While the main event didn't produce a finish that seemed to be guaranteed, it wasn't a stinker and the rest of the main card delivered exactly as expected.
All of you not from Fabricio Werdum's family or camp that expected him to thoroughly outstrike Travis Browne raise your hands. Alright you liars, put them down. Werdum could not have picked a better point in his career to peak than at this point. The main stage of a free nationally televised event to earn the #1 contendership... yeah, I think it worked out really well for him. He may not have been able to finish Browne, but Browne showed great toughness and submission defense to go the full distance. Werdum also showed good endurance and that may have been the biggest key in the fight. Once Browne tired, he wasn't nearly the threat he was early on to put an end to the fight with just one strike. Now Werdum gets to challenge Cain Velazquez for the heavyweight title next and he looks to be a more viable contender than Junior Dos Santos did heading into his last fight with Velazquez.
The co-main event between Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche was competitive and fun, but probably won't stand out in anyone's long-term memory. Donald Cerrone and Edson Barboza was short, but very fun. It was a strikers battle, but it was the least expected strike that made all the difference in it. To fill out the main card, Yoel Romero established he is a beast to be reckoned with at middleweight, easily disposing of Brad Tavares.
On the prelims, Khabib Nurmagomedov let the world know he is a contender and not a pretender, Thiago Alves came back from a two year absence, and Jorge Masvidal almost looked disinterested at times in victory.
Here's the breakdown:
* indicates I was right in my pick
Fabricio Werdum defeated Travis Browne via Decision
I don't know anyone that would have realistically predicted the fight would go the way it did. Werdum winning. Werdum controlling the standup. The fight going the distance. While Werdum winning wasn't completely asinine, the other two only seemed possible in an alternate universe. But there is a reason people say that reality is stranger than fiction.
Werdum has never looked better. After such a thoroughly dominant victory, I'd be willing to move Werdum ahead of Dos Santos in the rankings at this point. I'll agree that Dos Santos is still a better striker, but he hasn't shown much of a ground game to compliment his striking. Werdum's striking looked great and his striking is the compliment to his abilities on the ground, not his primary strength. In terms of preparation for his fight with Velazquez, nothing could have been better for Werdum than to go the full five rounds. Velazquez is guaranteed to push the pace at a much higher rate, but at least Werdum has the experience of five rounds now. He is the underdog going into the fight... just like he was tonight. Seriously people, we can't sleep on Werdum again. He is peaking at just the right time.
I seriously doubted Browne had the cardio to keep up with Werdum if the fight left the first round and it proved to be completely true. Sure, I picked Browne to win, but I figured he'd wear Werdum down with some heavy shots in the first before finishing him in the second. He did score some heavy shots early on, but stupidly tried to kill Werdum with every shot and blew his wad (my hat tip to Joe Rogan). Browne needs to become a smarter fighter to take the next step. He has the ability no doubt. In the long run, losing in this manner may be the best thing for him as I expect a much more humble beast the next time that he steps into the Octagon. The best fight for him to take next is the loser of the Dos Santos-Stipe Miocic fight at the end of May. He has already fought Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, Gabriel Gonzaga, Stefan Struve, and Bigfoot Silva, Mark Hunt and Brendan Schaub are a guarantee to fight and it would be cruel to match him with Frank Mir. That only leaves the loser of Dos Santos and Miocic. (Roy Nelson has a broken hand... since I know someone will state it)
*Miesha Tate defeated Liz Carmouche via Decision
This was a very close match that very well could have gone either way. But I happened to agree with the result that the judges came to by rewarding Tate for her attempts to finish the fight whereas Carmouche was satisfied with simply maintaining position. Aggression over position any day in my book. Carmouche did show a lot of grit and strength by ripping out of a deep RNC attempt by Tate in the final round that had everyone on the edge of their seat if they weren't standing. I can't say that I've seen someone more effectively get out of a deep choke than the way that Carmouche did... largely because few are strong enough to do so.
