Lessons Learned and Matches to Make After UFC on FOX 9

Overall I think that the UFC is happy with how the night went. They had a title fight that wasn't epic (especially when you compare it to last weeks main event), but certainly had a definitive and entertaining ending. They had their poster boy for the lighter weight classes come out in what was his most dominating performance in the UFC. And though the card was overall decision heavy, there were a number of entertaining bouts that kept the audience engaged.

Lets establish the most notable thing though. Demetrious Johnson should not be looked at as the underdog going into any fight for a very long time. His KO of Joseph Benavidez was about the most unexpected result of the match. Who knew that Johnson could KO someone who has never been stopped before? He established his place as one of the most dominant champions in the company and seems to be improving with every fight. That is a very scary thought for any challengers in the flyweight division. Or if you simply aren't a fan of Johnson. I may be going out on a limb as I say this, but talks of him facing the bantamweight champion in a superfight wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility in the near future. He knows how to neutralize his weaknesses to the point that it is difficult to pinpoint what they might be. At this point, expect Johnson to be the champion for a long, long time.

Also worthy of note is that there is possible that two #1 contenders have been established as Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes won their matches that had title implications in them. There is likely little debate as to whether or not Faber will get that shot after his highly impressive dismantling of young and talented Michael McDonald as he dominated him standing, on the ground, in the air, and likely in the fourth dimension. OK, I'm going overboard here, but I don't recall Faber looking better. Mendes will likely have an argument from Cub Swanson and his camp as his performance wasn't nearly as dominating, but he did win without controversy and extended his win streak to 5. If he isn't named the top contender, we could very well see him face off with Swanson. We shall see.

Lets get to it!

Demetrious Johnson: I don't believe that anyone expected the match to end in that fashion. If it was going to I'm sure we all thought it would have been Benavidez giving the KO punch. At this point it is safe to say that Johnson deserves to be in ALL talks with regards to best pound-for-pound fighters. He stopped the man unanimously seen as his greatest challenge dead in his tracks and held on to his championship belt. He doesn't possess great power but has perhaps the best technique in all of the UFC, showing what proper technique can really do. Its difficult to say who his next challenge might be though. He has already beaten those that are at the top of the division and John Dodson will be on the shelf for a while (even though Johnson has beaten him, a rematch could be sold), so the UFC will want a contender to emerge... and fast. Ali Bagautinov, John Linekar, and Zach Makovsky are the likely candidates, but they would need another victory before they get a shot at Johnson. It is likely that two of those three will face off against one another to determine who has next.

Joseph Benavidez: Benavidez is in a horrible situation. He will likely be going to beating up the rest of the division without any real possibility to get a title shot considering he has now lost to the champ twice... and this last occurrence was simply devastating. It isn't impossible for him to get another shot at the title... but very much unlikely. All he can do at this point is go out and dominate as best as he possibly can and hope for a title change to come as soon as possible. He did look more patient in the short time we saw him than he did in his first match with Johnson but it ended up being for naught. As for who he could face, Tim Elliot lost a competitive match to Ali Baugatinov and has shown a good chin up to this point. He isn't exactly a title challenger at this point... but I don't think the UFC really wants him to derail anyone right now considering he won't be getting a crack himself any time soon. At least it would likely be a fun match-up.

Urijah Faber: Faber looked better than ever. He showed tremendous power in his punches rocking Michael McDonald multiple times in the fight before swarming all over McDonald, throwing him to the mat and applying what may be the world's best guillotine choke for a W. It was a consensus that McDonald would have the advantage in the striking game but Faber showed much better hands in this fight, once again giving everyone a reason to sing Duane Ludwig praises. At this point it doesn't matter if he has lost to either Renan Barao or Dominick Cruz in his last fight with them: Faber has got next in challenging for the title after their match at UFC 169. If he continues to show improvement as he has, its more than plausible that Faber could someday soon own UFC gold despite the earlier losses.

