Overall this was a very good night of fights. 5 of the 6 fights on the main card involved a finish and 7 total which is usually a pretty good indication of excitement. But (it seems there is always a but) the night was overshadowed by three people sitting ringside. Well, two actually. The co-main event was the one fight on the main card that did go to decision and while it was popular in New Mexico, it had the rest of the MMA world up in arms as Diego Sanchez was gifted a split decision victory over Ross Pearson. Despite some notable performances by others (Benson Henderson finally scored a finish in the Octagon, John Dodson made a strong case for another title shot, and Bryan Caraway scored an impressive victory... but not without a little controversy of his own), the horrible judges decision is all that anyone seems to be talking about.
Here's a breakdown of everything.
* indicates I was right in my pick
*Benson Henderson defeated Rustam Khabilov via Submission 4th Round
Bendo is a hard one to put a finger on. He didn't really address critics complaining about his low octane offense. He got taken down repeatedly. And it was Khabilov that landed the harder shots. But not only was it Bendo who walked out with a victory again... he did so definitively and without controversy! Getting a finish will do that for ya. Seriously though, if I told you that there was going to be potentially the biggest judging robbery in the history of MMA on this card and Bendo wasn't involved, would you have believed me? I wouldn't have believed myself, so we're definitely in the same boat here.
Even with how the match turned out, it shouldn't be a surprise. Bendo has always been a slow starter who makes adjustments as the match goes while showing patience and a good gas tank is one of those factors that allows him to do so. Sure, he didn't fight at a fast pace, but Khabilov was the one sucking wind by the fourth round, not Bendo. Call it strategy, call it playing it safe, I don't care. It worked for him in this fight and he was able to get his first finish in the UFC. The problem for Bendo is that his situation doesn't change with the win. The lightweight title is still being held hostage until December (damn TUF!) and he has already lost twice to the champ Anthony Pettis. Obviously a win helps more than a loss, but he has a lot of work to do to convince people to want to see that fight again. He better hope Gilbert Melendez walks out the champ. But there is something useful that can be done with him. Khabib Nurmagomedov has turned the division on its head and has many believing he'll be the next champ as soon as he gets a shot at the belt. If Bendo can beat Nurmagomedov, few can debate he deserves a shot. If Nurmagomedov wins, he gets the next shot at either Pettis or Melendez. Simple matchmaking here.
I figured Khabilov would look good at times here, but I will admit that I was surprised to see him handle Bendo as easily as he did in the grappling department. There is absolutely no doubt that his sambo background leads to an unorthodox wrestling style that has been a problem for his opponents and has been a major advantage for him. He did end up losing, but it will be a good learning experience for him and I fully expect him to be a better fighter the next time that we see him in the Octagon. Hell, I expect his name to be floating around title talk within the next year. So what to do with him for now? Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller meet in a bit over a month in what should be a crowd-pleasing affair. Either one is experienced and savvy enough to be able to beat the young Russian. Problem is, Khabilov is a teammate of Cerrone's. If Cerrone wins things will be a lot less complicated as Miller will be the obvious choice. If Miller wins, I'd still like to see Cerrone and Khabilov fight, but I doubt it would happen. So in that scenerio, how about the loser of Michael Johnson and Josh Thomson shortly after the Cerrone-Miller showdown?
Diego Sanchez defeated Ross Pearson via Decision
I'm going to have a very difficult time being biased as I write this due to the fact that SANCHEZ DIDN'T WIN THAT FIGHT!!! There are bad calls by the judges and then there are catastrophes of judges decisions and this qualifies as a catastrophe. Sanchez landed more shots, landed the cleaner shots, landed the only takedown of the fight, and scored a knockdown as well. About the only thing Sanchez did was throw more punches... which also means he missed a lot more as he landed less. Horrible call by the judges. Simply atrocious.
