I get the feeling that everything Thiago Alves tries to do for the next couple of weeks is going to be especially difficult. Things like blowing his nose or rolling over in bed might really hurt. Carlos Condit put a hell of a hurting on him, all to cap off a pretty good night of fights, discounting a couple of main card bouts. Only 5 fights went to decision and at least a couple of those five were good fun. A lot of prospects got to work out their “Octagon jitters” and a lot of new talent on display always means that there’s a lot to learn. Oh, and I nailed the fight picking with a record of 9-3.
Disclaimer Time: Some UFC events are just easy to predict. This felt like one of those. Sure most of the underdogs had a path to victory, some even got some real play from analysts (and a couple even pulled out the win) but, largely this was a card of the known doing the known. For those that bet smart, that means there was some money to be made. Not by me though, because I don’t gamble. For every card where I’m right as rain, there’s another where I’m wrong beyond reason. Instead, I’m using odds and fight picks as a way to frame fighter development against fan expectations. I’m using Odds Shark for the odds one each fight and taking the mode on each fighter. So, on to the fights!
Tom Breese (-170) vs. Luis Dutra (+140) (I picked Breese, I was right)
- The Expectation: This was Tom Breese’s proving ground. Dutra was the kind of fighter he should beat, but a tough enough potential test that Breese winning wasn’t a slam dunk. And for a minute or two that future was touch and go. But, Breeze is a huge dude with good fundamentals and that means he has a lot more leeway against the rank and file.
- Fallout for Breese: This was a great win and really suggests he could be on the blue chip prospect kind of scale. Not only does he have a strong top control grappling game, but this fight showed off the fact that he’s got enough power in his striking to make that a real factor as his skills come along. The fact that Breese is also at Tri-Star means he should develop well.
- Fallout for Dutra: Dutra has hit an early crossroads in his UFC career and he very likely could be cut as a result. He’s been around for years as a prospective talent and now he’s on a two fight losing skid and it just seems like the career is never going to happen. He’s aggressive, but there’s no part of his game that stands out and he’s not an amazing enough athlete to dominate, even at the lower levels. Since he’s a TUF fighter, 0-2 means he’s probably gone.
Ericka Almeida (+150) vs. Juliana Lima (-175) (I picked Lima, I was right)
- The Expectation: I really thought Almeida would do a little better than she did. Not win, not necessarily even come close, but just do a bit better. Maybe get a couple of aggressive submission positions, escape to her feet a little more, take the back once or twice. Instead she just got ground into the mat for 3 rounds.
- Fallout for Almeida: She’s got some good basic MMA tools, but this wasn’t exactly a measuring stick fight for her. Juliana Lima may never be a fan favorite, but she’s a very skilled wrestler and offers a challenge that most women at strawweight don’t. I need to see her fight someone else before I know just where she’s at. That said, Almeida needs to work on defending takedowns or getting up off her back if she wants to climb the ranks in the UFC.
- Fallout for Lima: Eventually this didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about Juliana Lima. Mostly that she’s an A+ grinder with some of the better technical wrestling at 115. I can easily see her slowly climbing the rankings just on that alone, as I don’t think many women outside the top 5 can stop her taking them down. But, without her wrestling, she doesn’t have a whole lot of other skills going on.
Mirsad Bektic (-450) vs. Lucas Martins (+325) (I picked Bektic, I was right)
- The Expectation: The hope, at least, was that Bektic would take the next step in his career and not just beat his opponent, or dominate them completely, but really make the kind of statement performance that gets fans interested in his next bout. Something that would get people talking and not just get him another win. I’d say he did that.
- Fallout for Bektic: Finally now people are starting to talk about one of the best prospects in MMA. Bektic let Martins hang around with him briefly and then dominated him into a second round TKO. It’s the kind of performance that could get him propelled into an early top 15 fight, but he’s the kind of fighter who would probably win it.
- Fallout for Martins: It’s still early days for Lucas Martins as an MMA fighter, but he’s hitting some serious growing pains. He started out as a raw, violent youth. But, as he’s added more technique to his game, the inconsistencies in his offensive and defensive strategy have opened wide. Mostly, despite being big, athletic, and having natural power, he can’t really seem to generate offense while maintaining smart defense and movement. Until he figures that out, aggressive wrestlers will have his number.
Nicolas Dalby (-290) vs. Elizeu Zaleski (+240) (I picked Dalby, I was fairly right)
- The Expectation: Dalby was supposed to cruise a bit more than he did here, against Zaleski and the fact that he didn’t means I probably should have trusted my initial scouting of the Brazilian, which saw him as a better than advertised athlete with some decent, if limited skills, who was starting to fit everything together. That still wasn’t enough to get him the win over the Dane, but he has a much better UFC future than many gave him credit for.
