Another UFC card, another bunch of unwatched preliminary card action. Unlike last time where Spike did not show some of the preliminary bouts, UFC 114 saw the card get the one hour treatment and so there are less fights for me to talk about. But screw it I say, as Escudero/Lauzon and Sadollah/Kim were still technically preliminary bouts I shall talk about them also.
But before I get to the preliminaries I'm gonna go all Memento on your ass and talk about the main event first. A couple of days back I wrote a fanpost entitled, "The Many False Preconceptions of Rashad Evans". The article's aim was not to say why Rashad wouldn't win the fight but rather that the main reasons people that were picking Rashad weren't grounded in reality and were rather - as the title says - false preconceptions. At the end of the article I gave my prediction of the fight of Rampage winning via KO in round 2. This of course resulted in the many people who thought I wrote a detailed "why Rashad sucks" article to come back and demand I eat a meal mashed up of both humble pie and crow.
I still believe however that most of the points I put forth remain true. The only area that I believe was different was his cardio, which was outstanding and greatly improved since his last bout with Silva. As I put it:
This is not all to say that he hasn't trained differently for this fight but by all reports Evans hasn't really changed anything up so by looking at his history you can't really keep the preconception of his superior gastank.
For that I was wrong. But in the other areas of his superior striking and stellar wrestling I still reckon Rashad's abilities in those areas are still being inflated. Although he caught Jackson by surprise early with that right hand that half staggered and half caught him off balance, his striking still wasn't the deadly force it was made out to be with Rashad's chin also looking a little questionable in the third. In the case of Rashad's wrestling, while it also looked good when it caught Rampage off guard while he was exchanging in the first, 90% of Rashad's other attempts at takedowns were stuffed and resulted in excitement taxing stalemates on the cage.
My prediction of the fight was based on Rashad being forced to exchange because of his inability to take Rampage down at will. My prediction fell through in that I didn't take into account Rashad's willingness to just hold Rampage to the cage when a takedown didn't work.
In the end, Rashad won fair and square and should be congratulated. While I hated the fight worse than a kid between Fred Durst and Carrot Top, he deserves his props for sticking to his gameplan. I will be taking Shogun by complete destruction though.
Now to the prelims!
Jesse Forbes vs. Ryan Jensen - Jensen defs. Forbes via submission (guillotine choke) at 1:06 of round 1.
This was a fun fight, and not just because Forbes got choked out. In this fight you saw the drama of a back and forth three round fight compacted into one minute and six seconds of action. Jensen tagged Forbes early and then got a little wild while exchanging and was rocked hard by a straight left hand by Forbes. The TUF 3 alum slammed the dazed Jensen to the ground and took mount. Jensen rolled to his stomach, giving up his back. Forbes attempted to flatten him out and go for the choke and got sloppy and Jensen was able to get to his feet. As Forbes again shot in for a takedown during the scramble he was caught in a guillotine and forced to submit.
The fight was a good way to start the night, and probably the only fight that didn't feature any booing - which is saying a lot when you remember the crowd from that night. In terms of their individual performances, Jensen capitalised on his millionth chance with the UFC and moved his UFC record to 2-4. He still looked sloppy on his feet, and his ground defense will get him in trouble against fighters not named Jesse Forbes, so barring another strange reprieve from the UFC gods he will gone one he loses his next fight, probably against a middle of the pack fighter who has just lost one. I'm thinking someone like Tom Lawlor or Tim Credeur.
For Forbes, I think that is the last we will see of him in the UFC. His game, while greatly improved from The Ultimate Fighter, just isn't enough to deal with the UFC's calibre of fighters. A return to the small shows is in order where you'll probably see him in the MFC or won't see him on one of Strkeforce's dark matches.
Aaron Riley vs. Joe Brammer - Riley defs. Brammer via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
This fight played out pretty much to be expected with only the greater than expected resistence from Joe "Mr. Controversial" Brammer being the only standout. Riley's greatest attribute is he knows how to win gritty against inferior opposition, with this fight being no different. While competitive throughout, it marked the first of - what was to be the trend of the night - drawn out unanimous decisions.
Riley will again return to his role as the middle tier gatekeeper of the UFC lightweight division. His grinding "jack of all trades, and master of none" fighting style makes him the perfect yardstick for up and coming fighters. This will remain as he takes on another young fighter looking to stick around in the division. Someone like Sam Stout or a rising TUF alumni.
