UFC 172 lived up to and surpassed all the hype as the Jon Jones easily defended his title against Glover Teixeira in a five round showcase of his evolving and unique MMA talents. This entire card hit the perfect sweet spot for a night of MMA; the fights were pretty much all highly entertaining, the pacing was excellent as the UFC ran fights out as soon as the previous one had ended, and there only being 10 fights on the card made it feel like a very quick, but still satisfying night of fights.
Thoughts on the fights:
- Jon Jones is a genius in the cage. He went right at the heavier striker in Teixeira and thoroughly beat him. Jones continues to add to his array of attacks, working a huge variety of standing elbows, hooks, straights, and low kicks. Jones even used a standing shoulder lock taught in Jiu Jitsu self defense classes on Teixeira in the first round, and it seemed to do damage as Teixeira requested ice on that shoulder. Jones is a truly special fighter.
- One aspect of Jones’ game that is not very admirable is his use of the open hand jab. While impossible to speak with certainty, it really looks like Jones is attempting to poke his opponents in the eye with his outstretched fingers. This is a known tactic on the part of Jones and he gets far too much leeway from referees on it, and provides a prime example of why any confirmed eye poke should be an automatic point deduction, regardless of warnings or if the referee can discern intent.
- The only fight to make now is the rematch between Jones and Alexander Gustafsson. Jones is hands down the #1 fighter in the world right now, and Gustafsson came very close to beating him – many will argue that the Swede deserved to win the belt. Anything less would be a let down by the UFC.
- Anthony Johnson looked flat out amazing, easily the best fight he has ever had in MMA. He was smoothly firing off a huge variety of offense and seamlessly transitioned to his takedown defense and then back to striking. He caught Davis in the eye with a right hand early and opened a cut and just dominated every aspect of the fight from there on out. The Blackzilian camp seems to really be coming together and Henri Hooft’s success there is just as deserving of praise as Duane Ludwig’s work with Team Alpha Male.
- This fight was a very concerning one for Phil Davis. While it is clear that Davis is a talented fighter, he has struggled to apply his wrestling against more elite fighters. He had difficulty taking down Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, got firmly out wrestled by Rashad Evans, and had to fight very hard to take the smaller Lyoto Machida. And Rumble Johnson just shrugged off all of Davis’ takedown attempts with amazing ease. Davis’ wrestling just evaporates when he faces a fighter who is able to control distance and his physically strong. The clock is ticking on Davis and this problem seems to be derailing his promising career.
- Luke Rockhold put on a grappling clinch clinic against Tim Boetsch. Rockhold nabbed a top side inverted triangle when Boetsch shot a single leg, and after some rolling around it was clear that the choke wasn’t fully on, Rockhold progressed to the arm attack from that position. Rockhold has always been a good grappler, but Rockhold really showed off his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not just for show.
- Rockhold should be back in a #1 contender match in his next fight. The Belfort match makes a great deal of sense if not for the fact that Belfort’s future is a bit up in the air with the banning of TRT. He also called out Bisping, which would be a big step back for him at this point. The best match for Rockhold might be the Jacare Souza rematch with the winner getting a shot at the winner of Chris Weidman vs Lyoto Machida.
- In a night with more guillotines than the French Revolution, Jim Miller showed off a real professional effort on finishing his choke. Miller grabbed the choke, and didn’t rush or go crazy squeezing. He calmly and meticulously re-positioned himself and then choked Yancy Medeiros out.
- Two very good, young fighters in Andre Fili and Max Holloway clashed in a really fun scrap. Holloway is a bit greener in terms of number of fights and years fighting, but his skills are progressing at a good rate. Holloway used to be an utter joke on the ground but his high elbow guillotine was very nice and the first submission win his young career. Both fighters are at the point in their careers were you expect to see strides forward and Holloway took that step.
- Tim Elliott gave Joseph Benavidez a run for his money with a nice throw and attacked Benavidez with a crucifix. But then Benavidez took control of the match back and locked on a mounted guillotine that got a full body tap from Elliott. It was a piece of technical brilliance from Benavidez as he used the head lock to control, stepped over to mount and then trapped Elliott’s hands to tighten up the choke.
- Takanori Gomi looked engaged and interested in his fight against Issac Vallie-Flagg. It is very doubtful it indicates a Gomi revival, but it is a reminder of why the UFC will continue to employ him, because every so often he can put together a performance that makes you say, “Hey, he has still got it.”
- Bethe Correia and Jessamyn Duke had a pretty underwhelming fight as neither fighter really was able to hurt each other on the feet and their grappling looked very poor. Neither of them is serious title challenger material in the division. It was entertaining to see Correia call out Ronda Rousey and the rest of her team, the “Four Horsewomen” of MMA.
- Charlie Brenneman looked really good in the first round, really showing off his excellent wrestling and improved ground grappling. And then it all came crashing down when Danny Castillo landed a huge right hand that turned out Brenneman’s lights in the second round. Both fighters are around the same age and experience, but their careers seem headed in very different directions. Castillo has a firm place in the UFC while Brenneman’s UFC career appears to be on thin ice, if it hasn’t already fallen through.
- Patrick Williams show off some funky, unorthodox striking but it was the picture perfect flying knee by Chris Deal that stole the show. We are going to be seeing that knee a lot in highlight reels in the future.
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