With only two finishes on a 12 fight card, the night left most viewers feeling unsatisfied. And not just because of the lack of finishes, but because of the controversy surrounding the stoppage of the main event of the evening. Renan Barao defended his title against Urijah Faber as Barao rocked Faber multiple times and rained punches on Faber as he curled up covering his face. Faber immediately protested the stoppage as he was showing a thumbs up to the referee, but the thumb was difficult to see from the referees point of view and he really wasn't doing anything intelligible to defend himself. Faber felt that the ref should have waited until his body went limp to stop the match... but has he been paying attention to the lawsuits that have been brought up against the NFL as the result of head injuries? Yeah... there is no way in hell the UFC could have justified waiting until Faber went limp to call off the match. Though the ending leaves the fans (and Faber) unsatisfied, fighter safety does have to come first and the right call was made in the end.
The first title defense of the evening between Jose Aldo and Ricardo Lamas had no controversy attached to it as Aldo beat Lamas methodically before gassing in the fifth and final round to take a decisive victory. There has been plenty of discussion of Aldo moving up in weight to face lightweight champion Anthony Pettis when he returns from injury and the time may be right to explore that option as the #1 contender for the lightweight strap is anyone's guess. Alistair Overeem was able to avoid the pink slip in his match, though it seems likely Frank Mir will receive it after falling to Overeem, Ali Bagautinov likely earned the next title shot at flyweight, and Abel Trujillo and Jamie Varner easily produced the best fireworks of the night.
Lets do it!
* indicates I picked the match correctly
Renan Barao defeated Urijah Faber via TKO 1st Round
I don't know anyone that was happy with the way that fight ended. I'm not saying the stoppage wasn't justifiable as the only thing that Faber did was hold on to Barao's leg and cover up as he gave a thumbs up... but it felt anti-climatic... and just plain wrong. Faber was looking very good and showing a new spring in his step that wasn't there in their first encounter and it looked like it was shaping up to be an epic contest. Barao was able to get a big right hand in there as square as they come and it was amazing that he wasn't able to finish Faber earlier than what he did, which truly is a testament to Faber's durability. Barao got an uppercut in after it seemed Faber had mostly (I said mostly... he wasn't all the way back) recovered and Faber immediately went for Barao's leg after his equilibrium gave out. Nobody could have asked Herb Dean to do anything else at that point even though it was clear that Faber wasn't out and Barao's shots seemed to be mostly hitting the shoulder. Faber was asked to defend himself and wasn't sufficiently doing so.
Barao is looking like he could end up having a reign just as dominant as the one his teammate Aldo has experienced at this point as he has finished all of his opponents since getting the belt and has never truly been threatened. The two things that truly hold him back from being a true superstar are his size (fans struggle to get behind the smaller fighters) and the language barrier (he speaks very little English). Its too bad because he really is a highlight reel waiting to happen every time out. His next title defense will likely come against fellow Brazilian Raphael Assuncao is Assuncao can get past Francisco Rivera later this month. Admittedly Assuncao isn't exactly a sexy choice, but Barao has already dispatched of Faber (twice), McDonald, and Wineland who would be the others littering the top of the division and Assuncao would have earned his sixth win in a row and an undefeated record at bantamweight if he can get past Rivera. He's earned it.
I don't believe that Faber will be able to squeeze out another title shot in the UFC at this point. Its not that I'm so upset about the fact that the California Kid never earned a title in the UFC, but the fact that the last one ended in such a disappointing way. At this point Faber can really only serve as the ultimate gatekeeper for the division as there would be little justification to give him another shot at Barao. Despite his lack of gold, he is still the most marketable little man the UFC possess and will always have a home in the UFC until he can't fight anymore. After fighting 5 times over the span of less than a year, Faber could take his time before climbing back into the Octagon and let the division play out a little before deciding what to do with him. The only match that really seems to make sense at this point would be to cap the feud between him and Dominick Cruz if Cruz can ever come back healthy. The only issue there is if Faber were to win it in Cruz's first fight back from his layoff many would likely attribute his victory to ring rust for Cruz. Regardless, its the only reasonable fight for Faber at this time.
