That’s a little bit of what it felt like to be a Mark Hunt fan on Saturday night. Watching his career build and rebuild, gain unimaginable momentum, and then fall down and keep falling under the weight of mass incompetence from referees, cornermen, and ringside physicians. That fight, that loss more than any other, seems like it tears down the idea of what Mark Hunt was for modern MMA fans. It takes the idea of the underrated, over-performing kickboxer turned mixed martial artist out back and shoots it. All to cap off a night of upsets and strange happenings putting me at a generous 4-8 (3-9 if you’re being picky) for fight picks on the night.
Disclaimer Time: If you need a better disclaimer of why I don’t bet than me going 3-9 on fight picks, I’m afraid I don’t have one for you. If I had actually bet this fight, I might have put some money on Bec Rawlings and Dan Kelly, Jonavin Webb and Stipe Miocic. Depending on what played out where, I might have broke even, or lost a lot… who knows, it’s all theoretical, since odds are more my way of expressing expectation in comparison with performance and tracking my personal insights into where fighters seem to be. I’m using Odds Shark for the odds on each fight and taking the mode for each fighter. So, let’s get to the fights…
Ben Nguyen (+190) vs. Alptekin Ozkilic (-225) (I picked Ozkilic, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I fully assumed that Ozkilic would come in looking to really find the perfect balance of striking and wrestling after his fun, but ultimately decisive loss to John Lineker back in July of last year. He was the more diversely skilled fighter, even if he wasn’t winning much in the UFC. Instead he limited his game almost entirely to boxing in the pocket with a bigger puncher and paid for it.
- Fallout for Nguyen: He got his entry win into the UFC, and with his fun viral video/long road to get here story, there’s a great chance he becomes something of a notable action fighter for the promotion. His process is still wild, and unless a lot of his approach changes, I don’t see him going on a serious run, but his power and athletic skills make him a threat, and a fun fighter to watch.
- Fallout for Ozkilic: This probably ends his time in the UFC, and in some ways it feels too bad. Ozkilic has gotten better, it’s just that he hasn’t gotten better enough and one gain has come with another loss. His boxing is sharper and more dependable than ever, but he’s not wrestling with nearly the consistency he was, and his boxing isn’t good enough to win him tough fights. That’s a rough spot to be in, and the regionals might serve him better until he figures it out.
Brendan O’Reilly (+110) vs. Vik Grujic (-140) (I’m pretending I never changed my pick, give me something)
- The Expectation: I picked O’Reilly on the Vivi, because I felt that his speed and more well rounded game would give him the edge. I changed it when I realized how much bigger Grujic was apparently going to be, but I shouldn’t have. O’Reilly did his thing for most of the fight and Grujic could only match it half the time.
- Fallout for O’Reilly: He’s got the chance to develop into a UFC caliber fighter just on toughness and work rate. I don’t know if that will keep up against better opposition yet, but this fight proved that he’s going to put everything into his performances. That should keep him interesting to watch, win or lose.
- Fallout for Grujic: The biggest thing working against Grujic (beyond being slow) is that he really only has one skill, clinch boxing. When he’s not doing that, he’s not doing anything else. It’s tough to beat anyone, no matter how much smaller they are, when they only have one thing to stop you from doing.
Alex Chambers (+205) vs. Kailin Curran (-250) (I picked Curran, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Curran’s superior size and aggression was supposed to make all the difference here, and for most of the fight it did. Unfortunately for her, young fighters make mistakes, and her mistake cost her what looked like a very dominant win.
- Fallout for Chambers: Her UFC career stays alive. And I do think that was what was at stake here. As an undersized strawweight with a somewhat underwhelming style, she’s probably on a very short leash. She didn’t look good in this fight, and I don’t know how many future bouts she’s going to win, but she won this one and that was the battle in front of her. Hopefully she can use it as a platform to improve her overall game.
- Fallout for Curran: The UFC shouldn’t cut her, if they can avoid it, but she needs more seasoning. Right now she has more aggression than technique. That’s a great thing for her future career, but right now, it’s picked her up a really bad loss that she never should have had. Great prospect, good performance, bad fight.
Dylan Andrews (-125) vs. Brad Scott (-105) (I picked Andrews, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Andrews is wildly inconsistent, but Scott has been consistently mediocre. That’s a tough fight to pick, but I went with the inconsistent fighter and he proved just how inconsistent he is by giving Scott a lot of opportunities and finally diving on a poor takedown to give up the submission.
