Tony Ferguson may have made a meal of the line in his pre-fight promo, but at least he got the ass-kicking part of the equation down. Of course Ferguson wasn’t the whole show at UFC 184 (or really even more than a footnote) that night belonged all to Ronda Rousey, who made the best of it by tossing Cat Zingano on her head and out of title contention in just about 14 seconds. Rousey’s already out the door and on her way to Hollywood for a little while, but there’s plenty of fighting and plenty of fallout to talk about. Oh, and I went 7-3 (1 NC) on fight picks for the evening.
Disclaimer Time: I don’t gamble, but had I, I might be kicking myself right now for being unwilling to put a bunch of money on Ronda by armbar in round 1. Not that I didn’t expect it. I said as much before hand, but that it’s a hell of a finicky bet to place, where little needs to go wrong for you to fail. Otherwise I’d like to think I’d have done pretty well out of placing theoretical bets on this card, as long as I didn’t base anything too heavily off Walsh, Carneiro, or Tibau winning (that was a bad run for me). Still, it’s all theory. My use of odds and fight picks is as a reference point for fighter development. Pre-fight expectations determine my sense of how fighters are improving their game. I’ll be using Best Fight Odds for the odds on each fight and taking the mode for each fighter. So, on to the fights…
Curtis Millender (+105) vs. Brennan Ward (-125) (I picked Ward, I was right)
- The Expectation: I figured Ward may not have an advantage on the feet, and given Millender’s size, may actually have a disadvantage, but that he’d be good enough everywhere else to get the win. That was more or less the case, although Millender striking defense made the standup closer to even.
- Fallout for Millender: This is a rough introduction to the big leagues, no question. And it reinforces some of my feelings that Millender may have to go to a bigger camp to evolve his game in the way he needs to, to compete outside the lower regional levels. He’s athletic, powerful, and good going forward, but everything else in his game lags behind.
- Fallout for Ward: This was the perfect get back on track fight for Ward, who has the kind of action fighter pop that makes him a perfect Bellator prospect. He’s a hard hitting wrestle boxer, but he’s only been fighting regularly since 2012. A step down was good for him to rebuild some confidence after a shocking upset loss to Tamdan McCrory.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (+273) vs. Linton Vassell (-336) (I picked Vassell, I was right)
- The Expectation: Another step up in competition, another loss for Sokoudjou.
- Fallout for Sokoudjou: He’s still the same fun, but limited, action fighter he’s ever been. He can crush the low level regional guys with alarming ease, but give him a tough fighter with a decent skill set, and he’s just never figured out how to put it all together. At this point, it’s safe to say that that’s probably never going to happen.
- Fallout for Vassell: This was a showcase opportunity for Vassell, to prove that he can maintain his spot as a fighter to watch in Bellator. Sokoudjou is just the kind of dangerous but beatable opponent to make Vassell look really good to a casual audience. I expect to see him at the top of Bellator cards for a while.
I didn’t see Cheick Kongo vs. Muhammed Lawal.
Paul Daley (-450) vs. Andre Santos (+325) (I picked Daley, I was right)
- The Expectation: I honestly thought this fight might be a lot lot uglier than most expected. Daley has been something of a cult icon for a long time, but lately he hasn’t been fighting all that high a caliber of opponent. Santos wasn’t a top level guy, but I was prepared for Daley to really struggle with him. That’s exactly what he did.
- Fallout for Daley: For fans really holding on to an idea of “Paul Daley Violence” this should be something of a wake-up call. Daley has been fighting as a pro for a long long time, much longer than most fighters are able to, successfully. He’s still a fun fighter to watch, but much like Marius Zaromskis, his best years are probably behind him.
- Fallout for Santos: Unfortunately for Santos, this sets a pretty limited ceiling on his potential to be a high profile fighter for Bellator. He’s been on a tear lately, and even has wins over some legit guys, but Daley gave Santos every opportunity to win and Santos just couldn’t. He’s also getting pretty far along in his career. In the current Bellator climate, he might stay around, but I don’t know that he’d be a main card regular.
Liam McGeary (-125) vs. Emanuel Newton (-107) (I picked Newton, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I really was surprised that McGeary was the favorite here, even as dangerous as he’s proven to be. More to the point, I’m shocked that in a bout that went over two rounds, he still got his hand raised. Newton was too tough to be finished, but not consistently dangerous enough anywhere to take rounds on points. Impressive win for McGeary.
