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Hindsight - UFC 189: McGregor vs. Mendes & TUF 21 Finale in retrospect

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He's a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.*

In some ways, I find myself wanting to believe that sentiment, more than I find myself believing that it's true. It's certainly what Jose Aldo fans would like to think, watching Conor McGregor fight, but then again... Watching Conor McGregor fight there aren't many signs of doubt in his demeanor. Even when on his back, eating hard shots, even when getting countered hard coming in, he fights like a man with unshakable belief that he is going to win the fight in front of him. Outside of a star enhancing performance from McGregor, Robbie Lawler put on one of the all time great title defenses is MMA history to co-main a card whose last few fights were totally beyond already high expectations. And speaking of expectations, I went 13-9 on fight picks after a rough 189 and a great TUF 21 finale.

Disclaimer Time: UFC 189 is exactly why I don't bet. I got the layups right. Garbrandt, Garcia, Brown, Almeida were all pretty simple calls (and you probably even could have made a little money on Matt Brown), but everything else was very hard to pick and I can't see any sense that could have been had betting on it. There was real money to be made on the TUF 21 Finale, however. Underdog odds on Trevor Smith and Michael Graves were worth cashing in on and there were a few solid upset picks for chancy gamblers... But that's all beside the point. I'm using odds as a way to talk about fighter development in the face of fan expectation and my own pre-fight analysis. I'm getting the odds from Odds Shark and taking that mode on each fighter. Now, lets get to the fights!

UFC 189:

Yosdenis Cedeno (-250) vs. Cody Pfister (+210) (I picked Cedeno, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Everyone, including myself picked Cedeno to show up and get the win here, but frankly my actual hopes to that effect were pretty low. Yosdenis Cedeno has a lot of work to do to be a functional MMA fighter, and while Pfister isn't the most gifted athlete in the world, he's a grinder. In a fight like that, you hope the exciting fighter does exciting things, but hard to be surprised when the grinder gets a win. There's no real reason the odds should have been more than +/- 150.
  • Fallout for Cedeno: He will almost certainly get cut from the UFC after this loss, but more importantly, Cedeno's career is a good look at the difference between regional and UFC competition. Regionally, Cedeno's athleticism and flashy style got him a lot of good wins, but that game was too difficult to carry over and succeed against bigger/tougher competition. He's been trying to adjust, but he's got a long way to go before his style redevelops.
  • Fallout for Pfister: While his debut went super poorly, this fight gave a better look at Pfister as a potentially tough/scrappy out for fighters with an underdeveloped wrestling/grappling game. That kind of toughness could keep him in the UFC for a while, with the right match-ups, or he may go the way of Mike Rio. Too early to tell right now.
  • Neil Seery (+110) vs. Louis Smolka (-140) (I picked Seery, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: I really thought that people were overvaluing Smolka here, off what was essentially a Hail Mary win over Richie Vaculik in his last fight, and a dismantling of recent UFC cut victim Alptekin Ozkilic. I can see why he was the odds on favorite because of those wins, but I don't know how meaningful they were. This was much more of a statement. Smolka is still a problematic striker, but choose to grapple with him and your game better be on point.
  • Fallout for Seery: His willingness to take the fight wherever his opponent brings it has cost Seery a couple times here. Against Brad Pickett he got sucked into wrestling exchanges and against Louis Smolka it was prolonged grappling battles. Seery is well rounded, but he has strengths and they're standing up, trading in the pocket. He needs to tailor his approach to each opponent more to win consistently in the UFC.
  • Fallout for Smolka: This was a fantastic win for Smolka and easily the most meaningful of his career. Not only did he beat Seery, but he routinely outclassed him technically with his smooth wrestling and flowing grappling. He made a statement to the rest of the division, that while he has some fun tricks on his feet, he is not a fighter you want to tangle with on the mat. That kind of reputation could serve him well as he keeps moving forward.
  • Henry Briones (+650) vs. Cody Garbrandt (-1000) (I picked Garbrandt, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Garbrandt was supposed to put his mark on the division with this win. Show fans and opponents that the bottom level of the UFC is just chum in the water as far as he's concerned. Instead, he struggled... sort of. He didn't really get beat up or hurt or anything in particular, he just didn't ever take command of the fight. He was the faster, stronger, more technical, more diverse fighter, and he coasted an easy 3 round win. Not a great look.
  • Fallout for Briones: Not exactly a wake-up call, since he didn't really get beat very badly, but he lost a fight he was always going to lose. He's just not a great athlete. And at lower weights being a great athlete is more and more important. On the plus side, his technical boxing looked worlds better, so perhaps he can have a fun action bout with Ning Guangyou or Yuta Sasaki or Royston Wee if they last long enough.
  • Fallout for Garbrandt: This was basically a holding pattern fight for him. Maybe a reminder that he only has 7 pro bouts and we shouldn't get carried away yet. Either way. He won and won easily, but didn't look good doing it. It's all about his next time out, to see if he took anything from this performance.
  • John Howard (+110) vs. Cathal Pendred (-140) (I picked Pendred, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: More than anything I figured this fight would be bad. Pendred's desperation to prove it wouldn't be and Howard's desperation not to lose made it bearable, but only just. It still ended up with a lot of clinching, grinding and a split decision that made no sense to anyone. I thought Howard would have less in the tank than he did, so that was a minor positive.
  • Fallout for Howard: He's still a competitive mid-tier welterweight, and maybe has even re-invigorated his training a bit. Otherwise it's hard to take a lot from this. Howard was strong enough that Pendred couldn't muscle him around and at that point all the offense was on Howard's side. Not hard to see how he would walk away with that win, but hard to know how he'll do next time.
  • Fallout for Pendred: This was the exposing fight that a lot of fans had been waiting for. Frankly I'm surprised it happened here. Howard was something of a stylistic layup for Pendred. Exactly the kind of guys he's already been grinding down and beating up on. But, instead Howard marked the limits of Pendred's physicality and really brought home the idea that when Pendred's not the stronger man he's losing the fight.
  • Alex Garcia (-500) vs. Mike Swick (+375) (I picked Garcia, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Swick was always going to get run over in this fight. The only question was, how violent would it be. I picked "Very violent." On that note, I was wrong. Swick was no match for Garcia physically, but Garcia isn't putting those physical tools to very good use... still.
  • Fallout for Garcia: It's getting to the point where it has to be asked, is Alex Garcia ever going to realize his awesome potential. He's at the stage in his career where he should be getting ready to make a run at the top 15. Instead he's grinding his way past someone who wasn't a top 15 welterweight 5 years ago, let alone today. He's got all the physical parts, he's got the gym behind him, hard to say what's holding him back at this point.
  • Fallout for Swick: He came back, got and got a decent payday, but I hope this fight gives him some perspective on re-starting his pro career. Welterweight is full of dudes like Garcia, either athletically or technically, there are plenty of fighters right at that same level, and Swick had nothing for Garcia in there. Hopefully he takes that as a cue to get back to building up AKA Thailand, because that seems to have been going pretty well.
  • Matt Brown (-150) vs. Tim Means (+130) (I picked Brown, I was right)

