Alright, I want to put this out there first and foremost, before I get down to laying into myself: UFC on Fox 11 had a lot of close fights, but it wasn’t the hardest card in the world to predict. There were some obvious favorites for obvious reasons and I got eaten alive because I looked a little too hard for competition. This is the danger when you spend as much time as I do sussing out the skill of fighters, it’s that you begin to feel that everyone matches up well with everyone and a lot of the less definitive traits like strength and athleticism become secondary. For my part, I try to be aware of this and not let it happen. A card like UFC on Fox 11 is a nice reminder that I need to keep that part of my brain in check a little better.
Disclaimer Time: This was one of those cards where I was so sure I’d look smart going into it, and ended up looking totally foolish coming out of it. I’m glad that I also didn’t end up poorer coming out as well, that’s a nice bonus. That’s why I don’t gamble and why this is, in effect, not a gambling post. But, I’ll still be talking about odds and the like, plying my trade as a purveyor of the possible (if not always the likely). Once again I’ll be using BestFightOdds for the odds on each fighter and taking the mode.
Hindsight: Derrick Lewis (-300) vs. Jack May (+250) (I picked Lewis, I was right)
- Apparently May suffered a pretty bad knee injury in the middle of this fight, leading to his eating shots while prone on the ground. I don’t doubt that that’s the case, but it unfortunately makes drawing a bead on these fighters more difficult as May was doing very well early before falling apart.
- Derrick Lewis hits hard and has good finishing instinct. More to the point his ground and pound is powerful and accurate. Many fighters fail to find the mark when swarming a downed opponent.
- The fact that May utterly failed to keep this fight at kickboxing range early does not suggest good things for a fighter whose best talents lie in working from the outside. An injury may have helped end the fight, but an inability to avoid getting taken down was where the problems started.
Hindsight: Mirsad Bektic (-145) vs. Chaz Skelly (+125) (I picked Bektic, I was right)
- It’s easy to see that Bektic is a great well rounded fighter. It’s also easy to see that he has the ability to get roughed up by competition that isn’t physically intimidated by him. The illegal knees may have been what really dazed him, but it was a hard punch to the jaw that initially took his legs out from under him. The development of his striking defense is definitely something to watch.
- While he maybe a less dynamic fighter than Bektic, Skelly looks like he’s tough as nails. The kind of fighter that’s willing to take two shots to land one. Unfortunately he also has the makings of another fighter that can’t keep his cool in a scrap. He was lucky not to get DQ’d here.
- The UFC’s new talent acquisition methods mean that they’re getting a lot of tough guys on the regional scene and pushing them into really solid step up fights. Sometimes they get pushed too far, but a matchup like Bektic vs. Skelly was a great next step for both men.
Hindsight: Dustin Ortiz (-160) vs. Ray Borg (+145) (I picked Ortiz, I was right)
- Speaking of being pushed too far. Ray Borg definitely got a harsh entry to the UFC with a short notice call up against Dustin Ortiz. That said, a year from now Borg probably wins this fight easily.
- Dustin Ortiz has shown that not only is he deserving of a top spot in the flyweight division, but that he’s really gaining the ability to plan well for opponents and work through adversity. Borg ended up being a really stiff test, but Ortiz stayed calm through grappling exchanges and out-landed Borg on the feet and on the ground when the opportunity arose.
- It’s hard not to say that the sky’s the limit for Borg, he just fought an extremely competitive debut against a fighter who really ought to be in the top ten. The only thing missing from his game at this point is time. He’ll put more complexity and polish into his hands and his grappling and wrestling already look elite. Most importantly he’s got that ridiculous athletic ability you need to compete at 125 lbs..
Hindsight: Jordan Mein (-425) vs. Hernani Perpetuo (+335) (I picked Perpetuo, I was wrong)
- I really had hoped for better from Perpetuo here. I knew he had problems with his takedown defense and I knew he didn’t have the highest output in the world, but I’d hoped to see more in his UFC debut. He did well in the third round, easily winning it, but it was far too little too late.
- Mein showed some surprising depth with his wrestling game in this fight. It’s a second level of offense that will come in a lot of handy as his kickboxing is sharp, but not above seeing him get cracked a few times.
- I’d like to chalk this up to a bad night for Perpetuo, but I’m not sure of that. Mein is a tough opponent and I think Perpetuo could easily handle some of the lesser point kickboxers and one dimensional grapplers at 170, but he needs to improve a lot if he ever wants to make it out of the bottom half of the division.
