Between Bellator 149 and UFC Cowboy vs. Cowboy, the MMA world ran amok with motives. Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000 wanted street cred, or perhaps more precisely, they fought for vanity and the ability to let everyone know they walked the walk. Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie, it seems, fought for passion, that feeling that they had let slip away something that was at one point core to their identity and now had an opportunity to regain it. Donald Cerrone fights to avoid boredom, as best as I can tell. Give the man two months with nothing to do and he'll roll his truck just for a thrill. Fighting keeps him busy. And Alex Oliveira fought for opportunity, for money (yes, they all fought for money), and perhaps the luxury to someday fight as a cure for boredom or vanity or passion.
Disclaimer Time: And of course all of them fight for our entertainment, or in the case of this column, my entertainment and my fight picking abilities. I went 8-5 (9-4) if you think Reneau got robbed bad enough. And so this isn't an especially good example of why I don't gamble, except in as much as all cards are. I'm using betting odds and fight picks not to try and win money, but instead to try and build narrative out of chaos. To try and figure out what context can be given from a win or a loss with the odds against it or behind it. I'm using Odds Shark for the odds on each fight and taking the mode for each fighter. So lets get to the fights...
Emmanuel Sanchez (-160) vs. Daniel Pineda (+135) (I picked Pineda, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: The early part of this fight, where Pineda was pretty clearly out-grappling Sanchez, was more or less like what I expected the whole thing to be. Sanchez, like a lot of Roufusport guys is just too willing to go to the ground in bad positions. But, I didn't count on Pineda gassing himself out on the ground and eventually getting overwhelmed by the better conditioned opponent.
- Fallout for Sanchez: He's still a guy that Bellator is working on long term. I mean, I don't know that there's a future out three that includes the idea of Emmanuel Sanchez Bellator Super Star, but he's on his way to being a consistent main card guy that they use to fill out events and probably will get himself a title shot at some point.
- Fallout for Pineda: He probably fights for Bellator again? I don't really know.
Linton Vassell (+110) vs. Emanuel Newton (-130) (I picked Vassell, I was right)
- The Expectation: Linton Vassell would outwork Emanuel Newton on the mats for the better part of three rounds, for a decision win. Considering that's what he did for most of three rounds the first time they fougth, I'm not sure why the odds were against him.
- Fallout for Vassell: He won, but not in a way that's going to get anyone seriously invested in him as a promotional cornerstone. Still, he's a guy that can fight Phil Davis or Liam McGeary as a credible opponent in the future, and Bellator needs plenty of those.
- Fallout for Newton: He's probably not quite gone yet, but Newton is slowly slipping out of relevance with Bellator. His rise to the title came at a point when the division was significantly weaker than where it is today (still weak) as an undersized LHW who is well rounded, but inconsistently dangerous, he's going to have trouble fighting back up the ranks toward a title shot.
Derek Campos (+230) vs. Melvin Guillard (-300) (I picked Guillard, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Guillard was supposed to KO Campos in round 1 and then ride off into the sunset on a white stallion... I think that was my prediction.
- Fallout for Campos: It's a hell of a good win and exactly the right kind of thing for Bellator to use as justification to toss him into the top end of the division for another showcase fight against one of their premiere talents. Maybe a Marcin Held fight or something.
- Fallout for Guillard: The end of the road appears to be coming up fast. Not sure how long Bellator will want to hold on to him if he's not getting flashy wins.
Kimbo Slice (-180) vs. Dada 5000 (+140) (I picked Slice, I was right)
- The Expectation: I think we all expected a quick, hot mess where Kimbo would get his hand raised. What we got was significantly less hot and significantly more messy.
- Fallout for Slice: 3 minute rounds?
- Fallout for Dada: Cholesterol medication.
Royce Gracie (-105) vs. Ken Shamrock (-125) (I picked Shamrock, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I thought Shamrock would land a heavy striker or two, Royce would pull guard and then we'd get lots of ugly stalling and maybe some short shots from Shamrock until either he hurt Royce or just rode out an ugly win... Instead we got nothing.
- Fallout for Gracie: Man's been working on some clinch skills and that knee to the cup is as slick and pretty as ever.
- Fallout for Shamrock: Another bitter chapter.
Shamil Abdurakhimov (-123) vs. Anthony Hamilton (-110) (I picked Hamilton, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Two fighters I was entirely unprepared to trust, but for whatever reason I felt like I should trust Hamilton more. He was coming off a win where he looked at least a little better, and I had it in my mind that he was decently bigger than Abdurakhimov, who looked dwarfed by Timothy Johnson. So I expected Hamilton to grind on Shamil against the cage, maybe pull him down to the ground, and work him over from top position.
