Okay, so maybe not quite a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal, but damn close. UFC 175's main event between Lyoto Machida and champion Chris Weidman was a delight, a rare treat, something to be savored for days, weeks, months. That fight is what MMA is supposed to be. What, on its best day this sport is meant to look like, and damn if it wasn't just exquisite violence. Stories will be told, songs will be sung, somewhere an artist has been inspired to create a masterpiece (which, incidentally, is probably not this article). All told it was one amazing fight that punctuated a decent if pale by comparison weekend of bouts. So, on to the remembering.
Disclaimer Time: Underdogs won 10 fights this weekend. Some of those men/women shouldn't have been underdogs at all (I'm looking at you Kevin Casey and Russell Doane), but for the most part, they were fighters that could have reasonably been expected to lose to what was perceived to be superior competition. MMA, especially at the intermediary levels of the sport, is incredibly hard to read. Good performances by one fighter over another often do little to project success in future fights. Sometimes, stylistic matchups make it easier, and certainly as fighters get better and better it gets a bit easier to separate the wheat from the chaff, but if you're seriously betting on Luke Zachrich vs. Guilherme Vasconcelos, you might as well throw your money in a hole. I'll be using BestFightOdds for the odds on each fight and taking the mode for each fighter.
Hindsight: Bubba Bush (-200) vs. Kevin Casey (+170) (I picked Casey, I was right)
- Bubba Bush needs to work on his boxing, a lot. Apparently he's been training at Jackson's lately, so hopefully that will help, but his striking is really limited and will put him at a significant disadvantage in the UFC's middleweight division.
- I'd love to say that I'm really feeling like Kevin Casey has turned a corner. I hope he has, because this was a terrific performance. But, my pre-fight prediction was that Casey would finish this early, because he's a fast starter, and Bush can't out strike him. That's essentially what happened (even if I thought Casey would sub him), so I'm not sure if Casey is improved or not from his first UFC stint.
- Casey is however, a welcome addition to middleweight, improved or not. He has skills and power, and he always goes for the finish. Even if he tires quickly, that still makes him a really fun fighter to watch and a guy who could compete at 185.
Hindsight: Guilherme Vasconcelos (-170) vs. Luke Zachrich (+150) (I picked Vasconcelos, I was wrong)
- I hoped that Vasconcelos' high pre-UFC standard of competition, and quality grappling chops, would make him a solid favorite over Zachrich (who I've waffled badly on). Unfortunately, like so many BJJ practitioners early in their MMA careers, he appears to get really stuck in striking mode and/or doesn't have much transition offense. Either way, he's going to have to figure out how to grapple in MMA asap.
- As I noted above, I've vacillated a lot on Zachrich. Initially, I picked him to beat Caio Magalhaes, off what appeared to be a pretty good skill set of technical kickboxing and technical grappling. Then Magalhaes came out and stomped him, and I assumed that Zachrich's technical skill was going to be undercut by a lack of athletic ability. The truth is probably somewhere inbetween, and more particularly, I should think much better of Magalhaes after this performance by Zachrich.
- Fortunately for Luke, with a win under his belt, 185 is full of competitive fights for him. I don't know how high he can rise in the division, but he has some real solid skills standing and grappling and with the right matchups he could be in the UFC for a while.
Hindsight: Rob Font (+160) vs. George Roop (-200) (I picked Roop, I was wrong)
- When picking this fight I noted that Font is exactly the type of fighter that typically beats George Roop. I then assumed that Roop would still be a bit too big a test for a UFC debut. Consider me told.
- This was a terrible loss for George Roop. He's been around forever, and bantamweight is still packed with guys he can beat, but he was getting fed a green fighter here. For someone with as much experience as he has, his problems with striking defense and a less than stellar chin have never really changed or improved.
- This could mean very good things for Font. Roop was a serious challenge, and a great way for Font to show off his power. He's also got a nice takedown game, and a reasonably varied striking offense. If he can continue to improve technically, he could make waves at 135.
Hindsight: Chris Camozzi (-230) vs. Bruno Santos (+195) (I picked Camozzi, I was wrong)
- Everything about Chris Camozzi's performance in this fight was bad, including his post fight interview where he blamed the loss on Santos' hug-heavy style. Camozzi is a seasoned UFC vet at this point in his career, he shouldn't be losing fights on wrestling and top control alone.