Michael McDonald: I don't think anyone had a more disappointing performance on the card. McDonald looked flat and like a deer in the headlights. Considering he has had a title shot before that he looked pretty good in, this should be quite a surprise to many. Its possible that he was sitting on waiting for the proper opening to unleash a bomb on Faber's chin... but that is (or should obviously say was) a major mistake. It doesn't matter how much power you have, never ever EVER just sit for an opening. Realize that I'm not trying to take anything away from Faber since Faber looked awesome, but McDonald is capable of so much more than he showed. Its hard to say where to go with McDonald. If Cruz were to lose to Barao by a narrow margin it would make sense to match McDonald up with him. If Cruz shows ring rust as many fear it might not be the best idea. Outside of that, Takeya Mizugaki isn't coming off of a loss but would be a solid opponent that would likely produce fireworks. Its likely he could bring the best out of McDonald too.

Chad Mendes: I was going to say that Chad Mendes is the most dominating fighter in the UFC without a title the way the match started, but Mendes tired and didn't do much to help his cause for a title fight. Nik Lentz is a solid fighter, but should not have lasted to the end of the fight. He clipped Lentz with some powerful shots, he largely dodged most of Lentz punches, and took him down at will. He was stronger, faster, and just better in every way. And then he slowed down as he tired. Even though his cardio wasn't up to par, he still controlled Lentz and didn't allow him to really gain any ground showing how dominant that he is. It was reported that Mendes had a sinus infection that limited his training in addition to suffering from it during the match. Perhaps he gets a mulligan for not dominating as expected. I still believe that Mendes is the undisputed #1 contender at featherweight and should get the next title shot after Jose Aldo and Ricardo Lamas take care of business. But due to the fact he has lost one title match he might not get it yet. The issue is that the UFC doesn't want him to derail any other potential contenders either. What to do? I'd have to say that a match with Cub Swanson to determine who should get a crack at the title is the only thing that makes sense.

Nik Lentz: Lentz showed a lot of heart by continuing to be aggressive against an opponent that was clearly better than him in every way... except in cardio. Lentz is a solid fighter and should still have a long career in the UFC... but he isn't a contender. He will be able to seperate contenders from pretenders though and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Its hard to say what we've learned about him aside from the cardio and heart factors since nobody thought he would beat Mendes and figured it wasn't a fair test of Lentz skills. Diego Brandao and Dustin Porier face off later this month at UFC 168. Both have a lot of potential and time to get to the top. The loser should face Lentz and see if they can continue to make that climb despite a setback.

Joe Lauzon: This comment isn't saying anything that we don't know, but it really defines Lauzon: Joe Lauzon takes chances. Sometimes it pays off, other times it costs him. Against Mac Danzig it was a little bit of both. Going for armbars in the first cost him position on the ground but his aggressiveness usually scores him points with the judges. I expected Danzig to have an advantage standing, but I was shocked how lost Lauzon looked at times in that realm. Lucky for him though he was able to get the fight on the ground every round and showed great GNP doing massive amounts of damage to Danzig. Ultimately that proved to be the difference and showed that there is a first for everything by winning by decision. It doesn't seem Lauzon will ever be considered a contender again, but he can still be a fun gatekeeper. Edson Barboza had an impressive showing and could use a step up in competition. Lauzon is a perfect litmus test.

Mac Danzig: I don't want to see Danzig get released as he always puts on a good showing... but does 5-8 in the Octagon get you another shot? Not as far as I know. He certainly had the advantage on the feet showing a much more active boxing game than Lauzon and showed great submission defense, but Lauzon ended up doing a lot more damage to pull down the W and leave Danzig contemplating what to do with his future. I wouldn't be opposed to Danzig hanging around... but I can't recall anyone else surviving separate 3 fight losing streaks in the UFC. Maybe WSOF or Bellator will have some interest.

Ryan LaFlare: I don't want to say that LaFlare has arrived quite yet, but he made a statement in defeating an always stern test in Court McGee. He showed excellent conditioning hanging in there with the notoriously well conditioned McGee and showing a more diverse striking game. He continually beat McGee to the punch The wrestling game was fairly even, but considering McGee is a very good wrestler that is a compliment. Both took the other down but were never able to keep one another down for very long. LaFlare also showed great submission defense wiggling his way out of all of McGee's attempts. A match that would be a lot of fun would be to schedule LaFlare in there with Brandon Thatch who has also entered the UFC in a very impressive fashion in the last year. It would let the UFC know which welterweight to attach their hype train to.

