Tony Ferguson is a scary dude right now in the lightweight division. He dismantled Josh Thomson in a way that fans haven’t seen in years and was violence personified all over the Octagon at UFC Fight Night: Mir vs. Duffee. But that was just one fight in a long week of constant UFC action (the first half of which was covered here). We saw Frank Mir prove that Duffee really does lack the fundamentals, Kevin Lee show that he can finish guys at 155, and Lyman Good make the best possible first impression. Hell, Michael Bisping even showed up just to reassert his place as the ever-living gatekeeper to the elite at 185. Oh, and I went 16-8 on fight picks over two events.
Disclaimer Time: These cards sucked for smart betting choices. Even going a respectable (not great, but respectable) 16-8, I don’t think there was a whole lot of value to be had unless you just love chasing pick ’em fights with even odds. There were smart bets to be placed on Ilir Latifi (seriously at -220) and maybe Sicilia and Gamburyan, but I think I woulda lost my shirt on Todd Duffee and everything else feels like pure happenstance. Just not worth the chances. But, that’s why I don’t bet. Instead, I’m using odds as a way of marking fighter progress against expectations and pre-fight picks. I’m using Odds Shark for the odds on each fight and taking the mode for each fighter. Now, on to the fights!
UFC Fight Night: Mir vs. Duffee
Andrew Craig (+210) vs. Lyman Good (-270) (I picked Good, I was right)
The Expectation: This was a great debut fight for Good in that he had an opponent in front of him who really only presented a puncher’s chance of winning and a bad chin has never been one of Good’s problems. Good was the better wrestler, grappler, and striker coming in. Craig was willing to engage over and over again standing up and eventually got KO’d because of it.
Fallout for Craig: He sort of typifies my struggles to understand fighters that cut weight from middleweight to welterweight. They’re essentially going from a thinner division stacked with mediocre talent to the deepest talent pool in the UFC. Craig wasn’t a great athlete at 185, but he was solidly in line with the average. At 170, I think he’s just going to be out-classed every time out.
Fallout for Good: He’s got the UFC debut he needed. Coming in as a former Bellator champ and with a long career already under his belt, he’s gotta make a quick splash. Getting a big KO win is just the right entry, now hopefully the UFC can start pushing him up the ranks in a hurry, because there’s no reason to slow play a guy with his kind of experience.
Ildemar Alcantara (-135) vs. Kevin Casey (+115) (I picked Alcantara, I was wrong)
The Expectation: This fight was always going to be ugly for two rounds. The expectation was just that Alcantara would be ahead in those ugly rounds, not drowning on dry land under Kevin Casey. Yet, that’s where we found him as Casey took a pretty clear, god awful, decision.
Fallout for Alcantara: Alcantara has consistently regressed over his UFC career. It’s hard to think he ever got a kneebar over anyone. It’s even more difficult to imagine that he beat Albert Tumenov, but there we are. Alcantara has looked less capable in aggression and doubly so in his last two bouts. MW is still full of guys he can go win/loss against so I don’t know if he gets cut, but I’d rather not watch him try either way.
Fallout for Casey: Fans are gonna have to wait for the drug test results to know whether Casey really got his first UFC win yet. But unlike his last fight where he got a big early KO, this kind of plants him firmly in the pack of unexciting mid-tier middleweight talent. Fighters in that division are going to have to show a lot to separate themselves from the crowd and ugly wins like this don’t help.
Igor Araujo (+350) vs. Sean Strickland (-450) (I picked Strickland, I was right)
The Expectation: This was a tailor made fight for Sean Strickland to really showcase himself as a still live prospect at 170 lbs. Araujo is about the baseline at welterweight in terms of competition. And for the most part, Strickland did show up and put on a show… for the most part. Eventually it felt like he coasted out a win in a fight he had handled and that’s not a terribly exciting way to make a mark.
Fallout for Araujo: After starting 2-0 in the UFC, Araujo is now 2-2 and has looked almost utterly overwhelmed in each of his last two bouts. Granted Sullivan and Strickland are both capable fighters that have shown the ability to deliver some real violence. But, at 34 and with more than a decade of fighting to his name already, Araujo isn’t in position to do long term development in the UFC.
Fallout for Strickland: This kind of ended up being a holding pattern win for Strickland. Outside of a quick submission over Bubba McDaniel, he’s shown flashes of promise, but not much to get fans really excited about. It almost looked like he was going to blitz Araujo out of the building, but when he couldn’t get the quick finish, delivered a controlled and somewhat dull two rounds of range jabbing. Strickland is still a fighter on the rise, but this doesn’t give much answer as to how high.
