There were certainly some disappointing fights as one fight ended via DQ before the first round even ended and there was a major stinker on the undercard. But considering how well the main event went, I don't think the UFC was disappointed in how their first card strictly available on the new UFC Fight Pass went.
Tarec Saffiedine and Hyun Gyu Lim both laid it out on the line and gave the fans everything they can ask for. Even though it went all 25 minutes, there were plenty of close stoppages and even a premature celebration from Saffiedine. It was clear that Saffiedine was going to walk out the winner, but Lim pushed himself further than he has before and is bound to grow from the fight as well. Throw in the fact that long time Japanese legend Tatsuya Kawajiri had a successful debut by stoppage which means everything that really mattered went well for the UFC.
Admittedly, some of the fighters didn't seem to be UFC caliber and may not hang around long, which was the primary complaint with fans about this card. But Dana White can at least rub in our face that Roysten Wee, he of all of two fights, walked out a victor and proved Dana right in that regard. If the UFC is trying to develop more unpolished talent, this was a good start. Using this strategy should keep some of the up and coming talent out of WSOF and (more importantly to Dana) Bellator.
So some of the details and what lies ahead for the participants:
* indicates I was right in my pick... not that any of you care.
*Tarec Saffiedine defeated Hyun Gyu Lim via Decision
The Match: This was one of those matches where both contestants upped their stock. Lim started the first round strong and tripped up Saffiedine while landing the cleaner and stronger shots, using fists and knees. Saffiedine began to find his range in the second round and as Lim came forward, he landed some killer kicks into Lim's left thigh. By the end of the third, Lim was clearly struggling to even stay on his feet as Saffiedine continued to mix in some punches and knees and started to put the pressure on Lim. Lim fell twice to leg kicks to start the fourth round and Saffiedine spent the end of the round giving some GNP to Lim. Lim knew he needed a finish and came out the aggressor in the last round and had Saffiedine reeling briefly. Saffiedine put him on the ground again with a leg kick at about 2 minutes left. Lim got back to his feet and Saffiedine tried to float in and out picking his shots. Lim rocked Saffiedine in the final seconds and rushed in with a flying knee and punches to try and put Saffiedine out, but was unable to do so. Wow, wow, and wow. Very good match and certainly worth watching again.
Next for Saffiedine: Saffiedine is going to be labeled along with Edson Barboza and Jose Aldo for his devastating leg kicks as that marks two fights in a row in which his opponents leg were visibly bruised and affected by the continued kicks. He definitely should get someone in the top ten for his next fight. He isn't quite a contender yet, but he is close. I don't know how long Matt Brown will be sidelined by his herniated discs in his back, but I would hope it isn't too long. He is an ideal choice for Saffiedine. Perhaps another attempt to line him up with Jake Ellenberger would be worth trying too. Either way, Saffiedine would get a big jump in the standings if he beats either one.
Next for Hyun Gyu Lim: As stated earlier, Lim's stock went up with this fight. He showed heart by refusing to give in even as he could barely stand. He even damn near ended the match at the end as Saffiedine was hurt. Lim seemed to walk right into Saffiedine's plan though, but its hard to fault him as he played into his own strengths as well. Either way, he certainly won over any fans that watched him fight. Martin Kampmann has won a "of the Night" award in 4 of his last 6 bouts and is coming off a loss to Carlos Condit. This would be about as fair of a match as you'll find and you could expect another "of the Night" award between these two.
*Tatsuya Kawajiri defeated Sean Soriano via 2nd Round Submission
The Match: As expected, Kawajiri wanted the fight on the ground and made multiple attempts to get it there while Soriano wanted to keep it standing. Kawajiri ended up getting Soriano down in the first round and attempted a RNC before pounding on Soriano via GNP before the round ended. It didn't take long into the second round before Kawajiri was able to take Soriano's back and sink in another RNC, but putting him to sleep this time (Soriano tried to tap, but went out before finishing the tap). Fairly one-sided, but a good fight. Kawajiri lived up to his "Crusher" moniker for sure.
