Has Rich Franklin put an end to Chuck Liddell's career? Photo by MMAWeekly.com.
UFC 115 is in the books, and as usual -- an event that didn't have much hype or interest due to the lesser names associated with the card delivered some exciting fights. Unfortunately, the names are what sell the card, and it isn't looking great for the UFC in terms of talk regarding buyrates for this event. But from a fan perspective, we couldn't have asked for much better.
Chuck Liddell proved that he is truly finished in the sport as Rich Franklin landed a hard counter right hand to the chin of the "Iceman" to down him in the first round of their light heavyweight main event showdown. Liddell didn't look terribly bad in his gameplan and attacks, but his weakened chin from years of fighting and the recent streak of knockouts was ultimately the culprit to his demise as a fighter.
Impressively, Franklin was able to defeat Liddell despite breaking his left arm in a previous exchange during the fight. Probing with his left arm, Franklin was still able to use it to set up the heavy right hand that downed Liddell later in the round, a feat that one could say was miraculous.
We probably won't see Chuck fight again, but his aggressiveness has been a huge part of why he's been on the losing end quite often recently. Franklin backed into the fence, took some shots that were more annoying than damaging, and then unleashed a monster counter right as Chuck moved in for the kill. Instead of remaining patient and picking his shots from a ranged position, Liddell got a bit greedy, and he paid the price.
For Franklin, I think he should definitely get a chance at taking on some better competition in the division. Most fans consider him past his prime, but Franklin hasn't really proven that to be a reality. He's only lost to some of the better fighters in the world at their respective weight classes, and I think guys like Thiago Silva or Forrest Griffin wouldn't be bad fights for Franklin.
In heavyweight action, Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic defeated Patrick Barry via a rear naked choke in the third round. For a majority of the fight, Mirko outclassed Barry with the exception of being knocked down twice by overhands from Barry in the first round. Unfortunately, Barry was unable to capitalize on those chances, and he was never really able to string together any significant offense after those exchanges. This was more than likely due to the injuries he sustained in the fight, a broken hand and foot.
I think fans really bought into a perception that Barry was some sort of pinpoint, heavy-handed striker. Fans forget that Mirko comes from a kickboxing background, and he's a better kickboxer than Barry. He's also better defensively than any of Barry's past opponents, and it showed in this fight. Barry had a very tough time trying to time Mirko, and once Mirko was able to establish that he could put Barry to the floor -- it became even more apparent that Barry was confused as to where Mirko's offense was going to come from.
Mirko won't be making a run at the top of the division by any means, but he still has some speed in his stand-up and kicking power. I would have liked to see him use his legs more, but I think Mirko is still a bit scared to test his knee fully yet. Hopefully, time will heal that lack of confidence. Perhaps, the Ben Rothwell vs. Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic fight can finally happen.
Admittedly, I was completely wrong about Martin Kampmann, and it's solely because it's just too hard to gauge exactly how much a fighter improves between fights. The Kampmann we saw on Saturday night was an absolute nightmare, and if he can continue to fight in that capacity -- he could be a real threat for contention. This definitely wasn't the Martin Kampmann we saw against Carlos Condit or Paul Daley, and his trouncing of Paulo Thiago should launch him into the top ten with some huge potential to gain a very relevant fight in the future.
Thiago's failures were everywhere. He wasn't able to control Kampmann on the ground, and he found himself in some bad positions continuously despite being a touted Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. His stand-up went from crisp and accurate in past performances to looping overhand rights and lefts that were "hoping" to land. There wasn't any technical prowess in the way Thiago fought, and it's a bit hard to see exactly how his form dipped suddenly.
- The Yvel-Rothwell tilt was one of the more comical fights of the evening. Ben Rothwell was absolutely terrible in his positioning from mount as he lost mount multiple times as Gilbert Yvel bucked him. Even when Rothwell was able to gain mount against a very tired Yvel, he couldn't produce any offense that was damaging enough to knock Yvel out.
Yvel's propensity to try to knee Rothwell's head while he was standing up straight against the fence was perplexing and frustrating to watch. Unbelievably, he actually landed one as Rothwell ducked, putting Rothwell into a daze. Yvel also landed some of the most brutal ground and pound we've seen in a long time in the second round on Rothwell's chin, and to be perfectly honest -- I don't know how Rothwell survived.
Rothwell probably earns himself a battle against a top 15 fighter, and I think CroCop is the perfect guy as they were matched up previously. But I also think his performance against Yvel didn't help him with fans believing he could run through CroCop. His gas tank was completely gone after the second round, and his only saving grace was the fact that Yvel was even more tired.
- Rory MacDonald may have actually won his battle with Carlos Condit had it gone to the judges, but I would have been a bit confused if a judge actually scored the final round 10-9. Condit absolutely demolished the youthful 20-year-old prospect with elbows and punches from top control, cutting open MacDonald in multiple places. If anything, a 10-8 round was going to be the right call, and it could have possibly led to a draw.
Fortunately, I think the referee made the right call. MacDonald was being dominated, and Condit's solid conditioning and ability to produce offense late in fights came through for him once again. Condit's striking is still rather lacking as he continues to kick while being headhunted by opponents. MacDonald landed multiple combinations over the top of Condit's kicks, and a fighter with a bit more power would have probably put Condit on ice. Mike Swick or Matt Serra might be decent match-ups for Condit in the future.
- Tyson Griffin didn't exactly get dominated by Evan Dunham, but Dunham was definitely impressive. He used his size and ground acumen to be a real threat on the floor, and he was able to batter Griffin with his lead left for most of the fight. Griffin's aggressiveness worked against him as Dunham used it to transition the fight to the ground in both round one and two. Griffin simply couldn't put Dunham down after catching a kick in the third, and in almost every instance -- Dunham took Griffin's back. Truly impressive to watch those transitions and Griffin's inability to stop them.
- Mac Danzig got screwed. We can't really say too much about that, and in reality -- he may have had a chance to reverse position and put Matt Wiman on his back from where they were at. Unfortunate, but I think we'll see a rematch.
- Mario Miranda absolutely dominated David Loiseau. It wasn't even a fight as Loiseau was fending off attacks on the feet and on the ground for a majority of the fight while producing little offense. In the opening of the second round, Loiseau was able to catch Miranda, but he gave up a takedown following the exchange. That takedown led to Loiseau being brutally battered until the stoppage.
Miranda's takedowns are decent, although we can't really learn much from this fight as Loiseau has always been susceptible. Miranda's strength is a huge asset though, and his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills are very high level. I look forward to seeing who the UFC will match him with in the future.
- James Wilks defeated Peter Sobotta via unanimous decision with an one-sided performance that saw Sobotta fighting off submissions for much of the fight. In the first round, Wilks nearly broke off Sobotta's arm and submitted Sobotta with a gogoplata. Yeah, a gogoplata. The rest of the fight was much of the same with some clinch exchanges in the second and tired ground and pound in the third.
- I was most impressed with Claude Patrick's strength in his battle with Ricardo Funch. He damaged Funch with a lot of power from top control in the first round, and the clinch work in the second round that led to the guillotine choke looked as if a man was just throwing around a boy. Patrick is fairly one-dimensional, but he could be an exciting addition.
- Jesse Lennox vs. Mike Pyle wasn't a bad fight by any means. A good variety of ground and standing exchanges, but Pyle's ability to transition to submissions was the difference in the third round. Lennox's wrestling wasn't powerful enough to break free from Pyle's holds, and his striking wasn't accurate. Solid win for Pyle, but I think Pyle could be much better if his striking and defense to strikes could improve.