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Hindsight - UFC 195: Lawler vs. Condit in retrospect

There isn't any room for feelings in this game. A fighter's a machine, not a human being.*

If ever there were two fighters that fought more like machines than human beings. Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit waged the kind of pitched 5-round battle that is supposed to be above the realm of mere mortal man. They pushed their limits in a fight where both men were dropped early, both were wobbled late, and both found the kind of resilience and energy reserves that seem outlandish, even while watching the fight in replay. It's the kind of contest that only the free flowing rules of MMA allow for and put a great cap on a evening of solid fight picking.

Disclaimer Time: I did really well picking fights on this card, but if you were a gambler, this was a night that made you pull your hair out. Only Dustin Poirier and Drew Dober got clear decisions. Every other fight that wasn't stopped was decided on a judges whim. Still, even when the wrong man won, I enjoyed it. Because I wasn't playing for keeps, just for narrative. I'm using odds and fight picks to try and re-shape my pre-fight expectations into post fight realities. I'm getting the odds from Odds Shark and taking the mode on each fighter. So, let's get to the fights!

Sheldon Westcott (-165) vs. Edgar Garcia (+145) (I picked Westcott, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Westcott is a good athlete, a fast starter, and a slick transition grappler. Against a fighter like Garcia, who seems to be a cut below the norm for athletes in the UFC, it seemed reasonable to expect that Westcott would shine for an early win. I expected a submission, but TKO is fine.
  • Fallout for Westcott: There's not a lot to this really. We knew Westcott could win these kinds of fights and win them fast. The problems for him have been, when he doesn't get the fast win, what happens? This fight keeps him in the UFC, which is a big victory in and of itself, but there's not a lot else to take away.
  • Fallout for Garcia: I don't know if this is the end of his UFC run or not. He's gone 0-2 to start his second shot at a Zuffa career after going 1-2 the last time. The UFC might keep him on for another fight after this, but it would likely be as a build up fight for a rising fighter in need of a tough veteran test.

Michinori Tanaka (-140) vs. Joe Soto (+105) (I picked Soto, I was sorta wrong)

  • The Expectation: I had been underwhelmed by Tanaka's striking in the UFC. Or, to be more precise, I had forgotten entirely what it looked like. So, I figured this fight would largely end up a grappling battler, where Soto was the more dangerous, technical grappler. I'm not sure that take was quite wrong. Soto got out-struck more than I thought he would, but I scored each of the first two rounds in his favor, for his more aggressive grappling attacks.
  • Fallout for Tanaka: He definitely looked better in this fight than he did against Kyung Ho Kang, but it's becoming more apparent that Tanaka is a good athlete still searching for a style. His striking was sharper, but most of his shots came up short. His wrestling looked better, but his top game wasn't exactly special. And for the most part, he got out worked on the mat by the better grappler. He's a good athlete and a young fighter with room to grow, but I wonder if he'll ever meet his potential as a fixture in the top 10.
  • Fallout for Soto: Good enough to fight for a title on short notice, but not good enough to stay in the UFC? Joe Soto is in a weird place right now. He's got the baseline skills to be a competitive fighter at bantamweight, but he's finding himself getting quickly bounced to the fringes of the division, through facing a series of better athletes with slightly more prototypical MMA games. He's good enough to be there, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Soto gone from the UFC.

Dustin Poirier (+130) vs. Joe Duffy (-149) (I picked Poirier, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I really expected Poirier to be more competitive standing. Early on, in some respects he was. His natural power and aggression meant that he was able to routinely back Duffy off in prolonged exchanges. However... Duffy really showed that he's a fighter that most MMA strikers can't afford to play with long term. And by the second round, Poirier was forced into a wrestling & GnP only attack.
  • Fallout for Poirier: At this moment he's probably just about as good a fighter as he'll ever be, and seemingly very firmly a top ten lightweight. Duffy is exactly the kind of terrible fight that can derail even a seasoned veteran at lightweight and Poirier survived the scares to persevere for a strong win.
  • Fallout for Duffy: Some parts of his game are better than expected, some are worse. he's definitely an elite striking talent, but while he's been a strong grappler regionally, this fight suggests he might have some work to do on the other aspects of his game. Basically, when Poirier (who isn't a notably amazing wrestler) wanted a takedown, he got it. And while Duffy looked fantastic off his back in open space on the mat, he spent most of the last two rounds against the cage getting mauled. Essentially it seems like he's going to have to be a more determined wrestler (at least defensively) to become more than an action fighter at lightweight.

Drew Dober (+170) vs. Scott Holtzman (-220) (I picked Dober, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Finally a fight that Drew Dober should win in the UFC... and he's the underdog somehow. I get that Holtzman was coming in undefeated in his career, but that doesn't make up for the fact that he's still just a really raw fighter. I figured Dober would take this on volume striking, that he did it mostly with wrestling was interesting and not a bad sign.
  • Fallout for Dober: He finally gets another win to breathe a little life into his UFC career. I don't think Dober is any kind of future star, but he's a solid action kickboxer who can keep pace with a lot of guys and make for some fun filler fights in the promotion. Holtzman is the kind of guy he should beat, and he did so, but he still has a lot to prove against more veteran talent.
  • Fallout for Holtzman: "Hot Sauce" isn't a bad fighter. There were a lot of moments in this bout, against a much more experienced opponent, where he was able to make things happen. He's a good athlete, he's got a good feel for the sport. But, he's not experienced, and coming out of a hockey career, he's not exactly technical in any aspect of MMA. He'll have a steep learning curve at lightweight and if he can't improve fast, the division is full of guys like Dober that could beat him right now.

