That's basically my watchword (or phrase in this case) when it comes to taking my own advice. I mean, I'm certain about a lot of things, it doesn't mean they're all true. It also doesn't mean that I'm about to get a whole lot less certain tomorrow. I'll just adjust what I'm certain of. Today, I'm certain that Fabricio Werdum is the heavyweight champion and that Cain has a serious hole in his clinch striking defense. I'm also certain that Eddie Alvarez is a hell of a tough bastard, and that Yair Rodriguez has the raw athletic potential to be a top 5 talent. Oh, and I'm certain that I went 6-5 on fight picks.
Disclaimer Time: If I were a smart man, I don't think there would have been a penny to be won or lost on UFC 188. I might, might have put bets on Tecia Torres and Charles Rosa, which probably would have cancelled each other out. But generally, the fights I was certain of had pretty long odds and most everything else was too close to call one way or the other. Just because I picked Patrick Williams and Eddie Alvarez as underdogs, didn't mean I thought they were better than a coin flip. But, that's all beside the point. I'm making picks based on what I've seen and the odds help me weigh my expectations with those of the general public. It's not a money game, but a simple point of comparison. As always, I'm getting my odds from Odds Shark and taking the mode for each fighter on the card. Now, on to the fights!
- The Expectation: To sell this as anything other than a huge win for Gabriel Benitez is to do the TUF Latin America fighter a disservice. Most of the talent coming off that show has looked raw at best, totally unprepared at worst. Getting wins, even over bottom rung featherweights like Clay Collard is a huge deal for these fighters in the UFC. I didn't think he could do it, but I'm glad I was wrong.
- Fallout for Benitez: It's time to start taking his UFC career at least a little bit seriously. No sugarcoating it, Collard is not a very talented fighter, but it still represented a level of competition that Benitez needed to prove he could beat. He did that, and from here it's time to start picking him more based on how he matches up with opponents rather than the assumption that he just can't win at this level.
- Fallout for Collard: It's not a devastating loss for Clay Collard. His win last time out means he'll probably get another fight. And the fact that he probably broke a rib early in this bout, makes it hard to take a lot away from it. Long story short, though, he's a sloppy inside brawler and he'll need to be more than that to have a UFC career, a lot more.
- The Expectation: I was really going on a wing and a prayer here picking Montano. I knew he didn't matchup terribly well with Pendred and that he wasn't likely to win, but damn it, I wanted to see an exciting fight and picking him was the better option in that fantasy. Instead he looked gun-shy and overwhelmed and spent most of the fight trying not to fight.
- Fallout for Montano: Except for one solid shot, he got next to nothing done against Pendred. Pendred is the kind of fighter guaranteed to make opponents look bad, but this puts a serious cap on Montano being anything other than a low tier action fighter. Give him anything more difficult than that and it looks like he'll just shut down.
- Fallout for Pendred: On the flip side, Pendred is a fighter who should be entering his prime. And while he's certainly getting the wins to go with it, he really doesn't seem improved. Yes, Montano didn't want to engage, but Pendred spent about a round and a half grinding him inside and on the ground and still got no discernible damage done. Even when he got the fight he wanted he couldn't do much beyond rack up points. That's likely just the fighter he is and it'll get him a lot of wins up to a certain level.
Johnny Case (-500) vs. Francisco Trevino (+350) (I picked Case, I was right)
- The Expectation: Case was going to style on Francisco Trevino and make him look like a rank amateur. I thought this was a big step down for Case going in and that proved to be right. If it hadn't been for a severe eye poke leaving him partially blinded temporarily, I'm pretty sure he would have gotten a finish too.
- Fallout for Case: He's a fighter who hit his stride at just the right time. He's in the UFC and all the parts of his game are coming together. He's a really solid in and out striker with something of a Muay Thai style, and he has great wrestling and nice grappling. What's more, all the parts of his game blend well and he seems to have good hand-speed and accuracy. I don't know if that'll translate to a top 15 run, but he needs a bump up to high level competition asap.
- Fallout for Trevino: He doesn't look like a UFC level athlete in the cage, and I'm not sure there's a lot that can change that. When Case went after him early, it was all Trevino could do to shell up and try not to eat too many shots flush. He went to the well with the walk away/surprise strike over and over, none of which really worked. Even when his opponent only had one eye, Trevino looked totally overwhelmed. I don't want to be hard on the guy, he won his debut, but this felt like a crash back to reality.
