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Hindsight - UFC: Rodriguez vs Caceres in retrospect

Dive head first on each and every fight, discovering the fallout from the UFC's latest offerings of fights from Salt Lake City.

Yes, after a long absence, Hindsight is back! I make no claims to be as astute an observer as my colleague Zane Simon, who previously did this column. However, I'll give it my best shot in taking a deep dive into what came out of UFC Salt Lake City and hopefully future cards moving forward. Unfortunately, I'm not witty enough to dig up the movie lines that Zane used to lead off with in the summaries. Sorry y'all, but I'd be thinking all day about the perfect line and I'm not about to do that.

The format is very similar to what Zane did. A quick rundown of what was expected along with a brief summary of what happened. Then I take a look at what to expect for each contestant moving forward with the winner being listed first. Let's get down to business!

Justin Ledet defeated Chase Sherman via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Not much was known about these two heavyweights going into the fight, so it was hard to have any expectations. The first round was competitive before Sherman gassed, likely due to the elevation in Salt Lake City. Ledet picked him apart entire way for an easy win, relying heavily on his jab.
  • Ledet: His experience as a professional boxer paid off well here and being only 27 indicates that he could have a bright future... provided he has some ground skills. Sherman never tried to take him to the ground so we still have no clue what Ledet can do there. I'm very curious to see what his next contest brings.
  • Sherman: I liked the short punch-kick combos he was putting together in the first and second round. His attitude was amusing as well, sticking his tongue out at Ledet as he was getting pieced up. And his durability was impressive. But Sherman needs to improve his conditioning. Maybe "Sea-level Sherman" is a different fighter than what we saw here. We'll have to see.

Cub Swanson defeated Tatsuya Kawajiri via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: These long-time vets aren't likely to be contenders again, but they can still be effective gatekeepers. Swanson has less tread on his tires and a more modern game which led to him being the favorite. He pulled it out, but not without some luck as he avoided being penalized on a blatant knee to a downed Kawajiri in the second round. Had he been penalized a draw would have seemed appropriate. It was a fun contest and showed both can still throwdown for an entertaining contest.
  • Swanson: Swanson was incredibly economical with his strikes, landing at a high clip and did a good job avoiding takedowns. Swanson still has enough to be able to turn away the majority of the division, but he isn't elite. I've seen a contest between him and Dennis Bermudez -€” whom we'll get to later with other options -€” being mentioned and I can't say that I disagree with that idea. Both are on two-fight winning streaks with Kawajiri being victimized by both. Winner gets another crack at the elite. I also like the idea of Swanson facing Anthony Pettis if Pettis is successful in his featherweight debut against Charles Oliveira.
  • Kawajiri: I really wish the Japanese legend would drop the spinning attacks as he isn't finding any success with them. Otherwise, he's still durable and still a beast on the ground, keeping Swanson on his back for about half of the first round. However, I don't think he can consistently hang with any ranked opposition anymore. Testing up-and-comers like Chas Skelly or fellow vets like Thiago Tavares seems more appropriate at this stage. At 38, it's a hell of an accomplishment that he is still as effective as he is at this stage, but they all start slipping at some point.

Teruto Ishihara defeated Horacio Gutierrez via TKO at 2:32 of RD1

  • Expectations/Results: Both youngsters are seen as strikers and they lived up to expectations. Gutierrez charged forward swinging punches only for Ishihara to land a hard counter left hook that dropped Gutierrez. Gutierrez tried to get back to his feet only for Ishihara to drop him again with another well-placed punch and the fight was over with the unorthodox favorite getting the victory.
  • Ishihara: He really is a joy to watch and he has the personality to back it up. The UFC has been spoon-feeding him so far and it's the right approach to take as he is still extremely raw. He has above-average power and athletic ability, but his technique still has a long way to go. You did see him sprint across the cage in his unsuccessful takedown attempt, right? That pretty much explains what I mean.
  • Gutierrez: So many of the youngsters coming up through TUF aren't ready for the big time and Gutierrez is a perfect example of that. At 25-years old with only four professional fights going into this contest, he should have been fighting on a regional promotion. While the UFC did their best to give him an opponent he could beat as Ishihara is similarly raw, Ishihara is also a superior athlete. Gutierrez will be cut for sure. He stands a chance of returning following a stint on the regional scene if he can put together a win streak, but I have my doubts.

