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Hindsight - UFC Fight Night Portland: Lineker vs. Dodson in retrospect

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With UFC Fight Night Portland in the books, take a deep look into the fallout of each and every fight, from Lineker and Dodson’s epic five-round battle to Brandon Moreno’s huge upset of Louis Smolka.

Hindsight

There wasn’t a lot of buzz about this event as the press surrounding UFC 205 completely overshadowed everything else in the MMA universe. The buzz that did surround the event beforehand was bad. The main and co-main event both featured fighters who had missed their allotted weight, a first for the UFC. With a third fighter missing weight, the theme for the card was that of missed weight.

While fighters missing weight will still be a large part of the legacy of the event, that will fortunately be overshadowed by a series of upsets and a main event that not only lived up to its high expectations, it exceeded them. John Lineker and John Dodson put on one of the better contests of the year with Lineker edging Dodson in a razor thin decision. Then again, I’m guessing I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know as you’ve got to have a deep love of MMA to be reading these articles.

Now that I’ve had a few days to reflect on the fallout of the event, here’s my thoughts on UFC Fight Night: Portland, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.

I will also reference Zane Simon’s article from a few days ago, which gives a great breakdown of his thoughts on the future of a number of fighters as well.

Ketlen Vieira defeated Kelly Faszholz via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: Though it was hard to know exactly what to expect given Vieira was a bit of a mystery coming from the Brazilian scene, most picked Faszholz based on her spirited effort against Lauren Murphy. Faszholz fought a stupid fight and allowed the massive Vieira to take her down multiple times off of body kicks. Faszholz woke up and turned on the jets in the final round, but it was too late by then as she was unable to put away the tough Brazilian.
  • Vieira: Even with the win, I’m not excited about her future prospects. Then again, she isn’t that experienced and has plenty of time to improve at the age of 25. The issues I have are her wooden striking and suspect gas tank. Being unable to accomplish anything the multiple times she had top position is worrisome too. Nonetheless, she took advantage of the openings Faszholz presented and showed some toughness. There are tools to work with, but there are also a lot of holes that need covering.
  • Faszholz: It was pretty clear Faszholz had the striking skill set to piece up Vieira from the beginning. Instead of using her boxing skills, she resorted to throwing body kicks even when Vieira had taken her down with that maneuver. Her boxing came into play in the final round, though she took an unnecessary risk with a flying knee and ended on her back once again, effectively killing any chance of her winning. It may have also cost her UFC employment.

Curtis Blaydes defeated Cody East via TKO at 2:02 of RD2

  • Expectations/Results: Blaydes was a sizeable favorite going into this contest as many view him as a rare blue-chip prospect in the heavyweight division. East – another young prospect – made him work his ass off for the W. A back and forth first round saw them rock each other in addition to displaying actual wrestling ability… almost unheard of for heavyweights. Blaydes scored a power-double early in the second, maintained top control, and got the finish with elbows to the head. Good showing by both youngsters.
  • Blaydes: Starting with a side note, Blaydes winning here makes me more excited about Francis Ngannou’s future as well. Remember Ngannou piecing up Blaydes back in April? I digress. Blaydes showed the wrestling ability that has so many excited about his future in addition to some improved standup. He still has a long way to go to become a consistent striker, but any progress has to be encouraging. With only seven fights and just over two years of professional experience, Blaydes should have plenty of room to grow at the tender age of 25. I have a feeling he’ll be hanging around the UFC rankings for many years once he breaks through. Here’s hoping the UFC doesn’t try to rush his development. Anthony Hamilton has been mentioned the most as a future opponent, which wouldn’t be rushing Blaydes too quickly.
  • East: Phil Mackenzie tweeted it and I had to agree. Whether you like East or not – and a lot of people don’t like him given his checkered past – his performance merited a third shot to pick up his first UFC win. He rocked Blaydes on multiple occasions, showing the more polished striking and even having some success wrestling with the former NJCAA wrestling champion. I think he’ll get that chance as the UFC isn’t likely to turn loose an entertaining 28-year old heavyweight with room for growth. But you never know….

