UFC Fight Night 22 is officially in the books, and a lot of questions that were asked in the lead-up to this event were answered definitively. Nate Marquardt secured his stance as the #3 middleweight in the world behind Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva. Charles Oliveira proved that he is a legitimate lightweight talent who has loads of potential. Jim Miller outstruck Gleison Tibau, throwing his name into the hat of possible future lightweight title contenders. And last but not least, Ross Pearson's ascension to relevance hit a roadblock as Cole Miller choked him out in the second round of the opening main card bout. There's a lot to discuss, but let's look at some of the major talking points coming out of each of these battles.
-- Perhaps karma has caught up to Rousimar Palhares for his heel hook submission of Tomasz Drwal, or maybe he just forgot the number one rule when fighting in the Octagon. Unless the referee stops the fight, the fight is still on. Pointing at someone's leg and claiming your opponent is greasing after missing your defining submission doesn't stop the fight. In fact, it gets your murdered by brutal ground and pound. Palhares failed miserably in remembering the golden rule, and it cost him.
-- Marquardt's stand-up technique tonight was different in my opinion. I'm sure there was a strategy to give Marquardt an edge in stuffing Palhares' takedowns, but Palhares' power and improving technique surely had to be a concern. With Palhares' history of lunging forward with huge power, it's amazing Marquardt's chin didn't get transplanted into the third row. Smartly, Marquardt played the counterattack, which is probably the reason why he sat back and waited for a lengthy period of time in the first round before engaging.
-- Charles Oliveira is for real. He could very well be the next great lightweight, but his youth and potential will put him on the long path to greatness -- as it should be. While many of the reports I read were that Oliveira would have problems with wrestlers at this level, his guard game is extremely dangerous. Off his back, he's able to move his hips well, quickly transition to submissions, and catch his opponents off guard. Tonight, we saw flashes of that, but his stand-up was the major focus of his victory over Escudero.
Escudero, as Rogan stated, probably had no idea how good Oliveira actually was in his striking game. The kid is not only dynamic, but his movement and ability to mix his strikes completely frustrated Escudero to no end. Keep an eye on this talent, he will more than likely be near the top of the division in three years.
-- The Miller-Tibau battle was a bit surprising. For all the training that Tibau had supposedly done in his striking game in the lead-up to this fight, he didn't look much different than what we had seen in the past. Big overhands mixed in with somewhat weak set-up jabs. Not exactly effective, but one overhand would have put Miller on ice for sure. The surprising revelation was that Miller's stand-up was solid enough to catch Tibau multiple times. I'm not sleeping on Miller's boxing, but I didn't think he'd have the precision to slip jabs right into Tibau's chin like that. Kudos to Miller on the performance.
-- Cole Miller proved a lot of us wrong tonight, and his reach was his biggest asset in this fight. Pearson spent most of the first round trying to wade through it, and he couldn't find his timing or land anything significant. The second was much better for Pearson, but it was evident that Miller was able to throw for power and get very close to landing. Pearson never looked confident, nothing like he did in past fights. Miller put it to him, and he deserved the win with such a solid performance.
The preliminary battles were such a tough stable of bouts to analyze, and in my mind -- most of the fights could have gone either way. I didn't think we'd see some of the results that did happen tonight.
-- Yves Edwards dominated John Gunderson tonight with a steady diet of body kicks and knees. When Gunderson attempted to put Edwards on his back, as most of us expected him to do, Edwards stuffed those attempts and found himself either in top control or all over Gunderson's back. Solid performance by Edwards, and it should give him a couple more opportunities to impress inside the Octagon.
-- Hamman vs. Kingsbury was an exciting back-and-forth battle, but Kingsbury was able to get the better of Hamman in the first two rounds while also getting a couple of takedowns that secured the win. Look for the video on this one when it comes out.
-- Dave Branch defeated Tomasz Drwal over a very lackluster three rounds of action. Branch was able to work leg kicks, outwork Drwal in the clinch, and gain a few takedowns to win, but the key to his success was neutralizing Drwal's power in the stand-up. Every time Drwal was able to regain his feet, Branch was able to either gain a takedown or avoid strikes in the clinch. While it wasn't the most entertaining performance, it was effective.
-- RIch Attonito's first round flurry that down Rafael Natal was all he really needed to defeat the somewhat hyped Brazilian newcomer. Natal's hesitance in the stand-up game is still something I've focused on as being one of his weaknesses. His kicking is not as explosive as I would expect from a high-level Brazilian fighter, and I think those deficiencies are going to keep him at a lower level than we'd normally expect.
-- Anthony Waldburger vs. David Mitchell was an interesting fight. It was technical at times, sloppy at others, but as the fight progressed -- it became apparent that I had overlooked something. Mitchell has never really faced a guy who can not only wrestle, but threaten with submissions. War Machine provided the wrestling challenge when he fought Mitchell, and Mitchell's answer was to tie up his limbs and neutralize his ground striking. Waldburger had the ability to escape those ties and work his own submissions, quickly transitioned submissions that caught Mitchell off guard quite often. The loss should be a wake-up call for Mitchell. Solid performance for Waldburger, another very young fighter who could have a big future with some improvements.
-- Brian Foster has been slept on a bit due to his loss to Lytle, but he's going to be a legitimate talent in the future. Great wrestling, knockout power, very quick hands, and a dynamic stand-up game. It isn't a surprise he bombed Forrest Petz so quickly.