It took a couple tries, but the UFC’s flyweight tournament finally has a final. And beyond the frenetic action in the 125-pound main event, UFC on FX 3 brought us plenty of fireworks throughout the main card. The prelims, well, they definitely happened as well.
Now that the dust has settled and the blood has dried, let’s take a look at the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between after the UFC on FX 3.
Biggest Winner: Demetrious Johnson
Three frantic rounds, and "Mighty Mouse" still ended the fight looking like he was ready to go for a jog, maybe play a couple sets of tennis. Watching his action-packed battle with McCall only reminds why it was high time the UFC added flyweights. In a true mixed martial arts bout with a little bit of everything, Johnson proved to be just a little too fast. At least the rematch was more conclusive (not that anyone would’ve complained about seeing another round of that one) and the flyweight tournament can now move toward what ought to be a thrilling conclusion. Is Johnson’s quickness and crafty striking enough to beat Joe Benavidez, who seemed to many like the de facto 125-pound champ from the moment the division was created? I can hardly wait to find out.
Biggest Loser: Charlie Brenneman
He tried to turn it into a wrestling match so he could test Erick Silva on the mat. All he got for his trouble was a first-round submission loss. Brenneman is obviously a gifted athlete and a fierce competitor (don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten about how he stepped up and beat Rick Story after Nate Marquardt’s testosterone fiasco in Pittsburgh), but at times it seems as if he might not have the full compliment of skills that one needs at this level. Of the four guys he’s beaten in the UFC, only one is still gainfully employed with the organization. That doesn’t mean Brenneman’s no good, or that he’s not still a threat to a lot of the welterweights out there (many of whom would have trouble with Silva, by the way), but he’s got to find a way to give his opponents more to worry about than just takedowns and ground control. Nobody can say much when you win those kinds of fights, but when you try to turn it into a grind and end up with a forearm on your throat before the first round is over, it doesn’t bode well.
Least Concerned About Open Head Wounds: Eddie Wineland
In the Roman legions, men died from gashes like the one that Wineland had on his forehead by the end of his fight with Scott Jorgensen. Infection got some of them, but a few probably died of freakout after accidentally catching a glimpse of themselves in a still pool. Who could blame them? When you realize that your head now looks like the work of a frustrated jack-o-lantern carver, you have a right to get upset. But not Wineland. He somehow squinted through the blood and did what needed to be done, dropping Jorgensen with a vicious right hand. Good thing, too, because when you have a cavern in your forehead that’s pouring blood down into your eye, cageside doctors tend to get a little squeamish. Maybe the most amazing part is that even when Wineland had a chance to look at his cut on the big screen after the fight, he still didn’t seem too upset. A lot of guys might have asked for a plastic surgeon and wheelbarrow full of morphine. All Wineland asked for was more fights. That’s the kind of guy you want standing next to you when you’re going toe-to-toe with the Gauls. It’s definitely not someone you want to have throwing right hand bombs at the more delicate areas of your face.
Most Surprising: Mike Pyle
I picked him to win, but I sure didn’t see it coming via one-punch knockout. With time ticking down in the opening frame, Pyle threw that right hand like he thought it would be one of many on the night. Even he couldn’t have expected that it would put Neer nose-down into a sponsor logo. It was just the fourth TKO win of Pyle's career, and the only true knockout. He showed in his last fight that he’s getting more and more dangerous on the feet, but you still don’t think of him as the kind of guy who can erase your short-term memory with a single punch. As Jon Anik pointed out in the post-fight interview, Pyle’s no young buck in the fight game. Mid-30’s isn’t ancient for a fighter with his style, but let’s just say he’s not getting carded when he goes to buy beer. Maybe he doesn’t have the time to rise through the ranks and build a case for a title shot, but he’s clearly still capable of putting on a show and beating some very tough fighters. And hey, if he’s going to add one-punch power to his arsenal, who knows how far he might go?
Most Impressive in Defeat: Ian McCall
Johnson might have been just a half-step ahead of him at the most crucial moments, but McCall kept the pressure on and didn’t give him anything for free. It didn’t result in a win for "Uncle Creepy," but he’s got nothing to be ashamed of after that performance. In that division, and with only three rounds to work, so much depends on so little. A punch here, a takedown there, and the fight might swing in the opposite direction. It didn’t, of course, so he’s probably going to wallow in his own despair for the next couple weeks, but he’ll be back. The good news is, the UFC’s flyweight division is still so thin that he shouldn’t have too much trouble making his case for a shot at the eventual champion.
Least Impressive in Victory: Mike Pierce
"Mike Pierce doing what Mike Pierce does," Anik observed at one point in the broadcast. Near as I could tell, he did not intend it as a compliment. We all know Pierce’s game at this point. He’s a suffocating wrestler in the Jon Fitch mold. He’s nearly impossible to look good against, win or lose, and he brings a guaranteed 15-minute lull to any broadcast. There’s no rule against winning that way. If people don’t want to be crumpled up in a ball against the fence, it’s up to them to stop it from happening. At the same time, these performances aren’t doing much to bolster the ranks of the Official Mike Pierce Fan Club. I’m sure there are MMA fans out there who get excited by three rounds of perfunctory boxing, takedowns, and top control, but I can’t say I’ve ever met them.
Best Bilingual Interview Duo: Erick Silva and Wallid Ismail
It was another impressive win by Silva, who looks like a nightmare for most UFC welterweights. But things got really fun when the Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend and notorious wild card Ismail handled translation duties in the post-fight interview. At least, he started out translating. By the end, he was no longer letting Silva speak before launching into a speech of his own. That’s what you get when you put those two on TV. You can count on Silva to give you an aggressive performance and, more than likely, a finish; you can count on Ismail to do or say something that leaves people wondering, who was that guy? Do yourself a favor and look him up.
Least Official Officials: Florida Commission
From referees who seemed not quite clear on the rules to judges who seemed not quite clear on which fighter was which, the Florida State Boxing Commission did not come off looking like seasoned professionals on Friday night in Sunrise. On the prelims, referee Chris Adams declined to deduct a point from Lance Benoist after two illegal knee strikes, opting instead to go with the favorite disciplinary tool of the summer camp counselor: the stern warning. Things didn’t get much better on the scorecards, either. Even after three rounds of a solid Mike Piercing, Carlos Eduardo Rocha somehow managed to win every round according to one judge’s tally. "Mighty Mouse" Johnson had a similar clean sweep against McCall on one scorecard, despite pretty clearly losing the second round. In both those fights, the right guy got his hand raised anyway, but it’s almost beside the point. These people -- judges, referees, cageside officials -- have important jobs to do. They’re responsible for fighter safety, for fairness, and for deciding who goes home with a win and twice as much money in his pocket. With all that on the line, how do we end up with people who seem to have only a passing interest in this stuff? If you’re going to take the time to regulate a combat sports event, why not take a little extra time to do a good job of it?