Ion Cutelaba defeated Johnathan Wilson via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Anyone remember Rock ‘Em Sock Em’ Robots? This fight was very reminiscent of the popular childhood game, which wasn’t exactly a surprise. What was a surprise is both were standing at the end of 15 minutes as they hit each other with hard punches for the duration of the contest. Cutelaba was far more aggressive which proved to be the difference in a clear decision, but Wilson had his moments when he rocked Cutelaba as well. Unfortunately, the single biggest highlight of the contest was a groin strike from Cutelaba that required Wilson use the entire five minutes allowed in order to recover.
  • Cutelaba: In a division where dinosaurs such as Lil’ Nog and Shogun are still rightfully in the top ten, we may have a viable prospect for the future. At 22-years old, Cutelaba has a long way to go before he hits his physical prime. He’s got a hell of a killer instinct and doesn’t stop swinging even when he is tired. Plus, he’s shown the requisite durability to find success. Now he just needs to find defense, but I don’t see that happening for quite a while if it ever does. I think he could find more success if he learns to pace himself as well. Much like Blaydes, I hope the UFC doesn’t rush him too quickly as he needs a lot of polish.
  • Wilson: While this was a fairly dominant decision for Cutelaba, there was some promise shown on behalf of Wilson. He took a hell of a beating, showing more toughness than anyone thought he possessed and hurt Cutelaba a few times when he actually returned fire. That’s the problem though: he didn’t throw nearly enough to combat the onslaught from Cutelaba. I’m sure it is a direct result of his gassing out after throwing everything but the kitchen sink in his previous contest against Henrique da Silva, which means he needs to find a happy medium. The UFC is short on light heavyweight bodies and Wilson still has undeveloped talent. Expect him to get one more opportunity.

Nate Marquardt defeated Tamdan McCrory via KO at 4:44 of RD2

  • Expectations/Results: Everyone knows Marquardt is shopworn. It doesn’t take much to put him away. However, he still has KO power and combine that with the savvy he has acquired over his many years of experience makes experts reluctant to pick against him. This contest served as another reminder that he still has it in him. McCrory wasn’t able to land cleanly on the longtime veteran and couldn’t submit him when he had opportunities to do so. Thus Marquardt landed a clean right hand followed by a head kick which put McCrory on dream street.
  • Marquardt: He just won’t die… or at least his career won’t. If you let Marquardt hang around, he can still land the KO blow. He did that when CB Dollaway overcommitted and now he did it to McCrory when he gave Marquardt a pretty big opening. If the UFC continues to match him with opponents that don’t physically overwhelm him, he can still be competitive. However, I fear if you put him in there with an aggressive pressure fighter, he’s toast. Despite that -- I can’t believe I’m saying this in 2016 -- Marquardt is a viable gatekeeper to the top fifteen.
  • McCrory: McCrory had never been KO’d before his previous contest against Krzysztof Jotko. Now that’s two contests in a row that he has been put to sleep. For some fighters, once their chin is cracked one time, it is infinitely easier for it to be cracked time and again. McCrory appears to be one of those unfortunate fighters. No one will deny that McCrory goes for the finish, but he also spent far too much time on his back trying to score a triangle. That type of strategy doesn’t work very well in today’s UFC. Good chance that he is released.

Elizeu Zaleski defeated Keita Nakamura via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: A classic striker vs. grappler, it depended on who was able to have the fight where they wanted. Nakamura controlled almost the entirety of the first round to clearly take it. He had periods of control in each of the last two and even landed a few hard strikes on the feet. The problem for him is that Zaleski landed a lot more strikes with a lot more force behind them than anything Nakamura returned. No doubt it was a close contest that could have gone either way. In the end, most agree the right man walked away with the victory in the early candidate for FOTN.
  • Zaleski: Urgency was key for Zaleski. He knew he lost the first round even before the round was over as he got to his feet swinging bombs for the last 30 seconds or so and maintained that crazy pace for the rest of the fight. Perhaps more encouraging was his grappling as he not only survived Nakamura’s submission attempts, he was able to sweep him a few times and get his own favorable positions on the ground. He’s talking about being ranked already which is ridiculous for now, but it may not be with another victory or two.
  • Nakamura: While the loss was no doubt disappointing, my opinion of Nakamura didn’t drop at all following this loss. He fought a smart fight, went for the submission finish on multiple occasions, and hung in there with a hard hitter while returning fire when he could. What more can we expect out of him outside of a finish? His second UFC stint has been far more successful than his first as he has turned into a solid action-fighter capable of pulling out an upset here and there.

