Okay, I know this is a few days later than I like to do this, and I like to do it a few days late. So, at this point I’m practically talking about forgotten history, going all the way back to last weekend as I am. Hell, we have two cards right around the corner, and at least one a week every week until mid October (and I wouldn’t trust that to last either). However, I didn’t get to see UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. St. Preux live, I had to watch it on replay, and it took me this long to get around to it. I’m a busy man, I have stuff to do. That box set of Homicide: Life on the Street isn’t going to watch itself.
Disclaimer Time: This is a good card to put my fight picking prowess in its place. After a string of strong events, I was starting to feel pretty high on the hog. Then I went 5-5 and got blasted on a couple of picks I thought were surefire winners. This is why I continue not to be a gambler, because I would have bet anything on Zach Makovsky beating Jussier Formiga, or on Brad Tavares beating Tim Boetsch. Those were easy picks, done fights… Still, I like talking fight picks and gambling odds and all the other little bits that come with fihgt betting but don’t involve me actually putting money on fights. I’ll be using Best Fight Odds for the odds on each fight, and taking the mode for each fighter. Now, on to the fights.
Hindsight: Frankie Saenz (-130) vs. Nolan Ticman (+110) (I picked Saenz, I was right)
- I was really surprised to see such an aggressive and imposing clinch striking game out of Saenz. Coupled with his takedown ability and his ground and pound, it’s a great tool to really round out his skill set. It was also something that Ticman was just not prepared for in any way shape or form, and it totally changed the complexion of this fight.
- Ticman looked good early, which says good things for his longterm potential, but he eventually he’s far too raw for the kind of competitive step up he got in a fight like this. The UFC has guys he can take on… Some of their southeast asia pickups for instance, but if he drops to flyweight and the commentators were intimating that he would, he may find it very rough going to gain traction in a very talented division.
- Saenz’s range striking is still a big gap. He’s helped to disugise it with his clinch offense, but any success Ticman found in this fight was on the outside, where Saenz looked awkward and very hittable. Against really capable sprawl and brawl fighters, he may run into major trouble.
Hindsight: Sam Alvey (+110) vs. Tom Watson (-125) (I picked Alvey, I was wrong)
- I don’t know if Sam Alvey didn’t have a chance to get in shape for this fight, but he didn’t really seem to show up with fighting in mind. It was made all the more maddening by the fact that he really poured it on Watson at the end and put him in trouble. That aggression needed to come out a round earlier, when he was content to let Watson tee off at range and in the clinch.
- Tom Watson remains ultra predictable and severely limited as a fighter in the UFC. But, he’s getting the generosity of being a middleweight, where being consistent in your aggression and conditioning is enough to get you past 75% of your division. I don’t know what “Kong” can do to change things up down the line, but a nice dump game would probably help.
- It was nice to see Watson using his left a little more in this fight. If not with power, he at least used it consistently to corral Alvey into his right hand and keep the fight where he wanted it. It’s small progress, but for this fight it was enough. And it may mean a more developed kickboxing arsenal down the line… maybe.
Hindsight: Sara McMann (-600) vs. Lauren Murphy (+400) (I picked McMann, I was right-ish)
- McMann got out of this fight with a win, which was all she really needed. But dominating would have put her back on the map and in big fights a lot quicker. She seemed happy enough to get her hand raised, but that gets back to complaints about her interest in fighting as a title challenger, she just doesn’t seem that engaged.
- Honestly, this was about as well as Lauren Murphy could have hoped to do coming out of this fight. I’m sure she’d have rather won, but she can walk out of this feeling like she legitimately did take the win, whether the judges saw it that way or not. The fact that she’s not ranked inside the top 10 right now (or even at all) is a total joke, but unless she faces Sara Kaufman in her next bout, I’d probably pick her to win it. So, we should See Murphy in the upper tier of 135 soon enough.
- For McMann, this fight actually felt like something of a regression. I understand if her loss to Rousey left her a little shaken in her striking confidence, but her willingness to stay in the guard and lack of output on top were pretty troubling. If she’s going to keep fights on the ground, she should be looking to dominate there, not just ride for points. Of course, that said, nobody but Ronda beats her at bantamweight right now, aggressive or not.
Hindsight: Jussier da Silva (+261) vs. Zach Makovsky (-330) (I picked Makovsky, I was wrong)
- Gotta hand it do Dallas. His analysis, that Makovsky’s willingness to scramble and take chances in grappling would fall right into Formiga’s game, was spot on. Makovsky is way to willing to do things that aren’t working for him, and do them over and over again. Against the best flyweights, that’s going to lose him fights.
- Formiga has, against all odds, continued to develop into a much more well rounded fighter. In just the past year or so, it appears that his striking has taken a real leap forward. At this point, he’s capable of competing against very good flyweights on his feet, and the fact that you don’t want to scramble with him on the ground makes him a very dangerous prospective fight for most of the division.
- Makovsky can and should bounce back from this. He has the athletic skill and the dynamic and diverse offense to compete with the flyweight elite, but this was just a harsh lesson that you shouldn’t always take on every opponent in every dimension of their game.
Hindsight: Robbie Peralta (+125) vs. Thiago Tavares (-145) (I picked Peralta, I was wrong)
- Ugh. Boy was I wrong about this. I felt sure that Peralta would be able to stay upright and swing for the fences until he clipped Tavares. Instead, Tavares made this look like a tune-up to get himself ready for a real challenge.
- I’ve often said that Peralta is a statement to just how far a fighter can go on Athletic gifts alone. The answer may be Thiago Tavares. Peralta has been able to outbrawl lesser fighters in his division, but Tavares has been around long enough and has a good enough grappling game to really scythe through the numerous holes in Peralta’s game.
