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Hindsight - UFC London: Silva vs. Bisping in retrospect

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Illegal? Honey, nothing's illegal if they don't catch you!*

If you watch enough of their fights, you'll realize that borderline illegality his been a basic mainstay of the Michael Bisping and Anderson Silva games for a while. For Silva, those borders are more erratic. He's the kind of fighter that could have gotten 100 yellow cards for stalling in some fights, and would just about pull a mans pants down if he could in others. He's a will-o-the-wisp, all at once seemingly nearby and predictable, and suddenly elusive. Just when you think he's the most venomous striker in MMA history, he turns into a guy who looks like he'd rather do anything than throw a punch. And just when you've started to console yourself with that, he lands the kind of knee that could part the heavens. What I'm saying is, catching on to how Anderson Silva will fight on a given night is hard, and it's only gotten harder as he's getting older.

Disclaimer Time: If it weren't for Anderson Silva making an (arguable) meal of this fight, and the judges making an (inarguable) meal of Pickett vs. Rivera, I would have run the table on this event. Still, I'm not kicking myself for not betting on it, because for me all the fun is in the pursuit of narrative. I'm not using odds and picks to make money, but rather to try and figure out how fighters are sinking or swimming in the talent pools of the UFC. I'm using OddsShark for the odds on each fight and taking the mode for each fighter. Now that that's all clear, let's get to the fights!

David Teymur (-120) vs. Martin Svensson (+100) (I picked Teymur, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Watching tape on both of them, it really felt pretty straight forward that Teymur was going to take this fight. As inexperienced and single minded as he is with his Muay Thai style, he's shown the basics of takedown defense. Svensson, to his own detriment, has never really shown a takedown game. So you have a strong clinch and range striker with takedown defense, fighting an unathletic grappler with wild striking and no takedown game. Teymur all the way.
  • Fallout for Teymur: He's now in the UFC. There are other bigger questions looming ahead of him. Lightweight is filled with grapplers who can actually wrestle too and will probably force open gaps in his style. But for the moment, he's at least through the door and he looks like he's got a strong skill base to build off of. At the very least he could be a fun action fighter for the division.
  • Fallout for Svensson: Usually when two guys from TUF fight their first UFC bout, the loser gets cut. I'll be surprised to see Svensson back in the UFC.

Teemu Packalen (+100) vs. Thibault Gouti (-115) (I picked Packalen, I was right)

  • The Expectation: My bet was on Teemu Packalen grinding Gouti for a decision win. I have no honest idea why Gouti was favored here, Packalen is a solid wrestler and much bigger. Of course, Packalen knocking Gouti on his ass in a few seconds and choking him out made the whole style/size matchup thing moot.
  • Fallout for Packalen: What a difference a new opponent and not fighting on short notice can make. Packalen looked like a solid prospect regionally, but got dragged into an ugly brawl with tough out Mickael Lebout on short notice. That loss cooled what might otherwise have been some reasonable hype for a three dimensional fighter with a decent athletic upside. He's still inexperienced, but he's training at Allstars now and I expect him to continue improving.
  • Fallout for Gouti: He'll almost certainly get another fight. This was short notice, he's an undersized lightweight, he's not very experienced, etc, etc... Still this debut went about as poorly as it could have. Gouti might get a lot better with the right time and training, or he might be a limited talent with a style that's not UFC ready and be back on the regionals before long.

Daniel Omielanczuk (-110) vs. Jarjis Danho (-110) (I picked Omielanczuk, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Heavyweight is a weird place. That's the only way I can figure Danho being at even odds (and even favorite some places) to beat Omielanczuk. In any normal, rational division Omielanczuk wins 99 out of 100. As uninspiring as his UFC career has been, he's never been KO'd in 25 fights, and Danho has never won a decision. I had to pick Omielanczuk, even with heavyweight nonsense hanging over me.
  • Fallout for Omielanczuk: He doesn't have most of the recipe, but Omielanczuk has just enough of the ingredients to allow him to hang out in the UFC's heavyweight division. Like Shawn Jordan, but different. He's tough, he can fight into the 3rd round, and he has some decent kickboxing fundamentals. That's not enough to get him ranked, but it's enough to go win-loss-win-loss.
  • Fallout for Danho: It's so hard to say with heavyweights. He could improve, slowly blossoming into a top 10 kind of fighter, or he could lose his next fight and drift into obscurity. He's got the size and toughness of a legit UFC heavyweight, and his career is very young, but that's kind of the problem. While the UFC has gotten a lot of inexperienced guys lately, most of their HW division is super super experienced. Raw fighters like him have to show elite tools or hope for the right fights. It looks like Danho will have to hope.