Based on Sanchez's reaction, he didn't think he won the fight either (I love you UFC? Come on... how much more can he spell out that he knows he got a gift?). The guy never leaves anything back in his fights and is fun to watch meaning I usually like the guy. But I'm having a hard time doing that right now. Did he technically do anything to upset me? No, but he did receive an undeserved gift and he is the only visible face associated with my being distraught as I have no clue what the incompetent judges look like. As the result of this fight will continue to cause controversy and athletic commissions have a history of failing to properly look into decisions like this, set up a rematch. Its not like Sanchez or Pearson will be stalling for a run to the title as I wouldn't expect either one to do that at this point in their careers.
I've already pretty much spelled out how I feel with regards to Pearson as well. His strategy was sound and even though Sanchez did more stalking, there were times where Pearson was the one putting the pressure on him. I really am at a loss as to how the fight went against Pearson. While my preference would be for the athletic commission to overturn the decision (like that ever happens), I'm sure I'll have to settle for him getting a rematch. If that doesn't happen (Uncle Dana doesn't always give the fans what they want), Erik Koch seems like a reasonable next fight.
*John Dodson defeated John Moraga via TKO 2nd Round
There were all sorts of pre-fight rumbles about Dodson getting a title shot if he were able to leave New Mexico with a victory. Its gonna be hard to say no at this point. Dodson showed great patience in waiting for an opening to develop and once it did he capitalized, landing a knee right on Moraga's nose breaking it badly enough that the ringside doctor wouldn't allow him to continue. Up to that point he didn't allow Moraga to land any truly significant shots and re-affirmed that he is without a doubt one of the top 3 flyweights in the world (Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez).
Dodson floored Johnson in their first bout and came closest to finishing him than anyone else in the UFC thus far. Considering that along with the dearth of contenders in the division, he would be a worthwhile #1 contender even if Ali Bagautinov pulls off the upset to open up the field. Johnson is the only one who contends with Dodson's speed and has finished a greater percentage of his fights with KO/TKO's than any other fighter in the division, including his last three victories.
Moraga knew that he'd be right back in the title talk with a win and all but eliminated for the next few years with a loss. In other words, he knows that its gonna time before he can be mentioned again... if ever again. The division is getting some depth to it (even if it hasn't totally floated to the top of the division yet) and Moraga could very easily get lost in the shuffle. His performance against Dodson did nothing to convince anyone that he won't be getting lost. In a little over a month, Ian McCall and Brad Pickett square off. The loser would make a perfect next opponent for Moraga... and the loser between them would likely be banished from the talks for the rest of their career.
I will give High credit as he looked much better than I expected he would against what may be the best of the best of gatekeepers (which is borderline elite) in a very deep division. His wrestling was very sharp and he scored a number of takedowns against dos Anjos. Hell, he even landed some clean shots boxing which I didn't expect at all. There is a reason that I sang high praise for dos Anjos though. The man is one of the more well-rounded fighters out there and was able to get up from every takedown quickly before High could even pass guard, landed a bit of everything (knees, kicks, takedowns, punches) before connecting with a strong right to floor High and follow up with strikes for the stoppage.
Some might disagree, but dos Anjos is still one of the best lightweights in the world and proved it even with High getting his moments. There might be a thing or two other lightweights do better than dos Anjos, but there isn't anyone out there that does everything better than the very well-rounded dos Anjos. But the loss to Nurmagomedov in his previous appearance took him out of title talk and it'll be a while before he can crawl back into it. Not that it'll be impossible. While it feels like he's been around forever he is still just 29. He's got time to crawl back into the thick of things before he slows down. Michael Johnson and Josh Thomson (who were mentioned earlier) are expected to clash in a little over a month. The winner is an excellent choice for dos Anjos' next opponent. I'd be open to him being a candidate to welcome back Nate Diaz as well... if Diaz ever wants to step back into the cage.
Even with the stoppage loss, High raised his stock. He may have gotten himself in hot water by putting his hands on the referee after the fight due to the fact that he didn't like the stoppage (we'll see what the commission does... though they should worry more about the Sanchez-Pearson decision), but lets focus on the positive here. He is a big lightweight with potentially smothering wrestling and the rest of the division should be put on notice. I'd believe he is looking to get back in the Octagon soon considering he has already missed a lot of time this year after having his appendix removed. So How about throw him in there with Francisco Trinaldo? Both are big for the class and grapplers.
