Although stacked with many recognisable names, UFC 117 did not get any Spike TV preliminary love. The length of many of the main card bouts meant that only one of the nights six preliminaries made the PPV broadcast. Nevertheless, if you didn't manage to see the unaired fights, I have a breakdown of all the action right here.
To the fights!Dennis Hallman vs. Ben Saunders - Hallman defs. Saunders via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).
After looking better than anyone expected against John Howard and then managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the dying seconds, Hallman came into this bout against Saunders on thin ice with the promotion. Losing two fights in a row and having made some risky steroid allegations does not make for good job security. Saunders on the other hand was looking to bounce back after getting mauled by Jon Fitch on short notice at UFC 111. This fight basically reiterated what we learned in each fighter's last fight. Saunders can't handle fighters who are great from top control, and Hallman has no stand-up to speak of and is very hittable.
Each round the two would come out, Saunders would stalk Hallman, land some hard strikes, Hallman would clinch, execute a takedown and there they would stay as Hallman would rough Saunders up from half guard (possibly breaking his nose in the first round). The only difference in the rounds was that Saunders was able to spend a little bit more time on the feet each round, with the vast majority of his success coming in the third as he rocked Hallman and almost looked to replicate the ending of the Howard fight. In the post fight interview, Hallman thanked god and apologized to the UFC and all his fellow fighters by saying the comments he made on Inside MMA were wrong.
I've been impressed with Hallman since his return to the UFC. He no longer gasses after the slightest bit of work and generally seems like a greatly improved version of his former self. Where he does let himself down is his striking and striking defense which are, in a word, awful. This gaping hole will most likely see him hit the ceiling pretty early in the division because of all the fighters with superior wrestling and striking. I fully expect to see his next fight as a third fight with Matt Hughes. A man he has beaten twice in the combined total of 37 seconds.
As for Saunders, I'm a big fan and hope he gets another fight with the UFC. He needs to really focus on using his range to keep distance, takedown defense, and ground escapes. I think match-ups against John Howard, Matt Brown or DaMarques Johnson would be great for him. If this is the end for Killa B in the UFC, I at least want to see another fighter step up and fill the hole left by the departure of such an awesome nickname. Perhaps someone can utilise the Dr. Octagon moniker?
Stefan Struve vs. Chrisitan Morecraft - Struve defs. Morecraft via KO (punches) at :22 of round 2.
This was a very fun fight that really should never have been. Stefan Struve really should have handled "World of" Morecraft easily, as the talent gap between them is quite substantial. He instead opted to lazily play guard while Morecraft teed off on him. With that being said Struve can really take a helluva lot of punishment. Morecraft was landing huge, flush shots to Struve who really seemed unfazed. To open the second round, Struve came out and did what he should have done from the start and went after Morecraft. After landing a big leg kick he kept his composure in a fire fight and clocked Morecraft spectacularly several times which put Morecraft down hard.
Struve is a bit of an oddity in the UFC heavyweight division. He's had five fights now in the organisation and I'm still not quite sure what to make of him. His ground game and striking don't seem very technical, or defensively sound but he can catch those who don't respect it. Having poor defensive skills in the Russian Roulette nature of the heavyweight division isn't something you want to have (as he has found out at the hands of Dos Santos and Nelson) but there's no doubt his purely offensive mindset makes for very exciting fights. I wouldn't mind seeing Struve try and make his way towards the top of the division again with a fight against someone like Brendan Schaub, Mike Russow or Jon Madsen.
When I was watching the fight, I remarked to my brother, "if Morecraft does win this fight, I think his next opponent is already licking his lips". His eventual demise showed me that his skillset probably means he's not longer for the UFC. Thus I suggest, firstly he remove that horrible tattoo on his stomach and then if he does gets a reprieve from the UFC a loser-leaves-town match against Karlos Vemola (provided he hasn't already been fired).
Tim Boetsch vs. Todd Brown - Boetsch defs. Brown via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).
This fight was a slow and grinding affair and was in my opinion, the least entertaining fight on the card. Todd Brown was a late replacement for Thiago Silva, and gave a good account of himself. He had some decent striking, but didn't really have a lot more to go with it. Tim Boetsch was making his return to the UFC after having been cut following a loss to Jason Brilz, and he fought a very frustrating fight. There was glimpses of the redneck judo that he used to destroy David Heath but Boetsch, for the most part, adopted a strategy of neglecting his superior wrestling in favour of going blow for blow with Brown. This strategy frustrated the shit out of his trainer, Matt Hume who told Boetsch at the end of round two he was "fighting like a pussy" and that he really should be destroying this guy with his wrestling. Boetsch somewhat listened and sealed the contest in the third round with a couple of takedowns that earned him a unanimous decision.
Boetsch looks to be pretty much the same fighter that was ousted from the UFC in early 2009. Nevertheless, his skillset can make for some fun fights if he is matched up favourably and he shows a little more aggression that he did tonight. I think fights with Steve Cantwell, Stephan Bonnar or Jared Hamman could be good scraps.
