Hindsight: UFC Fight Night Henderson vs. Shogun 2 in retrospect

Join me as I try and fail to avoid talking about the elephant in the room, my pre-fight picks for UFC Fight Night Natal. Spoiler alert: They sucked.

This was bad, folks. Usually I'm one to sugar coat my losses, after all I have to retain the dignity of my position somehow, but there's no sugar coating this. If fight picking were a fine art, I'd be the guy making ashtrays in his high school pottery class. This was my Battle of Salamis and with Dan Henderson playing the role of Aristides. A card like this, with so many unknown/under-performing names is never an easy task to pick, but it did seem like there were a lot of pretty reasonable favorites, and with one exception they all lost.

Disclaimer Time: After a card like this, is it even really necessary. There are lessons to be learned here kids. Don't gamble, because this kind of crap will ruin you. I'll be using BestFightOdds for the pre-fight odds for each fight and taking the mode for each fighter. Then I'll be talking about what I learned, and there was so, so much to learn.

Hindsight: Francimar Barroso (-140) vs. Hans Stringer (+110) (I picked Barroso, I was wrong-ish)

  • It's hardly a battle I want to fight, but I did think that Francimar Barroso won this fight. His takedown and GNP in the third may not have been particularly effective, but it was the most effective offense in that round. But, whatever, it's hard to be invested in the bottom end of the LHW division.
  • Barroso has an effective range striking game, most notably with his kicks, but he doesn't have nearly the consistency to make it an effective tool to dominate fights. He was able to put serious damage to Stringer's body with his kicking game, but inconsistent application gave Stringer way too many clinch opportunities.
  • Unfortunately for Stringer, this is more or less the performance I expected of him. He has some decent boxing in close, but is very hittable from the outside, and doesn't quite have the natural size and strength to implement his takedown game on true light heavyweights. He struggled a ton to get this fight down and ended up on the bottom several times because of it.

Hindsight: Noad Lahat (-350) vs. Godofredo Pepey (+265) (I picked Lahat, I was wrong)

  • It turns out that fighting once in the past two years and only seven times in your entire career (against exceedingly poor competition) is not the best way to prepare for your UFC debut. Lahat looks to have the athletic gifts and training of a very talented fighter, but needs more seasoning and featherweight isn't a great place to get it.
  • Godofredo Pepey is always going to be a "guy I can't trust" at least in my estimation, and this fight doesn't do a lot to change that. The flying knee was great and expertly timed, but before that he looked sloppy and wild. He's a chancy fighter and that means he'll get some exciting wins, but it means he'll probably have a lot more bad losses too.
  • Lahat's striking arsenal and striking defense were my biggest questions coming in to this fight and, unfortunately for him, the answers appear to be that those are real holes. Pepey gave Lahat some real opportunities that he couldn't capitalize on early and eventually Lahat's own defensive mistakes cost him.

Hindsight: Thiago Perpetuo (-140) vs. Kenny Robertson (+110) (I picked Perpetuo, I was wrong)

  • I can't say how pleased I am to see this kind of performance from Robertson. He has some really incredible grappling chops and potential, and Perpetuo was a great fighter to display them against. I didn't have much faith in Robertson going to what he does best, but I was happy to be proven wrong.
  • Perpetuo fights with too much aggression and too little control. Last time out I wasn't sure if it was just the jitters of spending too long on the sidelines, or that he felt he had Akhmedov hurt, or what? Now I know, he rushes in looking to throw bombs, and is pretty easily countered.
  • It really looks like Robertson has spent more time working on his control grappling and submission offense. He could be a really solid long term UFC fighter if he sticks to that. His striking will almost assuredly never be a strength, but I think he could school a lot of the current UFC welterweights on the mat if he keeps it as his no 1. priority.

Hindsight: Jussier da Silva (+160) vs. Scott Jorgensen (-200) (I picked Jorgensen, I was wrong)

  • Alright, I thought about pushing the headbutt to the side, but I can't. As much as Jorgensen might be ticked about it, I really think both fighters are to blame in that situation. Jorgensen has a blitzing striking style where he rushes in behind his punches, head up, and on line, while trying to overwhelm is opponent. Formiga, to his shame saw it coming and rather than slipping and countering, put his head down decided to try and weather the storm. The result? A headbutt. Who's to blame? both fighters.
  • Up to the point of that headbutt I had da Silva winning. Not by a lot, but by enough that I wasn't foaming at the mouth when the foul occurred. His striking looked much more crisp and he seemed much more active than he had in the past. It was looking to be a close fight and it's too bad we didn't see more of it.
  • Jorgensen did not look good last weekend. And his comments about feeling like he had the fight totally in control before that moment are starting to sound more and more like a fighter who's on the decline and trying to prove he's not. If he's still in the UFC in a couple of months, then he has a ton to prove in his next fight.

Hindsight: Ronny Markes (-900) vs. Thiago Santos (+550) (I picked Markes, I was wrong)

  • There's no good reason that Markes should ever have been this kind of favorite, not with his fighting style anyway. He doesn't finish fighters and isn't especially active in top control. As such, opponents will always get some opportunity. Of course, the fact that he came in out of shape and that Santos had a major chip on his shoulder made the line moot.
  • I hope this win did big things for Santos' confidence, because it doesn't have a lot of long term implications for his place in the middleweight division. Markes is a decent fighter, but Santos still has a ton to prove before he can be considered a fighter to look out for.
  • For Markes, this was exactly the kind of setback he couldn't afford. As one of the UFC's less exciting fighters, he needed to string a lot of low level wins together before he was going to get bigger and better fights. Now he's on a two fight losing streak, both by stoppage. He might get another fight, but I imagine it's all do or die for him going forward.

