UFC on Fox in Denver, Colorado looked like a good show on paper, and delivered in ways that were both refreshing, and shocking. A showcase of performers more than performances, Dana White couldn’t have asked for a better show to sell the 13,233 in attendance at the Pepsi Center.
Amanda Nunes’ next title fight is all but set, and at least two divisions are lined up with premiere contenders in Masvidal and Ngannou. Even the defeated don’t have room to fret. On to the tweetdown...
Master of Wilds
Hey Valentina, you got the title shot!@BulletValentina: pic.twitter.com/lRR1vdGSv2— UFC_Asia (@UFC_Asia) January 29, 2017
My hope is that Dana White finally learns from his mistakes. Because here’s the thing. Just as Chuck Liddell’s stardom had Tito Ortiz to thank, so did the many different fighters who would end up knocking Chuck Liddell out near the tail end of his career. The point being, if Dana had put real promotional muscle behind Amanda Nunes instead of ignorantly claiming “no one would have known her if I spent 100 million on advertising”, then Shevchenko would be earning that much more hype and interest.
I didn’t think Shevchenko was in a lot of trouble in the first round. She remained calm, and seemed the superior tactician, but Pena outlined a template for victory going into the second round. Pena’s sheer size remained a concern except it was Valentina who made the most of her opportunities, locking in an armbar, switching belly down to shift her weight for better position, getting the tap for the swift victory.
Not only was it a great performance, but it was only marginally superior to her ‘nobody puts baby in the corner’ dance routine to punctuate the postfight festivities. Nunes has her work cut out for her. If only Dana realized he has promotional work to do too.
Best thing about Shevchenko winning is we no longer have to hear Pena talk about how fans should be "grateful" to watch her fight.— Adam Martin (@MMAdamMartin) January 29, 2017
Pena may or may not deserve the harsh criticism she’s been receiving. But between her blustery confidence and arrest record detailing the real life equivalent of Jim Carrey’s dream sequence attack from Dumb and Dumber, sometimes it’s just a matter of ‘egg, meet face’ (or is that ‘fist’ since Pena seemed intent on hitting herself for some good ole’ fashioned reverse ground and pound).
Pena still has a solid future ahead of her. Shevchenko is elite, and Pena didn’t look out of her element for most of the fight. But she’s gonna need more than a bar room brawler’s philosophy (she’s talented, but she’s an instrument of propulsion over precision) to excel beyond gatekeeper status.
Only Balls Give Orders
Only balls give orders #easymoney #ufc pic.twitter.com/fNNcUrlvWV— Jorge Masvidal UFC (@GamebredFighter) January 29, 2017
Jorge’s words, not mine. They say a man has two things in this world; his word and his balls. Or is that three (?), to quote Goldblum. And Masvidal has delivered on his gangster promises. Or at least most of it.
I picked Masvidal in our preview because Cerrone’s head movement remains an issue. Masvidal would have been one of the more technical encounters Cerrone has had in his career, and sure enough, he didn’t respond well to the focused attack. Masvidal isn’t a sure thing though. He’s dropped a number of decisions throughout his career, that while questionable, nonetheless demand more from a fighter clearly capable of better.
I don’t mean to criticize Jorge after a great, dominating performance. But Masvidal is a lot like Cerrone; technically gifted, but mentally aloof. For me at least, it’ll take more than an impressive win I consider a stylistic layup to think of Masvidal as more than just a gatekeeper. This is a great step towards consistency for Jorge, but I hope he realizes that balls are just smooth endocrine criminals of testosterone delivery. Real orders come from above the beltline. Not below it.
As for Cowboy, he’s an action fighter and always has been. I don’t expect his career trajectory at welterweight to be any different than his career trajectory at lightweight. Expect more fun. Just not any gold.
Nagonna fight for arcade coins anymore
Francis NGannou gave the old Jack Burton answer to uppercut that was the beginning of the end for Andre Arlovski. #UFCDenver pic.twitter.com/TO52Dgi57F— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) January 29, 2017
I’m not sure how to unpack Ngannou’s KO over Andrei Arlovski anymore than is necessary. It was unreal how quickly Ngannou chambered his strikes, on his backfoot, and on the counter. He’s still raw in certain areas but dangerous in the right ones. He’s a fixed Cheick Kongo, which should scare most fighters. Especially when said punches can literally lift you in the air. As for Arlovski, the writing’s been on the wall for years. I’m not averse to seeing him fight again, but it wasn’t that long ago MMA media actively feared for his life.
Damn, Jason Knight beat Caceres like he was on a crusade. I think he might've put Alex in the Hospitaller.— Connor Ruebusch (@BoxingBusch) January 29, 2017
Caceres has always been a quirky CB Dolloway clone to me; offensively versatile, but defensively vile, there’s just too much storm in their ports to yield consistency. As for Knight, it was an impressive performance that set the tone for the night just right. Since Caceres is such a tactical oddball of “spinning shit” and jazz rhythm, it’s hard to assess what a win over him really tells us about Knight except that he can pressure in dynamic ways. The future’s bright for the man I dub the ‘Knights Exemplar’ (copyright, 2017).
Happy New Year Jingliang
Jingliang with the win on Chinese New Years! #UFCDenver— killer bee (@bebelaced) January 28, 2017
I thought Li Jianglian was done after Bobby Nash cracked him with that left hook. Not only was the ensuing choke tight, but Li’s recovery had to be on point just to gather back his wits, let alone do so while Nash was squeezing the life out of him. Just so we’re clear hipster gurus, this is what a new year’s resolution looks like.
Masvidal’s presence at welterweight, Ngannou path toward the title, and Shevchenko’s claim to Nunes’ throne; every now and then the UFC’s stable of fighters do the executive branch’s work for them.