Was this a great card? No, but it was a very good card. There were a some submissions, a couple of TKO's, a controversial decision, a few impressive debuts, and of course, violence. Always boils down to violence. Hell yeah!
The main event established that Luke Rockhold isn't a pretender (but Costas Philippou is) and it isn't crazy to mention him in the same breath as Michael Bisping or Lyoto Machida. I think a lot of people forgot that he beat Jacare to obtain the Strikeforce belt in the first place. He is for real people! He should get another shot at a Top 5 fighter next to help clear up the muddled middleweight picture. I'm sure some people are going to bitch that his victory over Philippou means nothing as most feel Philippou was exposed previously by Francis Carmont, but no one had been able to put away Philippou in his career yet and Rockhold did so with relative ease. As for Philippou... poor guy. He isn't going to get cut by any means, but no one will mistake him for a Top 10 fighter again now that he has officially been exposed... similar to what he did to Tim Boetsch.
Other quick notes: Brad Tavares graduated from prospect to fringe contender. TJ Dillashaw stamped his legitimacy. Yoel Romero won by TKO (can he win any other way?). And judging is going to once again be ridiculed after the John Moraga-Dustin Ortiz verdict.
Lets get into more detail and make it easier for you to search for what you're really looking for... both of ya that read this:
* indicates my prediction was correct
*Luke Rockhold defeated Costas Philippou via 1st Round TKO
I'm sure ending the fight by kicks was somewhat vindicating for Rockhold as he lost his head to a kick in his last bout with Vitor Belfort. So what if it was body kicks? They were impressive as hell! He used his length very effectively and didn't let Philippou get inside to land any effective shots. Once he discovered Philippou was leaving the liver kick open, he took advantage and landed multiple shots. What he did isn't rocket science: He found a weakness and exploited it. That is exactly what you are supposed to do in any competition. Thats why Rockhold was the Strikeforce champion and thats why there was so much hype around him when he entered the UFC. Its only appropriate his next opponent is high profile and an opportunity to move up in the standings. The winner of Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi next month is about the only one that makes sense to me. Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy have been feuding for a while on Twitter, so I don't see that one not happening. Rockhold has already beaten Jacare Souza (who likely wouldn't fight Machida anyway considering they are teammates) and Vitor has next with Chris Weidman. So the winner of Machida and Mousasi is all that is left. Not that its disappointing. I look forward to it. As for Philippou... I hope he enjoyed the main event spotlight cause I doubt he will ever see it again. He won a earned a controversial TKO over Tim Boetsch (who was further exposed over the past year as a pretender) a year ago and in the course of the last two fights suffered the same fate as Boetsch. He is a serviceable middle of the division fighter who should be able to keep employment in the world's best fighting organization for a while... but that is it. Lets face it though, that ain't exactly a bad thing. He'll need a step down and the guy coming to mind is Ed Herman. Herman is tough as nails and has been around the organization for 8 years now. Philippou would have the striking advantage, but Herman is a good grappler and scrappy as hell.
Brad Tavares defeated Lorenz Larkin via Decision
I'm not surprised that Tavares won (especially by decision), but how smoothly he won. Especially if you eliminate the lazy third round. Sure, Larkin had his moments and landed some nice combinations, but Tavares seemed to have an answer for just about every strike that Larkin landed and was usually first off of the draw anyway. He scored some well-timed takedowns as well once he had the round in tow as well, showing a high fight IQ. It isn't that people haven't recognized him as a solid prospect... its that he has only done just enough to get the victory every time out. He did a bit more than that (yes, just a bit, he cruised through the third round) this time out though and I'm sure everyone agrees that the training wheels are off now. I think a match with Thales Leites is in order. I realize that Leites was rated lower than Larkin, but I feel Leites is disrespected due to his horrible fight with Anderson Silva back in '09. He is a better test than Larkin. Larkin is not a bad fighter by any means... Tavares just had a better plan, which was to disrupt Larkin's timing and prevent him from getting into a groove. He didn't really have an answer for Tavares wrestling either... which shouldn't have been as overwhelming as it was anyway. He'd be well-matched against fellow card loser Derek Brunson. Brunson isn't that much older and they are in a similar position as Strikeforce crossovers/prospects coming off of losses. Plus, facing Brunson would force Larkin to work on his wrestling, thus making him a better fighter in the long run. Both should get better, but it would help to know which is a better candidate to promote.
