Yeah, I know. I’m late by forever and a day. But sometimes that’s just the way these things go. And with a double header of an article staring me in the face, finding the time to pour into it was a little rough. Still, all excuses aside, there’s a ton to talk about from the past couple weeks of fights. I was wrong a lot, and I mean a lot a lot. And when I’m wrong that much, that means I’ve got some serious soul searching to do and some answers to find. Which is what I’m trying to do here.
Disclaimer Time: So, I went 12-12-1 over these two events. That’s not great. In fact, it’s pretty bad. Almost all of that is from the Hendricks vs. Thompson fight night, which felt like an exceptionally weird event to me. But that may just be because I was wrong so much. All of this is to say that I don’t gamble. Odds and fight picks are a way for me to track progress and understand sporting narratives over time, not a way for me to figure out how to make money on MMA, because I’d probably be pretty bad at that. I’m using OddsShark for the odds on each fight and taking the mode for each fighter. So, let’s get to the fights!
UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Bader
Tony Martin (-160) vs. Felipe Olivieri (+135) (I picked Olivieri, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Everything in the UFC has seemed like too much too soon for Tony Martin. He has a lot of the raw tools to be a good, interesting fighter, but they’re wrapped around a limited skill set that has a ton of evolving to do. As such, this felt like the perfect setup for something of an old hand on the regional scene to come in and get a solid entry win to the UFC. Olivieri did his part and forced Martin out of the grappling game, but then lost the striking game handily.
- Fallout for Martin: He’s not exactly “proven” after this fight, but he did show that, when stripped of his primary offensive tools, this time around he had a backup plan. Martin wasn’t able to keep Olivieri down or dominate him on the mat, and took some damage standing in round 1. But once he dispossessed himself of the idea that he had to grapple to win, he pretty firmly out struck and outworked Olivieri at range. That at least suggests that a few of his cardio problems are under control and that he’s figuring out how to adjust when things go wrong.
- Fallout for Olivieri: On the other hand, this ended up being about the worst possible debut for Olivieri. As fighter who cut his teeth as a power punching striker, for him to lose a stand-up battle to Tony Martin tells me he won’t be around long. In part that may be because his cardio looked pretty poor (which he could probably fix) but also because he’s not a great boxer and an especially poor defensive striker (which he probably can’t fix). Martin didn’t do anything revolutionary, but just by having a consistent punching attack was able to shut down a lot of Olivieri’s game.
Levan Makashvili (-325) vs. Damon Jackson (+265) (I picked Makashvili, I was sorta right)
- The Expectation: I don’t know if I would say I expected this fight to look the way it did. Jackson suprised a bit with a more aggressive striking game than Makashvili appeared ready to deal with. Still Makashavili stifled most of his grappling offense, avoided most of his punches, and landed the best shots of the fight… and then fouled himself into a draw.
- Fallout for Makashvili: He’s not defensively sound enough to fight at the pace he does. He’s a low output fighter in a world that favors high output brawlers. And, it looks like, when the going gets tough, he gets sloppy. That’s definitely something to watch in the future as he could be the type of fighter very prone to fight changing fouls.
- Fallout for Jackson: A draw may be as good as a win here, in terms of keeping his job. Just because it’s not the kind of result that usually sees fighters get cut, and Jackson is walking that tightrope. Otherwise, he seems to be working to overcome a lack of physical edge through pure aggression. Makashvili was the right kind of opponent to make that a good strategy, but I’m not sure it will go as well against more seasoned vets.
Randy Brown (-145) vs. Matt Dwyer (+125) (I picked Brown, I was right)
- The Expectation: I thought that Brown might KO him early. If I’m being really honest, I thought that if Brown didn’t KO him early, he was probably going to get worked over by Dwyer and have all hype removed. Instead, he got worked over early, then dug deep and changed his approach to fight his way for a tough earned win.
- Fallout for Brown: This is probably the best result he could have gotten. A flashy KO and the UFC might have fast tracked him. A loss, and he’d have been derailed without a fraction of that Northcutt hype talk. Instead, he fought hard for multiple rounds, adapted to a tough fight, and showed a lot of promise doing it. Brown may be a very very bright future talent in the UFC.