Brammer has probably seen his last days as a member of the UFC roster. He will return to the smaller shows after this, where he will be forced to work his way through middling competition to hopefully earn the role of a last minute replacement at a UFC event or an undercard filler at an MFC or Strikeforce event.
Cyrille Diabate vs. Luis Cane - Diabate defs. Cane via TKO (punches) at 2:13 of round 1.
I'm a little dirty on this fight as I had picked Diabate going into it, but I let myself be swayed (or confused?) into choosing Cane based on the pop culture laced babble of Sherdog's Tomas Rios. The fight was good fun and saw Cane drop Diabate early with a straight left. Diabate had been keeping his hands low and wasn't really showing any respect to Cane's game. Once on the ground, Diabate used some drastically improved ground skills to sweep Cane and get on top before both guys returned to the feet. Diabate again chose not to keep his hands up but he would not pay for it again. He landed a good knee to the chest of Cane and then rocked and dropped Cane with a nice three piece combo. A laser-like punch to a grounded Cane bounced his head off the mat and forced the stoppage of the fight.
I've been pretty high on Diabate since I saw him give Shogun a good fight at the finals of PRIDE's 2006 Openweight Grand Prix. His smooth striking coupled with a vastly improved set of grappling skills should make for some fun fights in the division. The Snake can get a little cocky sometimes though as evidenced by his lax attitude to defense in this bout and he could really pay for it down the road against some of the division's dynamite strikers. If the UFC wants to reward him for beating a tough guy like Cane they could throw him someone like Jared Hamman so he can add to his highlight reel. But I expect him to get another tough guy like Thiago Silva or Ryan Bader.
I will be interested to see what happens to Cane after this loss. He's a talented and exciting guy that just doesn't do well with southpaws. I don't think the UFC should cut him as he can make for some exciting fights on the prelims. I'd suggest putting him in a do-or-die fight against Jason Brilz.
Melvin Guillard vs. Waylon Lowe - Guillard defs. Lowe via KO (knee to the body) at 3:28 of round 1.
This was a fun fight with a brutal finish, and was actually my favoured KO of the night. Guillard did something that many have grown to never expect from him, which was to do exactly what people expected of him. He used some nice takedown defense to setup an oppurtunity to add to his highlight reel, which he did by folding Lowe like a lawnchair with a hellacious knee.
As Guillard said after his victory, he would very much like to fight Jeremy Stevenson next. I think that's a great fight and if he is unavailable, Jeremy Stephens would also be a great match.
Unfortunately for Lowe, it will probably be one and done for him in the UFC. There is a chance that he could be rewarded for stepping in on short notice, where if that's the case he'll probably face off in a loser leaves town match with any of the many precariously placed lightweights.
Efrain Escudero vs. Dan Lauzon - Escudero defs. Lauzon via unanimous decision (29-27 x3).
This fight pretty much played out how I expected with Escudero winning however he wanted against a quickly tiring Danny Lauzon. The fight had its moments but the sense of inevitability it carried kind of detracted from its excitement. Thankfully the judges were actually on point in this fight though, as the dodgy point deduction in the third round could've stirred some shit right up.
Efrain looked decent in the fight, and showed off some well rounded skills that should keep him in the UFC for sometime. I'm not sure if he will ever have the game to deal with the elite of the division but his victory here should warrant a higher-middle tier fighter from the division. He might be another fight away from it, but it could be time enough for the UFC to give him the traditional lightweight TUF winner assigment of facing Clay Guida.
For "The Upgrade" I think Mike Fagan summed it up best when he said,
If the UFC is a place where only the best fight, Dan Lauzon needs to be on the outside looking in.
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Amir Sadollah - Kim defs. Sadollah via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
While I gave Sadollah a chance going into this fight, the fight just ended up reminding me of Airbourne's famous lyrics, "too much, too young, too fast". Sadollah's muay thai is some of the most fluent in the division but the rest of his game is lacking, most notably his wrestling. He was simply no match for Kim's slick judo and punishing top control game.
Kim has racked up some nice wins in his time with the UFC. He had a brief setback with his split decision loss/no contest with Karo Parisyan at UFC 94 but since then he's really stepped up and has put a beating down on respected oppponents in TJ Grant and now Sadollah. A step-up in class is probably on the table now, with me seeing a potential bout with fellow Grand and Sadollah conqueror in Johny Hendricks.
Sadollah is a favourite of the UFC bosses, so his career isn't really in any jeopardy. He'll be given a nice rebound opponent that he can make a showcase out of, while in the meantime he needs to be donning the wrestling singlet and knuckling down on his groundwork.