It would seem that the days of Michael Bisping being an elite middleweight have come to an end. This isn't to take anything away from what Tim Kennedy did in their fight as he earned a very clear decision and move up the middleweight ranks. But the Michael Bisping who danced with Tim Kennedy didn't seem like the same guy that has been called out by everyone for the past 5 or 6 years. He still looked good enough to beat the majority of middleweights on the UFC roster, but the upper echelon... nope.
Kennedy had little trouble controlling Bisping once he got him to the ground, which he did in rounds 1,3, and 5. Bisping had no answer for Kennedy's top control and relied on the referee to get the fight back to his feet in the last round. Even on their feet though Kennedy seemed to be getting the better of Bisping and that was supposed to be Bisping's definitive advantage.
Outside of that, Patrick Cote completed the Canadian sweep with a decision victory over Kyle Noke, Elias Theodorou and Chad Laprise won the title of Ultimate Fighter at middleweight and welterweight respectively, and Dustin Poirier again established why he is one of the best at featherweight with a KO victory over Akira Corassani to round out the main card.
Keep reading for more depth (obviously).
* indicates I was right in my pick
Tim Kennedy defeated Michael Bisping via Decision
There was very little spectacular about the main event. It isn't that it was a bad fight, it's more the fact that there was no point where either fighter seemed to be in any significant trouble or have a significant advantage... outside of Kennedy maintaining top position on Bisping of course. Even then all he was really able to do was advance position.
I'm making Kennedy's dominance sound worse than it really was, but he was without a doubt the better man against Bisping and established himself among the elite of the division. His striking has looked much improved over his last few bouts and if he can continue to polish it up, he could be a serious contender as his grappling could be considered the best this side of Jacare Souza in the division. Speaking of Jacare, it seems like it would be a good time to match him up with Kennedy for a rematch. Jacare won their fight in Strikeforce in a 5 round decision for the belt. Many say Jacare has done enough to warrant a title shot... but the line for a shot at the belt is already long as it is right now. Lyoto Machida meets the champ Chris Weidman in July and Vitor Belfort is lined up for next after that. Would anyone else object to putting the winner of Kennedy and Jacare after that? I think it would work out well... but who ever listens to me?
Bisping didn't seem like he had slowed down physically as his movement was still good. But he looked tentative on his feet and struggled with Kennedy's takedowns and couldn't get to his feet. I don't know what I would attribute any of it to as it could be his eye (which has been surgically repaired) caused more problems than we thought it would. Maybe he was pacing himself since he has never gone five rounds. Hard to say what exactly it was, but the simplest way to put it is that Kennedy beat Bisping at his own game. I've already stated that Bisping would still be able to beat the majority of middleweights on the roster, but I'm thinking outside the box here. I know there is still a long line of fighters who would love to get a piece of Bisping (even if he isn't elite any more, he is still a name), but Rich Franklin is still looking for one more fight before calling it a career. How about Bisping? This loss puts Bisping out of the title picture for now, maybe permanently. Bisping and Franklin both have prominent places in UFC history and it would be fun to see them finally go at it. Hell, they can even do it at 205 if they want!
*Patrick Cote defeated Kyle Noke via Decision
Cote had a very good understanding of how much judges seem to favor takedowns and was able to score a takedown about midway through every round and score some GNP in the process. Even though Noke got the better of things standing up, Cote fought the smarter fight and walked out the victor. Quite the change from a guy who entered the UFC just wanting to throw leather.
Cote is never going to get another fight for the title. Lets get that out of the way right now. But he is tough as nails and has learned to fight smarter as this fight fully proved. He is a large welterweight and that helps to eliminate one of his greatest weaknesses, which is that he would get outgrappled by opponents with better grappling credentials. His size and improved grappling have helped out immensely. Seth Baczynski and Thiago Alves fight this weekend and the winner would be a sound choice to match up next to Cote.
Noke looked much better than anticipated in his standup and I think he set the record for most front kicks thrown in a match due to him breaking his hand early on. He looked absolutely massive at 170, even bigger than Cote. Once he heals up his hand, he'll be a very tough opponent for anyone not in the rankings. Considering its hard to predict when his hand will be healed, it makes it hard to predict who to match him up with as well. Siyar Bahadurzada would be my choice at this point and time, but its likely a lot is going to change by the time he is ready to go.
*Elias Theodorou defeated Sheldon Westcott via TKO 2nd Round
The fight went much the way most expected. Westcott came out on fire and put Theodorou on the defensive for the first few minutes. Theodorou was able to ride out the storm and gained the upper hand the rest of the way and coasted to a relatively easy TKO victory from there on out. The fight demonstrated a very important lesson to youngsters in particular: pace yourself cause if you can't get the finish, you'll have nothing left to offer from there.