Tate needed this win in the worst way. How many of you realize that was her first win in the UFC? Yeah, thats what I thought. The finish would have really locked up the idea that Tate is still an elite bantamweight despite having lost three of her previous four fights, but being unable to finish Carmouche in what amounted to be a very close fight leaves a lot of doubters for her. Why is the finish all that important? Because Carmouche has proven at this point that she isn't a elite fighter herself. Elite fighters finish fighters a step below them. Tate didn't do that. Giving away round one due to passiveness didn't help either. Still, she'll be around the UFC as long as she wants provided she can squeak out the occasional victory thanks to her fan popularity. Another bantamweight who has struggled to maintain her status as an elite fighter is Sarah Kaufman. Kaufman looked very good in her last bout, but her opponent Leslie Smith took the fight with one weeks notice. Pair her with Tate and let the results declare who is still elite.
I don't dislike Carmouche despite what may be harsh criticism of her. She is probably the strongest woman in the organization and fully capable of winning against many other women out there. But every time she steps in the Octagon with anyone considered to be anywhere near contendership, she falters. Her lack of aggression once again cost her. I realize that she was aggressive in looking for takedowns, but was content to just keep the fight there rather than look to advance her position, attempt a submission (even though she wasn't in position to do so), or try to punish Tate with GNP. At this point I think she makes a great gatekeeper. If Shayna Baszler can ever stay healthy enough to make her Octagon debut, she would make an awesome option to face Carmouche.
*Donald Cerrone defeated Edson Barboza via Submission 1st Round
A jab. In a fight between two fighters known for their explosive kicks and knees, the defining strike of this match was a jab. Both landed some hard kicks (particularly Barboza) and it was a jab. Barboza even landed right hook with a lot more power right out of the gate and it was a jab that finished Barboza! To clarify, the jab didn't put Barboza out, but it did floor him and Cerrone did what he does best in those instances: dive in for the RNC. I'm sure I sound pissed, but I'm really just astounded. Its results like this that make MMA so freakin awesome!
I feared another finish similar to the way Anthony Pettis destroyed Cerrone just over a year ago as Barboza was attacking the body and Cerrone looked shaken after getting rocked by the hook early. But he stuck to his plan of pressing forward and timed his jab perfectly to knock Barboza down. I doubt he expected it to have such good results, but you think he wouldn't take it? Cerrone is content with fighting as much as possible at this point rather than looking to move up the ladder into contendership, making him a high level gatekeeper. Michael Johnson has been looking for a higher profile match and I'm sure Cerrone would be more than happy to oblige him.
To give Barboza credit, he looked awesome right before he got caught with The Jab (I'm sure it will haunt his dreams). He looked like he belonged in there with the best, even if it was for just a brief period of time. If the end result doesn't put him into a mental funk, he'll be back to climbing up the rankings before we know it. John Makdessi lost a controversial decision to Alan Patrick back in February and hasn't been scheduled for anything yet. It would be one hell of a strikers delight with him and Barboza and Makdessi is certainly talented enough that it wouldn't be a simple gimme for Barboza.
*Yoel Romero defeated Brad Tavares via Decision
The only way that I saw Tavares winning this fight was if he could maintain his distance from the bigger and more explosive Romero and chip away at him and win with points. That did not come anywhere near what happened. Romero used his freakish athleticism to explode in for powerful strikes such as the superman punch he landed in the second round after he threw him around like a rag doll in the first round. Being well aware that he had the fight in his hands in the third round, Romero waited for Tavares to attack and waited for an opening to explode into another takedown and pushed a slow grinding pace for the rest of the round to seal the deal.
Romero has such a unique style due to his athleticism that I can honestly say I've never seen anyone fight the same way that he does. Wrestling may be what he has built his base on, but he uses it to compliment his striking instead of the other way around. I see no reason that he shouldn't be a fan favorite as he continues to receive more exposure. He is beginning to enter contender territory and there are a lot of options for him here. My favorite would be to match him up with the winner of the Luke Rockhold and Tim Boetsch fight at UFC 172. Barring no major injuries from the winner, they should have similar time to recover and prepare for their next match. Some might say that is too much to give Romero at this point, but he will be 37 by the end of the month and can't wait too long before his skills begin to fade at that age.
