(Today, I feel nice. No linkies. I hope you guys visit Head Kick Legend anyway. We have new up-and-coming writers, Brent Ducharme is flat-out indispensable for kickboxing news, and David Castillo is putting up high quality work on the science of the sport. Make us a regular stop and you won't regret it.)
As grating as it was sitting at a bar, watching a card that occurred within miles of my new job, it seems that enjoyed the card a good deal more than most of my blogging brethren. Perhaps it's because I'm used to world-class athletes performing less than optimally in the thin Colorado air (perhaps David Castillo could write a detailed, well-researched, elaborate article that makes his compatriots look bad and his readers feel stupid), or the fact that I didn't hate either of the participants in the main event. More on why in the bullet-point things.
- I loved this crowd - mostly. I'm sure the late start to the Facebook fights (did we ever get a why on that, by the way?), but there were a lot of seats filled early and the audience was active and engaged for the duration. Junior Assuncao didn't earn himself any fans by shrugging off boos after his Jeff Dunham-like Anderson Silva impression during the first round, and his domination over the rest of the fight wasn't enough to sway the tide. I do hate it when crowds boo the action - that I didn't like. But at least they were there early and provided nice auditory accompaniments to the prelims. Plus, we weren't Chicago. Bonus.
- James Te Huna's destruction of Ricardo Romero's flailing take down attempts was the most dominant performance of the Facebook fights, but in terms of impressiveness, it's hard not to give the nod to Takeya Mizugaki defeating Cole Escovedo. Since coming out of nowhere to give Miguel Torres his toughest fight at the time (and most awesome fight to date), Mizugaki has been maddeningly inconsistent, trading a win for a loss regularly. While the blather from the booth can normally be discounted as fight and fighter hyping, Joe Rogan's commentary on the integration of kicks and elbows fit in perfectly with the fight in progress. Takeya beat a better opponent, so he's who impressed me the most leading into the Spike fights.
- Tim Boestch is a beast, and I'm proud to finally be able to rank him in his new home at 185. Nick Ring isn't a bad fighter at all, and will probably stick around for a while, but I'm much more excited to see how The Barbarian fares. Those judo tosses were pure beauty, and he looks huge at middleweight. Losing to Phil Davis might be the best thing that ever happened to him.
- I'm pretty good and Goddamn "meh" when it comes to Tony Ferguson, but he looked good. The real focus is how Aaron Riley was able to get his testicles through the Octagon door. Greasegate II, if you ask me.
- It's amazing what a difference the right weight class can make. After a wayward experiment at welterweight (motivated at least in part by an aversion to cutting weight), Nate Diaz looked fantastic in his return to 155 as he avenged his brother's THC NC against Takanori Gomi. After showing a flash of the old Fireball Kid by knocking out Tyson Griffin, Gomi reverted to his Fireball Thirtysomething ways, even getting outwrestled by Nick Diaz's little brother. I think that ship has sailed, JMMA fans.
- Ok, now for the heavyweight fights that everyone hated. I actually didn't think Rob Broughton looked that terrible. Is he as good as Travis Browne? No, and that should have been clear to everyone as soon as Browne held his own against de facto gatekeeper Cheick Kongo en route to a draw. However, Broughton was tough enough to make it long and ugly, and crafty enough on the ground to escape Browne's full mount twice (and other crappy positions on other occasions). I don't think he's terrible, at all.
- I get to rank Mark Hunt on my ballot this month! In 2011! That's amazing! I don't, for the live of me, know why Ben Rothwell didn't employ the "shoot, sit and stay" game plan that worked so swimmingly against Gilbert Yvel - he got the take down when he wanted it - but I think I can speak for everyone at HKL when I say I'm glad he didn't. Via MiddleEasy's Twitter account: "Mark Hunt's record in the UFC is better than Fedor's record in Strikeforce." I look forward to Ben Rothwell's next "I'm better than ever" speech.
- Matt Hughes said the perfect things after his fight. To paraphrase, he'll take a fight that is interesting, competitive and lucrative, but he's done competing for a title in the welterweight division. That's perfectly OK, and the UFC has the leeway, legitimacy and leverage to make room on cards for "legacy fights" or "cool shit" or whatever you'd like to call what Matt Hughes does next. Koscheck is Koscheck and is merely biding time at that weight class, since he's 0-2 vs the champ and no one wants to see that fight again ever - particularly Josh Koscheck's left eye, but to be fair, it didn't have to see most of the second fight anyway.
- Only Internet weirdos hate Jon Jones, and the fact that they make up a larger proportion of a UFC crowd than they do at every other place on Earth at the time doesn't change that fact. First of all, he's a KID. He's younger than the know-nothing whippersnappers that write for such MMA blogs as... um... all of them. He's in the spotlight, making millions, holding the belt, doing the press junkets and - oh yeah - putting on flat-out amazing fights using his phenomenal skills every time out. Every time he fights, it's against better fights, and every time he fights, he looks better. In back to back fights, a 23 year old has made Shogun Rua tap to strikes and RNC'ed Rampage Jackson. I can't stop you from letting his interviews and press conference mannerisms cloud that, but I can sure as hell pity you.