Theodorou knew exactly what was going to happen too and responded most appropriately, showing that his fight IQ is something that can't be questioned. The one thing that has never been in question with Theodorou was his gas tank and was dancing on his feet at times while Westcott stood flat footed with little to offer. He could very well enter the rankings in about a years time as he gains experience and focuses on training rather than acting and modeling. Claudio Silva scored a victory in his debut and seems like an appropriate first opponent for Theodorou.
Westcott had issues in dealing with Theodorou's significant size advantage in addition to his stamina problems, so look for him to drop to his more natural welterweight. There is no doubt that he has potential and has tremendous finishing ability, but the higher quality of opponent you face is also more difficult to finish and he hasn't shown he can win unless he gets the early finish. He has a lot to work on if he wants a successful UFC career, but it isn't out of the question by any means. Andreas Stahl has yet to make his UFC debut and represents a fair challenge to Westcott.
Chad Laprise defeated Olivier Aubin-Mercier via Decision
Laprise didn't run away with this fight by any means and every round was up for grabs up until the final seconds as neither man was able to establish dominance in any round. But Laprise was the more active of the two and fended off most of Aubin-Mercier's takedown attempts. His striking and movement was as sharp as he has shown it to be and it allowed him to walk out with the TUF welterweight title.
Laprise is more than likely to drop down to the lightweight division as he has spent most of his career there. Due to the fact that lightweight is easily the largest division as far as quantity of fighters, there will be numerous options for Laprise. He shouldn't be getting someone on the verge of being given a pink slip as he has shown more than enough ability to beat a number of fighters in the division. Joe Proctor returned from over a year's layoff in February to score a victory over Cristiano Marcello. He sounds like a more than fair opponent for Laprise.
Aubin-Mercier showed a lot of improvement in his striking in this fight as he consistently found a home for both his left hand and his body kicks of Laprise. Laprise was able to run away with the final round as Aubin-Mercier tired. Considering he had never gone into a third round, this was likely a great learning experience for the 25 year old. His ceiling appears to be higher than Laprise's, even with the loss. But the UFC would be wise to take their time with him as opposed to Laprise. Jon Tuck looks like an opponent who represents a winnable challenge.
*Dustin Poirier defeated Akira Corassani via KO 2nd Round
While everything in between wasn't exactly what was expected, the end result was. Poirier disposed of Corassani quite easily once the second round opened, but allowed Corassani to have his moments in the opening round even if Poirier did end up coming ahead by the end of the round. It could be said that Corassani upped his stock even though he lost in a convincing fashion. Thats what happens when you do something when everyone expects you to do nothing.
Poirier is as game as they come and proved that by taking this fight that he had no business accepting. He did allow Corassani to rock him early, but recovered and took the advantage for the rest of the fight there on out. The guy likes to stay busy, but if he can score a victory over one of the fighters ranked ahead of him rather than accepting whatever comes his way, he could get a title shot very soon. Still, I'm not gonna bag on him accepting as many fights as possible. I would love to see him fight recent title challenger Ricardo Lamas next as his losses to Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson were close competitive affairs and I see no reason a fight with Lamas would be any different.
Corassani gained respect from a number of fans (debatable whether he actually gained fans though) by taking the fight to Poirier. If he kept his foot on the gas pedal after he rocked Poirier we could be talking about a completely different result here. While he shouldn't be getting a ranked opponent next, he could end up getting one very soon if he scores a victory in his next fight. I like the idea of matching him with fellow TUF 14 castmate Steven Siler. Both are coming off of KO losses and have won a number of fights in the UFC, but none against ranked opponents.
KJ Noons defeated Sam Stout via KO 1st Round
Everyone is going to have the same narrative for this. Noons has never looked better or more powerful. Is that to be attributed to the decision to take the fight at 170? Whatever it was, the viewers had to be very happy with the results of everything that brought the fight together as that was one of the best KO's of the year up to this point. The fact that Stout was trying to put the referee in a headlock afterwards only adds to the narrative of the fight.
I haven't been impressed with what I've seen out of Noons for the last little while as he had looked flat and uninspired. The punch he landed on Stout was spot on and obviously had a lot of power behind it. Hopefully this can reignite his career after he lost 5 out of 6 at one point. I'm prone to believe that he will return to lightweight as his lack of grappling and size would be extremely detrimental to the former boxer. Pitting him up against Abel Trujillo would be an explosive stand up war against two fighters with good chins. Can we please make this fight?!
Stout continues his recent run of win-lose-win-lose. His reputation of having a granite chin just received a huge crack in the armor, but its hard to find someone who waited until their 18th UFC fight to go down in that manner. It really is hard to say what to do with him next as sometimes he comes out looking great and other times... he lasts 30 seconds. (OK, so that was the first time that happened) Daron Cruickshank and Erik Koch face off in May and the loser seems like an appropriate opponent for Stout.
