December 14th has come and gone, but oh what a night it was. It was a card almost entirely of highs, and it’s lows were hilarious lows. Demetrious Johnson made a case for being the best fighter to step into the cage in 2013 and Cody McKenzie made a case for being the least prepared. Team Alpha Male came nowhere close to the clean sweep that Duane Ludwing predicted, but Urijah Faber still fought like a man 10 years his junior. I, on the other hand spent much of the day strapped to a tattoo table and still ended up in less pain than Roger Bowling.
Before we jump in I can’t forget the upfront disclaimer: I am to betting what Silvio Burlesconi is to quiet discretion. It’s just not something I do, at all. So read my thoughts on fight picks, by all means, but remember that I’m not taking these to the bank whatever the outcome.
Hindsight – Flyweights: Alptekin Ozkilic vs. Darren Uyenoyama (I picked Uyenoyama, I was wrong)
- Darren Uyenoyama has a lot of decent tools, but he doesn’t put it all together. His striking doesn’t really lead to his grappling and neither does his clinch work.
- Alptekin Ozkilic is young, his career is young and he looks like he has good athletic ability for the UFC. But, if he’s going to depend on striking to finish fights, he needs to improve a lot.
- Flyweight, more than any other, is a division predicated on movement and directional shifts. Uyenoyama isn’t slow, but he tends to travel in straight lines in whatever he’s doing.
Hindsight – Lightweights: Roger Bowling vs. Abel Trujillo (I picked Trujillo, I was right)
- If Trujillo and Bowling were near mirror images in their first fight, it’s clear that Trujillo has been working on the right things in the meantime. He looked sharper and cleaner than before.
- Bowling, like a lot of powerful athletes that have remained static as fighters, has slowly become easier to figure out over time. His speed and strength are what makes him a good fighter, but they aren’t enough long term.
- Trujillo fights like violence personified, unfortunately his history of assault may make it incredibly difficult to market him down the line unless he can find a way to address it head on.
Hindsight – Lightweights: Cody McKenzie vs. Sam Stout (I picked Stout, I was right)
- If ever there was a fight worth betting every dime you owned on this was pretty much it. McKenzie gave it a good run for two minutes but after that it was pretty much over.
- Speaking of which, I said going in that I’ve never been a big Stout fan and this is exactly why. There could not be an easier fight to dominate, and he won it, but it was hardly dominant.
- I don’t know what goes on in McKenzie’s non fighting life, but it can’t be good. For as bad as he is, he has enough skill to not actually be a terrible fighter, but he’s not doing himself any favors and is probably done because of it.
Hindsight – Flyweights: Scott Jorgensen vs. Zach Makovsky (I picked Jorgensen, I was wrong)
- Biggest takeaway, Makovsky has the athleticism to be a top 5 fighter. His ability to scramble, move in and out of range, and to phase shift make him a big talent at 125.
- Scott Jorgensen has found himself in something of a no-man’s land. His losses have all been to top fighters, but since 2010 he doesn’t have one win over someone who’s still in the UFC. He looked decent in this fight, but he’s only borderline top ten even in a division of 25.
- The pains that Joe and Goldberg went through to not mention the word Bellator were pretty obvious, to the point of harping on about Makovsky never having fought anyone as good as Jorgensen. The expressed surprise at his talent seemed pretty staged to undersell him.
Hindsight – Lightweights: Pat Healy vs. Bobby Green (I picked Healy, I was wrong)
- Green’s striking defense and movement sell him as a better striker than he is. He got caught with some hard shots, but got a lot of fawning praise for his ability to roll with a lot of punches.
- Healy has a lot of tough fights in him for the UFC and can be a solid gatekeeper, but I really can’t see him hanging around the top ten. He’s too footslow and willing to take a lot of punishment just to give a little back.
- Green’s future success is tied in to how much he can continue to improve his striking. He’s a really strong wrestler and if he can become a better and more varied combination striker he could become a top ten mainstay.
Hindsight – Lightweights: Edson Barboza vs. Danny Castillo (I picked Castillo, I was wrong)
- Castillo did exactly what I thought he would in the first round of this fight. He backed Barboza down, hit him hard and took him down looking to finish… And then he totally gassed.