- Fallout for Abdurakhimov: Obviously, in light of my expectations, Shamil's performance was incredibly solid. He lit Hamilton up every time the Jackson-Wink fighter tried to close the distance and then repeatedly blasted him inside. Because of this, Hamilton was forced into the uneasy option of having to spend the fight in open space, where he had very few tools to work with.
- Fallout for Hamilton: Ugly, ugly loss and one that makes it look like he really hasn't developed any more of the technical tools he needs to rise up the heavyweight ranks. He lost at range, in the clinch and in the pocket and never got anything approaching a wrestling game going. Abdurakhimov is nicely technical, but he's hardly a division force. That looks pretty bleak for Hamilton.
Lauren Murphy (-330) vs. Kelly Faszholz (+260) (I picked Murphy, I was right)
- The Expectation: Murphy's experience and superior gas tank were the big factors here, but I was prepared to see her just beat Faszholz up early by getting big takedowns and working top control. That didn't happen until much later.
- Fallout for Murphy: She really has to figure out how to integrate her wrestling and striking games. Especially since it seems like it takes her a solid round to find her timing standing up, she was kind of shockingly ineffective early in this fight, just because she couldn't stop herself from standing and trading with someone whose mechanics were sharper. Once she got more comfortable she looked a lot more fluid throwing hands, but it still didn't lead to much wrestling. And given that top control is where she's best, a lack of wrestling is a major problem.
- Fallout for Faszholz: She got beat, but if we're being honest, she looked pretty damn decent losing. Her boxing looked a lot more crisp than it has in the past and she was more competitive in the clinch than she has been before too. Like Murphy, she still needs more of a wrestling game to put her BJJ to better use, but the biggest problem here was that she faded. Not fighting on short notice may be enough to fix that, as her stamina was always pretty decent regionally.
Ashlee Evans-Smith (+160) vs. Marion Reneau (-190) (I picked Reneau, I was sorta wrong)
- The Expectation: I'll admit, I didn't really have a clear picture of how this fight would go. I had a reasonable lack of faith in Reneau's striking (not just from Holm, but Andrade too), and I didn't think AES would take her down easily. I leaned Reneau, because she's such an elite athlete and it seemed like the kind of fight where that alone could carry her. I honestly thought it did.
- Fallout for AES: She got a win, and while it's one I don't think she deserved at all, she did look a lot better as the fight wore on and she found her range and rhythm striking. When she gets that down, she's got a pretty decent well rounded skill set going, but until that clicks into place, AES doesn't have a lot of offensive tools outside the clinch.
- Fallout for Reneau: A loss that really should have been a win and should be treated like one. She's still a great athlete first and a fighter second, but she's building a lot of quality tools to work with. Her jab is great, but she doesn't follow it up enough. Her BJJ is fantastic, but she doesn't have clear avenues to get to the mat. As her game rounds out she can be a real force, but at the moment, she tends to look a little better than she does. That huge flurry she threw after hurting AES was a prime example. A lot of powerful shots, practically none of which landed.
Nathan Coy (+210) vs. Jonavin Webb (-260) (I picked Webb, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Webb was supposed to pick up what Danny Roberts was putting down and link up a nice sub when Coy tried to tangle with him on the ground. Maybe Roberts is a better submission fighter off his back, maybe Coy learned a lesson. Either way, Webb got owned on the ground.
- Fallout for Coy: His first UFC win was a long, long time coming. I'm happy for the guy that he finally got there. He's still a little too one-dimensional for me to see him shooting up the ranks, but he's good enough in that one dimension to be a very very tough out for some fighters.
- Fallout for Webb: He's in danger of entering Nicolas Backstrom/Mike Rhodes territory of being a quick bust in the UFC. Webb was something of a hot prospect coming up. A good athlete with an exciting wrestle-grappling style. But it seems like he's not actually dominant in any one area at the UFC level and is getting pushed out of his comfort zone because of it.
Anthony Smith (-135) vs. Leoanrdo Guimaraes (+110) (I picked Smith, I was right)
- The Expectation: The first round of this fight was exactly what I expected. Smith looked technically clean, cool headed, precise in his strikes, and utterly dominant... And then Leleco didn't go away... And then Smith started getting wild and getting hit.
- Fallout for Smith: I was going to say that this undercut my hopes of Smith being a strong action fighter for the UFC, but honestly it perfectly encapsulates that role. He has the power and technique to put chinnier fighters away, but the gaps that can be exposed by tougher or more technical opponents. Should make Smith a fun addition to any card he's on.
- Fallout for Leleco: He's stupid tough, hits hard, and will probably hang around for a few fights in a division full of guys that meet his same basic qualifications. I don't see him growing much as his technical game is at the rock bottom end of 185, but he's definitely tough enough to be there.
