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Hindsight - UFC Fight Night: Jacare vs. Mousasi 2 & Bellator 123 in retrospect

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For man, no rest and no ending. He must go on, conquest beyond conquest. First this little planet with its winds and ways, and then all the laws of mind and matter that restrain him.

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Jacare looks to have broken the code when it comes to his own limitations. He's developed into a fully three dimensional fighter and one of the best athletes at 185 lbs. But he's only one of a few things to talk about today, as there were a ton of fighters competing over several shows here. I'm not going over Invicta, because they aren't running the consistency of shows to make looking at their fights and fighters in a broader perspective especially sensible. But, I'll take a look at the Bellator main card, the second Bellator card to earn a spot in this feature, just because it stood alongside the UFC on such a big fight weekend. It bears talking about.

Disclaimer Time: I went 4-0 on Bellator picks (4-1 if you want to add McCrory's upset win, which didn't make it into most books) but that was a pretty easy card to pick, all things considered. The UFC card took me for 4-6 though. There were some bad losses, some fluky losses, and a few points where I was just so wrong that it can't even be clearly put into perspective. Eventually, this is why I don't gamble. I'm constantly amazed by my ability to call one fight perfectly down the line, and then call another one so perfectly wrong that absolutely all of my expectations are dashed. Still, I like talking odds, picks, and expectations as a framework to a fighter's career. As always, I'll be using BestFightOdds for the odds on each fight, and taking the mode for each fighter.

Bellator 123

Hindsight: Dustin Jacoby (+385) vs. Muhammed Lawal (-600) (I picked Lawal, I was right)

  • Picking Mo to win this fight wasn't exactly an experiment in careful study or consideration. A smaller fighter was brought in at the last minute to face a guy who, despite all his poor performances, is one of the sport's most natural athletes. The fact that Mo still struggled for a round should make him a shorter favorite next time he faces top competition, if that ever happens again.
  • I'm not sure whether Bellator will be looking to build Mo going forward or not. Their planned fight between him and Tom Deblass was not a "build up" kind of fight. DeBlass is a decent fighter with a track record against strong competition, if Mo faces a lot of guys like that, it's hard to see him building much momentum.

Hindsight: Josh Burns (+550) vs. Bobby Lashley (-750) (I picked Lashley, I was right)

  • Speaking of building momentum, I'm kind of ashamed of myself that I ended up watching this fight. Unfortunately, it came on at the same time as Natal/Camozzi, and was the far more interesting of the two. Burns was a bonafide can, but Lashley still struggled to beat him up in the first round. Pushing him against real HWs still feels like a mistake.

Hindsight: Lavar Johnson (+250) vs. Cheick Kongo (-305) (I picked Kongo, I was right)

  • Cheick Kongo has proven himself to be something of a weird draw for Bellator, and performances like this one are going to do nothing to diminish that reputation. Kongo came in as a decent favorite and then got into the kind of fight with Lavar Johnson that only he and Lavar Johnson could get into. Short, memorable, and totally weird.
  • It has to be noted that it's totally amazing that Cheick Kongo was able to get his 3rd career submission (not to strikes) 11 years after the first two. It's the kind of statistical improbability that can only have Lavar Johnson on the other side of it.

Hindsight: Pat Curran (+120) vs. Patricio Freire (-140) (I picked Freire, I was right)

  • Even the odds coming in on this fight, felt like an official statement that Curran had slowly backslid from his elite status. For a fighter as obviously gifted as he is, he's also become an incredibly predictable one, as he rarely creates his own offense, instead relying on specific openings where he shifts from 1st gear to 5th and back again.
  • The Pitbull Brothers, as a camp, have gotten much much better lately. Correia is developing into a solid fighter, Patricky is back on the horse and they've got a camp full of regional prospects, many of which appear to be doing well. Major camps tend to rise and fall all the time in MMA, but right now Pitbull Brothers seems to be producing real results.

UFC Fight Night: Jacare vs. Mousasi 2

Hindsight: Chas Skelly (-190) vs. Sean Soriano (+160) (I picked Soriano, I was wrong)

  • Given the extenuating circumstances around Skelly's turnaround (shortest in modern UFC history), I'm kind of shocked he was the favorite here. However, he proved the odds right with a suffocating victory, predicated on a lot of smart fighting.
  • I'm still not sure the reward was worth the risk here for Skelly, however. From the sound of it, he was extremely beat up after the fight and featherweight is just too deep and dangerous to be fighting on that kind of shortened schedule. Hopefully he takes some time to heal up and doesn't come out of this fight with any long term injuries.
  • Soriano has to work on his decision making. He's a brilliantly smooth striker, but doesn't move his feet well enough to stay away from takedowns and is far too willing to get drawn into a grappling exchange with a superior grappler. If he can't build his game more particularly to his strengths and staying in them, he may be headed for a quick UFC exit.

