Rose Namajunas may have come out of the gate first and done the work herself, but ultimately it was Carla Esparza that kept on doing it. As such, we have the first ever UFC women’s strawweight champion crowned and her first challenger already waiting in the wings. Which should meant that this last weekend was one of big highlights and notable breakthroughs, and it was… kinda. It was also weird, with a lot of bad fouls, strange judging, and mixed performances. I’m not saying I didn’t still have fun, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t come away from the whole thing with a lot of mixed emotions. Also, I went 12-10… which is not great. Like I said, there was a lot of weirdness.
Disclaimer Time: What better way to explain why I don’t bet, than to show you how poorly I did across two cards. I picked several underdogs, but of all of them, Carla Esparza was the only one to snag a win. Fighters often pull victory from the jaws of defeat, or defeat from the jaws of victory. Some fighters seem to age immeasurably the moment the step into the cage. Things happen that are almost impossible to track on a fight to fight basis… Which obviously doesn’t stop me from trying. As always, 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…
The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion will be Crowned Finale
Angela Hill (-200) vs. Emily Kagan (+160) (I picked Hill, I was right)
- The Expectation: The honest expectation of most seemed to be that Kagan was going to get stomped. A least that was my expectation, and I have to think that the only reason betting lines didn’t drift into Torres vs. Magana territory was Hill’s complete lack of name value. Either way, she pretty much lived up to expectations, although Kagan proved to be a lot tougher than expected.
- Fallout for Hill: She’s definitely a top prospect to watch in the women’s 115 lb division. She’s got rare athletic ability and considering that she’s in the first year of her career, may be on an exceptionally fast track to the top of the division. She’s still got a lot to work on, but it’s going to be hard not to put her at even odds with anyone except the most elite talent in her division.
- Fallout for Kagan: Unfortunately, while this fight very much marks Hill as a fighter on the rise, it also marks Kagan as a fighter unlikely to find much separation between herself and the rest of the division. She has some decent basic striking and wrestling tools, but the raw athleticism and power just doesn’t seem to be there. There are a few fights where she could still be a tossup to win, as the UFC sorts out their talent pool, but it’ll be very matchup dependent.
Alex Chambers (+190) vs. Aisling Daly (-225) (I picked Chambers, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Even as the underdog, I picked Alex Chambers to win this fight. She seemed like the potentially more powerful striker and dynamic athlete and I thought that might be enough for her to carry the day. I was wrong, of course. I didn’t really account for just how much bigger and more aggressive Daly is than Chambers, but it was pretty immediately apparent in the cage that Daly would have no trouble planting her on her back and working her over.
- Fallout for Chambers: Much like Seohee Ham further down the card, Chambers has a problem. It’s strange to think that at 115 lbs there may be women too small to compete there, but that might be the case. At the very least, if Chambers wants to stay in the UFC as a successful striker she’s going to need to dramatically improve her output and her footwork. The best way for an undersized striker to survive is to stay busy and stay outside, against Daly she could do neither.
- Fallout for Daly: It’s a solid win and gets Daly’s UFC career off on the right foot. What comes next may be very matchup dependent however. If she gets someone like Felice Herrig or Heather Clark, Daly could continue building her place in the division. If she gets a matchup like Hill or Torres or Calderwood, I worry that her lack of speed and dynamic offense may quickly halt her progress.
Angela Magana (+500) vs. Tecia Torres (-800) (I picked Torres, I was right)
- The Expectation: There’s a pretty good reason that the odds for this fight ended up as skewed as they did. Well, several really: One being that fans just don’t like Angela Magana, the other being that Tecia Torres is still one of the division’s top fighters, no matter how poor her TUF run may have been. Now, out of the house, and with a real camp under her belt, Torres made a complete return to form as a patient and successful high output rhythm kickboxer.
- Fallout for Torres: She really needed this fight to go the way it did, to remind fans that at her best, she can be one of the most exciting and entertaining strawweights in the world. TUF did her no favors in terms of skill assessment, so getting a dominant win here meant a lot more than just her first win in the UFC. As the UFC looks to establish their top tier talent and fighters start getting ranked, Torres should certainly find her spot in the top 10.
- Fallout for Magana: Magana’s UFC debut was somewhat reminiscent of BJ Penn’s recent UFC return. Something just appears to be fundamentally broken with her approach to striking. With other fighters in the division Magana might still find competitive room to make a fight of things, but Torres gave her zero space. As I assume Magana gets another shot, she’ll be another fighter who’s chances of staying in the UFC will be entirely dependent on how she’s matched.