- Fallout for Dalby: When I said, pre-fight that Dalby could probably step in as a top 20 guy from day 1, but that he may not go much higher, this was kind of the perfect example of that. Dalby showed off his multi-layered, technical skill set and strategy against Zaleski to grind out the win. But, was also completely out-gunned when it came to just trading shots with the Brazilian. I’m just not sure he has the power to really be a top 10 fighter.
- Fallout for Zaleski: The athletic talent is there, but the rest of his game is raw. Zaleski is a great power puncher. And he’s a good enough athlete that he’s not a bad counter-wrestler either. But, he seems like a fighter who is learning MMA through osmosis. Getting better just by being in the gym and taking fights, rather than really developing an individual skill set. Even with all the athleticism in the world, that approach only goes so far.
Jussier Formiga (-110) vs. Wilson Reis (-110) (I picked Formiga, I was right)
- The Expectation: I was surprised how close the odds were for this fight, and how much of a chance of winning many were giving Wilson Reis. That’s not to say that Reis is a bad fighter or had no chance, but just that it seemed to seriously underestimate just how much Formiga has improved lately. Once again, Formiga showed that his striking has come a long way and got a pretty straightforward win over Reis.
- Fallout for Formiga: For as disappointed as I was in his early UFC run, Jussier Formiga has re-inserted himself into talks of having a legit shot at the 125 lb title. I still don’t think he beats the Dodson/Benavidez/Johnson trifecta, but he’s certainly much closer to competing with them than he was a couple of years ago. Just for the sake of a new challenge, I expect the UFC will give him a title shot soon.
- Fallout for Reis: His striking his a huge liability when it comes to his ability to climb higher in the flyweight rankings. He’s a physical beast and a great grappler and a decent wrestler, but his head is always right there to be hit and his punches are huge and wild. Formiga had no trouble keeping him at range for much of the fight and picking him off when he came inside. Reis is a fun fighter and a deserving top 15 fighter, but he probably won’t go much further than that.
Damon Jackson (+135) vs. Rony Jason (-150) (I picked Jason, I was right)
- The Expectation: I picked Rony Jason to win this fight, just because it seemed like Jackson would be playing with fire for too long trying to ride out a win from top position. Jackson did a better job of controlling Jason early than I thought he would. But a ticky-tack foul and a reset later, and Jackson was getting tapped out.
- Fallout for Jackson: The UFC has been a little unfair to Damon Jackson. Even I was about to write a pretty negative review of his performance, but frankly taking on a huge LW on short notice and a 10yr FW vet with just a couple years cage time under your belt is a huge ask. Hopefully the UFC keeps him, because he could probably do better with a few easier fights.
- Fallout for Jason: Over the years, Jason has slowly crafted himself into a dangerous opportunist. He still has too many technical gaps to make that build him into a contender, but he’s essentially not losing to fighters that aren’t better than him anymore. That may seem like a simple sentence beyond belief, but it’s actually a lot to ask out of most guys.
Wendell Oliveira (-130) vs. Darren Till (-105) (I picked Oliveira, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: It’s not that Wendell Oliveira was supposed to blow the doors off the UFC when he was signed, but it was expected that he’d be a pretty solid action fighter for a few years. He’s faced a who’s-who of Brazilian regional vets and has a long history as a KO artist. So, it seemed reasonable to pick him to beat the still very raw Darren Till… or not.
- Fallout for Oliveira: It looks like he’s just not durable enough to survive as a stand-n-bang action fighter in the UFC. The fact that he keeps his head online and has the kind of physique that eats away at his gas tank really doesn’t help that fact, but it’s one of the most underrated aspects of thriving at the top, toughness. Oliveira doesn’t seem to have it.
- Fallout for Till: Till on the other hand, proved that while his game is still really underdeveloped in a lot of areas, he has a few key ingredients for success. He’s tough, he’s in shape, and he’s got natural aggression. Those three things are enough to carry him to a lot of success while his other skills improve.
Norman Parke (-255) vs. Francisco Trinaldo (+210) (I picked Parke, I was wrong-ish)
- The Expectation: This was Norman Parke’s bounce-back fight. His opportunity to prove that he could defeat the Gleison Tibau’s and Tibau-Lites of the world. It didn’t happen. Instead, Trinaldo showed of continued improvement in his kickboxing and cardio to a split-decision victory.
- Fallout for Parke: I don’t know if it’s the move away from Alliance that’s the issue or something less track-able, but Norman Parke seems to be falling apart. The dogged consistency that made up his early career is evaporating into a disconnected jumble of kickboxing and cage grinding skills that other fighters are picking apart. Looking back over his career, he doesn’t have a history of beating bigger/stronger fighters, so it could just be that his game breaks down against guys he can’t control. In which case, he’s at a real crossroads in his career.