Next for Kawajiri: Kawajiri is looking at himself as an immediate contender in the featherweight division and wants a name opponent. At 35, its an understandable approach. He was aggressive in going for takedowns and showed he definitely belongs in the UFC, but he did seem very tired at the end and I fear he would gas in a 15 minute fight. A step up in competition is certainly warranted, but I wouldn't go as far as giving him a contender yet. Later this month, Jeremy Stephens and Darren Elkins face off and the winner of those two would be a fair step up to test where Kawajiri is at this point in his career.
Next for Soriano: Soriano showed some ability in the short time he was in there, but was physically overwhelmed by the muscular Kawajiri. He showed some striking technique and escaped Kawajiri's attempts to pound on him or submit him early. He is only 24 and I'm sure he will learn a lot from this encounter. But he really needs a step down in competition. Mike Wilkinson hasn't fought since June due to injury and would be a measuring stick to see if Soriano belongs in the UFC.
The Match: Hell of a disappointing end to the fight. The elbows that Dutra landed on Kunimoto were clearly to the back of the head and thus illegal, so the DQ loss to Dutra is warranted. I do believe that he was trying to get the side of the head, so I don't think he was being malicious. Not much else was definitive before the elbows as they traded position clinching against the fence throwing punches and knees and a little bit of stand up in the middle, but nothing to indicate either fighter was definitively winning. But Kunimoto was clearly down and out.
Next for Kunimoto: Very little is still known about Kunimoto and this is compounded by the fact that there is very little film available on him. I wouldn't want to match him up with someone coming off a win or a loss as his victory was far from definitive. Andreas Stahl had to pull out of a fight last month and still has yet to make his debut and is unknown to many fans. Can't think of anything else that makes more sense.
Next for Dutra: Dutra was very emotional after the match and it seems this was the worst possible outcome for the Brazilian. Its difficult to know what to do with him at this point. He indicated that he would like to drop to lightweight after this fight, so perhaps match him up with fellow card loser Tae Hyun Bang who didn't show much in his debut. I think Dutra showed more in his 3 minutes than Bang though.
The Match: Two points! 90% of the time referees only issue warnings for illegal blows any more and Steve Perceval deducted two points for two 12-6 elbows? I would have been fine with one point, but two was excessive. Luckily, it didn't end up being a factor in the match as Kang was able to finish it. Beyond that, the story of this fight was the obvious size difference between the two fighters as Kang was much bigger than Shimizu and enforced his will rather easily. Kang wrestled him to the ground in the first round and had a nice triangle locked up before landing the illegal elbows. He showed nice GNP in the second round when Shimizu stupidly pulled guard and allowed Kang to get in position to pound on him. More of the same came in the third before he locked in the arm triangle choke with about a minute left. A somewhat entertaining but not competitive bout. The submission wasn't too bad though.
Next for Kang: Many feel that Kang should have at least two if not three wins in the UFC now as he lost two controversial decisions before this fight. He is still young though so I wouldn't expect him to be rushed. I like the idea of matching him with Dustin Kimura who also picked up a submission victory on the card and is a large bantamweight himself.
Next for Shimizu: I have to admit that Shimizu is game... but it seemed there was an entire weight class between him and Kang. Yes, he showed a lot of heart and is a tough little dude, but he really needs to be fighting at flyweight. Otherwise he is going to be overwhelmed every time out. Ryan Benoit is also coming off of a submission loss and has nothing on his schedule. Shimizu would have a much better chance of victory here.
The Match: Chope showed better ability to use his length to maintain distance to start the fight... but then Holloway found his range and rhythm and the barrage of fists and spinning kicks commenced. Holloway first got off at the end of the first round and Chope was saved by the bell. Chope showed some toughness by surviving the first onslaught that Holloway threw at him to start the second round, but the second wave was too much for Chope to overcome. Not a bad match. Worth watching as both exhibit a fair amount of potential.