Hindsight: Caio Magalhaes (-285) vs. Luke Zachrich (+235) (I picked Zachrich, I was wrong)
- I was hoping that a Magalhaes win would show that he had really improved a lot. Well, he won, but he still looked pretty bad doing it. An upgrade in aggression is nice, but he basically just attacked Zachrich, not a lot of technique in that.
- I still think this fight probably ended on a low blow, but in a generally bad night of reffing that was just a minor note and one that most feel wouldn’t have changed the fight outcome.
- This was one of the big instances where I ignored better judgement. Magalhaes has shown the ability (if nothing else) to keep his head down and win UFC fights. He’s proven he can do that. Zachrich, as well rounded as he seems hasn’t shown that. There was also a pretty massive disparity in natural strength and speed going on, all of which I ignored to my own detriment.
Hindsight: Estevan Payan (-115) vs. Alex White (+105) (I picked White, I was right)
- This was a pretty easy win to see coming, right down to the finish. Payan is a brawler who hasn’t shown a lot of fight ending power in the UFC and White is a young fighter who looks to have natural knockout ability. Sooner or later Payan was going to get clipped.
- White has the kind of power to overcome technique, but unfortunately he needs it. He still got hit a lot by Payan who is hardly one of the division stalwarts. I’m not yet sure he can find Dustin Poirier’s success, but that definitely seems the road he’s destined to travel.
- I have to think this is the end of the road for Payan in the UFC, he’s fought a less and less experienced level of opponent in each of his last three fights and has lost all three. He’s fun and scrappy, but barring some Leonard Garcia-esque affection from the Zuffa brass, I can’t see any decent fights for him.
Hindsight: Pat Healy (+225) vs. Jorge Masvidal (-280) (I picked Masvidal, I was right)
- I fully expected Masvidal to look that dominant at range, but I’m not sure whether I expected him to look as good everywhere else as well. Healy has been in a bit of a slump, so I can’t say I expected him to really out-wrestle or out-grapple Masvidal. But, I was still a little caught of guard by how prepared Masvidal seemed for every aspect of Healy’s game.
- Healy’s biggest moments of success came when he was working the body while moving in and out of the clinch. He did that really well and it seemed like he’d worked a lot on it, but he also seemed unwilling to use it as pure offensive strategy on its own, rather it was more a transition to get him inside for ineffective grinding.
- Masvidal has kind of been a forgotten man at 155. A loss to Rustam Khabilov and Gil Melendez shouldn’t have him on the outside of the top 15 looking in. He is definitely one of the very elite in his division, but it may take another really good performance for him to get that recognition again.
Hindsight: Thiago Alves (-480) vs. Seth Baczynski (+415) (I picked Alves, I was right)
- Someone (I think it was Marchman) described Alves as a veteran fastball pitcher who’s lost his fastball, but learned enough other tools over the years to still strike guys out. That seems like a totally appropriate comparison. Alves looks to have a little less pop in his punches, but looks craftier and more studied than ever.
- This was a risk/reward opportunity for Baczynski. The payoff of beating Alves would have been pretty big, but another loss didn’t do his record any favors. He’s now lost three of his last four and even got beat up in the final round of his win over Neil Magny. He didn’t look bad against Alves, but he didn’t exactly shock the world with his talent either.
- For Alves, this is proof positive that he can still be a player in the upper end of his division. Baczynski wasn’t a really tough test for him, but passing it with flying colors says that he still has a lot to offer better fighters. That’s what he needed right now, to prove that he could still be competitive in a fight with anyone in the upper quarter of his division.
Hindsight: Rafael dos Anjos (+250) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (-310) (I picked dos Anjos, I was wrong)
- Remember what I said about Magalhaes vs. Zachrich and ignoring athletic disparity, this fight was like a textbook in that school of thought. Dos Anjos proved that he could out box Nurmy over short bursts, but his footwork and takedown defense were no where near fastidious enough to keep the Dagestani off him all night.
- Nurmagomedov is something of a freak athlete. Not only does he have an excellent technical wrestling/sambo/judo base, but he’s amazingly strong, fast, and dynamic. A true terror that shouldn’t be overlooked against any opponent.
- Dos Anjos is… good, and a couple of years ago, when Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, and BJ Penn were ruling the roost, that might have been enough to get a title shot (possibly even win a title shot). But the elite class of 155 is now something truly fearsome and it’s going to get increasingly hard in an already deep division for new fighters to get a title shot.