Court McGee: McGee didn't really have a bad performance, but he looked flat in comparison to LaFlare out there and was beat to the punch time after time. He showed good awareness in going for submissions in the last round knowing that he was behind in the score cards as well as toughness, but those were things that we were already aware of with McGee in addition to his wrestling. It looks as though McGee will be nothing more than a gatekeeper in the welterweight division. That isn't an insult, but like all fighters McGee would like to be more than that. If Amir Sadollah is still around there are enough similarities that would make sense to match these two up. Both won TUF tournaments at middleweight but haven't been able to break the trend of disappointing TUF winners as of late. Neither has great power in their hands either and there would be a lot of strikes thrown. Oh yeah, they are both coming off of loses as well.

Edson Barboza: I am more impressed with Barboza after this fight than I was when he sent Terry Etim's head into orbit. Barboza was dominated in the first round and was almost put away. But he showed tremendous resilience surviving the onslaught and showing the resolve to come back and while he didn't finish the fight, he did decisively win the last two rounds. His leg kicks were as sharp as ever and he hurt Castillo badly with his spinning back kicks. Couple that with the toughness he showed in the fight and he may just end up fulfilling the expectations many have had for him. A good test for him would be Joe Lauzon. Couple Lauzon's go for broke style and Barboza's explosive striking and a FOTN is an excellent possibility. If Jim Miller gets by Fabricio Camoes he would be another solid choice.

Danny Castillo: Castillo showed the dangers of (as Joe Rogan loves to put it) blowing your wad early. Castillo looked phenomenal in the first as he caught Barboza with a powerful overhand right and almost put Barboza away multiple times within the round. After that he had no energy as he used it all trying to finish Barboza and largely stood there as Barboza picked him apart, mostly using leg kicks. He did show more activity in the third round, but Barboza was by far the fresher fighter. Where does he go from here? I got to believe that Jorge Masvidal seems like a good fit. Masvidal was in a similar situation in his last fight playing gatekeeper to the younger lion and came up short. Put them together and we'll find out who is more relevant.

Bobby Green: And I thought that Green looked impressive against Jacob Volkmann. It was established that Green owned a quickness advantage over Pat Healy, but it was much more pronounced than what was originally thought. As a result Green seemed to toy with Healy the whole time showing awesome head movement in dodging most of Healy's strikes and picking Healy apart showing great boxing. Though he got caught more as the fight went on, he had already done enough damage. A match-up with the winner of Michael Johnson and Gleison Tibau at UFC 168 would be ideal for Green. Both have been around the UFC for a while and have been thought of as gatekeepers. The winner would be a great test to see if Green can be more than a gatekeeper himself.

Pat Healy: Healy has to exceptionally disappointed. He has had four tries and still doesn't own a UFC victory (thank you Mary Jane). He fought his fight as he was able to wear out Green as the fight went on... but not before Green did enough damage to win. He is only 30, but has a lot of MMA miles on his odometer. How much can he actually improve at this point? Or perhaps even more important for him: will the UFC keep him around for another fight? That is three straight fights without a victory. And people say nothing bad comes from smoking marijuana. If he gets to stick around, its been a long time since we've had a Mark Bocek sighting. Both have been stuck in a middling position for a while now and need to start gaining some tread.

Zach Makovsky: Count me as one of those that didn't think that Makovsky would be able to beat Scott Jorgensen. Count me as one of the many that were wrong. Makovsky knew he would have a quickness advantage and utilized it to the best of his advantage, sneaking in effective punches and takedowns against Jorgensen. Considering that Jorgensen was a high level college wrestler and appeared to be rocked a few times despite have a notoriously tough chin, that makes what Makovsky did even that much more impressive. He could very well become a legitimate title contender at flyweight. John Linekar has already shown he has the ability to challenge for the title, but he hasn't gotten the whole weight cutting thing down. He would be an excellent match-up for Makovsky and allow one of them to establish themselves as a contender in an ever growing division.

Scott Jorgensen: Between his new bleached look and new weight class, there was a lot of things new for Jorgensen. Unfortunately it didn't result in new results for the former bantamweight as he dropped his 4th fight in 5 tries. Jorgensen never looked particularly quick at bantamweight and he looked far worse in that category in his flyweight debut against Makovsky, losing in all of the transitions and being outstruck by a faster opponent. He could still make some noise at flyweight (if the UFC keeps him around), but he will need to address that issue in the worst way. Considering all of his losses in that time have been against current and former WEC/Bellator/UFC champions, I believe he will get one more chance. If he gets to hang around for another fight, Jose Maria Tome would be a favorable pairing in the sense that both are flyweights without much quickness (for the weight class) and love to stand and trade. It would certainly be a loser leaves town match.