*TJ Dillashaw defeated Mike Easton via Decision
I expected Dillashaw to win the fight decisively, but not quite that decisively. The fact that this fight went to decision is a credit to Easton's chin more than a knock on Dillashaw's ability to put his opponent away. The first half of round one was close, but it was all Dillashaw after that. He landed a little bit of everything from punches, to knees, to kicks, and elbows. Though he exhibited little of his grappling game (though he did get a couple of takedowns), ya gotta remember Dillashaw was a raw striker as he came into the UFC so I was more concerned how the striking would look and it looked fantastic. He isn't ready to be #1 contender quite yet, but he isn't far off. I really would like to see him in a bout with recent #1 contender Eddie Wineland. Wineland has a bout with Yves Jabouin coming up at the next UFC event and if he can get past him (more than likely) there should be no reason not to match these two up. As for Easton... ya gotta love the guy! He's always coming forward despite the fact that he was taking a beating. Yes, that was his third loss in a row. But Dana White loves guys like him with good reason. He isn't going anywhere. He does need a step down in competition though. I think Johnny Bedford is a good option for him. Bedford has had injury issues, but if he is healthy he is always a game opponent. I'm sure others will say George Roop is a better option... but my gut is saying Bedford.
*Yoel Romero defeated Derek Brunson via 3rd Round TKO
I'll give Romero credit in the fact that his come-from-behind victory was impressive. Same with the fact that he ate that head kick in the first round. But considering this is the second victory in a row in that fashion, I'm starting to worry about him. It seems his only way of winning is to wait for the power punch (or knee) to connect and pound it out from there if that isn't enough. Don't get me wrong, it was a good and entertaining fight. But as I know praise is going to be sung towards Romero (deservedly so... to a point), I feel its necessary to throw up the flags that I can see. As he moves up the middleweight ladder, what he has shown is not going to be enough for him to become a contender. He was outwrestled by Brunson as well which is bad for him considering that is supposed to be his base as he was a Silver medal Olympian wrestler. But considering his age (36), I doubt the UFC wants to take a lot of time to let him develop and will likely give him another step up in competition. I expect him to be matched up with Tim Boetsch next. Boetsch scored a controversial victory in his last fight with CB Dolloway, but is a tough competitor and would test Romero's ability to put away an opponent. I'm walking away from this fight more impressed with Brunson than I was before despite the loss. He utilized a good plan to keep Romero at a distance (at least the first two rounds) showing a better standup game than he had previously shown (except maybe the head kick... remember Brian Houston?) and further showed his wrestling chops by taking down Romero and maintaining control for a while.
John Moraga defeated Dustin Ortiz via Decision
If the internet forums could chant "bullshit," they would be doing so over this decision. I picked Ortiz in this fight and don't regret it even if Moraga "won" in the end. I had Ortiz getting the final round and the victory. I did get the fact though that it would be controversial at least. I was wrong about the ground being Moraga's world as Ortiz used top control to take the first round. Moraga recovered to land a big shot and took advantage of Ortiz slipping to take the second. I admit that the third was the closest, but I thought that it was clearly Ortiz. He scored two takedowns, maintained the dominant position for a while, and landed the better combinations before it hit the ground. Moraga looked about how he did against Chris Cariaso: he found himself in some bad positions but was able to maintain his composure and took advantage of the opening when it was provided. The difference is he didn't finish Ortiz. He is still a solid fighter, but I feel he justified the fact that the only reason he got his title fight against Johnson was due to lack of options. Its hard to figure out what to do with him at this point. I'm going to say that he should get Joseph Benavidez though. It will probably be a long time before either Moraga or Benavidez are even considered for a rematch with the champ, but having them face off would likely be a definitive eliminator for one of them. Ortiz would be tested by Darren Uyenoyama who is coming off of a loss to Alptekin Ozkilic. Uyenoyama is a jiu-jitsu expert and would likely force Ortiz to win some way other than going to the ground. Its a good test for his growth.