Next for Holloway: Its good to see Holloway get back on track. At 22, he owns a lot of potential and I would like to see continued development from him. But he isn't ready for primetime yet. Keep in mind he lost his last match to a one-legged Conor McGregor. Robbie Peralta is coming off a win against Estevan Payan that required a last round KO, but he hasn't beat anyone who would be considered a mainstay in the UFC... kind of like Holloway (unless you count Leonard Garcia, who stayed longer than he should have). Good next step for either one.
Next for Chope: Chope is still very raw. He showed some improvement in his striking, but no one ever expected him to really match Holloway's striking ability. But I like his potential and hope that the UFC gives him a winnable match next. I don't know why Godofredo Pepey is still around, but he is as far as I know. Pepey does have ability and could beat Chope, but Chope could beat him too. I think it would be fun at the least.
The Match: As expected, this was an awkward match to watch thanks to Kikuno's unorthodox karate style. Kikuno would stalk Mulhern and often attempt to throw one strike at a time with a lot of power behind it, avoiding combinations. When they landed, they were hurting Mulhern, but they never landed clean enough to end the fight. Mulhern largely was looking for takedowns and would pull guard once he couldn't get it, giving Kikuno the top position. Kikuno would throw a few punches, but not a lot, from the top before standing back up. And this was a continual theme the entire fight. This was not a fun fight to watch. Styles make fights and these two made for a boring affair.
Next for Kikuno: While he picked up the victory, Kikuno didn't impress anyone. Mulhern didn't want to have anything to do with his stand up and nothing about his GNP impressed. Considering Mulhern was a grappler, the UFC would be wise to match Kikuno up with a striker and let his talent shine through. KJ Noons is what comes to my mind. Noons is coming off of a less than impressive win himself and will throw with anyone.
Next for Mulhern: Though Kikuno didn't look good, I'd say Mulhern handed him the match more than Kikuno earning it. I don't see how Mulhern gets another chance anytime soon to earn a victory in the UFC. His loss to Rick Story did him no favors either as Story ran roughshod over him. Expect him to end up back in King of the Cage if Bellator or WSOF don't want him.
Roysten Wee defeated Dave Galera via Decision
The Match: Considering Wee had all of two matches under his belt, the fact he gained the takedown and maintained top position throughout the round took everyone by surprise. When he did it the next round I have to admit that I thought I could have been completely wrong about him. And then the third round went the same and Wee picked up a victory. Wee didn't do a lot on the ground though and Galera showed an active guard where you could debate that he did more damage from the bottom position, but was unable to get out from under Wee. He grew frustrated in the third round and threw a very strong but illegal upkick while Wee was still in his guard. But Wee showed heart and finished the fight despite being guaranteed a win. Still, not enough action to justify watching again.
Next for Wee: Despite coming out with a win, Wee showed a lot of inexperience. His attempt to fix his shorts in the third round could have cost him severely. Considering Galera doesn't have a lot of experience himself, Wee still has a lot to prove. He did show toughness by taking that violent and illegal upkick on the ground from Galera and continued the match. But still... he's got a long way to go. I would expect him to take on a newcomer next as I expect the UFC to spoon feed him.
Next for Galera: Galera might not get another chance. His performance showed little and the upkick was done in frustration... which doesn't bode well for him as Dana White doesn't want his fighters getting hurt by any illegal strikes. The only fighter I can see the UFC considering lining him up with is fellow loser Jon Delos Reyes. Otherwise he'll likely be fed to a highly anticipated debutant. Galera's UFC future looks bleak regardless.