David Teymur defeated Jason Novelli via TKO at 1:25 of RD2

  • Expectations/Results: Novelli was brought in to be fodder for prospects. Why else would the UFC bring in a 37-year old lightweight? Teymur doesn't have a lot of experience with this being only his sixth professional fight, so Novelli is the perfect test for him. He passed with flying colors, navigating Novelli's reach to get up in his grill and rock him before knocking him down.
  • Teymur: The Swedish Muay Thai champ looks like he could be an entertaining fixture in the division for years to come. That's two second round TKO stoppages in two UFC appearances. Considering this was just his sixth professional bout, I see no reason why he can't continue to improve. He's trying to boost his profile as well by calling out the much maligned Sage Northcutt. Considering beating Northcutt did wonders for Bryan Barberena, I can't blame him one bit.
  • Novelli: Don't tell Novelli, but he wasn't brought in to win fights. That doesn't mean he is incapable of doing so, it's just not expected of him. What is expected of him is to provide winnable fights for prospects with upside coming off of a loss in order to get them back on track. Names like Lando Vannata and Darrell Horcher come to mind. One more loss and he'll have served his purpose. If he wins, don't expect his role to change. If he wins again though....

Marcin Tybura defeated Viktor Pesta via KO at 0:53 of RD2

  • Expectations/Results: There wasn't a clear favorite going into this. If Pesta could implement his wrestling, he was expected to win. If he couldn't Tybura had the better striking. It was surprising when Pesta didn't make a greater effort to get the fight to the ground, but the real shock came when Tybura landed the head kick that put Pesta out on impact. Pesta didn't move for a while, putting a quiet to the crowd before finally showing signs of life.
  • Tybura: After a lackluster debut, Tybura did everything he could to get some hype behind him. Since Pesta isn't a name opponent limits the hype, but no one can walk away from that KO without saying "wow!" It isn't just the finish either as he stuffed Pesta's takedowns and outlanded him in strikes by a wide margin. I've seen a few suggestions to put him in with Francis Ngannou and while I wouldn't be opposed to that idea, I'd rather see Ngannou face Daniel Omielanczuk -€” they're both riding three-fight UFC win streaks -€” and put Tybura in with Anthony Hamilton who had a similarly emphatic finish in his last appearance.
  • Pesta: How can you not feel for the dude? He probably woke up only to realize there is a good chance that he doesn't have a job anymore. I wouldn't be so quick to come to that conclusion though. At 26-years old, he's a baby in the heavyweight division and has plenty of room to grow. Give him one last chance against the Cody East and consider the experiment finished for whoever draws the short end of the stick in that contest.

Court McGee defeated Dominique Steele via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: I don't recall seeing a writer or analyst picking Steele to win this beforehand, indicating the slight favorite odds McGee owned maybe should have been greater. McGee typically pushes a hard pace while Steele tends to tire and would be fighting at elevation. How could you not favor McGee? I scored the fight for Steele at the end as McGee stalled against the fence the last two rounds while Steele got the better of the short exchanges. Fortunately for McGee, the home crowd let the judges know how they felt and definitively swayed the decision in the native Utahn's favor.
  • McGee: I don't know if McGee had some lingering mental effects from being stopped for the first time against Santiago Ponzinibbio back in August, but he looked very tentative after the opening minutes. His usually prominent jab was nowhere to be seen. This is a guy who landed 166 significant strikes in his welterweight debut. He finished this fight with 15. Perhaps he suffered an adrenaline dump following his early success as fighting in front of friends and family can put undue pressure on a fighter. Regardless of what it was, I wouldn't expect him to win if he fights like that again.
  • Steele: This is a bad deal for Steele. Yes, he got caught and nearly choked out in the first round. But he recovered and landed the much harder strikes the next two rounds when McGee wasn't pressing him against the fence. Now he could end up being cut despite a performance where it could easily be argued that he won. I wasn't high on him when he first entered the UFC, but he's grown on me as he has improved. I wouldn't be surprised to see him come back if he is cut. At 28, he should be hitting his prime soon enough.

