Ruthless Robbie Lawler really earned his shot at UFC Welterweight Champion as Matt Brown put a heck of a scrap to cap off an entertaining evening of fights on the UFC of Fox 12 card. It was an excellent night of fights, and the technical, tactical brawl between Lawler and Brown really put the cherry on top of the card in which nearly every winner on the main card could find themselves in a UFC title fight in the next year.
On to thoughts on the fights:
- Robbie Lawler earned his title shot tonight, Matt Brown put up a real challenge and forced Lawler to again grind through. This fight was all about the first and fifth rounds, which were fantastic. Brown put a much more competitive fight than I expected, and Brown was really able to stop the body punching of Lawler. However, Lawler was able to gain an edging the boxing and used that to start setting up hard left kicks to the body that really took a toll on Brown, in addition to getting Brown on the mat on a few occasions. Solid effort by both guys that resulted in a great fight.
- Matt Brown's Muay Thai clinch was called the best in the MMA, and that is entirely fair. Brown brings a kickboxing game that as close to a pure Thai game we get in MMA. In the clinch he mixes together punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and dumps in a way that consistently is attacking and keeps opponents off balance.
- Anthony Johnson put on a very clear demonstration that the game has firmly passed Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by. Yes, Nogueira was a fantastic, well-rounded fighter in Pride, with great Jiu Jitsu and boxing. But that was a decade ago. In Johnson, Nogueira was faced with modern MMA striker and he was behind in terms of footwork, power, size, and the difference in hand speed was just massive. While it was a fantastic performance by Johnson, the biggest take away was that Nogueira can no longer compete against the upper levels of the divisions.
- Dennis Bermudez showed off why he has the third longest win streak in the UFC, he has a diverse MMA offensive game. He was able to out strike, out wrestle, and out grapple Guida. At the end Guida, a very tough guy to submit, didn't show Bermudez enough respect, as he gave up his back and tired to scramble out without checking the choke, and paid the price. While Bermudez asked for a title fight, a top five test might be more of whats in his future, as the title picture is a little murky at Featherweight.
- Josh Thomson got a curve-ball with short notice replacement Bobby Green, who is a very different fighter from Michael Johnson who was originally slated to fight last night. Green was able to stick Thomson in first gear and come away with a close win, if a little disputed. This is another big, upset win for Bobby Green who is quickly climbing the ranks of the Lightweight division and with this win needs to now be considered a contender for the title.
- Daron Cruickshank was showing off his excellent and entertaining kicking game, and scored a knockdown with a big right hand. But Jorge Masvidal did an excellent job dragging Cruickshank to the ground, and came very close to finishing a d'arce choke in the second round, and had the beginnings of another in the third. It was a solid comeback on the part of Masvidal. For Cruickshank, it is yet another setback as he tries to separate from the pack at Lightweight and emerge as a contender. Cruickshank is just not able to force his game on the upper level of fighters, and he might need to add a new dimension to his game to shake things up.
- Patrick Cummins showed off that he is a pretty darn good wrestler and in fact a good prospect. Saying he firmly out wrestled Kyle Kingsbury is a massive understatement, Cummins put had one of the all time one sided fights in UFC history, to the point were he received both a 30-25 and a 30-24 and those are both far more correct than 30-27. In a surprising move, Kingsbury decided to retire after the fight, so best to luck to him in anything he decides to pursue.
- Tim Means had a cagey performance against Hernani Perpetuo and showed off his veteran MMA skills. Means has a good command of distance on the feet and is a solid kickboxer. Perpetuo blocked one too many hand kicks with one arm and broke his left arm at some point, allowing Means to firmly take command of the fight.
- RFA Bantamweight Champion Brian Ortega got the win he needed here, a quick submission. Good showing for Ortega, who makes up for a still evolving standing game with aggression and a dynamic grappling game. He got to show off the strong points of his game and now gets to continue to work in the gym. It was a slick piece of work for the Gracie Breakdown veteran.
- The Fight Pass portion of the card had Noad Lahat showing off some pretty solid ground skills with a win over Steven Siler and then managing to dance around some awkward questions in the post fight interview. Joanna Jedrzejczky and Tiago dos Santos both got decision wins. The most interesting match was by far the clash of Brazilian Gilbert Burns and Swed Andreas Stahl in a battle of very solid prospects, who looked far more polished in their debuts than expected. Burns got the win with striking that has advanced far quicker than expected, likely the result of the coaching of the brilliant Henri Hooft, but Stahl showed off excellent scrambling and wrestling along with fairly solid striking himself. Both looked to be very good fighters in the making.