No need to beat around the bush. UFC Hamburg wasn’t a very good card. It wasn’t a disastrous card as the main event was about as good as could be expected, and Ryan Bader scored a highlight reel KO that will be on all of his videos until his career comes to an end. But there was little of note on the preliminary contests as most of the fights registered below expectations with only one of them earning a finish.
Nonetheless, there are consequences from every match and whether the action was subpar or not, they deserve a deeper look. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do
Rustam Khabilov defeated Leandro Silva via unanimous decision
· Expectations/Results: With two low-output fighters, there was a fear that it would turn into a tentative performance from both of them. That turned out to be the case. A small flurry gave the first round to Silva while a single takedown was the difference for Khabilov in each of the final two rounds. Not a great performance by either competitor as they spent a lot of the time staring at one another.
· Khabilov: Low-output cautious fighters are going to be matchup nightmares for the Russian as he depends on countering his opponent. When they give him nothing to react to, he ends up doing very little. Unless he is able to remedy that issue, he’s not going to get the type of matchups that he asked for in his post-fight interview. I think he deserves a top 15 opponent, but Edson Barboza? No way. Al Iaquinta or Evan Dunham are more appropriate.
· Silva: I can’t complain with Silva’s strategy as it nearly worked in a contest where he was a sizeable underdog. But I have to think that what once again cost him was his refusal to pull the trigger. I’m sure it was because he was looking to defend Khabilov’s takedown attempts, but he needed to roll the dice when the final round rolled around and he didn’t. The loss could cost him his job in the UFC as lightweight is so deep that I’m sure the UFC is looking to trim a name or two.
Jack Hermansson defeated Scott Askham via unanimous decision
· Expectations/Results: This was a tough one to pick, but I favored Askham as his struggles had come against grinders. Hermansson isn’t a grinder per say, but he was able to hold his own in the clinch with the larger Askham and threw far more volume to ensure that the judges saw the fight in his favor. It was certainly a fun to watch contest, though it wasn’t as competitive as most of us expected it to be.
· Hermansson: I knew that he was a skilled out-fighter with a devastating jab going into the fight and he used it to perfection. What I didn’t expect was for him to get the better of some of the clinch exchanges against the fence as often as he did. The Swede is an older prospect at 28-years old, but I don’t think he is near his ceiling quite yet. In fact, I think he’ll break into the top 15 in the near future with how often he fights dictating just how fast that happens.
· Askham: I stated in my preview that I believed whether or not Askham would be able to separate himself from the crowded middleweight pack would be determined in this fight. I stand by that. I admit that Hermansson looked better than I anticipated, but I’m still disappointed in Askham’s performance. Until he figures out how to consistently use his reach from a distance, I don’t see him being more than another name that hangs around for a while in a division chuck full of those. I had higher expectations for the Englishman.
Jarjis Danho fought Christian Colombo to a majority draw
· Expectations/Results: That was a terrible fight. Danho is a physical powerhouse that has no idea what he is doing in the cage. The UFC sees potential in him though and did everything in their power to set him up with a win by giving him Colombo, who knows what he is doing while not possessing the physical skills to be a fixture in the UFC. Even with a point deduction given to Colombo, it wasn’t enough for Danho to pull out a win in a sloppy contest.
· Danho: I don’t want to be too harsh on the raw big man as he is still relatively new to the sport, but he shouldn’t be in the UFC at this point. He put his head down time after time which Colombo took advantage of with knees to essentially gave the fight away. He’s lucky the point deduction was given to Colombo in the first round as the knee that penalized Colombo will no longer be a foul come 2017. Danho might get another chance – his raw physical skills really are that obvious – but I think he’d be better served to go back to the regional scene.
· Colombo: I’ll admit Colombo looked better than I thought he would. Particularly his takedown defense which was nonexistent in the film I had studied. I still didn’t see enough to make me believe that he’s going to be around the UFC for very long. But he wasn’t signed with the expectation that he’d be around long. He was signed to test raw prospects to see if they are deserving to be on the roster. He’ll be perfect to test the likes of Curtis Blaydes and Chase Sherman who are similar to Danho in that they are still quite raw.