Miller showed more composure than I can remember him ever showing before. He has rushed into brawls with Steven Siler and Nam Phan before, but did an effective job of maintaining his distance in the striking using his reach and got the better of Sicilia on the feet where Sicilia was supposed to have the advantage. Miller stunned Sicilia with a straight right to start the second and swarmed shortly thereafter and took the fight to the ground where he eventually maneuvered for a RNC. Miller promised to be more consistent in his post-fight interview (which would make him a dark horse if true) and also called out Donald Cerrone. Its unknown if Cerrone would want to move down to featherweight (despite talk of him doing so a few months ago), but it would be a fun fight. If not, he called out Conor McGregor after his last fight and with Miller having now won 3 of his last 4 this match makes sense. I would bank more on this than the former. Sicilia will stick around as he has yet to be in a boring fight. I'd like to see him matched up with Steven Siler who himself is never in a boring fight. I would doubt that one would go 15 minutes.
This match showed growth on the part of both fighters. Nijem showed patience which was something he hadn't shown much of and Edwards showed a more diverse striking arsenal. Nijem got clipped in the first round at one point and rather than panic he calmly countered with a left as Edwards looked to swarm. It didn't win him the fight, but I feel that moment defined the match and Nijem's growth. Throw in the guillotine choke he worked his way out of early in the second and its easy to call this Nijem's best outing. He landed a knee as Edwards got to his feet in the second round and that led to him controlling the rest of the fight as Edwards never really recovered. Edwards landed a funky spinning kick and tried to threaten with subs in the third but Nijem showed patience and was never in any real trouble. Its hard to say that Nijem needs a step up as I feel he matched up well with Edwards, even though I have been gushing over his development. Katsunori Kikuno has an awkward fighting style that no one really knows what to make of at this point. Nijem's wrestling would match up much better than Kikuno's last victim Quinn Mulhern. Edwards could very well be cut as this loss puts him at 2-4 in the organization. His only reprieve would be that this was his lightweight debut and he has always been willing to scrap. If he sticks I think he'd be the perfect guy to face Roger Bowling who has lost three in a row (with a no contest mixed in there).
I said that Vallie-Flagg would keep going forward in applying pressure on his opponent. He tried, but Silverio's size (and power) wouldn't allow him to do so to any effective degree. Considering that I had mentioned that Silverio would make for a big lightweight, I can't help but kick myself in retrospect. The fight was never close and Silverio imposed his will on Vallie-Flagg throughout the match. Silverio attacked with a variety of elbows and punches both standing and on the ground as he spent a good amount of time in Vallie-Flagg's half-guard. Silverio showed he is a prospect to keep your eye on at lightweight. Tony Ferguson make an impressive return to the Octagon a few months ago and could use a test similar to Silverio. I'd like to see that match made. Vallie-Flagg is 35 and may not have a lot of time left in his career. He has had back issues and those have a tendency of flaring up again. I hope not. I think Justin Salas makes for a good challenge though. Neither seem to have a high ceiling and the UFC has a lot of fighters in the division. They may be looking to trim some excess fat and this match would be a good option to discover whom to trim.
