I know there were a fair amount of critics for this PPV card, largely due to the fact that Demetrious Johnson was headlining in a flyweight title defense. While I feel their criticism of him is unjustified as Johnson continues to prove himself to be one of the best fighters in the world regardless of size, the rest of the card had some disappointment to it. Yes, only one fight was truly a stinker so it wasn't that kind of disappointment. Most of the fights were predicted to be close calls... and only the stinker could be considered close as the others were all very one-sided.
Nonetheless, the card is over and as I try to forever maintain optimism, I didn't feel cheated. A champion reasserted his dominance, a potential title contender made a solid case at welterweight, and another one may potentially be emerging in the future at light heavyweight (I may be pushing this last one... but Ryan Bader looked damn good).
Here be the details and what the future holds:
* indicates I was right in my pick
*Demetrious Johnson defeated Ali Bagautinov via Decision
I'm not going to rip on Bagautinov as I very much feel like he genuinely did the best that he could in this match. Does someone else want to tell me what it is that he could have done better? But he lost every round of the match as Johnson danced circles around him and devastated him with his work in the clinch. I can't even begin to count the amount of knees Bagautinov ate. In fact, I'm surprised that he lasted the entire fight cause those were some hard shots. Bagautinov had some small successes such as getting Johnson down a few times, but he couldn't keep him down and was swinging and missing for the most part. Not a close fight, but a dominant dissection by the champ.
Does anyone want to state why Johnson isn't the pound-for-pound best fighter? He may not have finished Bagautinov, but he sure as hell tried to and those knees were brutal. His clinch work was good before, but it looks like he has been working on it in the interim. As dominant as he is, it seems he is continually working to get better which should be a scary prospect for the rest of the division. Keep in mind he isn't an old champion at 27 so his window of dominance should be open for a long time.
Johnson might not like it, but the best fight for him next is a rematch with John Dodson who has won two fights impressively since in the meantime. Dodson almost put him out in their first fight and ate an illegal knee himself at the hands of Johnson. I don't want to speculate, as it is hard to say if the fight would have ended differently without it, but you can't help but wonder. Considering Dodson's ability to put people out, he is the most marketable flyweight at this point... even more so than Johnson. I hate saying that about the champ... but people want to see KO's and Dodson seems to deliver each time out. As a result, it would be stupid not to make this fight.
Bagautinov has done enough to prove he is one of the best flyweights in the world... but Johnson really is that far ahead of him. Bagautinov tried throughout the match to take down Johnson and when he did succeed in doing that it didn't last long. While he won't be champion, he has the KO power to continue to make noise in the division and put on some fun fights. Who knows... maybe he could even work his way back to another title shot... but I wouldn't hold my breath on that.
There seems to be just one match that is making sense at this point and time for Bagautinov and that is another former title contender in John Moraga. Moraga is coming off of a loss to Dodson and it seems unlikely he'll be able to climb back into the title picture. Rather than risk them knocking down a fresh potential title challenger before they can climb a good ways up, how about they try to knock each other completely out of the picture first?
While I figured MacDonald would win, I didn't expect a second coming of the Jake Ellenberger fight he had last year. Luckily MacDonald was a bit more active himself and threw some nice combinations at Woodley and kept the pro-MacDonald crowd into the fight as a result. Hell, he even mixed in a takedown on the former wrestling All-American in the final round. Outside of the first minutes of the fight when Woodley pushed MacDonald against the fence, it was all MacDonald. Kind of a shame... this fight had potential to be so much more. Then again, don't we often find ourselves saying that?
While it can be said that MacDonald has looked more dominant (remember him throwing Nate Diaz on his head multiple times?), it is doubtful he has looked better. Woodley is a quality opponent and likely the best that MacDonald has faced (B.J. Penn at welterweight doesn't count). The only thing I can say that disappointed me is MacDonald's lack of killer instinct. It felt like he could have gone for the kill at multiple junctures, but never pulled the trigger. Maybe he needs to get away from TriStar for a while... or at least mix up his camps. Just sayin.
I have no idea if the UFC is going to award MacDonald the next shot at Johny Hendricks and the title, but I wouldn't be opposed to that. MacDonald's surgical style would be similar to his former teammate's Georges St. Pierre... the last man to beat Hendricks (albeit controversially). But I have a feeling Dana White will stick to his guns and give the winner of Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown the next shot. If that is the case, MacDonald said he wants to stay busy, so a fight with the winner of Hector Lombard and Dong Hyun Kim would be a great option and leave little doubt who gets the next shot at the belt.
