UFC Fight Night (Morning edition) is in the books from Manila, and I thought it was a good show but not particularly great. The main event saw Frankie Edgar's pressure, volume, and superior wrestling slowly wear down and pick apart Urijah Faber en route to a shutout unanimous decision win. It's Faber's first ever loss in a non-title bout while Edgar hasn't lost a non-title affair since his first encounter with Gray Maynard in 2008.
I'm really torn on who Edgar should fight next. Selfishly, I'm much more interested in Edgar vs. Chad Mendes than him rematching Jose Aldo, who more than likely beats him again. But it's hard to deny Edgar a title shot at this stage, and the door really opens up for him if Aldo either moves up to 155 after fighting Conor McGregor, or McGregor flat out beats Aldo. It'll be fascinating to see where Edgar goes from here.
More thoughts on today's special show:
- If we can have more morning or afternoon MMA I am all for it. Just get them the hell away from Fox Sports 1. The pacing of UFC shows on FS1 is somehow worse than the Spike TV era. The decisions didn't help, but the broadcast ran an absurd 40 minutes over the 3 hour timeslot because there's just no seamless transition from one fight to the next.
- Speaking of FS1, they missed a finish on the prelims because they cut to commercial early and then cut to commercial twice to run the San Andreas movie promo in the middle of the Lim vs. Magny fight.
- Referee Steve Perceval warned Urijah Faber no less than 6 times for grabbing the fence, although one of those instances Faber sort of rested his fingers on the fence and didn't grip. Either way, if you won't penalize fence grabbing as so few MMA referees do, what's the point of making it illegal when you never get punished?
- Gegard Mousasi needed to dominate Costas Philippou if not solely to assure everyone that he's still a really good fighter who can still be a dangerous contender in the UFC. He did, and it was a thorough beatdown of a former contender in Philippou.
- Mark Munoz provided us with one of MMA's finest moments in 2015 (or really any year). It's not often notable MMA fighters get to retire on a win, never mind a dominant performance in front of a massive crowd of hometown fans. Munoz's retirement bout vs. Luke Barnatt ended with a comprehensive decision victory, an emotional, heartfelt speech to his supporters in Manila, followed by leaving his gloves in the cage in a touching symbolic moment. As Munoz himself put it, he may not have fulfilled his dream of becoming a UFC champion, but he was hugely important to the Filipino MMA community and one of MMA's most beloved figures. I truly wish him the best in retirement as he turns to life as a full-time family man.
- Many kudos to Jon Anik and the UFC for letting Munoz have his moment. He grabbed the mic and addressed the fans and everyone else just stepped aside.
- Neil Magny's come-from-behind win over Hyun Gyu Lim was terrific, and it also just about confirms two things - Magny is a clear top 15 fighter in the division and has earned a step up in competition (Condit/Alves winner anyone?), while Lim is a fun action fighter who is a credible gatekeeper but far too limited to actually beat top competition. He had his chance to finish Magny early and then it went. From there, Magny had his way with Lim and exposed crater-sized holes in his ground game.
- The judging was a bit bad for several fights. Philipe Nover got a gift decision vs. Yui Chul Nam and Mark Eddiva nearly got one vs. Levan Makashvili, with one judge awarding him a 29-28 when there was seemingly no good argument for it. Australian judge Kon Papaioannou was the only one to give both Nover and Eddiva victories. Nolan Ticman probably should've also gotten the nod over Yao Zhikui but that fight was so terrible that I really didn't care.
- Jon Tuck easily turned in the best performance of his career by dropping and choking out Tae Hyun Bang in the 1st round. Consistency has been a problem for him in the past, so hopefully the Tuck we saw tonight will be what we can look forward to down the line.
- Kajan Johnson suffered a pair of bad KOs, once on TUF Nations and then in his UFC debut, so it was relieving to see him take the safe route to victory and use his wrestling and grappling to beat Zhang Lipeng. Wasn't terribly exciting, but it was very effective for the Canadian.
- Dhiego Lima's loss to Li Jingliang means that the four finalists from season 19 of TUF -- Lima, Eddie Gordon, Corey Anderson, and Matt Van Buren -- have been KO'd or TKO'd in the UFC an incredible 7 times in less than a year. Even subtracting Lima and Van Buren losing by KO to Gordon and Anderson respectively on the TUF 19 Finale, that's still 5 losses by KO/TKO. What a mess of a season.
- On that note, probably best the UFC cuts Lima for his own good. He's not learned a thing about dealing with pressure besides backing himself straight towards the fence for him to be hit, and boy he can be hit.
- Royston Wee lost to Ning Guangyou, putting a dagger through the heart of the "Royston Wee - Future Champion" memes. I think. Maybe not.
- Really enjoyed Jon Delos Reyes vs. Roldan Sangcha-an, which was entertaining enough to get a replay on the Fox Sports 1 prelims broadcast. Was it a sloppy fight? Yes, but these are low-level flyweights and I don't expect a technical masterpiece, and this was just non-stop fun that got the crowd amped up.