No, really. I like to think of myself as a reasonable guy. I'm pragmatic. I try not to get too deep into hype (lets just drop the whole Erokhin thing, alright) and I try not to get too dismissive of guys just because they've lost a few bouts here and there. Sometimes that doesn't work. Sometimes for the sake of hyperbole I play up small differences to the end of a decisive opinion. After all, what's the fun of pre-fight picking if you can't feel like you're certain about the whole thing. All of this, of course, is my way of hedging back from one of the worst fight picking performances in my history as a fight analyst. Unintentionally, I picked the favorite to win every bout at UFC Fight Night (I swear I don't look at the odds beforehand) and thus, my grand total for UFC Fight Night: Bigfoot vs. Mir was 1-10. That's just bad.
Disclaimer time: "Why didn't you bet?" My imaginary children will someday ask me in a fictional future that involves a rocket powered rocking chair. And then I'll trot out this old chestnut, about how once upon a time a UFC event had so many underdogs win, that analysts across the world felt like complete and utter fools. It was the Red Wedding of MMA prognostication, and only by not gambling did I save myself from more than a few light flesh wounds and a severely bruised ego. Instead, I'm talking about all I've learned (and damn if there wasn't a bunch for me to learn) from my pre-fight expectations and the pre-fight odds. I'm using Best Fight Odds for the odds on each fight, and taking the mode on each fighter. So, let's get to the fights!
Ivan Jorge (-270) vs. Josh Shockley (+210) (I picked Jorge, I was right)
- The Expectation: Pretty much the only fight that went according to plan for this event. I was looking for Jorge to have reasonable success taking Shockley down, as Shockley has been pretty happy to fight off his back in the past, and for Jorge's grappling to be the more potent offensive weapon in the fight. When the fight was standing Shockley generally (but not decisively) got the better of exchanges, but he just couldn't keep it there long enough, or do enough with the time he had.
- Fallout for Jorge: While he's 2-1 in the UFC right now, and just got a fairly controlling win, this feels more like it's extending borrowed time for "Batman" than it is establishing him as a guy who's really going to stick around in the UFC. Shockley's not exactly a marvel on the feet, and hurt Jorge badly several times. His bodylock takedown game got him through this fight, but most fighters aren't as lost there as Shockley seemed. It's hard to see him getting much beyond entry level fights, but if he keeps winning the UFC will probably start bumping him up the ladder.
- Fallout for Shockley: I don't know if he gets another UFC bout. He might, if they don't feel like they want to release guys at 0-2, but he's gotten two fights against pretty limited athletes with decent (but not amazing) technical games and he's been on the losing side both times. Tough to see any bouts he wins in the UFC even if he gets a 3rd one.
- The Expectation: For the most part, wrestlers expecting to out-wrestle their competition did not do well at this event. Gibson, as the bigger, and generally more aggressive man was expected to use his wrestling to make life tough on Douglas D'Silva. That really didn't happen at all. D'Silva put on a really great athletic performance and forced Gibson out of his game, to take a solid decision win.
- Fallout for Gibson: It's always a little strange when things aren't clicking for a fighter like Gibson. He's got the experience, he's got the skill base, he even seems to have most of the athletic tools to win consistently, but something's just not happening. In this fight, he seemed way too content to test his striking against a fighter that hits way, way harder than him, and couldn't make up for losing that battle with advantages anywhere else. There are still winnable fights for him in the UFC, but with fights like this it's hard to see him moving toward a spot in the top 15.
- Fallout for D'Silva: D'Silva was something of a prospect of interest before getting to the UFC. A KO machine, with a few legit wins on his record, I for one, thought he might go on a bit of a run. But, Zubaira Tukhugov showed him the door from featherweight in a hurry. At bantamweight, however, his athletic gifts really shine through, and make up for some of the less polished things he does technically. a couple more wins like this and he maybe looking at a ranking and some big fights.
Mike De La Torre (+200) vs. Tiago Trator (-240) (I picked Trator, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Tiago Trator has the kind of game that seems tailor made (or farm raised... sorry) for winning fights in the UFC. A grinding-ly patient wall-n-mall Muay Thai arsenal combined with some decent trip takedowns a really solid top control ground and pound. It's not super flashy, but it tends to win... or at least it did on the Brazilian regional scene. De La Torre showed Trator that he may be missing some fundamental pieces to implement it in the UFC by walking straight through him and bombing him out.
- Fallout for De La Torre: This seems like it was a must win fight for De La Torre. He's been a pro for quite a while now (certainly longer than I'd have expected) and his UFC start has been rocky to say the least. A loss here very probably would have seen him on the outside looking in. Don't know that this moves him up the ranks, but it keeps him afloat for his next opportunity to show his skills.