- Fallout for McGeary: He’s now champion for one of the biggest MMA organizations in the world. And, fortunately for him, LHW is thin enough that he can probably ignite some real controversy as to just how he’d stack up against UFC talent. It will be interesting to see if he can dominate a division that’s pretty short on legit challengers.
- Fallout for Newton: It wasn’t a bad loss, but this was a bit of an exposing loss for Newton. He’s tough as hell, almost impossible to submit, and really decently well rounded. Hell, Newton even has pretty strong cardio for 205. But, if he can’t out last his opponent, Newton is really dependent on the hail mary to win fights. McGeary didn’t fade late and as such, he exposed Newton’s lack of strong offense. I’m not sure if that’s something Newton could improve on in a rematch.
Masio Fullen (+105) vs. Alexander Torres (-125) (I picked Fullen, I was sorta right)
- The Expectation: I didn’t watch much TUF Latin America. I am not about to go back and do so to break down a fight between two TUF guys, one of whom is almost guaranteed to get cut off this loss. That said, Mexico had a huge leg up in training and experience coming into TUF. And they won almost all their fights. When in doubt, pick the Mexican fighters from TUF LA, they’re better prepared than their compatriots.
- Fallout for Fullen: He gets to start his UFC career in earnest now. He actually has some half decent striking and footwork. He doesn’t have a lot of other tools to go along with that, but he can be a fun action fighter test for other developing regional talent the UFC takes an interest in, for a while.
- Fallout for Torres: He’ll probably get cut. If he doesn’t, he’ll probably lose his next fight. He just doesn’t have the experience or tools to win consistently in the UFC, despite the fact that he looks like a pretty decent athlete.
James Krause (-200) vs. Valmir Lazaro (+170) (I picked Lazaro, I was right-ish)
- The Expectation: I was one of the few people picking Lazaro, and I felt pretty confident that he was going to win. Krause may have been the more technical man in the ring, but he’s really never shown himself to be a competitive athlete at the UFC level. He doesn’t have the pop to hurt opponents, so they tend to just march through him and box him up. Lazaro did that well enough to get the win.
- Fallout for Krause: I don’t know that he gets cut, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Either way, Krause is going to have trouble picking up regular wins in the UFC if he can’t match opponents ability to deliver punishment. His big recent wins have come against fighters on the downside of their career, and the Varner win was exceptionally flukey. This loss, on the tail of the Masvidal loss, sets a bar that there’s a level of athlete it doesn’t seem like Krause will get by.
- Fallout for Lazaro: This is more the kind of performance I expected out of him when he fought James Vick. It doesn’t suggest that his problems with powerful pressure fighters are gone, but it shows, with the right kind of matchmaking, he can be a very fun and capable action fighter. I’m not sure how much he’ll evolve in the UFC, but it should be interesting to see if he can.
Derrick Lewis (-700) vs. Ruan Potts (+500) (I picked Lewis, I was right)
- The Expectation: Lewis was going to stomp a mudhole in Potts and then stomp it dry. The fact that it took more than a round, is a testament to Potts making the best of a bad thing, and his corner making the worst of a good thing, but the end result was all the same.
- Fallout for Lewis: He’s now 3-1 in the heavyweight division, and that’s a great thing for a talent pool that always needs winning fighters. His setback against Mitrione is still looming over him, but the further he can get from it, and the more TKOs he can pick up, the better for the division. He’s got time to develop and heavyweight is a weird place, so for now, winning is key.
- Fallout for Potts: He should be done in the UFC. A desperation leg lock is as close as he’s come to competing in recent memory, and he even said he was “finished” after the first round. He looked gunshy throughout, and at that point, I can’t imagine him going out and competing against anyone else in the at this level.
Dhiego Lima (+130) vs. Tim Means (-160) (I picked Means, I was right)
- The Expectation: Tim Means may not always be on point, but he responds incredibly well to aggressive strikers. Coupled with Lima’s terrible defensive tendencies, this seemed like a pretty easy pick to me. It ended up being a pretty easy win for the “Dirty Bird” too.
- Fallout for Lima: I’m really not sure what to make of Dhiego Lima in the UFC. He’s got some physical tools, he’s a good grappler, he has some power in his hands going forward. He’s still got time to develop his fighting ability further. But, the holes in his game are massive. Fighters like Eddie Gordon and Tim Means have wrecked him. It’s possible that he may be the kind of fighter who’s just a bit too good for regional MMA, but can’t win in the big leagues.