- The Expectation: Much like the first fight of the night, I wasn't about to pick the TUF Latin America fighter to win. Especially after watching tape and seeing Perez's lackluster takedown defense and athletic ability, Williams just seemed like a much safer pick. So, I was pretty shocked Williams was the underdog and a lot less surprised when he blew Perez out early.
- Fallout for Perez: He's lucky in that, as a TUF winner and now at 1-1 in the UFC, he'll almost certainly get another fight under Zuffa. But, this was a reality check that he's got a lot of work to do if he's going to be a competitive fighter at this level. Williams is a pretty standard baseline for the UFC. An athletic wrestler with a raw, developing game. Perez didn't even stand a chance. Hard to pick him in fights going forward.
- Fallout for Williams: I honestly thought Williams was winning his bout against Chris Beal before Beal poster-ized him. He's got the athletic upside and a solid base skill to be a good UFC talent, but his striking has needed a ton of work. He looked on point in a very short fight here, and it suggests he may be capable of much better things going forward.
- The Expectation: Drew Dober was supposed to paint a picture of workman like consistency in a solid 15 minute decision over Efrain Escudero. The trouble with being in that position, however, is that you can't make big mistakes. I mean, you can never make big mistakes, but when your avenue to victory is long term pressure, you really can't slip up. Dober slipped right out of the gate and paid the price because of it.
- Fallout for Dober: For a fighter that should be a near finished product, Dober still seems to be surviving on a razor's edge. I'd say he's probably getting better in his time in the UFC, but we really don't know. He hasn't had a fight that didn't feel fluky or weird in any of his last three outings. He'll probably get another fight, but right now I have no idea what to expect from it.
- Fallout for Escudero: I don't know if much has really changed for Escudero, or if his last two opponents have just been really mediocre, but being on a two fight win streak gives him some breathing room in the UFC for the first time in his career. I don't know how far he'll carry that, but it could be that Escudero has finally turned a corner late and could make a decent run as a mid-tier gatekeeper.
- The Expectation: It's not that Chico Camus should have been written off, it just seemed like Henry Cejudo was the fighter to pick. Personally, I and a few others expected Camus to give Cejudo one of, if not the hardest fight of his career thus far. Camus was the first diverse striker Cejudo had ever faced and one who is just starting to fire on all cylinders. Cejudo's high output pressure game won over the judges and is a testament to his diverse and developing skills, but it was a close run thing. Should the odds have been so wide, no, but Cejudo is proving himself a safe bet to win fights.
- Fallout for Camus: This isn't so much a setback for Camus as it is an affirmation of place. He's probably a solid top 10 flyweight right now, based on his dynamic striking, takedown defense, and submission games. The trick for him going forward is figuring out how to mix aggressive offense with solid defense. If he can't, the top 5 is going to be tough to crack.
- Fallout for Cejudo: Part of me feels like it's premature to give him a spot in the top 5 at flyweight, but like others before him that have gone from zero to title shot in just a few fights, I don't really worry about it derailing his prospects. Cejudo is a future champion, or at the very least a perennial contender in the making. The latter may actually serve his psyche better, but either way I expect him to have a long career of success, especially considering that he already has figured out how to win fights that don't go well for him.
- The Expectation: I won't say I expected Torres to dominate Hill, because Hill is a very good athlete and athletes of her caliber rarely just get dominated. But, I did feel pretty secure in the idea that Torres would win. Of course, to that end it seemed as though range striking was her safest bet, but Torres showed a new wrinkle and just ground out a positional wrestling victory.
- Fallout for Hill: She'll get better. This was a pretty meaningless loss for Angela Hill. She fought a similar level of athlete with more experience against better opposition and got beat. Angela Hill is the rawest of talents in the UFC and only time and training are going to fix that.
- Fallout for Torres: There's not really any such thing as a "bad" win for most fighters in the UFC, but this is definitely not a win that will move Torres forward in the division. She's one of the better all around talents, not just a great athlete, but a technically well rounded fighter too. But, at the moment, the UFC is looking for exciting performers they can push to title shots and this wasn't an exciting performance.
- The Expectation: This seemed like a fight tailor made for Charles Rosa to get a slick submission win and look good doing it. The odds, to my eye, seemed needlessly close, with far too many people giving Rodriguez a good shot at winning. I'm not sorry to be wrong on that. Rodriguez looks like a freak athletic talent whose technical game is developing with fantastic speed. Round 3 looked more like what I expected from the rest of the fight, but it was too little, too late from Rosa to catch up.
