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Hindsight - UFC Vegas & UFC Seoul in retrospect

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I'm the brass-knuckles-in-the-teeth-to-dance-time type.*

A lot of people had Paige VanZant pegged as something of a style over substance fighter. In some ways, they were right. She's better at working the press than she is working in the cage (for the moment), but on the other hand, they couldn't have been more wrong. Prior to her bout at UFC Vegas on December 10th, I found myself talking about what made her a already, and one of the biggest things that came to mind was the incongruity between her bubbly persona and an absolutely tough as nails fighter that loves to compete more than anything. She didn't win that night, in fact Rose Namajunas beat her like a rented mule, but she gained a lot of fans from watchers who hadn't yet caught on to just how much of a fighter she was.

Disclaimer Time: I went 16-7 over these two events and probably my biggest folly was picking Elias Theodorou over Thiago Santos (although Jake Collier over Dongi Yang runs a close second. The Dongi fight isn't one that I would see as worth betting on really, but I was pretty damn certain Theodorou would win. But that's neither here nor there, as this isn't a gambling post, and I'm not a gambler. This is all about expectations, as laid out by my pre-fight picks and by the odds (for broader perspective). And it's about how expectations shape narrative after the fights are over. So, let's get to the fights...

UFC Seoul: Henderson vs. Masvidal

Dominique Steele (-130) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (+110) (I picked Dong Hyun, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: More or less up until the point of the knockout, this fight was going about like I thought it would. Both fighters were getting their licks in, but "Maestro" was landing more consistently and with better variety. To his credit, Steele really pressed his physical advantages, even before the finish, and moreso than he has in previous outings.
  • Fallout for Steele: The win definitely gives me more faith in Steele's UFC future just because, if nothing else, it shows that he can press his physical advantages when he has them. Steele is a huge powerful welterweight, and reminds me a bit of Cathal Pendred both in good and bad ways, but he has to use his size to the best advantage possible if he hopes to win more fights.
  • Fallout for Dong Hyun: I have trouble being too hard on Maestro here since, if for no other reason than that I'm about 80% sure that he got KO'd by an illegal headbutt. Otherwise, he's definitely a lightweight and he's very much the somewhat funky action fighter he appears to be. If he can't find KO power in the UFC, I don't expect him to last too long.

Marco Beltran (+135) vs. Ning Guangyou (-160) (I picked Beltran, I was right-ish)

  • The Expectation: Really figured we'd see a lot more grappling and see Beltran push Guangyou off his feet more. Instead, it was just kind of a hesitant grind. To be honest... at this point... I've forgotten it completely.
  • Fallout for Beltran: Still in the UFC, still at the low end of 135.
  • Fallout for Ning: See Beltran.

Fredy Serrano (-170) vs. Yao Zhikui (+135) (I picked Serrano, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I'm not entirely surprised that Serrano was the favorite here, but I do think that he's not on many fans' radars at the moment. I kind of chalk it up to a product of his age and the low expectations fans have of older fighters, especially coming out of non-MMA rich countries. But, I figured his athletic skill would be more than enough to carry him here. It was, and I still have strong hopes for his development.
  • Fallout for Serrano: The injury to Zhikui may seem a bit fluky, but it's the product of a power takedown game delivered by a top flight athlete. Serrano is going to need a lot of time and careful handling to progress in the UFC, not something they're known for. But if he can get a good training environment and keep getting some lower end matchups, he could end up being a legit top 10 MMA fighter in the next half decade. If not, he'll end up headlining regional shows, and maybe getting a few runs in Zuffa.
  • Fallout for Zhikui: Unfortunately, TUF China just didn't have the diamonds in the rough that TUF Latin America did. Zhikui is still learning the game and developing, but faced here with a real elite athletic talent, he got broken. And unfortunately for him, flyweight is a division that really requires top athleticism to thrive. Can't see him being in the UFC much longer.

Seohee Ham (+120) vs. Cortney Casey (-150) (I picked Casey, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: It was with a heavy heart that I picked Casey to win this fight, and a much gladder one that I was wrong to do so. I thought Hamderlei's lack of size and inconsistent application of range striking would cause her to get dragged into a grinding physical battle where she'd constantly end up the loser. Instead she maintained range better than ever (and Casey gave her a lot of space) and was able to use her better technique everywhere to take a pretty exciting win.
  • Fallout for Seohee: She had to win this to stay even slightly relevant in the UFC at this point. She's a long time vet with a well established game, facing a too-green fighter. That's a must win bout. I'm not sure she'll ever be more than a gatekeeper to the top 10-15, but at least she can now work toward establishing her place there, rather than looking for fights back on the local circuit.
  • Fallout for Casey: Unfortunately she's yet another fighter (and there are more than a few at 115) who is getting the too-much-too-soon treatment from the UFC. She's fought two highly established, seasoned vets in her first two UFC bouts, there's no real reason to expect her to win those fights. She's still an aggressive, powerful fighter early in her career, but she might need more time and experience at a lower level of the sport.