- Fallout for Dwyer: A loss to Albert Tumenov was predictable, one to Alan Jouban was understandable… this just kinda sucks. Matt Dwyer is big and tough, and he has the scrappy attitude a fighter needs, but he just doesn’t seem to have the depth of skill (and perhaps the athletic ability) to survive in a division as deep as welterweight. Brown is a great physical talent, but he’s not a great technical one, and he was still able to come back from a bad first round and put it on Dwyer. I’m not sure what that leaves for the Canadian going forward.
Alex Caceres (-290) vs. Masio Fullen (+240) (I picked Caceres, I was right)
- The Expectation: This fight, on the other hand, went exactly as planned. It’s easy to say so now, but it wasn’t hard to see Caceres being the more fluid, more dangerous, and more consistent version of everything that Fullen was trying to do. And given that Fullen is hardly a KO artist, it seemed exceptionally unlikely that he’d beat Caceres on points, or by submission.
- Fallout for Caceres: He looked great in his return to featherweight against an opponent made to make him look great. It’s not a fantastic sign that big things are ahead for him, but it’s very good to see him not struggle in a fight he’s not supposed to struggle with.
- Fallout for Fullen: He’s not a UFC level fighter. That means less and less these days, but so far, against mid-grade featherweights, he hasn’t looked close to competitive. And this isn’t somebody a year or two into their career. Fullen is a longtime vet. He’s most likely the fighter he’s going to be in the UFC. And at the moment, that appears to be a stepping stone for other guys in need of a push.
Alexander Yakovlev (-110) vs. George Sullivan (-115) (I picked Sullivan, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: And right back again. Color me shocked to hell by this fight. I expected Yakovlev to search for the clinch and generally not find it while Sullivan landed power shots from outside and more or less just muscled Yakvolev off him. I mean, other than a seemingly shot Gray Maynard, who has Yakovlev really just schooled? Even his performance against Paul Daley was mostly a wall-n-stall clinic. And yet, Yakovlev did school Sullivan, everywhere; slamming him to the mat every time he closed distance, before KOing him late in round 1.
- Fallout for Yakovlev: I had originally pegged him as a high level gatekeeper for the UFC WW division, just for the pure technical depth of his game, but I’d revised that lower after his loss to Nico Musoke. Now I’m wondering if that’s not still in the cards. He’s an amazingly technical wrestler when he gets the chance, and has shown steady improvement in his boxing (which was always sharp but lacked pop). Since he seems to be getting more comfortable with the US MMA game, I could see him being a sneaky tough fight for a lot of the division. Time isn’t on his side for a long run, but he could be good for a short while.
- Fallout for Sullivan: Sullivan’s trademarks coming up to the UFC were his pace, grit, and power. He may not have been a big one punch guy, but he was someone that would go after opponents with power shots minute after minute, round after round, wearing them down. Against lower level UFC opposition, that was enough to get him wins. But, as he’s faced more technical fighters, he’s fallen way short of the mark. Unless he makes serious improvements, I wouldn’t be surprised if his UFC stint ended early. Especially if he keeps fighting experienced opposition.
Wilson Reis (+210) vs. Dustin Ortiz (-275) (I picked Ortiz, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: This is probably going to be a bit of a theme, but there are some fights I just don’t see coming. I get that any fool who depends on pedigree for analysis could tell you that Wilson Reis was a better grappler than Dustin Ortiz and would probably out-grapple him. But having seen Reis get out grappled and seen Ortiz compete well on the mat, I was less than sure of that outcome. Add to that that Ortiz’s hands have been reasonable (if not powerful) weapons, and that Reis has had problems standing and trading with opponents, and I saw a recipe for a competitive Ortiz victory. Instead Reis put on the performance of his career and dominated Ortiz everywhere.
- Fallout for Reis: I’ve been less than impressed by Wilson Reis in the UFC, until now. That’s not to say he didn’t obviously deserve to be there, he definitely did. But, a scrappy decision over Joby Sanchez isn’t exactly the kind of stuff title challengers are made of. This fight changes that a bit. I don’t think Reis has ever looked better than he did against Ortiz here. he landed the better shots striking and was several steps ahead of Ortiz on the mat. If he’s hitting his stride right now in the cage, the UFC would be wise to push him up the ladder and see how far he can go.