- Fallout for Rodriguez: He looked exactly like what a high profile young talent without a really strong wrestling/grappling base should look like in this fight. This was a breakout performance from him to take him from a fighter with some hardcore fan interest and no real record to speak of, to a fighter that Joe Rogan spoke of as the second coming of Christ. He could still have some bumps along the way, but as long as he sticks with AKA I expect Rodriguez to look like a top 15 fighter before long.
- Fallout for Rosa: The thing about fighting a really great athlete is that they can make other, decent fighters look totally pedestrian. That's what Rodriguez did to Rosa here, making him look not just slow, but a bit clumsy and inefficient too. That doesn't mean that Rosa won't still improve and that he isn't still good, but it shows there's a difference between fighting the Dennis Siver's of the world and the true title challengers out there, just in terms of raw gifts.
- The Expectation: Gastelum had to win this fight. Had to. There were no other options. If he lost, his career as a top prospect could have been derailed for years, especially considering the damage already done with his forced move to middleweight. Fighters like Gastelum just aren't supposed to lose to fighters like Marquardt at this stage in their careers and Gastelum reinforced that in this fight.
- Fallout for Gastelum: He's still a top prospect at welterweight and most likely a top 15 fighter at middleweight as well. But he's got to get his camp figured out. He didn't look like he was in way better shape for this bout, just that Marquardt was so over-matched it didn't matter. If Gastelum can't get the work side of fighting solved, he risks becoming a "what if" case. This fight didn't do anything to prove that he isn't heading down that path, but at least he's not plummeting toward it.
- Fallout for Marquardt: He should be done. He seems certain that he's got a future with the UFC, but I'm not entirely sure why they'd keep him. He's not a huge selling name, even as a former Strikeforce champ, and he hasn't looked like a really competitive elite fighter (even with a solid win over James Te Huna) for years. There's no reason for the UFC to give him another fight at this point, but anything can happen.
- The Expectation: Other than a first round in which Eddie Alvarez got boxed up and closed his eye by blowing his nose, this fight went just the way I thought it would... which frankly shocks me. Nobody seems to respond better to taking a whipping than Eddie Alvarez, I wrote him off when his eye closed and he came right back and took the fight and won it. That's damned impressive stuff.
- Fallout for Alvarez: He's still in the picture as a top lightweight contender in the UFC. There are those that say his style isn't sustainable, but Alvarez has been doing it for more than a decade, he's already sustained it. The only question now is, how much gas does he have left in the tank? I doubt he becomes a belt holder in the UFC, but he may hang on long enough to get a crack at the title.
- Fallout for Melendez: Is this proof positive that Melendez is in decline, or is he just another fighter that didn't pay nearly enough attention to the potential drain that high altitude fighting would put on him? Maybe a bit of both? I do believe that we've probably seen the best we're going to get out of Melendez at this point, but it has to be asked just how much time he spent in Mexico City getting ready for this fight, because after the first he flagged badly.
- The Expectation: Going in, I was certain that either Cain would win, or we would know that the injuries he's faced have taken a big toll on him. Coming out, I'm not sure I'm sold on that narrative. Yeah, Cain lost and lost hard. In part, he just got beat for not being a good enough defensive fighter in the clinch. In part, he looked like he thought he could never gas, despite not taking the altitude seriously. Together, I'm not sure he can't bounce back from this loss and straight into prime form again.
- Fallout for Velasquez: In most sports, when a fighter has the kind of knee injuries Cain has had, they need a full season before they start getting back to their old form again. I'm not sure if Cain will need that or not, but he does need to take a step back and get a rebuilding win or two. He also needs to understand that "Cardio Cain" is a nickname and not a birthright. Dude can get tired just like anyone.
- Fallout for Werdum: He's the champ. At the age of 37, Fabricio Werdum is suddenly king of the mountain. Of course, the trouble with being the HW king has always been holding on to the belt. I'm not so sure we're at the start of the "Werdum Era" but it will be a lot of fun watching him as champion for as long as he's up there.
Those are my collected thoughts from UFC 188. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that's the benefit of hindsight. Next time around I plan on talking about the still unbeaten queen of the strawweight division, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, as well as some old man-on-man action with Shamrock vs. Kimbo at Bellator 138. Until then!
*This week's quote from the movie 48 hrs.