*Jose Aldo defeated Ricardo Lamas via Decision
This match illustrated everything about why it is time for Jose Aldo to move up to lightweight at this point. The first four rounds of the fight seemed like a sparring session for Aldo. He never showed any real urgency to finish the fight and never truly came close. Sure, he had a few flurries where he put together some serious offense that looked like it could lead to a finish of Lamas, but those were few and far between. Aldo almost seemed to be disinterested. He never completely disrespected his opponent by toying with him or mocking him, but he just seemed to be on a completely different planet than Lamas. And Lamas is a good opponent. Aldo did gas and tire in the end as he has been known to do as he has struggled with the weight cut to 145 lbs over the years. He's getting older and the older he gets the harder the weight cut is going to become. And what else does he have to prove a featherweight? He has beaten each of the top 5 ranked contenders. Outside of that, his leg kicks were on full display and showed why many consider them to be one of the most dangerous weapons around in the sport today.
As already explained, the time is ripe for Aldo to move up in weight. The lightweight division is a mess as there is no clear cut contender for Anthony Pettis to face when he returns from injury and it could take a long time for a contender to emerge to truly be considered worthy to face the champ. Aldo already felt Pettis got an undeserved title shot against him last summer when Pettis was scheduled to meet him for his featherweight title before pulling out with an injury. You think he wouldn't be motivated to prove that he could beat Pettis at "his" division at this point? I think Aldo would be able to re-discover the killer instinct that some feel he has lost. Aldo is ready to join the ranks of Randy Couture and BJ Penn as a two division champion. As a result, the featherweight division gets new life breathed into it as those that have already lost to Aldo end up having a new lease on life.
Lamas showed a lot of toughness as he never showed any sign of weakness from the devastating leg kicks that Aldo landed on him and tried to win the fight all the way to the final bell. But he also showed the world that Aldo is in a class of his own at this point and time. Lamas would have to go on a tear to get another title shot if Aldo were to remain in the division. Regardless of whether Aldo stays or goes, he should be facing Chan Sung Jung next. They were scheduled to meet over the summer before Pettis suffered his injury and Jung got the call to replace Pettis. Now with both of them coming off of losses to the champ, it only makes logical sense to try it again. Jung is coming off of shoulder surgery and I admit I don't know how long it will take for him to be ready to fight again, but here is hoping it won't be too long.
*Alistair Overeem defeated Frank Mir via Decision
This wasn't exactly a crowd-pleaser, but it was certainly a brutal affair and ya gotta give Frank Mir plenty of credit for lasting all 15 minutes with the Demolition Man in this one. Overeem scored with almost everything: knees, elbows, punches and made Mir look foolish as he didn't score a single punch that threatened to turn the tide of the fight at any time. He did make a few attempts at submissions (a guillotine and armbar attempt in the second round come to mind), but those were the only moments that Mir had fans at all curious. The primary question people had was how in the hell he didn't go out cold from most of the shots that Overeem landed. While Overeem may not have finished Mir (but damn did he come close in the first round!), he did show maturity in working over Mir the way he did: very methodically without expending all of his energy once he had his opponent on the ropes the way he did against Travis Browne. The brash and cocky Overeem who seemed to believe himself untouchable was nowhere to be seen and that is a good thing.
Overeem ensured that he won't be banished to oblivion with the victory and insists that he is going back after the title. Does he have the talent to get back in the title picture? Of course! He showed tonight why is considered by many to be the most feared striker in the sport. I'm not sure how many exclamations he elicited out of the crowd I was with, but it was a hell of a lot. Many want to match his up with Junior Dos Santos as that is a match that has been brewing for quite some time at this point, but I feel a match with Stipe Miocic makes more sense right now. Miocic pulled out a workman-like victory over Gabriel Gonzaga that didn't seem to impress anyone. As a result, few fans are buying his legitimacy as a contender. A victory over Overeem would fix that and a win for Overeem does that much more to reestablishing his reputation.
Mir could very well get cut. That was his 4th loss in a row and though I give him all the credit in the world for showing truck loads of toughness, his offense seemed to be about as apparent as Jimmy Hoffa's body. According to FightMetric, he only landed 3 significant strikes... an average of 0.2 a minute. He is a mainstay in the division and its all-time leader in wins so Dana could end up giving him one more shot... but its hard to see that happening. If it does happen the only one that I could see being a justifiable match would be the ultimate pink slip match: Brandon Vera. Both have expensive price tags and it would guarantee that the loser gets let go. Plus, Mir would have incentive as Vera beat him earlier in his career. This would be about the only match I wouldn't have a problem with. Mir has taken a lot of damage over the years and it might be time for him to hang it up... but he has indicated he isn't ready to do that just yet.