Hindsight: Chris Beal (-500) vs. Tateki Matsuda (+375) (I picked Beal, I was right)

  • The odds on this fighter were pretty ridiculous. Beal was the better of the two here (and not fighting on short notice), but not by much. I'm not sure if it's the TUF exposure, the flying knee, or the fact that he just looks like a prospect, but for a guy nearing 30, with 5 years training, he's getting a lot of love that I'm not sure he's earned.
  • Tateki Matsuda looked okay... Partially, the short notice nature of the fight excuses him losing, but he also showed off better than expected striking against an opponent many (not me) expected to out-strike him. He looks like a decent athlete, but his love of low percentage, high risk grappling moves may stunt his ability to win fights in the UFC.
  • Hopefully Beal gets a bump up to facing some really developed competition next time out. His planned bout against Rob Font would have been solid, but bouts against Yuta Sasaki, Frankie Saenz, or Matt Hobar would all be good, necessary tests.

Hindsight: Chris Camozzi (+160) vs. Rafael Natal (-185) (I picked Camozzi, I was sorta-wrong)

  • Camozzi was a deserved underdog here, being the classically more limited fighter, but let's not split hairs, he won this fight. A second round in which Natal pressed the action, but achieved exactly zero effective offense, should never have been scored for him. Add in a 3rd that could have easily been a 10-8 and this was just a bad decision.
  • For Camozzi, this may spell and end to his UFC tenure unfortunately. Win or lose, he's never really managed to impress and while he's the kind of action fighter the UFC likes to promote, their loyalty to such fighters has always been fickle. Even if he did arguably win it, there wasn't much in the bout that makes me feel he's about to go on a run even against mediocre competition.
  • Natal has steadily regressed throughout his UFC career. Constant poor decision making has eventually turned to inability. It's hard to even argue that he looked like the more gifted fighter in this bout. He tried to press his grappling advantage off and on, much like he did against Herman, and much like the Herman fight, he just outright failed, and got beat up. Getting a win means he gets another UFC fight, but that feels like just another chance to take damage at this point.

Hindsight: Rodrigo Damm (+449) vs. Al Iaquinta (-650) (I picked Iaquinta, I was right)

  • This was the fight most fans have expected out of Iaquinta over his entire career, and the reason that he was a deserved huge favorite over the always tough Rodrigo Damm. Iaquinta has the tools to blow by the rank and file of 155, to be an elite, or nearly elite lightweight, but he needs to prove it more often.
  • The list of fighters that Rodrigo Damm can beat in today's UFC is quickly dwindling. Smaller, lesser strikers with weaker grappling just don't grow on trees the way they used to. He's tough enough to stick in bad fights and stay competitive, but Iaquinta broke him in a way I'd rather not see over and over.
  • Iaquinta still just about had one of his classic "moments" in this fight, where he essentially finished Damm, but after Herb Dean decided he needed more skulls for his skull throne, Damm decided to go out on his shield and clipped Iaquinta hard. Still a great performance for Raging Al, but he can't afford to check out defensively in fights, ever.

Hindsight: John Moraga (+215) vs. Justin Scoggins (-260) (I picked Scoggins, I was wrong)

  • If this fight were re-booked right now, today, the odds would probably be exactly the same and I'd probably pick the same outcome. Props to Moraga for getting an incredible comeback win, but he was getting outstruck, outwrestled and outgrappled. Much like the Cariaso fight, however, his choke ability saved him and keeps him in the conversation for another big fight.
  • I worried, when Scoggins entered the UFC, that his high octane offense would leave him open defensively, when he fought better competition. Scoggins quieted those fears by dusting his first two opponents, but they're back in force now, as he was outstruck by Dustin Ortiz and subbed by Moraga. I don't know if he needs to pay more attention to the dangers his opponents present, or just develop more as a fighter (probably both), but this presents small concerns about his style, without being a major setback to his career at all.
  • Moraga needs a bigger game than the one he has. His squeeze has to be ridiculous, and it's been enough to scrape him by the mid-pack competition at 125, but if he gets a fight with Lineker or McCall or Dodson Benavidez off this win, his pull guard and box strategy just doesn't have enough parts in it to win. Guy has talent and skill where he's developed it, but a lot of pieces missing that better fighters can exploit.