Woodley looked like a deer in the headlights most of the fight. What happened to the killer that dissected Carlos Condit? I understand that MacDonald's wrestling is much better than Condit's... but are you kidding me? Maybe MacDonald performs some sort of voodoo ritual before fights to paralyze his opponents with fear and Robbie Lawler had the proper counter curse cause between Ellenberger and Woodley... damn. He showed some desperation in the third, but not nearly enough. He'll have to start winning impressively again to get back into title talks.
Speaking of Ellenberger, how about matching him up with Woodley next? Ellenberger fell to Robbie Lawler last month and is sitting in pretty much the same position as Woodley at this point with the ghost of his performance against MacDonald haunting him as well. Unless they decide to respect the power of one another too much, it would likely be a fun fight worth watching. Hopefully nothing like their recent performances...
While the fight wasn't a barn burner (or really competitive to be honest), it was worth watching as Bader put forth the best performance of his career to this point. Cavalcante was never in the bout as Bader used numerous takedowns to take the noted slugger out of his game and Bader wore him down further with great use of knees to Cavalcante's legs and body while he was on the ground. Even when the fight was standing Bader made efficient use of his jab and controlled that aspect outside of a short flurry in the third from Cavalcante. So if you enjoy a systematic dissection, this was totally your type of fight. Otherwise... well, Bader isn't going to offer apologies, so you'll have to deal with it.
Clearly I've been gushing over Bader's performance, but what is the best thing to me is that I don't believe that Bader is done improving at this point. Cavalcante isn't a slouch at stopping takedowns and Bader put him down 7 times. Cavalcante became concerned enough with Bader's takedowns that the jab (which had been underutilized by Bader) was very effective. I don't believe Bader will be good enough to win the title, but he could end up being mentioned in contention if he can win one more fight and few thought that would happen again.
I continually see Bader being mentioned with Ovince St. Preux for his next fight. While it isn't a bad fight, I'd rather see Bader face off with a more established fighter at this point, seeing as how he was favored in his last two bouts. Lets give him a true step up in competition. So lets toss out Joe Silva's usual strategy of matching winners with winners (he does make exceptions) and give him Phil Davis next. Both are collegiate wrestlers who entered the company with hype and have hit some stumbling blocks on the way to the top. I don't think the timing can be any better.
Most figured that Cavalcante, a former Strikeforce champion, wouldn't be able to compete for the title when he crossed over to the UFC and his loss here damn well solidifies that. If he could have been competitive at all I might have been willing to leave that door of possibility open just a crack... but not at this juncture. If he is matched up with someone willing to stand up and trade with him, he'll be worth keeping around as he is fun to watch when he can throw punches.
Cavalcante is hard to figure out what to do with for now. He is too good for the newcomers that have been signed by the company, but he isn't going to win against the elite. Very few match ups make sense for him. About the only one I'd push for at this time would be with Ryan Jimmo, who also suffered a loss on the card. Jimmo isn't quite as highly regarded as Cavalcante, but would be capable of beating him. Hopefully he'd stand and trade... but I wouldn't count on it.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzz... Huh. Oh! You're still there! Sorry. Thinking about this match put me to sleep. Yes, it really was that bad. The majority of pundits agreed that Schaub should have walked out with the victory, but they also agree that if both could have been awarded losses, that course of action would have been more appropriate. The first two rounds had maybe three good strikes throughout and Schaub clearly took the third round with a takedown and some GNP, but the fans had already been lost by that point and no one cared. Dana White said it best when he said the fans were the true losers of this fight.
I will give Arlovski credit in the fact that he admitted that he fought like crap and was highly embarrassed by his performance... but it still doesn't change what happened out there. He also stated that jitters of his return got the best of him. Whatever it was, he can't afford another outing like that... even if he walks out with another miracle win. His punching power should still be there so he should look better next time out now that his re-debut is out of the way.
There seems to be a consensus that Arlovski should get the winner of Stefan Struve and Matt Mitrione next and I can't say that I can think of a better option. Struve is coming off of a long layoff due to a heart ailment and Mitrione is... well, he is Meathead. The only other sound option would be the winner of Soa Palelei and Jared Rosholt... but I agree that Struve and Mitrione make the better option. (Quick side note: I thought maybe Minotauro Nogueira even though he has lost two in a row for the nostalgia factor of two former champions if the UFC will still let him fight... but I would rather not see Nogueira fight anymore)
While I agree that Schaub was right in the fact that he did more to win the fight, to say that he did enough to win would be pushing it to far. In other words, neither of them did enough to win the fight outright. Its hard to consider Schaub a prospect anymore even though he is relatively young by heavyweight standards at 31 as this was his 10th fight in the UFC. He isn't likely to get much better, especially considering his chin hasn't held up well in his tenure. I don't want to throw him too far under the bus though as he is still a solid heavyweight and should hang around for a few more years.
