UFC on Fox 7's FX card was amazing. Almost every fight delivered, and while the one that didn't, really didn't, it's a testament to this card's strength that it was able to pick itself up and soldier on. There were two Strikeforce vs. UFC fights on the card, as well as a couple of battles for top divisional standing. I'll run through the six fight FX card, and what it means for each of the fighters involved.
Dillashaw got stunned early by one of Viana's winging hooks, and it really looked like he was going to find himself out of his depth against a more aggressive, powerful striker. But as the fight wore on Viana's open, brawling style left him too open to the variety of attacks Dillashaw had in his arsenal. A clipping headkick saw Viana wobbled and the series of unanswered punches that followed left him crumpled on the mat.
I think this win does a lot to elevate T.J. Dillashaw to the official position of "hot prospect." Another couple of wins and he could find himself talking title contention in a thin division. Until then Francisco Rivera would make an awesome fight. For Viana this is a step back, and with a bad KO loss it's perhaps a large step back. I still think he has a long future in the division, and a fight against John Albert may make for a good bounce back fight.
This was a great feature fight for Masvidal and Means both. Masvidal proved, once again, that he's got the well developed skillset, and natural toughness, to put him at the deep end of the lightweight talent pool. And as for Means, he showed a nicely polished boxing game, that brings the sort of power that would have wrecked lesser fighters. He's got size and length, moves well and can throw a diverse range of hand and elbow strikes. Masvidal out pointed him with variety and experience, but neither fighter looked bad.
Masvidal deserves to be in the division's top twenty fighters going forward, no question. A lot of lightweights are tied up at the moment, but either Khabib Nurmagomedov or Rafael dos Anjos provided, either wins their next fight, would keep him on track towards the top ten. Means on the other hand, needs to round out his game. He's a dangerous boxer, but without other tools he'll become a win-one-lose-one mid card talent. Cristiano Marcello or Ryan Couture would both be solid tests to see how far Means can go.
Talk about a fight that tells us things we already know. Benavidez vs. Uyenonyama told us almost nothing about the flyweight division, other than that Joseph Benavidez is second best and everyone else (perhaps apart from John Dodson) is a distant third. Darren Uyenoyama fought this fight like he had everything well in control. He had a quiet confidence on the feet that was totally out of touch with his own skills and the fighter in front of him. He's had a similar demeanor in the past, but I don't know that it's cost him so dearly before. Eventually Benavidez hunted him down, hurt him with a liver kick, and drilled him with a couple hard body punches to seal the deal.
Benavidez hasn't fought John Dodson yet, and with the next flyweight title fight most likely in the works for mid-summer, that seems like the fight to make, to get someone another shot at Demetrious Johnson. As for Uyenoyama he's still a solid talent at 125 lbs. And hopefully this loss will provide a wakeup call that he needs to round out his game or fight to his strengths. A matchup with Tim Elliot, or the winner of Azamat Gashimov vs. Jussier Fromiga would both be good tests.
I brought up the idea a couple of weeks ago that this would be a big matchup to determine which of the recent TUF lightweights had some real potential in the division. Jury seems to have answered that question emphatically with his second round knockout of Ramsey Nijem. Jury started the fight by punishing Nijem in grappling exchanges, much like his bout against Michael Johnson. But unlike Johnson, Nijem doesn't posses a polished striking attack, and when he tried to rush in on Jury it got ugly... very ugly. Jury was able to slip an awkward flurry of punches and catch Nijem flush with a counter right. The punch put him out on his feet, and on any other night would have been an easy knockout of the night winner.
Jury definitely has a lot of upside, and a fight with Tony Ferguson feels like it would really separate the wheat from the chaff. But Ferguson is coming off a loss, so while that fight may happen down the road. Until then a fight with Renee Forte would be continue the UFC's system of pitting TUF talent against one another. For Nijem this is a big step back to the low end of the lightweight division. He's young and I think he can develop more, but a fight against Vinc Pichel or Mike Ricci is probably more his current speed.
There's no other way to paint this: this may be one of the most blatantly poor judging decisions in years. A split decision would have been bad, but understandable. The fact that all three judges saw this as 30–27 for Carmont is inexcusable. Practically every portion of Carmont's offense was neutralized throughout the fight. He got hit more and harder, and offered nothing in return. I can think of no distinct criteria by which he might have been considered a winner.
I have to assume that Carmont gets a lateral move for this (maybe even a step down), I can't see the UFC rewarding him. Maybe he and Nick Ring can hook-em-up on the facebook prelims. For Larkin, I'm hoping for a lateral move as well, because he didn't lose this fight, and anyone with eyes knows it. Brad Tavares has looked solid lately, I'd like to see them fight.
Chad Mendes continued the Duane Ludwig infomercial last night with the third stoppage due to strikes for a Team Alpha Male fighter on the card. There isn't a lot to say about this fight, other than it showed us, in quick fashion that there is a big difference between the top featherweights and the gatekeepers. Elkins is a good, tough fighter, but he's got a similar skill set to Ramsey Nijem and they fought to similar results. He still has a future at featherweight, but unless he can tighten his striking a lot, it will always be in a gatekeeper role.
Mendes is pretty clearly on the path back to a title shot. This win doesn't quite seal it, especially considering the next defence of Jose Aldo's belt isn't 'til August, so I'd like to see him get a fight against the winner of Dennis Siver vs. Cub Swanson. A matchup like that would give him a real opportunity to test his striking prowess. For Elkins, it's back to the Facebook portion of cards, where he'll quietly rebuild. A fight with Matt Grice would be a lot of fun once they're both medically fit.