Masanori Kanehara (-130) vs. Rani Yahya (+100) (I picked Kanehara, I was sorta wrong)
The Expectation: I mean, this fight went more or less how I thought it would, just with less effective offense from Kanehara. He’s an experienced enough grappler that it seemed unlikely that Yahya would submit him, it’s just unfortunate that his upright striking stance makes him somewhat easy pickings for an opponent only really looking to take him down. I think there’s a solid argument to be made that Kanehara won the fight, but not so solid that I’m surprised by the decision.
Fallout for Kanehara: Unfortunately for him this loss kind of undoes all the work that a surprising debut win over Caceres got him. He jumped right into the UFC and established himself as a fringe top 15 talent. Losing to Yahya marks him as more of a competitive mid-tier gatekeeper; someone that can take the tough fights and win as often as he loses. Not someone who is about to go on a serious tear.
Fallout for Yahya: Talk about your backhanded wins. Yahya got the W, but not in any way that’s going to make people excited to watch him fight in the future. He was dedicated to trying to make his takedown game happen, almost to desperate measures. It makes him a more effective striker than his winging punches would make you think, but it’s pretty clear that takedowns are plan A, B, & C. It’s a limited game to have as much success as he’s had, but it feels like he got away with one here.
Jessica Andrade (-500) vs. Sarah Moras (+425) (I picked Andrade, I was right)
The Expectation: This was a big proving fight for Jessica Andrade, even if it’s a fight she should have been expected to win every day. Moras is tough and willing to scrap it out, so it was on Andrade to rely on her skills and physical tools to get her the win. For the most part, she did that admirably.
Fallout for Andrade: She looked much more in control in this fight than she did in her last, when she gave up an early triangle choke to Marion Reneau after planting her on the mat with standing strikes. This time, Andrade rarely followed Moras to the ground and only at the very end did she give up the bad submission position that Moras had been hunting for all fight. That’s better. Not perfect, but better. In the mean time, Andrade is still one of the better young physical talents in the division, she just needs to keep winning fights.
Fallout for Moras: Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall a bit for Moras after her surprising decision win over Alexis Dufresne. Dufresne has since shown herself as a sub-par talent and any dap Moras got for beating her has now flown the coop with this outing. She just seems like a fighter trying to get her physical tools in order in the UFC, while also progressing her skills. That’s a tough place to be in, but women’s bantamweight is about as good a place as any to have to do it.
Yaotzin Meza (+215) vs. Sam Sicilia (-260) (I picked Sicilia, I was right)
The Expectation: If ever there’s a good way to show that this fight was something of a stylistic layup for Sam Sicilia it’d be that Sicilia effectively took the fight to Meza in the only place Meza was likely to win it and still came away with the victory. Meza’s only potential advantage was in the transition grappling and wrestling and Sicilia spent most of the fight on the mat out working Meza and taking rounds.
Fallout for Meza: I always feel a little bad for fighters who keep improving in their time with the UFC, only to constantly run up against the fact that they had a lot of improving to do. Meza looked like a much better striker than he had in previous outings, but still got clearly decisioned by Sicilia here. I don’t know that he gets cut after this loss, but it’s hard to pick him over many fighters in his division, even with his improvements.
Fallout for Sicilia: This was probably the weirdest fight of Sicilia’s career. He’s mostly been a brick-fisted brawler over his UFC tenure and that seemed like the clear path to victory against Meza. Instead he went full no-gi grappling mode and still got a win, but put himself in as much danger as possible to get there. Some people wondered if he was sick, other’s if he was injured. I’m not sure, but it’ll be interesting to see how he looks next time because this was a strange performance all around.
Alan Jouban (-550) vs. Matt Dwyer (+425) (I picked Jouban, I was kinda right)
The Expectation: I’ll admit, I had a few minor doubts that Alan Jouban wouldn’t win this. And honestly, the odds for him getting the win were insanely optimistic. Jouban has some nice skills and is a good athlete, but his style is pretty high risk. And against big, powerful fighters like Dwyer that risk can be pretty significant. Still, he at least made good as the betting favorite and got a win that I was almost certain would be scored a draw.