  • The Expectation: This fight couldn't have gone more to script, honestly. Means started out well, commanding the cage, landing hard shots, and generally forcing Brown to re-set over and over again (something Brown is not great at). Means did especially well to shove Brown off balance when he tried to engage his clinch game. Unfortunately for Means, he loves to clinch strike too, and he tried to beat Brown inside once too often and got caught hard in the act.
  • Fallout for Brown: He's still an incredibly dangerous top tier welterweight and his massive infighting skill advantage over his competition looks like it will keep him there for a little while. Of course that still leaves questions as to just how Brown would fair against more top 5-10 level talent than the past and current champ, but so far that's not a question that UFC seems to be answering.
  • Fallout for Means: Honestly, Means did well enough early in this fight that he could have a real run at the top 15 in him, if he can fight often enough. He hit Brown with some good shots, showed some good, bullish physicality, and was nicely aggressive. I think better strikers and wrestlers will still cap him outside the top 10, but his game is definitely clicking right now.
  • Thomas Almeida (-700) vs. Brad Pickett (+450) (I picked Almeida, I was right)

  • The Expectation: There are a few minor misconceptions about Thomas Almeida's game that this fight served to help correct. For one, as good and complicated a striker as Almeida is, his game is built much more on the accumulation of strikes than one punch power. And two, despite all his first round finishes, he can be a bit of a slow starter. Pickett got to Almeida early, but as the fight kept going, Almeida's complicated, dangerous style shined brightly.
  • Fallout for Almeida: Sooner or later, getting hit hard early in fights will almost certainly bite Almeida. He may improve defensively before that happens, but he's certainly play with fire. Still, for every fight in which he survives the first half of the first round, he's going to be a major problem for just about anyone he fights. Almeida throws a fantastic variety of strikes at an ungodly pace and is tough enough to take his licks to implement his game. He's already top 10, top 5 isn't far off.
  • Fallout for Pickett: With each performance it feels like we're marching closer and closer to the end of Pickett's career as a meaningful fighter. He's never been a consistent winner in the UFC, but he very rarely gets finished. This wasn't the kind of performance to suggest he's fallen off a cliff, but it is worrying to see a long time vet get starched like that.
  • Gunnar Nelson (+140) vs. Brandon Thatch (-165) (I picked Thatch, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Had you listened to myself, the betting public and several other pundits in the lead up to this fight, you would have expected that the only way Nelson was winning was if he survived Thatch's striking early. That's why the odds were with Thatch, that's why I picked him. Because Nelson has just never shone himself to be a fearsome striker at the UFC level. He did here and that makes his future a whole lot brighter.
  • Fallout for Nelson: This was a win he needed desperately, to show that it wasn't just any powerful striker with the ability to stay upright that was going to cause Nelson trouble. Ever since Jorge Santiago nearly beat him back in 2013, there have been vague questions as to just how well Nelson would do against a solid striker with good takedown D. Rick Story gave us a glimpse, but Story is a very good fighter. Thatch was unproven. If Nelson had faltered here as he had against Story, that might kind of write the book on his ceiling as a welterweight talent. Instead he showed up, put some weight behind his strikes and once again looks like a fighter primed to run to the top 10.
  • Fallout for Thatch: On the other side, this does present a pretty limited ceiling for Brandon Thatch. Believe it or not, the Coloradoan is already 30 and has a 7 year MMA career under his belt. He should be in his prime right now. I wouldn't be surprised if things clicked late for him (that can happen with MMA strikers some times), but this was his chance to prove that it was a Benson Henderson that beat him and not just any fighter with top 10 potential. Unfortunately, at the moment it's looking more and more like Thatch is more Hyun Gyu Lim and less Carlos Condit.