Justine Kish (-220) vs. Nina Ansaroff (+175) (I picked Kish, I was right-ish)

  • The Expectation: Like everyone else, I picked Kish to win this. I had seen what Ansaroff had to offer in her last bout and it didn't look like anything I would bet on. Kish is a very raw fighter, but given her functional fundamentals, she seemed like a safe bet. That was wrong. Ansaroff has made major leaps in her striking since her debut, and I thought she won the first two rounds really clearly.
  • Fallout for Kish: It's hard to know what to take away from this fight. At face value I'd say that Kish looks like another in a long string of strawweight fighters who are more talented than they are prepared at the moment. Given that she didn't look blazing fast for the weight class either, that could mean that she'll have a normal (long) road to being any kind of contender. Or, she could just be really rusty after a couple years on the sidelines. We'll know more after her next fight.
  • Fallout for Ansaroff: I really hope the UFC keeps her off her second loss in the promotion, because it's clear that she's making major jumps in ability right now. Clasically Ansaroff was a fighter that would walk her way into the pocket from the outside, had a game built on flashy kicks, and defaulted to spinning backfists or diving on Hail Mary subs, when pressured. Here, she kept her range, her boxing looked sharp and her hands fast, her kicking game was still powerful, and she stayed away from spinning backfists. Her ground game still needs a lot of work, she looked very uncomfortable, both on top and on her back, but given how well she improved from her last fight to this one, I feel confident she could make strides there too.

Alex Morono (+300) vs. Kyle Noke (-400) (I picked Noke, I was kinda wrong)

  • The Expectation: Not gonna say I never would have picked Morono over Noke, because Noke has a history of putting on some classically bad fights, but I really never expected Alex Morono to beat Kyle Noke. Obviously the results were intensely debatable, but I'm actually pretty comfortable with the result. Not because Noke was moving backwards the whole fight (although that didn't help), but just because there were so many times where he was being pressured with big sloppy strikes and did absolutely nothing in return. Morono worked a lot harder to finish the fight.
  • Fallout for Morono: He gets the kind of debut UFC win that is very very likely to get him thrown in over his head next time out. He's got some skills that could get him some surprising future wins, mostly that he's tough and aggressive, but his long term future is probably at lightweight. And eventually, more technical fighters are going to find some real holes in his style.
  • Fallout for Noke: No good way to put this, this was a bad, bad loss for Kyle Noke. As great as his last win was, this loss was terrible. He just didn't seem to know what to do with an aggressive fighter that was going to pressure him non-stop. He was obviously the much more technical, and potentially even athletically gifted fighter, but he fought like he was just trying to coast out a win. Bad plan, bad fight, bad loss.

Michael McDonald (-600) vs. Masanori Kanehara (+401) (I picked McDonald, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Maybe I'm forgetting just who Michael McDonald was? That's very probable, he hadn't fought since man first discovered fire (and is still somehow just 24). Or, maybe his fun, back and forth fight with Renan Barao colored my perception. Either way, I expected him to win dominant, as long as he showed up in his normal form.
  • Fallout for McDonald: It could be that this is more or less the fighter he's always been and that I'm just forgetting. A great athlete, from a small camp, with a lot of technical holes in his game, but great finishing instincts. Or, it could be that he's just rusty after a long layoff. Maybe both? Either way, the division has shifted a lot around McDonald since his first rise, so it's going to be on him to show that he can stay in better control next time out, or I feel like other ranked fighters will beat him.
  • Fallout for Kanehara: I'm not surprised he lost this fight. He was supposed to. That was what the odds said, that was what the analysts said, that was always how it was going to go. But, up until he lost he looked good. He may not have the most stellar UFC record and he may not have won here, but Kanehara looks the part of a solid gatekeeper in the bantamweight division right now.

Abel Trujillo (+135) vs. Tony Sims (-150) (I picked Sims, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: For most of the first round, my pick of Tony Sims (and some surprising odds in his favor) seemed right on. Sims had a big technical boxing advantage, and was ringing Trujillo's bell over and over. That was absolutely how it was supposed to go. From there, Trujillo was supposed to get wilder and wilder before getting KO'd. Instead, Sims went for a takedown he didn't need, and got choked in the process.
  • Fallout for Trujillo: He's a great athlete. A good enough one to win some tough fights against lesser athletes. Other than that, this fight didn't do much to change the perception of him as an inconsistent action fighter.
  • Fallout for Sims: The theme of Sims' last two fights has been, facing better athletes, and losing the non-striking portions of the fight. He's not a terrible wrestler, but because he's not a great athlete, when the bout becomes a competition less about timing and hand speed and more about scrambling and grappling strength and technique, he just gets outworked. He's a fun fighter, but he may be more of AAAA talent than a long-term UFC fighter.

