Did you forget there was a UFC event on FUEL TV last night? Maybe you went trotting off to your hipster kickball league thinking it was just another Tuesday, or maybe you’re one of those unhappy few who don’t get FUEL TV at all. Maybe every time you hear MMA fans talking about FUEL TV, you assume it’s one of those internet video sites that appends TV to the end of its name in a sad attempt to seem more credible.
That’s okay. I mean, you did miss a few great fights, and I did forget to DVR it for you like I promised (my bad), but all is not lost. You can still piece together the awesomeness this morning as we sort through the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between from UFC on FUEL TV 3.
Biggest Winner: Chan Sung Jung
If you weren’t a believer after he knocked out Mark Hominick in seven seconds -- and, in fairness, Hominick did run right into his fists like a bird into a pane of glass -- surely you have to give "The Korean Zombie" his daps now. He took on a rising featherweight challenger who was undefeated in the UFC, and he beat him in every aspect of MMA. From the ground game to the striking exchanges, this seemed like a whole new Zombie. Remember the plodding, flat-footed fighter who blocked strikes with his head as if he were there to provide his opponents with target practice? Remember the guy who brawled with Leonard Garcia and more or less begged George Roop to kick him in the head? Well, that Zombie doesn’t live here anymore. The new one knows when to open up and when to play it smart, though he still has the resiliency to take your best shots and the technique to make you tap. Don’t think he’s earned a shot at Jose Aldo’s title just yet? You might have a point, but before you latch onto to it too tightly, consider this: in three UFC fights Jung has 1) pulled off the first twister submission in UFC history, 2) notched one of the fastest knockouts in UFC history, and 3) handed Dustin Poirier his first UFC loss (and first ever loss inside the distance), while also saving a fight card that had become mired in the muck thanks to its "co-main event" (more on that below). After all that, do you really need to see Jung win one more fight against whoever, just so his current streak looks more impressive on a computer screen? If so, I have to assume that you just hate fun.
Biggest Loser(s): Amir Sadollah and Jorge Lopez
Sadollah grew up in Virginia and, to the UFC’s thinking, probably had enough of a hometown pull to move a few blocks of tickets in the co-main event slot. Of course, he probably could have done the same from the middle of the card, and at least there this snoozer of a fight wouldn’t have ground the evening’s momentum to a screeching halt. Sadollah and Lopez combined for the only lackluster bout on the six-fight televised portion of the card. When I use the word ‘lackluster’ here, I’m trying to be nice. They spent most of the three rounds battling for position in the clinch or getting up from one another’s takedowns. By the time the split decision for Sadollah was announced it hardly seemed to matter. Just pick one guy, raise his hand, and get them both out of there. As Gus Johnson might say, sometimes these things happen in MMA. Sadollah’s been in plenty of exciting scraps, so we know he can do better when given a chance. Lopez just dropped to 0-2 in the UFC, and he did it while putting a lot of people to sleep, which is never a good career move in this business. If it hadn’t been the so-called "co-main event" -- an overused and transparent marketing ploy that is about as impressive to MMA fans as ‘Golden Globe nominee’ is to movie audiences -- maybe we wouldn’t have noticed. Maybe Cerrone or Pokrajac or Jabouin or, really, any of the other TV fighters could have come on afterward and served as a pallet cleanser to build up speed for the actual main event. All I know for sure is, at one point during this fight I heard my neighbors arguing on their back porch and I was very tempted to turn off the TV and go watch that fight instead. Their battle might not have been any more conclusive than the Sadollah-Lopez one, but at least next door I knew what was at stake.
Most Impressive in Defeat: Fabio Maldonado
As commentators Jon Anik and Kenny Florian reminded us over and over again on Tuesday night, body shots are kind of Maldonado’s thing. The trouble is, trying to win a three-round MMA fight with body shots is a little like trying to carve a sculpture with a garden hose. Eventually, given enough time and patience and constant pressure, erosion does its work. It’s just not usually a speedy process, nor is it terribly effective on judges who tend to go gaga for head shots and can sometimes fail to appreciate the importance of a blast to the liver. Both Maldonado and Pokrajac demonstrated a self-destructive willingness to absorb punishment, much to the crowd’s delight, and in the end they turned what looked like a forgettable fight on paper to a memorable one in the cage. That’s a nice surprise. You just hope that UFC officials will appreciate Maldonado’s style more than the judges did. Erosion isn’t sexy, but it is effective.
Least Impressive in Victory: Brad Tavares
In a just world, this title belongs to Sadollah. But we’ve covered that already, so let us raise our eyebrows at another lackluster victory instead. On the prelim portion of the card, Tavares and Yang traded eye pokes and groin shots in a somewhat sloppy affair that had even referee "Big" Dan Miragliotta looking frustrated at points. If not for Yang’s offense all but disappearing in the final two minutes of the fight -- in other words, right after he took a boot to the pills -- the judges might have gone a different way. As it was, Tavares earned the decision victory by doing just enough and no more. He held Yang down when he needed to, tossed out strikes that were at least visually impressive at the right points in the right rounds, and for his trouble he improved his record and pocketed a win bonus. If those were his only goals, then mission accomplished. If he wanted to give fans a reason to care about and look forward to his next fight, then he’s still got work to do.
Most One-Sided Victory: (tie) Donald Cerrone and Yves Jabouin
Jabouin came closer to finishing his opponent -- and, with a referee who wasn’t a hardcore sadist, he might have earned a stoppage at several different points -- but both men dominated en route to decision victories. Cerrone outclassed and toyed with Jeremy Stephens at times, batting him around like a cat playing with a paperclip. Jabouin made every effort to separate Jeff Hougland from consciousness, but couldn’t quite push him all the way over the cliff and so had to settle for stomping on his fingers as Hougland gamely clung to the ledge until the final horn. Great wins for both guys, and probably indicators that they need tougher competition. That’s easier to accomplish for Jabouin, who is rising ever so slowly in the bantamweight class. Cerrone had his ascent halted by Nate Diaz in December, and now seems to be campaigning in vain for a rematch. You can’t blame him for wanting to run that one back, but he’d be wise to seek fresh game and hope for another meeting with Diaz somewhere down the line. Cerrone’s at his best when he focuses on logging as many fight purses and bonus checks as possible. If he keeps showing up quality lightweights the way he did on Tuesday, the big fights will eventually come.
Most Surprising: Tom Lawlor
If you don’t count his late-night TUF mansion KO of Dave Kaplan, the last time Lawlor knocked anyone out was nearly five years ago at a small show in Mansfield, Massachusetts. He might have rocked an opponent or two during his stay in the UFC, but he’s still far more likely to be confused for a Mötley Crüe roadie than for a knockout artist. That’s why you almost couldn’t help but feel a vicarious joy when he KO’d Jason MacDonald in the opening minute of their bout and then celebrated like a kid who’d just been told that school was canceled. That’s what’s so fun about watching Lawlor. He reacts to the goings-on in his UFC career the way fans imagine they might react. When told to talk us through the finish, he asks, just as any of us who have watched way too many of these interviews might, "Do I get a replay or no?" It’s like he’s learned about this life more from watching it than from doing it, and he doesn’t pretend that it isn’t totally strange and wonderful. Are we ever going to hear the words, ‘...and new UFC middleweight champion, Tom Lawlor’? I doubt it. I also don’t particularly care. He’s just so much fun to have around.