The UFC's return to Colorado started with a whimper and ended with a bang. The 10-fight card wasn't providing a lot in terms of entertainment through eight bouts - sure, there were a few finishes and some decent action at times, but some fights were downright ugly. Luckily, a slugfest in the co-main event brought some people (including myself) to life. And the main event was downright enthralling.
Ben Henderson's quick jaunt to the welterweight division confused some people, and others outright said it was a terrible idea. Against some other opponent, I might have had more confidence in him. But Brandon Thatch is a monster, and I thought the monster was going to devour the former lightweight champion.
I was wrong.
After doing his best to avoid damage for the first two rounds, Henderson showed off his versatility by taking Thatch down and threatening him with submissions in the third. He also gave him two puffy eyes. In the fourth, he did the same thing. His takedown was a thing of beauty, and his work to get into an advantageous position was outstanding. He got the submission, then casually walked over to the corner of the octagon, showing off the toothpick in his mouth. I might not like everything about Ben Henderson, but his nickname is certainly fitting. The man is smooth.
- Cole Miller isn't happy about those headbutts, and he might have a case. But I thought his fight with Max Holloway was still a lot of fun. Would it have been ever better if Cole wasn't busted up? Maybe. It was still a good win for Holloway though, and now he's getting a massive step up in competition when he meets Cub Swanson in April. That should be an excellent fight.
- Neil Magny slipping and falling on his butt right when he was about to finish a fight sort of encapsulates how I felt about tonight's event up to that point. He got the win, his sixth in a row, but I'm not sure how special it really is considering who he has fought and beaten.
- Daniel Kelly's bout with Patrick Walsh was terrible. Absolutely terrible. I've seen better fights at Home Depot. Neither man threw a single kick or knee in 15 minutes of standup. What the hell?
- Kevin Lee has good fight instincts. He seems to go for takedowns at the right time, and he thinks before he punches someone in the back of the head. Instead, he picks another spot that isn't going to get him into any trouble. He hung out with Michel Prazeres for the first half of the fight, then took over when Prazeres gassed out. It was a good performance from the 22-year-old.
- RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. Ray Borg is an amazing grappler, and he basically schooled Chris Kalades for 13-odd minutes until he was finally able to get a unique kimura finish. Kalades was game and fought off many submission attempts, but Borg was way, way too much for him. Kalades got assimilated.
- Rodrigo Lima is not a UFC-caliber fighter. When Efrain Escudero beats the crap out of you, you want want to consider doing something different with your life? Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes.
- Chas Skelly most definitely landed an illegal knee at the end of that fight. The referee apparently said that he was in the process of stopping the fight so it didn't matter, but the replay clearly shows that he was motionless until after it landed. Alers was done anyway, but that was still blatantly illegal and should have been treated as such. Nonetheless, Skelly showed some heart. He said that Jim Alers popped his ankle in the first round of their fight, but he just kept coming. There are still holes in his game, but his striking looked pretty good.
- Tim Elliott's style is endlessly entertaining, but is it effective? He just couldn't deal with Zach Makovsky's single leg, and it cost him the fight. That slam in the third round was awesome though - if he had managed to win the fight because of that, it would have been one of the highlights of the year.
- James Moontasri looks like he could be a lot of fun in the lightweight division. The natural reaction would be to book him against a John Makdessi type, but I hope they bring him along slowly. As for Cody Pfister, he's tough. He could be decent in the 145 pound division.