*Ali Bagautinov defeated John Lineker via Decision
This ended up being a curious flyweight match. Lineker didn't seem to have a whole lot of energy and tried unsuccessfully to stalk down Bagautinov. But Bagautinov never slowed down, outlanded Lineker with relative ease and was able to take him down when he wanted to. Lineker looked uninspired, but I would blame it on his excessive cut in depleting his energy levels. I would hope to never see that Lineker again. It wasn't a horrible fight... but it was far from an explosive affair. At this point it is safe to say that both fighters are headed in different directions as far as they're career are concerned.
Bagautinov showed a very smart gameplan and was able to drape Lineker in it. He should be excited though as this was his third UFC win in a row since his debut and should get him a flyweight title shot. Demetrious Johnson has cleaned out the top of the division and Bagautinov will likely be the hottest candidate to pull the trigger. What I have seen out of Johnson lately scares me away from liking Bagautinov's chances... but then again I don't like the chances of any of his opponents at this point.
Lineker was only able to make weight via the second attempt that the UFC gives to all of its fighters if they initially miss weight and he looked slow and sluggish throughout the fight. There is absolutely no way that his next fight could justifiably be at flyweight. He needs to move up to bantamweight. His body isn't getting any smaller and it is only going to get harder for him the older that he gets to continue to cut down to 125. I admit he will lose the advantage of being bigger than his opponent, but he already is an unpopular figure in the locker room as many feel he should have already been cut due to his issues making weight. Yves Jabouin might be a worthy test.
Abel Trujillo defeated Jamie Varner via KO 2nd Round
This was an easy choice for fight of the night. Trujillo came out swinging and maintained that attitude throughout the fight. He landed some bombs on Varner and rocked him multiple times and Varner did the same to him. Varner did show superior grappling technique as he was able to get the north-south choke locked in, but wasn't able to finish with it. It came down to a wild exchange of haymakers between the two. Varner seemed to be getting the better of the exchanges as he used the better technique to land more often when Trujillo pulled of a vicious right that put Varner out before he hit the ground. It wasn't a pretty technical affair, but it was a blast to watch!
Trujillo is a tough bastard as I feel most people (yes, including those in the UFC) would have been out when he was still standing in front of Varner at the end. But I want to say that the right handed that put Varner out was more luck than skill. Still, a win is a win and you have to count it as a win. He was originally scheduled to meet up with Bobby Green and that still sounds like a fun fight to me. Make another attempt to match 'em up and let them go.
Varner's stock went up in my opinion with that loss. He threw some bombs that would put out most men and ate some as well. I feel he didn't utilize his wrestling enough though and he didn't show the best technique on his north-south choke. But he shouldn't drop down very far. Adriano Martins is coming off of the wrong end of a highlight reel kick. It would be a good test for the both of them.
*Alan Patrick defeated John Makdessi via Decision
There always seems to be at least one decision on every card that causes everyone to scratch their head and this was that fight. Patrick did seem to be the more active fighter between the two and that ended up being the difference in the fight. The judges awarded Patrick for his aggression and a timely takedown in the first unanimously gave him that round. Makdessi scored many of his strikes with counter punches and kicks and they seemed to be more the more effective of the two, but that is the danger of being a counter striker.
Even though I picked Patrick to win the fight, I'm not as high on him after this performance even with the win. He wasn't very effective with his takedowns (even though at least one of them gave him the W) and let Makdessi up as soon as he scored them. I expected him to show better top control than what he did. I will credit him for using his reach, though I feel he could learn to utilize it better. Ramsey Nijem is coming of a nice victory and offers a different dimension than Makdessi. The winner of the upcoming Joe Proctor and Cristiano Marcello isn't a bad option either.
Makdessi didn't show a whole lot of fire and it cost him with a victory. I'm not saying he deserved to lose... but aggression is something that judges look for. I still feel like a strong wrestler would give him problems and want to see if he could prove me wrong. I'll give him credit that he stuffed most of Patrick's takedowns, but it seemed to me it was more due to Patrick's inefficiency. A fight with Danny Castillo could be in the making as a result.
