Photos by James Law for Heavy.com
It's been a long weekend:a late-night train ride, an early morning courthouse wedding, and a pack of drunks shouting over the fights. So maybe it was my more-than-usual curmudgeonry, but outside of Jon Jones undressing Ryan Bader, UFC 126 had let me down leading into the main event. Miguel Torres put on one of the most lackluster and bizarre performances of his career; Jake Ellenberger and Carlos Eduardo Rocha lost all the momentum they built in an exciting first round; and Rich Franklin and Forrest Griffin fought a sloppy co-main event. (To their credit, my nightmare of hugs and kisses in the Octagon failed to come to fruition.)
I wasn't worried that neither fighter threw a strike in the first minute of the main event. That's something you come to expect in an Anderson Silva fight. When a second minute went by, I started feeling a little antsy. As we headed into the third minute without action, I started to wonder if Dana White had that feeling in his stomach; that his pound-for-pound crown jewel was about to repeat his pattern of erratic behavior.
If you blinked, you missed it. The man who knocked out Tony Fryklund with a back elbow and made Forrest Griffin quit with an anchor punch knocked out Vitor Belfort with a front kick to the face.
- Belfort came out looking cautious and tentative from the start. No clue if that was part of his gameplan or if nerves played a part, but he never seemed to feel comfortable.
- I know Joe Rogan has a role to play in hyping up fights, but he has to stop telling me that every middleweight that Anderson fights has the perfect makeup to defeat him. First it was Nate Marquardt. Then Dan Henderson. Then Chael Sonnen. Tonight Vitor Belfort. It's becoming a "boy who cries wolf" thing. Hype the guy and his skills all you want, but don't insult my intelligence by slapping the same tag on each villain.
- I never jumped on board the "Anderson is aging" train, but tonight's performance shouldn't dismiss that argument either. We can't glean much from 4:30 of a slow-paced fight.
- Georges St. Pierre, I desperately need you to defeat Jake Shields. Thanks.
- As for the other big news of the evening, I'm not a huge fan of inserting Jon Jones into a title fight with Mauricio Rua. I'd like to see him fight Quinton Jackson or Thiago Silva or Forrest Griffin or Lyoto Machida first. That said, this is an exploitable opportunity for him. We saw what happens when "Shogun's" knees aren't 100%, and Jones is faster, more athletic, and more creative than Forrest Griffin.
- It looked like Bader realized pretty early that he didn't have an answer for Jones. Jones, on the other hand, fought with extreme confidence. By the middle of the first round, Jones had Bader reacting to everything he did. That's a bad spot to be in whether you're fighting, playing poker, or involved in some sort of crazy BDSM play.
- Jones continues to improve his standup, but I can't quite put my finger on the exact word I would use to describe it. Patient, refined, and sophisticated come close, but not close enough.
More thoughts on UFC 126 after the jump.
- Couple things about the Forrest Griffin-Rich Franklin fight. First, it was sloppy. Second, Forrest used his size well. Third, after losing a first round as decisively as he did, Franklin needs to show more urgency in the third. Even if Rich and his corner think they won the second round, it's close enough that you have to fight the final round as if you need to finish.
- Carlos Eduardo Rocha and Jake Ellenberger put together a really fun first round. The rest of the fight was pretty grueling. In case the Front Kick of Doom has you forgetting, pick up your pitchfork and meet the mob at Adalaide Byrd's house.
- Props to Kim Winslow for doing something more than a verbal warning for grabbing the shorts.
- I don't even want to talk about the Miguel Torres-Antonio Banuelos fight. Someone who knows Miguel well texted me this: "I have seen every fight Miguel has ever had. This was by far the worst." It will be interesting to see how the UFC reacts to that performance, but Miguel did not do much to ingratiate himself with the UFC audience.
- Antonio Banuelos did defeat Air by unanimous decision 30-27 on all three judges' scorecards.
- Good on him for pulling out the victory, but I thought Paul Kelly handled Donald Cerrone up until the final grappling sequence. This does not bode well for Cerrone's chances in the UFC, as I have Kelly pegged as a bottom-rung UFC lightweight.
- While Michihiro Omigawa fought off takedowns better than I expected, I'm still unsure why people were picking a 3-1 underdog straight up. The Omigawa resurrection story was fun, but Chad Mendes looked like a big boy contender at 145 pounds before this fight.
- After the first round, I tweeted that "KID" Yamamoto lost the round, but didn't look as impotent as the Warren and Kanehara fights. I'm beginning to rethink that. Maybe impotent is the wrong word, but he never looked effective at any point. Johnson's speed was blinding and his timing impeccable. Interesting to see where he goes.
- I'm not sure why the UFC decided to reair Cerrone-Kelly instead of the unaired Mike Pierce-Kenny Robertson but props to them for broadcasting so many fights on their various mediums.
Fighter of the Night
Photo by Sherdog.com
If neutralizing Ryan Bader for two rounds wasn't enough, Jon Jones walked out of Las Vegas tonight with a ticket to meet Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for the UFC light heavyweight strap at UFC 128. It's a big step up in competition for Jones, and one wonders if "Shogun" can exploit some of the technical flaws in Jones' game.
Mike Goldberg Line of the Night
"Tough crowd." - Said after the first round of Torres-Banuelos
I was surrounded by loud drunks for most of the night, so excuse me if I missed a more blundering gem. This was not the time to acknowledge and dismiss a jeering crowd. At least, not in this manner. The boos were not the result of a tough crowd. It was the pedestrian and almost sparring-like fight put in front of them.
Moment of the Night
Photos by James Law for Heavy.com.
Uh, yeah. Dude got knocked out by a front kick to the face. What else were you expecting?
Entrance Song of the Night
Uh, yeah. Dude came out to Vanilla Ice. What else were you expecting?