The match for Schaub I'd like to see the most at this point is dependent upon the health Todd Duffee. Duffee hasn't fought in about 18 months with a good chunk of that recovering from Parsonage Turner Syndrome which causes severe pain and numbness in the arm. If Duffee is able to recover quickly, a bout between him and Schaub would be fun with Schaub likely to take a more ground-based approach.
Ovince St. Preux defeated Ryan Jimmo via Submission 2nd Round
That wasn't your typical ending that you would expect. Like most viewers, I was trying to find out where exactly Jimmo's arm broke during the kimura attempt as the verbal submission was heard. Turns out it occurred early when Jimmo blocked a high kick and St. Preux grabbing in the kimura attempt is what caused the tap... not the kimura itself. It isn't as though it resulted in a fluke win though as St. Preux was in control of the match the whole time and just scored the most impressive victory of his career up to this point.
What seemed to separate St. Preux more than anything in the bout was his takedowns, which hasn't been thought to be a big part of his game. Submissions weren't thought to be either, but both were utilized very effectively in the fight and gave St. Preux his fourth straight victory in the UFC. At this point it is virtually impossible to ignore the former Strikeforce prospect and with one more victory it is likely that he'll be mentioned amongst the title contenders. Yes, because the light heavyweight division is very shallow, but also because he has grown a lot since crossing over to the bigger show.
The question is what to do now with him. Many say matching him with Ryan Bader, but I happen to disagree as I stated earlier. What I would want is to see him matched with Dan Henderson. St. Preux isn't the bull that Daniel Cormier is so Henderson isn't going to be mauled this time around. And if St. Preux emerges on top, it gives him an established name on his pedigree. How better to build him up? It would serve as a great co-main event on a Fight Night card.
Jimmo was having a pretty standard Jimmo fight (press opponent against the cage and make things boring when in control) except for the fact his takedowns weren't working. He didn't attempt many, but he couldn't seem to get the right position for it either. Now six fights into his UFC tenure, it seems Jimmo has established the type of fighter he is going to be: a gatekeeper into the rankings. Not a bad job, but I thought Jimmo was capable of more. I guess not.
I admit that I have no idea how long it will take his broken arm to heal, but I'm still going to try and figure out his next opponent... which is easier said than done. Perhaps they give him another promotional newcomer (like Sean O'Connell was) or (as mentioned earlier) Rafael Cavalcante. The lack of depth makes it hard to effectively match guys up and due to that, Cavalcante and Jimmo makes more sense than it really should.
What the hell? This was the fight I would have felt most comfortable putting money on to win! I suppose that is why I don't gamble. Sarafian has a good reputation as a grappler and put forth excellent efforts in his previous UFC losses at middleweight. Surely he can take out an undersized welterweight... right? Nope. Kunimoto surprised everyone not related to him by pressing Sarafian against the cage, executing a trip, and taking the back before sinking in a RNC for the win. Hard to say how the W could have been more flawless.
Kunimoto is one of those that I figured was only around for the Asian cards as I couldn't see his skills translating over very well to the UFC from the Asian circuit. His DQ victory over Luiz Dutra only seemed to drive that home more. Then he surprises the hell out of not only me, but... well, everyone! Could he be a legit UFC caliber fighter? I'm still not totally convinced... but we'll see. I'll shut up with one more win.
Now that he owns a legitimate UFC victory, it makes it a little easier to get a feel for Kunimoto... but not totally (I'll get to more on that in a second). Li Jingliang is from China and would make an ideal opponent for Kunimoto on the next Asian card. I'm sure both of them would love the idea of facing off against one another with national pride on the line. I'd imagine it making a fun fight if nothing else.
Sarafian looked like crap. I originally applauded the move to welterweight, but now I'm not so sure. He didn't have any of the energy seen from him before and his movement was very lethargic. If he can't get the weight cut down without going past the point of diminishing returns, he'd be best returning to middleweight. Perhaps he would be more comfortable with the cut the second time around, but there is no promise to that. Hell, there is no promise he isn't going to get cut now that he is 1-3 with his only victory over Eddie Mendez. I know... who is that? Which is my point exactly.
My belief is that the UFC really wants Sarafian to succeed and will give him one more opportunity. Hell, they did with Godofredo Pepey after he opened 1-3. So look for the weight cut to go smoother next time. I expect it to be someone else who was finished quite easily. Like Takenori Sato. He is still on the roster. What else would they do with him?