*Chris Cariaso defeated Danny Martinez via Decision
This was not the most fun fight to watch. Martinez did what Martinez does: He swung wildly as he pushed forward to shoot and get the takedown. He always has the same gameplan. Cariaso knew what to expect as a result. Cariaso used a lot more technique and ended up landing a lot more shots than Martinez as well. To give Martinez credit, some of the haymakers he threw landed and he did get some takedowns due to his doggedness. But he didn't do a whole lot with the takedown when he got it. Cariaso did a good job of mixing things up with elbows and knees in the clinch. Martinez did try to press things in the last round but never got the KO blow.
It wasn't the prettiest affair, but Cariaso did what he needed to do to win. So it was your typical Chris Cariaso fight. This gives Cariaso his second victory in a row and considering Demetrious Johnson has cleaned out the top contenders of the division, he could be in title talk if he can score one more victory. Cariaso is somewhat of a mixed bag though. Some are really high on him, others not high on him at all. I say throw him in the deep end. Ian McCall and Brad Pickett meet next month. Let the winner face off with Cariaso next. Its the best way to find out where Cariaso stands.
Martinez did the UFC a favor by taking the fight on short notice. He's a tough bastard who has never officially been finished which makes him a sturdy test so he will definitely get another shot. But there seems to be a reason he wasn't on the UFC roster just a few short weeks ago as he shows very little diversity to his game. I think he has the talent to stick around... he just has to show it. Darrell Montague recently pulled out of his upcoming bout. If his recovery time isn't too long he would make a solid choice to face Martinez next.
This was somewhat of a boring fight. Tom Watson is a brawler. But he didn't show that tonight. He seemed to be picking his spots and had an offense heavy with leg kicks. There is no doubt that he did more damage to Catone but Catone landed some timely takedowns in every round and was able to score enough points as a result in the eyes of two of the judges. Watson showed a bit more urgency in the last round but he had already lost the first two rounds in the eyes of most and though he landed some nice shots with a nice mix of kicks and punches in that round, he never threatened with a finish.
Catone may have saved his job with the victory, but he didn't look very impressive in the effort. He did nothing to check Watson's kicks (Chris Weidman will let you know how effective that is) and the takedowns were the only real offense he mounted... and Watson is known for crappy takedown defense. A match with Caio Magalhaes seems appropriate as he only put away Nick Ring after Ring blew out his knee.
Watson may get released. He seemed to be trying to fight a smart fight, but he is a brawler at heart and fighting cautious seemed to be his downfall. If he had lost in a more entertaining manner he would have a better chance of sticking around. I feel if Jared Hamman should stick around as long as he has then Watson should as well. If Daniel Sarafian stays at middleweight, a match between Watson and him would produce fireworks.
I admit that I had been questioning how powerful Iaquinta's hands were, but he shut me up early in the fight by nailing Lee square on the chin and knocking him down. Lee was able to eventually compose himself, but left himself open to a beautiful and innovative heel hook attempt by Iaquinta as Lee went for a takedown. Lee eventually worked his way out and the rest of the round was uneventful. Lee took Iaquinta down and got his back before sinking in a VERY deep RNC which Iaquinta squeezed out of. Lee kept his back the rest of the round with the body triangle and landed some strikes while Iaquinta defended the choke the rest of the time. Iaquinta rocked Lee first thing to start the last round though Lee landed some nice shots as Iaquinta went for a sweep. Iaquinta showed some slick boxing and takedown defense to finish the round. Lee had some answers to keep the round close, but Iaquinta mixed it up more and did enough to score the final round. Both fighters were impressive though and this emerged as the early favorite for FOTN.
The fight may have been a tougher test than Iaquinta expected, but I'd be happy with what he showed if I were his coaches. He overcame a deep choke hold and Lee really took it to him. He kept his wits about him though and effectively scored enough points to come out on top. Yancy Medeiros seems to be a fair challenge for him next. Medeiros is a big lightweight that physically overwhelmed Yves Edwards in his last bout.