Fallout for Jouban: In the cosmic sense, Jouban got the win he deserved. He put together the much more complete, convincing performance against Dwyer and it’s a win that he should get (even with an illegal knee), so I’m not terribly concerned with the fact that I didn’t score it that way. Otherwise, Jouban is showing himself to be a really fun mid-level action fighter. He can do some fantastic stuff in the cage, but he also takes a lot of damage and puts himself at a lot of risk, probably too much to go all the way to a rankings slot.
Fallout for Dwyer: Dwyer is going to have a tough go of things over his UFC run. He is definitely improving from his UFC debut, but when he came in, he was basically a big aggressive fighter with very few actual skills. Two opponents have made him pay badly for that, even as his striking improves. Especially troubling is how quickly Jouban hurt him to the body. Dwyer is a big target, if he’s not an incredibly durable one, his UFC career may not be long.
Kevin Lee (-300) vs. James Moontasri (+280) (I Picked Lee, I was right)
The Expectation: I thought that with a little care and perseverance, Kevin Lee could ride out a solid decision victory, especially if he was willing to drag Moontasri into an ugly cage grappling, top control heavy performance. Instead, Lee blew the doors off Moontasri and showed that he’s really upping his game as a top prospect at 155 lbs.
Fallout for Lee: This was a shockingly dominant win for Lee, the first stoppage in his UFC career. It’s something that he’s been building quietly towards, but it now looks like he’s at the point where the low end of 155 is just not going to hang with him in the cage at all. That’s exactly where he should be as a prospect on the rise. Now all that remains to be seen is whether he can fast track his way to a spot in the rankings, or whether he’ll falter on his way to the top.
Fallout for Moontasri: It’s not so much that Moontasri needed to beat Kevin Lee to keep his status as a fighter to watch out for, but he had to show up and compete. Instead, Lee just ran Moontasri over and at this point it seems like the UFC is going to have to bring him along incredibly slowly if they want him to be more than under-card filler. He’s got some decent striking skills and he’s a good athlete, but too many parts of a complete MMA game are missing.
Manny Gamburyan (-190) vs. Scott Jorgensen (+170) (I picked Gamburyan, I was right)
The Expectation: This was all set to be a good fun fight, one that Gamburyan was primed to win, but a good fight none the less. That’s exactly how it turned out and honestly it’d be nice to see the UFC continue booking some of their more veteran talent in these kinds of crowd pleasing match-ups.
Fallout for Gamburyan: He got the win he was supposed to get and even looked pretty decent doing it. Bantamweight has a bunch of fighters sitting around the top of the division treading water, I’d love to see Gamburyan fight Eddie Wineland, Johnny Eduardo, or even Takeya Mizugaki and George Roop. Fun fights against fighters that just aren’t really going anywhere.
Fallout for Jorgensen: This was probably the end of the road for Scott Jorgensen in the UFC. It’s too bad, as he seems like an honestly really good dude, but he doesn’t seem to be presenting much dangerous offense at this point. Fighters are walking through his strikes and out working him on the mat, under those circumstances it’s hard to have a career in the UFC.
Holly Holm (-250) vs. Marion Reneau (+210) (I picked Reneau, I was wrong)
The Expectation: This was an all around disappointment if you, like me, expected to see Marion Reneau take some part of Holm home with her. Conversely, if that expectation proved false, I assumed it would be because Holm really stepped up against a serious challenger and won a hard fight that would put some shine on her as a top prospect. Instead we got neither. Reneau didn’t show up at all and Holm walked through the bout like it was a sparring session.
Fallout for Holm: It wasn’t half as bad as a loss would have been for Holm, but it wasn’t good. For a fighter billed as (and with the background of) a striking savant, she had a sitting target in front of her and for 95% of the fight got absolutely nothing done. Holm wasn’t challenged on any level against Reneau, but struggled to pull the trigger in any meaningful way. I still think she can be a great fighter at her peak in two or three years, but it’s likely she’s fighting Ronda before then and losing badly.
Fallout for Reneau: I don’t know what happened to her in the cage against Holly Holm, but it was bad. Or rather, I think I know what happened, and that’s worse. In seeing Reneau take out Andrade I think many fans created a pleasant fiction of her as an aggressive balls out power punching athletic grappler. Rather than the gunshy range striker with no wrestling that we’ve actually seen to date. She showed up looking to out kickbox Holly Holm, something she didn’t have a chance in hell of doing, and lost a totally ineffective fight because of it. That’s a major stumbling block if she can’t get better prepared going forward.
