In a much smaller than usual card, there was a good mix of fights. Not everything, but a satisfying plate to feast from. A fun grappling exchange, some knockouts, and a very close fight. Seeing as how I'm somewhat of a fight whore, the only thing that really would have capped things (besides a submission) would have been more fights.
We may have seen the last of a legend as Antonio 'Minotauro' Nogueira woke up after the fight think that he was back in his Pride days after a brutal KO at the hands of 'Big Country' Roy Nelson. As much as everyone love Nogueira, it hurts to see him fall from the high perch he once sat upon. Nelson on the other hand doesn't know how to win any way other than to force his opponents to forget their names after he hits them.
Outside of that, Clay Guida found his traction and picked up a very much needed win, John Howard may not ever be able to have kids again, and Ramsey Nijem put on a performance that made everyone take notice.
* indicates I was right in my pick
*Roy Nelson defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira via KO 1st Round
You know those times when you really hope that you aren't right? This was one of those times. It isn't that I really wanted Nelson to lose... its more that I didn't want to see a legend laid out in the fashion that Nogueira was. The signs were all there that this is what would happen as Nogueira's chin was deteriorating and Nelson's right hand has become almost legendary for its ability to turn out the lights of his opponents. And after a few shots wobbled (and even dropped) Nogueira, Nelson loaded up and put out his lights.
Nelson continues to prove he is what he is: A power puncher with a rock solid chin who can knock out anyone who proves to be hittable. As a result he can beat anyone on a given night, but it all depends upon that punch at this point. The longer a fight goes though, the worse off he is. While its doubtful he'll ever contend for the title, he'll be a fan favorite due to his KO abilities and will sell tickets and PPV's as a result. As long as Cain Velazquez is champion, Antonio Silva will never get another shot at the belt, but showed in his instant classic with Mark Hunt he can put on a show. He is currently suspended, but will be ready to go by September. That should be the perfect amount of time for him and Nelson to get ready to face off in a fight of heavy hitters.
I'm sure that Minotauro can already hear the voices getting louder than they already were: Please retire! For a man whose career has been defined by his ability to take punishment to have lost his last five losses before the final bell has been rung is a sad sight indeed. I'm not doubting that he can't beat the Dave Herman's of the world at this point, but he isn't anywhere near the elite anymore. I respect the idea that only he can decide when it is his time to call it a career, but it has been said that it is better to retire a year too early than it is a year too late. I could make a suggestion on who would be a reasonable next opponent for Nogueira, but I don't want to, if for no other reason than if he does come back that I would hope he takes some time off to recover and think about retirement.
*Clay Guida defeated Tatsuya Kawajiri via Decision
While this wasn't quite on par with Guida's past performances against the likes of Roger Huerta, Diego Sanchez, and Benson Henderson, it was certainly a welcome change from Guida's recent performances. Instead of fists flying (though Guida did floor Kawajiri with a powerful punch in the opening minute), it was an entertaining grappling contest full of slams and submission attempts. Guida took the decision by landing the slams and the knockdown early in the fight, plus his activity against the fence (lots of knees to the base of Kawajiri) made sure to put him over the top in the judges eyes.
Guida got a bit of redemption here showing that he is capable of winning an exciting fight as his recent victories have all been boring, grinding affairs and his loss to Gray Maynard is remembered by his reluctance to engage. He did have a lot of movement standing up again, but it didn't seem like the constant unnecessary dancing that he had been employing previously. It seems like a happy medium was found in his movement and I would expect that he should be able to find a nice string of success should follow. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll win all of his fights... but at least he'll be competitive and won't be reviled by fans. Dan Hardy wouldn't shut up (I say that with all due respect) about the possibility of matching Guida up with Chan Sung Jung and I have to say that sounds very intriguing. Jung should be able to pull out a firefight with Guida that hasn't been seen since his fight with Bendo.
Kawajiri didn't look bad (it was closer than the 30-27 scores showed) and outside of Guida's knockdown, came the closest to finishing the match with a few of his submission attempts. His wrestling is what felled him against Guida as Guida wouldn't allow him the opportunity to get top position and initiate his favorite strategy. I figured his run at the title would be a longshot, but that doesn't mean that he can't put on some fun fights from this point and serve as a solid gatekeeper. Nik Lentz and Manny Gamburyan fight next month and the loser would be a good choice to match up with Kawajiri.
