And the UFC wanted to make it doubly clear that Renan Barao was the man with a problem at UFC 177, when they trotted him out like he'd just chewed a slipper for Joe Rogan's verbal equivalent of a rolled up newspaper to the nose. In light of all the weirdness, this is probably going to be kind of an odd Hindsight article. I'm going to compound that by trying to shift if back a bit to it's intent, as a reflection on fight picking, not just on the fighters themselves. I'll still be talking about the performances and what was to be learned from them, but I'll try and get into what was to be learned from picking individual fighters to win, with a bit more vigor than I have in the past.
Disclaimer Time: With that, here's your regular disclaimer that I don't gamble, even a little. I just make fight picks and talk about odds and all that kind of stuff that much of the MMA community does whether they actually put money on fights or not. I just find the use of odds and the act of fight picking a helpful framework for talking about fighter development and our expectations as observers going into and coming out of bouts. As always, I'll be using Best Fight Odds for the odds on each fight and taking the mode for each fighter. Now, on to the picks.
- Close to pick-em odds on a very pick-em fight. I took Cain going in because I just hadn't seen any aggression out of Wade in the past, meaning Carrizosa would get a lot of time to work. The odds themselves make decent sense, however, considering that Wade has a wrestling and kickboxing base and a meaningful regional title, to take on Carrizosa's submission grappling arsenal.
- Of course, the immediate notable change from my expectations then, was that missing aggression. Wade came in strong behind his strikes, locked up a dominant grappling position, took Carrizosa down and started sub hunting. That's a great development to see from a 26 year old with only 3-ish years of pro experience.
- Carrizosa will undoubtedly get another chance to prove himself in the UFC, but his next fight may be do or die. You can't get dominated in a fight this quickly at the bottom end of the UFC's deepest divisions and expect to stick around long. Considering Carrizosa has only had seven pro fights, that's a very rough spot for him to be in.
- This fight very much bore out the odds. Even longer ones wouldn't have been out of place. But, both fighters lost badly to much better, more experienced fighters last time around, so I really didn't know what to expect from either of them. The eventual lesson was that any candle I held for Potts being an even serviceable UFC heavyweight was just burned to the ground.
- It pains me to say that Anthony Hamilton didn't really show a lot that was new or improved in this fight, beyond, perhaps, his cardio. Given an opponent who couldn't really wrestle or grapple with him (but struck with him well enough) Hamilton showed a really ineffective GNP game. He spent a lot of time on top, but the stoppage seemed more of a mercy than any accumulation of damage. Him hyping his "world class" striking afterward didn't help his case at all.
- I can only think that Pott's game is the result of not fighting any natural heavyweights. It makes no sense to have so few tools to compete against big strong guys if you're going to fight at 265 lbs. The idea of seeing a guard-pull heavy attack in 2014's heavyweight division is kind of tragic. Even Werdum hasn't done that since facing Overeem, and he's a BJJ wizard.
- I'm a little surprised that the odds on Larkin moved as close as they did, honestly. Even as a big fan of his, I didn't see many avenues for a win on his part, beyond him showing significant improvement. And it's rarelya good idea to pick a fighter on the basis of them getting better. Eventually, the easy call was that Larkin didn't have enough defense to strike as aggressively as he needed to to win. And that was the result.
- Derek Brunson has probably not come close to hitting his stride as a fighter, but he may be turning the corner in terms of really putting his skills together and fighting to his strengths. I wouldn't be surprised if he starts to put together a bit of a run at 185.
- This is the game change point for Larkin. He has officially been shown that his skill set is flawed. He's had known holes in his game, first with aggression, and then as he's been aggressive, with defense. This fight showed that he's still struggling with those same problems. He's not old, his career's not that long, he can turn it around, but he needs to make major changes to do so. And those changes may have to come outside the UFC.
- Even odds for a fight that didn't end up being very close at all. I'd attribute that largely to Medeiros' utterly lackluster UFC run to this point (even his best win got taken away). It doesn't help as well that Jackson had the style to beat him on paper. But, short notice and size will out. It's rough when mitigating factors heavily affect a fight pick.
- As I expect Jackson will immediately drop down, this loss shouldn't reflect too poorly on him. I'd actually argue that he showed some of the technical skill to beat Medeiros early on in this fight, but Medeiros' size and Jackson's lack of prep broke him down pretty quick. Down a division and with a month of training in the lead up, Jackson should be able to win a few fights.