Sam Stout: It took a while for Stout to get loose, but once he did Stout began to pick Cody McKenzie apart with a variety of kicks and punches, particularly to McKenzie's midsection. In many ways the match exemplified why Stout is so maddening: he looks so clean and crisp in his technique, how the hell could he allow such an awkward striker like McKenzie to get the better of him even if it was for just a minute or two? Nonetheless, he did what he needed to do to get the W and lives to get another fight in the UFC. Its hard to believe that he will ever be anything more than a gatekeeper at this point, but many men have made a nice living doing so. Tony Ferguson would be a good choice. Ferguson recently returned after a long layoff and if the good version of Stout were to show up, it would be an exciting battle.

Cody McKenzie: I wanted to say that McKenzie should be released if he lost this fight... but after seeing it I would like to see him hang around a little longer. He showed some improvement in his striking (though it is still awkward as hell) and was getting the best of Stout early in the first round. Never thought I'd see that. McKenzie showed that he won't allow his opponent to get lazy at any point as he will dive on any opening offered to him and though he didn't finish the job, there were times he threatened to make it happen, including an ankle lock attempt with about 15 seconds left. Mairbek Taisumov and Tae Hyun Bang are making their UFC debuts at UFC Fight Night 34 in Singapore. The loser of that match would be a good opponent for McKenzie. If they sleep on McKenzie, he'll make them pay. Besides that, it would likely be a loser leaves town match.

Abel Trujillo: Trujillo looked simply amazing in his dismantling of Roger Bowling. He looked like a welterweight in there and implemented an aggressive yet smart gameplan mixing up punches, kicks, and knees in wearing down Bowling. Whether he has tightened up his ground game (where he was dominated by Khabib Nurmagomedov) we don't know yet, but I'm willing to bet that he has. As a result, I want to see him matched up with a ground specialist. What comes to my mind would be Michael Chiesa. Chiesa has a reputation of starting out slow before catching his opponent in a choke. It would be an excellent test for both of them seeing as how Trujillo has shown he can put an opponent away quickly.

Roger Bowling: The fact that Bowling made his way back to his feet before the match was stopped is an excellent testament of his toughness as he took one HELL of a beating. But if you take out his no contest from the earlier match with Trujillo, he has lost three in a row. I don't see the UFC bringing him back. It is plausible that he could go to the regional circuit and pick up a few wins... but I think that WSOF sounds like Bowling's ultimate destination. No shame in that.

Alptekin Ozkilic: Ozkilic came out and did what I largely expected him to do: Win the overall striking battle with some solid (but still incomplete) boxing, a few takedowns, and solid top control on the ground. Uyenoyama was aggressive in the guard and almost caught Ozkilic in a couple of subs, but Ozkilic showed some solid defense being able to get out of all of the attempts. He still needs to tighten up his defense, but I like what I saw overall. He is still new to the game having turned professional only 3 years ago. Considering that Uyenoyama was his most difficult challenge to date, expect him to look better and better in the cage in his upcoming appearances. His next opponent should be Justin Scoggins. Neither have a lot of experience, but have flashed a lot of potential and are coming off of victories in their UFC debuts. Scoggins ragdolled his last opponent, Richie Vaculik, but wouldn't be able to do that to Ozkilick. Great test for both youngsters.

Darren Uyenoyama: Though Uyenoyama lost, his stock rose in my eyes. He showed much improved striking, particularly in his kicks and was aggressive in looking for takedowns early on. What ended up losing him the match is Ozkilic wore him down maintaining heavy top control and exhausted Uyenoyama to the point he wasn't attempting takedowns in the third round and struggled to throw up effective submissions. If Uyenoyama improves his cardio as much as he did his striking from his last outing, he could end up making a lot of noise in the division. A fun match that would make a lot of sense is to pit Uyenoyama with fellow grappling ace Jussier Formiga. Both were recently bowled over by Joseph Benavidez and have very similar styles.

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