*Mairbek Taisumov defeated Tae Hyun Bang via Decision
The Match: Bang had a reputation for being tough and tentative and that was the definition of this match. Taisumov picked him apart with a variety of kicks and punches as Bang largely tried to counter punch with little success as Taisumov moved in and out effectively to prevent Bang from landing anything significant. Bang kept his hands low throughout the fight as well and made it that much easier for Taisumov to hit him. In the last round, Taisumov landed a powerful double leg takedown and showed some effective GNP and even showed a little judo. It wasn't the most exciting fight as it was very one-sided, but Bang stayed there the whole time to take a beating and Taisumov showed he has a future in the UFC. Not a bad fight, but not missing much if you didn't catch it.
Next for Taisumov: It feels like this match was largely a display for Taisumov to show what he can do and he showed a little bit of everything except for submission ability... which he has demonstrated on the smaller circuit anyway. He wants to jump up in competition, but Bang is far from proven and he couldn't finish him. As deep as lightweight is its difficult to pinpoint just one good possibility. I'll single out Mitch Clarke who got his first UFC win about 6 months ago and hasn't fought since.
Next for Bang: I wouldn't be very surprised to see Bang released as he showed he can take a beating and not much else. If he does get another chance I can see him getting an Octagon newcomer or being fed to someone the UFC wants to get back on the winning track. Colton Smith is someone I can see the UFC wanting to get on track. I don't think they want the 16th season of TUF to produce essentially nothing. If not Smith, Luiz Dutra, as I mentioned earlier, is a reasonable option.
*Dustin Kimura defeated Jon Delos Reyes via 1st Round Submission
The Match: This match didn't last long, but it was a fun one to watch. Delos Reyes came out looking to swing and clipped Kimura with a beautiful right hand that dropped Kimura. Delos Reyes was looking to GNP Kimura at that point and Kimura scrambled for submission after submission featuring attempts at a heel hook, a kimura attempt, and finishing it up with a belly-down armbar.
Next for Kimura: Kimura did what he does best in stringing together submission after submission before catching Delos Reyes and showed a good chin as Delos Reyes hit him hard. At 24, he still has plenty of time to develop into a contender, but it might be wise to temper expectations after this fight. Yes, he looked good, but he was expected to win this match. Still, match him with Kang and we'll find out which youngster is further along.
Next for Delos Reyes: Delos Reyes striking looked sharp, but one has to wonder about his fight IQ at this point as Kimura is well reputed for his aggressive submission game and even after Kimura showed he had recovered from being rocked, Delos Reyes continued to keep the fight in Kimura's world and ended up paying for it. Match him with fellow card loser Leandro Issa and send the loser packing.
*Russell Doane defeated Leandro Issa via 2nd Round Submission
The Match: Outside of the fight ending submission, the match went largely as expected. Doane showed a much superior striking game landing some shots that rocked Issa and Issa effectively used his awkward looking strikes to set up the takedown. Once the fight hit the ground, Issa showed his world class grappling and had Doane in a nice triangle choke to end the first round. Doane showed excellent submission defense and even executed some beautiful sweeps to gain the upper hand on the ground. Doane got to show off his submission skills sinking in a tight triangle choke that I thought he was maintaining to prevent Issa from further attacking to end the second round and the fact it was against Issa makes makes his debut that much more impressive.
Next for Doane: Even though it was a debut fight for both fighters, I would say that Doane showed he belongs in the UFC showing off a little bit of everything in his arsenal. He has strength, speed, and grappling ability. Someday, Johnny Eduardo will step in the Octagon again... at least I would expect him to. He is a long time veteran and his experience and savvy would be a good test for Doane.
Next for Issa: It is debatable whether Issa proved that he belongs in the UFC, but he certainly deserves another chance to prove whether he does or not. He had Doane scrambling to get off the ground at times and had a nice triangle attempt to back up his reputation as a world class grappler. His striking did prove to be lacking though as Issa only used his strikes to move in for a takedown. As mentioned earlier, Jon Delos Reyes would be a good choice for Issa. We'll figure out which one for sure shouldn't be around at least.
Record for Card: 8-2
Record for Year: 8-2
Comments and opinions are always welcome.