- And of course, for Medeiros, this was a fight he had to win. He's been around just enough now, that he should no longer be getting his feet wet. Medeiros needs to roll over LWs in the bottom of his division to be taken seriously and he did a good job of getting a stoppage here. Another one or two like it, and I'd be convinced that he could make his mark as a mainstay action fighter.
- I was honestly shocked to see Ferreira as the favorite here, going in. Nijem has been inconsistent, and I do believe that Ferreira is a legit talent, but it felt like Nijem had turned a corner and had the size and skill to deal with Ferreira's wild striking and BJJ. All of that was wrong though, and Ferreira rolled over him in a pretty ugly striking battle.
- That said, Nijem really probably has turned a corner, it's just not sticking. And it may never stick. He looked stronger, sharper, and more fluid than Ferreira early, but once he got cracked all that went out the window and Nijem went back to his old staple of rushing in face first with both hands out. Chin doesn't mean much when you're running yourself into your opponents strikes. And it looks like Nijem's defensive troubles may be pretty deeply ingrained.
- Ferreira needs some technical polish if he's ever going to be a real contender for a ranking slot. He can strike wild, because he's not afraid to get into the ground game and scramble, but sooner or later, a more defensively minded striker is just going to keep him at bay, and probably hurt him, or he's going to get taken down and ground out by a more proficient wrestler grappler. Right now, he's a quality prospect, but his gaps will require real, focused work beyond just getting cage time.
- This is one of those situations where I have to think that name value just overrides good sense. The odds didn't move much, so this has to be down to odds makers looking at the probability of a close fight. That was never a good idea, and Correia proved that pretty emphatically.
- And yet, Baszler still got the chance to do her thing early in round 1, when she crowded Correia and eventually drew her in to a triangle chain threat. But, that game has largely been passed by in MMA. There are few fighters who can win consistently as submission artists, even fewer as guard heavy submission artists. Without striking or a takedown game, Baszler doesn't have a lot to offer UFC competition.
- While the first round of this fight opened up some potential questions about Correia's defensive positioning and grappling/GNP power, the finish was as dramatic and spectacular as anyone might have hoped. It really looks like Correia is pouring energy into becoming a decent technical boxer and is now showing some of the power she hinted at earlier in her career.
- I was very surprised to see how heavily favored Ferguson was going into this fight. His style was one that Castillo has struggled with at times, but Ramsey Nijem is probably the closest thing he'd faced to an aggressive wrestle boxer. Castillo presented a lot of problems, on paper, for Ferguson, and I'm not sure Ferguson answered any of them.
- I won't say Castillo won this fight, it was a poor showing, to be sure. But his biggest loss probably came in the post fight speech. He had every right to feel hard done by, but telling fans how things would go down if he were on top of Ferguson in prison (along with his lay-n-pray performance) may have sent him to permanent Fight Pass prelim purgatory. He's still better than 70% of his division, but this felt like his capping point.
- And for Ferguson this fight felt like more of a step back than anything. For a promising fighter who should be finding his groove right now, in a very deep lightweight division his statement fight was "I'm not ready." The UFC should throw him in against Gleison Tibau or Norman Parke or another sturdy grinder to see if he can actually get over that hump.
- Welp, odds can be a hell of a thing. Soto wasn't about to beat them, and I'd argue he wasn't anywhere close, but he certainly made the immense odds against him look misplaced with a scrappy, competitive performance against the champion. I'd argue that the shock factor of him sticking in the fight made a pretty one-sided affair feel much closer, but I wouldn't be surprised if Soto is favored next time out.
- For what it's worth, Joe Soto should be peaking right now. This is his time to shine. He's 27, he's been fighting since 2006, and he's face some pretty decent competition. Getting inserted straight into the top of the division may have been a rough introduction to the UFC, but the fallout puts him right where he needs to be for his career moving forward.
- For Dillashaw, it's hard to know what to take away from this fight, except that he's proving to be a finisher as champion. I'd argue this was probably closer to a training room performance than anything, but Dillashaw made his volume and accuracy count as the fight wore down, and eventually put Soto's lights out. Not the strongest performance of his career, but not one that should be getting him much criticism either.
Those are my collected thoughts on UFC 177. So many of them seem obvious now, but as always, that's the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for a Sunday edition next week, as I'll be talking about UFC Fight Night: Jacare vs. Mousasi, and why Mousasi is probably getting to a title shot first. I may even throw an Invicta or Bellator tidbit in there. We'll see what catches from this weekend's other fights. Until then!