Tae Hyun Bang (+265) vs. Leo Kuntz (-335) (I picked Tae Hyun, I was kinda right)

  • The Expectation: I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb and say that Tae Hyun Bang probably was sick, maybe with the flu, maybe food poisoning, but something reasonably serious. That would explain the heavy swing in the odds, and unlike him being pressured by gamblers/mobsters his incredibly short lived in-cage cardio. He still showed himself to be the better pick, since (as predicted) he just has a much more complete MMA game and a better idea of how to win rounds and create diverse offense. Watching Kuntz match a constantly flagging Tae Hyun's energy level was a little maddening.
  • Fallout for Tae Hyun: Even sick he's a pretty dependable come forward brawler with an exciting style. I'm glad to see him rewarded for laying everything he had out there in this fight against Kuntz. He'll probably always be a mid-card action fighter but as long as he's around I'll enjoy watching him fight.
  • Fallout for Kuntz: I don't want to say that he never should have lost this fight, given that Tae Hyun is just the more skilled, more consistent fighter of the two of them, but Kuntz didn't fight to win it. That may be because he got nearly KO'd in the first round, that's reasonable. But, it was just a little weird to see him bouncing on his toes at the end after three rounds of fighting a guy who could barely stand up, and where Kuntz never took advantage of his opponent's poor cardio. He let his opponent dictate the pace of the bout, and it cost him the win. I'm not sure he'll get another shot in the UFC.

Mike De La Torre (-105) vs. Yui Chul Nam (-115) (I picked Yui Chul, I was sorta wrong)

  • The Expectation: I'm having to claw back my memory a bit at this point. But if I remember correctly I thought that Yui Chul would get hurt early and then rally back to win late... At least he got hurt early.
  • Fallout for De La Torre: He seems destined to occupy the rich featherweight gatekeeper alliance that sits just outside the top 15 of the division. It's where all the quality action fighters go, in the face of the soul killing grinders that occupy slots 15-10. MDLT has good pop in his hands is decent everywhere, and is tightening up his overall game, but that just describes too many featherweights.
  • Fallout for Yui Chul: Yui Chul kind of of exemplifies the Korean MMA meta-game in that he's one of the more problematic all-offense/no-defense fighters. He's a strong puncher and a good wrestler, but he's not a consistent enough fighter to lead with his face the way he does. It's costing him in the form of getting taken down over and over (against Nover) and now getting tagged up too.

Jake Collier (-125) vs. Dongi Yang (+105) (I picked Collier, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: I had low hopes for Yang. From the perspective of Korean MMA (as outlined above) he's not even that much of an "all-offense" fighter, but he still has most of the defensive liabilities. So, I thought a big, reasonably tough, and aggressive fighter like Collier would be able to take the fight to him and get a decision, if not a stoppage. Turns out, his time out in the wasteland has really put an edge on Dongi's game. He bulldozed Collier easy.
  • Fallout for Collier: Because he's not exactly a technical marvel, it seems like Collier is really struggling to match physicality with other middleweights. He brings it in terms of aggression and a multi-dimensional approach, but a lot of what he does is wild and gets a bit sloppy. Thus, better athletes are finding a way to beat him, and even worse, stop him. Unfortunately, tightening up his game may mean fighting with less aggression (in the short term) which may mean losing decisions instead. It's a tough spot to be in and a problem many fighters end up facing.
  • Fallout for Dongi: He's obviously got the physical tools to compete at MW and honestly that's the most important single thing to have going for him. Just being big enough and strong enough and having enough power is a big part of surviving at 185 for long enough to carve out a career. Does he have contender written on him? No, but Dongi could be a serviceable gatekeeper and the kind of guy the UFC is happy to showcase for their Asia shows.