In my humble and never asked for opinion, this should have been the fight of the night. In a fight that never touched the ground, both women bit their lip and gave it hell as the punches and kicks flew with abandon. Letourneau was able to walk out the victor as she was able to separate herself the last two rounds utilizing her technique and landed the cleaner strikes... not to mention the greater volume. It may not have looked like it though as it seemed Phillips broke her orbital bone (I'm no medical expert... just a guess from having watched a lot of MMA) early in the fight with a powerful right. Who says women aren't tough?
Letourneau showed a lot of emotion after the scorecards were read as well in a post-fight interview to show how much the win meant to her. I still don't think the emotion was as apparent as the grit she showed. Seriously, I'm surprised she kept going and didn't let it affect her performance. The only round I had her losing was the first round... where the injury occurred. She took the last two after she found her range and did an excellent job of mixing things up. The UFC likely has a keeper here.
WhileLetourneau's victory was impressive, it was a victory over an even more unproven talent than herself. So I'd be reluctant to give her an established name quite yet. She was originally supposed to meet Milana Dudieva and that would still seem to be a sound fight to try for once again. Even if she were to lose, Letourneau has this solid performance to fall back on.
Phillips acquainted herself well for someone with only 5 previous professional fights heading into her UFC debut. Yes, she lost, but she also showed the type of attitude that Dana White loves as she continually put her head down and threw at Letourneau going forward. While White loves the attitude, it isn't the best strategy and allowed Letourneau to land a lot of shots. With time and experience though, Phillips looks like she will be a good addition to the thin women's roster.
Alexandra Albu only has one professional fight on her ledger... so Phillips isn't the least experienced member of the women's roster. Still, without a big resume it would be best to match her up with someone else with relatively little experience. Albu obviously fits the bill. Albu is a mystery so its hard to know what to expect... but we gotta find out at some point.
If it wasn't for Kunimoto, this would have easily been the biggest surprise of the night. Yves Jabouin hadn't landed more than two takedowns in any of his other UFC appearances and was thought of strictly as a kickboxing and Muay Thai specialist by many. He put together by far the most complete performance of his career as he landed five takedowns and was in control of the match for almost the entire time. Easton looked to be taking control using his boxing in the first minute when Jabouin scored a takedown and never looked back from there as he mixed things up perfectly.
Jabouin just turned 35 and I was of the thought that we had likely seen the best of Jabouin already. I could not have been more wrong. It was unanimously thought that Easton was the better wrestler (perhaps I should simply say grappler) and Jabouin proved everyone wrong, not just me. He did show his signature kicks and a little bit of everything else. If he continues to show diversity in his attack he could rise on the rankings more than ever expected.
Beating one ranked opponent should lead to another fight with a ranked opponent (and possibly a ranking himself). Last week I stated that Johnny Eduardo should fight Bryan Caraway. I'm reversing course and opting to pit Eduardo with Jabouin as both are coming off of surprising victories over ranked and respected opponents. Throw the old vets together and prove which one is for real. As a side note, pit Caraway with... we'll say Michael McDonald who has been on the shelf for a while.
Easton is going to have to receive Leonard Garcia treatment to stick around the UFC. That marks his fourth loss in a row and while the opponents he has lost to (perhaps outside of Jabouin here... hard to say) have been top notch, four losses is four losses. I would say that he has seemingly taken it to everyone, but Jabouin was the aggressor here outside of the opening minute and a threat with a kimura from Easton. He needs a major friend in the front office.
If Easton does survive, the fight that I would find most acceptable would be to place him with the forgotten Brian Bowles. Bowles is still on the roster and the former WEC champion has lost two in a row. Oh yeah... he is coming off of a suspension for illegal substances as well. It wouldn't be a gimme for either, but would certainly be a pink slip match.
I try to be as honest as possible and I flat out felt that Bang didn't belong in the UFC and that Johnson would have little problem with him. While I'm still not sold on Bang being worthy of staying around the UFC for a long while at this point, he proved that he is better than Johnson and landed a number of hard punches on the Canadian, including a single right hand as he caught a Johnson high kick that put Johnson out for the count. I knew Bang had power... I just didn't think he could catch his opponents cleanly. Turns out I was wrong as he had the last laugh in this back and forth fight.
Johnson landed some solid shots on Bang and Bang's reputation as being a sturdy lightweight only grew in addition to his power. More importantly though, he ensured he stayed employed. It is a possibility that Bang would have been able to hang around the company with a loss due to his Korean heritage, but there was no guarantee. He isn't one people will tune in to watch, but he'll keep those that do tune it right where they are.