HIndsight: Yoel Romero (+135) vs. Brad Tavares (-160) (I picked Tavares, I was wrong)
- If my relentless disbelief in Yoel Romero’s wrestling inspired him to put on this kind of display, I can only say that I’m incredibly happy. This was a beautiful fight to watch and a beautiful performance to make in every area from an amazing athlete. Romero has skills and talents that few others in the world possess.
- I’d like to say that Brad Tavares just didn’t prepare well for Romero, but I doubt that’s true. I don’t think any level of preparation or planning could have helped him in this fight. He was tossed around like a child at will. There’s no way to make that kind of talent disparity disappear with hard work.
- Romero needs to get a shot at a top contender quickly. Weidman may have a dance partner booked, but there’s no logic next step after lyoto Machida. With the kind of dominant performances Romero has put together (and the likely limited time frame he has to work with) getting him into the contender picture should be a top priority.
Hindsight: Edson Barboza (-175) vs. Donald Cerrone (+160) (I picked Barboza, I was wrong)
- I dismissed questions of Barboza’s chin as premature and really stemming from more of a problem of style than any “glass jaw” anatomy. Now, I’m not so sure. He’s gotten buzzed in a lot of his fights and this was a decent but really unlikely shot that totally dropped him on his ass. That may be a natural barrier that will keep him out of the top ten forever.
- This is the kind of fight I hate as a fight picker (note: I love it as a spectator). Barboza was tearing Cerrone appart in exactly the way I thought he would. And Cerrone’s admitted game plan was playing right into Barboza’s wheelhouse. I had this pick dead to rights… and then it all fell apart in seconds. So frustrating.
- Cerrone seems destined to be the UFC’s continuing great action fighter until the wheels fall off. He could easily get himself back into the title picture with a couple more wins, but nothing I saw in this fight made me super confident that will happen. No matter what, win or lose, he seems dead set on being fun to watch. As a fan that’s hard to argue with, even if it doesn’t always mean picking him to win.
Hindsight: Miesha Tate (-220) vs. Liz Carmouche (+170) (I picked Tate, I was right-ish)
- A lot of people had a problem with this score, but I wasn’t one of them. While I thought Carmouche clearly took round 1, she mounted almost no effective offense in the second round. Positional dominance should be the least important aspect of scoring. Tate’s splashes of range striking and her submission attempts were really the only effective offense in that whole second round, and as such I had her winning it.
- Liz Carmouche may need to make a camp change quickly. She looks like she’s improving a little bit here and there each time out, and her career isn’t old, but she keeps finding herself in against top 5 fighters and there’s no way she’s wining those fights with the tools she has now. She needs a lot of work on her striking, both at range, in the clinch, and on the ground. Without that, she’s just too easy to overwhelm and outpoint.
- Tate looked bad in this fight. Not only did she not show any urgency in the first two rounds, she routinely gave up positional dominance in the clinch and let herself get easily outworked on the ground. If she’d been in against a more effective opponent she could have taken a really bad beating. It definitely makes me wonder how long she’ll keep going in MMA if that’s her level of drive.
Hindsight: Travis Browne (-230) vs. Fabricio Werdum (+190) (I picked Browne, I was wrong)
- If his coaches are to be believed (and they probably are) Travis Browne essentially fell apart in the first round of his title eliminator against Fabricio Werdum. Broken hand, broken ribs, dislocated foot… They’re making it sound like it’s a miracle he even stepped out for the second round. It may explain him gassing (which I may or may not have been wrong about), but it’s also the second time that hes’ taken a bad beating due to in cage injury. I wonder if that will be a trend.
- Fabricio Werdum could not have looked better in this fight if Browne had been the practice mode opponent that you use to try all your combos out on in Tekken. Werdum looked great early and stayed composed late, when energy was obviously at a premium. And he put a lot more faith in his striking than I think anyone has given him before.
- Browne is lucky that he’s in the heavyweight division. Another two wins and he’ll basically be back to par as a potential title challenger. This division needs to keep new names in front of the champ and he still has the opportunity to be that. This was a setback, but lets not pretend that Browne goes to the end of the line with a loss here.
That’s all there was to tell from a huge and action packed night of fights, or at least all that would fit comfortably in one article. There were highs, there were lows, and then there were some more lows (for me), but it was definitely one of the more solid top-to-bottom events this year. Much of what I wrote seems terribly obvious, but as always, that’s the benefit of hindsight. So, until next week, when I talk about why Jon Jones continues to be one of the greatest people in the cage and why Luke Rockhold isn’t helped a ton by beating Tim Boetsch.
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