Doo Ho Choi (-250) vs. Sam Sicilia (+210) (I picked Doo Ho, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I thought Sicilia might compete for a while, make Choi work. Take him down, wrestle/grapple him a bit, maybe even put a little fear in fans and punters. And while Sicilia got a few licks in standing, it really wasn't close at all. He brawled with a puncher and got his lights put out for his trouble.
  • Fallout for Doo Ho: If fighters like Yui Chul Nam and Tae Hyun Bang emphasize some of the problematic points of Korean MMA development, a fighter like the "Korean Superboy" really emphasizes the potential benefits. Namely, that while being a supreme athlete with great natural power, he's also an offensive behemoth. He's not the supreme technician that McGregor is, but it's a similar kind of mindset and skill building that builds fighters like Khabib and McGregor. Great athletes fueled by great aggression and absolute will power make for terrific fighters and Doo Ho has some of that potential.
  • Fallout for Sicilia: Remember what I said about the wealth of 145 lb gatekeepers just outside the top 15 in the UFC. That's very firmly Sam Sicilia right now.

Yoshihiro Akiyama (-145) vs. Alberto Mina (+125) (I picked Mina, I was mostly right)

  • The Expectation: This was a difficult fight for me to pick, mostly because I wasn't really sure why I wanted to pick Sexyama, but I did want to. Eventually even I had to concede that Mina's relatively fresher career, better aggression, and better cardio were much more likely to win out than just being extremely sexy.
  • Fallout for Akiyama: He's still a winner at life, just not in the cage.
  • Fallout for Mina: This kind of put him in a strange must win situation. He was an underdog, but only very slightly, to a fighter who is more notable as a model than he is a fighter. Lose, and Mina is more firmly than ever just a forgotten face in a division that can swallow fighters in an instant. He got the win he needed and picked up a little (not a lot) of momentum for it.

Dong Hyun Kim (-800) vs. Dominic Waters (+525) (I picked Dong Hyun, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Stun Gun was gonna gonna smother Waters something fierce. I think I assumed it would be to a submission just given the huge disparity in experience between them, but the crucifix TKO was a nice substitution.
  • Fallout for DHK: He's the real Dong Hyun Kim still. Getting a fast win like that while the pretender gets KO'd is a great way for DHK to reassert his essential Dong Hyun-ness. At this point it might be a bit surprising if he ever got a title shot, but he's as legit as they come when it comes to elite welterweight gatekeepers.
  • Fallout for Waters: If he's not careful (and it may already be to late) he's going to find himself short noticing his way out of the UFC. I'm not at all certain that the risks of taking constant short notice UFC bouts are worth the rewards, at least not if you're not winning those fights. It's great for the rare Neil Magny's and Donald Cerrones, who can rattle off 5 or 6 wins in a row, but Magny had a win to fall back on when he lost to Moraes and Baczynski early in his UFC run, Waters doesn't have that luxury.

Benson Henderson (-225) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+190) (I picked Henderson, I was fairly right)

  • The Expectation: Henderson was going to win a split decision, because he's the kind of fighter that wins split decisions and Jorge Masvidal is the kind of fighter that loses them. Honestly couldn't have been more right about this one.
  • Fallout for Henderson: He's done the best he could in fighting out his UFC contract. He's been a legit UFC headliner for most of his career in the organization. He seems to deliver a good live crowd, and has a decent (if not massive) fanbase. This was an excellent performance in front of a crowd that was firmly behind him. No better way to test free agency than that.
  • Fallout for Masvidal: Unfortunately, this is just another chapter in a long string of similar chapters over Masvidal's career. Even when he's fighting his absolute best, like he was here, he fell just a hair short of greatness. He's still an elite talent. Still a more gifted fighter than the majority of his peers, but it's exactly these kinds of losses that keep him perennially underrated.

UFC Vegas: Namajunas vs. VanZant

Kailin Curran (-350) vs. Emily Kagan (+265) (I picked Curran, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Curran was clearly the better athlete going in. This felt like a fight she would roll through to get her back on track as a prospect at 115lbs. Instead she struggled for most of the fight. But, she got the win and eventually got it because she was the better athlete.
  • Fallout for Curran: She keeps the wheels on the car, for now, but they were very close to falling off. This was supposed to be her bounce back after a rough entry to the UFC. She got beat by a better prospect in VanZant and then had victory snatched from her by Chambers. This time she had to win. The fact that she barely got there makes me feel like she's still on very thin ice in terms of short term career potential.
  • Fallout for Kagan: I feel like, watching this fight, that Kagan was in absolutely peak form. She looked in good shape, she looked sharp, everything she did was working and working well. She was winning this fight. And then in one moment she gave Curran an opening, got her back taken and got subbed. Athleticism matters a lot and the margins Kagan is working with don't seem to afford her much room for error.