Rustam Khabilov (-205) vs. Norman Parke (+170) (I picked Khabilov, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Alright, finally some good sensible odds on a good sensible fight. There are two main facets here that made this pretty easy for me to pick. 1) Rustam Khabilov is an incredibly difficult fighter to work against. 2) Norman Parke isn't dangerous. Because of that second point, and despite his excellent takedown defense, I felt I had to pick against Parke here. As it turned out, a complete lack of striking offense at all (and not just danger) gave Khabilov a ton of early momentum which he never really lost.
  • Fallout for Khabilov: Rustam is the kind of lightweight the UFC lightweight division is famous for. He could be a top 15 guy on any good day and is one of many, many fighters you just don't want to have to face if you can avoid it. I doubt his style ever quite snaps together to make him a consistent elite guy, but he's definitely an upper tier gatekeeper.
  • Fallout for Parke: For a while it seemed like Parke might be one of those top tier gatekeeper types as well, but that's just not really the case. The biggest reason, as listed above, is that even at his best he's not really a lethal fighter anywhere. He's a decently technical well rounded guy, but the dynamic athleticism to turn that into fight ending submissions or strikes is lacking. Without that even less talented fighters stand a solid chance of taking a win off him.

Krzysztof Jotko (-155) vs. Brad Scott (+135) (I picked Scott, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Connor talked me into this, and I'll carry that bitter thought to my deathbed. But really, I let myself be led on by the idea that Scott's consistent pressure game would wear Jotko out after his early blitz and would allow Scott to take over in rounds two and 3. It turns out that Scott is just two foot-slow to track down a fighter as fast as Jotko and Jotko seems to have improved his cardio somewhat.
  • Fallout for Jotko: He's entering into that Brad Tavares/Rafael Natal territory of being a half step better than the bulk of 185 and yet still a solid step worse than the top 10. His well rounded game, quick feet, and increasing fitness have crafted him as a fighter that should win a lot of rounds in the UFC, but I don't yet see the kind of game that could go toe to toe with elite talent. If his striking continues to improve and work in more solid fundamentals, he just might be a dark horse.
  • Fallout for Scott: He's one of the many at middleweight. Big and strong and consistent enough to win fights and make the grade in the UFC. Too slow, too robotic, and not varied enough to really put together a run. He'll win some and lose some, but it's hard to see him making waves.

Arnold Allen (-350) vs. Yaotzin Meza (+280) (I picked Allen, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I thought Meza might have an outside chance at a submission, in the same way a lot of guys have an outside chance at a one-punch KO. It exists in the realm of possibilities even if it's improbable. Still, Allen's youth, aggression, and overall game just seemed like too much of a good thing. After watching the fight, I think I might have been wrong to give Meza what little chance I did.
  • Fallout for Allen: He's got a bright future in the UFC at 145. This fight may not have been electrifying (excepting the last 20 seconds), but Allen took a longtime vet and just outclassed him thoroughly. That's the way you want to see a young fighter perform on his way up the ranks, because it shows a consistency that can potentially be repeated. He had a fight he was supposed to win and he did it with ease, good stuff.
  • Fallout for Meza: I'm honestly surprised his UFC career has lasted as long as it has. He's 1-3 (1 NC) in his last 5 fights and he has yet to put on a really impressive performance, win or lose. He's had to climb a huge hill to become a reasonable UFC level striker, and he's still not quite made it. He's not a bad gatekeeper for the bottom of 145, but most fighters with decent upside are going to beat him.

Scott Askham (-360) vs. Chris Dempsey (+295) (I picked Askham, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Askham was supposed to mop the floor with Dempsey. Put an infighting wrestler with a bad chin and not many other tools against an infighting striker with solid KO power and decent technique and you should end up with the striker getting an easy KO. Askham had to get put on his back a couple times to make it happen, but he did.
  • Fallout for Askham: This was a stylistic layup for him. A must win bout. Which also means that him winning it isn't terribly meaningful. It's always good to see fighters take care of the fights they're supposed to take care of, but you can't typically project a whole lot off them.
  • Fallout for Dempsey: He just doesn't have a game that's ready for the UFC or the chin to survive while said game gets ready. Dempsey is almost purely a wrestler and not a dominating one. These days most opponents have a varied enough game to have a guy like him handled.

Davey Grant (-190) vs. Marlon Vera (+155) (I picked Grant, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Grant was going to put a hurting on Vera. He's bigger, more athletic, hits harder, is a better wrestler, etc, etc, etc.
  • Fallout for Grant: He's back in the UFC and looking like he's in just the same form as when he left. He's got a great power striking game and the well-rounded-ness to turn that into a solid high level action fighting style. I don't know that he'll be an elite fighter, but I think he'll have a solid, long career.
  • Fallout for Vera: He's not really cut out to be in the UFC. His striking is more flash than technique, his wrestling isn't really up to par, and his grappling, while decent, is overly reliant on aggression and opponent's mistakes. Without him having a physical/athletic edge (and he won't often) I don't see him just catching a lot of people out on technique.