While this fight was a lot of fun to watch, it wasn't quite on the same level as their first fight. Kaufman's performance represented a step forward from last time and Smith looked flat this time out, which I would attribute to taking the fight on short notice. Perhaps most importantly, Kaufman reestablished herself as a potential contender.
Its been a long time since Kaufman looked this good. She did a fantastic job of setting up her strikes and mixed in her combinations beautifully, mixing in leg kicks to go with punches to the body and head. There have been talks of her being in decline, but that performance should silence them for a time. She has been fighting for a long time, but hasn't taken Shogun Rua-type damage and at 28 should still be able to be mentioned near the top for a few more years. I like the idea of matching her up with the winner of Miesha Tate-Liz Carmouche. All three of them have already fallen to the champ Ronda Rousey and rather than knock potential new blood out of the mix, why not eliminate those that have already had their shot. I recognize that Kaufman has already beat both of them... but the rematch between the winner makes too much sense at this point to say no.
Smith may be the toughest woman in the UFC. Kaufman's shots were very clean, very technical, and very hard. And Smith was still standing there in the end asking for more. Considering she took the fight on about a week's notice, this fight should not be a true representative of her abilities as she looked sloppy with her strikes, often just throwing in retaliation without a real aim. Give her a full camp and I fully expect her to demonstrate the ability to become a fan favorite and maybe even a dark horse in the division... at least when you consider how fast Rousey has been chewing up contenders. Germaine de Randamie has a lengthy frame just like Smith and her striking background should promise fireworks.
*Ryan Jimmo defeated Sean O'Connell via KO 1st Round
Jimmo haters often complain about him due to the fact he is prone to grinding and boring decision victories. But 2 of his 3 UFC victories have now come by emphatic first round KO's. O'Connell was unexpectedly giving Jimmo a lot of problems up to that point with an impressive takedown and very effective work against the fence. He made his mistake when he leaped at Jimmo trying to score his own impressive KO only to be caught coming forward.
I don't hate Jimmo. I admit that his fights are often boring... but he isn't a bad guy even if his personality is a little... eccentric. (Jimmo-maniacs? Really?) But he is a good fighter plain and simple. Both of his UFC losses were competitive and his last one ended by freak leg injury. He should be ranked in the shallow light heavyweight division, especially when Vitor Belfort and James Te Huna should both be at middleweight exclusively. Ovince St. Preux recently entered the rankings, but his most impressive UFC victory has been Gian Villante to this point. Jimmo will give him an actual test. If not St. Preux, Fabio Maldonado is a good option as well... I just fear it would be a grind fest. Anyone else seen Maldonado's ground game?
O'Connell was aggressive coming out and that was likely the best plan for him to have coming out as if he waited for Jimmo to react we would have had a boring grinding decision that would have done neither any favors. This way he went out on his shield and even had Jimmo at the disadvantage for a good chunk of the round. The UFC is short on options at light heavyweight, which is probably why Cody Donovan is still hanging around. If O'Connell were to come out aggressive against Donovan it would be a fun fight as Donovan doesn't know what a defensive strategy is.
While the first two rounds easily could have gone either way, Roop left absolutely no doubt who won the last round by flooring Kumura, neutralizing his very active guard, and scoring with a lot of GNP to allow himself to walk out with the W in the end.
Why is it that everyone always seems to underestimate Roop despite the fact that he has victories over the likes of Chan Sung Jung and Brian Bowles? There is no doubt that he'll never contend for the title, but he is more than just a tough out at this point. He utilizes his height quite well and that makes him a threat to score an upset over anyone. His GNP on Kimura was impressive too as Kimura's guard is one of the best in the UFC. Just ask Chico Camus. At this point he is well served to test young up-and-comers. Kind of like he did here with Kimura. Thus why I think a match with Alex Caceres is a great idea.
I'm sure that the UFC is still high on Kimura. The kid is still only 24 and it isn't like he didn't have his moments in the fight. In fact, I'd say that his striking looked much improved as he was able to get inside of Roop's range a few times to score some nice hits. While Kimura has an awesome guard, he would be well served to work on getting off of his back as Roop completely neutralized him that final round. A fight with Leandro Issa seems appropriate at this point as he is another respected veteran who won't make a lot of mistakes... but is very winnable.
*Mark Bocek defeated Mike de la Torre via Decision
Did anyone else expect that fight to be as close as it was? I sure as hell didn't. de la Torre took a couple of hard shots from Bocek and never fell back showing that the natural featherweight has one hell of a chin. He clearly got the better of the longtime UFC veteran in the second round had the Canadian crowd holding their breath when the scorecards were read. Bocek was able to do just enough in the other rounds to keep the debutant from stealing the upset.