Tony Ferguson (-280) vs. Josh Thomson (+230) (I picked Ferguson, I was right)
The Expectation: Picking Ferguson, for me, went hand in hand with picking Duffee. Both guys have shown flaws, but both guys are also prime talent facing aging veterans. In the case of Ferguson, he showed exactly what that is supposed to mean by dominating Thomson pillar to post, even while being hittable and inconsistent. That’s how MMA works. At some point in a fighters career their game clicks and if they’re talented enough, very few people are going to beat them.
Fallout for Ferguson: He’s very obviously a fighter in his prime. He still opens himself up to risks by not being a controlling enough fighter in dominant positions and by have major holes in his striking defense, but Ferguson is tough, well rounded, powerful, and dangerous everywhere. That and he’s a certifiable ninja, so refs better be on the lookout for smoke bombs, throwing stars, and wushu wires. I expect to see Ferguson bidding for a top 5 slot soon.
Fallout for Thomson: By a similar token this is probably where Thomson makes his exit as a top ten fighter in the UFC. He’s won two fights in his last seven. And while you could argue that he beat Melendez, Green, and Henderson, I’d argue that he’s slowly been producing less and less effective offense over time. There’s no hair splitting here though. Ferguson trounced Thomson and at this point I’d be surprised if Thomson claws his way back into the top 10.
Todd Duffee (-190) vs. Frank Mir (+155) (I picked Duffee, I was wrong)
The Expectation: Duffee was supposed to melt Mir in the opening minutes and keep himself from getting submitted. Instead, he got melted and proved that heavyweight is a crazy land that no one should take too seriously. Like I said, Ferguson and Duffee were supposed to be on similar wavelengths, but Duffee failed the test and failed it hard.
Fallout for Duffee: Up until this point, I’d say that Duffee has quietly remained one of HWs top prospects. He’d only lost twice. Once in a fight he was dominating, over human weeble Mike Russow and once to the ever dangerous and mercurial Alistair Overeem. If he could keep his cardio in control and improve his skills, there’s no reason he couldn’t be a top fighter somewhere down the road. In some ways, we are down the road now. And I have no idea where Duffee’s cardio is, but he’s not showing himself to be more skilled. HW is bananas. In 5 years Duffee could be a title challenger for all I know. But right now, he seems like just another coulda’ been int he long history of heavyweight disappointments.
Fallout for Mir: Frank Mir just seems like he’s going to be Frank Mir forever. As many times as he loses and as bad as he looks losing, he manages to win just the right fights at just the right time to keep himself viable and relevant in the division. Duffee still nearly took his head off, despite Mir’s improved boxing (and it was improved), but heavyweight is an old man’s division and Mir seems to be intent on keeping his name in the hat of premiere 265 lb talents.
UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Leites
Chris De La Rocha (+120) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (-140) (I picked Omielanczuk, I was right)
The Expectation: It’s easy to say Daniel Omielanczuk should win this fight, especially considering how little trouble De La Rocha ended up giving him. But there’s a reason the odds were as close as they were and it’s because it’s heavyweight, where predictable MMA goes to die. Still every now and then the violence gods throw us a bone and make the world work the way it’s supposed to. And on that day, Daniel Omielanczuk walks through Chris De La Rocha.
Fallout for De La Rocha: He’s entered the UFC with a bad loss, I guess that makes him an official heavyweight now. Where he goes from here is kind of on him. He’s not a young fighter and he doesn’t have a lot of experience, so he’s going to be under a lot of pressure to whip his skill level into competitive shape in a hurry. I’m not at all sure yet whether he can do that or not.
Fallout for Omielanczuk: At this point this is a meaningful, meaningless win. Meaningful in that Omielanczuk needed to prove he could beat someone other than dudes named Nandor. Meaningless in that that’s about all he did, prove he could beat someone not named Nandor. How well he’ll do taking another step back up the heavyweight ladder is anyone’s guess.
Marcus Brimage (+120) vs. Jimmie Rivera (-140) (I think I picked Brimage, that was wrong)
The Expectation: This card was hard as hell to pick, and perhaps no fight more so than this one. Gauging just where Marcus Brimage is at in his career right now has been a real challenge. When faced with mediocre competition he’s done well (beating Blanco, Hettes, and arguably Doane). But when he’s faced some real blue chip prospects, he’s lost hard. I wasn’t sure that Rivera was that prospect, but he proved himself to be right there.
