanchez realized he couldn't resort to his tried-and-tested gameplan of flattening opponents on the ground, it was over. I think Hathaway could be a real problem for guys like Martin Kampmann and Mike Swick.
Sanchez looked fairly slow in his footwork, and that definitely contributed to his demise as he got jabbed relentlessly with almost no head movement. I think Dana White is right in that Sanchez is much more suited to cut down to lightweight.
- Amir Sadollah really needs to work on his takedown defense if he wants to try to use his Muay Thai skills more effectively, but I fear it probably wouldn't have helped much against Dong Hyun Kim. For as much questioning that goes on regarding why many hardcore fans like Kim, I think he showed exactly why there is a little hype around him from that portion of the fanbase. Sure, he didn't finish, but he has solid takedown ability, knowledge on the ground, and his ground and pound can be threatening as he's incorporated elbows into his arsenal nicely.
Dong Hyun Kim probably isn't the UFC's ideal candidate to excite casual fans, but I think he is a nice addition to draw in an Asian fanbase. He's also improving, and his conditioning has done well for him in his last two fights. With some work on his striking, he could be fantastic.
- Dan Lauzon was obviously not in shape for his battle with Efrain Escudero, and he probably needs to sit down and realize that his team and his brother, Joe Lauzon, were right. Efrain dominated the fight, and Dan has really never been on a level that makes me believe he's a UFC caliber fighter. He either needs to re-think his training, or get used to winning lowly regional bouts.
- Melvin Guillard is becoming the real deal in terms of rounding out his skills to tailor to his knockout style. Waylon Lowe pressed him hard in the early minutes with takedown attempts, but Guillard either stuffed them or gained his feet immediately. Guillard's brutal knee to Lowe's midsection after stuffing a takedown shows that Guillard has gained the tools to defeat guys who would have dominated him in the past. The UFC will probably want to highlight Guillard on a UFN card next as he's always been one of the more exciting fighters in their roster.
- Cyrille Diabate made a lot of bettors happy, including myself. He weathered the storm early after being dropped, but Cane's wild striking left him wide open for a brilliant combination that flattened him. Cane has become increasingly sloppier in his last few fights, and I think he needs to go back and watch the array of mistakes he's making in his striking.
Diabate should add an interesting element to the division as he's very long with solid Muay Thai and kickboxing abilities. He should pose interesting match-ups with strikers, but I'd have to see a bit more from his ground game to have an opinion on whether now is going to be his time to shine.
- Aaron Riley and Ryan Jensen both came out victorious in their match-ups on the preliminary card. Riley edged out Joe Brammer with a couple of rounds of sloppy boxing and knees while he controlled Brammer in the third on the ground. Jensen was able to secure a quick guillotine choke in the first round against Jesse Forbes.