The preliminaries were slightly disappointing as they took after the last two events in being dominated by decisions as 5 of the 6 bouts went the distance. Were they all bad? No, only one of them completely sucked. But after a lack of decisive wins the last few events, fans were starved for decisive finishes. Throw in the fact that none of the bouts that went the distance came close to being ended and its easy to understand why fans would be frustrated.
The prelims did seem to have some bouts of high consequence though. Its likely that the the women's bantamweight and bantamweight divisions have new #1 contenders and the flyweight division should be thisclose to setting up its next #1 contenders bout with half of the participants decided. A number of promising new prospects debuted as well and even though not all of them lived up to expectations (Cedeno), most offered hope for the future of the UFC.
Keep reading for more depth on the events.
* indicates I was right in my pick
In a close match that was decided by the first round, Davis emerged the victor and the likely #1 contender to the women's title. Davis dominated the second round by taking the fight to the ground and maintaining top control while Eye was able to outstrike Davis in the third. The first stanza was exceptionally close. Eye controlled the fight from a distance for most of the first half and Davis took the second half with effective striking from the clinch and in close. The deciding factor was likely the takedown Davis scored to end the round. I know that takedowns often are given too much emphasis in judges scoring, but for once I think it was the perfect maneuver to determine who took the round as their striking was too even to call.
With Ronda Rousey having eliminated Liz Carmouche, Miesha Tate, and now Sara McMann from the picture and Cat Zingano still rehabbing (and dealing with personal issues... best of luck to her), Davis should be the next in line to challenge the Rowdy One. Does anyone think she'll really be able to take the belt from Rousey? Probably not. But it was her third victory in the UFC and fifth straight overall. She has earned the right to go after the champ. She would be the best submission grappler that Rousey has thus faced, but she would likely still be inferior to Rousey in the category. Rousey will be taking some time off to go to Hollywood, Davis should use the time to strengthen... well, everything.
Eye had better not contest the decision after her staunch defense of the original outcome of her match with Sarah Kaufman. She has already done massive damage to her rep with her bungling of her failed drug test from UFC 166 and the last thing she needs right now is to be in the spotlight in any way shape or form. It may be smart to allow some time to pass and allow people to attempt to forget her public media mishap. At 27, she still has time to climb the summit. Potential opponents would be McMann fresh off of her loss to Rousey or the loser of the upcoming Tate-Carmouche bout.
This match went exactly as I expected: Assuncao was able to pick apart Munhoz with his crisp and efficient boxing and able to avoid Munhoz taking the fight to the ground, but lacked the killer instinct to go for the finish. Munhoz was certainly a game opponent and shouldn't be ridiculed for coming up short... few have had a more challenging debut than he had.
Assuncao has always played it safe and is likely the next opponent for title holder Renan Barao. But I can't help but feel there is still some doubt about that and if he had been able to show some killer instinct and get the finish that any doubt would have been erased. I can't help but think when Munhoz continued to wipe his eye in the third round that he was having vision problems... which would have been the perfect time for Assuncao to attempt a blitz to finish him. While Assuncao has certainly improved his boxing to the point that it is more of a weapon than a liability as it was at one point, he'll be no match for Barao unless he can get the fight to the ground and exhibit his world class jiu-jitsu skills.
Munhoz should get a big step down in competition, but shouldn't take it as a demotion. Everyone figured he was in over his head and respected him for taking the fight anyway. The fact that Assuncao respected his jiu-jitsu game enough to avoid taking the fight to the ground should speak volumes about his abilities. His striking wasn't inept either, but still has a ways to go to develop it to match Assuncao's level. Yaotzin Meza isn't much of a striker himself and represents a good choice to match Munhoz up with for his sophmore effort.
*Aljamain Sterling defeated Cody Gibson via Decision
In a back-and-forth match between young debutants, Sterling exhibited his flashy striking to take the first stanza and his wrestling in the third to take the decision W. Gibson showed aggression and solid wrestling himself in the second round and looked very good himself. While Sterling took the victory (as was expected), Gibson should be able to walk away with his head high and solidified his status as a prospect with a long-term future in the UFC.
Sterling may not have lived up to the hype in the opinion of some (he has been compared to Jon Jones by many), but many forget that Jon Jones won his first UFC match by decision as well. If anything, I was impressed by his ability to forget the second round and take the third in the manner he did. Give him time and the flashy finishes that people expected of him will come. He doesn't need to be rushed, so Russell Doane, another young prospect coming off of a debut victory, is the perfect candidate to match him up with. Both would push one another and would grow from the experience.
