The morning after UFC 145 has come and it is time to look back to reflect on what we have learned. On the whole this card will not go down as the best card of 2012 as the action ebbed at times, but it was a solid showing for the UFC that I think most fans walked away from mostly satisfied.
Clearly the story coming out that event down in Atlanta is the victory of Jon Jones. The hype for this fight was drawn out as injury and maneuvering postponed this fight for many months. While the fight didn't fully live up to fan exceptions it was Jon Jones who walked away the winner, in the very building were Rashad Evans ascended to the elite ranks of the Light Heavyweight division with his knockout of Chuck Liddell. With this victory Jon Jones is well on his way to being the best Light Heavyweight ever as in a short period of time he has beaten a whose who list of former champions at that weight. Jones has dispatched Maurcio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida and now Rashad Evans; leaving only the faded Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin as the former champions Jones hasn't faced.
It has already been announced that Jones will fight Dan Henderson next, the only fight left that makes sense for him at 205-pounds. If he wins Jones should move up to Heavyweight. Jones can test his wares at the next weight level and the Light Heavyweights sort themselves out. There are quality prospects that need time to develop fully in Alexander Gustafsson and Phil Davis, that would be stunted if they were thrown to Jones this year. And then, if in between one to two years from now, Rashad Evans is the Light Heavyweight Champion again and Jones is the Heavyweight Champion the UFC has a super fight rematch that would do insane Pay-Per-View buys.
Lets get into my take on UFC 145 after the jump...
- Jon Jones' striking took a huge step forward last night. His hands were sharp and quick, throwing a very effective jab and straight right. His defensive hand fundamentals looked very solid. His hands were always up, and even when he was punching they returned properly to their positions and absorbed punches that otherwise could have caused trouble. Jones has always had good kicks, but those hard, straight punches give him another nasty weapon to use at range. At this point I think it is safe to say that Jones doesn't have knock out power in his hands but his shots clearly hurt as a few stiff punches from him convinced Rashad that he really didn't want to keep coming forward.
- I know people hate the Jon Jones to Muhammad Ali comparisons that have been forced down our throats the last few weeks, but I'm going to compare Jones to a Heavyweight champion boxer. The hand fighting that Jones used to set up those nasty standing elbows reminded me of Jack Johnson, who liked to use to extend his long arms in a clinch to set up offense in a similar manor. Just another example of how this kid is just an innovator in the cage.
- Rashad looked game for about two rounds, even after those elbows started landing, he connecting overhand with rights and even a head kick. Rashad looked like he belonged in the cage with Jones for those two rounds and clearly all the questions we can ask about Jones' chin have been answered, the kid can take a punch. In the third round, however Jones imposed is range and took that fight over. Once Rashdad got stuck at range he had very little to offer an improving Jones. And even when he tried to wrestle, Jones made great use of his length. Jones would get wrist control with his right arm and just push Rashad's arm away to the point where it was completely out of the action.
- Enough about the main event, on to the under card. Rory MacDonald's grappling looked excellent against Che Mills, who the UFC broadcast team when out of their way to over sell. MacDonald passed guard easily, had excellent side control, good moves to mount and the back and finished the fight with nasty ground-and-pound. That said, MacDonald ate some very hard punches in that first round and seemed to dive in for a emergency takedown at one point. Good win, but I want to see MacDonald against somebody tougher on the feet and one the mat. This might be a job for B.J. Penn or Nick Diaz if either of them decided to come out of retirement.
- Brendan Schaub is chinny, plain and simple. It happening once is getting caught, twice is a pattern and now a third time it is official, Schaub while being an athletic talent he just doesn't take a punch well. That pretty much caps his ability to be an impact heavyweight because, well, he doesn't respond well to impacts.
- I'm actually excited to see Ben Rothwell fight again after that fight, he looked to be in great shape. I think the winner of Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve would be ideal.
- Holy smokes did Michael McDonald blow the doors off of Miguel Torres! That is some crazy power. This kid is a fight away from fighting for a title, and rightfully so. I can't wait to see this kid in action yet.
- Side note though, I know McDonald is young but he had serious acne on his back. While that in itself proves nothing, consider my eyebrows officially raised. I'm not convinced there is anything wrong but I also will not be surprised if a high T level comes up in any future drug tests for this kid.
- Miguel Torres days as a contender are done. He will be a fantastic gatekeeper and action fighter as he has is still a very good fighter. But the division is changing quickly and there isn't a place for Torres in the title picture.
- Eddie Yagin has some freaking hand speed. He was beating Hominick to the punch all night by simple virtue of throwing every punch as hard as he could. Yagin built up an early lead with hard strikes and then held on to it as he slowed down and Hominick started landing more.
- Chad Griggs is not a UFC level fighter and Travis Browne trucked right over him. Griggs had some fun moments in Strikeforce but he just isn't skilled enough to hang with real heavyweights. Griggs seemed to have no clue how to defend the arm-triangle, pushing Browne to wrong side and then trying to punch his way out instead of attempting a real escape.
- Stephen Thompson will learn a lot from his loss to Matt Brown, namely what he needs to adjust to succeed in MMA. First of all he needs to shore up his ground game, Thompson looked every bit a blue belt on the mat, making common beginner mistakes on the bottom against the much more experienced Matt Brown. And I know that Thompson is staying true to his karate roots, but he needs to keep his hands up. As Thompson got tired a gassed Matt Brown was able to put hands on his face, and based on that I can only conclude that other welterweight strikers like Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit, or Martin Kampmann would blast Thompson after one round. I still think Wonderboy has a future in the UFC but he needs to tweak his game.
- Similar to the Jones/Evans fight, Anthony Njokuani's victory was seal by his efficient use of this hands. Njokuani kept John Makdessi at range and damaged him with hard, straight punches. While not the most exciting fight, this was a very interesting fight as there was a great deal of gamesmanship with angles and distance control.
- While last night's card wasn't thrilling, it also wasn't bad. I'm glad I don't hear a chorus of world is ending overreactions by fans and media that a less than thrilling card used to generate. "How can we compete with other sports if it is this boring?!" and the like has not been heard thus far and this a good thing. MMA is here to stay and we can survive a card were the fights were as exciting as they were hyped up to be.