The UFC ended June with a doubleheader that featured the kind of depleted cards that makes cynics out of even the most rabid MMA fans. It was a lot of prospects getting work and very few fights that mattered in title pictures, in two events that wouldn't combine into one passable night of fights. Even with that said, it is still MMA and there was fun to be had and things to discuss.
Thoughts on the fights:
- Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens had a fun, tactical striking engagement to close out the day and night of fights. Swanson clearly won, turning aside the aggressive attack of Stephens and firmly establishing himself as one of the elite Featherweights in MMA. It was a solid fight.
- Ricardo Lamas got two 30-27 cards against Hacran Dias, putting the cherry on top of some questionable judging on the part of the Texas judges. Dias put up a hell of a fight and got basically no credit from the judges for it. This fight was followed by the Andrew Craig vs Cezar Ferreira snoozer.
- Clint Hester won a close decision over Antonio Braga Neto in a fight where both fighters did very little to put a stamp on the fight. Hester clearly won pretty much every second on the feet, while Brage Neto dominated the positional ground fighting, and neither really worked much in the way of offense on the ground. It was difficult to get worked up about because it was a mostly dreadful fight. All in all it made for a brutal middle section of the main card.
- Joe Ellenberger and James Moontasri kicked off the main card with a really solid, action packed clash of prospects. Moontasri put on a spirited performance and really took it to Ellenberger in the first round and very likely deserved a 10-8 round for his efforts, but none of the Texas judges awarded one. Despite losing Moontsari might actually be the better prospect here moving forward, he is young and seemed more dynamic coming in on short notice.
- Carlos Diego Ferreira ran Colton Smith out of the building with a quick throw and then a Royce Gracie/Ken Shamrock UFC 1 style rear naked choke finish. Ferreira is an interesting prospect, who can clearly grapple very well and could be a fighter to watch. It is difficult to tell as Smith came off one of the worst seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, so Ferreira will need further testing at Lightweight before judgement can be rendered.
- Cody Gibson got a quick win over Johnny Bedford, and while there was some controversy over the stoppage it is very difficult to fault referee Kerry Hatley on his decision to stop the fight as Bedford appeared to clearly be out at the time of the stoppage. The only criticism that can be levelled at Hatley is his double clutching on the stoppage.
- Looking at the very early card two fighters that stand out are Ray Borg and Oleksiy Oliynyk. Borg is 20-years-old and looks extremely athletic and skilled for his age. He had a rough first UFC fight, but this match was a bit more indicative of what he is capable of and marks him most certainly as a prospect to watch. On the other end of the spectrum Oliynyk is in his late thirties and has nearly 60 pro fights, and got a chance to show off what he does best - submit Heavyweights. While not an elite Heavyweight, Oliynyk adds depth the division and is an entertaining fighter who can most certainly keep gates for the UFC.
Bonus Fight Night New Zealand Thoughts:
- Nate Marquardt served up a reminder that he was one of the Top 5 Middleweights in the world for quite some time and more than capable of putting on brilliant performances. James Te Huna has fallen victim to the same logic that caused Marquardt to drop to Welterweight, the idea that cutting down and being a larger fighter in a division will get big results. This logic has been proven time and again to be faulty as it ignores the costs of weight cutting and that, as in the cases of Marquardt and Te Huna, that the lower weight-class often has a greater depth of talent. Bigger is not always better in MMA, and changing weight classes is not an instant cure for a struggling career.
- Jared Rosholt ground down Soa Palelei in a gruelling Heavyweight match. It wasn't pretty, or even dominant, at times, but it is a legitimatizing win for Rosholt as Palelei's job in the UFC is dismissing the unworthy from the ranks of the Heavyweight division. Rosholt still clearly has a long way to go towards becoming a complete MMA fighter, and as is would end up being apart of an elite heavyweight's highlight reel, but he certainly belongs in the UFC Heavyweight division.
- Charles Oliveira locked up Hatsu Hioki in a Anaconda choke from guard after several fun grappling exchanges. As is often pointed out with Oliveira, he is still very young at 24-years-old but he is not in any way a green fighter. Oliveira has been fighting professionally for six years and has over 20 pro fights, so while his skills will become more refined we have a pretty good idea of the finished product Oliveira looks like: a highly aggressive fighter who is prone to over committing to just about everything he goes for. Hioki was an ideal opponent for Oliveira to thrive against because Hioki is unlikely to capitalize on the Brazilian's mistakes. The results was a very fun fight, but don't make the mistake of thinking Oliveira has closed a hole in his game, he is still pretty much the same fighter.