- Fallout for Andrews: The middleweight division is hurting for good, consistent fighters, but on the back of a three loss skid and a variety of injuries and poor fight IQ, Andrews may not be worth keeping around. He’s obviously got the physical tools to compete, but whether it’s the wear of a 9 year fighting career, or just a skill set that never really developed, he doesn’t seem cut out to win in the UFC.
- Fallout for Scott: This was a very very good fight for Scott in a must-win situation for him. He’s at the point where his skills in the cage should be starting to really gel and this performance showed that. His striking looked better (even if he got dropped at least once) and he seemed to have a better feel for the fight he wanted. I don’t think he’ll rise a long way, but he could be a win/loss fighter at middleweight.
Lisa Ellis (+185) vs. Bec Rawlings (-220) (I picked Rawlings, I was right)
- The Expectation: Bec Rawlings was going to pressure Ellis, wear her down, and break her for a pretty dominant win. Barring an early takedown, that’s exactly what happened.
- Fallout for Ellis: She’s just not competitive at the UFC level. Her under-powered wrestler/grappler game actually has some reasonable technical depth, but Rawlings was able to shuck her off the moment she went for a submission. Rawlings isn’t a particularly high bar in the division, which suggests Ellis may not belong there.
- Fallout for Rawlings: These are the kind of fights Rawlings should be winning. She’s a big strawweight and she’s aggressive everywhere, which should put her solidly as a mid-tier gatekeeper. That means winning fights like this and making them exciting. She put on a solid show here.
Sam Alvey (-350) vs. Daniel Kelly (+285) (I picked Kelly, I was so, so wrong)
- The Expectation: I was stupid wrong on this fight. I really thought that Kelly was showing himself to be some sort of savant strong man. He couldn’t strike, he couldn’t really wrestle, but he could be big, he could take a punch, and he could lean on Alvey for 3 rounds. He couldn’t even last a minute.
- Fallout for Alvey: He’s gotten way, way better since his UFC debut. Credit to Nate for planting the idea, but it could be a case of growing confidence in the UFC. The more he feels he belongs, the better he fights. This was Alvey’s first complete, dominant performance in the UFC and for once he really looked like a guy who could put a run together as a fan favorite action fighter, maybe even knock on the top 15.
- Fallout for Kelly: For fighters like Kelly, at some point reality comes knocking. Thus far, Kelly’s UFC wins have been a weird series of better than bad performances. Finally, he faced a fighter that knew just how to hurt him, that wasn’t interested in fighting his fight, and just got wrecked. Kelly can still win fights in the UFC, but unless a whole lot changes, he’s not moving up from the bottom of the division.
Kyle Noke (-110) vs. Jonavin Webb (-110) (I picked Webb, I was sorta wrong)
- The Expectation: Noke has bad takedown defense, Webb is good at takedowns and grappling. Seemed like an easy fight to pick. That’s more or less how it played out, in my eyes, except that Webb conceded ground constantly on the feet and the judges gave it to Noke on pressure. That was an ugly decision.
- Fallout for Noke: He’s still in the UFC, and that’s something, but he just looks so old and slow out there. Webb gave him a lot of opportunities, but Noke was too slow to capitalize. He’s still tough enough to stay in fights and make them ugly, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll ever be better than a coin flip to win.
- Fallout for Webb: His boxing needs a lot of work, and he may not have the striking right now to stay at welterweight. Other than that, he did his thing, implemented a lot of his game, but just couldn’t quite get the finish. A physical advantage at lightweight might be the best short term thing to do, otherwise, he might have a few more tough outings at WW until he gets more experience.
Hatsu Hioki (-300) vs. Daniel Hooker (+251) (I picked Hioki, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Hioki has a legacy of being a great fighter, one that seems further in the rear view mirror with each passing month. Still I hadn’t seen nearly enough from Hooker to feel like he was a trustworthy pick in this fight. He was losing right up until he wasn’t, but it was a great comeback win for Hooker.
- Fallout for Hioki: I gave up on Hioki being a UFC talent back when he lost to Clay Guida. It was a contested result, but it showed that Hioki really didn’t have a dangerous enough game to be a force in the UFC. Nothing he’s done since then has changed that outlook. Losing this fight, however, suggests he’s not really competing at any level of the division.
- Fallout for Hooker: This was a huge win for him. A loss to Hioki probably wouldn’t have seen him cut, but it would have put him on a win-or-get-out next fight status. Now, with a highlight KO on his record, he’s probably going to have a lot more leeway going forward, no matter how his next couple fights go.
