When you put on over fifty shows in a year, not every one is going to be a crowd pleaser. That was the case with tonight's UFC 174 card.
Demetrious Johnson is a special talent and he was facing a legitimate test in Ali Bagautinov. So, you can't say that his one-sided title defense was unimpressive. It was quite the opposite. Johnson won nearly every minute of the fight, using speed, timing and technique to completely derail Bagautinov's attack.
But, he was so effective that the fight became five rounds of lather, rinse, repeat. By the middle of the fight there were reports from the arena that the crowd was simply getting up and leaving. An unusual thing for a live UFC crowd to do during a main event, even a reasonably lopsided one.
That the fight came on the heels of some other less-than-thrilling watches may have had a lot to do with it.
- Similar to Johnson's performance, Rory MacDonald was superb in his application of technique against Tyron Woodley. The crowd was into the fight as MacDonald is quickly becoming a local superstar, and he did open up offensively at times, but Woodley was far too content to sit with his back inches from the cage and stay on the defensive. It allowed MacDonald to pick his spots, open up and simply never have to worry about Woodley in the spaces where h would be most effective.
- Ryan Bader continued the theme of the top end of the card, simply being too good at what he was attempting to do for Rafael Cavalcante to keep up. Feijao had no answer for Bader's plan of clinching, kneeing the thighs and throwing just enough punches to keep the ref from intervening. It led to significant booing from the crowd, but it was good execution of a gameplan that simply isn't friendly to the eyes.
- Speaking of difficult watches, Andrei Arlovski and Brendan Schaub put on a fight that will likely be on every list for the worst fights of 2014. The two men spent the first two rounds basically refusing to engage. When they weren't circling at distance, Arlovski would press Schaub into the cage and throw tiny knees to the thigh until they separated and did the whole thing over again.
- Arlovski would take the decision, which sent the Twitterverse into a tizzy about bad judging. But I simply see no way to state that Schaub was so clearly the winner of the first or second round that it was actually some highly objectionable "robbery." Schaub won the third, the only round with any action, but rounds one and two could have gone to Arlovski without being anything particularly impressive.'
- Ovince St. Preux beat Ryan Jimmo when Jimmo broke his arm, somewhat tainting the only finish on the main card. Jimmo was shouting that his arm was broken and OSP grabbed the nearest arm and began to torque it. That is some kind of scary killer instinct. Luckily, it wasn't the broken limb, so it only appeared to be incredibly gross.
- The fights that stand out were on the prelims. For instance, Kiichi Kunimoto running through Daniel Sarafian with a submission. Kunimoto looked fantastic in his ability to take a favorite, dump him on the canvas and lock up the choke.
- The sole women's bout on the evening saw Valerie Letourneau beat Elizabeth Phillips in a bout that wasn't a technical masterclass, but was a hell of a watch. The two threw all kinds of heavy shots at each other, with Phillips wearing down a little quicker than Letourneau and losing the decision. A likely candidate for Fight of the Night.
- Yves Jabouin beat Mike Easton in a fun fight that saw both men have their moments throughout. Easton looked great in round one, but eventually was outworked by Jabouin. Easton hasn't won in almost two years, which may mean it's time for him to be given his walking papers.