Oluwale Bamgbose (+110) vs. Daniel Sarafian (-140) (I picked Sarafian, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Well, I didn't pick Bamgbose, so you know already this expectation was going to be wrong. Essentially I assumed that Sarafian was tough enough to survive whatever early onslaught was thrown his way, and once he did that, Bamgbose would be too gassed out to fight effectively for the rest of the bout. He'd probably get taken down or fall off a kick, and Sarafian would blanket him for either a RNC in a scramble or two rounds of stifling. Sarafian didn't survive.
- Fallout for Bamgbose: Whether or not he's got the cardio and technique to go deep in fights I still don't know (and am still skeptical of), but what he has proven is that he can be so immensely dangerous in flashes that he will survive in the UFC long enough to potentially develop those other qualities. And once he does that, he has top 15 fighter written all over him.
- Fallout for Sarafian: It's hard to feel a bit for fighters like Sarafian. He came to the UFC right as his career should have been prepared to take off, with six years of experience under his belt and a bit of hype for having come through TUF Brazil 1 as a finalist (even if he didn't end up fighting in the finale). And since then he's found himself between injuries and between weight classes. Whether it's physique, style, or just trying to stay healthy, something hasn't clicked for Sarafian in the UFC. Now at 2-4 in his time under Zuffa, he's got to be on very thin ice.
Sean Strickland (-115) vs. Alex Garcia (-110) (I picked Strickland I was right)
- The Expectation: A little surprising the odds were dead even here, since it seemed pretty plain that Sean Strickland was going to outwork Alex Garcia to a solid, if slightly uninspiring decision. And while he was well on his way to doing that, he actually managed to hurt Garcia and finish him off!
- Fallout for Strickland: He's slowly improving, but still not quite tantalizing like might have been hoped when he got to the UFC as a 13-0 22 year old with a bunch of KOs and subs to his name. After a fast start against Bubba McDaniel everything else has just been kinda okay. It was nice to see him get the finish here, but the fight leading up to it was just another solid win. He's still young, but he's experienced enough to make me wonder how much of a different fighter we can expect down the road.
- Fallout for Garcia: I don't want to say he should be better than he is, but that's absolutely how it feels. He's got the athletic gifts of a top 10 (maybe even top 5) fighter, and the skill tool box of someone struggling to stay in the promotion. I don't know if it's that TriStar doesn't fit him that well, or if he came to the game too raw, or if he's just got some other block going on. The UFC is full of big tough, decent fighters like Strickland and it feels like a lot of them will beat Garcia right now.
James Krause (-185) vs. Shane Campbell (+155) (I picked Campbell, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I was pretty sure Campbell was going to get an upset win here. Really honestly (reasonably) sure of it. He was the better striker (on paper) which Krause has often struggled with. And my faith in Krause's wrestling and grappling game as something he could consistently rely on was low. Instead Krause put it all together for what are probably the best two rounds of his career.
- Fallout for Krause: On the Krause end of things, I feel like I learned a couple important points from this fight. 1: He is at this point in his career capable of being a consistently technical fighter on the ground and in the clinch. 2: He has a hell of a chin and can push a mean pace. He still ended up flagging before Campbell (which surprised the hell out of me) and ate a lot of shots late in the fight, but his first two rounds of work were damn fine.
- Fallout for Campbell: He gets two points too. The first is that he's tough as hell and absolutely won't quit for anyone or anything. The second is that my fears that he's not athletic enough to be a consistently winning lightweight feel more grounded. There were several points in that bout where Krause just walked through his shots, pushed him to the fence, took him down and out-grappled him. And Krause is a cut below the elite athletically already. Campbell is a fun action fighter, but that may be about it.
Chris Camozzi (-225) vs. Joe Riggs (+185) (I picked Camozzi, I was right)
- The Expectation: Camozzi was probably going to do something unusually violent to Joe Riggs, who started his fighting career way back during the days of Roman Gladiators.
- Fallout for Camozzi: Chris rarely seems to have an athletic advantage these days, but classically, give him an edge and he'll take it. He has that natural finisher's instinct, which is to say that when he does something that hurts someone really bad, he knows enough to do it again and again and again until they go away. That probably means he stays outside the top 10, but wins some more fun violent action fights for us.
- Fallout for Riggs: I'm glad he was able to fight his way out of the slave pits back in 140 AD. I'm not going to tell him to "hang 'em up," that's not my job, but I will say I'm not really interested in seeing who he can fight next.
Dennis Bermudez (-375) vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri (+300) (I picked Bermudez, I was right)
- The Expectation: This was all Dennis Bermudez's fight to lose. He's as good a wrestler as Crusher and a better striker. As long as he stayed off his back, there wasn't much chance of him dropping this fight. Despite a rough round 1, that's pretty much how it played out in the cage.