- Fallout for Trator: Tiago may be lacking two key components to making his game work in the UFC. The first is functional range striking. The no-set-up kick he through at the end, that got him shelled by De La Torre, was just ugly. The second, and more important factor, is physical dominance. Part of being a great clinch fighter is being able to control and push around your opponent on the inside. When Trator tried to do that to De La Torre, De La Torre just ate his shots and returned fire harder. De La Torre is hardly the gold standard of dangerous opponents at 145, if Trator struggled to control him, he may struggle with a lot of the division.
- The Expectation: I'll give myself a little credit for saying that I wasn't at all sure that Macario would win this fight, even with his expected technical advantage. But I was betting on his technical advantage to shine through, even with some doubts about how consistently he applies that technique. Instead, Dwyer was able to make excellent use of his power, range, and aggression to find the holes in Macario's boxing. One big, leaping right hand later and this fight was done.
- Fallout for Dwyer: Despite his bad introduction to UFC fans, this win really legitimizes Dwyer's spot on the UFC roster. Macario is flawed, but he's no joke athletically or technically. For Dwyer to knock him out the way he did suggests bright potential for his future if he can continue improving technically along the way.
- Fallout for Macario: This is an absolutely devastating early career loss for Macario, especially because he's not that early in his career anymore. He's still a developing talent, but he's now been finished in back to back fights. His dependence on a boxing heavy style makes him a really limited fighter in the cage, and one that opponents can really prepare for. If he can't figure out how to add more variation to his game Macario's potential may be severely limited.
- The Expectation: Weirdly for a bout between a 23 year old and a 37 year old, Andrade was really supposed to be the old pro coming into this fight. Reneau really only started her pro MMA career, in earnest, back in 2012. Her bout against Andrade was her 7th and her second in the UFC. Andrade wasn't way more experienced in years (having started back in 2011), but she's had more than double the number of fights. All of which leads to Andrade getting submitted in the first round, after repeatedly diving into Reneau's guard. A novice mistake from a young fighter, but a very costly one here.
- Fallout for Andrade: It's really not as bad a loss for Andrade as it might seem. She is still very young in her career, and her loss was more a result of relentless aggression on her part than a major disparity in skill. Andrade is still a great young fighter on the rise and a loss like this should help temper her aggression into something more effective over the long run.
- Fallout for Reneau: This was exactly the win she needed. She hasn't been fighting long (hardly at all really), but time is really not on her side. With Rousey's lack of new top competition, Reneau can put herself in contention quickly if she can win now and win often. A win over Andrade should vault her into the rankings, from there it's just about fighting as much as she can and staying on a roll.
- The Expectation: Santiago Ponzinibbio is the kind of good, well rounded, athletic fighter that is supposed to be a really tough test for Strickland, but a test Strickland should have passed. Ponzinibbio has power but isn't a technical marvel anywhere. Instead, we saw that Strickland's passivity really puts him at a disadvantage against aggressive athletic fighters that can stay on him.
- Fallout for Ponzinibbio: Big back to back wins for the TUF Brazil 2 product. Ponzinibbio lost a lot of momentum coming off the TUF reality show due to injuries and then a matchup with a streaking Ryan LaFlair. Since then, however, he's looked like a really capable action fighter who is going to put on fun fights at welterweight and probably win more often than he loses. I don't know if a top 15 ranking is in his future, but he could be a solid main card regular in the UFC.
- Fallout for Strickland: This fight has to serve as a wake-up call for Strickland, that he can't fight as passively as he has and stay at welterweight. He either needs to improve his counter game, wrestle with more aggression and consistency, or move back to middleweight, where most guys aren't fast enough to track him down. The style Strickland employs right now doesn't seem like it will get him into the top 15 at 170, but it might at 185.
- The Expectation: Like the Dwyer fight, I take a little bit of solace in the fact that I thought taht Saenz would at least take Alcantara to a split decision. I didn't pick him to win, because I thought Alcantara would take the early half of the fight with his athletic tools. Saenz technical advantage inside was enough to shut down Alcantara's offense early, and as Alcantara faded, Saenz really took over. A great upset, but a closer fight than the odds ever had it.
- Fallout for Alcantara: We may be past the peak years of Alcantara's MMA career. For a guy expected to be a top 5 kind of fighter at some point, he's never quite reached that point. Losing to an unknown, un-ranked guy like Saenz is a major setback, and if it doesn't drop him out of the rankings entirely, it still may be too much for him to work back from into the divisional elite. This loss suggests that his athleticism isn't going to carry him as far as it used to. He's still dangerous, but maybe more as a gatekeeper than potential contender.
