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Hindsight - UFC Saskatoon: Holloway vs. Oliveira in retrospect

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I'll tell you what - after seeing Saskatoon, and this here story I'm about to unfold, well, I guess I seen somethin' every bit as stupefyin' as you'd see in any of them other places.*

From start to finish, I'm still not sure about everything that happened that night in Canada. Favorites dropped like flies left and right, fighters turned in career worst performances, while others stepped up for their best wins in years, and then the main event went out with a whimper before the fun really got started. A strange night for strange events and bad, bad fight picks (at least if you're me). By the end of it all, I went 5-7, my worst performance since that card in Brazil... you know the one.

Disclaimer Time: If you need a better reason than this as to why I don't gamble, I'm afraid I can't help you much. I'm using Odds Shark for my odds on each fight and taking the mode for each fighter. The eventual goal of this series isn't to show of my gambling prowess, but to compare both my pre-fight expectations and the expectations of the public at large to the actual result and try and find out why things were so different. And in doing so, establish sporting narrative across fighters' careers. So, let's get to the fights...

Misha Cirkunov (-565) vs. Daniel Jolly (+435) (I picked Cirkunov, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I thought Cirkunov might look ugly striking, but get the fight to the ground fast enough and get a submission that it wouldn't matter. Instead, he looked decent striking, was still great on the ground, and got the GNP TKO. No matter how you slice it, a really solid performance from the LHW prospect coming in as a big favorite.
  • Fallout for Cirkunov: He looked every bit like the prospect he was supposed to be, if not better. He's got legit size for a light heavyweight, he's tough, he's in shape, and he's got a skill set that most other fighters in his division can't match. If he's not top 10 in the next couple years, I'd be pretty shocked.
  • Fallout for Jolly: Unless he got really lucky, this was always a fight he was set up to lose. Short notice against a bigger, more well rounded, more experienced fighter... That's not a recipe for success. That said, Jolly scrambled surprisingly well when given the chance. If he can get better training and time to improve he could be a decent action fighter.

Shane Campbell (+210) vs. Elias Silverio (-260) (I picked Silverio, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: This was supposed to be a return to form for Elias Silverio. He ran hard up against rising top talent Rashid Magomedov for a late TKO loss last time, and that's really nothing to be ashamed of. But, against the seemingly more limited and less physical Campbell, Silverio should have looked like a solid prospect again. Instead, he got totally derailed with a troublingly bad performance.
  • Fallout for Campbell: A huge win for him in a fight where I really expected him to look out muscled and overwhelmed. While he still wasn't the stronger man in the cage, he was the much more active and harder working fighter everywhere. He never let Silverio take a strong advantage in any arena and as such, his future as a fun action lightweight just got a lot brighter.
  • Fallout for Silverio: Of course, when one fighter has a great upset performance, another has to have under-performed, and Silverio really under-performed. When he couldn't out strike Campbell he tried to outwrestle and out grapple him, but didn't show the technical depth or gas tank to do either consistently. No one part of his game seems dominant enough for him to rely on it and being massive at 155 seems to be taking its toll. Hopefully he can move up or make other adjustments, because he seems like a good athlete and a well rounded fighter, but the flaws in his game seem bigger than ever.
  • Chris Beal (-170) vs. Chris Kelades (+140) (I picked Beal, I was kinda wrong)

  • The Expectation: I figured Beal would be able to work his outside game with reasonable consistency, stuff Kelades' takedowns, and get Kelades down with enough effectiveness, at least enough to get him the win. Instead, like Silverio, Beal seemed like he gassed out playing his own game. Kelades still couldn't get him down easily, but Beal didn't generate enough of his own offense late to win the fight comfortably.
  • Fallout for Beal: Like Silverio, this was his rebound fight to get him back in the saddle and he fell right out of it. Beal just doesn't seem to have the gas tank to fight 3 hard rounds at 125, where everyone has the gas tank to fight 3 hard rounds. Add to that that he continues to be an incredibly uneven boxer despite depending largely on his hands and he doesn't have the kind of style that's going to get him many wins at flyweight.
  • Fallout for Kelades: This was a real proof of belonging for Kelades as a guy who belongs in the UFC. His lack of offensive wrestling means that he'll probably never be a top 15 fighter, but his ability to be a tough out that can fight hard for the whole duration of a bout means that he's a step above the lowest tier of flyweights. Not a massive step, but enough to stick around for a while and win a few bouts.
  • Nikita Krylov (+140) vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (-156) (I picked Krylov, I was right)

