I have not enjoyed a night of fights as much as tonight since Henderson and Shogun wen nuts on each other for five rounds. Everything since the, for me, has largely underwhelmed. The UFC has so saturated the American market that I've largely been going through the motions and a lot of the numbered PPVs have suffered. But tonight was a marvelous return of what the UFC is capable of doing and what their fights are capable of doing.
- First, let me say this. If anything, tonight was a victory for good judging - specifically in the Shields/Akiyama fight and the Edgar/Henderson fight. I'm not going to sit here and insult anyone's intelligence by trying to argue that Jake Shields has good striking. He's wooden, flat footed, and has no technique. I've learned better form at LA Boxing that he has. But his punches were landing. He developed a good little switch kick that he kept throwing, used his punches to move forward and get ahold of Akiyama, and tenaciously worked for his takedown. I'm not sure if Akiyama thought he was going to win by a couple of nice throws and looking ripped. I watched this at a bar and people were screaming for Akiyama to do something but whatever the reason he just didn't. Listening to Goldberg and Rogan for the first half of the fight, you would think Akiyama was winning because of stuffing takedowns. About halfway through the fight it dawned on Goldberg that Jake was actually landing. It was nice to see him get the win because that kind of fight could be one he losses if the judging wasn't sharp.
-As for the main event, Henderson was clearly dominating the octagon, hitting Edgar over and over with knees and kicks and punches that did more damage, and had Frankie in a couple of really bad spots (the upkick in round 2, the guillotine in round 4). Edgar's sheer volume of strikes don't tell the story as Benson walked right through almost all of them untouched. Ben Henderson beat up Frankie Edgar and won that fight. Convincingly. I know its the cliched talking point right now but with Henderson, Pettis, Diaz, and Cerrone out there I'm not sure he can keep fighting these guys and taking the beating he does and think he can keep winning on heart.
- The main event was awesome, and clearly Ben Henderson learned the lessons of BJ Penn and Gray Maynard. He was measured and precise in his attacks, he never let himself get tired or gassed, and seemed to understand early on that he was bigger and stronger and his strikes inflicted more damage. He understood everything that gets people in trouble with Edgar and did none of it. It was an amazing performance from Henderson who showed skills at every level of the game.
And now the WEC takeover of the UFC lightweight division is complete.
-Ryan Bader clearly wanted to win his fight tonight, and I'm not sure what Rampage Jackson was doing in there. He came in six pounds overweight and looked chubby and slow. He had nothing for Bader, who's looked leaner and faster than I've ever see him. Rampage Jackson is notoriously hard to take down, and Bader did it over and over. Unlike Rashad Evans, Bader was able to control Rampage once he got him down and did serious damage. Bader looks like a fighter working to get better and get back in the title picture, while Jackson looked like a former Pride star trying just to fight one more time in Japan. I'm not sure what's left for him now.
-Tim Boestch is my new favorite fighter.
-Now THAT is the Hatsu Hioki we were all expecting to show up last year. Bartimus is a tought, good fighter so that was a real solid win. I loved that quick front kick he throws, he's so long and fast, he would make a very interesting match-up to Jose Aldo because they are almost physical opposites. Aldo is short, powerful, and quick. Hioko is rangy, tall, and fluid. The popular choice might be the Korean Zombie (if he wins in Fairfax), but I'm thinking its time to do Aldo vs. Hioki. Unless (more below). . .
-Anthony Pettis is a beast . . . Joe Lauzon is a guy that wins fights he's not expected to but when he builds up momentum had has some expectations put on him, he folds. Pettis looked amazing and is now the guy who beat the new champion.
Awesome night of fights, here is where I think they should go next:
-Ben Henderson vs Anthony Pettis II - This is a no brainer because the story wrties itself. Both guys represent the WEC takeover of the UFC lightweight divison, they already proved they could put on a fight of the night, and Pettis won last time and was suppose to get a title shot against Edgar (or Maynard at the time). I know Pettis is 2-1 in the UFC, and only one of the fights was convincing but he's beaten Henderson before and the rest of the division is kind of in flux right now. Nate Diaz and Jim Miller are already fighting, Cerrone is coming off a bad loss, and for some reason Gilbert Melendez remains in Strikeforce hell.
-Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo - Its time to do this. Yes its strange for a fighter to get a title shot on his first fight in a weight class, but this is a business too and the UFC needs to be in the business of putting on the best possible fights. Hioki might make more common sense, but Aldo has yet to put his stamp on the UFC the way other dominate champions have and a fight with the popular former lightweight champion might be the way to do it. It would be a good test for both, and the featherweight division has not had a breakout star yet.
-Ryan Bader vs. Shogun Rua - Let's keep it going for Bader. I'm impressed with him. Some fighters regress when they take a bad loss (like the Ortiz fight) while the great ones take a deep breath and reassess. Bader did just that. He looks like he dropped some muscle mass and has picked up some speed. Bader's a top-tier lightweight and he proved it tonight. Shogun is coming off a loss so this makes sense for both.
-Rampage Jackson vs. Rich Franklin - We are firmly on the legends tour here, as Franklin hasn't fought in over a year. They seemed to have some bad blood over Franklin's comments about Rampage missing weight. But honestly, I'm not sure what Rampage should do. His last three premier fights, he's lost (Evans, Jones, Bader) and its clear he'll never be champion again and the elite of the division have moved past him. There is enough name recognition between the two of them to make it a good fights but I don't know what else there is for him.
-Jake Shields vs. Jon Fitch - Bring on the smelling salts, I know. But both guys are at similar crossroads in their careers having been to the title shot and fallen down since they got there. I know Jake just won and Fitch lost badly to Hendricks, but it would be a good test for both of them to see where they still stand.
-Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Diego Sanchez - And honestly, I don't even know of Akiyama is going to be in the UFC. He's 1-4 in the company has hasn't looked good at all. You could argue that he lost to Belcher, he got picked apart by BIsping, got subbed (!) by Chris Leben, and blitzed by Belfort. Now this. Perhaps he was way overrated heading into this run . . . more celebrity that fighter. If he stays, Sanchez will be a true test to see if he belongs.
-Tim Boestch vs. Mark Munoz - Look, The Barbarian knocked out a guy who just fought for the title. He deserves a chance at a top guy . . . and that win should move him far enough up the rankings that a fight with a top guy like Munoz. Not much else to say about Boestch, that was an incredible win when everything was against him.
-Yushin Okami vs. Michael Bisping - Bisping badly needs to get a top name on his list, something that has eluded him (although I thought he beat Sonnen). Both are coming off losses and both are credible enough that it would make for an interesting match-up.
-Hatsu HIoki vs. Poirier/Zombie winner - A good number 1 contenders match.
-Joe Lauzon vs. Donald Cerrone - Both guys had bad losses, both need a jumpstart, and both come to scrap so its win-win here.
-ONE last thing . . . 7 fights on the main card are waaaay too many.
The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.