- Fallout for Ortiz: On the flip side, this is the worst I can remember Dustin Ortiz looking in quite some time. He didn’t seem prepared for Reis’ speed or power standing and his striking broke down to entirely too predictable jab-cross entries as a result. He ended up being both ineffective striking and grappling and got thoroughly handled by a guy he was supposed to compete well with and (according to the odds) handily beat. It’s a bad sign if he hopes to eventually turn the corner from gatekeeper to contender.
Rafael Natal (-180) vs. Kevin Casey (+155) (I picked Natal, I was right)
- The Expectation: Natal was going to outwork Casey to a dull as dishwater decision. And he didn’t, mostly!
- Fallout for Natal: At some point it’s hard to deny the idea of Rafael Natal as a top 15 middleweight. Pretty? No. Fun? Not always. But big and tough and etc, etc (you know the drill by now). He’s just a really hard guy to get a win over for most fighters at 185. It was good to see him eventually get a finish in this fight, since he had Casey pretty clearly outclassed, but I don’t know that it means much overall.
- Fallout for Casey: He seems like he’s absolutely primed to keep the gates at the bottom of the 185 division. He’s experienced enough and a good enough athlete to crush raw fighters who aren’t ready for the UFC, but he doesn’t have the cardio or the technical depth outside of BJJ to compete with really tough middleweights. No shame in that, but it’s hard to see him exceeding it.
Carlos Diego Ferreira (+200) vs. Olivier Aubin Mercier (-260) (I picked CDF, I was right)
- The Expectation: I realize OAM was the hot hand going in here, and I was fully prepared to be dead wrong when I predicted him to lose… But instead I was absolutely 100% right and now get to gloat like crazy. OAM’s best skill is his takedown ability. It’s not his grappling, and it’s clearly not his striking. Against someone like CDF who didn’t care about being taken down, his chances of winning were really heavily reliant on athletic advantage. It just wasn’t there.
- Fallout for CDF: This fight regains him a lot of the momentum he lost after a couple of crushing back to back losses. It’s clear now that those losses were to some of the cream of the crop at 155, and that we shouldn’t take too much away from them, except that at the very least you need to out-strike Ferreira to really break down his game. That could change overtime, but for now he’s at least reestablished the idea that mid-tier guys need to look out for him.
- Fallout for OAM: Maybe he’s a lot further back in the pack than he seemed. This was his first real test against a grappler of any quality and he fell short. Considering he’s not a striker, that puts him in a tricky place of having to match up with either pure strikers or pure wrestlers in order to get wins. His wins are all over guys who pretty much just wanted to throw hands with him, and there’s never a shortage of those in the UFC, but as he moves up the ranks, those kinds of fighters become rare in a hurry.
Tarec Saffiedine (-259) vs. Jake Ellenberger (+214) (I picked Saffiedine, I was right)
- The Expectation: Saffiedine was going to breeze past Jake Ellenberger, maybe even KO him.
- Fallout for Saffiedine: He didn’t KO Ellenberger, and arguably, he didn’t breeze past him either. He clearly won the fight and every round of it, but every time Ellenberger actually put some punches together he was able to do some damage. I’m still not 100% convinced Saffiedine is a legit elite fighter at welterweight. he’s never consistently beat top level competition and his long injury stretches mean that he’s still relatively untested against the current UFC division. This didn’t answer many questions.
- Fallout for Ellenberger: Even an Ellenberger who no longer looks like he’s crumbling on the first hard shot he’s hit with wasn’t good enough to do much more than survive against Tarec Saffiedine here. And it’s pretty clear that Jake just isn’t a top welterweight these days. At that point its a question for the UFC of whether he’s worth the money to let him drift around the division, or whether he should be let go to potentially compete somewhere else? I’d bet more on the latter.
Bryan Barberena (+225) vs. Sage Northcutt (-275) (I picked Northcutt, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I expected Sage Northcutt to lose a fight like this sometime soon. It had to happen. He’s just too inexperienced to run through even low end UFC talent. Of course, if you paid more attention, you’ll know I didn’t expect it to happen here. Northcutt starts to fast, Barberena too slow. Still, this is hardly as surprising as the backlash made it seem.
