It was the best of fight weekends, it was the worst of fight weekends. And while altogether a bit quiet, a lot nevertheless happened. Let's look back at the winners, losers, best and worst from this past few days in the mixed martial arts.
Best fight announcement: Mike Easton vs. T.J. Dillashaw
For the record, I'll accept Brad Pickett vs. Eddie Wineland as a top choice. Dustin Poirier vs. Jonathan Brookins also deserves honorable mention. Maybe Forrest Griffin vs. Phil Davis, too. For my money, however, Easton vs. Dillashaw is it.
I've known Easton for years and watched his development on the mid-Atlantic regional MMA circuit. He's always possessed a ton of talent, much of which he still hasn't shown UFC audiences. But after his two-year layoff from the sport in the prime of his career, I wasn't sure how much he was going to be able to rebound. His first two wins in the UFC were clear, but one was against a late replacement while the other came against someone who was perceived to be outmatched and still managed to make it competitive.
But after out-working the very credible Ivan Menjivar, Easton appears poised to potentially make some noise. Now, let's be clear. I'm not saying he will beat Dillashaw (more on that in just a second) or that he's the next world beater. What I am saying is after some fits and starts, some of the promise of his hype is beginning to take shape. How far he goes is anyone's guess and for a fighter who could offensively be more proactive but isn't, maybe it isn't much further. At his best, Easton does have the skills to beat Dillashaw. The central issue is whether he'll brings those talents to bear.
The other key factor here being looked over is Easton's membership in the Team Lloyd Irvin/Alliance MMA versus Dillashaw's association with Team Alpha Male. Part of their rivalry is manufactured. The other part, however, has bled into the fabric of the camps. It's not searing hatred, to be sure, but some version of dissatisfaction. Maybe all of that plays no role come fight time, but one has to wonder if the ups the stakes for Easton and Dillashaw. One also wonders if we're finally beginning to see true, semi-lasting intercamp rivalry. I can't speak for anyone else, but I always thought the Brazilian Top Team vs. Chute Boxe battles had an added quality of entertainment because of rivalry. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to experience some of that again.
Most Bellator moment at Bellator 77: Tirloni d'arce chokes Nazare
We already posted this earlier in the weekend, but it deserves a special mention here. I'm not suggesting Ricardo Tirloni or Rene Nazare are world beaters, but they're talented and tough and put on a hell of a scrap on Friday night in Reading, Pennsylvania. Their excellent bout was made all the more special with how Tirloni decided to end things:
I also have to say I admire how Bellator has been able to dub any exciting moment on any of their shows a 'Bellator moment'. The butterfly effect from Toby Imada's inverted standing triangle submission on Jorge Masvidal can't be overstated.
Biggest Cheshire Cat grin: Matt Riddle
There isn't much to say here except I deeply admire the willingness of a man to openly promote his marijuana intake in professional sports:
Best night to catch up on sleep: Saturday
It feels like there's a UFC event every weekend. And when there isn't a UFC event on the weekend, the rest of MMA's regional-level promoters desperately scurry to put on their events without the specter of the UFC's shadow covering their event.
This past weekend, however, it was mostly silent. The Score Fighting Series and Bellator took place on Friday. I know Shooto Brazil held a show as well. Obviously dozens and dozens of others shows in multiple continents staged bouts. But none of the 'major' minor league shows were operating over the weekend. It felt eerily quiet, although that's not necessarily a terrible thing. I was able to get a good night's rest, watched college football, and went out to eat. With as much MMA as there is these days that are big and important enough to merit coverage, I'd almost forgotten what it was like to do something else on a Saturday.
Don't get me wrong: I'm looking forward to the next major MMA event as much as the next guy. I'd by lying, though, if i didn't admit a Saturday every now and again where I don't have to wonder what the rest of the world is doing outside the confines of my laptop is a pretty refreshing occasion.
Least serendipitous night in MMA: Chris Horodecki
Chris Horodecki was looking to bounce back from consecutive losses at the Score Fighting Series on Friday night. Instead the frustration continued. In the first round of his bout with Brad Cardinal in the headline bout at the RBC Centre in Toronto, Can., the two clashed heads resulting in the doctor ending the contest after the first frame. There's no official word yet on whether they'll be a rematch, but one has to note the career struggles of a once very promising talent. In the days of the IFL, Horodecki's battles with Bart Palaszewski had some declaring 'the Polish Hammer' was on track to be a future great. He's young enough to potentially make a career rebound, but things look bleaker for that outcome by the fight. His skill set seems stagnated and his luck absent. Here's to hoping a righted ship is in his future.
Biggest winner in combat sports: Danny Garcia
I know, I know. It's boxing. A lot of you lot don't care for it or outright hate it. Your vitriol - while confusing to me - is not something I necessarily miss. I still thought I'd share this KO from Saturday. Garcia vs. Erik Morales was the main event in the first boxing event in Brooklyn in decades. As Scott Christ underscored, Garcia's become a full-fledged 'top dog' in one year. I don't care if it boxing or MMA, watching someone ascend the ranks on the backs of knockouts is nothing to wave off.