A tough night for referees Kevin Mulhall and Dan Miragliotta. If you hear a referee's name mentioned during a fight, something has gone awry. That would be an understatement tonight as both officials made questionable calls while being slammed by commentators and fans, alike.
Mulhall got the party started by abruptly calling an end to Gian Villante's night after suffering an accidental eye poke. It might be a bad, frustrating call, but it was the correct one. If an athlete claims he can't see, the ref is bound to make that call. If not? I would assume he would suffer some sort of punishment at the hands of the athletic commission for failing to protect the fighter. Should Mulhall have given Villante five minutes to work himself out? Possibly, but once Villante says he can't see, I'm sorry, fight over.
Miragliotta kept the misery train rolling when Yancy Medeiros revealed mid-round to suffering a dislocated thumb against Rustam Khabilov. After consulting the ring-side doc the fight was quickly called, seemingly mystifying Medeiros. What exactly was he expecting? I know he's been out of the cage for a few years but he has to figure that isn't a quick fix and bam, back to the fight. He seemed gutted, which is understandable, but those are the breaks.
Aside from these gaffes, the rest of the prelims were fairly excellent. Steven Siler earned a gutsy, hard-earned win while Bryan Caraway looked impressive after filling in as a late replacement. Cody McKenzie vs. Leonard Garcia was a great, horrible fight I was happy to watch for free.
I was actually a bit disappointed with Sara McMann. Not so much her performance, but that it only lasted four minutes. McMann is on a crash course for a shot at Ronda Rousey's strap, but you'd like to see more of her work to sell that fight. Of what usable tape we have, much of it will be McMann being locked in full guard by and opponent praying to be stood up. An opponent, by the way, who likely had no business competing on this stage. If you need to be convinced of that fact, simply re-watch the fight's opening 10 seconds.
Pat Healy and Jim Miller quickly reminded me why this is such a tough way to make a living. My vote for 'Fight of the Night,' Healy looked to be getting big-brother'd early as Jim Miller picked up right where he left off with Joe Lauzon. Extended fits of grappling would eventually allow for Healy's much larger frame to break Miller down before securing a submission win.
A frustrating performance from Vinny Magalhaes. Comparable to the early struggles of fellow sport Jiu Jitsu phenoms Demian Maia and Rani Yahya, Vinny just hasn't turned the corner in MMA. Until he learns how to put his prey into positions where he can really use his elite skill set, we may be doomed to watch Magalhaes try to convince us of his striking. Phil Davis fought someone other than Wagner Prado, which is something. I would expect a booking against a fellow top 10 opponent to come shortly. Gegard Mousasi, perhaps?
How does Roy Nelson keep doing this? If you can manage to not stand still or move to your left you eliminate at least 60% of how 'Big Country' wins fights. I'm not trying to make light of what Nelson has been able to achieve, but my god. We're close to living in a reality where Roy Nelson is a UFC champion in 2013. A nightmare scenario for the promotion, but it would all be worth it to me just to see Dana struggle to put that belt around Roy's gut. Think about that the next time you're blowing out the candles on your cake.
Sort of a puzzling performance from Alan Belcher. He just never seemed to settle in and get into this fight against Michael Bisping. To his credit, much of that was due to Bisping maintaining a work rate that couldn't be matched. I just hope Belcher returns after what looked to be another devastating eye injury. Always a bridesmaid, the clock is ticking for Bisping to make a move on that elusive title shot. He needs a quality win over someone like Jacare Souza, Yushin Okami or Luke Rockhold to get back into that discussion.
Finally, we learned that Jon Jones could beat up Chael Sonnen minus a major digit. I applaud Sonnen. He's been such an incredible underdog against guys like Jones and Anderson Silva, and yet, we watch. Sonnen, the anti hero, sold this event. He's done more with less than anyone else on the roster and has cemented his legend with his larger than life personality.
Jones continues to impress, but really just doing what's expected of him. A tough way to earn fans. He's built his short career dismantling our former heros while not really sliding into that void to replace them. He's all of our's stepdad. Oddly enough, I think his painful, post-fight display could be just the thing to help endear him to people who see him as a calculated outsider surrounded by brands hopping on a trend.
There's really only one fight to make here. Few, if any, bankable fights remain for Jones at 205lbs and he needs to face Anderson Silva before he starts packing on the pounds. If tonight's presser is any indication, it sounds like Silva sees something about Jones he likes. Let's hope it happens sooner than later, for Silva's sake.