- Bruno Santos has yet to look good in the UFC, but has looked very much like the fighter he's always been en-route to a 1-1 record. He's strong and he grinds with the best of them. Every division needs a blanket, for MW, that Blanket is Bruno Santos.
- And much like Zachrich above, 185 is full of decent matchups for Santos to keep on winning. If he sticks to his style he may never be among the best, but he could be around for quite a while.
- Trying to strike the balance of size and technique when picking fights is one of the most difficult things to do. I really thought Alcantara had improved enough to use his size functionally against Robertson's much more technical wrestling game. I was very wrong, at least right up until the end.
- Robertson continues to impress and is getting to the point where I really shouldn't be picking against him when facing mid-to-low level welterweights. His wrestling is fantastic, his control is superb, and he's even mixed in some ground and pound. Consider me more or less sold on Robertson as a fighter to watch.
- Alcantara is back to the drawing board again, much like his loss to Igor Araujo, he got out worked by someone who had no problems engaging him inside. When facing guys without a great inside game or with more pure grapplers, Alcantara has a decent, well rounded style. But at this point he can pretty definitively get crowded out of his fight.
- Really solid showing from Caceres in a fight he was destined to lose. He looked every bit like a top ten bantamweight fighting one of the division's very best, and hopefully this should be the kind of fight to really get him some love with the UFC Brass, the MMA Media, and with fans in general. Hell, he fared better than Michael McDonald, and arguably even won the second round. Great fight for Bruce Leeroy.
- It does give one a moment's pause about Faber however, who did, at times, look less than dominant against an opponent he was expected to crush. Partially I think that has to do with Caceres' length and height and ability to use those effectively against the cage. But, this fight does create that fighter/age itch, just a little... Inevitably I think it's more about Faber not feeling like he had to put 100% into this fight, and then just turning it up for the win at the end to be sure.
- Hopefully now, the UFC will get Caceres another top 10-15 opponent, maybe Francisco Rivera, or someone of his ilk. Caceres can still feel a little funky and unpolished in the cage, but there's no doubt that he's earned more chances at the top of the division.
Hindsight: Marcus Brimage (-125) vs. Russell Doane (+105) (I picked Doane, I was right-ish)
- Brimage's hands looked really, really improved for this fight, as did his kickboxing in general. Honestly I thought he outstruck Doane pretty handily for much of the fight and felt it was a pretty clear decision for Brimage. There was probably a tossup round in there that could swing it either way, but I'm shocked that he didn't get the nod.
- Doane is, however, a much more dangerous opponent than advertised. He needs to work on refining his standup, but he has power, a good chin, and a great scrambling and sub ability, hopefully he can keep refining his skills and become a decent player at 135.
- I hope this doesn't take too much shine of Brimage for the UFC and for fans. He's a really outstanding athlete, who looks to be turning himself into a better fighter. His last couple outings haven't gone his way, but he should still be considered something of a prospect at bantamweight, especially considering his really slow schedule over his 7 year career.
- Hall continues to look Hall-ish, which is to say: less stellar 75% of the time than he is in that last 25%, and by a wide margin. This time he has an excuse, a broken toe that seemed to actually pep-him up a little, but it still ended up being a pretty poor fight.
- Thiago Santos can hold his head up a bit, that he stayed competitive to the point that some people thought he won. I wasn't one of those people, but I thought Santos looked improved and wouldn't mind seeing him get another fight.
- Unfortunately for the UFC, I'm sure, they still really don't have much recourse other than to put Hall in another less than stellar fight against one of the many less than stellar middleweights. He hasn't come close to earning a crack at the upper half of the division yet and until he starts showing a bit of real dominance is going to be held up as a disappointment.
- Uhh... damn. There's really not a lot left to say about Rousey's performance than that. I've been saying all along that Ronda is getting exponentially better each time out, and this was more or less proof positive.
