UFC 175 was a card of exceeded expectations as both Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey defended in memorable title fights. It provided an amazing close to a solid night of fights.
One of the key takeaways from this card won't be about who won or lost, but simple numbers. We are more than half a year into the UFC's 50+ event year and the number of PPV buys and TV ratings in North America. While there are positive signs for growth of interest for the UFC in Brazil, even internationally is a mixed bag as successes are balanced by setbacks in Japan and Europe, two markets that have proved rather resistant to the UFC. In any event, this weekend was all about pulling in North American Pay-Per-View buys; the 4th of July weekend is normally a huge weekend for the UFC.
They put both Ronda Rousey and Chris Weidman on the poster for this event, two huge American talents. They have really tried to make a push for this event. They are trying to make this a big event. This event is something of a test to see if the past few months of weak and frequent events have hurt the power of the UFC brand. If this card did generate big numbers, it is a demonstration that despite the weak cards, the UFC can still put together a big special kind of event. However, if the card fails to break out of the doldrums of recent UFC cards in terms of buys it could speak to the disenfranchisement many fans are feeling with the sport currently.
Time will tell, the fights were excellent and there were signs that the general public were aware of and excited for this fight card. I expect more of a success from this card and it had a special event feel.
On to thoughts about the fights:
- Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida had a fantastic Championship fight. Weidman came out strong and clearly won the first three rounds, and then Lyoto Machida came charging back as his early round body attack seemed to finally slow Weidman down. The champion was faced with serious adversity for the first time in his career and was given ample opportunities to mentally check out, but he rose to the occasion to wrest back control of the fight from Machida and won the 5th round. This fight likely won Weidman some much needed respect from MMA fans who questioned the legitimacy of his wins over Anderson Silva. Weidman just won four rounds standing with Lyoto Machida and clearly demonstrated that, while it was nip and tuck at times, he was the better overall MMA fighter. Weidman looked beatable at times, but it was still an extremely impressive win over a more experienced, former champion.
- Ray Longo has done wonders with Weidman's striking. The Middleweight Champion looked on point tonight with improved kicks, strong knees in the clinch, and excellent footwork he used to cut off Machida instead of following the karateka. Under Matt Serra and Longo, Weidman has two of the best technical coaches in the sport and it is very exciting to watch him continue to develop.
- Lyoto Machida looked excellent at times during this fight. I had questioned how 'real' his rebirth at Middleweight was and the idea that he is on the downside of his career. I was pretty clearly wrong about Machida, who was more than game at times. I'd expect Machida to get right back in the pool of contenders and possibly get a rematch in the not too distant future with Weidman, should he retain the belt.
- Dana White has already gone on record saying he'd like to Weidman to face Vitor Belfort next, which would be Belfort getting a title shot immediately off a failed drug test suspension The fight makes sense on the basic level that Belfort is the #2 guy in the division, it still would ridiculous to reward Belfort for his inability to pass tests. Jacare Souza, should be beat Gegard Mousasi, makes much more sense as a next challenger.
- Ronda Rousey doesn't just live up to the hype, she surpasses it and makes it understated. She blew the doors off Alexis Davis in fight that could fit onto a Vine video, while fighting on a knee injury that was kept amazingly quite. Ronda is more than just a great athlete, she is a natural MMA talent. Her boxing is clearly improved, she punched over a Davis jab for that knockdown punch with the craft of an experienced boxer, but her lighting fast transition to the clinch, a knee strike, and the death throw was an exemplary example of mixed martial arts prowess. Her improvement from fight to fight is frightening and at this point she is pretty undoubtedly the best female MMA fighter our there at this point, including Cyborg.
- The Matt Mitrione and Stefan Struve fight was cancelled due to health concerns. Struve was diagnosed with a heart condition heading into the fight. So, when Struve showed an elevated heart rate and came close to feinting backstage, the fight was called off. We hope all is well with Struve and that he is healthy.
- Uriah Hall has gotten a reputation as a mentally weak and his gutting through a graphically broken toe against Thiago Santos was the perfect sort of fight to shake that image of him. Hall was clearly in pain between rounds as his toe was mangled in a near Jon Jones like fashion but he still kicked with the foot and didn't allow it to impact his movement. Hall put the cherry on top with his "Life hits like bitch" speech afterwards and his imagine likely got a boost. The fight was close, and he likely didn't deserve the 30-27 card, but I scored the final two rounds in his favor.
- Marcus Brimage debuted at Bantamweight and had a very competitive fight against Russell Doane. Many thought Brimage took two rounds, and considered it a competitive fight, but were left scratching their heads when Doane was award a split decision that included a 30-27 card. At this point it is just expected that MMA judges will fail at their jobs, and while the second round was competitive enough to make a 29-28 card in favor of Doane a possibility, a 30-27 card is out of the realm of reality.
- Urijah Faber struggled a bit with Alex Caceres, who wasn't physically overmatched by the former WEC Champion. Faber clearly won the first round but Caceres certainly had a case for winning the second round. Faber is a professional though, did not get demoralized and in the third round shifting into a gear that Caceres could not match. Still this is the first time Faber has struggled in a non-title fight in a very long time. It might be a simple case of his being due for a less than stellar three round fight, but Faber is 35-years-old and pushing forty fights in his career, he might be starting to show some wear and tear. It is bound to happen at some point, so this fight might do down as a bump on the road towards another fight with Dominick Cruz or it could one of the early signs of Faber's decline.
- While Kenny Robertson is never going to contend for a title, his domination of Ildemar Alcantara show that Robertson is dedicating to sill working to improve. Robertson looks like he could make a great challenge fight for some of the better action fighters at Welterweight and be akin to Mike Pyle or what Chris Lytle used to be for the division. It was an enjoyable fight and Robertson's grappling was on point because Alcantara is not slouch on the mat.
- Rob Font really showed off his heavy hands in his UFC debut as he made Geroge Roop do the funky chicken after a big straight right hand. It was a short fight for Font, but he was able to show off his hand speed and power and a bit of his good footwork. Font is a very interesting fighter at Featherweight and by the way he treated Roop, looks like he could quickly swim in the deep waters of the division.
- Kevin Casey has a solid showing, really flexing his budding striking abilities. It was a solid win for Casey who could make a nice home for himself as a lower tier Middleweight action fighter.