*Trevor Smith defeated Brian Houston via Decision
This match wasn't a stinker, but it sure didn't get the blood boiling either. But I can say that a lot was learned from this match. Houston may have lost the match (deservedly so), but I would say he impressed me more than Smith. Smith landed a few takedowns (where he wasn't able to do much), but it was the threat of the takedown that allowed him to be the aggressor in the third and decisive round. Houston was to tentative to aggressively throw and Smith jabbed his way to the decision in the end. Houston did show spectacular striking ability (even if just briefly) in the second and opened up Smith with a beautiful left hook. I can now see why the UFC signed him in the first place. But it wasn't enough and Smith pulled it out by virtue of having been there and done that and realizing what needs to be done to squeak out the W. But he showed there is no reason to plan for him to go a long way up the ladder. He makes a good measuring stick for prospects and Uriah Hall would be a good choice to line him up against. Hall certainly has more talent and ability, but his IQ has been questionable at times. Smith will make him fight smart if he wants to win. As for Houston, I feel he's way too green to be fighting at this level. He's probably gonna be let go and fight in smaller organizations. But don't forget his name. I could easily see him gaining the needed experience and end up back in the big leagues in about two years.
Louis Smolka defeated Alptekin Ozkilic via Decision
The first round had FOTN written all over it as both came out swinging and looking to end the fight. Smolka landed a bunch of vicious knees to the body while Ozkilic was able to take it to the ground a few times in addition to some nice shots of his own to take the first round. But those early knees seemed to make the difference as Ozkilic couldn't find his wind after that a Smolka largely picked him apart and efficiently countered and transitioned out of Ozkilic's takedown attempts. When Ozkilic wasn't trying to go to the ground at that point Smolka largely picked him apart as none of Ozkilic's shots had any gas behind them. Smolka looked good and fought smarter than I've seen him fight before. If he continues to progress and is able to stay in the division (he has a large frame for a flyweight) he could become a contender in a short time. A match with Justin Scoggins could determine who the future of the division is between the two young strikers. Do I normally like matching up young prospects this early in their UFC careers? No, but the division is shallow and contenders NEED to be separated from pretenders. Ozkilic looked good early, but after Smolka's attack on his body exposed a shallow gas tank, he is going to need to address that. Richie Vaculik lost his debut (to Scoggins) and is a good test to prove whether Ozkilic is UFC-worthy. It would likely be a loser-leaves-town match.
Both fighters looked much better than they did in their debuts and really have nothing to be ashamed of. Pichel was clearly the better fighter here and showed that his disastrous debut didn't ruin him mentally. He had the advantage both standing and on the ground, but realized that the advantage was greater on the ground and kept it there after the first round. Considering his ceiling is limited though I don't want to spend to much time on him. He could become a low-level gatekeeper, but that would be it. Mairbek Taisumov scored a victory in his debut at the UFC's last event and will likely be brought along slowly. Pichel makes for a good litmus test. As for Whiteley, he was certainly game showing good heart by refusing to give up despite being in some bad situations, but he shouldn't be in the UFC. I don't want to, but I'd say its the end of the road for the former soldier in the Octagon. At least he showed well enough this time that he should have an outside chance of being an injury replacement if he does well on the lower levels.
I ended up with mud on my face after Dariush landed a powerful left to Brenneman to drop him and then showed a lot of composure by waiting for the submission to develop rather than gas himself out by dropping bombs that may or may not have put out Brenneman. I don't feel to badly though knowing that there are plenty of others with mud on their face as many other than myself picked Brenneman. Dariush has put himself on quite a few watch lists as his debut victory came against a respected UFC veteran. He looked comfortable in the spotlight and few would have guessed that was only his seventh fight. He was able to show both his ground and standup game and I'm sure all were impressed. I'd like to see how he does against the consistently inconsistent Sam Stout. Some might say that would be throwing him in the deep end (if the good version of Stout shows up it would be), but I would have said that about Brenneman too. Brenneman looked as though he had polished up his striking game in the short time it was on the feet. He very well could be a better fighter than we last saw him in the Octagon and he simply got caught. He should get at least one more fight. I like the probability of matching him up with Piotr Hallman. Hallman showed well against veteran Francisco Trinaldo before coming up short against Al Iaquinta. It should be a fairly equal match.
Record for Card: 7-5
Record for Year: 15-7
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