- Fallout for Saenz: This vaults him straight up the division and potentially into the top 10 (he's at 12 now). Saenz has a really nicely technical game that fits together well. Inside boxing/clinch wrestling/and a strong takedown game. That kind of skill set could push him a long way in a weak division right now. Probably not to title contention, but he's new blood in a division that really needs it in the top 15.
- The Expectation: This was a really surprising result to me, and I say that as someone who picked Martins as one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC. I didn't ever think that Martins would find an advantage wrestling on the inside. His strength and size helped a lot there, but it was still a really consistent technical performance against a fighter who really only had one way to dominate that fight.
- Fallout for Khabilov: Khabilov may not be more than a gatekeeper in the UFC. It's weird to say for such a stellar athlete, and one who's already taken a decent scalp in Jorge Masvidal. Khabilov has a solid fundamental game, but it doesn't help him push the action in fights where he can't bank on having a huge advantage in any one area. He doesn't strike in combination and he's not an amazing grappler, which puts a lot of pressure on him landing big shots and takedowns. At his point in his career, that may keep him outside the top 15.
- Fallout for Martins: I don't know that Martins is way better than Khabilov, in terms of his top 15 potential. This wasn't exactly a dominating performance. It showed that Martins is competitive everywhere and that he's not going to get pushed around very often. Does that get him consistent wins in the top 10? I'm not sure. This was a good bounce back from his Cerrone loss, whether he wins the next one may be a matter of the matchup he gets.
- The Expectation: Much like the Martins vs. Khabilov fight above (only much much mores so) I was sure that Alvey wasn't going to win here. He didn't appear like he'd by physically competitive and hadn't shown the kind of technical tools that would make up for it... But, he was tougher. And in a division that is really lacking in breakout talents, being tougher makes a huge difference. Ferreira threw everything at Alvey for a solid 3 minutes, but it Alvey just needed one solid counter combination to put him away.
- Fallout for Alvey: Amazingly, Alvey has won two straight in the UFC. This is the kind of win that can turn a 3 and out UFC career into an 7 or 8 fight multi-year affair. Alvey can be a fun, action fighter when he's working in volume, so if the UFC keeps booking him the right kind of fights, he's got a good chance to be a fighter to look forward to on under cards for a while.
- Fallout for Ferreira: Interestingly, this isn't exactly a new way to lose for Ferreira. He's had nearly identical KO losses to C.B. Dolloway and Elvis Mutapcic. Something about the way he over extends himself coming forward to strike just really invites big counters and it doesn't seem to be getting solved as his career goes on. I'd say he's a cut above the rank and file at 185, but this loss sort of disproves that. At this point Ferreira is just a guy in the division.
- The Expectation: When I picked Edson Barboza to win this fight, I honestly thought he was the underdog. I'm not sure why. I'm sure Nate read the odds that he wasn't on the Vivi last week, but in my head, it seemed obvious that Johnson would be favored. This was a gut pick for me. My gut was wrong... of course.
- Fallout for Barboza: His classic problems with pressure fighters have improved (he's not getting KO'd or even stunned anymore), but they still exist. Barboza doesn't fight off the back foot, and as such, top tier fighters have a solid method for taking him out of his fight. He's still a top ten fighter, he could even be a top 5 fighter, but I doubt he ever wins consistently enough at the highest levels to get to a title shot. One of those guys who may just stay on the outside without ever quite breaking through. Of course he's still got time, so who knows.
- Fallout for Johnson: This was a big win for Johnson and one that showed off his excellent training under Hooft and the rest of the Blackzilians' coaching staff. Johnson really seems to have taken the technical nuances of striking to heart and put exactly the right kind of fight on Barboza for the win. If he can perform like that consistently (and I don't see why he can't) then he could be a title contender before long.
- The Expectation: That we would see a brutal, short fight in which one fighter would look way more shot than his compatriot and get dusted quickly.
- Fallout for Mir: He's got a reprieve from his massive losing streak. I don't know that that buys him any kind of purchase, but he's still something of a draw, so the UFC will probably keep him on main cards for whatever big fights they can wrangle for him.
- Fallout for Silva: That's tough. He sounds certain that he's going to keep fighting. Frankly, I'm surprised that his coaches are willing to let him keep going out there. They saw his performance in his last fight, had to see that he wasn't doing way better prepping for this fight, and sent him off to battle anyway. If they can't see something's missing, hopefully someone close to him can.
Those are my collected thoughts on UFC Fight Night: Bigfoot vs. Mir. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that's the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for next week, when I expect to be talking about the reigning queen of the bantamweight division, Ronda Rousey, and a potential contender in the works in Holly Holm. Until then!
This week's quote from the movie Big Trouble in Little China.