While Bocek looked good at times and scored some of the hardest punches I've seen out of him, he didn't seem to have a lot of fire in him this time around. It could be attributed to ring rust, but I expected to see more out of him in this contest. Even though he eeked out the victory, I wouldn't expect him to make a run to the rankings at this point in his career. Still, look for him to hang around for a while longer and serve as a gatekeeper in the deep lightweight division. Norman Parke is coming off of a draw and is still looking to score a victory over a name opponent. Bocek would be a great choice to match him up with.
I don't want to take anything away from de la Torre by stating that Bocek didn't look like Bocek (even though he didn't) because de la Torre looked much better than I ever expected him to. He looks like he could end up sticking around for quite a while, which I admit I wouldn't have expected. His boxing was very impressive once he was able to get loose and establish a rhythm. Dropping down to his natural featherweight class will help out too. Mirsad Bektic and Chas Skelly square off at UFC on FOX 11 and the loser of that match represents a very good choice to match de la Torre up with next.
There were few moments of excitement in this fight as Taleb grinded out a dominant victory over Grujic. Though there were a few moments where they were on their feet (where Grujic was trying to keep the fight), Taleb maintained his dominance there as well. Though the decision or dominance on the feet wasn't much of a surprise, Taleb's decision to grind things out was a bit of a surprise as he is a noted striker.
Taleb decided that he wanted to show that he is well-rounded as his reputation as a striker is well noted. It shows intelligence on his part as well. Considering his fight in the house with Tyler Manawaroa can best be described as a brawl, it does a lot to help him establish himself as a serious fighter in the UFC. Look for him to drop back to welterweight where he is absolutely massive. I'd pit him against William Macario next. At 32, Taleb likely isn't going to grow much more as a fighter, but he is ideal to test young prospects against. Macario fits that bill.
Grujic didn't show anything to make anyone think he'll get another shot in the Octagon. Throw in his advanced age at 37, it is unlikely he'd be able to get another shot as it is doubtful he'd be able to progress to the point that he'd be worth bringing back around.
Richard Walsh defeated Chris Indich via Decision
I have to admit I underestimated the wrestling and work against the cage of Walsh. Though I figured he would have the size advantage against Indich (which he did), I didn't think his pressure would be as effective against Indich as it was. Indich again showed that he is all heart as he once again endured a good beating and made a few attempts to end the fight with guillotines early in the fight, but none of the attempts were that serious. Overall it ended up being a very grinding affair that was fairly one-sided.
Walsh looked much bigger against Indich than he did against Aubin-Mercier on the show (remember that Aubin-Mercier is a natural lightweight), which is the biggest reason that I underestimated him. He had little trouble controlling his fellow Aussie and showed improved striking from his time on the show too. While he is far from a lock to have long stay with the company, he has ensured himself at least two more appearances at this point as his Australian nationality provides that much security. Alberto Mina was supposed to debut in March, but withdrew from the match when his opponent, Zak Cummings, missed weight. Walsh looks like he'd be a worthy test for the Brazilian.
Indich wasn't able to get the W and wasn't able to make it close... so its back to regional scene in Australia for him. While toughness is essential to succeed in this sport (and he has that in abundance), that by itself will only take you so far. If he picks up a few wins back home, he could be lucky enough to end up as a short-notice replacement on an Australian card ala Ben Wall. Outside of that, I wouldn't expect to see him back in the UFC.
Not many people expected Gorman to go all three rounds, but he was able to to demonstrate a high level of toughness at the very least by going the distance with Gagnon, whose only other fight to go the distance was a loss. Gagnon took a more measured approach to this fight (not a whole lot more measured, but more nonetheless) and landed numerous body shots and maintained head control of Gorman for a large chunk of the match. While it wasn't the most entertaining fight, it wasn't exactly a snoozer either.
Gagnon has now won three in a row with his only UFC loss being to ranked Bryan Caraway. He controlled Gorman the entire bout and his other two wins came via first round submission. In other words, he is turning heads and carving out a long-term role on the roster. While a ranked opponent would probably be too high of a step up, he should certainly be getting an opponent who has established a winning reputation in the Octagon. Chico Camus and Chris Holdsworth square off in May's PPV and whoever wins that bout will represent a more than worthy opponent to pit against Gagnon.
I knew that Gorman was tough, but I wasn't expecting him to have such high level submission defense. Gagnon went after multiple guillotine's and Gorman was able to get out without having to resort to simply trying to muscle out, showing great technique. He may be one-and-done here, but I feel like he showed enough to get a second cup of coffee, even if it were to come against someone scrapping the bottom of the UFC barrel. My favorite choice would be to give him a go-around with Cody Gibson, a prospect who showed a lot of potential against Aljamain Sterling. But if Gibson can't get past Gorman, he likely wouldn't be worth keeping around and vice-versa.
Record for Card: 9-4
Record for Year: 79-49-1, 1 NC