Unless you’re some sort of announcer fetishist (and it’s no use explaining if you are) then UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa was a pretty great show all around. We had KO’s, subs, and the sort of terrible action filled slap fights that are great for a laugh even if they undermine the general quality of the brand. Fortunately, even those were rare. It was a good night for fight pickers too, mostly. Upsets were rare (there was only one) and most lines felt pretty reasonable going in, with a couple exceptions.
Disclaimer time: As always, I’m not here to teach you how to gamble. Save you degenerate skill building for that 8th grade pottery class where you tried to make a bong and got detention… I mean, who’s to say it wasn’t a flower vase with an easy pour spout to get rid of extra water without flipping the whole thing over. It’s not like you can prove I was… Anyway, I’ll be talking about odds, pre-fight expectations and what we should know about fighters after the fact. If that helps you place your future bets, then so be it.
Hindsight: Louis Gaudinot (-170) vs. Phil Harris (+145) (I picked Gaudinot, I was right)
- Phil Harris has now gone to decision in his one UFC win and been finished in every one of his three UFC losses. He could easily get another UFC fight with the way the UFC is keeping guys around, but he’s got a major hill to climb at 125. He just doesn’t seem to have any of the defensive tools he needs and has now been caught by grapplers and strikers. I can’t think of many current guys he has a chance of beating right now.
- Louis Gaudinot is definitely an action fighter. This may not have proved that he can beat the more powerful fighters of his division, but this cemented his role as a guy who will make an even matchup on paper exciting. I’d love to see him face someone like Dustin Ortiz to show if he’s improved against the kind of fighters that have classically beat him up.
- I loved that submission from Gaudinot. Once he knew it was in he had a little fun with it, played it up for the crowd just a little. I’m all for seeing fighters have a good time when they compete, as long as it’s not at the expense of their performance.
Hindsight: Igor Araujo (-265) vs. Danny Mitchell (+220) (I picked Araujo, I was right)
- Araujo is something of a gatekeeper to the bottom of the welterweight division, in my mind. A bit like Brian Ebersole. And that’s not a bad thing, quite the contrary. I’d pick him to beat probably about 1/3 of the current welterweight roster just because of his striking aggression, solid clinch grappling and dominant groundwork.
- Unfortunately, the version of Danny Mitchell that showed up for Fight Night London is exactly the one that’s been competing on the European regional scene. He’s got some flashy, exciting skills, but his gaps are big enough to drive a truck through and all but the most inexperienced fighters aren’t going to have much trouble doing so.
- The end of that fight was a tragedy on a scale few UFC bouts have ever been able to match. It’s too bad for Araujo, who fought a largely solid fight to that point, but put a Bendo level stain on his soul with a cats-in-boxing-gloves display of ground and pound.
Hindsight: Claudio Henrique da Silva (+180) vs Brad Scott (-230) (I picked Scott, I was wrong)
- In the night’s only upset, Claudio Silva (as the UFC broadcast called him) squeaked by Brad Scott, who fought like he forgot to bring his clothes for gym class and was forced to work out in someone else’s. Scott had no business losing this fight and the fact he did says a lot about his chances going forward.
- Claudio Silva continues to have some of the worst striking I’ve ever seen in a fighter with his level of experience. Even conservative estimates of his record show he’s been around for almost seven years now and London Shootfighters isn’t exactly a “small” gym. Middleweight is the perfect place for him to “develop” but he has a lot of developing to do.
- Eye poking was the secondary narrative of this fight. Silva landed two and the second one especially appeared to suck all the confidence out of Scott. Immediately following it he gave up a takedown to Silva and spent the rest of the third round fighting to get back to his feet. Silva was raking toward Scott’s eyes all night and the loss of a point there should have been automatic.
Hindsight: Luke Barnatt (-450) vs. Mats Nilsson (+330) (I picked Barnatt, I was right)
- This was always a losing proposition for Nilsson, who needs a more complete striking game to agument his wrestling and grappling. That said, I was really impressed by the pop he showed in his punches. They weren’t always pretty, but he stunned Barnatt a bit here and there and made a decent showing of a bad matchup.
- Luke Barnatt needed a little time to find his groove in this fight, but he’s continuing to show that he’s a rock solid middleweight prospect. The biggest plus for him is that he seems to be finding the power that his large frame should provide. His ability to follow up on fighters once he’s got them hurt is great, but the fact that he’s consistently hurting them in the first place shows that he’s making the most of his natural advantages.
- I’ll be very interested to see how Nilsson develops. He’s not a young fighter, but his career isn’t lengthy. He’s only been in MMA since 2008, so he’s got a few years to put the polish on his standup and he doesn’t have too far to go before he could trouble a lot of fighters at 185. A future matchup between him and Claudio Silva seems like a natural progression in both their careers.
Hindsight: Cyrille Diabate (+110) vs. Ilir Latifi (-145) (I picked Diabate, I was wrong)
- I said, pre-fight, that I needed proof that Diabate was done before I picked him to lose to Latifi… Well, I got it. Diabate didn’t have any answer for Latifi’s wrestling and grappling and Latifi wasted no time in taking advantage of that fact.
- Preparation is one of the most difficult things to know or believe when talking about fighters and their performances. What we saw of Latifi against Gegard Mousasi was not only a much better fighter than Diabate in Mousasi, but a much less prepared fighter in Ilir Latifi. Beyond performance, the difference in his physique was night and day. He looked like a complete powerhouse at 205 and went a considerable way toward rewriting my belief that he should drop to middleweight.