Fallout for Brimage: His time in the UFC may be over. Going 1-4 in his last 5 probably isn’t going to buy him a lot more chances. But, I feel for the guy. He has made real, marked improvement over his UFC career, but as his striking has improved, it’s opened him up to taking more damage from heavy hitters. And that means he’s getting KO’d. Rough place to be when entering the prime of your MMA career.
Fallout for Rivera: Rivera’s game has clicked together at just the right moment to enter the UFC. Since he’s never been a fantastically consistent wrestler, a lot of Rivera’s game was based around being a physically dominating brawler. Not a big KO threat, but a guy who would wear you down and beat you up for 15 minutes. Time, however, is a great teacher in MMA and it looks like consistent work on his boxing has really paid off to the point that he’s now entering Zuffa’s umbrella as a rock solid, smooth power puncher who can fight hard for 15 minutes. I expect him to be in the top 10 conversation really quickly.
Paul Redmond (+127) vs. Robert Whiteford (-149) (I picked Redmond, I was wrong)
The Expectation: I put my faith in Redmond because I thought he was the more technical fighter everywhere outside the clinch. He had the more polished striking game, the more aggressive grappling game and neither man was known as a picture of consistent wrestling ability. For as long as the fight lasted, I think Redmond did show he was the better man. But, Whiteford was faster, stronger, and hit harder. Sometimes, that’s all that counts.
Fallout for Redmond: Kind of like Brimage before him, as Redmond has become a more aggressive, polished fighter, he’s opened up some real holes in his game. The Bektic fight is just the cost of running into a better talent, but he had the skill to take Whiteford, just not the durability. That’s going to be a tough problem to fix in a division full of powerful, dynamic athletes.
Fallout for Whiteford: His skills need a lot of work, but right now, Whiteford looks like he’s carving out a spot for himself in that Sam Sicilia brawler mold. He’s a good athlete with a nice inside Judo game and the fast twitch muscle to even the score against more technical competition. There’s a ceiling on that skill set, but winning early fights is a great way to make sure he gets the time to reach that ceiling.
Mickael Lebout (+120) vs. Teemu Packalen (-140) (I picked Lebout, I was right)
The Expectation: In an even fight between two well rounded contestants, it’s usually a good idea to pick the guy who didn’t come in on short notice. Not always, but usually. Especially considering that over his career, Lebout has shown himself to be a very tough fighter and a strong defensive grappler. When Packalen came out saying he wanted to take Lebout down and get the sub, that immediately reinforced the idea that this was Lebout’s fight to lose. It wasn’t a stellar display of skill, but he got the job done.
Fallout for Lebout: I doubt seriously that he ever becomes more than a mid-card action fighter, but Lebout has an evolving collection of skills that will regularly make him a tough test for other rising talent. He’s durable, he’s active, he’s a better wrestler than you’d expect, and a capable fighter in the scramble. That’s probably not enough to overcome the fact that he’s not a stellar athlete, but he can definitely make a home for himself in the UFC.
Fallout for Packalen: Even off a loss I feel comfortable saying Packalen’s ceiling is reasonably higher. I could even see him as a ranked fighter someday, if all the chips fall into place. He’s a more powerful striker and more natural athlete than Lebout, and a pretty decent wrestler/grappler when he’s got a full camp under him. This was a rough debut to make on short notice, but if Packalen can get good training camps in I think he could improve rapidly.
Ilir Latifi (-230) vs. Hans Stringer (+190) (I picked Latifi, I was right)
The Expectation: Latifi by destruction, round 1. The man knows how to put the hammer down on LHW pretenders.
Fallout for Latifi: There’s still some promise for Latifi as a top ten LHW and that’s very important for the division. 205 needs fresh match-ups, fighters that can legitimately take on top 5-10 competition and if not win, compete. Latifi has the physical tools to do that, but he has to keep winning fights, so getting this one was important.
Fallout for Stringer: What happens when you start fighting as a pro at 18? You might just have 32 fights and a career’s worth of damage under your belt by 28. Stringer may be getting better technically, training with the Blackzilians, but he’s not nearly fast or technical enough to make up for the durability he lacks. LHW division isn’t going to give him much breathing room to change that.
Paddy Holohan (-150) vs. Vaughan Lee (+115) (I picked Lee, I was wrong)
The Expectation: Not surprised Holohan was the favorite, he has more cache with the MMA public right now. But, I really thought Lee would give him a hard fight with some reasonably technical boxing and excellent ground scrambling. Unfortunately, Lee didn’t at all. He kept Holohan from getting the finish, but that’s about all you can say for a fighter willing to give up rounds in bad positions and get outworked with volume on the feet.