- Barboza showed that, while the Varner stoppage wasn’t really early, he has an amazing ability to recover from a severe beating and get right back into his game.
- The book on Barboza is now firmly written. Get inside and box him and he can be hit and hit hard, but give him any space at all and he’ll eat you up.
Hindsight – Welterweights: Ryan LaFlare vs. Court McGee (I picked LaFlare, I was right)
- Court McGee was a perfect test for LaFlare on his climb up the Welterweight division and he passed it exactly as expected.
- Finishing fights still is, and will continue to be, LaFlare’s biggest problem going forward. He’s 3-0 in the UFC and they’ve all been clear decisions, but sooner or later he needs to figure out how to really threaten opponents.
- McGee is something of a poster boy for the Ultimate Fighter. Tough, hard working, but lacking in just a few too many tools to be more than middle of the pack.
Hindsight – Lightweights: Mac Danzig vs. Joe Lauzon (I picked Lauzon, I was right)
- This was every bit as sad as I was worried it might be. Lauzon continued to look faded, but Danzig just wasn’t a good enough fighter in any area to take advantage. If Lauzon takes a competitive step up after this I’m afraid he’ll lose badly.
- The UFC has not been cutting any fighters lately, at all. It may mean that massive cuts are coming, or that they now have too many cards to get rid of anyone. But they’re saddled with a bunch of fighters that should probably go, Danzig included.
- There is still a lot to be said for Lauzon’s ground game, and it was good to see him stick to his strength and make the most of his obvious advantage on the ground.
Hindsight – Featherweights: Nik Lentz vs. Chad Mendes (I picked Mendes, I was right)
- Mendes fought like a sick fighter. He did everything he could to get the early win and then just coasted out the next two. The fact that he still won comfortably says a lot about his talent.
- I felt that Lentz’s ceiling was made pretty clear in his win over Hacran Dias. He has the size and energy to make fights hell on unprepared fighters, but little to offer top end competition.
- Watching the fights, Rogan seemed pretty on edge about fighters seeming “tired” or slowing down all night, even in fights they were winning. I distinctly remember him calling it on Makovsky, Green, and Mendes. It was a strange distraction from the actual action on screen.
Hindsight – Bantamweights: Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald (I picked Faber, I was right)
- Michael McDonald needs more tools in his arsenal. He’s shown a few signs of a kicking game, but he almost always defaults to boxing and even as a very good athlete becomes very readable because of it.
- I can’t say that Faber puts the division on hold by earning another crack at the belt, but his winning streak does highlight how badly in need of challengers bantamweight is.
- Much like Lawler has this year, Faber really seems to be making the most of all his time in the cage. He feels like one of the very few fighters that brings all of his experience with him each time he fights.
Hindsight – Flyweights: Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez (I picked Benavidez, I was wrong)
- Anyone and everyone who talked about how much Johnson has developed as a fighter was right, I didn’t really see it in his fight with Moraga as I felt that Moraga was a false challenger, but I saw it tonight. He looks way ahead of the competition.
- The Alpha Male title slump continues. As much as Ludwig has helped that camp (and he has) he’s not getting them over their biggest hurdle and that’s a title fight.
- The UFC has a bit of a problem now in who Johnson fights next. Brad Pickett has a win over him from 3 years ago, so if he could win a couple fights that would make sense, but that’s supposing he even gets past McCall. Dodson is on his way back, but there’s nobody waiting in the wings right this second.
Those are all my takeaways from a big night of fights (well that and some Chinese food). I’m sure a lot of it seems obvious now, but, as always, that’s the benefit of hindsight. It’ll be a couple weeks now until UFC 168, but stick around for more fight announcements, recaps, breakdowns, and all other news combat sports related.
- TUF 19 cast revealed
- Report: John Lineker vs. Ali Bagautinov targeted for UFC 169
- MMA Tete-A-Tete: Where does GSP’s retirement leave the UFC?
- Dana White changes tune on John McCarthy: ‘When John is in that octagon, he is in absolute and total control’
- Dana White on UFC 168 PPV price increase: ‘Some guys got together in the office, and decided to do that’
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