Joanne Calderwood (-725) vs. Seohee Ham (+500) (I picked Calderwood, I was right)
- The Expectation: I can understand why the odds moved so high against Seohee, she’s a fighter fans are terribly unfamiliar with and Calderwood is something of a beloved cult talent. But that does mean that a lot of fans probably ended up surprised at just how well “Hamderlei” did in her UFC debut. Calderwood still won fairly handily, as expected, but she took a lot of damage on the way, and didn’t come out looking any better than her opponent.
- Fallout for Calderwood: I’ve been a Calderwood fan since she debuted for Invicta, which means that it pains me to say that there appear to be some major flaws in her fight game that aren’t going away. The biggest of these is her power. Calderwood throws a lot of strikes and stays busy, but she rarely seems to be able to kick her offense out of first gear. Every fight she’s been in lately, seems to stay at a low simmer, with Calderwood peppering away, trading shots, winning exchanges, but never creating the sort of clear moments of dominance that marked her early fights. She remains unbeaten as a pro, but her game isn’t changing and it feels like opponents are starting to find ways to figure her out.
- Fallout for Seohee: This was always going to be a bad matchup for Seohee. She’s known for her aggression and powerful strikes, but she also has a clear tendency to walk herself in from punching distance, straight to the clinch, which is where Calderwood does much of her best work. Seohee did better at staying outside here, but even then, Calderwoods kicking game and significant size meant that there were a lot of strikes coming her way, that she couldn’t return. Hopefully she gets a fighter on the shorter end of things next time and we can see more of her talent, otherwise her UFC career may be short lived.
Heather Clark (+170) vs. Bec Rawlings (-200) (I picked Rawlings, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Myself and the betting public, figured that Rawlings’ combination of aggression and dirty boxing would be enough to tip an otherwise close fight in her favor. When Rawlings could keep the fight int he phone booth, she did really really well, but far too often, she got involved in Clark’s takedown game and went for low percentage throws. All it took were a few bad ones for Rawlings to drop a couple rounds and the fight with it.
- Fallout for Clark: I’m not going to say that Clark had a lucky escape, but she definitely benefited from a fighter getting sloppy and falling right into her game. Clark is a very adept grappler and a passable striker from the outside and Rawlings had too much trouble controlling the range in this fight to keep it out of Clark’s strengths. A fight between Clark and Daly may be the best next step for both of them as it should prove very competitive.
- Fallout for Rawlings: This was a rough loss for the UFC’s other rowdy fighter. Clark was a very beatable opponent for Bec, and she didn’t get it done. MMA doesn’t often offer a lot of opportunities like that at the UFC level. Still, I think I’d favor Rawlings over much of the bottom half of the strawweight division, so she should get another favorable matchup next time out.
Lisa Ellis (+305) vs. Felice Herrig (-370) (I picked Herrig, i was right)
- The Expectation: I really felt that Herrig would have to keep this fight on the feet to win it, but she did a good job proving that she was the better athlete and more practiced fighter everywhere, by hooking up the second round submission over Lisa Ellis. It wasn’t what I’d imagined, but it was a pretty clear display that Herrig is the more talented fighter right now.
- Fallout for Ellis: Ellis really hung tough, and almost got Herrig out of this fight early with an incredibly tight choke. But, the longer story is that she got a beatable opponent to engage her in her in the fight she wanted, and she still couldn’t get the win. That’s a bad sign moving forward, and it’s tough to pick Ellis to win many fights even in an underdeveloped division.
- Fallout for Herrig: Eventually, and despite all her detractors, Herrig is a decent athlete and should be in the fighting prime of her career. She kickboxes well, wrestles with some skill, and is apparently a pretty decent offensive and defensive grappler. She may not win every bout, but I could see her being a competitive gatekeeper for a few years yet.
Randa Markos (-143) vs. Jessica Penne (+120) (I picked Markos, I was sorta wrong)
- The Expectation: This fight was exactly as close as I thought it would be, and as close as the betting lines showed it to be, but I really didn’t see any controversy in Penne winning it. I thought she pretty clearly did more in the first and third to get the decision, taking Markos down, threatening her on the ground, and remaining more active even off her back. It was a very close fight between a crafty vet and a really athletic young talent and the vet just won out… this time.
