UFC 161 was a card that was ravaged by injury. It was originally supposed be where the Interim Bantamweight title fight between Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland would be featured and the rematch of an old Pride classic would take place with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Antonio Rogeiro Nogueira. But injury took its toll, canceling those two bouts and altering others, leaving us with a card that was not overly exciting, but represented the best of a bad situation.
Injuries are just part of the sport and while 2013 hasn't been ravaged the way 2012 was by constant bout changes and swaps due to injury, it is clear the days of guys toughing out serious injury to just get in the cage are gone. There is too much money at stake and fighters don't want to risk their careers for a single payday. And in all honestly fighters shouldn't have to fight injured so as painful for fans as it when an anticipated fight goes down the tubes, it is better for the fighters to heal up and get in the Octagon in tip-top shape.
On to the other thoughts on the event:
- Rashad Evans got that all important win, but didn't necessarily impress during it. He did make more effective use of his jab and created offense with his striking in ways he has never done before. His stand up performance last night was miles ahead of the fighter who just sat back and let Forrest Griffin do whatever he wanted, dropped two rounds of kickboxing for winging a right hand for the win. But Rashad's wrestling did not look nearly as on point as it has in the past, he was totally unable to get Henderson to floor and historically getting Henderson down has not been the most difficult task for able wrestlers. This might simply have been the case that Rashad has never been a blast double leg in the center of the cage kind of guy, he much prefers to work against the fence, which is where Henderson excels at grappling.
- Even with this win it is becoming increasing clear that Evans doesn't really know what he wants to do with his career. He made comments at the press conference that he was comfortable at Light Heavyweight, but then said if a good opportunity came up at Middleweight he'd take it. He then commented that he is fighting now for his love of competition. That is very concerning as it shows that Evans doesn't really have a plan going forward. It seems winning tonight was all Rashad was concerned with, and it was important as a loss here would have put him on three fight losing streak. But sometimes it isn't enough to gain a victory; it is knowing how to use it that makes the difference. Not sure where Rashad goes from here, but based on what he has stated I except a fight that is more of a money fight than a serious get back in title contention fight for Rashad.
- Dan Henderson put up another spirited performance, but in the end it resulted another split decision loss that really shouldn't have been split. Henderson clearly slowed down in the second round and was breathing hard towards the end of the first round. Henderson's use of TRT likely prolonged his career and allowed him to turn back the hands of time for a bit but Henderson is on the verge of turning 43 and this is just a difficult sport to stay competitive in at that age. I'll never tell a fighter to retire and there are winnable fights at Light Heavyweight for Henderson but it is pretty clear now how not competitive a match between Henderson and Jones would be.
- Stipe Miocic impressed the hell out of me in his fight with Roy Nelson. He was moving really well, cutting angles, landing hard counters after making Nelson over extend on his own punches, and the accuracy of the strikes thrown by Miocic were damn near perfect. It is very clear that I badly underestimated Miocic's fighting ability coming into this bout and this was a real bright spot of the card as we watched a new Heavyweight contender emerge. The best part was Miocic's defensive skills, normally his Achilles heel, was very much shored up as Nelson was unable to land his signature overhand right.
- Nelson is the kind of fighter that when loses "it" things are going to go downhill in a hurry. Nelson looked slow, he gassed early in the fight and when he landed a right hand and Miocic didn't just fall over the fight seemed to leave Nelson. He held on and took his fifteen minute drubbing like a man, but this might be the beginning of the end for Roy Nelson. There are factors like taking this fight on short notice, but considering all that was at stake here I expected a bit more out of Nelson. Each time Miocic landed a strike it was like a video game where you could see the coins fly out of Roy Nelson as his next contract's monetary value decreased a little bit each time.
- UFC fans you have now met the real Ryan Jimmo. A man with good footwork and power, but felt a need to press Igor Pokrajac into the fence, take him down, and then not really do anything. That was painful to watch.
- Rosi Sexton put up a very spirited fight against Alexis Davis in a match that wasn't the all action affair the other UFC women's matches have been, but was still a very good and competitive fight. Davis ended up winning, but Sexton made it much, much harder that many originally thought it would be. There were some fun grappling exchanges and overall this was a good fight. Davis might have taken some of the luster of the idea of her being the ground fighter that would cause Ronda Rousey to keep things standing but she got the win and likely will get another chance in the Octagon before Rousey finishes everything with TUF and Meisha Tate.
- Shawn Jordan and Pat Barry are friends, and if that is how Jordan fights his friends then I don't want to be his enemy. Jordan pounced on Barry after an uppercut rocked the former kickboxer and rained down strikes that seemed to do serious damage to the left side of Barry's face. Barry is a likable guy and seeing him absorb damage like that isn't all that much fun, but it was a good win for Jordan to build off of.
- I thought Tyron Woodley won the main event of the undercard, as Jake Shields' offense was limited to pushing Woodley into the cage and a few "almost " takedowns. This wasn't a good fight as Woodley got back to his very limited offensive output ways and Shields continues to have no stand up. Bad fight all around and throw a crappy decision on top of that and it was a real downer.
- James Krause looked excellent in his UFC debut. He threw some very nice kicks, opened a nasty gash on Sam Stout, and used his reach extremely well. Krause has grown a lot as a fighter since his 2009 run in the WEC and he got a chance to show that in this fight.
- Kenny Robertson landed a hellacious elbow on Sean Pierson. Robertson had been ducking the jab and coming over the top with the right hand a few times and then substituted an elbow for the right hook, to great effect. I felt that final round was a 10-8 and that the fight should have at least ended in a draw, but two judges gave it to Pierson, not a robbery by any means.
- Roland Delorme and Dustin Pague both had great offensive grappling output in their fights, throwing up submissions from every which way and made the early undercard fun to watch. Sadly Pague was not rewarded for his offensive grappling, the judges rewarding the top position of Yves Jabouin.