Taylor Lapilus defeated Leandro Issa via unanimous decision
· Expectations/Results: Appearing to be your classic striker vs. grappler going into the contest, the way the fight went completely depended on whether or not Issa could get Lapilus to the ground. That very much held up to expectations. Issa expended his energy in the first round trying to get Lapilus down and didn’t have much left when he couldn’t keep the youngster on the ground for long. Lapilus cruised to an easy win as a result.
· Lapilus: I was very impressed with what I saw out of Lapilus. He fought pretty safely which didn’t make for a very entertaining contest, but it sure as hell showed the progress the youngster has been making. Issa was able to drag him to the ground very briefly only for Lapilus to scramble right back to his feet. When given room to strike, he picked apart Issa with short punching combinations while leading with the jab and knees in the clinch. I don’t think he’ll develop into a contender, but Lapilus has turned into a nice find. No need to rush him. Someone like Joe Soto would be an appropriate test going forward.
· Issa: To give the Brazilian credit, he kicks hard. The problem is that is about the only thing he can consistently do on the feet. His takedowns aren’t exactly a strength either which is why he hasn’t been able to advance his career beyond the middle of the division despite his elite BJJ skills. He very well could get another chance, but given his lack of upside and turning 33-years old later this month, I anticipate he’ll be cut.
Ashlee Evans-Smith defeated Veronica Macedo via TKO at 2:46 of RD3
· Expectations/Results: While many were looking forward to seeing what the talented Macedo could do – myself included — few expected her to pull off the upset. Macedo certainly flashed her talent, opening the fight with an awesome spinning back kick while showing a less flashy arsenal from that point. Unfortunately for the 20-year old, Evans-Smith was able to wear her down with her size against the fence, taking her down multiple times, and eventually getting a ground-and-pound stoppage midway through the final round.
· Evans-Smith: Some will claim this was her first official UFC victory as her previous win over Marion Reneau was controversial. Regardless, Evans-Smith fought a smart fight, not trying to outstrike the striker and taking the fight where she was at her best. She still hasn’t fully adapted to MMA style wrestling, though she is making progress and her striking continues to evolve too. Considering Evans-Smith was the veteran here, it’s easy to forget she is still very much a prospect herself as this was only her sixth pro fight. Trying to reschedule with Germaine de Randamie makes a lot of sense, though Liz Carmouche isn’t a bad option either if she ever returns to the cage.
· Macedo: The youngster held her own better than I thought she would against Evans-Smith. She landed some good shots and showed a lot of heart to battle back from Evans-Smith domination in the clinch and on the ground. Even with that said, I still think she is being thrown into the cauldron too fast. The UFC needs to give her a softball as she has been a pro for less than a year. Milana Dudieva and Sarah Moras are the best names that I can think of and I don’t know how much they have improved given it has been well over a year since we saw either one, Dudieva due to pregnancy.
Peter Sobotta defeated Nicolas Dalby via unanimous decision
· Expectations/Results: Though it was expected to be close, very few were picking Sobotta heading into this. He didn’t seem to have the striking arsenal or the ability to get the fight to the ground where he is at his best. Just about everyone – including me – was wrong. Sobotta never looked better, particularly on his feet as he clipped Dalby with an uppercut in the first that dropped him and the fight was never close after that. Dalby was simply lucky to survive to the final bell as Sobotta came close to finishing him a number of times.
· Sobotta: Sobotta did state in his post-fight interview that he got a new striking coach, so I guess that helps explain where in the hell this breakout came from. Since he had been picking off the bottom dwellers of the division before this contest, it seemed his German heritage was about the only thing keeping him on the roster. I wouldn’t say so now. Someone like a Court McGee would be a great next fight as McGee seems stuck in his current position smack dab in the middle of the division. I’m already liking his long-term potential a lot better now, but another win over an established opponent would completely sell me on Sobotta’s staying potential.
· Dalby: I have to admit that I’m a bit of a Dalby mark, thought I can’t quite say why. Seeing him lose in this manner hurts. Seeing him end up outside of the UFC as I expect will happen is going to hurt even more. It’s hard to justify keeping him around when he doesn’t own a single victory in his last three attempts. He just doesn’t seem to have improved at all since making it to the big show. He may be able to receive a call up if he can win a few, particularly if there is an injury at 170 on a European card. Even then, I’d expect the UFC would rather call up a youngster.