Jake Matthews (-190) vs. James Vick (+160) (I picked Matthews, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: James Vick is always dangerous. I knew this going in, and I still picked against him. There are certain fighters that you never want your prospect to face on his way up the ranks, James Vick is one of them. Not only is he tough and aggressive, but he’s got a nose for opportunity. Matthews gave him his neck, and Vick took it.
- Fallout for Matthews: It’s not a huge setback, but like Kailin Curran, a lack of seasoning is his biggest problem right now. He’s got the physicality to be a great talent, but all his skills are developing. When Vick started to put pressure on him, he responded by putting himself in a bad position and the fight was over immediately.
- Fallout for Vick: He’s still that strange kind of fighter that neither looks especially good, nor loses. He reminds me a lot of fighters like John Moraga. Vick has a lot of dangerous tools, they don’t quite make a complete fighting style, but if an opponent makes any mistakes he’s right there to capitalize.
Sean O’Connell (+120) vs. Anthony Perosh (-140) (I picked Perosh, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: There’s a point that Anthony Perosh is not going to win fights in the UFC anymore, I just didn’t expect it to come against Sean O’Connell. I figured when O’Connell rushed in, Perosh would take him down and sub him, instead he just got knocked out.
- Fallout for O’Connell: Slowly but surely, and mostly by being tough and aggressive, Sean O’Connell has carved out a bit of a UFC career for himself. He’s in a division so weak that the he’s going to be knocking on the doors of the top 15 with a couple more wins, but mostly he’s proven that he can be an action fighter at 205 that wins a fight here and there.
- Fallout for Perosh: I’m not saying that Perosh won’t win again, his division is notably talentless, but it’s feeling more and more like the book is closing on his career. O’Connell should have been a pretty easy matchup for him and instead it was an absolute drubbing. That’s always a bad sign.
Brad Tavares (-145) vs. Robert Whittaker (+118) (I picked Whittaker, I was right)
- The Expectation: I had Whittaker winning this one on the feet, just because Tavares gives opponents so many opportunities. It turns out Whittaker only needed one, but that opportunity was to exploit a known hole in Tavares’ game, the left hook. Something about it has been eating Tavares’ once promising UFC career.
- Fallout for Tavares: It’s looking more and more like Tavares is in a slump. He sleepwalked through a pretty underwhelming decision over an aged Nate Marquardt, which itself broke a two fight losing streak. And if you had to pin point it, it’d be hard to say what exactly is going wrong. Tavares isn’t that old, either in years or in cage time, he’s got a lot of experience under his belt, and he’s got a pretty well rounded style. He’s just not a dominant fighter, which makes even small flaws bigger as opponents prepare for him.
- Fallout for Whittaker: Middleweight has been a great move for Whittaker. He’s still got the power and takedown defense that marked his welterweight run, but now he’s operating with a significant speed advantage. For an accurate, hard hitting boxer like him, that’s a big advantage to have. He seems destined for the top 15, maybe even the top 10 at 185.
Mark Hunt (+200) vs. Stipe Miocic (-240) (I picked Miocic, I was right)
- The Expectation: Even going in as a big Mark Hunt fan, this felt like the end of an era. he’s been a shockingly relevant fighter for the UFC over the past few years, but in that time he’s slowly lost a gear. What made Mark Hunt a truly gifted fighter, and not just an amazingly tough dude with bricks for fists, seems to be gone now. Stipe was just too big, powerful, and well rounded for Hunt to beat him on power boxing alone.
- Fallout for Hunt: HW is a weird place, so Hunt is certainly not done as a top 10 fighter, but the idea of him being a dark horse title contender or “in the hunt” (if you’ll pardon the pun) is dead. It was a good ride while it lasted, but Mark Hunt is just not that fighter any more.
- Fallout for Miocic: He’s now more or less the defacto no. 3 heavyweight in the world. The recent loss to JDS is still hanging over his head, but a lot of people thought he won that fight and most everyone is done watching Junior Dos Santos fight Cain Velasquez. If Werdum wins the heavyweight title, then maybe Miocic drops a rung, otherwise we should see him fight for the belt within the year if the champ can stay healthy.
Those are my collected thoughts from another night of UFC action. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that’s the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for next time, when Frankie Edgar proves that modern day Urijah Faber isn’t much of a match and Gegard Mousasi shows that he’s still a cut above Costas Philippou. Until then!
*This week’s quote courtesy of the movie The Time Machine
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