- That fight couldn't have gone worse for Davis if she'd just forfeited before the opening bell. I wish there was a way to sugarcoat it, but there isn't. She wasn't competitive, she didn't get a chance to "make a good fight out of it" she got put on skates by a hard punch knee combo, thrown-down, and then beat until she thought Yves Lavigne was wearing a sports bra. The fact that she's still pretty definitively a top 5 bantamweight does not reflect well on the rest of the division.
- The point at which the UFC can not be satisfied with the rank and file at 135 is now. They've gone through their usual channels of developing talent, getting solid regional veterans at a bargain and young prospects as they come up the ranks, but they need to splash out hard and get Ronda some big fights. They have lightning in a bottle, and who knows for how long. Keep her in fights that excite.
Hindsight: Chris Weidman (-190) vs. Lyoto Machida (+160) (I picked Weidman, I was right)
- When it comes to fighting, Chris Weidman has something special he draws on, something unbreakable. And damn if Lyoto Machida didn't come close to breaking it anyway. Weidman won for the ways and reasons I thought he would, but Machida demanded restitution for every step forward Weidman took. This was legendary stuff and hopefully something that Weidman can build a real legacy off of.
- Lyoto Machida continues to show that at this moment he is better than ever before. Weidman had him beat, much as Jones did early in that fight. He marched through Machida's best shots, cut the cage off, and hit Machida hard enough to put fear in him and stop much of Machida's more careful footwork and movement. And then, Machida kept working, kept solving, and figured out just how to cut through Weidman's offense. It was one of Machida's greatest performances, even in a loss.
- I complain a bit about Rogan and Goldie's commentary, in a sort of bored way, but if I'm honest, I rarely if ever actually take notice of it. It usually just seeps into the background, becoming more of a tonal palate than actual words. This was an exception. Rarely have I ever felt more need for better play-by-play and analysis than I did for this fight. Neither of them seemed equipped to deal with the high levels of striking technique on display at all and it became a running stream of anecdotes and cliches. The UFC desperately needs better striking analysis and this fight was a major highlight of that failure.
TUF 19 Finale
- Drysdale looks really comfortable and competent in his discipline, which is a great sign for a division lacking in skill fighters and rising talent.
- Unfortunately, I'd also be really surprised if Berish or Drysdale ever fight at 205 again. They both weighed in several pounds under the limit for this fight, and Berish is almost certainly moving down. If that happens, then 205 is back to the drawing board.
- If Drysdale does stay at 205, there are certainly a lot of good fights for him and it would be a lot of fun to watch him tangle up the bottom half of the light heavyweight division, especially considering how poorly Magalhaes did, when given the same task.
- Defresne (pronounced Doo-frane, I just learned) deserved that loss. Even if she technically, maybe should have won on points, and I'm not even sure of that. She missed weight badly, looked terribly out of shape, and had little to nothing to offer from top control. Bad fight, bad showing, bad loss.
- Which brings me to a question of her training. She comes from a big, decent camp, fighting out of Team Quest, but she's missed weight often in her early career as well. I don't know if she's not at that camp very often or if she just has problems training or if that weight just isn't possible for her, but she may not be long for the UFC or 135 if she can't actually fight there.
- Big win for Sarah Moras and one she deserved for being the more active and engaging fighter. She outstruck Dufresne pretty easily when it was standing and was much more aggressive in her submission attempts from the bottom. It's not the best win in the world, and showed a lot of work to do on takedown defense, but it's always good to start your UFC career with a win.
- Fighters like Spohn mystify me just a little bit. He hasn't been in the game that long (since 2009), but he has some serious time at a high level, having fought Atilla Vegh to a split decision as part of a 4 fight stint in Bellator. And yet, no part of his striking game seems built around stuffing takedowns consistently. Hopefully this loss to Walsh was a bit of a wakeup call, because it was a fight made for him to win.
- Great showing from Patrick Walsh, who looks like he could be a real rough diamond. He's got a dogged, technical wrestling game and not much else at the moment, hopefully he can continue to develop and add tools and become a decent prospect at 205 or 185.
- In the mean time, he's in a bit of the same situation as Patrick Cummins. There are guys he can beat out there, but most of them are at such a low level that beating them really doesn't mean much. It'll be up to the UFC to bring in fighters for him to be competitive with. At the moment, they seem to be doing just that, stocking 205 with 185 lb regional champs, or mediocre vets whenever needed.