Zubaira Tukhugov (-355) vs. Phillipe Nover (+285) (I picked Tukhugov, I was right-ish)

  • The Expectation: First and foremost, I'll say that I never paid any attention to Phillipe Nover the first time around in the UFC. I was a more casual fan at the time, so a lot of the Anderson Silva stuff kind of escaped me. So I really expected something similar to his wrestling heavy performance we saw last time out. He didn't deliver that, but I thought he still generally got out-worked trying to be the better striker.
  • Fallout for Tukhugov: He's a great example of many of the pluses and minuses of Caucasus fighters. He's well rounded and a great athlete, but can get very tracked in (especially as a counter puncher) on offense. He does a lot of things well, but is going to need to create more if he's going to be a top featherweight down the road.
  • Fallout for Nover: Seeing Nover through two fights now, it's obvious that he's A) very talented athletically, B) Very flawed in a lot of aspects of his game. Especially as a striker, Nover has a number of really bad habits. He tends to only throw a shot at a time on offense. And on defense often turns away from punches. Especially the overhand right against Tukhugov, Nover had his back to it a couple times. Eventually he kind of fights like someone whose always the best athlete in the gym and thus never has to get too technical about anything. In the UFC that's going to lead to a lot of fights like this.

Danny Roberts (-160) vs. Nathan Coy (+135) (I picked Coy, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: I like Danny Roberts a lot, so it pained me to predict that he would get wrestle-blanketed to death by Nathan Coy. I knew he didn't have the takedown defense to stay upright, and I figured his athletic scrambling off his back wouldn't do him any favors. I'm really happy to have been wrong on the second count even if I was right on the first one.
  • Fallout for Roberts: He has a much better future in the UFC if he can craft himself as a dangerous finisher from all positions, while taking the time to sharpen up his wrestling. He's a great athlete, a solid power boxer, and not a terrible grappler. But being  wrestling deficient is a major problem in the UFC. If he can scare fighters off taking him down for a while, that might give him the time he needs to improve.
  • Fallout for Coy: I honestly hope he gets another shot. He's not a young fighter and he's well into his career already. This feels like his one chance to make a run in the UFC and he fell hard on his first try. I won't be surprised if he's one and done, a lot of TUF re-signee's are, but I hope he gets at least one more fight.

Santiago Ponzinibbio (-170) vs. Andreas Stahl (+150) (I picked Ponzinibbio, I was right)

  • The Expectation: This felt like a bout where Stahl might surprise people, if by no other way than putting up a really scrappy, ugly fight that, even if it didn't get him a win, took some shine of Ponzinibbio. I still picked the Ponz to win it. He hits too hard, is too good an athlete, and isn't actually a bad wrestler, but I had a few reservations. Ponzinibbio cancelled them.
  • Fallout for Ponzinibbio: He's really come into his own as a great mid-card action fighter for the UFC. We've seen that there are limits. Even in this fight, Stahl's strong wrestling took him down with ease, and he couldn't match the speed and technique of Lorenz Larkin, but he's got a great game to stand in the middle of the welterweight division and put on fun fight after fun fight. The kind of guy fans should look forward to seeing on a card.
  • Fallout for Stahl: There seem to be two major problems with Stahl's game going forward. The first and most important of those is top control. Stahl showed off an amazingly technical takedown game against Ponz in this fight, but when it came to actually keeping him down, he just couldn't, at all. Maintaining better control of takedowns would be a major improvement for him. The second is defaulting to the high guard. Every time Ponz threw hands at Stahl, he covered up and just tried to weather the storm. Against less powerful punchers that might work, but it's a bad general strategy. If the UFC keeps him, he could be a much more dangerous fighter down the line by tweaking those aspects of his game.

Aljamain Sterling (-650) vs. Johnny Eduardo (+475) (I picked Sterling, I was right)

  • The Expectation: More than any other, this fight really was just all about expectations. Sterling had expectations that he would shine. They had to come through. Fans needed to see it, since he was about to try and test his value in the open market. True to those expectations, and true to the odds, Sterling looked like an elite contender, keeping Eduardo off balance until he could initiate the wrestling scrambles that would get him the submission win.
  • Fallout for Sterling: He's put himself in a position where this fight meant everything to his professional career. Lose and he'd be trying to negotiate with the UFC and everyone else coming off a massive upset. Win, and he'd have maximized his potential value at the same moment he was about to enter free agency. He got the win, he's worth as much as he possibly can be at this point. It will be interesting to see what exactly that gets him.
  • Fallout for Eduardo: Honestly, this just kind of reaffirms what we've already known about him for a long time now. He's a very good fighter in his element, and just an okay one outside of it. Sterling was able to take him outside of his element perfectly and thus beat him. In the right match-ups, Eduardo is still a top 15 fighter, but in the wrong ones' he still seems a over-matched.