Hindsight: Rony Jason (-185) vs. Steven Siler (+160) (I picked Siler, I was wrong)

  • Terrible stoppage, but a great bounce back win for Jason, who was the night's only betting favorite to secure a victory. Jason continues to show that his dynamic powerful striking can overwhelm the less than elite of 145.
  • I'm not sure if the measurements were off, or if it was Siler's hunched stance or what, but Siler did not look four inches taller in the cage last night. Maybe it's Jason's hair, but weigh in photos suggest that Jason's maybe an inch shorter. That would have impacted my pick significantly as I thought Siler was a lot larger.
  • Unfortunately this doesn't change much for either fighter. Jason needs another high profile win or two to be considered a serious contender. And for Siler, this merely reinforces what I saw in his loss to Bermudez, that he's going to have real problems against the better athletes in his division.

Hindsight: Michel Prazeres (+250) vs. Mairbek Taisumov (-330) (I picked Taisumov, I was wrong)

  • It's now clear that Taisumov has two major areas to work on. Offensive consistency, and takedown defense. Offensive consistency is the easier of the two. Essentially, he can't sit and wait on opponents. Prazeres was able to tee off on him all night because most of the time he was just waiting to get hit. For takedown defense, he may have to spend some time at another camp.
  • Michel Prazeres continues to have one of my favorite games in MMA (as far as skill diversity goes). He throws big hard punches, gets inside behind them, works a complicated takedown game and immediately gets to dominant grappling positions. He still has cardio issues, but even that looked improved last night.
  • Because of his small stature, Prazeres may never be the top control demon that he was on the Brazilian regional circuit. Taisumov was able to shuck him off from mount several times, and I think a lot of that had to do with Prazeres' compact frame making it harder for him to effectively blanket opponents. If that's not the case, then he needs to work a lot more on his top control.

Hindsight: Fabio Maldonado (+230) vs. Gian Villante (-260) (I picked Maldonado, I was right)

  • I suppose the first round showed why he was the betting favorite, but Villante has really classically under-whelmed in his MMA career. His best win to date is probably Trevor Smith, who's now fighting down at middleweight. His biggest issue is obviously cardio, but I'm not sure if there are any obvious solutions for that.
  • Fabio Maldonado is going to fight his fight given even an inch of opportunity. And fortunately for him, he's in exactly the right division to ply his trade with ease. As one dimensional as he is, I'd pick him in any fight outside the division's top ten (and that includes taking a flier on him against Manuwa and Cavalcante).
  • That fight really should have been stopped in the last minute or so. It was clearly a case of needing to protect a fighter who had just enough energy to stay on his feet and nothing else. If this sport wants to add any heft to it's safety talking points, mercy stoppages need to be more common.

Hindsight: Norman Parke (-305) vs. Leonardo Santos (+250) (I picked Parke, I was kinda wrong)

  • Unlike most, I have no problems with Parke's point deduction. I don't love it, I'm not sure that it shouldn't have just been a warning, but it was a blatant foul (and one which came well before Santo's fence grab in the same exchange) and the more refs punish blatant fouls the better.
  • This was a quintesential Norman Parke performance. Not dominating, but solid, round after round consistency and grinding. He may not have done a ton of damage, but I was actually fairly pleased with the amount of dirty boxing he used in the clinch.
  • For Santos, there are two takeaways, one is that he's a much better range striker than I gave him credit for (really, much better), and the second is that he is yet another great BJJ grappler without a solid takedown game. Without that, he's going to find lightweight to be a harsh climate to survive in.

Hindsight: C.B. Dollaway (+335) vs. Cezar Ferreira (-380) (I picked Dollaway, I was right)

  • I still have trouble understanding why Ferreira was the favorite here. Other than blasting the undersized Thiago Santos, Ferreira has shown little, if anything to suggest that he's going to contend at 185. Dollaway may not always bring thrills, but he's a pretty solid high end middleweight at this point in his career.
  • I loved Dollaway's patience in this fight. He let Ferreira come in wild and countered beautifully with a heat seeking right hand. He looks to be at the very top of his game right now and with a couple more wins and the right match ups I could see him making a solid run at the top 10.
  • Ferreira is a monster of a physical specimen, but he has so few tools to utilize his power and athleticism. It really showed in the Sarafian fight, where he could get almost nothing done once it became apparent that blitzing his opponent wasn't going to knock him out. But, this time he got flat out exposed. He needs to add more variety to his game if he wants to get past the middle of the 185 lb division.

Hindsight: Dan Henderson (+140) vs. Mauricio Rua (-160) (I picked Rua, I was wrong)

  • Maybe it's just me, but I thought Shogun looked exceptionally gunshy early in this fight. Every punch Hendo landed seemed to visibly rattle him and he seemed generally flighty. Obviously he was also able to time many of his own strikes perfectly and still was well ahead by the third, but he didn't look confident.
  • This is a great win in an ugly fight for Henderson. He was getting beat and beat bad when he pulled that stoppage out of his hat and got the win. It was fun to watch, but inspired very little confidence in me for his next fight.
  • Henderson's next step is obvious. He seems set on continuing to fight, and after a KO like that the UFC should have no trouble finding him an opponent. For Shogun, however, what's next seems less obvious. This was a huge setback. He's going to need surgery, and there's a clear wall at 205 between the upper and lower divisional tiers. Does he take chances fighting top ten guys or do they throw small fish at him until he's won enough for another really dangerous fight?

And that's all for another week of really solid action and really terrible fight picking. Going 2-9 is by far my worst performance to date and I won't blame a few of you if you lose all respect for my prognosticating ability after this. So many of my bad choices seem obvious now, but as always that's the benefit of hindsight. So, until next time when, hopefully, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira won't leave me crying in my beer.

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