- It’s somewhat sad to say, and not a knock on Latifi at all (or at least that’s not my intent) that Latifi is now positioned as one of the “young guns” at 205. Given his lack of wear on the tires and his potentially formidable combination of wrestling and grappling, he’s one of the few recent signings that could show a lot of upside in the future. The division is just that thin.
Hindsight: Omari Akhmedov (+260) vs. Gunnar Nelson (-330) (I picked Nelson, I was right)
- I don’t want to detract from Gunnar Nelson. Putting on a great performance, when you’re expected to put on a great performance, is no easy feat. In fact, we’d have a lot more “hot prospects” right now if guys always won the fights they should dominate. However, this was a fight Nelson should have dominated and spinning it as a tough win over solid competition is a bit glossy.
- Omari Akhmedov is getting all the benefits from his Dagestani compatriots and a slew of first round KOs. In truth, he’s gotten hurt, dropped, or taken down easily in most of his recent fights, has been helped a ton by regional European level competition and grappling (and by ring ropes), and has a face first attack style that leaves him wide open for counters. It feels a bit like he’s on the Terry Martin path and without some serious polish I could see him headed for the same kind of arc.
- It was good to see Nelson not get tagged up in this fight. Akhmedov may not have much polish on his strikes, but he throws hard. Nelson showing that he can avoid sloppy power strikes gives serious upside to his striking defense as it’s more than can be said about the run of the mill in the UFC.
Hindsight: Brad Pickett (-1000) vs. Neil Seery (+600) (I picked Pickett, I was right)
- If the odds were a bit short for Nelson vs. Akhmedov (seriously 3:1 ?), they were way, way too long for Pickett vs. Seery. Pickett proved to be a bad matchup for the reasons that he should have been, namely his wrestling. But his ranking at 145 has somewhat inflated his value as a lack of competition in a stagnant division kept him inside the top ten for years.
- Not only did Pickett nearly give this fight away by staying on his feet with a superior boxer for large portions, he probably should have gotten the TKO loss for getting a break after taking a knuckle to the eye. Seery is rock solid in boxing range, and flyweight still isn’t full of striking savants, but I can’t help feeling that Pickett looked worse for the wear. A title shot coming out of this would feel a bit like the peak before a sharp fall.
- Neil Seery didn’t get much love from the MMA community outside of Ireland before this fight. It’s a mistake that comes from an overly “record focused” lense in combat sports. His 13-9 record (now 13-10) certainly wasn’t much to crow about, but watching him in competition, and understanding that he was formerly competing as much as 40 lbs above his current weight, should add a decent bit of context to his wins and losses. Seery is solid and should have a good (if perhaps not extensive) future in the UFC.
Hindsight: Melvin Guillard (+135) vs. Michael Johnson (-165) (I picked Johnson, I was right)
- Johnson looked really shaky to start this fight. He was lunging after Guillard, reacting poorly to strikes, and his footwork was a mess. I can’t really see how he won the first round at all. That said, he calmed down nicely once he realized that Guillard was only interested in throwing one or two counter strikes and his striking late looked rock solid. The adjustments mid fight are a great thing to see from a fighter working his way up the ranks.
- Guillard continues to be his mercurial self. If this performance made you decide anything about him or his future… Well then I can’t help but feel like you haven’t watched him fight that much. If he comes out this flat and uninspired again, then we may have the start of a trend on our hands, but Guillard has always been known for his inconsistency and this just feels like the latest chapter.
- Johnson needs to work on his effective offense still. He’s great at catching a fighter who’s coming in with predictable combinations and looking to trade. He’s obviously polished that part of his game a ton. But, Guillard gave him plenty of opportunity to be creative and make something happen purely on his own terms, and save for a couple of small flurries, he didn’t get a whole lot going.
Hindsight: Alexander Gustafsson (-525) vs. Jimi Manuwa (+405) (I picked Gustafsson, I was right)
- This fight couldn’t have played out any closer to it’s diagram if you ran it 100 times. Manuwa showed off his freakish athletic gifts and big power by lunging in on Gustafsson and forcing him to cover up a bit. And Gustafsson showed off his greatly superior high level experience and much more polished skill set by taking Manuwa down, controlling range, and eventually crumpling him up in the clinch. Textbook performance from both fighters.
- Manuwa is what he is at this stage, and that’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not elite either. He hits like a truck, he paces himself well, and he is athletic enough to get himself out of a lot of bad positions on strength, speed, and agility alone. He may have trouble ever getting past the top five or so in the world, but I’d pick him over most of the rest of the division. Once Teixeira loses I’d love to see him and Manuwa fight.
- Alexander Gustafsson is really the guy at light heavyweight right now to challenge Jon Jones over and over again. He continues to show all the tools that could make him a thorn in the side of the current champ and I can’t wait to see him get another shot at the title. His recent performances are the breath of fresh air that light heavyweight badly needs.
That’s all of my thoughts for UFC Fight Night 37, it’s not a truck load, more of a wheelbarrow full. Most of them seem obvious now, but, as always, that’s the benefit of hindsight. So, until next week, when I talk about the subtleties of two of the world’s best welterweights beating five kinds of hell out of one another. Adieu!
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