Maryna Moroz defeated Danielle Taylor via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: Taylor took the fight on roughly ten days notice which immediately put her at a disadvantage. Owning a 60" at 5'0" tall made a victory seem even more unlikely. Moroz damn near gave her the win by refusing to commit to her jab. She threw it out there, but she didn't connect with it. The crowd showered the combatants with boos, but it didn't change the way they were fighting and it resulted in one of the worst contests in recent memories.
  • Moroz: While she may have walked out with the win, Moroz did significantly more damage to her stock than anyone else coming off a win that I can recall. According to Fight Metric, she threw a total of 251 strikes and only connected with 17 of them for a 6% striking rate. I can't recall a worse rate. Her jab continually flashed across the face of Taylor, but didn't land nearly enough. The win doesn't warrant a step up in competition. Perhaps the UFC will try matching her up with Justine Kish again.
  • Taylor: Taylor is talented and packs a hell of a punch. But at strawweight, her size disparity is too much to overcome in order for her to find success. She'll get another opportunity to prove she can hang with the strawweights of the UFC, but I don't expect much out of her. I initially though Cristina Stanciu would be a good option provided she isn't cut, but Zane suggested Amanda Cooper and I have to admit I like that idea better. When Taylor finds herself outside the UFC, I'd love to see what she can do at atomweight in Invicta.

Trevor Smith defeated Joe Gigliotti via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Smith had dominated Dan Miller in his previous appearance, but Miller also appeared to be a shot fighter. Throw in Smith's problems with explosive athletes and many -€” myself included -€” were thinking Gigliotti would be able to end Smith's night early. What actually happened was an absolute drubbing as the undersized Gigliotti had no answer for Smith's wrestling and clinch work for a dominant yet boring decision for the veteran.
  • Smith: It's a shame that Smith is only starting to put it together now that he is firmly in his mid-30's as his physical prime is likely long gone. Winning consecutive fights in the UFC for the first time should warrant him a step up in competition as he has largely been battling foes near the bottom of the division. I'd match him with fellow old man in the division Dan Kelly who has also won his last two, though Cezar Ferreira is another solid option.
  • Gigliotti: I knew he would be undersized against Smith. I just didn't realize how badly until they got in the cage with one another. Gigliotti is a solid athlete and has some good pop in his punches. He's just incapable of competing with the middleweights at the UFC level. I have no doubt that he recognizes this and expect his next appearance will come at welterweight.

Santiago Ponzinibbio defeated Zak Cummings via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Despite Cummings improved striking, the dominant opinion was that he would have to get the fight to the ground a lot if he was to pull out the upset win. A single takedown wasn't nearly enough as Ponzinibbio was accurate and efficient in picking apart the American, leaving Cummings' face a swollen mess by the end of the fight.
  • Ponzinibbio: Aside from finishing the durable Cummings, the fight couldn't have gone much better for Ponzinibbio. Remembering his takedown defense from his UFC debut against Ryan LaFlare in November 2013, he has made huge strides in that area. I'm not quite sure where his ceiling is at, but he is already one of the better action-fighters in the division. Whether he'll get an opportunity to beat a ranked opponent in his next appearance I can't say, but no one will argue that he doesn't deserve the opportunity at this juncture.
  • Cummings: This feels about where I'd place Cummings' ceiling. He's as durable as they come and strong as an ox at 170, but it's a difficult task to name a worse athlete in the division. That's what made the biggest difference here as he simply didn't have the speed to get past Ponzinibbio's defenses. While he has moved away from the grinding style he entered the UFC with into a more fan-friendly style, he still isn't the most marketable fighter. He's going to need to win his next fight as I don't think he can withstand consecutive losses.

