If you are a fan of knockouts, relevant matchmaking, blood-soiled canvases and Mike Tyson cameos, then you, like me, had plenty to grin about on Saturday night. An extremely entertaining and significant fight card unfolded in the world’s fight capital at this weekend’s UFC 160, providing highlight reel finishes with major implications for several weight classes. To honor this adrenaline-summoning event, lets take a look back at a few of its more memorable features and what they mean for the future:
THE TYSON EFFECT:
As a fan of both MMA and boxing, I am thrilled that the UFC has embraced Mike Tyson as an elder statesmen of combat sports. Its what boxing would do if it had its act together. It doesn’t. The UFC does. Welcome to the UFC, Mike Tyson. There is something truly awesome about seeing fighter after fighter react with child-like glee to Tyson’s cage-side presence. Furthermore, as a life-long boxing fan who gravitated to MMA later in life, it is nice to see that the sweet science is alive and well under the umbrella of Mixed Martial Arts. MMA’s origin is most often associated with the traditions of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but it’s nice to see the storied history of boxing being embraced as a part of the heritage of modern MMA, as well. Tyson’s impact on the evening’s competitors made that clear and his presence pays homage to a rich tradition of the combat sports world that is an increasingly relevant octagon skill set. Hope to see him at future events. Would love to hear about him working with guys on boxing technique. If Joe Rogan can refine GSP’s spinning back kick, Tyson can certainly introduce a fighter or two to the uppercut.
KEEP AN EYE ON ROBERT WHITTAKER:
When I first saw Whittaker fight in the finals of “The Smashes”, I was impressed. His performance on Saturday night did nothing to discourage that impression. It may be true that we have not seen a ton of Robert Whittaker yet, but what I have seen has convinced me that this is a guy with all the tools necessary to be a force in the 170lb division. Great take down defense, impressive raw athleticism, dazzling striking, crazy-good footwork, resilient...the list goes on. However, if I had to distill what stands out the most, it would have to be his seeming ability to simultaneously move evasively, defend and remain aware of the take down and continue to land clean, effective strikes. He had a few “Spider-esque” moments the other night where he managed to land repeated lead hooks the face of Colton Smith while in full backpedal. Whittaker is a rare talent, can’t wait to see him again.
DOS SANTOS GETS IT DONE THE HARD WAY:
Going into his fight with Mark Hunt, I was 90% sure that Dos Santos was going to play it safe and turn this into a grappling match. Sure, it would be insanely fun to watch the two best strikers in the HW division go toe to toe, but no way was Dos Santos going to take a chance like that when he could easily outwrestle the kickboxing phenom. Why on earth would he do that? Apparently the answer was, to make a statement. And a statement he did make. For those of you who did not watch the co-main event, it turned out I was 100% wrong. For nearly 3 full rounds (save a brief grappling exchange in the second) Dos Santos and Hunt treated us to the high-level striking contest we had all hoped for. Impressively, Dos Santos was not only able to get the better of Hunt in the stand-up, but finished him late in the 3rd with a spinning wheel kick and brief, deadly ground and pound.
If you are an MMA fan, you cannot possibly ask for more than what Dos Santos (and Hunt, for that matter) gave you on Saturday night. Instead of taking the easier tactical approach (something in which there is zero shame, as far as I’m concerned), he chose to take on the bigger challenge of beating the Super Samoan at his own game and claiming the title of best striker in the heavyweight division. Velasquez-Dos Santos 3? YES, PLEASE.
SO, UH, T.J. GRANT IS PRETTY GOOD:
Wow. I actually had Grant winning this one, partially due to Maynard’s 11 month layoff, but primarily due to the insane tear T.J. has been on and the incredible diversity of weapons he brings to the table. However, I certainly did not expect him to be THAT effective. Grant has earned his shot at Benson’s belt and what is more is that I think he actually matches up quite well with the champ. I’m still picking Benson, but Grant can strike with the champ and might be able to put him in some tricky positions when the fight goes to the mat. Win or lose, I am looking forward to watching Grant compete at 155 for years to come, there are some great match-ups out there for him. T.J. Grant-Donald Cerrone anyone?
CAIN’S REIGN CONTINUES:
We all know how this one went. American Kickboxing Academy is apparently Bigfoot Kryptonite. Cain’s demolition of Antonia Silva did not take long, but he looked fantastic doing it. The UFC has a great HW champ who may well sit atop the throne for a long time, though Dos Santos, Daniel Cormier or even Jon Jones may eventually have something to say about it.
Well, that pretty much covers it, folks. Vegas puts another great night of fights on the books, the HW and LW title picture has been framed for the immediate future and Mike Tyson is officially UFC royalty. More rambling MMA tidbits coming soon, stay tuned.