  • Dennis Bermudez (-240) vs. Jeremy Stephens (+210) (I picked Bermudez, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Like Brandon Thatch above, this was Dennis Bermudez's chance to prove that Ricardo Lamas was a stumbling block on his way to the top 5 and not a representation of a class and style of fighter that he may just not be able to handle. He should have been too strong and too fast and too diverse for Stephens, instead he ended up on the wrong side of a highlight reel.
  • Fallout for Bermudez: I kind of encapsulated it above, but Bermudez's tendency to eat shots and let his defense drop completely in fights is really haunting him against top 10 caliber opponents. He had a strong run to get to the top, but now that he's there, there are major problems in his game that need fixing and it's not certain that the UFC will give him the kind of match-ups that will make that easier.
  • Fallout for Stephens: Stephens is in a weird place. Top 5-ish guys are beating him, but he's clearly better than most of the division right now. I'm just not sure how much of a step up he can take in competition without losing. Right now there's no one ranked above him that I'd pick him to beat, but there's no one ranked below him that I'd pick to beat him. If nothing else he seems to be a gatekeeper to the top 5.
  • Robbie Lawler (+140) vs. Rory MacDonald (-160) (I picked Lawler, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Hope and dreams were all I was really going on when I picked Robbie Lawler to win this. i knew he had the technical inside striking game and the power to make it count. I wasn't sure that Rory would be able to wrestle effectively (and he wasn't), but I'd be lying if I wasn't worried that Rory would just freeze Robbie Behind his jab and start unwinding combinations. That happened and it almost worked, but the Lawler pulled out one of the most amazing comeback wins in MMA history to prove me a fight analyzing genius.
  • Fallout for Lawler: He's still champion and, even without a long legacy of title defenses, one of the most remarkable champions in UFC history. There's no one with a belt around their waist right now that is easier or more fun to root for (excepting maybe JJ), and as long as Robbie holds the belt I'm going to continue shamelessly making fanboy picks.
  • Fallout for MacDonald: It's almost impossible to measure just how bad this loss was for MacDonald yet. It could leave him with the kind of permanent injury that never sees him quite at 100% again. If nothing else, it seems increasingly unlikely that fans ever see MacDonald with a belt around his waist. He's young, but he's a long way into his pro career already and this may have been his best shot at gold. His return fight will bear very close watching.
  • Conor McGregor (-190) vs. Chad Mendes (+165) (I picked Mendes, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: I picked Mendes. I don't regret picking Mendes, I'm not sure who I'd pick in a rematch, but I thought the style battle made sense for the Alpha Male fighter. And it did make sense, essentially. Mendes landed counters, got the takedowns, spent more time in top control than I thought he would. But he also took a veritable ass-load of damage in the stand-up exchanges, something he just couldn't make up for and that broke him down as the fight went on. That may just be the dynamic that any fight between them would have, but it was a remarkable win for McGregor and shows the extreme danger that even elite fighters put themselves in trading with him.
  • Fallout for McGregor: He's the interim UFC featherweight champion. And if there's anything to be suggested by his UFC career so far, that probably means he even gets more keys to the proverbial castle. In the immediate future, that means a TUF slot against Urijah Faber that will keep him on TV for a couple months. Otherwise it should mean a fight with Jose Aldo... or Frankie Edgar if need be.
  • Fallout for Mendes: Mendes made a lot of money fighting Conor McGregor, that's the important thing to remember. Especially when you consider that, with each title loss, he gets a little closer to not being booked for any more of them. Mendes is a surefire top 5 fighter at featherweight, but it's still hard not to see this loss as a setback. I don't think Mendes is the kind of fighter that the UFC is devoted to keeping in the title hunt (unlike guys like Faber & Sonnen) and that means he has to keep winning big.
  • TUF 21 Finale:

    Willie Gates (-110) vs. Darrel Montague (-120) (I picked Montague, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: At one point Montague was considered one of the top three flyweights in the world. Ian Jussier Formiga, Ian McCall, Darrell Montague, that was the pecking order (more or less). So, when going up against a severely record padded Willie Gates, it was hard to think Montague would struggle, despite his recent poor form in the UFC. After all, he was losing to title contenders, not guys who were working the system for a late notice call-up. Of course, Gates turned that narrative right on its head.
  • Fallout for Gates: He is quickly showing himself to be much much more legit than I would have given him credit for. My read on him was a big, flashy fighter without a lot of real power or a consistent technical base. But, while I'm not sure about the technique part, the power seems to be showing up in the UFC. Wins like this establish him as a potential action fighter in a division that really doesn't have many established identities yet.
  • Fallout for Montague: He's 0-3 in the UFC and probably done. And the biggest problem appears to be durability. Montague just can't take shots, even in a division not generally known for stoppages. It's one of the major, unseen factors when looking at prospects before they get to the UFC. The vast majority of fighters in the UFC strike decently and hit hard, if a fighter has durability problems, they're going to get exposed.
  • George Sullivan (-250) vs. Dominic Waters (+210) (I picked Sullivan, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Sullivan had a great athlete with a really inconsistent game in front of him with Waters. That put the emphasis on him to really bite down, weather any storms and stick to his strengths. He still seemed like he made the fight more difficult on himself than he had to, but that may be a testament to Waters' own speed and strength at play.
  • Fallout for Sullivan: I'm not sure if my interest in Sullivan is out-sized or if he's performing worse in the UFC, but I do feel very slightly disappointed by this fight. He's still got a consistent power brawling style, but it really seems like there are very definite limits to his athletic competitiveness. Waters' game is all over the place, but Sullivan struggled a ton to solve it, just because of the speed differential. That kind of thing may keep him from climbing much out of the bottom half of 170.
  • Fallout for Waters: This wasn't an unexpected setback for a short notice fighter, but it is hopefully something he can grow from beyond the short notice aspect. He showed that he really is a phenomenal top 15 kind of athlete for the UFC, but the technical parts of his game are clunky and inconsistent. Once Sullivan got the timing on his hands down, he was able to hit Waters over and over again with power shots. Waters himself wasn't able to deliver the consistent striking to KO a badly hurt opponent, and when it came to the wrestling and grappling, he ended up on his back eating leather a lot. Not sure if  more time is needed or a better camp (maybe both), but there's a lot to work on.
  • Dan Miller (-105) vs. Trevor Smith (-115) (I picked Smith, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I was pretty surprised that the odds on this were as close as they were, and that Miller was even a favorite pre-fight. He hadn't competed in years, and when he had, he didn't look good. That's not a recipe for MMA success, even against a relatively uneven talent like Trevor Smith. It wasn't pretty, but Smith took home a pretty easy win with this one.
  • Fallout for Miller: I can't tell the guy he should retire. He's gone through injuries, personal troubles, and a ton of time off to make his comeback. MMA may be something he feels like he has to keep competing in right now. But, for his sake I hope that people around him are asking him to take a hard look at competing, because the UFC is full of guys like Trevor Smith and some judges gave him two 10-8 rounds.
  • Fallout for Smith: It sounds like he's stripping his game down and rebuilding it from the ground up. And more importantly it sounds like he's got some good voices in his corner to listen to and that he's listening well. That's a great thing for Smith. His MMA career was falling apart right as he was getting into his prime, getting coaches who can re-focus him was probably the best thing he could have done.
  • Russell Doane (-475) vs. Jerrod Sanders (+375) (I picked Doane, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Doane was supposed to have this fight in the bag. he's a good wrestler and a solid boxer with real power in his hands. Sanders has only shown himself to be a wrestler thus far in his UFC career, thus it was up to Doane to plan around that and out work him. Instead, Doane tried to beat him on his own terms and failed pretty miserably.
  • Fallout for Doane: This is one of those fights that puts a hard ceiling on his prospects, honestly. A close fight with Iuri Alcantara last time out suggested that things were really clicking for him and with a little more work he could break into the top 15, but now it's looking more and more like his dependence on a good but not great wrestling game, even when he's going against great wrestlers will stunt him. Bantamweight has it's problems, but it is at no shortage for competitive wrestling talent. If Doane can't plan more effectively for his opponents he's likely hit a hard wall in the division.
  • Fallout for Sanders: He stays alive. That's the really big deal for him here. I mean, he looked better as well, less desperate to get a quick win, more deliberate in his offense. He's obviously got some real wrestling skills to put to use, but didn't show much more to his game in this fight. Still, now he'll get another bout in the UFC to prove himself.
  • Caio Magalhaes (-120) vs. Josh Samman (+100) (I picked Samman, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I hoped Josh Samman would win. I could see how he would win. Outlasting Magalhaes' brick fisted blitz, working him over slowly, picking him apart at range. But that blitz was worrying, not gonna lie. Other fighters have folded in the face of him winging ham sized fists at 100mph. But, Samman stayed calm, played range early, got Magalhaes to really over-commit and then choked him out. It was beautiful.
  • Fallout for Magalhaes: He's become an immensely dangerous fighter, and this loss doesn't change that, but it does expose that that danger has its limitations. He's still not a technical marvel anywhere, and fighters willing to be elusive are going to find him making big mistakes they can capitalize on. Still, not a lot of elusive fighters out there.
  • Fallout for Samman: This wasn't just a big win in terms of climbing the ranks at 185 (frankly Magalhaes isn't that far up the ranks), but it was a huge win in proving that Samman can win fights by being more than the more well conditioned athlete. His striking has gone from opportunistic to showing some solid fundamentals to go with bigger, more dynamic strikes. And he's now proving that his finishing streak owes a lot more to his ability to jump on opponents openings and mistakes than it does fighting guys that are too tired to fight him off. That could raise his ceiling quite a bit in a division that is short on dynamic, technical talents.
  • Maximo Blanco (+155) vs. Mike De La Torre (-175) (I picked De La Torre, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Not what we got. But the only real expectation of a Blanco fight is weirdness to the max-imo. And on that front this fight delivered. I figured the weirdness would play into De La Torre's hands, but it worked out for Blanco this time around.
  • Fallout for Blanco: He's got a win that says nothing about how much better/worse he's gotten over time. Another win means another fight, which means more Maximo and more entertainment for fans.
  • Fallout for De La Torre: He's in a weird place. Brian Ortega and Maximo Blanco both ran over him (ish), but the Blanco stoppage was terrible and Ortega failed his drug test. Otherwise, he has a great win over Tiago Trator and a competitive loss to Mark Bocek. Really hard to know just what all that means for his UFC career. I honestly don't have a good bead on De La Torre right now.
  • Angela Magana (+650) vs. Michelle Waterson (-950) (I picked Waterson, I was right)