Shamil Abdurakhimov defeated Walt Harris via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: Lower leveled heavyweight matchups usually end up being a boring slog or end fairly quickly due to the amount of sheer power being thrown at each other. It ended up being the former in this case. Harris threw with force as he looked to end the contest while Abdurakhimov took a more economical approach which led to him touching up the former collegiate basketball player with more volume. The judges liked Abdurakhimov better to give him a boring win.
  • Abdurakhimov: Not what the big man was looking for. Abdurakhimov may have gotten a crack at a top 15 opponent had he pulled out an impressive victory. Instead he gave his critics more fuel. He lacks a killer instinct and possesses below average power to put his opponents to sleep. Plus, his wrestling was worse than advertised for this contest. He’s athletic and technical enough to outpoint opponents so long as he avoids being put to sleep himself. That may keep him on the roster, though he’ll never climb very high up the ladder without a greater display of power. I like the idea of him testing either Blaydes or Ngannou next with the winner getting a crack at the top 15.
  • Harris: Despite the loss, I like what I saw out of Harris more than what Abdurakhimov showed. Harris’ takedown defense looked better than ever and his submission attempt early in the second wasn’t something I was expecting. Plus, his striking defense may still have some holes, though it is clear he has worked to fill some holes too. Harris is improving. Unfortunately, the loss drops him to 1-4 in the UFC. The lack of depth at heavyweight – as well as his improvement – will probably get him one last crack. I like a loser-leaves-town contest with either Jarjis Danho or Viktor Pesta.

Andre Fili defeated Hacran Dias via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Dias was the rightful favorite – despite missing weight -- as he had faced a higher level of competition with competitive performances even in losses. However, he’s also considered to be a cure for insomnia. If Fili wasn’t able to pull out a fun fight out of Dias, no one could. Fili not only got a fun contest out of Dias, he put on the best performance of his career. Fili nearly finished Dias in the first round and pushed a hard pace throughout the contest. Dias tried to execute his grinding, control-based strategy the first two rounds as he looked for takedowns. Realizing he needed a finish in the final round, Dias pushed the pace and took the final round. It wasn’t enough in the end though as Fili scored the biggest win of his career.
  • Fili: Ever since Fili made his UFC debut, he’s flashed the talent to be a contender. The problem is that his aggression has often put him into bad situations which cost him wins. Remember his triangle choke loss to Godofredo Pepey? This time that aggression provided the victory. The question I have is whether or not Dias was simply a favorable matchup for him or if he is genuinely putting it all together. Dias doesn’t take risks which makes perfect sense why Fili was able to blitz him successfully. Regardless of whether or not that is the case, Fili deserves a quality opponent. I’d love to see him face the man he replaced due to injury in this contest, Brian Ortega. Early favorite for FOTN right there on any card.
  • Dias: I’m kicking myself. I should have seen Dias falling short. His control-based approach really only works when his opponent lets him control them. Fili is far too aggressive to let that happen. Now Dias is riding a two-fight losing streak and may very well be in danger of being cut. Considering this was an entertaining fight, he should be safe. However, if the UFC takes in to account his reputation, he could end up on the cutting floor. I expect he’ll return, but he isn’t getting an easy opponent. I expect someone like Tatsuya Kawajiri or Clay Guida to challenge him with employment on the line.

Luis Henrique da Silva defeated Joachim Christensen via submission at 4:43 of RD2

  • Expectations/Results: The UFC put da Silva in the preliminary feature after his exciting debut in hopes he could duplicate his performance against veteran newcomer Christensen. Things pretty much went according to plan as Da Silva stalked Christensen throughout the course of the fight. Christensen acquitted himself well by returning fire and scoring a knockdown about midway through the second round with a knee, nearly finishing the man called Frankenstein. Da Silva recovered to survive Christensen’s offense from the top, surprising the Dane with an armbar off of his back with 17 seconds left in the round.
  • Da Silva: That’s two wins in a row for da Silva, offering hope for a division sorely in need of new young blood. Despite that, I’m still a bit reluctant to endorse da Silva too heavily. He took an ungodly amount of damage in his UFC debut for a contest that didn’t complete two rounds and was damn near finished this time around. The man has zero defense aside from blocking punches with his face! I will admit that the submission offers more hope as no one knew if he had any submission ability. Regardless, the amount of damage he takes makes me nervous to give him a step up in competition. I did have an idea that I was sure everyone would get behind and was stoked when Zane Simon mentioned it: match him with Steve Bosse next.
  • Christensen: I expected Christensen to lose this one, so I’m not going to call this loss a disappointment. That he allowed himself to be caught in an armbar was a disappointment, but I feel Christensen acquitted himself well otherwise. He ate a lot of damage from da Silva to display a tough chin and the knockdown was very encouraging. At 37-years old, he was brought in to provide a test for the untested youngsters. Welcoming a newcomer or offering Johnathan Wilson his last opportunity would appear to be the ideal next step for the vet.