Thales Leites defeated Chris Camozzi via submission at 2:58 of RD2

  • Expectations/Results: I was surprised to see how many were picking Camozzi going into this contest. Sure, he's looked better than ever the last three fights, but I'm not going to put a lot of stock in you when your best win is Vitor Miranda. Leites blanketed Camozzi the entirety of the fight which drew an unfavorable response from the crowd, resulting in boos when Leites secured the only finish on the main card. Tough crowd.
  • Leites: The win over Camozzi solidifies what we already knew about Leites. He's not good enough to compete with the elite of the division, but will beat the vast majority at 185. Considering the ceiling on the likes of Uriah Hall and Derek Brunson has yet to be established, they should be the ones to attempt to move up the rankings as Leites has had his chance to do so, falling short to Michael Bisping and Gegard Mousasi. Leites should be testing those knocking on the door to the top fifteen such as Krzysztof Jotko or Magnus Cedenblad, both on four-fight win streaks.
  • Camozzi: It wouldn't be right for Camozzi to separate himself from the middleweight pack as there is no better embodiment of the division than him. Thus we know all is right with the world thanks to his loss here. He'll need to put together another winning streak before getting another crack at a ranked opponent. There is still a glut of faces that is the mass at middleweight he has yet to face. Simply because I think it would be a fun stylistic matchup, I'd like to see him go at it with Anthony Smith.

Dennis Bermudez defeated Rony Jason via unanimous decision

  • Expectations/Results: Jason had the deck stacked against him going into the contest. Not only was Bermudez a sizeable favorite, Jason was coming off of a 15-month layoff due to popping for an illegal substance in his last contest. Bermudez ended up walking all over him, punctuating the beating with a Harry Potter-like scar on Jason's forehead. Jason had a few bright moments such as when he nearly sunk in a choke with mere minutes left in the fight, but the judges rightly awarded Bermudez a lopsided decision.
  • Bermudez: If it weren't for Bermudez getting himself into bad situations seemingly every fight, I'd be ready call for him to challenge the divisional elite. Seeing as how most of the elite have already done the rounds with one another, he could get that chance anyway. He called out Frankie Edgar in his post-match interview which could very well happen... if Edgar doesn't test his mettle at bantamweight. Provided Edgar isn't an option, a contest against the winner of Charles Oliveira and Anthony Pettis would be another fantastic opportunity for Bermudez to inject himself into contention. As mentioned earlier, Cub Swanson is another name to consider.
  • Jason: With one victory in his last five appearances, Jason's spot on the roster is very tenuous. There have been high hopes for him since he made his UFC entrance, but he's fallen well short of expectations. At age 32, it's officially make-or-break time. I don't think the UFC is looking to protect him anymore either, otherwise they wouldn't have put him in there with Bermudez. He isn't going to get the gimme that the UFC tried to give him in the past when he stumbled.

Yair Rodriguez defeated Alex Caceres via split decision

  • Expectations/Results: For better or worse -€” mostly better -€” this fight went exactly as expected. Both threw everything they had in their arsenal, wowing the audience with flashy move after flashy move with most of it not finding a home. Rodriguez threw at a much higher clip which ended up being the difference as neither landed a truly momentous strike throughout the course of the contest. Now if only they mixed in a basic jab into their arsenal....
  • Rodriguez: I understand why there is so much hype around Rodriguez, but I feel like the brakes need to be pumped before people start christening him a title contender. His fundamentals are so sorely lacking that a technician would pick him apart easily. The talent is there to be developed, he just needs to hone the basics before he tries to tackle the elite. There is a massive jump in competition from what he has been facing and I don't feel he is ready for it yet. Do we really want him to be jumping from Caceres to the likes of Jeremy Stephens? I don't think so. It pains me to say it, but the best option for him would be to pit him against a fellow prospect such as Doo Ho Choi or Mirsad Bektic. Not that I want to derail one of the youngsters thus far unbeaten in the UFC, but there aren't any other reasonable options to throw them against.
  • Caceres: Caceres did nothing to hurt his stock in taking loss. It may even have gone up as he put together some strong moments in the third and fourth round when Rodriguez appeared to tire. Ultimately this served as Caceres opportunity to break out as more than just a gatekeeper and he wasn't able to do that. It's a bit hard to believe, but after 15 UFC appearances, he is amongst the most experienced fighters at 145 which is why I feel safe in calling him a gatekeeper rather than an ascending fighter. I'm sure that there are some who would disagree with me, but I see him in a similar light as Thiago Tavares and Clay Guida.

Those are my collected thoughts. Here's hoping I can keep up with the UFC's future offerings as there is a slew of events coming ahead after a break this weekend. Until next time!

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