Gibson wasn't given much of a chance by many, but his aggression will likely keep him around the UFC for quite a while. He showed better striking defense and was able to maintain his aggression while reducing his recklessness. If he can continue with this progress he could become a contender before anyone expects... not that many think he will become one at this point. The perfect test for his would be Leandro Issa. If he can be aggressive he'll walk out with the victory... if he can avoid making a mistake as the submission specialist will capitalize if he does.
In a clear cut decision, Makovsky utilized takedowns and top control to take the decision in a... we'll say mildly entertaining bout. Makovsky seemed to have a slight advantage in the striking as he was able to land the cleaner shots mixing in some body kicks and smooth boxing, but rather than take a chance with judges (never a smart thing to do), he utilized his speed advantage over Sampo to get him down and his wrestling to keep him down. Sampo never gave up and was able to score his own takedown and some top control in the third round, but wasn't able to get the stoppage he needed.
Makovsky is likely a win away from getting a title shot at Demetrious Johnson. He has been able to score decisive wins over two solid veterans since making his UFC debut and with Johnson's dominance having eliminated many other contenders, Makovsky is knocking on the door. His speed and wrestling have been the deciding factors in both bouts which would give him more than a chance against Brad Pickett... provided Pickett is able to get past Neil Seery. Pickett is a solid name in the UFC and setting up a #1 contenders match between the two makes perfect sense... provided Johnson and Ali Bagautinov face off soon.
Sampo has a game similar to Makovsky... just with less speed and wrestling and more submission savvy. He is still a tough out for anyone to face and I'm surprised that he wasn't in the top 15 before the match. Despite the fact that he is unranked and coming off of a loss, he isn't as far off out of contendership himself as it might seem at first glance. (Remember, I said the lack of options in the division) Danny Martinez is another longtime veteran coming off of a loss and a match between the two would be logical and the beginning of the road back for one of them.
This match didn't last long. Koch went from a former title contender to being on the Fight Pass card and wanted to make a statement that he should never be placed there again. He scored with a nice straight left to Oliveira's face and proceeded to use some vicious GNP (ala what Ricardo Lamas did to him) to finish him off. There is little else I can use to describe this match without going into greater detail and I'm not trying to give a play-by-play. Ladies and gentlemen, Erik Koch is back.
Koch looked very fresh (I know the fight only lasted 84 seconds... but I'm sure you get what I mean) and the move back to lightweight will certainly suit him well. He may not enter the top 15 with this victory, but he should be in the neighborhood even with just one victory. My only issue was that he should have been offered a tougher first test (this reminded me of the Chad Mendes-Cody McKenzie match when announced)... but he did what he was supposed to do and that is all that you can ask. Now that he has had a tune-up, treat him similar to his #11 ranking at featherweight. A match with Rustam Khabilov or the winner of next months Diego Sanchez-Myles Jury fight make perfect sense.
Oliveira is done in the UFC. That puts him at 2-6 in the UFC and this fight lasted 84 seconds. I don't want to completely rain on him and give him credit for showing some improved and crisp looking leg kicks... but that didn't stop Koch from breaking him quickly. He is a nice guy and a quality lightweight for anyone to go against... outside the UFC.
I didn't expect this fight to set anyone on fire by any means, but I still felt quite letdown from it. In the end, I really didn't feel either one should have been considered a winner, but there needed to be one. Cedeno showed beautiful and explosive kicks in the first round, but few of them landed. Once Chavez was able to get the fight to the ground as a result of Cedeno went to the well too often with his spinning wheel kick, Cedeno became a lot more tentative and any chance of something explosive and exciting happening went out the window. Maybe it was conditioning, maybe it was being scared of Chavez taking it to the ground, likely a combo of both. But neither fighter showed me anything to have me excited for their future. Chavez showed little in his standup or ability to do anything offense once it hit the ground, Cedeno showed well below average grappling.
Chavez shouldn't be happy with his performance even though he walked out with a victory. He didn't show any superior skill and only won due to the fact that Cedeno was subpar in his grappling skills. He will not last long in the UFC if he doesn't significantly improve his skill set. Since I doubt the UFC has any significant plans for the future, I could see him being used as fodder to set up the debut of a touted prospect or feed him to a raw prospect already on the roster who still needs seasoning like James Vick.
Cedeno showed more potential than Chavez, but also showed a low fight IQ and little to no grappling. If he can learn to effectively time his kicks and neutralize his opponents wrestling in the slightest, he has a style that is pleasing to the eye that could make him a fan favorite.
As always let me know if you think I'm full of crap.