- Fallout for Barberena: It feels a little shoddy to say that he probably got what will be the biggest win of his career, but that’s what this feels like. I mean, where’s Joaquim Ferreira since tapping JDS, or Erica Paes after tapping Cris Cyborg all those years ago? Sub wins like this are really cool. They can make for shocking results, especially on a big stage like this. However, Barberena has a lot more to prove even after this win.
- Fallout for Northcutt: He was going to lose in 2016, and with the way he fights, he was probably going to lose ugly. He keeps too high a pace early, and is too poor off his back to routinely beat guys who don’t go down after a few hard shots, and/or have reasonable sub defense. Unchecked aggression and big mistakes are the hallmarks of young fighters, however. Even super talented young fighters. Getting an early loss out of the way may be the best thing for Northcutt right now.
Jimmie Rivera (-170) vs. Iuri Alcantara (+140) (I picked Rivera, I was right)
- The Expectation: Rivera’s consistent power punching attack and excellent counter wrestling should have been too much for Alcantara’s inconsistent dynamic offense. Even when he finds big shots, Alcantara rarely follows them up with the kind of consistency needed to get a KO. And that ended up being the story of the fight. Rivera landing more often and to more consistent effect, even if he got stung a few times.
- Fallout for Rivera: He’s now a ranked bantamweight and exactly where he should be given his skills and experience. His attacking style is still just a little too one-dimensional to think he’s a future champion, but he could very reasonably go on a run to a title shot at some point in the future.
- Fallout for Alcantara: He should still be ranked at BW, if nothing else, then as a gatekeeper to the top 10. He’s still dangerous, powerful, and well rounded. If he can get the right fight with another 135lb vet on a cold streak, I expect him to move back up. Still, Alcantara’s time among the best is fading. He’s just a little less dynamic than he was and because he’s not a consistent finisher, tough, high output rising fighters should be able to get by him.
Ben Rothwell (+120) vs. Josh Barnett (-140) (I picked Rothwell, I was right)
- The Expectation: I picked Rothwell to win and I expected him to TKO then notably rugged Barnett early in a fight that would having fans wondering if Barnett was actually a top 5 guy anymore. Instead he did the even more remarkable thing, and became the first man ever to submit the “Warmaster.” A fittingly weird outcome for the heavyweight division.
- Fallout for Rothwell: He’s definitely a top heavyweight fighter right now. It’s a strange thing to think of the often awkward, and occasionally totally unimpressive looking Ben Rothwell. But he’s turned being huge and tough and strong into the kind of consistent wins that are impossible to ignore. If the UFC can keep their heavyweight division moving, he should get a title shot in the next year. If not, I expect him to remain an ungodly tough fight for other top guys.
- Fallout for Barnett: Fortunately for him, this is a way less devastating loss (from a sale-ability standpoint) than a KO would have been. It’s not a win, and Barnett seemed crushed to have his un-submittable aura tarnished, but he’s got a lot more pop left as a top guy off this loss than he would if Rothwell had just blasted him in a few seconds.
Anthony Johnson (-265) vs. Ryan Bader (+220) (I picked Johnson, I was right)
- The Expectation: Speaking of getting blasted in a few seconds. We all knew this was the most likely outcome. The way Bader fought, he just ensured that.
- Fallout for Johnson: The most logical fight for him is with Jon Jones. He might have to wait for it, but it is the light heavyweight fight to make for the UFC and the only fight that seems worth taking for “Rumble” right now.
- Fallout for Bader: The tough thing for him to do right now is try and make sure he angles himself to stay around at the top of the division. If he’s not careful, the UFC could just book him in low profile fights until he loses a couple and slowly let him drift out of top competition. I feel like he should be trying to stay as close to fighting top guys as he can. Given how paper thin LHW is, any of a number of ranked wins could put him right back in contention.