Hindsight: Michael Chiesa (-220) vs. Joe Lauzon (+180) (I picked Chiesa, I was wrong)

  • Lauzon looked great here, when he wasn't getting beat up in the clinch (and he delivered some good beating there too). He's still an incredibly crafty, positionally sound grappler, with a wealth of tricks to pull against guys who want to out work him on the floor. Chiesa was the hyped fighter here, but in future similar matchups, Lauzon probably deserves to be the favorite.
  • This loss does zero damage to Chiesa's sale-ability as a talented fighter to watch. He put on a fantastic scrap against Lauzon and kept up with a brutal, high output pace. More time in the gym, more polish on his skill, and this is a fight he wins. Right now, he's still just a little too rough to beat really solid vets.
  • It's hard to tell where Lauzon is in terms of peak and decline. He looked better in this fight than he had before the Danzig win, and it could be that he's finding a second wind as a top level competitor. However, seeing him cover up and take a ton of shots from Chiesa on the inside, still gives me pause to wonder how many more super rough fights he has in him. He's fun to watch, so hopefully a lot more is the answer, but I'm still not 1000% sold on that.

Hindsight: Derrick Lewis (-130) vs. Matt Mitrione (+115) (I picked Mitrione, I was right)

  • I was definitely surprised to see that Mitrione wasn't the favorite here. He's had a few less than inspiring losses on his rise from raw, un-tested talent to serviceably talented HW. And it's those losses that have blinded a lot of people to his real development. Mitrione has striking skill, and athleticism, and power, and that's enough for him to beat 3/4 of his division.
  • This was the first true striking test of Derrick Lewis' career, and he failed it miserably. He's still a young heavyweight, at 29 (that division is weird) and he looks like he has a lot of natural gifts, but this was a lesson that he can't expect to just march through dudes at 265. Even JDS can't do that. Mitrione was going to ask a lot of question of Lewis' defense and Lewis was found wanting. Hopefully he can find the answer in camp, and evolve beyond a fun brawler.
  • Mitrione is probably not going to get better on the ground, but HW doesn't often require that of its fighters. He's no longer looking like a bouncy flaily power puncher, but is throwing kicks with real technique and picking his shots with alarming perception. He's at year 5 of his career, and if he gets just the right matchups, could go on a run into the top ten.

Hindsight: Alistair Overeem (-350) vs. Ben Rothwell (+290) (I picked Overeem, I was wrong)

  • I don't have much love for Overeem, but this was a depressing loss. He was a deserved big favorite, but everyone knew that the specter of a weak chin was hanging over him. That chin became the narrative one more time, and it has more people than ever before questioning whether it's not one time too many. Hard to see many guys in the top 20 at heavyweight that Overeem would be favored to beat right now, and that's kinda sad.
  • I'd like to think this win does more for Rothwell, but it might honestly do more for Mitrione. There are a few stagnant fighters hanging around the top of 265 and Overeem may be about to fall out of the rankings entirely. Does Rothwell take his place with this performance? Maybe, but it's hardly a dominating win, rather proof that anyone with a chin and some power can clean Overeem's clock at any time.

Hindsight: Gegard Mousasi (+170) vs. Ronaldo Souza (-200) (I picked Mousasi, I was wrong)

  • Man, I thought that Mousasi was a sneaky underdog pick here, but he might as well have come in to +500 odds. Not one part of this fight went Mousasi's way, and his post fight talk that his "head wasn't in the fight" sounds like more excuse than explanation. He got outworked and beat up everywhere and had none of the answers to win. I'd still pick him against anyone outside the top ten (and a few fighters in it) but he doesn't deserve to be a huge favorite over any fighter on a strong run right now.
  • Souza can be a real threat for the title right now. His grappling is incredibly dominant, and Weidmans complete willingness to drag fights to the ground means that Souza would almost certainly get opportunities to work. Could he take advantage of those opportunites? I'm not sure. But, his striking and wrestling are both good enough to keep him competitive outside his strengths, with anyone at 185, including the champ.
  • It also feels like no fight on this card was effected more by the smaller cage than this one. Mousasi's takedown defense obviously requires a lot of room to work and he likes to back straight out before circling. In a small cage, that just meant that he went straight into the fence over and over, where Jacare could pick him off easily. That's bad footwork on Mousasi's part, but that cage plays a part there too.

Those are my collected thoughts from UFC Fight Night: Jacare vs Mousasi. So much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but as always, that's the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for next weeks episode, where I'll be talking about the fallout from Brasilia and why Antonio Silva is still an elite heavyweight (and hopefully a clean one). Until then!