As for Brown, he probably earned himself another fight with the UFC because he took the fight on such short notice. Fights with K-Sos or James Te Huna could have some good fistic value.
Johny Hendricks vs. Charlie Brenneman - Hendricks defs. Brenneman via TKO (punches) at :40 of round 2.
This was a very entertaining fight between probably the most underappreciated fighter in the UFC's welterweight division, Johny Hendricks and a very solid welterweight in Charlie Brenneman. The opening round of their fight was a very close contest with Brenneman landing well with good combinations and scoring some takedowns while Hendricks was able to stifle Brenneman with good work from the front headlock position while landing some strikes of his own. The first round set the fight up for what I thought was going to be a very tense, grinding affair for the next two rounds. That was not to be the case though as Hendricks came out in the second round and blasted Brenneman with hard hooks and uppercuts that continuously dropped him. Brenneman was dropped three or four times before a final hook sent him to his back that forced Josh Rosenthal to stop the fight. You could make the case of it being an early stoppage because Brenneman appeared to still be able to defend himself but you won't hear any complaints from me.
Johny Hendricks is quietly building a very quality solid resume and winning streak inside the UFC. He is scoring very impressive wins over very good competition in a manner that was very similar to the early career of Jon Fitch. He now has four wins in a row inside the UFC and six in a row under the Zuffa banner. I'd like to see him get a step up in competition in his next fight with potential matches against the loser of Condit/Hardy, Kampmann/Shields or Ricky Story all solid match-ups.
Brenneman showed some good skills in the first round that leads me to believe he could hang around for a while inside the UFC if he got some favourable match-ups. However, he'll probably find himself in a do-or-die match against Ricardo Almeida, Ben Saunders or Matt Brown.
Phil Davis vs. Rodney Wallace - Davis defs. Wallace via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-27).
After giving it his all in an entertaining, sloppy brawl with Jared Hamman that earned "Fight of the Night" honours at UFC 111, Rodney Wallace managed to stall his UFC departure for one more fight. He had originally drawn undefeated Stanilas Nedkov for the bout, which was a winnable fight if you look at Nedkov's split decision victory over Kevin Randleman but Wallace was unable to catch a break as Nedkov pulled out and was replaced by juggernaut propsect, Phil Davis. This fight went exactly how many thought it would go. Davis controlled all aspects of the bout and was able to wrap up a very wide unanimous decision. Wallace was defending for every second of the bout as Davis landed hard kicks on the feet and dominated him with takedowns and ground control.
Davis showed improvements in his striking for this bout, most notably in his kicks as his boxing is still very much in its early stages. His wrestling was excellent as always with his ground control looking very smooth. The main fault that can be found with Davis' performance was his obsession with trying to submit Wallace with a kimura. Trying to submit Rodney Wallace with a kimura is likely trying to fold a piece of paper more than eight times - doable but you need a steamroller. This is only a minor quibble though, and should be corrected with more fight time under his belt. Continuing to slow-cook Davis is the way to go I think, and I think favourable match-ups against fighters with poor games off their backs like Tim Boetsch or Jason Brilz is the way to go.
As for Sho Nuff the Master, a return to the smaller shows is in his immediate future and hopefully a cut down to the middleweight division.
Ricky Story vs. Dustin Hazelett - Story defs. Hazelett via TKO (punches) at 1:15 of round 2.
It's a shame this fight didn't make the PPV broadcast as this was really a breakout performance for Ricky Story. This was the MMA equivalent of when Iceland played the USA the first time in Mighty Ducks 2. For all of Hazelett's submission skills and nifty technical moves, he was no match for the sheer force of Story and was just stomped. The difference in strength was crazy, it was like a man vs. a boy in there. Anything Hazelett tried was just thrown at the wayside. Armbar? No. Flying guard pull? No. Flying V? No. Story kept a crazy pace and just battered Hazelett with body shots against the cage in the first round and then in the second round forced Hazelett to wilt under the pressure of another crazy surge. Even on the ground, Hazelett was unable to get anything going as he was constantly defending against Story's unrelenting attack.
I'm not sure if Story could have kept up the pace he showed against Hazelett for much longer - which was his problem against Nick Osipczak - but that opening barrage is a hard thing to handle. It was very reminiscient of Jake Ellenberger's opening round against Carlos Condit. I'd very much like to see those two face off next.
On the other side of things, Dustin Hazelett is really in a tough spot now. He is a division filled with bears and he really doesn't have the strength to do much against them. Not just that, in this fight and in his last fight with Daley he has really showed a lack of aggression that is allowing his opposition to dictate the pace of the fight. I think the UFC welterweight division needs someone with Hazelett's skillset just to break the monotony but I think he really needs to add some muscle to that frame of his or quickly learn how to deal with the aggression of his opponent. If he gets another fight I hope to see him against someone who he can assert himself against. Someone in the DaMarques Johnson mould I think would be a good match-up.