UFC Vegas: Hendricks vs. Thompson
Alex White (+115) vs. Artem Lobov (-135) (I picked Lobov, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I thought this would just about be the kind of fight Artem Lobov could win. In flashes he has the kind of powerful punching style to win fun action brawls, and to date White has been a low level action brawler. So, given an opponent who should have been there to be hit a lot, I picked Lobov to take it. Instead, White came in with an evolved in-and-out striking style and mixed his techniques really nicely for an easy decision.
- Fallout for White: This was a great performance from him and one that suggests he might just be able to hang out as an action fighter in the middle of the division. given a footslow, low output power puncher in front of him, he didn’t dive into an ugly brawl and instead kept his movement up, picked his shots, and took his opponent apart. It’s the best performance of his career and one that could mean a much better UFC future.
- Fallout for Lobov: He can’t fight the way he does and win in the UFC. There’s just not much place for a low output power striker who doesn’t have a ton of dynamic movement at 145. The rest of his division is too tough and too mobile. I expect he’ll be back on the regionals shortly.
Mickey Gall (-550) vs. Mike Jackson (+425) (I picked Jackson, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I hoped Jackson would win… knowing that he had probably been set up to lose. The important thing for the UFC was to establish a narrative for Gall not to put him through a really tough test. That’s no knock on Jackson, it just is what it is. So, I wanted Jackson to win. He didn’t.
- Fallout for Gall: He fights CM Punk… maybe… eventually. In the meantime he finds out how many months one paycheck can carry him. If Punk never fights, who knows what the UFC does with him. Most likely they give him a similarly inexperienced international TUF guy who probably beats him, and then they cut him.
- Fallout for Jackson: He’s most likely not coming back to the UFC without a press pass.
Diego Rivas (+260) vs. Noad Lahat (-350) (I picked Lahat, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Lahat was supposed to school Rivas to an easy sub win. You know, just the way he was doing for the first round. Just eating him up on the ground. He wasn’t supposed to get flying knee KO’d into a deep slumber.
- Fallout for Rivas: He’s still in the UFC and has a hugely improbable win under his belt. I don’t see this changing his long-term place as a guy at the very low end of the featherweight division, but it keeps him alive and might get him bumped up to an even tougher opponent.
- Fallout for Lahat: He will almost certainly stay in the UFC after this, after all he was coming in off a two fight win streak, but this was a bad bad bad bad bad loss. Even as unlikely as it seems for him to get hit with a flying KO like this, it’s also not something that tends to happen to top end fighters. Guys like Pepey and Rivas doing it suggests he’s got some defensive problems that could be very difficult to fix.
Justin Scoggins (+160) vs. Ray Borg (-200) (I picked Borg, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: It’s hard not to have some deep regrets when you know that you understood how one guy could beat another going in, but didn’t believe it would happen. I knew that (despite the odds) Scoggins could defeat Borg. But I didn’t think he’d keep it standing enough and I didn’t think he’d win on the ground. Instead, he did a great job to keep it standing for long stretches and then beat the pants of Borg on the mat.
- Fallout for Scoggins: He’s back on the track of a flyweight future top contender. There are a lot more opportunities for him to be derailed going forward, but given that he seems to be improving each time out it’s hard not to feel like he’ll get to a title shot sooner or later. He looks like he’s really learning from his wins and losses and showing big leaps each time out. Great win from him here.
- Fallout for Borg: This is definitely a derailing loss. We all knew going in that Borg couldn’t strike with Scoggins, but he didn’t show any improvement there from his last fights. And when he got the fight right where he wanted it, for the first time in his career he got beat at his own game. That’s a really big speed bump to hit, because every top tier flyweight is a respectable scrambler and grappler and most are great wrestlers too. If Scoggins is working him, then the rest probably will too.
Derrick Lewis (-110) vs. Damian Grabowski (-115) (I picked Grabowski, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: At some point, I kinda stopped expecting things from Derrick Lewis. He seemed like a fighter who was too dependent on hitting harder than the other guy and not enough on actually being the better fighter. Grabowski didn’t strike me as a world beater, but he felt like the guy who would work a more complete game. All of this was wrong. Lewis improved upon his good showing last time out to actually invest in his scrambling and counter wrestling in order to blast Grabowski once he’d shut down the wrestling game.