- Fallout for Markos: There are some technical negatives to take away here. Mostly, that Markos may be a very good offensive wrestler, but she’s a very poor defensive one. Penne had zero trouble getting her to the ground of takedown attempts, and it was a little shocking just how little Markos had to offer in TDD. The other negative is her technical striking. Markos throws with great fluidity and power, but there are a lot of basic errors in her footwork and setups. Still, for a fighter two years into her pro career, those are small notes for a standout athlete, who is already competing at a high level. They may, however, keep her from beating the better competition in her division right now.
- Fallout for Penne: This was the win she needed to keep herself in title talk in a very thin division. It may not have been the prettiest win of her career, but in strawweight right now, the title shots are going to go to the fighters that stay active and keep winning. Penne has a win off the bat, and some name value already. This should keep her floating around the top 5 at 115.
Yancy Medeiros (-280) vs. Joe Proctor (+230) (I picked Proctor, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I was really shocked to see that so many fans and prognosticators were all in on Yancy Medeiros. He’s a fighter that has proven very little in his MMA career to date, unless you put a lot of value in beating the same Yves Edwards that got tapped out by Akbarh Arreola. Still, Medeiros came through with the win, and it looks like he may be finally putting some truth into his early athletic potential.
- Fallout for Medeiros: Medeiros is at a stage where he has to be winning fights and improving. Strange to say of a 27-year old, but it’s 27 year old that’s been fighting since 2007 (with a two year layoff between 2010-2013). That layoff may very well have given him some more time, but if things don’t start gelling for him, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if they ever will. Even in this bout, he was eating a lot of shots, both in leg kicks and in the pocket, before one of his multiple spinning back kicks finally found a home. That keeps his momentum going, hopefully his skills can improve with it.
- Fallout for Proctor: Proctor ended up being on the wrong side of two things that may be outside his control, and one that wasn’t. For one, I’m not sure if any fighter benefited more from the small cage than Medeiros, who had a much easier time closing Proctor down because of it. The second, and related part, is that Proctor just wasn’t as powerful as Medeiros and while he was able to do damage, it was clear that every shot Medeiros landed could put him out. That may but a significant cap on Proctors upward movement unless he can really improve technically. He tried to shell from Medeiros’ strikes with a high forearm guard and that left him wide open for that body kick. More technical, active defense could do him a lot of good.
Daron Cruickshank (-220) vs. KJ Noons (+170) (I picked Cruickshank, that was immaterial)
- The Expectation: This fight was really made to make Daron Cruickshank look good. And for a time it did, and then Noons got sloppy and the fight was over. Eventually it’s an ugly result that’s hard to take a lot away from. Some are calling for a rematch, but I honestly don’t think Noons should get another crack at Cruickshank after that foul heavy performance.
- Fallout for Noons: He’s looking older. Much like Medeiros above, it looks like Noons benefited a lot from the small cage. Early on, Cruickshank was able to crack him over and over again. But, the cage allowed Noons to keep closing Cruickshank down, where his somewhat more polished boxing was a lot more effective. In the standard, bigger octagon, I’m not sure he’d have nearly the same success.
- Fallout for Cruickshank: Cruickshank still has problems with boxers on the inside. That doesn’t seem to be something that’s going away. But, once again he showed his improved wrestling and mixed it really well with his range striking and combination boxing. Cruickshank is making the right moves to go from action fighter to legit, top 15 threat. Hopefully this injury didn’t set him too far back on that path.
Charles Oliveira (+150) vs. Jeremy Stephens (-185) (I picked Stephens, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I really didn’t see Stephens getting taken down and controlled the way he did, but Oliveira made the majority of this fight look easy. I’m not sure how Stephens could have thought he won any of it outside the third round, which was his, but not a fight changer. This felt like Stephens’ fight to lose, and Oliveira made sure he lost it.
- Fallout for Oliveira: This is a big win for Oliveira, the kind that proves that his early career turmoil may have really rounded him into a successful top tier fighter. He used his aggression, wrestling, and grappling, to keep Stephens under wraps, and at no point appeared in any serious danger. Unfortunately, in a fight he dominated much of, he also couldn’t finish and totally made a mess of the third round. Oliveira asserted himself as a clear top featherweight fighter, but showed the kind of flaws late that other fighters in his class will make him pay for.