Antonio Carlos Jr. (-310) vs. Kevin Casey (+255) (I picked Carlos Jr., it didn't matter)

  • The Expectation: Hopes were that we'd see an exciting round of grappling in which Shoeface's greater size and gas tank would eventually see him win out, potentially for a submission or TKO. Instead we got a quick eye poke that cancelled the fight.
  • Fallout for Carlos Jr.: Unfortunately for him, he misses out on a good chance to get a fun win and keep himself in front of fans. Hopefully he can turn around and get re-booked soon.
  • Fallout for Casey: If he just gets re-booked against Carlos Jr., then he delayed a very tough fight. Otherwise he may have passed on a potential loss for a better bout down the road.

Sergio Moraes (+124) vs. Omari Akhmedov (-145) (I picked Moraes, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I thought that, sooner or later, Moraes would be able to get Akhmedov down and out-work him for a submission win. That never really came too close to happening. Instead, Akhmedov let Moraes set the pace (and was largely winning with counters), but let himself get hit too often and returned fire too little for a bad late TKO loss.
  • Fallout for Moraes: Considering how poorly this fight was going for him, this was a very fortunate win to get. He was forced almost entirely into a standup bout, given time and range to set whatever pace he wanted, and mostly got outstruck for it. That's bad. If his takedown game isn't there at this point, then wins are going to be hard to come by against better competition. A KO win is always a good result, but this was a bad sign for the future.
  • Fallout for Akhmedov: So, if the fight was bad for Moraes, you can imagine how bad it looks for Akhmedov. He played his game, got the fight he needed, and still lost. And he lost to a fighter who, while a decent, powerful athlete, isn't exactly known for his world class punching power. Akhmedov is like Ponzinibbio above. A powerful athlete with better than average wrestling and great punching power. But, unlike Ponzi, he hasn't shown the consistent aggression or skill to back that up. He might get wins on athleticism alone and the occasional flash KO, but it's hard to see him ever really moving up the WW ladder.

Tim Means (-350) vs. John Howard (+290) (I picked Means, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Kinda seemed like Means was going to blow Howard out of the water... which he did.
  • Fallout for Means: As his technical game has really snapped into form he's become a much more consistently dangerous fighter than he was even just a couple years ago. Means now feels like a guy who, given a reasonable chance, will knock you unconscious, and that kind of skill has him knocking on the doors of top 15 competition.
  • Fallout for Howard: He's somewhere floating in the middle of the welterweight division and the biggest current question is, is he still competitive with the upper 50%. He's 1-4 in his last 5 fights, with that only win being over the now retired Cathal Pendred. It may be time for the UFC to let him go. There's not much sense in keeping a longtime vet like that, just to fight unknown prospects on fight pass prelims.

Thiago Santos (+190) vs. Elias Theodorou (-225) (I picked Theodorou, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: I though he would be bigger, to paraphrase Escape from LA. I really thought Theodorou would have a more pronounced size advantage on fight night. My image of Santos has always been of a somewhat reedy striker, with Theodorou being, if not tall, an exceptionally boxy middleweight. But Santos looks like he's been packing weight onto his frame and he seemed ready to match Theodorou muscle for muscle and let his superior striking take over.
  • Fallout for Santos: He's slowly becoming a dark horse middleweight contender. I don't even necessarily mean title contender, but even top 15 fighter would be something of a surprise for a fighter that got insta-subbed by Cezar Ferreira and KO'd by Vincente Luque. But, over the past two years, his only loss has been to the now top 10 Uriah Hall, and he's made notable strides in his takedown defense and striking offense. Maybe one more good win, and then he'll be ready to take on some ranked opposition.
  • Fallout for Theodorou: This isn't a crippling loss, but it is one that needs to be a point of growth. Theodorou got shown up here. He's been a fighter relying on his physical gifts for a while now, and here he found an opponent who could match those. That made the fight a battle of technical skill, where Santos was much better prepared. Theodorou should still be able to bounce back and continue improving, but significant strides in his striking and wrestling fundamentals need to be made, otherwise he may fall short of his elite potential.