- Fallout for Lewis: As I said above, he has gotten better. Mostly that seems to be in the form of patience. No longer just looking to be the guy to hit first and hit hardest, but taking the time to understand what his opponent is trying to do, and then stopping them from doing it. With his size and power, if he can keep that up, he could go a long way as a future heavyweight.
- Fallout for Grabowski: There’s a reason that I don’t think of him as a future ranked fighter in the division. He’s just not dynamic enough and not powerful enough to make his game work against the kind of huge powerful fighters the UFC prefers. He’s technical enough to win against some less experienced fringe fighters they bring up from time to time, but this was his litmus test against the kind of guy the UFC wants to fill their division with and he didn’t pass it.
Josh Burkman (-130) vs. KJ Noons (+113) (I picked Burkman, I was right)
- The Expectation: My feeling going in was that Noons wasn’t going to work very hard to stay in this fight and that Burkman would get a submission win because of it. True to form, Noons didn’t put up much of a fight, but Burkman was never able to really find his form to take more than a decision either.
- Fallout for Burkman: A career saving win to be sure. One of those fights that, even though it was ugly and even though it didn’t show great improvements or divisional dominance, it was immensely important to the man who won. With a loss he was almost certainly done with the UFC, likely for the rest of his career. With this win, we’ll almost certainly see him fight again.
- Fallout for Noons: I’m not sure what’s going on with Noons in the cage these days, but it’s not pretty. He’s clearly got the hand speed and the technique to be a capable action fighter when the right opportunity is there. But, the right opportunity is so seldom there and he does so little to make it happen, that it’s hard to see him as anything other than a guy likely to lose fights.
Mike Pyle (+130) vs. Sean Spencer (-150) (I picked Spencer, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: I really didn’t think Pyle would compete in this bout. Not because he was less technical, but just because he’s never been that hard to stop and he’s at an age where welterweights just don’t stick around. And when he got dropped early, I was pretty sure that I was spot on. But, Spencer just couldn’t seem to find the rhythm to sit down on his strikes regularly and Pyle only gets better as bouts go on. Eventually Spencer just faded away and got overwhelmed. Hell of an upset by Pyle.
- Fallout for Pyle: This is kind of like Marquardt’s win over CB Dollaway, only less impressive. It’s a solid, decisive win over a young fighter, that doesn’t really mean that Pyle has found some impossible fountain of youth. I’m glad he got the win and came back from adversity to do it. He’ll probably keep fighting, but I’ll have trouble picking him against more dangerous fighters than the not-so-powerful Spencer.
- Fallout for Spencer: Being a low-power striker at welterweight is a near impossible task. To do it, you have to keep your output high and your cardio tireless. Spencer had real problems turning feints into strikes and seemed to fade as the bout went on. At that point, he was just a target waiting to get hit. That’s going to be a very tough path going forward.
Misha Cirkunov (-700) vs. Alex Nicholson (+475) (I picked Cirkunov, I was right)
- The Expectation: Cirkunov was going to throw Nicholson to the mat and do bad things to him. Nicholson made it an uglier first round than that, but the end result was still the same.
- Fallout for Cirkunov: I hear people saying Cirkunov under-performed here, and I just don’t quite get it. As a tough, athletic, wild fighter, Nicholson is exactly the kind of guy that makes opponents look bad. I thought Cirkunov still absolutely dominated the first round, and when Nicholson finally started to slow, he got the easy sub. That to me is an excellent performance.
- Fallout for Nicholson: The UFC is going to be tough on him. I don’t think he’s too small for 205. Cirkunov is built a mile thick, he doesn’t represent the majority of the division. Nicholson can do fine there. But, he’s as raw a fighter as the UFC has right now and in a division filled with powerful athletes, most of them more experienced than him, he’s going to have a really rough path forward.
Joseph Benavidez (-407) vs. Zach Makovsky (+300) (I picked Benavidez, I was right)
- The Expectation: Joe-B was the easy pick here. Makovsky is a decision fighter, and Benavidez is practically impossible to outpoint. That’s the long and short of it. Makvosky might be a better wrestler, but Benavidez is a fantastic scrambler, the harder puncher and the better grappler. Joe-B by decision all the way.