Brian Ortega (-170) vs. Diego Brandao (+145) (I picked Ortega, I was right)

  • The Expectation: It feels a little foolish to say I got this fight exactly right. Basically, it was my feeling that no matter how many advantages I thought Brandao had on paper, it just felt like a fight he was going to lose. He's just a fighter that loses fights against dangerous opponents that he can't stop. He couldn't stop Ortega and eventually he made a mistake big enough that he lost the fight.
  • Fallout for Ortega: This is a great win for him and a win that now has him sitting in the 15 spot at featherweight, but I also wonder if it isn't setting him up for a bad loss. Off a win over a top 15 gatekeeper like Brandao, the next obvious step is to start fighting guys that are ranked above him. Does he win those fights right now? I'm not so sure on that.
  • Fallout for Brandao: It needs to be noted that the fundamentally flawed Brandao of today is way way better than the fundamentally flawed Brandao of yesteryear. He has gotten better. He's more controlled, more consistent, and a dangerous finishing threat everywhere, but he's just not an elite talent, or at least not consistently enough to regularly beat elite fighters. This was something of a harsh reminder of that.

Albert Tumenov (-260) vs. Lorenz Larkin (+210) (I picked Tumenov, I was mostly right)

  • The Expectation: Largely, Lorenz Larkin did a lot better than I expected. Which is to say, I really didn't think he'd have the huge kicking advantage that he made great use of throughout the fight. Otherwise, as has generally been true throughout his career, Larkin's defense is bad in prolonged exchanges and when he does defend well, his offense shuts down. He made this fight close on leg kicks alone, but Tumenov did a ton of work for those first two rounds.
  • Fallout for Tumenov: He deserves to be a top 15 fighter right now, and he's got the technical striking to compete with just about anyone in the division. This wasn't an all "good news" fight however. Tumenov looked a step slower than Larkin, and coupled with his unwillingness to check kicks and lack of a diverse 3D offense, he may have some longterm barriers to his entry to the true elite. There's room for him in the top 15, but after this fight, a title run still feels like it's a long way off.
  • Fallout for Larkin: He's gotten better at all the things he does well over time and in doing that, his classic gaps have gotten more difficult to find. But, they're still there. The problems are still essentially the same. He's either all offense or all defense with no mix in between and while he's a good boxer in single strikes, he can't string shots together at an elite level. He may just be destined to be a top flight action gatekeeper.

Stipe Miocic (-230) vs. Andrei Arlovski (+180) (I picked Miocic, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Was assuming Stipe would out work Arlovski from range for a somewhat less than thrilling three round decision. But a 1 minute KO works fine too. You do your thang Stipe.
  • Fallout for Miocic: As Joe Rogan set up and Stipe demanded, he just might get the next crack at the heavyweight title when the opportunity comes around. When that will be? I have no idea. It's not exactly a belt that gets put on the line a lot. Miocic is definitely the most sensible challenger right now. I like watching him fight, I could see him competing well with Werdum and Velasquez. But in a UFC era where they're always looking for the sexiest fight, I do wonder if he won't get skipped.
  • Fallout for Arlovski: He's still floating around the top 5 in today's heavyweight MMA world. There's a fight with JDS right there if he wants it and unbelievably as it may seem, he's never fought Overeem (although he might need a win first now). Basically, one KO loss doesn't unmake him right now as a guy who could find himself back at the front of the line with one or two good wins.

Robbie Lawler (-130) vs. Carlos Condit (-102) (I picked Lawler, I was maybe right)

  • The Expectation: I mean, I thought it would be a good fun fight. But, if I'm being honest, I really thought that Lawler would be able to weave in on Condit early and often and we'd get a brutal TKO for Condit's first knockout loss of his long and exceptional career. It seemed like a possibility and considering Condit's recent fights, I wasn't that sold on him being 100% for this one. That was wrong. This fight was amazing and Condit looked like the absolute best version of himself all the way through.
  • Fallout for Lawler: Whether you think he deserved the win or not, he's still champion today. And, if Condit retires after this bout, then he's got a chance to expand his legacy with potential bouts against Woodley or Maia. If Condit does stay for a rematch, then we get another amazing fight. Basically, we should all love Lawler as champ, win or lose.
  • Fallout for Condit: I like hearing his talk about retirement. He's still at the peak of his abilities, he's been fighting forever, and he's just getting into his 30s. This is the perfect time to start looking at other options, before his body breaks down, or even worse, his mind. He can stick around for more big fights if he wants to. He's an elite action talent and will always be in some demand because of it, but outside of walking away with a belt around your waist this is about as good as it gets.

Those are my collected thoughts from UFC 195. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that's the benefit of hindsight. Until next time, when I expect to be talking about why Dominick Cruz getting in TJ's head didn't help him any, and why Anthony Pettis is still a hairsbreadth from another shot at the UFC lightweight title off a win. Stay tuned!

*This week's quote from the movie Kid Galahad.