UFC on FOX 7 started out with a bang and some might argue, ended with kind of a whimper. I don't buy that narrative, but the last two bouts, including the one for the lightweight belt, felt unfinished.
Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez was an enjoyable fight. On a technical level, there was some scattered brilliance, from Henderson's leg kicks to Gilbert's takedown defense. Minus Henderson's jab, which he still pumps like he's operating a View-Master, both men looked sharp.
They just couldn't seem to fight with enough urgency (or maybe the styles simply didn't allow for urgency). That's been the story at lightweight for the past several years; the lack of a dominant champion. While I didn't keep a personal scorecard, the fight felt like a draw. Some people might have hated that, especially by "in order to be the champ you have to beat the champ" logic, but all fighters perform under the same rules as free from prejudice as the next guy; the idea that the champ gets his/her own scorecard is a ludicrous notion.
Nonetheless, I didn't feel like either guy ran away with the fight. Henderson had the most eye-popping moments, but Melendez seemed a bit more comfortable for the majority of the bout.
Speaking of eye popping moments, it'd be great if the UFC slowed down on their commitment to "let me bang bro!" and "face the pain now step to this!" and made a big deal about Henderson's proposal. The UFC wants to be considered a sport, yet it constantly ignores the human stories in favor of macho theatrics, and pro wrestling vendettas. It was a sweet, tender moment complete with a Good Will Hunting reference that says more about an individual's humanity than a million promos cut to eardrum rupturing frat metal while fighter X mentions how much he hates fighter Y.
Anyway, on to the rundown:
- Looks like we have several number one contender matches going on at once with Gray Maynard vs. T.J. Grant and Anthony Pettis vs. Jose Aldo all in the running (now with more Thomson). Hell, even Gilbert Melendez has an argument. Not sure which fight I like most (especially if Grant beats Gray), but I do know that this is a great problem to have.
- Josh Thomson looked brilliant against Nate Diaz. He's still as fast as he's ever been, but the challenge still remains as to whether or not he can stay healthy. As much as I'd like to see him fight Cerrone, he needs someone fresh off a victory, so a nice low profile but high octane fight should be in order. Like Khabib Nurmagomedov, or Edson Barboza.
- Nate has a hell of a chin to be able to take that kick and not be dead, but good lord is that a weakness in Cesar Gracie's camp. Be it high, or low, they just can't defend the foot clan.
- Daniel Cormier has to sit low on this list because frankly, I had forgotten all about him. Not for long, as he's still one of the sport's premier talents, but his bout with Frank Mir was completely forgettable. Content to sit against the cage, there was little to be excited about until Mir started throwing kicks in the third round. Still, everyone is afforded a trivial performance every now and then, and I'm still excited for Daniel's future, and you should be too. It's not like Mir took a proactive role in the fight.
- Mir loses twice in a row for the first time ever, and yet it still feels like he's in the same place he's always been; on the outside looking in. He talks a lot about how much he enjoys commentary, and frankly, I'd like to see it. Mir gets poked for his bias, especially in the WEC when it seemed like he was transported to a loved one's funeral during Miguel Torres' first loss as champ, but he's a knowledgeable commentator. Plus...anything to avoid watching him in things like this.
- Is there a manlier performance so far this year than Matt Brown's against Jordan Mein? Of course not. Not only was it a gritty show, but Brown looked like he did some actual homework. He never let Mein set up, or keep his distance. He just charged forward with punches, kicks, knees, and elbows like it was the Battle of Blackwater.
- The less said about Lorenz Larkin losing to Francis Carmont, the better. Scratch that. Michael Bell, Derek Cleary and Co. have a responsibility. Their job is to ensure that a fighter who earns the money he's owed to put food on the table for his family receives it when his performance justifies it. Shame on these men for denying Larkin that.
- T.J. Dillashaw with another knockout in the span of a month. Hugo Viana looked good early, and then Dillashaw went into "is that all you got?!?!" mode.