Pride never died, the WEC never died, and Strikeforce never died. At least they all still seemed alive at UFC 139.
The main event was a classic, with former Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson beating former Pride Middleweight Grand Prix champion Shogun Rua. This was exactly the type of bout that fight fans hoped we'd see inside the Octagon when the UFC purchased Pride: A brutal, bloody battle between two Pride stars that had all the best elements of the Pride glory days.
But it was more than just that. It was Wanderlei Silva, perhaps the greatest of all the Pride stars to sign with the UFC after the Pride purchase, having perhaps his greatest victory inside the Octagon. And doing it against former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, who came to the UFC after it purchased Strikeforce.
And there was also another tremendous fight that's probably going to be largely overlooked this morning, thanks to all that came after it: Former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber beating former WEC bantamweight champion Brian Bowles. Faber and Bowles both came to the UFC from the WEC, and they gave the kind of great show that the WEC was famous for.
In theory I like the idea of competition among MMA promotions, and I watch MMA regardless of the promotion: I was watching two TVs on Saturday night, one with the UFC and one with Bellator, which put on a tremendous fight of its own between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez. So I don't necessarily want the UFC to swallow up every MMA promotion on earth.
But I must say that I can't think of many times I've ever enjoyed the top three fights on a card more than I enjoyed the top three fights at UFC 139, and we got to see all of them because the UFC has absorbed Pride, Strikeforce and the WEC. Saturday night was a night when it was hard not to enjoy the UFC's dominance of the MMA landscape.
UFC 139 Notes
-- Miguel Torres won an easy unanimous decision over Nick Pace, 30-27 on all three judges' cards, but he didn't do anything spectacular, which is what he's going to need to do if he wants to fight for the bantamweight belt. There's a lot to be said for fighting smarter and fighting safer, which is what Torres has tried to do recently, but when it comes to earning a shot at the title, the fact is there are style points. Torres may need to regain some of his old reckless form if he wants the UFC to give him a chance to fight for the title.
-- You can make a good case that it's really not fair to the rest of the bantamweight division to give Faber another shot at champion Dominick Cruz, but realistically I think that's the only option available to the UFC right now. From a business perspective, Cruz-Faber 3 is really the only bantamweight title fight that the UFC can sell, and the UFC is, ultimately, a business.
UFC 139 Quotes
-- "I felt really disrespected at the weigh-in. You're supposed to be professional. Don't come in two pounds overweight and then tell me you can't lose any more weight." -- Danny Castillo after beating Shamar Bailey, who had come in at 158 pounds for their lightweight fight. Castillo is absolutely right: Professional fighters need to make weight, period.
-- "He's a super gnarly dude. I knew I had a fight on my hands." -- Seth Baczynski after submitting Matt Brown with a guillotine choke in the second round.
Chris Weidman is to be commended for immediately alerting the referee that he had choked out Tom Lawlor. The fighters and the referee are all in a difficult position when a fighter passes out from a choke and the ref doesn't realize it, but Weidman did the best thing he could, telling the ref that Lawlor was out. The ref then stepped in and separated the two of them, and Lawlor was back on his feet moments later.
The judge who gave Rafael dos Anjos a 29-28 decision over Gleison Tibau should be forced to publicly explain it -- that's a tough score to understand. The other two judges scored it 30-27 and 29-28 for Tibau.
Michael McDonald looks like a future UFC bantamweight champion. McDonald needed just 56 seconds to knock out Alex Soto -- a man who entered the fight undefeated -- and is now 14-1 in his MMA career, at only 20 years old. I'd love to see McDonald get a Top 10 opponent in his next fight.
Jason Brilz is reeling right now, with back-to-back ugly knockout losses, first to Vladimir Matyushenko in April and now to Ryan Bader on Saturday. When Brilz lost a hard-fought split decision to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in May of 2010, a lot of people thought he deserved to win and would have some big fights ahead of him. Unfortunately, Brilz now looks like he's on the verge of getting cut from the UFC.
Fight I Want to See Next
Dan Henderson vs. Rashad Evans. Henderson vs. Evans would be a great fight, and a great way to determine who's the next contender for the light heavyweight belt. Evans has already been promised a title shot, of course, but the way the timing has worked out, I don't think it's realistic for Evans to wait around for the Jon Jones-Lyoto Machida winner. If Henderson and Evans are both healthy and ready to fight in early 2012, that's the fight to make.
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