Lee showed why the UFC was high on him even in a losing effort. I think that he'll be around the UFC for a long time and very well could develop into a contender... though that will likely be a ways away. I think Jon Tuck or the loser of the upcoming Cristiano Marcello and Joe Proctor bout (if they aren't cut) makes for a fair test for the youngster.
I know that most people had Hester picked here and I can totally understand why. He's young, athletic, and explosive and he showed that explosiveness early by landing an impressive left hand square on Enz that dropped him in the first few minutes of the fight. Just as impressive though was the heart and toughness that Enz showed as he not only survived the onslaught but backed Hester down with a body kick and rocked him later in the round. Even though Enz never truly threatened after he rocked Hester he never backed down and even pushed the pace in the last round. He could very well stick around for quite a while.
Hester looked great the first half of the fight and showed why so many are high on him, but showed he is still far from a finished product. His cardio could use improvement and he still doesn't seem to know what to do when the fight is on the ground, but he utilized his takedowns well to ensure he got the decision and didn't go all out in trying to finish Enz in the opening round. I'd like to see him get Antonio Braga Neto next. Neto is a world class jiu-jitsu expert, but is one-dimensional. Classic striker vs. grappler.
I picked Enz to get the upset in this and though it didn't happen, I don't feel stupid for making the pick. Enz again showed he is one hell of a tough bastard and won't go down easy. His style will easily make him a favorite with Dana White and if he fights like that in his next fight, he'll likely get another shot even in a loss. I don't know if Jared Hamman is still around, but if he is these two would put on a crowd pleaser. If he is gone, Bruno Santos seems as though he is an appropriate test, though the fight would likely be a lot less entertaining as Santos is a lay and prey expert.
*Rashid Magomedov defeated Tony Martin via Decision
The first round had one hell of a grappling display by Martin as he used his legs for leverage in his kimura attempt into an armbar and a high degree of grit and toughness shown by Magomedov to not tap and to get out of the armbar submission Martin attempted. Magomedov was able to take control of the match from there. He took top control when the fight hit the ground, outlanded Martin by a wide margin, and Martin never threatened from that point. His technique was nice to look at as well. He may not be too powerful, but he's solid. Neither fighter has anything to be ashamed of after this fight.
Magomedov never panicked after falling behind one round and though it doesn't look like he'll be a future contender, his poise and toughness will make him a difficult out for anyone. As deep as the lightweight division is there are numerous options. But I'm looking at Mitch Clarke for his next bout. Clarke only has one win in three UFC bouts and though he shows promise, its no guarantee he should be around long term. Magomedov would be able to expose if he can or can't.
Martin showed that he has potential and is big and strong at lightweight, but he seemed to suffer from Octagon jitters after the first round. He does seem like he has what it takes to stick around and will certainly get a chance to prove that again. He's a tough kid and if he can get his weight cut right so that he doesn't gas he'll be fine. The loser of the upcoming fight between Rodrigo Damm and Ivan Jorge seems like an appropriate second opportunity for the youngster.
It looks like Magny is starting to put it all together. He was able to effectively utilize his 81' reach and kept Umalatov and bay most of the time while landing plenty of shots himself. Umalatov did get inside at times and Magny often had an answer. At times he would clinch and land some nice knees to the body of Umalatov. Other times Umalatov would go for the takedown. He usually stuffed the takedown, but when he didn't he was able to find his way to his feet quickly. Showing some improvement in his grappling, he ended the first two rounds with getting Umalatov's back. Umalatov showed more urgency in the last round, but Magny showed good Octagon awareness and movement while continuing to keep Umalatov at bay.
Magny saved his job in the UFC with his performance. He is far from a polished product though and considering it was Umalatov's UFC debut (and thus was largely an unknown product), should face a fellow young prospect next. I like the idea of a match up with William Macario in his next fight. Macario is just 22 and looked like a beast against Bobby Voelker at UFC 168. Magny would be a different animal and both would be good tests for one another.
Umalatov looked like he was stuck in the mud against the much more active Magny. He did turn it up a notch the last round, but still didn't show enough to really make the match competitive. Its hard to say if he really belongs in the UFC, but I have no doubts he will get another opportunity to prove whether he does. It will likely be a UFC debutant such as recently signed Alberto Mina or another recent debutant such as Mike Rhodes.
Record for Card: 8-4
Record for Year: 30-15
Any objections may be voiced in the comment section below.