Brandon Moreno defeated Louis Smolka via submission at 2:23 of RD1

  • Expectations/Results: Context is needed for this. Smolka was originally supposed to face Sergio Pettis. Pettis pulled out with an injury, prompting Smolka to mock him on social media, claiming Pettis hurt his vagina. So Moreno, the 16th seed in a 16 seed tournament on the most recent season of TUF, filled in on short notice. Smolka was overconfident which allowed Moreno to latch onto the Hawaiian’s neck early and secure a guillotine choke that damn near put Smolka to sleep before he tapped. The win puts Moreno in the driver seat for upset of the year.
  • Moreno: Nobody saw this coming… except Tim Elliot if you believe his tweet. Even Moreno was genuinely surprised by the outcome. No one was denying that he had talent entering the contest, it was simply that he was unrefined. To be brutally honest, he is still unrefined. So now comes the hard part for the UFC: avoiding giving him a high level opponent. I’m not trying to de-legitimize Moreno’s win over Smolka, but luck certainly played a part in this win. To put him in against a similarly leveled opponent wouldn’t be wise for his development and there aren’t a lot of options to help him develop. Ryan Benoit makes the most sense with Sean Santella being another sound option. I’ve seen others mention Pettis, but that feels like asking too much from him too soon.
  • Smolka: The only good thing out of this for Smolka is people are paying more attention to Moreno’s success than Smolka’s downfall. This was the worst possible outcome for him. After four straight wins against increasingly difficult competition, Smolka was being looked at as a dark horse title contender. Now he is a bit of a laughingstock following his comments towards Pettis. It’s never fun to learn karma is a bitch the hard way. All isn’t lost yet as Smolka is still young at 25-years old. Zane had a fantastic idea to match Smolka up with John Moraga as both put together underwhelming performances against untested opponents. It’s a good way to figure out which loss was the greater fluke.

Zak Ottow defeated Josh Burkman via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: This was not a fun contest to watch which really isn’t a surprise given Burkman’s recent performances. Burkman has been reluctant to press the action and this was no difference. Ottow didn’t do anything more to make the contest worth watching either, but he had the more active fists in what was largely a fight made up of the two of them trading leg kicks. The fight was underwhelming, but Ottow did enough to pull off the upset.
  • Ottow: I greatly underestimated Ottow’s standup abilities. His penchant for fighting on the ground overshadowed his hard leg kicks and though he isn’t a great boxer, he slipped in far more punches to the body and head than Burkman did. Then again, it could simply be he looked so good because Burkman performed so badly. I’m not crazy about Ottow hanging around for the long-term with his limited athletic ability and lack of dynamic grappling, but he did enough to get the win here and that is often all you can ask for on a short-notice UFC debut.
  • Burkman: I’ve been a fan of Burkman for quite a while and even I have to say enough is enough. This second UFC stint has gone on too long. More often than not he has looked disinterested in being in the cage, sitting back and waiting for his opponent to attack first. The results have been horrible as he has secured a single victory in six tries since making his return. It’s time to pull the plug and let some younger blood take his roster spot.