I wouldn't have been surprised beforehand to know that stamina would end up playing a large factor in this fight. But it is surprising to see that Edwards was the one whose cardio was lacking the most. Hallmann is the one who gassed in his last fight and combine his history with the altitude and it almost seemed a given. I'm not saying his tank was impeccable, but it was deeper in the end. To Hallmann's credit, many did expect him to emerge the victor as Edwards has been showing his age (37) more and more with every bout. He actually came out looking very sharp and landed a bit of everything with kicks, elbows, punches, knees... he looked fresh. Hallmann took it to the ground multiple times though and wore down the longtime vet.
Hallmann could very well have had his back up against the wall in a very deep division and was able to ensure that he still has a job in the world's top MMA organization. His size and grappling ability make him a tough opponent for most in the division. Hopefully he cuts down on the eye pokes though (two on Edwards). He could probably be much better if he were to commit full-time to being an MMA fighter, but it is doubtful he will give up his job in the Polish Navy. No judgement here, I think its admirable. But due to that I wouldn't ever count on him to ever be a threat to enter the rankings. I'd love to see him matched up with Ramsey Nijem. Nijem hasn't beat any truly notable opponents and while Hallmann may not be considered one himself (yet), they both represent a step up for one another.
Edwards is a legend. He has been fighting professionally since 1997 and has racked up more wins than most guys do fights. But he has also racked up more losses than a lot of guys have fights too (that was his 65th recorded fight people!). Does he have a lot of knowledge? You bet your ass he does, but he accumulated a lot of mileage picking up that knowledge and it would be best for him to step aside from active combat and become a coach. Obviously I can't decide that for him, but here is hoping that is what happens.
Bryan Caraway defeated Erik Perez via Submission 2nd Round
Sure, he's one of the most hated fighters in the UFC, but Caraway keeps proving that he can actually fight. Perez was the slight favorite going in, but proved that you've got to have more than just talent in order to win in the UFC... you gotta have a smart strategy as well. Which is why everyone was left asking why in the hell he decided to take the fight to the ground with a guy who had won 16 of his 18 fights by submission. It was thought that Caraway might have gassed himself out in the first round after a guillotine attempt, but proved his grappling is more than reputation by scoring a reversal and then sinking in a RNC. It should be noted though that Caraway has caused a fair amount of controversy by using a fishhook in the first to try and get a choke. Whether it was accidental or intentional is impossible to say (come on, like Caraway would ever admit to it being intentional if it was), but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt... even if he did elbow Cat Zingano in the back of the head.
Whether you do or don't like Miesha Tate's boyfriend, you can't deny that he is talented at this juncture. Admittedly, his striking is still lacking and its likely that it will never be more than just adequate. But he continues to prove that he is one of the smartest fighters in any division by working around his weaknesses and scoring wins most would believe he shouldn't be picking up. He can now say that he has picked up a victory over a ranked opponent and should get another crack at the top 10. Johnny Eduardo scored a massive upset by KOing Eddie Wineland about a month ago and put himself in the top 10 as a result. A fight between him and Caraway would prove which one is a contender and which one is a pretender.
Lets get this out of the way right from the beginning: Perez beat himself more than anything. Everyone knows Caraway is very savvy on the ground and is much weaker in his standup. But Perez decides he wants to take it to the ground anyway. No one is denying that he is one talented dude and he should still get better at the age of 24. But he needs to fight smarter if he wants to tap his potential. As much as the UFC wants him to succeed due to his Mexican heritage, I'd expect them to give him an opponent that he would be expected to walk away with a win. In fact, I'd expect him to be fighting on the fall card in Mexico. I would expect Vaughan Lee to be the opponent: a game fighter but overwhelmed by Perez's size and talent. Well.... that would be the expectation.