  • The Expectation: This was something of a layup pick for Waterson, especially now knowing that Magana was coming in badly injured. Still, Waterson almost gave the fight away before turning it around and starting to dominate.
  • Fallout for Magana: I don't know whether she gets cut or not, she probably will be. But, right now, she's somewhat representative of the growing pains of the strawweight division. There are some hard working fighters out there that got into the UFC on the back of TUF and just don't have the raw athleticism to compete with the pack at 115 lbs. That probably represents Magana.
  • Fallout for Waterson: This was her showcase and she almost got badly upset. It represents a good brake pumping moment for people expecting Waterson to be a contender. She's an immensely likable and fun fighter and she has a lot of skill, but she doesn't have the control to regularly beat top athletes and other skilled fighters. I expect she'll be a top ten talent, but I'd be surprised if she can make a real career as a top 5 fighter.
  • Cezar Ferreira (+170) vs. Jorge Masvidal (-200) (I picked Masvidal, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Unless Masvidal just let Ferreira lay on him (which seemed unlikely), I couldn't see Masvidal losing this. The better wrestler, better grappler, and better kickboxer, even if he was the smaller man. At some point all that technical advantage adds up. And Masvidal had no trouble beating Ferreira here.
  • Fallout for Ferreira: Dropping to 170 lbs doesn't give him a better chin, but it does make his speed and what few technical advantages he had even less notable. I honestly think that dropping from 185 to 170 as a good sized middleweight is one of the worst cuts a fighter can make and I think this move is more likely to end with Ferreira cut than anything else.
  • Fallout for Masvidal: This move to 170 lbs may be great for Masvidal. I love to see fighters move up in weight and skill has never been in shortage for Jorge. If he can feel re-invigorated not cutting weight then he may be able to make a lot better use of those skills. This was a great intro to the division and I look forward to seeing him going forward as a welterweight.
  • Michael Graves (+155) vs. Vicente Luque (-190) (I picked Graves, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Don't watch TUF. Watch pre-TUF tape on fighters and then make fight picks based on that. Pre-fight tape showed that Luque was a fighter who was easy to put on his back and work over. Graves looked like a powerful, aggressive athlete learning the game. Luque showed way better striking than he had previously but it still wasn't enough to overcome a strong, consistent wrestler.
  • Fallout for Graves: He's a good prospect with a bright future. He's got a good camp behind him and the right skill set to develop as a UFC talent. This wasn't an exciting fight, but his career just started. I expect he'll look better and better every time he fights.
  • Fallout for Luque: He might get another shot in the UFC, but most guys who lose coming off TUF don't. His improved striking was a good sign, but he doesn't have a handle on wrestling at all. Without that, he's going to be easy pickings for a lot of fighters in the UFC.
  • Hayder Hassan (+185) vs. Kamaru Usman (-230) (I picked Usman, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Kind of like the Graves fight, but with a much better wrestler and athlete (and a harder puncher on the other side). Unless Usman just didn't want to fight his fight he was going to win here. And while he got clipped once, that didn't make much difference in the end result.
  • Fallout for Hassan: A division down and Hassan could be a legit, fun action fighter, but it's going to take some time. Like a lot of fighters with his style, finding that perfect mix of aggression, defense and counter wrestling is a tall order. Especially when fighters have power, they tend to lean on it over developing real skill. I like Hassan's game, but he's got work to do to make himself a legit threat to most UFC competition.
  • Fallout for Usman: Apart from getting wobbled, this was about as complete a performance as Usman could ask for. He looked good striking at range, working straight punches and solid combinations, his wrestling was absolutely on point, and he's now adding a submission arsenal to his game. His self stated focus on sub hunting is a great sign for his future development, as there won't be many fighters he can't take down.
  • Jake Ellenberger (+205) vs. Stephen Thompson (-245) (I picked Thompson, I was right)