- Now, of course, Tavares has to face a tough, deep division around him at 145. He looked great this time out, but it will be interesting to see if he gets a young fighter (someone like Jim Alers) looking to make a name for himself, or one of the division’s weathered vets (like Nik Lentz). Both possibilities offer up a lot of challenges but if he can take on already established fighters, he may be able to make a claim to the top ten at 145.
Hindsight: Shawn Jordan (-190) vs. Jack May (+160) (I picked Jordan, I was right)
- This fight totally happened, and unfortunately went about exactly as I predicted. I mean, I honestly called Shawn Jordan by TKO, Round 3. I’m not going to do much better than that.
- Jack May had his moments, but for a guy training out of a notable grappling camp (Erik Paulson was in his corner), he seems incredibly lost on the ground. Add to that that he appeared to tire pretty badly late in the fight and you have the perfect recipe for a guy who’s just not going to hang around long in the UFC.
- This was a solid win that Jordan badly needed, but he once again showed himself to be very willing to get hit to implement his game. Given that he has a crackable chin, his willingness to work from the outside or stand and trade in the pocket are going to continue to be question marks in a division full of guys with one shot power.
Hindsight: Seth Baczynski (-160) vs. Alan Jouban (+125) (I picked Backzynski, I was wrong)
- I’m not sure what’s going on with Baczynski’s training these days. I know he’s at Alliance, and most thought that would be a great move for him, but he looked like he really gassed out after the first round. That may have been due to nerves, he looked like he pushed hard after nearly dropping Jouban, but he has enough experience that those kinds of basic mistakes shouldn’t be happening.
- Jouban, for his part, stayed really nicely composed after a bad scare in round one and stuck with his game to get a big KO. A win over Baczynski is a great way to jump right into the middle of welterweight, and it may get him a bigger fight than anticipated next time out.
Hindsight: Tim Boetsch (+265) vs. Brad Tavares (-320) (I picked Tavares, I was wrong)
- This fight really typifies my struggles with caring about much of the middleweight division. If Tom Watson vs. Sam Alvey was something of a statement as to the lack of serious talent at the bottom, Tim Boetsch vs. Brad Tavares is a statement to the struggle to find talent at the edges of the top 10. Boetsch didn’t look any better than he has in recent losses, but Tavares is firmly back in the middle of a very middling pack.
- It’s hard to say exactly what Tavares’ struggles are at this point. He has the offensive output, he has the technique… It may simply be down to a lack of pure athletic gifts. He doesn’t seem to generate enough power to put guys in trouble when he’s in his groove and he’s not so fast or agile that he can keep opponents away over a full 15 minutes. I’m not sure how those problems get fixed.
- For some rankers, Boetsch may climb right back into the top 10 with this win and I guess I understand that there’s not a lot of people gunning for those borderline spots. But this should be recognized only as an impressive comeback win, not some statement that Boetsch is there to hang with top middleweights. He got destroyed by Luke Rockhold in his fight before this, and nothing he did here suggests that gap has closed.
Hindsight: Gray Maynard (+135) vs. Ross Pearson (-165) (I picked Pearson, I was right)
- I find this loss for Maynard much more personally demoralizing than if Maynard had just shown up looking terrible and gotten put away immediately. The fact that he looked great (much better than any time in the past 3 years) and still got KO’d is exactly the kind of performance that’s going to lead him back to the cage again and again. Every time he gets hit hard it seems like he’s going down. Unless he wants to get pillowy grapplers for the rest of his career it’s hard to see him winning fights.
- Ross Pearson continues to look like an improved version of his classic self. The biggest improvement being power. Somewhere in the past couple years he’s discovered a way to get a little extra torque on his punches and with his consistent bob and weave boxing style and technical aggression that may be all he needs to carry him to the top 15.
- That said, Pearson has gotten a lot of fights made for him to look good lately. Guys like Ryan Couture, George Sotiropoulos, Diego Sanchez, and Gray Maynard aren’t exactly the kind of fleet footed, technical strikers that have troubled him. Guillard looked to have Pearson on the ropes before an illegal knee saw the bout ended. It’s hard to think of favoring Pearson in a fight against someone like RDA.
Hindsight: Ryan Bader (-190) vs. Ovince Saint Preux (+160) (I picked Bader, I was right)
- This fight right here shows the difference between fighting Glover Teixeira, Lyoto Machida, and even Rafael Feijao, over Ryan Jimmo, Nikita Krylov, and Cody Donovan. OSP had looked like the more complete fighter lately, but he was fighting a much much lower level of competition and the success just didn’t translate.
- That said, I actually thought OSP won the last round. He lost the fight 3-2, at least to me, but he took the second and the fifth. This shouldn’t stand out as a major blackmark on his record. It was a good competitive fight, against a very good fighter. Hopefully OSP gets another quality LHW off a loss for his next time out.
- I realize this fight wasn’t very thrilling, but it should also be noted, how awesome it was to be able to watch two light heavyweights in a competitive 25 minute bout, without a title on the line. More and more it seems that division is relegated to a small handful of great fighters and than a wasteland of talent. Seeing two guys really compete hard for five full rounds did the heart good.
Those are my collected thoughts from an entertaining, if not exceptional in any way, Fight Night. Much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but as always, that’s the benefit of hindsight. Stick around for Monday’s edition, when I expect I’ll be talking about how uninterested I am in seeing Bisping or Le headline shows again, and about how Bendo keeps getting those split decisions. Until then!
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