Fallout for Holohan: He’s still winning and much like he’s teammate Cathal Pendred (until recently), I’m not exactly sure how. His game is wild and unstructured, but he’s gotten just the right match-ups to make that work. Fighters who can match his aggression are mostly going to give him fits I think; Chris Kelades didn’t have much trouble beating him. But, guys who give him lots of space and time to work are probably going to get overwhelmed by his constant pressure and throw anything at any time offense.
Fallout for Lee: I’ve kind of held a candle for Lee for a while now, and I’m really not sure why. He looked great against Nam Phan, but so has literally every UFC fighter Nam Phan fought. Otherwise he’s always seemed to take the hardest route to victory and this time there weren’t many excuses. I seriously doubt Lee succeeds at flyweight considering how slow and tired he looked. That’s not a division that favors anything other than the fastest and most aggressive athletes.
Leonardo Mafra (+175) vs. Steven Ray (-220) (I picked Ray, I was right)
The Expectation: I’ll admit, I wanted Ray to win this fight more than I was 100% sure he would. I knew the odds were best that this was going to end early and violent and that Ray had an even chance to win that battle. And if it went longer than five minutes, Ray was the much more well rounded, better conditioned fighter. So, he was the safer pick. Still, it was good to see him show off his power in the early firefight and put Mafra away.
Fallout for Mafra: This is a harsh wake up call in that, despite all his improvements (and Mafra has definitely improved) he still had a fighter march right in on him and beat him at his own game. And it’s not even an established name fighter. I do think Ray’s a special talent and not everyone can do what he just did, but if you’re Mafra, this may be a major back-to-the-drawing-board moment.
Fallout for Ray: This is a great legitimizing win for Ray as Mafra was a big athletic step up from Marcin Bandel. This fight showed that Ray isn’t just beating the stylistic layups placed in front of him, but is able to beat guys that do the things he does well. Mafra is a fast, powerful, and reasonably technical kickboxer, blowing the doors of him suggests that Ray may have a serious run in him.
Leon Edwards (-400) vs. Pawel Pawlak (+325) (I picked Edwards, I was right)
The Expectation: Remember that head kick that flattened Pawlak and just about closed the show for Edwards? I was kind of expecting a lot more of that. Pawlak to his credit showed his toughness and aggressive streak and kept Edwards from styling on him completely, but still lost a pretty straightforward decision.
Fallout for Edwards: He’s a great talent in the making. This wasn’t quite the showcase I’d hoped for, but he still easily handled Pawlak and took advantage of his opportunities. His willingness to clinch and engage Pawlak inside was a little troubling, but he didn’t get beat up there, just slowed the fight down for himself. Nothing bad to take away from this fight, just no major hype points either.
Fallout for Pawlak: He’s facing a severe athleticism deficit in the UFC. He overcame it against Westcott because Westcott got tired and burnt himself out, but craftier fighters like Edwards are going to handle him. To Pawlak’s credit, he’s tough, aggressive, and throws hard. I think he’ll get wins, but moving up the ranks is going to be a real chore.
Joanne Calderwood (-230) vs. Cortney Casey (+190) (I picked Calderwood, I was right)
The Expectation: There were no good expectations to have for this fight. Calderwood had to be the favorite. She wasn’t coming in on short notice, she didn’t have to travel, and she had way way more experience and skill. But, it also sounded like her head wasn’t in the fight and after her last time out it seemed totally reasonable to think she just might not show up. She almost got run over early, but recovered, battled back, and took a dominant decision.
Fallout for Calderwood: She’s back in the conversation as a potential future title challenger, and she’s answered a few (but not all) questions on the way. Calderwood looked incredibly gunshy coming out of the gate again in a way that more technical, power punching fighters are going to eat her up for. But it’s not like she’s not durable, technical, or able to rally from adversity, so it may just be a question of recovering her comfort level and improving her camp situation to propel her to success in bigger fights, or it could be a problem that permanently caps her from reaching consistent top 5 status.
Fallout for Casey: She’s young in the sport and raw as a prospect, but she showed up for this fight on short notice and proved that she has the basic power mechanics and aggressive game to make herself a troubling matchup for other fighters in her division. Strawweight is fast becoming a division that favors athletes over all else and Casey looks like she might have the physical tools to stay afloat until her technical game catches up. But, if she gets thrown at more established vets, that may not be the case.