- Fallout for Bermudez: He's still a very functional top 10 fighter. You have to be able to crack his chin to beat him, and while that's not out of the question, it's not as easy a task as some fighters have made it look. He's going to be a tough gatekeeper to the very elite for a while yet and given that he's prone to action brawls, one that should be fun to watch.
- Fallout for Kawajiri: Name value and matchmaking got Kawajiri into the top 15 and to this fight. At this point, his victory over Dennis Siver is his best UFC win, and while that's solid, it doesn't make him an obvious elite talent. Kawajiri kind of feels like the featherweight Tibau. If you beat him, you're probably on the way to the top 15, but not a lot of guys will. And he probably won't win the right fights to move up in or hold onto his own rankings.
Cody Garbrandt (-450) vs. Augusto Mendes (+325) (I picked Garbrandt, I was right)
- The Expectation: The only question here was, how well would Garbrandt do in a win? Would he drift through a fight he obviously had under control, or would he dominate and finish Mendes like he should. Mendes is a good prospect and not a terrible fighter, but Garbrandt's advantages standing were huge. He took advantage accordingly.
- Fallout for Garbrandt: he got the win he was supposed to get and he got it the way he was supposed to get it. I'm still unsure of whether or not he's heading for a loss against Lineker (I think he is), but he's got that bout re-booked and out ahead of him. I like seeing that he's spending some time out at other camps than Alpha Male, and this performance puts him right back on track as a fighter streaking to division notoriety.
- Fallout for Mendes: He took the lumps he was destined to take. I would't read too much into him getting TKO'd in a short notice fight against a strong boxer with good takedown defense like Garbrandt. That was always going to be a rough matchup for him at this stage, and doubly so without a camp for it. And to be extra fair, he did a decent job landing a few shots on Garbrandt before getting starched.
Derek Brunson (-375) vs. Roan Carneiro (+285) (I picked Brunson, I was right)
- The Expectation: I thought it would take longer. Carneiro seemed like the tough, seasoned, and just dangerous enough veteran that would give Brunson enough pause to keep him in safe mode for the better part of this fight. I still thought that version of Brunson would win, I was just surprised he was able to get the opportunity to break Carneiro as quickly as he did Alvey or Houston.
- Fallout for Brunson: Few fighters are as single minded, or as much fun to watch when they smell blood in the water. And unlike a lot of fighters, you don't even have to be hurt for Brunson to think he's got you dead to rights. You just have to give him (or let him create) an obvious opportunity to dominate you. You do that, and you're done. It will be interesting to see how that carries him as he rises up to top 10 competition.
- Fallout for Carneiro: His ranking has always been a weird one. The return debut win he got over Munoz was nice, but that was trending toward a time where Munoz was barely competing with the current middleweight crop. Outside of that, and as much as I like Carneiro's late career run, he doesn't have one win to his name that would pick him out as a potential contender, either in middleweight or welterweight. He can be an interesting test for other rising fighters at 185, but I'd be a bit surprised if he stays near the top of the division.
Donald Cerrone (-252) vs. Alex Oliveira (+200) (I picked Cerrone, I was right)
- The Expectation: I'll be honest, I was surprised at the odds when I saw them. To my way of thinking, this was a fight Cerrone should take care of violently and quickly. Oliveira has just been too wild standing and too wild grappling for me to see him beating someone with the savvy of Cerrone. To Oliveira's credit he pushed a mean pace on Cerrone early, tagged him up inside, and did his best to make a mess out of the fight before Cerrone could catch on. But, he did, he got the takedown and then a pretty quick (almost academic) submission for an easy win.
- Fallout for Cerrone: He's on his way to that money-weight class. He may not always win, but his ability to fight on short notice and to take bouts between lightweight and welterweight makes him ideally suited to be "the guy" whenever the UFC needs someone to fill in for a main or co-main event. Fans like him, the UFC generally seems to get along fine with him, and other fighters seem to like him a lot. The guy has everything going for him for as long as he can go out and perform. More's the power to him.
- Fallout for Oliveira: He lost the fight he was going to lose, and if he's not careful he risks losing his way out of the UFC. There's a long history of fighters ending up cut after thinking they did Zuffa a solid by stepping up for and losing short notice fights. Oliveira has potential. He's big and tough and aggressive and well rounded, but he's not a technical marvel anywhere. If he tries to jump in over his head like this too often he could end up on a serious skid and find himself out on the regionals for his trouble.
Those are my collected thoughts from last weekend's mess of fight action. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that's the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for next time around, when I'll be talking about Anderson Silva, Gegard Mousasi, and the art of winning just to tread water. Until then!
*This week's quote from the movie The Conqueror Worm.