This was not a fun fight to observe. It was one of those fights where you didn't want to award anyone a victory, but someone had to get it... unless it ended in a draw. I'll admit that Pettis was the one who did more (thanks largely to a flurry at the end of the second round) and thus I would say he was the one that deserved to lose the least (seriously, that is the best way to put it), and thus walked out with a W. Neither fighter wanted to truly commit to delivering a KO blow as they anticipated a counter from the other and Meza didn't commit to trying to get the fight to the ground until it was too late. Poor performance on both ends.
Pettis walked into the fight as a highly vaunted prospect and most certainly is still considered one. But if he has another performance or two like that and all the excitement around him is going to dissipate very fast. Don't get me wrong, talent is there. That was highly apparent in his first two bouts, particularly his entertaining scrap with Alex Caceres. But you want the fans to care about you? Throw caution to the wind at least a little. And no, his cartwheel kick doesn't count. Meza was petrified to do anything risky himself. At 20, I'd be in no hurry to rush him up to the big boys though and wouldn't worry about giving him a step up in competition... just get him some more competition to develop his skills. The problem is there really isn't a sound option available for a while. Mitch Gagnon would be a tough fight, but would be the best option at this point.
Meza didn't do himself any favors with his performance and the loss drops him to 1-3 in the Octagon with his only victory coming at the expense of John Albert... not saying much for him. I believe the UFC may have been willing to give him one more look if he had gone balls to the wall and taken some chances, but it didn't happen. As a result, I'm confident that he won't be seen again... at least not in the UFC. Best to ya good sir.
In what was likely a loser-leaves-town match, Benoist was the one who did more to walk out of the arena with his employment secure. The match started out well enough as they were willing to trade at times with neither really gaining a clear upper hand... at least in that department. Benoist took the fight to the ground a couple of times and did a lot more damage from there than Voelker did which was the biggest thing that set him apart from the judges. But what really marked the match was how both fighters were sucking wind by the time they were deep into the second round. The third was sloppy, but as stated, Benoist did more.
Benoist has traditionally been a fun fighter to watch and if the altitude didn't play such a factor, its likely that this fight would have been more of the same. He utilized a smart game plan by taking the fight to the ground knowing that Voelker would much rather stand and trade. It isn't like Benoist embarrassed himself standing either. He threw some nice combinations, but also left himself open to get hit far more often than is reasonable. Voelker is certainly strong, but he isn't quick and if he had been fighting someone else he would have eaten a lot more damage. Albert Tumenov recently picked up his first UFC victory and will look to build off of that. Benoist is capable of beating him, but also could be that building block he is looking for.
Voelker has now dropped all four of his UFC appearances and it would be unreasonable for Uncle Dana to step in and save him this time around. His eat-two-to-deliver-one style is fairly fun to watch, but it clearly isn't producing positive results for him and its predictable at this point. Even worse for him is that at 35, I don't see him being able to work his way back into the organization at this point. Happy trails Voelker, wish ya nothing but the best.
When you have lost 5 of your last 6, you know that you need a victory to keep your job. That was the situation that Jorgensen was in and he was able to pull off the victory despite being thisclose to having his lights turned out in the early part of the second round from a hard left hook courtesy of Martinez. Jorgensen proved to be the stronger wrestler throughout the fight (especially in the first round) while Martinez was getting the better of the standup until he seemed to blow his wad (thank you Joe Rogan) after he tried finishing Jorgensen after flooring him and Jorgensen was able to make the standup competitive after that. Though it seems to be a far cry to the type of victory that Jorgensen used to rack up, its a victory nonetheless.
Jorgensen isn't a contender anymore whether he fights at 125 or 135. His chin isn't what it used to be and while he is physically stronger than just about anyone else at flyweight, he is very slow for the division. Despite that he is still capable of beating on the bottom dwellers of the division and give some of the ranked guys a tough scrap at the very least. Then again, he'll need to start fighting smarter as his wrestling looked as good as ever, especially early. Look for him to be a target of younger guys new to the promotion wanting to get a decent name on their ledger. The winner of the Ray Borg-Ryan Benoit scrap at the end of the month is a perfect example of the type of fighters Jorgensen should expect from this point.
