So this morning, nursing a hangover, I watched the UFC 169 main card and thought it was pretty entertaining. Was it the great event of all-time? Not really, but I enjoyed it. So I was pretty shocked when I came online and saw people calling it one of the worst cards of all-time.
Overall, I honestly didn't think the main card had a single dud on it. If anything, I felt like what we saw on the main card was a series of master-classes with fighters each doing what they do best.
1. As the sound-byte keeps reminding us, RENAN BARAO IS A MONSTER. That was on full display last night. Did anyone expect that level of dominance from Rao Rao? I sure didn't.
Barao just keeps getting more devastating with each fight. He's quickly become one of the pound-for-pound best but, now, I'd say he's also among the pound-for-pound most violent. The guy is just a killing machine to the point where, if only he looked a little more intimidating, he could honestly start building that Pride-era Wanderlei rep where dudes are legit afraid of him and fans are filled with expectations of horrible, horrible things whenever he steps into the cage.
2. Aldo's fight was, probably, the dryest on the card, but I still thought it was a solid watch. Sort of like how I felt with GSP in general, watching Aldo fight these days, while he might not always get the finish, sort of feels like watching a clinic/master-class. He just does everything so perfectly. The way he paces himself, his combinations, his leg-kicks, his takedown defence, he's just one of a kind and when he's really in his rhythm, as he was last night, it's a privilege just to watch a master like that at work. There's just a kind of perfection to his craft that really showed itself last night.
3. I thought Overeem looked fantastic last night and think Dana is being ridiculous. Apparently, Overeem is held to a unique standard where if he doesn't get a finish, he's put on a crappy performance, irrespective of how badly he dominated his opponent. Does Dana hold any other fighter to that standard? Did he hold Cormier to it?
While his chin in MMA will always be an issue, he did a lot to answer the other big question about him: his cardio. He was cerebral and calculated in pacing himself and actually didn't even look to be breathing heavy at the end of the fight. Physically, he also looked great: he's still an athletic specimen, but he's not all puffed anymore. He's obviously put in a lot of work on this aspect of his game, and it showed.
Oh, and he fucking laid waste to Mir. The striking stats were grotesque. Better still, he was content to dive into Mir's very dangerous guard and proceeded to shellack him with some brutal looking ground strikes. He also turned Mir into a strawberry-thief once again.
4. Bagautinov showed something really valuable in his fight: fight IQ. While some have called him overly tentative, I think it's honestly a good sign to see a fighter so cognisant of his opponent's strenghts and weaknesses and such a fantastic ability to follow through on a gameplan. Bagautinov fought Linekeer absolutely perfectly and gave us one of those rare situations where what should be a close/competitive fight turns out exactly how it should on paper. Oh, and the clowning at the end? Awesome.
5. Nothing much to be said about Varner/Trujillo, really. It was just a fucking war of epic haymakers with Trujillo disconcertingly holding his chin up in the air as Hooft screamed for him to tuck the damn thing. This fight was insanity.
So, at UFC 169 we got:
1. Barao putting on perhaps the best performance in his career and staking his claim as the scariest and most violent dude in the UFC.
3. Overeem and Bagautinov both showing significant and crucial elements/improvements to their games: in Overeem's case, it was conditioning and pacing. In Bagautinov's case, it was fight IQ and gameplanning.
4. A crazy war in Varner/Trujillo.
So yeah, I thought the card was just fine. Of course, I'm not talking about the prelims here. Ain't gonna try to defend that one.