It seems likely that Bang will again be featured in an Asian card again (seeing as how he is Korean) and seeing as how Jon Tuck is from Guam (making him another likely candidate for an Asian card), I'd be surprised to see these two matched up with someone else. Tuck is coming off of a stoppage of a UFC newcomer himself... how in the hell does this match now make sense?
Maybe my expectations of Johnson were too high, but he didn't perform to the level that I had expected of him. Maybe I should have simply remembered he was unable to win a TUF tournament, which doesn't mean what it used to. He certainly had his moments and took Bang down multiple times, but he didn't show the level of grappling that I expected to seperate him from Bang. Now I question whether he is UFC caliber.
Perhaps the kindest thing the UFC can do for Johnson is to avoid matching him up with a striker. So how about a grappler like Josh Shockley? Shockley competed and lost on the card as well (keep reading) and had some moments, but they were fewer than what there were for Johnson. Throw them together and cut the loser.
*Michnori Tanaka defeated Roland Delorme via Decision
I warned you all beforehand that Tanaka isn't exactly the most aesthetically pleasing fighter. But I also said he was good. Really good. Delorme has obtained most of his victories utilizing a lot of grappling, but he was thoroughly outdone by the smaller fighter and the native of Japan walked out with a victory. Outside of Delorme sending Tanaka to the ground off of a caught kick and obtaining top control, Tanaka did whatever he wanted on the ground and cruised to a relatively easy victory.
The primary thing that came to my mind as I watched the fight was just how small Tanaka looked next to Delorme and Delorme isn't the biggest bantamweight out there. Tanaka looked awesome out there and reversed Delorme every time Delorme obtained an advantage, not to mention grabbing top and back control multiple times. I can only imagine what he would be able to do if he were to drop to flyweight. His future would seem brighter fighting guys more his size.
The UFC is now brimming with bantamweight prospects that look like studs with Tanaka, Aljamain Sterling, Pedro Munhoz, and Chris Holdsworth, but I wouldn't want to match them up with one another quite yet (and another reason I'd like to see Tanaka at flyweight). Let them build a little more hype. Leandro Issa and Tuerxun Jumabieke face off in a month and the winner would be a nice choice to continue Tanaka's progression... if he doesn't go down to flyweight.
Delorme is on thin ice. This loss marks his second in a row and if you count his no contest as a loss as it originally was, his third in four fights. While he has been a solid fighter, he hasn't been the most explosive one either. At 30, his ceiling isn't going to go much higher if he hasn't yet reached it either.
If he is kept around, a fight with Yaotzin Meza would be most appropriate. Both seem to be no better than lower tier gatekeepers and the only thing saving both from losing 3 of their last 4 is a no contest. Throw them together and then let them decide who is worth maintaining employment.
*Jason Saggo defeated Josh Shockley via TKO 1st Round
In a good scrap between two Octagon newcomers, Saggo was the one who was able to impose his will on the younger fighter by maintaining grappling control throughout the fight. Shockley was able to get out of some sticky situations early in the fight and made the fight entertaining, but couldn't do enough to make it outside of the round as he eventually turtled up without any real defense as Saggo rained down some punches which forced the referee to stop the fight.
While I felt that Saggo was a good grappler, I didn't expect him to dominate Shockley (a solid grappler in his own right) the way that he did. Showing good trips and throws that Shockley didn't have an answer to, Saggo very much looked like he belongs in the UFC. It was just one fight against an opponent without any previous UFC experience himself, but it was impressive nonetheless.
A match with Leonardo Santos for Saggo makes a lot of sense at this juncture. Santos won the TUF Brazil season 2 tournament and has fought one time to a draw with Norman Parke. Saggo looked good enough that he might be able to compete with the savvy Brazilian. Of course, there is only one way to find out...
Shockley, to his credit, showed a lot of fighting spirit. He regained half-guard after Saggo had achieved mount and threw up a nice armbar attempt too. His striking looks fairly raw though and didn't seem to know how to combat Saggo's Muay Thai and judo. A little bit of work in those areas though and he very well could be worth keeping around. Hard to say for sure though considering the lightweight division is truly a shark tank.
I suggested earlier that Kajan Johnson would make a good match for Shockley as I'm not convinced that Johnson is good enough to be fighting at the UFC level after his fight with Tae Hyun Bang. Shockley has the bigger ceiling of the two as he is only 24, but he is still a question mark as well. Put him with Johnson and send the loser packing.
Record for this Card:7-4
Record for Year: 138-82-1