- This was a hell of a fight to give Puig in his UFC debut, and one that made no sense at any level. The results basically speak for themselves and take what little shine there might have been off of one of the UFC's few Mexican prospects.
- This is an utterly meaningless win for Adriano Martins. He's already shown that he can stop Daron Cruickshank, a win over Puig, even an exciting KO, doesn't do much but add to his highlight reel.
- Hopefully Puig can patch himself up and be ready to go again by November for the UFC's Mexico City card. He's not a bad fighter, but he's really only a top control wrestler/grappler and he needs to be matched up with a few lower end lightweights if he's going to get any momentum at all.
- Really tough loss for Tuerxun, especially as one of the few fighters who looked like he might be able to have been developed on the Chinese circuit and could possibly cut it in the UFC. His striking is improving, along with his aggression, but the defense and the grappling just aren't there.
- I was surprised with how much trouble Issa had getting the win, and it was a good reminder that his striking is still really very bad. But, he's faced a lot of solid competition regionally and has a great BJJ game and it eventually shown through late.
- I doubt the UFC cuts Tuerxun, but I don't know how they match him up either. There just aren't that many fighters who are going to allow him to be a wrestle brawler at 135. I wouldn't be surprised if the UFC eventually gives up on lobbing easier opponents at him and just throws him at a tough prospect as a significant underdog.
- It looks like Lee has abandoned whatever crab-like boxing work he was doing in preparation for his last fight, for a more traditional striking offense. It also looks like he needs to do a lot more work on his striking to really be competitive and not put himself in danger on the feet. Fortunately for him, he has enough other tools to take his time and still win some fights.
- Ronson's skills just don't quite line up right for the talent he's facing in the UFC. He's a decent Muay Thai kickboxer, but without a ton of power, or great defense. This also means that he's not terribly hard to takedown. All told, he's tough and he's skilled, but without more tools he's too limited to win fights.
- Lee will be a very interesting fighter to watch down the line. He's extremely young and appears very gifted, especially in transition. He recently moved to Xtreme Couture and Drysdale BJJ down in Nevada, and it already showed in this fight. Hopefully he continues to improve.
- Dustin Ortiz is the new gatekeeper to the top 5 at flyweight. If it weren't for a bit of a bum rap against John Moraga, he'd be 4-0 in the UFC right now. He's looking better than ever with significantly improved boxing and if he keeps winning a shot at a no. 1 contender may be in his future.
- Tough loss for Scoggins, but one he should learn from. Most particularly, Ortiz was the first fighter to really make Scoggins pay for an exciting but often chancy striking style. Ortiz's hands were better all fight, and by closing down distance on Scoggins constantly, he kept Scoggins' wider variety of techniques from coming into play, making it a straight wrestling/boxing match were Scoggins was the equal wrestler often, but the lesser boxer.
- I wrote off Ortiz way too early in his UFC career, as a guy who had probably plateaued early and would be a good test, but never a great, top-tier fighter. I'm not sure why, the only thing I can chalk it up to is having seen him fight Ian McCall so many years ago. But Ortiz is proving me wrong by a wide margain, and looks better than ever before.
- This fight couldn't have gone any more to script if I'd just written it instead of watching it. Inocente came out and showed superior technique and hand speed, and eventually got a little overly comfortable, got taken down, and got utterly wrecked.
- Lewis has mind-altering power and I have a headache just watching him fight. Mookie is right to point out his late strike after Herb Dean stepped in, but that my be because his punches are so hard that Lewis himself was slightly concussed as well.
- With his combination of crazy finish and crazy interview, Lewis has immediately planted himself as a must watch fighter at 265. A fight between him and Soa Palelei would just be all kinds of fun bananas.
While I was right on in picking Gordon, Anderson, and Edgar, I didn't actually get to see those fights. So, I won't be talking about them here.
So, those are my collected thoughts from UFC 175 and the TUF 19 Finale. There was a lot to learn, and a lot to remember, much of which now seems obvious. But as always, that's the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for next time, when I'll be back on a Thursday talking about the winner of Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller, a fight that already seems improbably evenly matched.