Even though he lost, I gotta give Martinez props as he looked much better this time around than he did in his UFC debut against Chris Cariaso when the only strategy was to drive Cariaso against the fence looking for a takedown. He showed some actual technical boxing ability and power in his fists. It made for a fun fight that most didn't think would really be close. I'd be willing to give him another look, which is saying something as I didn't expect to be saying that about him coming off of a loss. Only one more chance to get a win... but that's one more than I thought I'd be willing to give. I'd think matching him with the loser of the Dustin Ortiz-Justin Scoggins fight would be a perfect match as I wouldn't want to give him a gimme in his third try.
While it was a fun fight to open up the televised portion of the card, it also ended in an odd/unique way as Lindsey tapped to a heel kick to the liver/floating rib while Tuck had his back. I know, kind of hard to picture. No complaints with the entertainment value though as they rocked each other with some hard shots with Tuck utilizing a good jab with some power shots and showing the superior ground game while Lindsey beat up heavily on Tuck's body from the clinch with knees and punches. It looked as though Lindsey was sapping Tuck of his energy at times with the strategy, but Tuck took the fight to the ground every time it looked like Lindsey was picking up the momentum. Very good and competitive fight despite the ending.
Tuck's only previous UFC victory had come against Tiequan Zhang which didn't say a lot about his abilities. This fight seemed to be a much better indicator. Tuck has a lot of heart, some solid grappling, and more power in his fists than I had given him credit for. But he still has a lot of holes in his game (gas tank was looking questionable, left himself open for some counters even if Lindsey didn't capitalize) and doesn't appear to be a threat to ever break into the rankings. Still, he hasn't had a boring fight yet and is the perfect test for newcomers into the promotion. He'll more than likely hang around for quite a while. If he doesn't get another newcomer, I like the idea of matching him up with the winner of Colton Smith and Carlos Diego Ferreira from later in the month.
Lindsey needs a lot of work on his boxing as he didn't seem to have an answer for the shots Tuck threw at him except to clinch up and do his damage from close range. Yes, he did good work from there, but he won't last long if that is all that he has going for him. Also... where were leg kicks? I liked his intensity, but the loss combined with the odd ending won't do any favors for him and I wouldn't expect him to get a third shot if he comes up short in his next attempt. Beneil Dariush is a raw prospect with a lot of talent. Where he is in his development will dictate whether or not Lindsey is able to take the win if they were to meet up.
The opener for the night was a real grinder as Cummins landed a bunch of takedowns and pounded on Narvaez throughout the fight. Outside of a few punches standing up, Narvaez didn't offer anything and allowed Cummins to use his wrestling to dictate where the fight took place. The match was called as Narvaez turtled up from Cummins punches. Seriously, there really isn't a lot more to add to it besides the fact both seemed to slow down in the second round despite not pushing the fastest pace and in my experience, fighters with low gas tanks isn't something fight fans want to hear about.
Cummins had a good amount to prove with as much hype as he received heading into his short notice bout with Daniel Cormier. He needed the victory and getting the finish certainly helps too. He didn't give the impression that he'll be able to break into the rankings (even in the very shallow light heavyweight division), but he looks like he could hang around for a few years near the bottom of the division. Considering he was serving coffee 4 months ago, I'm sure he'll take it. The best thing he can do to raise his ceiling is increase his stamina. If he does that and improves his standup, he could very well make me eat my words about him entering the rankings... but I wouldn't count on it. Nikita Krylov and Cody Donovan meet next month and Cummins makes for a sound choice of opponent for the winner.
Narvaez looked like he was smoother as a standup striker, but when you can't keep the fight on your feet, it isn't going to do you much good. His wrestling was nowhere to be seen against the former Penn St. walk-on and gave a pretty good indication why he usually fights at middleweight. He just doesn't have the grappling strength against the majority of the light heavyweights in the division. His length would also prove to be much more difficult to overcome for his opponents, so look for him to take his next fight at middleweight, but I can't say I would expect him to hang around for too long. Expect his next opponent to be a newcomer.
Record for last Card: 8-3
Record for Year: 131-78-1