- Fallout for Trinaldo: Quietly it seems that Francisco Trinaldo is modeling himself off Tibau’s image in more than just hulk-like appearance. He’s fighting often, and what’s more, he’s winning more often than not. For a UFC career that started in mid-2012, Trinaldo already has 10 UFC fights and 7 wins. He may peak as a gatekeeper, but he’s been a damn consistent talent.
Francimar Barroso (+235) vs. Ryan Jimmo (-300) (I picked Jimmo, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: More so even than Norman Parke, Ryan Jimmo was supposed to waltz through this fight with the ease a summer breeze blows through a field. Barroso was lumbering, inconsistent, and not powerful enough anywhere to land a fight changing shot… except maybe a groin kick.
- Fallout for Barroso: Right now, any UFC light heavyweight with a win under his belt deserves a round of applause. This division is laughably thin, so Barroso showing up and getting an upset win is great for him and should provide a few more interesting match-ups for the future.
- Fallout for Jimmo: The flip side of that, of course, is another UFC light heavyweight that can’t seem to buy a win. Part of me is totally unsold on the huge groin shot Jimmo took being the principal narrative of his loss, just because he essentially fought the same way he has in about 9/10ths of his pro career. The cup-check just seemed to take away what little steam there was to drive him to the split decision win instead.
K.J. Noons (+141) vs. Alex Oliveira (-166) (I picked Oliveira, I was right)
- The Expectation: It seemed logical that KJ Noons was going down in this fight, but I really expected it to come at the hands of Oliveiras, well… hands. Oliveira has shown a knack for being an accurate power puncher, but Noons had him outgunned. So, Oliveira just took him down and choked him out instead.
- Fallout for Noons: While there’s still some pop left in Noon’s fists, it has to be said that losing to Alex Oliveira was a big step down for the former Strikeforce title challenger. Other than getting robbed blind against Couture Jr., Noons has really only lost to elite fighters (at least since 2005). Oliveira has the potential to be a good fighter one day, but right now he’s raw. Noons losing so quickly suggests that he’s seriously lost a step from his prime.
- Fallout for Oliveira: This was a huge win for Oliveira and put on display that not only is he a promising physical talent, but he seems like a guy who may have a good head for the game too. He knew what Noons was going to try and do out there, and when he saw that he couldn’t beat Noons there, he went to Noon’s weak points and exploited them. Better fighters have failed. Even if Noons has lost a step, this was still a great win for Oliveira and may rocket him up the division.
Nik Lentz (+215) vs. Charles Oliveira (-260) (I picked Oliveira, I was right)
- The Expectation: Oliveira said, after the fight, that he was feeling really poorly, and basically gutted his way to the win. I might actually be willing to believe that (especially with his history of terrible weight cuts) because he did look really clunky at times in this fight. He still got the win, however, even as Lentz looked great early, but faded late yet again.
- Fallout for Lentz: He’s got some serious problems with his ability to fight longer than two rounds. Usually he’s able to gut out that last round, even while losing it, for a 29-28 UD, but against top tier fighters, that becomes a real liability. He was going tooth and nail with Oliveira until he faded late, and then Oliveira just poured it on and finished him. Tough to see him having any kind of top 10 run.
- Fallout for Oliveira: Oliveira has proven that he’s absolutely a top 10 talent and with his knack for submissions and some brutal standing strikes, he might just will his way into title contention (especially if there continues to be a lack of fresh challengers). I don’t think he’s consistent enough to stay near the top 5, but he’s a dangerous fighter for at least 15 minutes, and dynamic enough to be difficult to prepare for.
Thiago Alves (+280) vs. Carlos Condit (-350) (I picked Condit, I was right)
- The Expectation: Thiago Alves would be competitive early and get crushed as the fight went on. So… more or less exactly what happened.
- Fallout for Alves: And he wants to fight for six more years? Alves is still a technically sharp fighter with what seem to be most of his mental tools intact for thinking his way through a fight. But the body seems less willing and even in a fight he was doing well, he still walked away with a horrific looking injury. I expect he’ll be back, but I also expect we’re going to see him lose to lesser and lesser competition over the next few years.
- Fallout for Condit: I don’t know what to think. On the one hand, his second round was as good as, if not better than ever. Once he landed that nose crunching elbow, Condit went to work with a beautiful display of multi-level, multi-layered violence. It was fantastic. But for the first round, he also got hit a lot and missed wildly on most of his big strikes. I want to see him against another 15-6 ranked guy before I’m certain that he’s the same fighter as yesteryear.
Those are my collected thoughts from UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Alves. As is so often the case, most of what I wrote seems terribly obvious now, but that’s the benefit of hindsight. Stay tuned for next time, when I talk about Tim Boetsch and the terrible things he did to Dan Henderson. Until then!
*This week’s quote courtesy of the movie Murder My Sweet.
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