- Fallout for Means: Means is now, suddenly, knocking on the door of a welterweight ranking. He doesn’t have the kind of name value win that would put him into that group yet, but performances like this are likely to get him a big step up in competition. I’d love to see Means take on an established ranked guy, like Ellenberger, just to see if he can really go from top half to borderline elite at 170. Either way, he’ll be a fun fighter to watch for a while longer.
Norifumi Yamamoto (-140) vs. Roman Salazar (+110) (I picked Yamamoto, it didn’t matter)
- The Expectation: I picked Yamamoto on the expectation that he wouldn’t look shot, and by not being shot could still beat Roman Salazar. We got a no contest, so that’s still up in the air, but I’m less sure about his ability to compete than ever.
- Fallout for Yamamoto: He’ll probably fight in the UFC again. If he can stay healthy, I can’t imagine this no-contest filled whatever competitive void he has. Scott Jorgensen was asking for a bout with Yamamoto during the event, and that actually makes sense to me. He looked gunshy and not terribly threatening out in the cage, but the UFC has enough veterans around that he could have a fun fight or two left in him.
- Fallout for Salazar: I don’t take the dim view that some have of Salazar calling it quits on that eye poke. We constantly want fighters to take better care of themselves in the ring, and to be more wary about suffering serious career threatening injuries, and eventually that’s what he did. Otherwise he looked better than his debut. Not impressive, but better. He’d be a good fight for some of the TUF Latin America guys, or some of the UFC’s South East Asia prospects.
Roan Carneiro (+220) vs. Mark Munoz (-270) (I picked Munoz, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I think most people approaching this from a technical perspective were operating under the assumption that Mark Munoz could still compete in the UFC at some level, and that he wasn’t going to get out-boxed and out-wrestled by a welterweight journeyman on a hot streak. I certainly did. I was wrong.
- Fallout for Carneiro: He’s already said he’s on his way down to welterweight, and I have to admit, his aggressive striking/wrestling/grappling combo makes him a really fun addition to the division. He looks like he’s got the speed and strength to compete with most anyone, so he could inject some real life into the top 3rd, as a strong, savvy fighter looking to build a real name late in his career. Hopefully the UFC keeps booking him name opponents, and hopefully Carneiro keeps testing them.
- Fallout for Munoz: There are some rumors going around that Munoz may be getting a spot on the upcoming Manila card, especially since he took essentially no damage in this fight. If that’s the case, well… that’s his prerogative, I suppose. He came in against a smaller fighter who wasn’t expected to have an advantage anywhere except on the ground, and wasn’t competitive in any phase of the bout. That’s a terrible thing, and while I’m sure there are still MWs he can beat, I’d be hard pressed to name them.
Tony Ferguson (-250) vs. Gleison Tibau (+200) (I picked Tibau, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I honestly thought that Tibau was gonna Tibau Tony Ferguson, just like he has so many other lightweight hopefuls. Ferguson’s recent performances, especially haven’t been all that impressive to me, and it felt a bit like his game was regressing as he searched for ways to round it out. Some may point to Tibau coming in on late notice as a reason he lost so decisively here, but he’s made a career of those kinds of fights. This was just a plain ol’ beating, and Ferguson handed it out with expediency.
- Fallout for Ferguson: He’s now a ranked fighter off this win, and make no mistake, beating Tibau is a big deal. While not everyone that’s gotten by him has gone on to great success, Rafael dos Anjos is the only fighter to lose to him in the UFC and still become a top tier lightweight talent. For Ferguson to do so, suggests that he’s really developed his game to the point that he can handle elite fighters and whatever they may throw at him. Hopefully the UFC can find him a really good step forward for his next bout.
- Fallout for Tibau: It’s not really a step back, just another re-affirmation of place. Tibau still holds the gates of the UFC strong. At some point he won’t. He’s been fighting since dinosaurs ruled the earth, so his continued status as the gateway to the elite is a minor miracle, but I’ll need to see another bad loss or two before I start to think the wheels are really falling off.
Alan Jouban (-250) vs. Rich Walsh (+205) (I picked Walsh, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: My thinking went that, “Alan Jouban likes to fight going forward. Richard Walsh likes to fight going forward. I think Walsh may be more powerful and consistent when going forward. I’ll pick him to beat Alan Jouban.” I can be really wrong sometimes. This is a good reminder of that. Both Walsh and Jouban did go forward, more or less. But, when inside, Jouban’s technical diversity and speed really made a big difference. Jouban was connecting first and at angles that Walsh wasn’t seeing and really just took him apart every time they came together.