- Fallout for Stephens: This was as bad as losses get for Jeremy Stephens. Even with a loss to Cub Swanson, it really seemed like he had turned his career around, from mid-card action fighter, to potential top 5 featherweight. This sets him right back where he’s been for most of his UFC career. What it comes down to, seems to be Stephens tendencies as a front runner. When he’s fighting from behind, when he’s on his back foot, he’s at his worst. Oliveira got out ahead early, and it wasn’t until he ran out of steam in the third that Stephens was able to make anything of his own happen. This loss could easily end his run as a top ranked featherweight.
Carla Esparza (+100) vs. Rose Namajunas (-130) (I picked Esparza, I was right)
- The Expectation: For a fight that I really should have been sure of, I wasn’t. If you told me, a year ago, that Rose Namajunas would fight Carla Esparza for the strawweight title, I would have taken Esparza without a moment’s hesitation. But a season of TUF that saw Rose really shine, turned a lot of heads, and the talk of her as an elite talent got into mine. I still picked Esparza to win, but it took seeing Rose lose to remind me that a few months of reality TV doesn’t alter where two fighters are in their division that much.
- Fallout for Esparza: She’s still the queen at strawweight. For how long, I’m not sure, but she’s looking better than ever. It’s important to remember that even as an established fighter, Esparza’s just hitting the 5 year mark as a pro. She could be a force for another half decade or close to it. Her wrestling game is still on point, and her boxing has improved steadily to supplement it. She’s facing Joanna Jedrzeczyk next, so there’s no guarantees that she’ll remain champ for long, but I doubt she’ll be out of the conversation for quite some time.
- Fallout for Namajunas: This was the reality check that a lot of fans needed that Rose Namajunas may be a very promising MMA prospect, but she’s not Jon Jones. Namajunas is a great athlete, and this is the first loss of her career that was really and truly definitive. Hopefully that drives her to tighten up her striking and work more on her wrestling, because she’s still four or five years off her prime. That’s a long time for an athlete of her caliber to improve and I expect to see her in more big fights down the road.
UFC on Fox: Dos Santos vs. Miocic
Anthony Birchak (-270) vs. Ian Entwistle (+220) (I picked Birchak, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: This is the intense difficulty in picking fights for a fighter like Ian Entwistle. The pick is almost always going to be, “If he doesn’t get the leg lock early, he’s going to lose badly.” Of course, that means you’re stuck choosing between the high probability that a fighter with very few secondary skills gets beat up, and the low probability that they are able to do everything they want and destroy their opponent with quickness and ferocity. Today, quickness and ferocity won out.
- Fallout for Entwistle: What this means down the road is that I’m probably going to do very badly picking Entwistle’s fights. He could very potentially beat a top 15 fighter or two right now, or he could lose to Tim Gorman. Either is potentially possible. The big thing is that win or lose, Entwistle is going to be a lot of fun to watch. That’s a win for all of us.
- Fallout for Birchak: This is a really rough start to Birchak’s UFC career. Once one of the most promising talents in the MFC, Birchak ended up getting released due to Visa issues and signing with the UFC. His debut got scrapped in the Joe Soto title shot mess, and now, more than a year after his last fight, he get’s subbed out one minute into the first round of his UFC debut. He’s still a talented athlete and fighter, but he can’t afford too many more setbacks. Hopefully Birchak’s knee isn’t too injured and he can return to competition soon.
Henry Cejudo (-220) vs. Dustin Kimura (+185) (I picked Cejudo, I was right)
- The Expectation: Much like the Namajunas vs. Esparza fight above, I knew what to expect, but it was very easy to second guess myself here. The fact that Cejudo as a former Olympic champion was only -220 to a guy who’s best path to victory lay in his ground game means that a lot of fans were feeling the same way. Sometimes, however, the blue chip prospect really does shine when he needs to most.
- Fallout for Cejudo: In my eyes, this was his validation win. Even if he tired in the third, Cejudo still clearly outworked Kimura and kept from taking any damage at all. This fight was as one sided as a decision gets and should remind fans what it means to be an athlete of the caliber that brings home a gold medal in a sport like wrestling. Cejudo has the talent and the skill to pick up combat sports even if he has a hobbyist mentality. It could keep him from championship dominance, but it’s probably not going to provide too many bumps at the bottom end of 135 or 125.
