If we expect anything from Brazil’s Fight Night cards, it’s violence. This card, by and large, did not deliver the violence.
It was actually a better FN card than usual on paper (4 middleweight contenders, a bunch of good prospects) which really increased the disappointment when it did, in fact, kind of suck.
You can blame Dana, or Zuffa international expansion, or the Fox deal, but if there’s any real culprit here, it’s Zane Simon, who made us think it was going to be good. Goddamn Zane. Let’s all blame him.
The prospects on this cards under-delivered a little, for a variety of possible reasons. Eastern Europeans / Russians tend to be bulletproof to nerves, but combine first-time octagon jitters with fighting in the hostile and alien Brazilian environment and even Soviet Commubots will feel the effects.
Environmental factors kill cards
Whether it was unavoidable or down to poor air-conditioning, it looked hotter than Scarlett Johansson dancing on a waffle iron in the arena. Fighters were almost-universally sheened up with sweat after a single round.
This kind of unpleasantness is particularly murderous on two types of fighters: UFC newcomers (there were a good few), and heavyweights (of which there were blessedly none).
Remember UFC 135 and the wheezers between Rothwell-Hunt and Browne-Broughton in the thin Colorado air? Those were fights which slowed the ascent of Hunt and Browne, despite the fact that they picked up wins. Never underestimate the power of a shitty, energy-draining physical environment.
So... is everyone looking forward to the Big showdown between Big Nog and Big Country in Abu Dhabi? Eh?! EH?!!
Fight Pass and the end of the age of the popular prelim?
Fight Pass / UFC TV in general still has some resolution issues, and for me jumps around between quality levels of "Decent Youtube" and "This Is Being Filmed Through Super Mario’s Butthole."
We, as MMA fans, often forget how recently it has been that all the preliminary fights on a card were available to the viewing public. In that short time, we’ve gotten pretty used to it, and so the turgid prelims of the last two Fight Nights have been a particular punch in the gut.
Sadly, we need to recognize that "UFC level" may not mean what it used to going forwards, as the UFC roster skyrockets and the prelims of the smaller cards in particular drift ever-closer to something approaching Strikeforce: Challengers. Only the very hardest of the hardcore will be keeping up with every preliminary, and for the rest of us? Find out if there was a particularly exciting bout and then review it with the Netflix-esque record of Fight Pass or… other methods.
This upsets you, because you are a hardcore fight fan and it makes you a little sad that you’ll miss elements of the sport that you love. It upsets me a little, as well. Let us perform the dance of the sad hardcore.
Speaking of dances...
Erick "The Dancing Brujo" Silva
There’s been a bit of a flip in the narrative about Erick Silva, which has moved from "such an exciting young prospect!" to "damn this guy is old as fuck!" with surprising speed.
The youthful prospect angle was perhaps always a little overplayed, as he was always bracketed in with fighters like Ellenberger, MacDonald, and Hathaway, when he had a few years on all of them.
This is because he looks like the lead character from a Brazilian spin-off of "Saved by the Bell". My personal theory is that he’s some kind of evil Brujo who has been draining the youth from the Nogueira brothers in order to keep himself fresh-faced. I can’t prove anything… but he joined the gym in 2008, just before Big Nog’s first fight with Frank Mir. COINCIDENCE?
One of the great things about MMA is seeing strikes or styles which may not have been thought "practical" proving their worth in the cage or ring. Sanshou, Tae-Kwon-Do, and Karate have all proven some utility in recent years. Props are therefore in order for Silva, who is the first and (to my knowledge) only person to successfully integrate a heel-strike from the ancient and poorly-documented art of Oirish Combat Riverdance.
Although it's been progressively ritualized, Riverdance was originally a deadly martial art used to stop... stop Welsh people from coming and... stealing...potatoes....?
I’m still not sure exactly where he belongs in the welterweight division. His sheer athleticism and finishing potential via both subs and strikes makes him a little similar to Faber down at 135, and much like Faber I feel like his tendency to go into kill-mode from start to end can get him into trouble. If he was in a division as shallow as bantamweight, he’d basically share Faber’s success but… he’s not. Regardless, he broke a dude’s rib with one body kick. He is actually still quite young, and hasn’t taken much damage in his career. There’s certainly still a place for him.
You can do it, it’s a possible!
Machida looked phenomenal, perfectly blending opportunism, creativity and patience to keep his opponent guessing.
Like the King Mo fight, I felt like this was an object lesson for Mousasi in how far talent will take you, albeit with a different emphasis- Mousasi’s Strikeforce belt loss proved that even if you’re a swiss-army knife of offensive MMA techniques, they can be effectively overpowered by abusing one in a stronger area (see also: Guida-Pettis).
Saturday’s loss was more of an education in the depth and discipline which is lacking in his game, even in a fight which ostensibly plays to his strengths. I’ve heard him compared to a guy playing an Undisputed game for the first time, running through the movelist and trying it out- leg kick? jab? kneebar?
Machida by comparison went deep into his own toolset, but used everything at the right time. When Mousasi started to counter him, he would switch up, either cycling through the left leg kick / body kick / head kick / step knee guessing game, or throwing out something completely different like a punch flurry or a trip takedown.
The Evans and Thiago Silva fights have been held as Machida’s strongest performances, but they were also stylistically easy prey- Rashad is one of the most purely reactive fighters in the game, and Silva is defensively liable.
This was the most effective, disciplined Dragon we have seen, and I am much higher on his chances to make his way to the 185 belt, and maybe even become a 2-division champyown. The grappling in the 4th and 5th was also rather wonderful from both sides. I found this fight very enjoyable and it should not be tainted by association with the boring prelims.
The Marajo Bros remain wild cards in the deck. Combining old-school violence with excellent sneaky grappling and natural athleticism, it’s a bit of a shame that they’re probably approaching the end of their fighting prime, and that they train at their own gym where they are almost certainly the biggest dogs there. Yuri in particular is always a ton of fun, and was one of the few bright spots on the prelims.
The grappling in Reis-Alcantara was great. I’d actually like to see some of Reis’ chain wrestling broken down for a Judo chop because it seemed very atypical for a Brazilian dude.
Why Carmont Annoys People:
I think the reason Francis Carmont vexes people quite as much as he does is because his style seems unnecessary.
I actually enjoy Jake Shields. He has few useful innate MMA attributes aside from being apocalypse-roach tough, yet he’s maximized his gifts and made himself into the third-best welterweight of all time, creating an awesome, mind-raping sludgy style ("how am I even losing to this guy?") as oddly idiosyncratic as Machida’s karate.
Carmont, on the other hand, is big, strong, fast, tough and fairly technical. Like Ryan Jimmo, he’s particularly irritating because he seems to have the potential for so much more.
Diego Souza would be in trouble against Machida
Dallas’ comparison of Souza to Diego Sanchez seemed a little mean, but not inaccurate. He basically chased Carmont down with the overhand, wrapped up into the clinch, then tried to dump and sub him.
I think he needs to hope that he doesn’t get asked to fight Machida, because the Dagron absolutely feasts on that kind of gameplan.
Andy 'Little Mac' Ogle
Andy Ogle is perhaps an even Danziggier Mac Danzig for the featherweight division. He’s tough, game, and can survive and escape from bad positions. The top tier fighters will blow him away, and he’ll probably beat bottom tier guys, but against everyone else he’s going to lose fun decisions. He just doesn’t have any actual offensive weapons that I can see. Oliveira’s inability to control the middle range is still a big mark against his future.