Tavares was bullied throughout the match. He never was in control and even though he landed a few nice strikes, he never hurt Romero enough to make Romero flinch much less stagger. Tavares is young enough at 26 to learn from this and come back stronger and considering he has proven himself time and again to be a smart fighter, I fully expect him to. Ed Herman and Rafael Natal fight next month and have both been around the UFC for a while and Tavares could benefit from a fight with a vet like them. Line him up with the loser of that match next.
*Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Rafael dos Anjos via Decision
While I admit that the fight wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing performance, it was a thoroughly dominating performance on the part of Khabib and should set his hype train to be running at full speed. dos Anjos has always had very good if not great takedown defense and Khabib shredded his defense to bits as he took him down at will and showed a very good top game as well as dos Anjos isn't easy to keep down either.
Khabib had yet to beat a ranked opponent up to this point and he was able to shut up the few doubters that he did have. Whether you like dos Anjos or not, you have to admit that he is a quality opponent and Khabib disposed of him with ease. He got the better of the striking as well as dos Anjos was worried about Khabib's take downs and wasn't able to throw at his full capabilities. At 25, Khabib should be far from putting on his best performances in the Octagon and that is a scary thought for any of his future opponents. At this point I have a simple request of Dana White. Give Nate Diaz a raise for one fight. If he beats Khabib, he can continue to earn big bucks. If he doesn't, he's back to his old salary. I know things don't work that way... but I would love to see that fight! Please Uncle Dana, make this happen!
dos Anjos' reputation shouldn't take a hit. Most were expecting this type of result. He is still a tough guy for those with less smothering wrestling to get to the ground and he throws his punches and kicks with very ill intent. He is also younger than most people think at 29 which means he could yet improve and likely will. I like how dos Anjos came back from defeat the last couple of times he has done so and think he'll come back looking better than ever. Josh Thomson has apparently decided against retirement and shouldn't need too much more recovery time from his broken thumb. He would be a higher profile opponent from a historical point of view for dos Anjos and I really don't think that dos Anjos wants an easy fight.
*Thiago Alves defeated Seth Baczynski via Decision
Alves made a successful return to the Octagon after more than 2 years away from it. Despite the end result feeling unlike your typical Alves fight, the fight did have a very Alves-like flavor as Alves scored with a lot of hard leg kicks and featured Alves stalking Baczynski for the majority of the fight. In other words, the only thing that was really missing for Alves was the finish.
While it wasn't the explosive return that many were expecting out of Alves, it was definitely a nice return win. Alves hasn't ever been known as a patient fighter, but exhibited a lot of that as Baczyinski danced around the Octagon and was easily the much more active fighter. But Alves stalked him around the ring and would pick his spots here and there, utilizing a very leg kick heavy offense. It started to pay off as Baczynski wasn't nearly as active the last round and had Baczynski's legs kicked out from under him. There is no need to rush Alves back into contendership. He is only 30 and has plenty of time to make a run. Patrick Cote scored a victory earlier this week over Kyle Noke. I think he'd present a good challenge for Alves and would be a good bet to bring out Alves' pre-title fight form.
Baczynski didn't necessarily have a bad plan to remain active and try to use his long reach to keep Alves at a distance. His strikes didn't land with enough efficiency though or have the same type of impact that Alves' did. I give him a lot of credit though since I have never seen him attempt a strategy like that before as he usually tries to clinch things up and make it a grinding affair. Can't blame him for wanting to avoid Alves' Muay Thai. Overall he looked better than he did in his last effort against Neil Magny, even in taking a loss. It was reported a few months ago that Claude Patrick is close to returning to the Octagon. How about Baczynski welcome another fighter back from a long layoff?
*Jorge Masvidal defeated Pat Healy via Decision
I don't think there is a better grinder at lightweight than Pat Healy. The problem for him is that he can't often catch or hold on to his opponents as he is always at a speed disadvantage and this fight was a prime example of that. Masvidal landed a lot of kicks and jabs when he decided he didn't want to be caught by Healy against the fence. Healy wasn't able to maintain control enough to make up for the lack of damage that his strikes caused and the judges saw that quite clearly.
While it is true that Masvidal held his own against the cage, his lackadaisical attitude towards keeping the fight where he does best is the type of thing that has kept him from ever entering the upper echelon of the division. He is fully capable of it, but has never done so. Whether he was making a point that he can hang with a grinder like Healy against the fence or not, I can't say I agree with the strategy. Daron Cruickshank and Erik Koch meet next month in Cincinnati and the winner would be a good choice to match up with Masvidal next.
