Saturday's UFC card sort of peaked in the middle and then plateaued out to a decent, but not amazing main event. I'll take a look at the main card's first four bouts, including the UFC's second women's bantamweight bout and the final fight of the TUF 17 tournament.
Eventually Uriah Hall and Kelvin Gastelum provided a perfect encapsulation for who they are as fighters. Hall was impressive in bursts, but spent a lot of time looking lost, showboating, and getting hit and controlled. He's got the talent, and even some of the polish, but he lacks consistency; not just from fight to fight, but from round to round and minute to minute. He hit a huge suplex in the second round that was easily the highlight of the fight, and while there's talk that he should have gotten the decision with his overall damage and volume, he spent a lot of time on his heels and getting controlled.
Gastelum, on the other hand, fought with a hard-nosed, grinding style that shows a lot of long term potential. He got put in bad positions, and got hit hard, but stayed with his game plan and his strengths. He was able to take the fight to Hall because he was entirely unwilling to let Hall off the hook when Hall put himself in bad positions. I'd really like to see him make the drop to Welterweight in the future, where his size and strength could mold him into a Mike Pierce sort of fighter.
For those already inducted to the realm of WMMA fandom, it came as little surprise that this fight stole the show. Tate and Zingano fought each other with the kind of malicious intent usually reserved for blood enemies. Tate started the fight by bull-rushing Zingano into a trip takedown, and Zingano responded by starting the next round with a flying knee. They exchanged on the mat, on the feet and everywhere in-between. Zingano entered third possibly down 2-0 on the scorecards, shot for a low double and never let Tate regain control. Eventually she hurt Tate with an impeccably timed knee as Tate rose to her feet and finished the fight with a combination of unanswered knees and elbows. Zingano looked incredibly resilient in this fight, and it's a characteristic that may serve her better than any other when she faces Ronda Rousey late this year.
Gonzaga really looked to fight smart last night, unfortunately for him even the smartest tactics can't always overcome superior athleticism and power. Gonzaga struggled for a series of low singles early in the fight, and eventually switched for a double that put Browne against the fence. With his head on Browne's hip he ate a series of devastating elbows that sent him crashing to the canvas. Of the six elbows landed only the first two were clearly legal strikes. I don't know if Gonzaga will appeal or not but regardless the win definitely puts Browne back on the path to contention and pretty much swamps Gonzaga's chances of entering the coveted "mix."
A lot of this fight took place in the unenthralling middle ground of talents that neither fighter was especially adept at. Bubba McDaniel controlled the striking exchanges with his superior hand and foot speed, but failed to capitalize on those advantages to any meaningful degree. Smith, to his credit, was adept at striking and timing his way into takedowns and worked to control Bubba on the ground. But too often he got swept, countered, and hit and eventually his inexperience and lack of stamina caught up to him with a nifty triangle choke to armbar submission combo. Bubba may not be a top level fighter, but he has a very solid grasp of striking and grappling basics that could lead him to wins over especially green competition.