*Ryan LaFlare defeated John Howard via Decision
You could see it in LaFlare's face when the decision was announced that he wasn't happy with the way he won the fight. And you really can't blame him. He may have walked out with the W, but it was Howard who won over the fans. Thats what happens you get nailed with a debilitating shot to the groin that you could see left Howard in pain throughout the rest of the fight. Hell, he collapsed against the fence at the end of the fight despite having taken the well over 10 minutes previous to that. As a result this is a fight that will always have the question mark of what would have happened without the groin strike, which is unfortunate for both fighters.
I had LaFlare winning the fight before the groin strike and thus I don't think the decision is unfair at all. I'm sure I'll get some hate for saying that, but how else should the fight be scored? Howard chose to fight on and should be commended for it. But to punish LaFlare for Howard's choice to keep fighting? I don't think so. The victory keeps LaFlare undefeated with 4 wins in the Octagon and he is inching ever so close to a ranked opponent at this point. He's entering a similar position as Matt Brown of running up an impressive win streak, but without any truly impressive names. So how about this: Thiago Alves comes back next week for the first time in 2 years. If he is able to beat Seth Baczynski, pair him with LaFlare next. If Alves can't get the victory, I like the idea of Gunnar Nelson... who is ranked.
Howard landed the harder shots in the fight (even after the groin shot) and showed a lot of heart in finishing out the fight. He could have taken the easy way out and taken either a no contest or a DQ win, but finished and ended up putting on the type of performance that the brass asks for out of its fighters. As a result, I can see the UFC granting Howard a possibility at redemption. Dan Miller hasn't fought in over a year, but has been one of the most durable and respected fighters around in any division. Miller beat Howard over 6 years ago in the Ring of Combat promotion. Do you think fighters ever forget about their losses? I don't think so. The fight makes a lot of sense with regards to their standings in the division too... so why not?
Ramsey Nijem defeated Beneil Dariush via TKO 1st Round
Nijem had shown improvement in his last bout with Justin Edwards and while I expected him to show improvement here as well, he looked absolutely incredible against Dariush. You could really see his work with the Diaz brothers pay off as his striking was much more accurate and he hit Dariush with some nice shots multiple times before dropping him. Once Dariush went down, Nijem attacked with relentless GNP and in the process, Dariush proved that he is too tough for his own good as he took a LOT of damage while Nijem tried to end the fight. It was actually to the point where it really wasn't all that fun to watch anymore.
I had stated earlier that Nijem was no longer being looked at as a prospect, which may have been true. I certainly isn't so now. Thats how impressive Nijem looked. Dariush is a prospect himself... but a prospect who had little trouble disposing of respected veteran Charlie Brenneman. The biggest problem facing Nijem at this point is the flat out depth of the division... at least when it comes to going for the title as he claimed in his post-fight interview. So my thought process here: The UFC is always preaching that they want fighters who want to fight. Exciting fights. Nijem fills that role. So does Joe Lauzon. Lauzon seems to have slowed down after all the years of his balls-to-the-wall style, but is a name opponent and should still be able to produce fireworks with someone like Nijem as well as provide a stern test.
Dariush should still be looked at as a solid prospect. Yes, he was overwhelmed by Nijem and he still has a long ways to go with regards to developing his striking. But he is a smart young man who will take this loss (remember that it is his first loss) as a learning experience and grow from it. I really hope this doesn't shatter his confidence because he has the ability. Yosdenis Cedeno is an explosive striker, but isn't a volume striker in the vein of Nijem. He should pose a fair challenge for Dariush and a good test to see where Dariush has progressed with both his striking and striking defense.
To the delight of few, this fight went as expected. Rosholt used his much decorated wrestling pedigree to take Omielanczuk to the ground each round and stayed heavy on his opponent to take a unanimous decision victory with little problem. I can't say any moment particularly stood out as very little exciting happened... so the fewer words I throw out the better.
While the fight was best for those with insomnia, you can't blame Rosholt for playing to his strengths to get the W. He paid the price for standing with Walt Harris in his UFC debut and even though he walked out with the victory, some of the shine was lost from his star. This time around, he didn't want to take that chance and kept his opponent on his back. With two wins with zero losses in a shallow division may be enough to get him a ranked opponent, but I hope the UFC takes their time with him and gives him at least one more fight before a ranked opponent crosses his path. Geronimo dos Santos has faced health issues that has prevented him from making his UFC debut despite being with the organization for well over a year. He won 10 in a row before his health concerns. If finally healthy, I'd say he is the best option for Rosholt.