- Fallout for Kimura: Kimura has hit a major rut with his striking, mostly being that it’s non-existent. When he can get the fight to the ground or work in the clinch, Kimura can be an exciting, aggressive fighter, but this is twice in a row now that he’s ended up on the outside looking totally at a loss. Bantamweight may not be the deepest division, but without at least some threat standing, there aren’t many wins that will come easy to Dustin Kimura.
David Michaud (-230) vs. Garett Whiteley (+180) (I picked Michaud, I was right-ish)
- The Expectation: Michaud didn’t look especially impressive in his debut loss to Li Jingliang, but he did show flashes of athletic potential that could come into better play down a division at lightweight. I figured he’d get a workmanlike decision over Garett Whiteley here, but I’ll admit, this fight ended up being a lot closer than the score cards ended up showing, and I wouldn’t even be adverse to arguments that Whiteley might have won it.
- Fallout for Michaud: He’s still such a raw fighter. Most notably his range striking is lagging way behind the rest of his game. He can throw decently in the pocket, and has developed a really decent takedown and top control game, but without entries into the clinch, he’s very predictable from range. More talented and active strikers aren’t going to have too much trouble forcing him into bad situations unless he can improve that hole in his game.
- Fallout for Whiteley: It sucks to say, but Whiteley may not have the natural athletic tools to compete in the UFC. He hit Michaud a lot, but for the most part, Michaud was able to walk right through his strikes and drag him down with ease. He’s got a decent enough arsenal of skills, and it’s one that could keep him successful at a lower level, but I’m not sure he can be competitive in the UFC.
Bryan Barberena (+170) vs. Joe Ellenberger (-210) (I picked Ellenberger, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Alright, I’ll be honest here, I phoned this one in. I know, I know… I shouldn’t do that. But, frankly I’ve seen Ellenberger fight before, and it’s not been the prettiest thing, but it’s been generally effective. And from everything I’d heard on Barberena, nobody was giving a clear reason that he’d be the better man in this bout. Not only did he get the win, and make me look like an ass, but he did so emphatically enough to make me slightly interested in his next bout. Good on him.
- Fallout for Ellenberger: This is one of those times where what you see with your eyes finally snaps together with reality in a convincing way. Ellenberger is a very limited fighter. Even in his wins, he’s rarely been convincingly dominant. Obviously he’s not going to be out of the UFC after this loss or anything, and it’s honestly amazing that he’s even competing with his medical history, but expectations of bigger successes should be tempered.
- Fallout for Barberena: Barberena came out and got a win over a beatable opponent in a fight he was supposed to lose. That’s a great first step in his UFC run. Now, he’s still got a lot of rough edges to smooth off. He’s aggressive, and that’s a great starting place. He’s also a very scrappy wrestler and grappler. It will be interesting to see how well he can implement that game against a step up in competition, or if he can improve his technical striking and movement to become a more dangerous fighter in the future.
Drew Dober (+400) vs. Jamie Varner (-470) (I picked Varner, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: All while I was picking Varner to win, a little thought nagged away at me. By the time the fight was starting, I was just about sure he was going to lose. Call it intuition, or a coming to terms with the inevitable aging of a fun action fighter, it didn’t take Varner long to prove that voice in my head right. Dober isn’t the most exciting talent in the world, but he’s young, he’s got a great chin, and he’s not likely to take himself out of a fight. None of that describes Varner anymore.
- Fallout for Dober: This was a desperation win for him. He’s got the sort of basic MMA game that can be effective, that of a high output, low power, kickboxer, but so far he hasn’t had much UFC success. This gives him another shot, another fight or two to get things fitting together better, to make his style really work for him. I’m not sure he can really do that, and this fight didn’t help make me think he could, but I’m glad he’s getting the opportunity to give it a try.
- Fallout for Varner: This is the perfect time to retire. Varner has always been a fun action fighter, but in his last couple bouts, he’s not even getting the same return on fun and action in a loss that he used to. Things just seem to be falling apart. Even if he’s only 30, there are 12 years of constant combat wearing on Jamie Varner. He’s young enough to have a run at a whole second career, and it sounds like he’s already got his post-competition plans in line. I can only hope the best for him.
Joe Riggs (+230) vs. Ben Saunders (-280) (I picked Saunders, I was right)
- The Expectation: This was the fight for which my existential dread was well placed and in full force, long before fight time. Add in a healthy dose of rooting bias and there was no way I was picking anyone other than Saunders to win this fight. Joe Riggs was able to put together a nice six fight run outside the UFC, but it was against a really low level of competition. Saunders has been competing at too high a level to drop a fight like this one. Still, the freak neck injury made for a very weird fight.