Jessin Ayari defeated Jim Wallhead via split decision
· Expectations/Results: You know those fights that you can score either way depending on what you value more? This is the prototype for contests. Ayari landed far more strikes than the longtime veteran Wallhead, but he was also rocked and knocked to his butt on more than one occasion by Wallhead. Many felt Wallhead wrapped up the contest late in the fight with another knockdown in addition to a flurry before the bell, but the judges favored Ayari’s earlier volume.
· Ayari: The youngster should feel very lucky. He fought with his hands down for a huge chunk of the fight, including when Wallhead nailed the late knockdown. I guess it proves he has a good chin as Wallhead nailed him a number of times, but why would you want to test that? While his defensive fundamentals were piss poor, he showed a good striking repertoire with a wide variety of kicks and punches from all angles. Ayari could end up hanging around for a while… provided he sharpens his defensive skills.
· Wallhead: While this wasn’t the performance he was hoping for, Wallhead shouldn’t be embarrassed by his display either. He showed his prodigious power on multiple occasions in addition to heart as he never quit. What he didn’t show was his takedown abilities, a bit confusing in a fight where a single takedown may have made all the difference between winning and losing. His gas tank hurt him down the stretch too, though that may have been attributed to the late notice of the fight. I don’t think Wallhead is going to have an extended UFC career as he is already 32-years old, but there are still some wins out there for him to be had under the right circumstances.
Nick Hein defeated Tae Hyun Bang via unanimous decision
· Expectations/Results: Every time the UFC goes to Germany, it feels like they set up Hein with an opponent that he should be able to beat comfortably. This was no exception. Though his performance didn’t feel like it was the best of his abilities, Hein mixed in just enough takedowns with his striking to walk away a pretty clear winner in a fairly lackluster performance from both competitors.
· Hein: Hein frustrates me. He is a good athlete, has developed a good boxing game, and owns a world-class judo background. Yet he can’t seem to put together a complete performance that makes me think he is going to develop into something special. I was happy to see him utilize more takedowns in this fight, but it felt like his striking regressed. I suspect it was because he respected Bang’s power, though I can’t say for sure. At 4-1 in the UFC, the kid gloves need to come off now. I’m not calling for a huge step up in competition, but no more fights where it feels as though he is the clear favorite going in.
· Bang: I understand that Bang is a counter striker which means he needs Hein to throw for him to find his rhythm. But when your opponent doesn’t throw you’ve got to take initiative. Bang didn’t do that until the final round, resulting in him not taking a fight that Hein was trying to give away. He has overcome the odds a couple of times already – he’s been the underdog in every one of his UFC fights – though I fear his time is about to run out as he enters his next contest.
Ryan Bader defeated Ilir Latifi via KO at 2:06 of RD2
· Expectations/Results: Damn!!! Bader winning wasn’t a surprise. Not even that he got a stoppage. But that knee… WOW!!! The longtime veteran wasn’t looking like he was in peak form, even suffering a knockdown at the hands of the powerful Swede in the first round. What he did do was stuff all of Latifi’s takedown attempts and recognized Latifi’s shot was coming to land the knee as Latifi dived for a takedown attempt and put him out cold.
· Bader: Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on him, but I really felt Bader would be able to jab the crap out of Latifi and he really didn’t get much going on offense. Granted that Bader is used to being the stronger guy in the cage and was showing respect to Latifi’s wrestling, but I didn’t think overall it was a great performance for him. Then again, it wasn’t a horrible performance either. I suppose his ability to adjust in-fight is what should be taken as that is what the knee represented. What it will go down as is a W and that is what he needed more than anything after being demolished by Anthony Johnson. There are a lot of options for Bader moving forward. He could get Jimi Manuwa if Manuwa beats Ovince St. Preux next month. I’m not sure how this happened, but Bader has never fought Shogun Rua either. Maybe he gets Nikita Krylov next as the young Russian is looking for a step up in competition. There is one other option, but I’ll get to that momentarily.