Makwan Amirkhani (-190) vs. Mike Wilkinson (+160) (I picked Amirkhani, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I picked Amirkhani to win, just because he is such a great athlete, but I wasn't sure how. My basic feeling was that he would do just enough big flashy things each round to steal it, whether they were takedowns, sub attempts or wild strikes. Instead he showed off the patient, technical side of his game and wrestled Wilkinson out the door.
  • Fallout for Amirkhani: This is a very good and slightly troubling win for Amirkhani. It's great in that he showed the deep technical wrestling game he'll need to be a continuing force at 145. He's a great athlete, but in the past his wrestling has been inconsistent and in the UFC he's been all sizzle. Now there's some meat to him too. On the flip side, he kinda gassed out, while getting everything his own way. That's a bad sign. It's one thing to get tired, its' kind of a whole other thing to get tired while fighting your fight. Hopefully that's not a long term problem.
  • Fallout for Wilkinson: He's not a bad fighter, but especially given his long absences from the sport, he's not really a fighter that sticks out at all either. Outside of a big KO over Niklas Backstrom, he's just another guy in the pack at 145. He was scrappy in defeat, but nothing that has me thinking of him as standing out from the pack.

Brad Pickett (+135) vs. Francisco Rivera (-155) (I picked Rivera, I was sorta wrong)

  • The Expectation: I'm remembering this fight both smugly and with anger, because I picked Rivera to land the better, harder shots and possibly put Pickett away on his way to a win. And, largely I thought that's what he did. He didn't stop the notably durable Englishman, but he hurt him a lot and out struck him solidly for two rounds. And then he lost a decision. I'M GETTING MAD JUST WRITING ABOUT IT...
  • Fallout for Pickett: I won't tell him he should retire. I have a long history of not being that guy. But he said he would have retired if he'd lost. That's gotta be top 5 in "signs you should probably retire off a win." Honestly, fighters almost never go out on top, and it looks like Pickett is determined not to as well.
  • Fallout for Rivera: On the one hand, he got robbed. On the other hand, he has a serious stylistic problem. Rivera is a great power puncher without a great chin. He has to keep his output low, because when he starts to brawl his defense flies apart and he risks getting cracked. But the higher up the division you go, the more being a low output fighter costs you. He didn't lose this fight, but it's not hard to see the problems in his style that work against him.

Tom Breese (-1165) vs. Keita Nakamura (+750) (I picked Breese, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Breese was supposed to wreck Nakamura. The fact that he didn't is both good and bad.
  • Fallout for Breese: So he didn't hit full hype potential this time out. That means a few fans are going to start dismissing him as a boring fighter who isn't going anywhere. But, the upside seems much better. Essentially, Breese got himself sucked into a much more difficult fight than most people thought he would (maybe even than he thought he would), and he still won easily. That's great. Prospects get in hard fights all the time, and the ability to still stay safe and get the win you came in for is a great sign for the future.
  • Fallout for K-Taro: I hope the UFC keeps him around, because he's something of a fun stylistic oddity. Give him the right match-ups and he'll make weird, hard scrabble bouts out of them. But he's not going to be an elite talent, so if the UFC just throws top end guys his way, he'll probably lose his way out of the promotion.

Gegard Mousasi (-336) vs. Thales Leites (+250) (I picked Mousasi, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Did anyone think that Mousasi wasn't just going to jab Leites apart for three rounds. I mean, that's exactly what he did.
  • Fallout for Mousasi: He's still a top 10 middleweight, he's just not the most exciting one in the world. Mousasi floated by Leites on wings of jabbing power... and not a whole lot else. He's got the kind of overall game, technique, and durability to be a huge problem for almost anyone, but a lack of killer instinct that seems like it's still a barrier to the top 5.
  • Fallout for Leites: That kinda spells the end of the Thales Leites resurgence. He's good enough to be in or near the top 15 at middleweight, but even vastly improved striking hasn't left him technical or dangerous enough to compete with the best at 185. He couldn't create any threat for Mousasi in this fight, and very little for Bisping last time. And I don't see him favoring much better against the others above him. Still, he should feast on a lot of the guys below him. That's just the way 185 is.

Michael Bisping (+210) vs. Anderson Silva (-240) (I picked Silva, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: There was no way Michael Bisping was going to out kickbox Anderson Silva. Just no way. Never gonna happen ever... right. RIGHT GUYS!?
  • Fallout for Bisping: I'm fine with the score, I'm fine with him winning. I would be fine with a draw too, but Anderson Silva fought a pretty trash fight, so I'm not going to shed a tear about him losing it. This was the win Bisping has searched for his whole career and he got it. I'm happy for him. It puts him at the top of the list for title contention, especially if he beats another former challenger. That'd be amazing. He'll never be champ, but his career consistency is remarkable.
  • Fallout for Silva: Silva looked old, wary, chinny, and inconsistent. And he still might have won. He was an incredibly talent in his prime, and he's no longer anywhere near his prime. That's fine. If he wants to keep taking showcase fights, that's fine too, but if the UFC wants to throw him against other potential title contenders, he might be headed for some very very bad losses.

Those are my collected thoughts from UFC London. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that's the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for next time when I'll be talking about the magic of McGregor and why Miesha Tate having a belt around her waist isn't the worst thing... maybe. Until then

This week's quote from the movie A Face in the Crowd.