Healy may be on the chopping block as that is three straight losses in the UFC without an official win due to the marijuana metabolites found in his urine after he beat down Jim Miller. Healy is certainly a UFC caliber fighter and when you look at whom he has fought and lost to (Nurmagomedov, Bobby Green, and now Masvidal), you can see he has had only high profile opponents. I wouldn't be opposed to him coming back for one more attempt for a W, but considering his style isn't exactly aesthetically pleasing, I'm not counting on it.
White entered unknown to many and left quite the impression scoring a quick and violent KO over a tough customer in Payan. He sent Payan straight back to the ground with a stiff jab moving forward and followed up with rapid punches with Payan on the ground. Short nights work for the newcomer.
The thing that irritated me the most when watching White before this fight was his poor movement and flat feet. He didn't look great here, but he did look much improved. He has a very big frame for a featherweight and showed the potential he carries in his fists. He traded the role of aggressor in his short time in there and looked comfortable enough in both roles that I think he could be a more versatile fighter than initially thought. Payan represents a very straightforward fighter with little explosion. Godofredo Pepey is unpredictable and explosive. I'd like to see how White does with a fighter like Pepey.
Payan is a tough dude and puts on fun fights... but he doesn't have what it takes to fight in the UFC. He has now suffered two definitive defeats by KO to go with his very definitive decision loss to Jeremy Stephens to start his UFC stint. Any takers on him ending up in either Bellator or WSOF?
Magalhaes threw a lot and he threw hard. There wasn't a whole lot of technique behind his punches, but that doesn't matter when you have the strength that Magalhaes does... so long as they connect which they sure as hell did. Zachrich got hurt multiple times in the short time they were in the Octagon and faltered under a storm of punches from the bigger and stronger Magalhaes who mixed in a bunch of punches and knees to the body and continued to attack there once Zachrich went down.
That was easily the best that Magalhaes has looked in his Octagon career and would be wise to capitalize on his momentum by trying to score another fight as soon as possible. He took little if any damage in the fight and was able to remind a lot of people that he is worth keeping an eye on as he moves forward in his UFC career. Like Magalhaes, Hester has won three in a row, but not quite ready for a ranked opponent. Both have a lot of power in their fists and would likely have a number of explosions.
The only thing that I could see from the short time Zachrich was in the ring is that he throws his punches with good technique, but doesn't have much power behind them. He should have been aware of the power in Magalhaes fists and been content to let Magalhaes swing wildly from range rather than engage in a firefight. I'd like to see him get a winnable fight and Mats Nilsson best represents that in my mind. It will be quite clear whoever loses doesn't belong in the UFC.
A lot of people looked at Mein as a bulldog going into this fight. While that isn't a negative assessment, Mein showed a lot of patience and game planning in pulling out his victory over Perpetuo. Mein easily controlled the first two rounds and made excellent use of angles to frustrate and outstrike his opponent. Perpetuo turned up the aggression in the final round and almost subbed Mein with a leg lock and rocked him a bit with about a minute left to take the last round, but it was clear it wasn't enough (despite whatever dumbass scored the fight in his favor thought).
Mein had so much success that he got complacent the last round and allowed Perpetuo to take control. Outside of that fact, I was very impressed with Mein. We all know he can be a stone cold killer based on his demolition of Dan Miller last year. This time around he operated like a surgeon picking his spots to attack in and out wisely to score with leg kicks and jabs in addition to scoring some well placed takedowns. For a 24 year old, it was a very mature showing. Jason High had a ruptured appendix earlier this year and it hasn't been said when he'll be ready to go again. When he is good to go, I'd love to see him tie it up with Mein.
I knew that Perpetuo was going to regret his usual patient approach. I just knew it! He had a lot more success once his aggression was turned up, but by that time a finish was the only thing that would have done the trick for him. He scored the hardest punch of the fight as well to stagger Mein at the end and showed why the UFC brought him aboard in the first place after two frustrating rounds. Omari Akhmedov had a frustrating fight his last time out being finished by Gunnar Nelson. A fight between him and Perpetuo would be followed with a likely finish.
