Here we are again, basking in the afterglow of another UFC event. Or, as several of my media cohorts (and I'm sure many fans are as well) smoldering with an unfulfilled passion for justice. UFC 167 was an historic night of fighting, from it's slow burn under card to the nerve wracking, edge of your seat thrills of the main card fights. Even the most hard done by fan has to feel that they witnessed something important that night.
Which brings us to the fights themselves; what there was to be observed, what I learned in observation. And of course, I can't forget my upfront disclaimer, that I am not a betting man, and this is not a betting guide (especially since it's all ex post facto). I merely enjoy the exercise of picking fights and learning about fighters from what I see them do in the cage and, hopefully, removed from whatever extraneous thoughts I might have about them as people. Anyhow, I've prattled my piece, so let's get to the fights.
Hindsight: Cody Donovan vs. Gian Villante (I picked Villante, I was right)
- Cody Donovan looked generally improved for this fight, but still has all the defense of a tissue paper umbrella.
- Gian Villante has one of MMA's unteachable abilities, the ability to absorb damage.
- An eye-poke at the end of round one panicked Donovan and totally changed that fight.
Hindsight: Will Campuzano vs. Sergio Pettis (I picked Pettis, I was right)
- Campuzano was a perfect test for Sergio Pettis' at this stage of his career. A vet who's been to the big show, but isn't generally athletic enough to beat top fighters.
- Sergio Pettis, more than take down defense, has trouble finding fluidity between his skills. When he's kickboxing he's kickboxing, when he's grappling he's grappling.
- At Campuzano's height I don't know that flyweight will be better for him. He's not too small for bantamweight, so weight class isn't his problem.
Hindsight: Jason High vs. Anthony Lapsley (I picked High, I was right)
- High is a great technical grappler, but he's also a front runner. If he can't end the fight in the first round, he can't end the fight, which puts a significant ceiling on his ability.
- Lapsley showed a lot of determination in winning the second round, but he just got thoroughly dominated in his best dimension. As a 33 year old grappler, he can't afford to not be one of the UFC's best grapplers.
- High has one of the UFC's best top control transition games.
Hindsight: Edwin Figueroa vs. Erik Perez (I picked Perez, I was right)
- Now that he's passed the point of fighting the Bloodworths and the Stones of the UFC Perez may not be consistent enough to finish opponents.
- Being the better athlete was what won Perez this fight. He was faster, stronger, and hit harder without necessarily looking more technical.
- I could see Figueroa getting one last shot if he wants to drop to flyweight, but otherwise he's probably gone.
Hindsight: Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story (I picked Ebersole, I was wrong)
- A lot of Ebersole's style is predicated on him facing regional level talent. The longer he's in the UFC, the more he'll get figured out, and the worse he'll do.
- I wish I saw more from Story in this fight. Tri Star will help refine what he's already good at, but I don't think they'll add new dimensions to his game.
- It's amazing to me that we're 20 years into this sport and there are still fighters who don't check kicks.
Hindsight: Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites (I picked Leites, I was right)
- Herman seems like a good guy, but picking him to win fights in the UFC is an exercise in futility. He will never fight a smart fight.
- Thales Leites' striking is just good enough to keep him at the top end of the middleweight division.
- I'm not sure if it's a focus on sport jiu jitsu or merely a factor of opponent aggression, but it's strange to see a great grappler spend that much time in dominant positions and come up without a sub.
Hindsight: Donald Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham (I picked Cerrone, I was right)
- Dunham is tough, but if he didn't get submitted he was getting knocked out, nobody can absorb those shots for long.
- I don't know if it was a point of his training camp focus, but Cerrone looked more accurate, faster, bigger, and meaner than I've seen in a long time.
- I worry that, even as a former hot prospect (only 3 years ago), Dunham may be heading for a short career in this sport.
Hindsight: Ali Bagautinov vs. Tim Elliott (I picked Elliott, I was wrong)
- Elliott could not have had a worse gameplan. Fighting face out hands down against a better striker was proud and stupid.
- Ali Bagautinov has now beat two much larger flyweights. He needs to work on cardio, but he's proven he can be a top talent.
- Watching Bagautinov's reaction to winning that fight was incredibly satisfying, especially with Elliott grinning and bouncing around post fight.
Hindsight: Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley (I picked Woodley, I was right)
- Woodley still has all the tools necessary to be a top welterweight and a fighter people pay money to watch. His inconsistencies have to do with his willingness to pull the trigger and ensuring that he doesn't gas himself out.
- This was an incredibly dangerous fight for Koscheck following his loss to Lawler, and probably the last of his career because of it.
- This win immediately puts me in mind of Jake Shields and how crazy his ability to change the way opponents fight is.
Hindsight: Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald (I picked MacDonald, I was wrong)
- MacDonald's striking is not as good as he makes it look. He has great form for single strikes, but struggles intensely to put together combinations.
- Robbie's take down defense looked on point and, conversely, MacDonald's shots looked miserable and predictable.
- Lawler's renaissance as a fighter is remarkable, especially considering that it seems to be coming through the proper application of experience rather than wild shifts in game planning.
Hindsight: Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen (I picked Sonnen, I was wrong)
- I can't pick Mauricio Rua to beat James Te Huna
- I don't know that Evans fought any different than he has lately, or that Sonnen fought any different than he has lately, but they are in a division that is almost entirely in decline.
- Watching an aged Sonnen tap to strikes makes me wonder what he means when he talks about fighting a lot longer.
Hindsight: Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks (I picked St-Pierre, I was right-ish)
- Hendricks has to sort out how he finishes fights. Whatever whining he may do, he was singing in his corner between rounds and lost the 5th to a desperate St. Pierre. Hubris lost him that fight.
- I hope GSP has enough good people around him to guide him into retirement. The writing is on the wall, he's looking slower and getting hit more.
- Hendricks is looking like a much more complete fighter than he has previously and added a lot of tools that feed right into what he does well.
Those are my main fight thoughts post UFC 167. Obviously there was some stuff dealing with Dana White, but he wasn't in the cage, so I'm generally avoiding it. Certainly, re-reading what I wrote, much of it seems terribly rudimentary and obvious, but, as always, that's the benefit of hindsight.
More from Bloody Elbow:
- TMZ reports that an unplanned pregnancy and father's ill health are GSP's personal issues
- UFC 167 GSP over Hendricks decision has some calling for reform of NSAC
- Only Georges St-Pierre can decide just how big his problems are, and if he needs to walk away
- UFC 167 results: Who's hurting the day after?
- Dana White: If Josh Koscheck is considering retirement, it 'might be a little premature'