· Latifi: I can’t say I’m surprised by the outcome. Latifi has been so damned dependent on getting the takedown – or at least bullying his opponent into the clinch – that I figured he’d have a hard time with Bader. Being unable to get a single takedown is a letdown too as I thought he would at least be able to do that. It is too bad he lost as it would have been fun to see Latifi’s name near the top of the division. Hell, any new blood near the top would be nice! I’d absolutely love to see him square off with Corey Anderson next as neither is a finished product, though I’d be alright with seeing Tom Lawlor be his next opponent as well, a fight they’ve tried to make before.
Alexander Gustafsson defeated Jan Blachowicz via unanimous decision
· Expectations/Results: Gus has had a tough run going into this fight, having dropped three of his previous four. While those three were the divisional elite – Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, and Rumble Johnson – he needed a win more than he needed a dominant performance. He played it safe, taking down Blachowicz down multiple times and controlling the fight from the ground to pick up that win. It may not have been spectacular, but it was just what the doctor ordered.
· Gustafsson: When you’ve lost as many high profile fights as Gus has recently, getting any sort of win is the best thing possible, so I’m not going to rip on the ho-hum performance. After all, it was smart given Blachowicz has historically shown poor takedown defense. What happens from here is tough to say and largely dependent upon Jones. Everyone has been clamoring to see a rematch of their epic title fight from 2013, but the cards haven’t aligned for that to happen. If Jones ends up with a reduced suspension from his PED test failure as many suspect he will, this would be the perfect time as the UFC doesn’t want to give him a title shot coming off of a drug test failure. If Jones is gone for longer than expected, a contest with Bader makes all the sense in the world, though I wouldn’t object to a fight with Glover Teixeira either regardless that Teixeira is coming off of a loss.
· Blachowicz: Nothing has changed for the Pole. He can’t stop takedowns and he can’t get up from them in a timely manner. He did hold his own in the striking department with Gus before Gus resorted to the takedowns. In fact, I think his striking looked better than it has at any point in his UFC run. But that wrestling…. He can be competitive given the fight matchups and there are a few on the roster who can provide that. Ed Herman, Sean O’Connell and Steve Bosse come to mind.
Josh Barnett defeated Andrei Arlovski via submission at 2:53 of RD3
· Expectations/Results: I was surprised at the amount of people picking Arlovski going into the contest. Not that I thought Arlovski was completely shot, but Barnett has one of the sturdier chins in the division in addition to a deeper gas tank. Both threw heavy leather, especially in the beginning and both held up relatively well despite being rocked at various points. Barnett got mount to end the second round and did the same earlier in the third to sink in a RNC to be the first to tap Arlovski. Great fight in a contest that shouldn’t hurt Arlovski’s stock too much.
· Barnett: The Warmaster still has something to offer. While he may not be a title contender anymore, he is still a legit top ten heavyweight who is a threat against anyone. He displayed his well-renowned chin by eating some heavy leather from Arlovski, but he also dealt out his own punishment and displayed his grappling chops that are still among the best in the sport. If there is anything I’ll complain about, it’s that he came in much heavier than he did in his previous two contests where he looked at his physical best. But considering how he performed, who cares? There were rumors beforehand this could have been Barnett’s final fight. It later interviews he said there is a possibility of a title fight in his future. If he is thinking along those lines, a fight with Junior dos Santos makes a lot of sense. Cigano looked like his he did when he won the heavyweight title in his last performance against Ben Rothwell. If his recovery from shoulder surgery isn’t too much longer, he’s about the only guy I’d pick to line up against Barnett.
· Arlovski: Hard to believe he was being talked about as a title contender less than a year ago. The funny thing for me is I don’t think his skills have declined. I just think it was a combination of fortunate matchmaking and luck that put him on that four-fight win streak upon his UFC comeback. He still has power – ask Barnett – and he even ate some hard shots pretty well here to show the belief his chin has completely eroded is a bit premature. I’m not saying he has a great chin, but it isn’t as bad as advertised. I’m of the belief that he still has something to offer despite the three losses in a row, so the UFC might want to be careful with him. About the only fight that makes sense right now is with another longtime UFC veteran on their second run, Gabriel Gonzaga. Someway, somehow, these two have never fought. It’s about time that they have.
Those are my collective thoughts. Hope the work week starts off right for everyone!
About the author