- Fallout for Jouban: This win, more than any other affirms his status as a fighter to watch for me. Walsh is a big tough dude, and has struck me as the kind of gritty, hard to put away fighter that it’s difficult to look good against. Jouban looked fantastic sending Walsh to the scrap heap, and it suggests that Jouban may be a solid level above the rank and file at 170 lbs.
- Fallout for Walsh: By the same token, this loss really does suggest that Walsh is firmly rank and file right now. He got a fighter with a similar level of experience to engage him directly in his wheelhouse and he lost, badly. Of course he can still improve. He’s only really been fighting regularly for about three and a half years, but his ability to win in the UFC is going to be highly dependent on his matchups.
Jake Ellenberger (-146) vs. Josh Koscheck (+135) (I picked Ellenberger, I was right)
- The Expectation: I figured Ellenberger still had more miles on the tread than Josh Koscheck did, even with both men coming off multiple losses. This fight started close, but once Koscheck started to get hit a few times, he really looked lost. Ellenberger may still be a bit flighty in the cage, but he was more than capable of putting away Koscheck here.
- Fallout for Ellenberger: He got the win, but he didn’t look better. He talked a lot, pre-fight, about improving his mindset, honing his aggression. At times you could see that in the cage, he definitely threw his punches more, but he still spent a lot of time waiting for just that perfect opportunity to hit and not get hit in return. The win is solid, but it’s not going to restore much faith in his ability to crack the top 5, or perhaps even stay in the top 10.
- Fallout for Koscheck: This was a really bad loss, the kind of loss that rapidly aging fighters get. He looked fine, even spry, in the early part of the fight, slipping in and out of range, landing a few shots, even nailing Ellenberger with a huge power double. But as the fight went on, he just seemed to go more and more to pieces. His eye seemed to be bothering him, he stopped throwing strikes altogether, and his wrestling became more hurried and desperate, rather than well timed and aggressive. Much like Munoz, there are probably still WWs he can beat, but they’d be way down the ladder.
Holly Holm (-550) vs. Raquel Pennington (+425) (I picked Holm, I was mostly right)
- The Expectation: This is a very conflicted point for me. On the one hand, Holly Holm didn’t wow anyone with her performance over Raquel Pennington. On the other hand, I didn’t really expect her to, as Pennington has the kind of rudimentary toughness that is going to make a lot of opponents look uglier than they are. Holm got the win she was supposed to get, and generally landed the better cleaner strikes on Pennington, but for those looking to be thrilled, they were disappointed.
- Fallout for Holm: Fans are desperate right now to see a fighter as a threat to the champ, and Holm isn’t giving them much to work with in the UFC. That’s not her fault, she is the fighter that she is. She’s a reasonably technical kickboxer without a lot of power in her hands, who can outwork a large portion of a division that is thin on the ground when it comes to striking technique. She’s probably not going to be a KO machine at the highest level. In the meantime, fans are left to adjust to the new reality, that Holm is decent, but no closer to the champ than anyone else.
- Fallout for Pennington: For the fact that Pennington is one of the more experienced bantamweights on the roster, she really hasn’t been a pro for very long. Her lack of speed may always be a setback to her against top 5 fighters, but she’s slowly becoming a better kickboxer. It’s hard to tell how far she’ll go, since she could easily still be 4 years from the height of her career, but right now she needs to step down and keep fighting the lower ends of 135 in the UFC if she wants to win fights.
Ronda Rousey (-650) vs. Cat Zingano (+525) (I picked Rousey, I was right)
- The Expectation: Rousey, armbar, round 1. I wrote it, I called it, I was happy to see it. Of course I still didn’t quite believe it would happen, it just seems so unlikely that she could do it to literally everyone. But there you have it.
- Fallout for Rousey: She’s off to make a movie or two while the division sorts itself out around here. Hopefully while she’s away someone wins convincingly enough to look like a fun matchup, even in a loss, for her. However, I honestly just look forward to watching how she defeats the next contender, whoever and whenever that may be.
- Fallout for Zingano: This loss really looked like it crushed her, and I just have to hope it doesn’t end up haunting the rest of her career. She could still be right back in a rematch with a couple of solid wins (that division is so shallow) but a loss like that could tear down everything else. It will be fascinating to see how she approaches her next fight.
Those are my collected thoughts from a big weekend of MMA action. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that’s the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for the next time around, two weeks from now, when I’ll be talking about Anthony Pettis, still lightweight king, and Carla Esparza’s first successful title defense. Until then!
*This week’s quote courtesy of the film They Live.
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