  • The Expectation: It's a little strange when analyzing a fight just really clicks. Sometimes, two fighters match up in a way that it almost seems to make certain outcomes inevitable. In this fight, Ellenberger's massive problems with range strikers just seemed to spell doom against a Stephen Thompson that is getting better with every fight. I thought this might look a little more like Thompson's fight with Patrick Cote, but Thompson turned it up another gear and got the finish.
  • Fallout for Ellenberger: That kind of puts a stamp on his time as a top 15 welterweight, at least in my eyes. He's still in the rankings, but Thompson seems more like an overachieving action fighter than a guy who is going to be a long term top 10 talent. That may be a misread (after all, I do think Thompson is still improving), but I think this is as good a sign as any that Ellenberger's 2010-2011 run of form was a short lived peak rather than the establishing of himself as a top talent.
  • Fallout for Thompson: Whether he's top 10 long term or not, this win was huge for Thompson as it establishes him as a long term action talent for the UFC. Someone who can headline or co-main cards, even if he's not winning all the big fights. That's a major jump from him being something of a stylistic oddity, mid-card action fighter that he initially looked like. Thompson is showing that he has room to grow in MMA and is interested in having a complete game, built to showcase his striking. That makes him a very dangerous fighter and someone even top level competition is going to have to plan around in order to beat.
  • Those are my collected thoughts for a doubleheader UFC weekend. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that's the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for the next edition where I'll be talking about what Todd Duffee's latest win means for his career and depending on whether I do another double or not, why Michael Bisping is still good enough to beat Thales Leites.

    *This week's quote from the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.