- Fallout for Riggs: I don’t know what could be going through is head right now. I’m imagining that stepping away from the sport is the last thing on his mind, and that he’ll be gunning for an immediate rematch once he heals. But, while freak injuries like that can happen to anyone at any time, they’re also a sign that your body may just not be up to competing at an incredibly high level anymore. Time will tell, but Riggs doesn’t seem to have a lot of time to work with.
- Fallout for Saunders: It may not have been the win he wanted, but it was a quick win, and if he can, he should take the ball and run with it straight into another fight. He’s had a long career, and spent some of its best years outside the UFC. If he wants to keep a hold of his earning potential it seems like fighting again, as soon as possible would be the best way to do it. There are a lot of mid-tier welterweights for him to test himself against and continue building his profile as an action fighter.
Claudia Gadelha (-300) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (+250) (I picked Gadleha, I was wrong-esque)
- The Expectation: Like the betting line shows, I expected Gadelha would win this, but that was really a pick based on intangibles. In a straight forward matchup, JJ is poison to a fighter like Gadelha, who depends so heavily on imposing herself physically on an opponent in every phase. JJ was clearly able to own the distance striking portions of the fight and her takedown defense was good enough to keep the clinch largely even. That meant that Gadelha had to get the fight down to clearly win rounds. And that’s a tall order. I still think she may have done so (I scored the fight for Gadelha) but I’m not particularly torn up about the decision.
- Fallout for Gadelha: She’s lucky that the UFC seems eager to sweep her post-fight mishap under the rug, because similar actions have torpedoed other fighters. Otherwise, a lot of fans are going to feel like she won, and it’s the kind of fight she can walk away from feeling like she won, confidence intact. I still honestly believe that she’s one of the five best strawweights in the world, and I might still pick her to bead Esparza. This loss feels more like a speedbump than a serious career diversion.
- Fallout for Jedrzejczyk: She gets a title shot. There aren’t many successes greater than that off a hard fought victory. Jedrzejczyk was practically unknown as a talent just 6 months ago. Then she beat the breaks of Rosie Sexton, picked apart Juliana Lima, and now, off the biggest win of her career, she has a shot at the UFC championship belt. She’s only been fighting for three years, but she’s quickly established herself as one of the division’s very best. I’m not sure if I pick her over Esparza or not, but I think it will be an incredibly close, hard fought battle.
Willie Gates (+435) vs. John Moraga (-600) (I picked Moraga, I was right)
- The Expectation: This was John Moraga’s fight to win all the way, but true to form, he made it hard on himself right up until the finish. Eventually, this fight couldn’t have gone any closer to the script that was set for it, excepting maybe that Gates proved game enough to drag a third round out of Moraga.
- Fallout for Gates: Tough to say. Especially on short notice, I really don’t like to hype guys off a loss. Short notice fights often throw both fighters off, to the point that neither is able to perform quite in the way they normally do. Could Gates be a great young flyweight in the making that just showed a ton of potential by hanging with a top 10 fighter? Sure. But he could also, just as easily get two more tough matchups and be out of the UFC in a year. His next fight will help me draw a bead on him.
- Fallout for Moraga: I really wish I could say that I got something new out of this, but Moraga still seems to be his classically flawed self. Everything he does well he also does poorly and he leaves a lot of openings that fighters can take advantage of. But he’s tough, he’s a good athlete, and he is an incredible opportunist. All of both sides of that coin were on display here. Until his chin starts to fall off, I’d pick him to beat most guys outside the top 5.
Gabriel Gonzaga (+100) vs. Matt Mitrione (-130) (I picked Mitrione, I was right)
- The Expectation: In a normal division these odds would never be this close. Gabriel Gonzaga typifies the older fighter who is fighting with veteran savvy, but in really deep divisions, wouldn’t be on the same level as still rising talent. Mitrione may not be young, but he is still rising. This was his fight to lose all the way, and he took Gonzaga out early.
- Fallout for Mitrione: I’d like to say Mitrione looked great for as long as this fight lasted, but he really seemed to have trouble getting his offense going early. That’s been a problem for him at times in the past, and I think I’d attribute it to Gonzaga’s surprising hand speed and power. Either way, once Mitirione did find his rhythm and his range, he made Gonzaga pay in a hurry. He’s heading for a much higher ranking than the borderline 15 one he’s at right now.