Joseph Duffy (-1000) vs. Ivan Jorge (+600) (I picked Duffy, I was right)
The Expectation: Duffy was going to work Jorge over something fierce. I assumed it would be a quick knockout against a willing-but-not-technical striker in Jorge. Instead, Duffy was more than happy to meet Jorge on his first takedown attempt and submit him with a nifty triangle. That’s almost a bigger slap in the face than… well.. a slap in the face. Duffy looked outstanding.
Fallout for Duffy: He’s a dangerous fighter and he’s already a pretty fully developed one. Honestly he reminds me a lot of Tony Ferguson and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go through a similar rise to the top 10 of the division, at which point his striking defense and wrestling will probably become somewhat bigger questions. But that’s all for a future article.
Fallout for Jorge: It’s unfortunate that the Brazilian-BJJ-grappler-who-strikes-instead-of-grappling is such a recognizable archetype in MMA. By all accounts, Jorge has been a pretty good fighter over his career. When he didn’t have to worry about out-wrestling competition, he was a submission machine. But, now that he’s in the UFC and has to really work for his takedowns, he’s become less exciting, more predictable, and eventually much, much less dangerous.
Evan Dunham (+200) vs. Ross Pearson (-240) (I picked Pearson, I was wrong)
The Expectation: My bet (along with, it appears, the bet of the people) was that Pearson would be able to crack Dunham enough in the pocket to scare Dunham into playing an awkward range striking game where he would let Pearson move in on him and dominate the pace of the fight. It seemed right at the time, even if it seems much more obvious now that Dunham would use his clinch/grind advantage to tie Pearson up inside and drag him into deep water over and over again, but that’s what hindsight is all about.
Fallout for Dunham: He’s slowly but surely re-introducing himself to MMA fans as a gatekeeper to the top 15. At one point considered a top prospect with ranking aspirations and maybe even a title shot, his career kind of went off the rails right at it’s peak, with some questionable decisions and some straight forward beatings. The losses somewhat clouded the fact that Dunham has improved his game, shored up his holes and seems to have a better idea now than ever how he wants to fight in the cage. I don’t think he has the raw tools to be a top 10 fighter, but he can probably hang out right around 15 for a while.
Fallout for Pearson: In that same mold, this is kind of exactly why Pearson is hanging out around the fringes of the top 15, rather than jumping up the division. For as skilled as he is in one area and for as well as he knows how he wants to fight, he’s just not fast enough to implement his game all the time or varied enough to establish a clear plan B. Dunham never gave him the space to get out of the pocket and re-set and tied him up the moment he moved in close. Pearson can still beat guys, but the ways of beating him are pretty clear.
Michael Bisping (-140) vs. Thales Leites (+110) (I picked Bisping, I was right-ish)
The Expectation: This fight couldn’t have gone more to script if I’d written it myself. Bisping may not be the hardest puncher, best wrestler, or most exciting grappler out there, but in a division like middleweight he shines behind high output, good cardio, and durability. To beat him you have to either control him constantly or blast him quickly. For all his improvements, Leites could do neither.
Fallout for Bisping: It’s pretty shocking just how long Bisping has maintained his grip on a spot in the top of the 185 lb division. His not-so-quiet consistency is a sort of monument to fulfilling (and even surpassing) your potential as a fighter. He fights to his strengths in every fight, rarely wavers from his game plan, and forces opponents to beat him on his terms. Most can’t, plain and simple. At some point he’ll fall off and he’s quietly gone from being borderline top 5 to borderline top 10, but in the meantime he’ll probably win two out of every three UFC bouts he takes.
Fallout for Leites: He had to win this fight, plain and simple. Bisping was the clearest and easiest access point to the top ten for Thales Leites. A fighter who really isn’t that dangerous and would need to beat him for 5 rounds to get a win. And Leites couldn’t handle it, couldn’t meet the pressure. Even if he didn’t take a bad loss, there was nothing in that performance that suggests a fighter who could make a real charge toward a second title shot. That’s too bad considering how much Leites has revamped his game, but that’s classically the role Bisping has fulfilled.
Those are my collected thoughts from the latter half of a big week 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 week, when I’ll be talking about how T.J. Dillashaw is still champion and people just aren’t that into it. Until then!
*This week’s quote from the movie Coup de Torchon.