The UFC returned to the Bay Area in style this past Saturday, once again taking full advantage of the broad exposure of network television by putting together crowd pleasing match-ups that managed to live up to the hype. The success and quality of the recent FOX cards gives me hope that the UFC will become a mainstay of the broadcasting giant and continue its rapid saturation of our popular culture. If Chael Sonnen is not doing an Old Spice commercial by the end of the year, I just don’t know what I will do.
Many an exciting moment took place at this weekend’s event, most of which have already been talked to death by the MMA media. However, in case you are not entirely sick of it yet, I plan to chuck a few more logs on the post-fight bonfire and see if I can’t violate a few local air pollution laws. Without further ado, I will proceed to hurl at you a few points of interest that have come to light in the past 48 hours.
IN WITH A BANG:
No single individual may have had more success on Saturday night than Duane “Bang” Ludwig. Former UFC fighter and new striking coach at the prolific Alpha Male camp saw 3 of his fighters display improved stand up skill and end their respective battles with the sweetest fruit known to the farmer’s market that is technical striking: the knockout. If you think that metaphor was a bit of a stretch, you would be correct, but quite frankly just WATCHING Dillishaw, Benavidez and Mendes unleash a combination of measured, yet lethal kicks and punches has left my mental cage a bit rattled. Call it head trauma’s version of second hand smoke.
Ludwig’s influence could be found in the firm success of all three of the card’s Alpha Male competitors, a display that may have just made Duane Ludwig one of the most sought after striking coaches in the country. Alpha Male fighters have been known primarily as excellent wrestlers with gritty determination and top notch conditioning. In bringing in Ludwig they have bolstered that combination with very technical, well rounded striking and the results are impressive.
GIL LIVES UP TO THE HYPE:
He may have lost, but Gilbert Melendez, widely considered the best Lightweight to never compete in the UFC before Saturday, fought to a razor close decision with the reigning champ, shooting down any remaining doubt that the organizational newcomer is amongst the very elite at 155. For the first couple of rounds Melendez seemed to have Benson Henderson figured out, using his excellent boxing to out-strike the champ standing and shrugging off take down attempts with expert wrestling. As the fight wore on, Henderson was able to find more of a rhythm, throwing a higher volume of kicks and picking up his pace as Melendez seemed to become more passive. Who won? I’ll leave that to the brainiacs who don’t have second hand head trauma. All I know if that it was about as close as it gets. Melendez deserves his place as the top ranked LW contender in the world as well as a rematch if he wins his next fight.
IF GIL IS FOR REAL...SO IS THOMSON...:
What’s more impressive than fighting to a razor close split-decision with the man who just fought to a razor close split-decision with the world champ? Knocking out a Diaz brother. Josh Thomson just did both of those things. In a row. Fighting outside of the UFC can get you left off of a lot of top ten division ranking lists, but after this weekend not only is it clear that Thompson belongs in the top ten, he may be in the top 5. A long time veteran of the sport, it’s obvious that Thomson has been WAY underrated for quite some time. Not anymore.
JUST HOW GOOD IS CORMIER?:
Daniel Cormier’s ascension through the MMA Heavyweight rankings has been so rapid, his rise to the top of the MMA scene so sudden that it is hard to know exactly how to rate him. He is somewhere between “very, very good” and “the best fighter on the planet”. It feels strange to say it, but given his elite wrestling, the seemingly overnight development of very effective boxing and the alarming speed and athleticism being displayed by a man his size, one is inclined to wonder if Cormier might not end up being the top ranked P4P fighter in the world in a year or two. He has a first round KO victory over Bigfoot Silva, who just KO’d one of the best strikers in the sport (Overeem). He absolutely manhandled the much larger, far more experienced Josh Barnett. He may not have secured a highlight reel finish on Saturday, but he completely dominated Frank Mir from opening bell to closing. All this by a man who no one doubts could make 205? Scary.
I’m rooting for Cormier to drop to 205 and face Jones late this summer. Bones is in dire need of someone to challenge him and Cormier poses a huge stylistic threat to the champ given his wrestling skill. However, it appears as though Cormier could be in a position soon to challenge for a title in both the HW and LHW classes, so we will see where his diverse options lead him.
THE BEAST IN HE:
Matt Brown is a beast of the highest order. long revered for being gritty, tough and well-rounded, I hope his performance this Saturday has convinced the MMA community that he is more than that-he is incredibly effective. It remains to be seen if Brown has dealt with the submission demons that plagued him throughout his 3 consecutive losses in 2010, but the man is on one hell of a role. Its time for him to take a step up in competition, Tarec Saffiedine might make for a fun fight.
FEAR THE BEARD:
This is more of an aside, but what the hell is going on with ref Mike Beltran’s facial hair? Whatever it is, I love it. I’m not even sure I can rightfully call it a beard, its more like what a beard might have nightmares about. And can you imagine the submission possibilities? I’ve thought of 3 or 4 new chokes one could perform if they had access to those deadly whiskers. Whatever his stylist is ingesting, I want me some.