- Fallout for Gonzaga: Heavyweight can and probably will still keep Gabriel Gonzaga competitive. It’s a strange division, and it tends to offer fighters a lot of chances. Still, Gonzaga is getting to the point, where most athletes start to really fall off hard. With two straight losses, it’s worth keeping a close eye on his next fight.
Alistair Overeem (-215) vs. Stefan Struve (+180) (I picked Struve, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I wanted Struve to win, in my heart, I was pleading for Struve to win. Not because I bear any special malice for Alistair Overeem, but just because I’ve already seen that animal, I wanted to see more of Struve, see if he could do anything new. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening. It could just be cage rust, anyone who’s gone through what he has could have a rough outing their first time back in competition, but getting slept again is never a good thing when you have a long track record of getting slept.
- Fallout for Overeem: He’s clinging, barely to a few shreds of relevance in today’s heavyweight division. When things are clicking for Overeem he can do amazing things. But they rarely click anymore, and this seemed like more of a case of Struve being unable to compete, than Alistair being “back” in some significant form of the word. He’ll get another fight, and he might win it, but I’m not more convinced of that just from watching this.
- Fallout for Struve: There have to be a lot of questions going for Struve right now, and I hope he has people close to him that can help give him answers. He’s had health scares, he hasn’t had a win in two full years. It’s only a two fight losing streak, but still, things aren’t going well. I expect he’ll be back, but if the UFC wants to see him be competitive in the future, he needs to take a huge step down.
Nate Diaz (+245) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (-295) (I picked RDA, I was right)
- The Expectation: This seemed like the easiest fight to pick in a long time. I can only imagine that a still strong legion of 209 fans kept the betting lines at all close, because there was basically zero chance of Nate pulling out the win here. The fact that he got totally smashed shouldn’t convince anyone of anything new, but it still feels like a lot of people are surprised. RDA is a talented top tier fighter right now, Nate Diaz isn’t.
- Fallout for Diaz: Nate Diaz talked about not knowing why he was in the UFC, and it’s becoming less and less clear why he’s fighting at all. There’s a very real probability that he basically showed up to lose and get cut in this fight in the hopes of going to Bellator and greener pastures. That may be true, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be pulling a bit of a “Rampage.” Would being with Scott Coker really make him happier, and for how long? Nate just seems to be unhappy fighting right now, and in this sport that could get him very badly hurt.
- Fallout for RDA: It’s a stay busy win, but hopefully he won’t need another between now and a lightweight title shot. There was some talk of Pettis being on medical suspension, but considering it was contingent on an X-Ray there’s a very real chance he’ll be back in action quick. If so, RDA is the logical title shot choice, since Nurmy is on the sidelines. It’s not a title shot I see Dos Anjos winning, but at just over 10 years into his pro career, it’s a shot he’s more than earned.
Junior dos Santos (-450) vs. Stipe Miocic (+365) (I picked JDS, I was mostly right)
- The Expectation: I really expected Junior to be more dominant early, in line with the betting odds on this fight. He’s a fighter that should still be at the height of his abilities, especially considering he’s one of the youngest elite heavyweights out there in the world. Eventually he found his stride in this fight, but it took a while and Stipe Miocic got a real chance to shine because of it.
- Fallout for JDS: This fight effectively puts JDS in Limbo. He’s too good to be booked against most of his division, but this fight didn’t show anything that would get him another shot at the title, unless Fabricio Werdum manages to win it. Otherwise, dos Santos is going to be stuck waiting for feature fights to pop up or he’s going to be taking lose lose bouts against anyone in the top 15 looking to stay active.
- Fallout for Miocic: It’s not a win, that would be the best thing for him, but it’s not quite a loss either. I had JDS winning this bout, so I’m not unhappy with the result, but there are those that thought Miocic could have won it, or that it was at least a draw (honestly it was a draw). That means that Miocic could get a bounce-back win, and see himself right back in talks for title contention without a lot of serious detractors. Like I said, not perhaps the best thing for his career, but far from a crushing defeat.
Those are my collected thoughts for a double header weekend of UFC cards. So much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but as always, that’s the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for next week, when I talk about why CB Dollaway can’t quite get over the Machida hump. Until then!
*This week’s quote courtesy of Scarface: The shame of the nation.
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