  • The Expectation: When I picked Krylov to win, I honestly had no expectations. I thought if the fight went longer than a round, we'd enter a strange no man's land of combat. A place where both men would be so lost that any random gesture might win the fight. Fortunately we didn't get that far, but really very surprisingly, Krylov won by submission as Pezao's one-round gas tank faded first.
  • Fallout for Krylov: He's slowly getting better, little by little. Panicking less, going to decent techniques more often, generally improving. The fact that he's still stupid-tough means that he gets a lot of opportunities to improve as well. He's not the kind of fighter to drop on the first hard shot, so he can spend a little more time trying to ply the fundamentals. I don't know where this train is heading, but it's a fun ride along the way.
  • Fallout for Pezao: Much like Fabio Maldonado, Krylov is one of those bars to entry. You must be "this" good to be considered an interesting LHW. Pezao failed that test. He didn't have the fight IQ to realize that he should stick with his more powerful and technical striking or that he was probably screwed if he didn't get the guillotines he jumped on. High risk, high reward fighting tends to be a lot more risk than reward in the UFC. Unless he figures that out, Pezao is probably just card filler at 205.
  • Felipe Arantes (-235) vs. Yves Jabouin (+185) (I picked Arantes, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Even if Jabouin did well for a while, his lack of dangerous finishing tools meant that he was going to have to be damn near perfect against a dangerous, aggressive opponent. Add to it that Jabouin's at the point in his career where the durability margin is getting thinner and thinner and this seemed like something of a lock for Arantes. Still, that armbar was a nifty surprise against Jabouin's blanket top game.
  • Fallout for Arantes: Unfortunately, in something of a meme for modern Chute Boxe fighters, Arantes' takedown defense is still miserably bad. The inability for that camp to figure out how to strike and stuff shots at the same time may be a long term inhibitor to their success across the board. However, Arantes' willingness to search for aggressive offense from all positions payed off and keeps hope alive that he can stick around as a fun action bantamweight in a division that needs all the active fighters it can get.
  • Fallout for Jabouin: Frustratingly for him, it really does seem like a lot of the basic physical side of his game is still functional. He hit some huge slams on Arantes before getting caught in that arm bar. But, somewhere in the mix something isn't clicking. He's probably not durable enough to be the striker he used to be and his ground game isn't nuanced or dangerous enough for him to grind guys out. That leaves him in a tough place to win fights in a division with some real quality rising fighters.
  • Frankie Perez (-145) vs. Sam Stout (+130) (I picked Perez, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Truthfully, I felt like this would be more competitive than Jabouin/Arantes and it was far, far less so. If nothing else, Stout was supposed to have a basic striking edge and the skills to hang with Perez for a while before the younger fighter turned things up and beat him, but instead Stout got dropped on the first hard shot and the fight was basically over from there.
  • Fallout for Perez: He's retired, apparently. Good on him.
  • Fallout for Stout: He's not retired yet. That's his choice and I hope he's making the best out of it, because watching him fight is less fun than ever.
  • Valerie Letourneau (+215) vs. Maryna Moroz (-250) (I picked Moroz, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: I guess, fundamentally, I misjudged what an over-sized, powerful strawweight Letourneau is. Partially, that's because she's not and has never been a finisher at the UFC level, and partially it's because she was at 135 to start out and then faced fellow former bantamweight Jessica Rakoczy last time. But, that size and strength made all the difference here and let her dominate the faster, higher output Moroz early.
  • Fallout for Letourneau: She's gotta figure out her gas tank issues. Aggainst a more careful and consistent fighter than Moroz, she'd probably have lost the last two rounds of this fight. She's got power, she's got technical consistency, but without the fitness I'm not sure she cracks the top 5. And as thin as that division is right now, that has to be her goal.
  • Fallout for Moroz: Well, she went from contender to pretender in a hurry. I figured it would happen at some point soon for her, but I honestly didn't think this would be the fight. She's got some fun technical skills and she's aggressive as hell, but when she can't physically dominate someone, she doesn't have the consistency to win rounds. That was my worry for her going in against Calderwood, and it turns out that that was the problem that showed up in this fight.
  • Olivier Aubin-Mercier (-210) vs. Tony Sims (+175) (I picked Sims, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: I don't know if I thought Sims would do better or Aubin-Mercier would do worse. I think I'd have to settle on the latter, which is why I found this performance really excellent from OAM and am still reasonably interested in SIms. OAM knew what he needed to do and did it, and hopefully Sims came away with a few lessons.
  • Fallout for OAM: This is one of those must-win-to-be-a-prospect fights. Sims is big, tough, and has a real, dangerous skill base. OAM had to play his game to the bone here to get the win and he did. He was able to out wrestle and out grapple Sims for almost all of the fight to a comfortable decision and showed that he's capable of planning for tough fights. That's a great sign for the future.