- Fallout for Benavidez: To say I knew he was going to win… I was still really impressed with how he did it. Joe-B looked better than he had at any point in the past two years. I’m willing to bet a lot of that was down to a change in training venues and getting Ludwig back in his corner. Say what you want about TJ and the Alpha Male split, but that team has missed something since Ludwig went to Colorado.
- Fallout for Makovsky: He’s always going to have trouble with the elite, because the core of his game is built on his fantastic wrestling skill. In most divisions that would make him a real force to be reckoned with, but at flyweight that means he’s banking on the skill that’s likely to mean the least against elite opposition. He’s not a great sub finisher or KO artist, so he has to work on control and output and buying the busier positionally dominant fighter. That’s a ridiculously tough task against the flyweight elite, which only DJ seems to have managed.
Ovince Saint Preux (-400) vs. Rafael Cavalcante (+350) (I picked OSP, I was right)
- The Expectation: OSP was going to punch Cavalcante really hard once Cavalcante got tired. Instead OSP got hurt and just settled for outworking the flagging Feijao instead.
- Fallout for OSP: He’s still an elite LHW for what that means. Not a title challenger at the moment, but the kind of guy who could hang out at the top long enough to get a shot if the well runs dry. He’s big and powerful and capable everywhere and that’s enough to keep him in wins against all but the very best.
- Fallout for Feijao: Like Noons, Cavalcante has become an extremely ugly fighter. He just looks like he’d rather not be in a fight at the moment. How do you bet on a guy like that winning bouts when after about 4 minutes he just sort of stops. The UFC should probably let him go just because he’s very much the antithesis of what they’re selling.
Roy Nelson (-125) vs. Jared Rosholt (+100) (I picked Rosholt, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Rosholt seemed primed to out-wrestle Nelson to a decision. Even a lot of the people picking Rosholt to get KO’d thought he would get Nelson down at least once. Instead he could never find the entry for a takedown and settled into a drawn out stick-and-move game of trading short quick combos for huge overhand blows. I kinda thought Rosholt did enough for a decision off his backfoot, but the fight sucked so, I’m not going to argue the point.
- Fallout for Nelson: He’s having more trouble finding the timing on his huge power punches these days, which means his principal method of winning fights is not showing up. Without it, he’s a pretty ugly fighter to watch. This win will get him another fight, maybe even a few more, but against more dangerous heavyweights I’m not sure he wins.
- Fallout for Rosholt: If he can’t out-wrestle guys at the bottom of the top 10, his hopes of climbing the ranks are virtually nil. He’s either one of the very best wrestlers in this division, or he’s close to a non-participant, and I’m willing to be that’s the UFC matchmaker stance on it too. If Rosholt loses his next fight, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him gone. Showing he can implement his game next time out is key.
Stephen Thompson (+200) vs. Johny Hendricks (-275) (I picked Hendricks, I was wrong)
- The Expectation: Stephen Thompson was supposed to do well, by my book. Not win, but do well enough in a loss, landing good shots, making Hendricks work, staying in the fight for 5 rounds, that fans would think of him as a fighter they wanted to see more of. He blew those expectations away by demolishing Hendricks with his superior command of range and footwork, forcing the former champ to walk straight into power shots over and over and over again. It was a commanding performance.
- Fallout for Thompson: He’s now a contender. The line at welterweight is getting longer by the day, but Thompson is the fighter, next to Condit, that I want to see compete for the belt most. He’s just got such a fun and unusual style that it’s hard not to be excited by the potential of a fighter offering something new at an elite level. I look forward to watching him perform at an elite level for a few more years now.
- Fallout for Hendricks: This was a bad loss, but not a god awful loss. At least not in terms of his potential to get more big fights. This set Thompson up as a true elite fighter more than it suggested that other guys at the top would school “Bigg Rigg” as well. Any top tier fighter coming off a loss right now would make a great matchup for the former welterweight champ and all it would take is a big win or two to have him right back in line for a shot at the belt again.
Those are my collected thoughts for the last couple weeks of MMA events. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that’s the benefit of hindsight. Next time out, I expect I’ll be talking about why a win doesn’t mean Donald Cerrone is suddenly a welterweight and why Derek Brunson is on the rise at 185. Until then!
*This week’s quote from the movie Missing.
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