Omielanczuk did seem to have the striking advantage during the few moments that the fight was on its feet, but those moments were way too far and few between. His kickboxing is solid enough that he should be able to stick around for a while, but he'll need to find some training partners who have experience in wrestling if he wants to find success in the UFC. There are a couple of options here for Omielanczuk. Jack May and Derrick Lewis will meet next week in Orlando and the loser is a wise choice or the loser of the Ruan Potts and Soa Palelei next month in Cincinnati. No matter who he faces, its a fair challenge for all involved.
I had stated that I found this fight to be very lopsided and the results seem to agree with that assessment as Leites needed less than a minute to put down Hot Sauce. What was surprising is the fact that he did so with strikes, his first career stoppage via strikes (his previous TKO's were from doctor stoppage and retirement). Smith was the aggressor early, but Leites showed patience until he found an opening that he liked and capitalized.
That give Leites 3 straight wins since he returned to the UFC last summer and he could very well enter the rankings with the victory. Everyone knew that he had awesome BJJ, but to see him use his striking to put someone away gives further reason to recognize his growth as a fighter. There is no excuse at this point not to give him a ranked opponent. It is highly doubtful he'll become a true contender, but we'll never really know unless he gets that opportunity to prove himself. Costas Philippou and Lorenz Larkin will be facing off next month in Cincinnati and the winner should be ranked. It might not be Top 10 like Leites wants, but it does represent a good step up in competiton.
Smith is in a very precarious spot. His slugfest with Ed Herman was a lot of fun to watch and granted him some good will with the UFC brass, but he scored an uninspired victory over Brian Houston (he of 6 pro fights experience) and couldn't make it a minute with Leites. He is a 33 year old journeyman who has little hope of moving up the ladder. Translation: He could very well get cut. If he does survive the chopping block, there are options. The loser of the Luke Zachrich-Caio Magalhaes fight next week would be appropriate as would Brad Scott. We'll see what happens.
I have nothing bad to say about the debut of both of these fighters. The first round was strictly a striking affair and both had their moments in a round that could have gone either way. The second could have gone either way too as both of them were able to drop the other with a punch with Omer showing the more dynamic striking and Alers having control for a greater portion of the round. The last round looked to go to Alers as he landed a couple of takedowns and had top position for most of the round, though Omer had a nice flurry of strikes topped by a takedown to end the round and thus the fight. Alers ended up with the decision, but both fighters made good impressions on the UFC brass and should have bright futures.
Alers called out Conor McGregor in his post-fight interview, but he is a little ways off from that. Still, its a smart strategy to get the attention of someone like McGregor who will likely have some sort of response for Alers and get people talking about him. They were previously scheduled to have a fight in the Cage Warriors promotion a couple of years ago before McGregor suffered an injury, so it isn't as crazy as some people might think... but certainly not his next fight. Rob Whiteford makes for a good option for his next opponent. Whiteford upset Daniel Pineda a month ago and has shown a very sturdy chin.
Omer may have a loss on his record, but he opens his UFC career in good graces with the fans and the brass. He fought until the very end and almost pulled the victory out of his hat. He showed solid grappling despite being taken down a number of times, as his reversal of the first takedown is actually what stands out the most in my mind. But his striking was superior to Alers as the fight progressed and he showed enough power to end the fight. Marcus Brimage opened his UFC career with 3 straight wins before meeting a debuting McGregor. It has now been a year since he last fought. A fight with Omer would be a solid test for the both of them.
This verdict sucks... but it was the right call. Bedford was clearly upset as he ended up on the better end of an accidental headbutt and continually asked Yahya who won the fight. Well, officially no one. Otherwise he wouldn't have been as upset as he was. But it was the right call to make as a headbutt is considered an illegal strike and thus an illegal strike (incidental or not) that the referee clearly recognized is what ended the fight. I'll give Bedford a pass considering emotions were running high and he thought that he had just won, but he definitely could have handled the situation much better as a brawl damn near broke out as a result. At the very least, I'm sure he'll have a nice sit down with the boss man Dana White.
Bedford was right on one thing: Lets make a rematch between the two. Neither should have much of a medical suspension, so make it as quick as possible and let these two settle their differences. It may be a low profile match, but there seems to be some heat between them at this point.
Record for Card: 6-1, 1 NC
Record for Year: 70-45-1, 1 NC
I told ya I'd get back on the horse!