  • Fallout for Sims: The big thing this exposed for Sims is that his striking really hasn't been built to deal with good technical wrestlers. Every time OAM moved towards him, Sims squared himself up and tried to land a big fight ending bomb. That meant that every time OAM moved in, he only had to duck under Sims outstretched hands for a free takedown. Sims is going to need to work on his outside footwork and ability to stick and move if he wants to be more than an action fighter at lightweight.
  • Chad Laprise (-450) vs. Francisco Trinaldo (+350) (I picked Laprise, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: On the flip side of me expecting OAM to lose, I figured Laprise would be tested, but ultimately able to out-work and out-point Francisco Trinaldo with a consistent range boxing game. He's generally looked pretty fluid on his feet in the UFC and been tough enough to make up for the fact that guys willing to bite down and throw back at him can hit him a few times. But Trinaldo is a lot bigger than most and when he bit down and threw at Chad Laprise, he found him with a hard shot that dropped him and sealed the fight.
  • Fallout for Laprise: If you're going to fight like Michael Bisping, your losses really have to come to guys in the top 10, or ideally in his case, guys in the top 5. Trinaldo is sitting somewhere probably around the top 30 range at lightweight right now. So, this is a bad bad loss for Laprise. Basically, he needs to up his technical striking game beyond where it is already. He relies on it almost exclusively, and if guys like Trinaldo are knocking him cold, his ceiling is pretty low.
  • Fallout for Trinaldo: On the other side, back when Trinaldo was losing to Piotr Hallmann and Michael Chiesa, it seemed like he was destined to be a short lived TUF flameout. Someone who put together a few decent fights before losing to better fighters and heading off to the regionals again. Now with wins over Norman Parke and Chad Laprise, he's put together a serious four fight streak that has him lined up as a gatekeeper to the elite. Even if he doesn't ever make the top 15, Trinaldo is carving out a nice niche as a strong test for fighters with high level aspirations.
  • Josh Burkman (-170) vs. Patrick Cote (+145) (I picked Burkman, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Welp. Really thought Burkman would have a better UFC run than he did; be fringe top 15 guy who would go win/loss for a while. Maybe never beat the DHKs and the Hector Lombards of the world. But, Cote? Every day. Instead Cote put together his best performance in years and Burkman got knocked out for the first time in his long, long career. Strange fight.
  • Fallout for Burkman: If he's not cut from the UFC after this, they're going to have to give him a real softball next time out. Cote wasn't the better wrestler or grappler, and at this point didn't look like he would seriously out-strike Burkman going in. But, Burkman's continued lack of defense and general lack of clear purposeful offense has bit him hard in the UFC.
  • Fallout for Cote: Somehow, quietly, Cote is 9-2 since being released from the UFC back in 2010. I still don't think he'll fare much better than his Stephen Thompson fight against rising prime talent, but give him another longtime vet to go against and he'll take home the win more often than not. Seems like fights with guys like John Howard or Ben Saunders would be a great way to keep him competitive, unless the UFC wants to use him as a sounding board for Lorenz Larkin.
  • Neil Magny (+160) vs. Erick Silva (-200) (I picked Silva, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: So, at this point, we're deep into my picks being super bad. Like a lot of people (and why he was the betting favorite), I was not at all convinced that Magny would stay upright and off the mat well enough to keep Silva from submitting him. Magny actually shot takedowns early, and then got swept and got passed just to reinforce that odds-making philosophy. But, Silva could do nothing with it and without his usual first round flair, basically fought like his 2nd round self all fight, to an uninspired loss.
  • Fallout for Magny: A big turnaround win for him. I'm not sure it's the biggest of his career, that might ultimately go to his win over Tim Means, but it's an amazing rebound after a miserable performance against Demian Maia. Does it show that he's fixed the problems he had in that fight? No. But, it shows that, like Cerrone (and a few others), he's willing to jump right back in, shake off losses, and rebuild his streak. The UFC rewards guys like that.
  • Fallout for Silva: He's hinted at a possible pre-fight injury, which (among other things) would make sense, as he honestly didn't look in shape to take this fight at all. It should also be said though, that as an athlete highly reliant on his athletic ability, he's at the point where those tools should start to decline. If that is indeed what's happening to Silva, his fall might be a hard one.
  • Max Holloway (-250) vs. Charles Oliveira (+210) (I picked Holloway, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Not a brutal neck injury that ended the fight in under two minutes, that's for sure.
  • Fallout for Holloway: A win, no matter how he got it, is big for him here. He's in position that he could be lined up for circumstantial title shot talk. The right injury at the right time and Holloway is probably first in line.
  • Fallout for Oliveira: Honestly, if he was going to lose this fight (and I feel like he was), then this is probably the way to do it. He'll either get an immediate rematch or, if Holloway moves on, he'll still be a reasonable opponent for other top 5 guys looking for a fight.
  • Those are my collected thoughts from  UFC Saskatoon. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that 's the benefit of hindsight. Until next time, when I'll be talking about Demetrious Johnson's continued flyweight dominance and Andrei Arlovski's heavyweight run. See you then!

    *This week's quote from the movie The Big Lebowski.