Sage Northcutt (-900) vs. Cody Pfister (+600) (I picked Northcutt, I was right)

  • The Expectation: It was a safe bet that Sage Northcutt was going to win this fight. Cody Pfister is neither the athlete, nor the technician to be a major threat. But, I did wonder if we'd still see Northcutt struggle a lot with an aggressive opponent with a lot more experience than him. He did and he didn't. The struggles he showed were matched by extreme dominance. Some questions were answered, more were asked.
  • Fallout for Northcutt: We know he can't stop a decent shot. That's going to be a starting place for every future opponent he has for the next couple years. And, he doesn't get up off his back very well. But, he has a pretty great power double himself, and he has a rare ability to take advantage of openings with powerful aggression. It's those second points that are really valuable down the road. It's reasonable to assume his defensive wrestling and grappling will improve. They may not, but he's moving to Tristar and there's a lot of investment in his ability. So the real focus is on who he fundamentally is as a fighter, and that base still looks strong.
  • Fallout for Pfister: I said it about Trevino and I'll say it about Pfister, it's gotta suck to realize you're a paid opponent in the UFC. Pfister was there as the guy they were sure would lose to Sage Northcutt. Nothing more. He wasn't so awful as to just be a can to be crushed, but he was a stepping stone. In a promotion that represents something of a golden land to opportunity for most fighters, that's a bad place to find yourself. Hopefully he gets another shot and can win some more fights before facing the next young prospect.

Michael Chiesa (-145) vs. Jim Miller (+125) (I picked Miller, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: I knew I was going out on a limb picking Jim Miller. But the first round of this fight just felt like the fight I was expecting. Miller was clearly the better striker, and a good enough grappler to make Chiesa work for positions (and as we saw even to lose the grappling battle for a while). But, eventually youth and cardio and size and perhaps even technique won out. Miller just couldn't keep up with Chiesa long enough on the ground.
  • Fallout for Chiesa: Miller was a ranked opponent at the time, so Chiesa is a ranked fighter now. He got his wish, to be in the top 15. That will probably come with more tough fights in his future, which is, I'm sure, what he wanted. But, in that top 15, Miller was probably the best matchup Chiesa could have gotten. It will be interesting to see how he'll do against other fresher elite fighters in the division.
  • Fallout for Miller: Honestly, this isn't anything we didn't already know about Jim Miller. He's floated around the edges of the top of the division for years now, never quite able to string together the kind of strong series of wins to stay there (at least not since 2011). He looked good early, but played a dangerous game in the second and it failed. He's an action fighter, that's what action fighters do. He's very likely at the end of his prime, but just when that will turn into significant losses is anyone's guess.

Rose Namajunas (+120) vs. Paige VanZant (-140) (I picked Namajunas, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I thought it would be a lot more even, physically. Perhaps that Paige VanZant might have an advantage in sheer power. Instead, Namajunas bullied her everywhere, out-striking VanZant, out-wrestling VanZant, and out-grappling VanZant. A masterful performance from Namajunas in a fight I expected her to win off a single instant rather than 20 minutes of domination.
  • Fallout for Namajunas: She lost some serious shine off her TUF Finale fight against Carla Esparza, moreso perhaps, because she didn't really keep a high media profile afterward. That fight raised questions about whether she had the technical skill to be an elite, fast-tracked prospect. This fight answered those question. VanZant is as solid a prospect as you can find at 115 lbs. Good athlete, solid, aggressive game, tough, good grappling defense, similarly experienced over a similar time frame. And Namajunas tore her to ribbons. That doesn't mean that Namajunas is going to win a world title tomorrow, but I certainly think she'll be competing for one before long and win or lose, she'll deserve to be there.
  • Fallout for VanZant: She was pushed by the UFC as one of their über-prospects. A bright-eyed, fresh-faced, talented young fighter who was primed to break the curve for talent development. She was already headlining a card, making maximum use of her promotional opportunities, and getting paid like a 10 fight veteran. And while the PR side of her is still top notch, the fighting side is much more in line with the average for very good prospects. Build her slow, give her 3-4 years to work on her technical game, and she'll be a very very good fighter, I'm sure. And until then, she can keep the hype going outside the cage.

Those are my collected thoughts from two very good UFC events. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that's the benefit of hindsight. Until next time (and it'll be a fairly quick next time) when I'll be writing about Frankie Edgar's shocking TUF 22 win, and Conor McGregor's place in MMA history. See you then!

*This week's quote from the movie Dead Reckoning.