Alex Oliveira defeated Will Brooks via TKO at 3:30 of RD3

  • Expectations/Results: When it came out that Oliveira missed weight by 5.5 pounds, most assumed Oliveira would end up losing thanks to a botched weight cut. Based on his performance, it was more of a half-hearted weight cut rather than a botched one as he showed no signs of a lack of energy or being dehydrated the previous day. Using his massive size advantage, he bullied Brooks for the majority of the contest against the cage. Brooks had his moments, but was doomed when he suffered a broken rib in the first round. It proved too much to overcome as he showed very little life in the third after Oliveira had worn him down and the ref stepped in. Oliveira than proceeded to mock Brooks, claiming Brooks had disrespected him before the contest. While no one denies that, Brooks was upset Oliveira had missed weight. In other words, no one was siding with Oliveira in regards to his post-fight actions.
  • Oliveira: Either Oliveira is the most unprofessional fighter on the roster or the pulled off one of the most underhanded strategies in recent combat sports history by purposely coming into the fight heavy. Either way, it isn’t a good thing. I don’t want to be making accusations and I don’t actually believe it was premeditated, but there are signs it was. He had a couple of months to prepare for the contest. He was among the first to weigh-in, not even making the effort to get as close as possible to the contracted weight. Others that have missed weight as badly as Oliveira did have required trips to the hospital due to dehydration. Not Oliveira. As it is, the win is incredibly tainted anyway and few will give Oliveira a lot of credit for it. What this signifies is that Oliveira will not be fighting at lightweight anymore. Most of his UFC fights have come at welterweight anyway, so it isn’t like this will be a big change for him. Even though he beat a top fifteen lightweight, he shouldn’t start at that level in welterweight. Zane suggested Tim Means and I love that idea so much I won’t even throw out any other possibilities.
  • Brooks: Brooks may have lucked out. We don’t know for sure what would have happened had Oliveira not missed weight. He may have bullied Brooks and broken his rib anyway. Fortunately, he has a built in excuse of Oliveira missing weight horribly, so there isn’t much hating on the Will Brooks hype-train right now. In a way, my opinion of him went up as he continued to fight despite the broken rib and may even have taken the second round with that injury. It takes one tough SOB in order to do that. Because of the injury, I’m also willing to give Brooks a bit of a pass for not being able to implement his vaunted wrestling to its fullest. Even then, he scored a few takedowns after the broken rib. Brooks will need to heal up, but I’d imagine he’ll want to step into the cage as soon as possible. That could be a way down the road, so I’ll hold off on giving any suggestions for now.

John Lineker defeated John Dodson via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: We all knew this would be an awesome contest. Most of us also expected someone to end up waking up to the referee and doctor telling them where they are. That didn’t happen and we may all have benefitted by that not taking place as Lineker and Dodson put on a spectacular performance. Dodson spent the entirety of the fight dancing around the cage, countering Lineker’s attack. Lineker threw a lot more volume and appeared to land more to the naked eye. However, FightMetric gave the significant strikes advantage to Dodson. No Matter how you saw it, it’s difficult to argue one way or the other definitively. Some are putting it in the FOTY category, though I’d have to place it firmly behind Lawler-Condit and Diaz-McGregor II, but that is just my opinion.
  • Lineker: Lineker has come out and said it wouldn’t be right to pass him over for a title shot over a small mistake such as him missing weight by a half pound. John, may I ask you what weight the contract said you would fight at? Did you fulfill the terms of the contract? No? Okay then, you shouldn’t be getting the title shot. He should simply feel lucky he got the win. Seriously, it was that close. He claims he landed the harder punches and that I won’t dispute. He appeared to hurt Dodson more than Dodson hurt him, which is why I ended up favoring Lineker ever so slightly. Since he can’t get the title shot off of this win, I really want to see him face Cody Garbrandt. I know Garbrandt has had a war of words with Dominick Cruz, but I believe TJ Dillashaw won his title fight against Cruz – though it was exceptionally close -- and deserves a chance to regain the belt. He’s even gone out and picked up a win over a top contender. How many more contests does the ex-champ need? Lineker-Garbrandt would make a fantastic #1 contenders fight. Zane suggested Bryan Caraway for Lineker. I don’t hate that fight, but I’m dying to see the fireworks between Lineker and Garbrandt.
  • Dodson: I’m not the biggest Dodson fan, but I have to give it up to him. He stuck to his guns and executed the game plan his coaches put out for him to perfection. Many will say that it should have picked him up the victory. While I disagree, I will say that it was the first time I can recall Dodson having a sensible plan in the cage for the first time since his stint on TUF. That’s encouraging for someone who has relied so much on his physical gifts. His stock has gone up even with the loss, so expect him to get a difficult fight moving forward. Zane broke it down perfectly why Raphael Assuncao should be next, so I’ll stick with his thoughts from there.

Well, those are my collected thoughts. I’ll have more next week after UFC 204.