This fight was about as close as a fight can get as both fighters had their moments, but never truly dominated the fight. Ortiz had the strength advantage, but Borg could be ever faster than Demetrious Johnson. The only people who think I'm joking about that didn't watch the fight. Everytime there was a scramble Borg was the faster of the two and taking Ortiz's back with ease. What was able to give Ortiz the edge was his more polished striking and grinding work against the fence.
I agreed with the decision of Ortiz winning, but still feel as though Ortiz's performance was a bit... for lack of a better word I'll say disappointing. I expected him to exercise better control throughout the match with his size and experience advantage despite Borg's awesome speed. He did make the necessary adjustments in the final round, so I guess I could say his experience did pay off. As for what is next for him, Justin Scoggins has a bandwagon that keeps growing. I'm sure Ortiz would love to be the one to derail it.
I liked what I saw out of Borg before this fight, but now I'm ecstatic to see how far he can go. He is still very much a kid at the age of 20 and is far from fully developed physically. The good thing is he should still be able to stay at flyweight as Ortiz had a decided size advantage. Borg showed great strength anyway as he picked up and slammed Ortiz multiple times and used great leverage in his wrestling in addition to winning all the scrambles and the grappling aspect of the fight. I would love to see him matched up with Danny Martinez next. Martinez is a large flyweight with a wrestling background and a winnable challenge.
The fight was marred by a pair of illegal knees by Skelly to the head of Bektic while he had his hand on the ground in the second round. It had some slow moments as well, but allowed both prospects to show the UFC brass that they made a wise decision in signing both prospects. Bektic looked more tentative than anytime that I can recall and only showed brief flashes of the abilities that have him so hyped. Skelly on the other hand came in looking better than advertised and was actually the aggressor on the feet, which was bery surprising.
I was actually a bit disappointed in Bektic's performance and I'm not gonna count after the knees occurred as he was clearly dazed for the rest of this fight regardless of what he claimed in the post-fight interview. His takedowns were overpowering as advertised and his GNP was awesome too. But he had issues with Skelly's reach and didn't take control of the striking game as expected, though he did flash good combos when he did close the distance. The UFC will have to groom him a bit more than I expected, but that shouldn't temper long-term expectations. Jim Alers is another well-hyped prospect. Pair him with Bektic and expect fireworks.
Skelly has clearly been working on his striking as I can't recall him rocking anyone the way he did Bektic... and I'm not referring to the illegal knees. Before that he, he caught a nice right hook to stagger Bektic. While he did eat some of Bektic's GNP, he actually did a more than fair job of controlling the amount of damage he took (Bektic's GNP really is that good) and did a great job in the scrambles.
Both big men showed reason for the UFC to be excited about their potential, but they also showed signs to have reservations. All that mattered in the very end was who got the W and Lewis was the one who walked out with that after executing some very heavy GNP on May. It seemed as though May blew out his knee in one of the scrambles towards the which limited his ability to escape from Lewis, but it may not have mattered at all as Lewis is notorious for finishing once he gets a good position to rain down punches.
Even though Lewis walked out with the victory, I saw a lot of holes in his game. He never should have allowed May to get the dominant position on the ground, indicating that he has a very long way to go to be able to hang with the top level grapplers in the division. Good thing for him there aren't too many. But then again, I can't say his bad grappling was unexpected... or his brutal finish to the fight. Ruslan Magomedov and Viktor Pesta fight at the end of May and the victor would be a good option to match up Lewis with. Lewis still has a lot to smooth out before moving up the ranks.
May showed better grappling than expected. Even though I thought Lewis should never have allowed May to gain the upper-hand, I'll give May credit for being able to flip the situation on the powerful Lewis. Outside of a few leg kicks, we never saw any of his striking before Lewis took him down, which is by far the biggest strength of his game. If his grappling tightens up a bit and his striking is as advertised, he'll hang around a while. If he did blow out his knee, its hard to say how long he will be on the shelf. If it isn't too serious, the loser of Anthony Hamilton and Ruslan Magomedov at the end of June are good choices for May's next opponent.
Record for Card: 11-2
Record for Year: 90-51-1