Ten Things We Learned From UFC 159 From A Live Perspective
If there could be a headline for the review of UFC 159, it would be “Close Your Eyes”. The amount of gruesome injuries was one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen on a pay-per-view in my life. From the preliminary fights that involved a broken thumb being a stoppage and an odd eye poke that led to an awful decision, it was a strange night. The preliminary fights were pretty dull for the most part other than Sara McMann making her mark by finishing Sheila Gaff in the first round.
The Prudential Center was pretty crowded and the crowd seemed pretty hot for most of the fights. The arena in itself isn’t that big, although it may be portrayed like that on TV. The card in itself was a bit of a disappointment due to the lack of competitive fights. Other than the opener, the rest of the fights were one-sided.
I’m not that upset from the show at all because it was my first live experience and witnessing everything live was incredible. My expectations for the card weren’t that massive and I expected some one-sided fights. Other than an impressive Pat Healy performance and Alan Belcher looking flat, there wasn’t anything that surprised me.
In terms of predictions, both John and I went 3-2 in our predictions. John is now 13-11, while I’m 12-12. My confidence in Alan Belcher wasn’t at an all-time high, but I certainly didn’t expect him to be completely outclassed by Michael Bisping. I’ll get into it more, but that was easily the most frustrating thing to watch on Saturday.
Jon Jones Does What He Always Does
Was there any doubt that Jon Jones was going to lose? The toe injury looked brutal, but it was obvious that Chael Sonnen didn’t trouble him. Just like in most of his championship defenses, he dominated with vicious elbows and used his size to his advantage. The difference in this fight was how he emphasized wrestling and clinching similar to what Chael does in his fights.
If you watched past Jon Jones fights, he doesn’t really grapple that much. It was very amusing to see how he made it a purpose to beat Chael at his own game. The stoppage came a bit early, but it looked like Jones was bound to finish him off in a few seconds. From his Bob Marley entrance theme to how he beat Chael, he’s starting to become the ultimate troll of MMA. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every Jon Jones fight during his title reign.
Jones has now tied Tito Ortiz record at light heavyweight for most successful title defenses. That’s an impressive achievement based on who he’s beaten. Some critics don’t like how Jones sells fights or doesn’t really deliver compelling interviews. When you are as dynamic as Jones in the octagon, he sells the fight based on his skill. It’s absolute blasphemy when someone calls Jones dull or boring just because of his personality.
He’s cleaned out the entire light heavyweight division by defeating former champions like Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, and Rashad Evans. Also don’t forget his exciting fight with Vitor Belfort, where Belfort gave him the most trouble out of anyone. If he can win one more fight at lightweight, then we could finally see him go to heavyweight and create more appealing matchups.
Chael Sonnen Headed To Retirement
It’s pretty evident that this was the last time we’ve seen Chael Sonnen fighting in the UFC. He’s admitted that if he can’t earn a title shot, there is no point fighting anymore. Since he’s probably set for life financially and being an analyst, I completely understand that decision. This is also a positive move, so he stops wasting our time in the main event.
There is no denying that Chael is popular and has been one of the biggest draws in the UFC. The issue is that he’s repeatedly shown that he’s no match for top competition. I’ll forever hold the gripe that he did absolutely nothing to earn the title shot. He stepped up when nobody did which sounds lovely, but that doesn’t earn any credentials.
The appeal of hearing Chael talk will always be massive, but nobody really wants to see him fight anymore. Despite never finding him particularly exciting as a fighter, he’s a great analyst and brings so much to the table. I’d love to see him fight Vitor Belfort or Wanderlei Silva due to how much he’s criticized Brazil. That won’t happen though and who can blame Chael for not wanting to take that fight.
He’s faced two of the absolute best in the sport and was soundly defeated. Also, let’s not forget his questionable decision victory over Michael Bisping. It’s been quite some time since Chael has really impressed inside the octagon. His time is now to leave and continue his great work on Fuel TV with Kenny Florian, Rashad Evans, and other fighters.
Michael Bisping Road To A Title Shot: Part 4
It’s tough to make a true judgment on Michael Bisping’s stock right now. He is obviously talented and can be very relentless at times. It always impresses me how great his cardio is and never really lets up in a fight, unless he gets knocked out of course. At 34 years old, nothing has really changed with him and he continues to stay near the top of the division.
My prediction was wrong, although it was more of expecting Belcher to shine rather than Bisping falter. That wasn’t the case with Bisping out-classing Belcher in every area. It surprised me that he didn’t go for one takedown in the fight. In his last victory against Brian Stann, he was relentless with the takedowns.
Now Stann is much more dangerous than Belcher when it comes to boxing, but Bisping has always been a complete fighter. The fact that he didn’t go for any takedowns just showed how comfortable he was in standup. He never looked threatened and looked as good as ever landing some nice jabs and a few right hooks.
Once again he beat someone that is considered a mid-card talent, as it seems to be a repeating pattern. I’d love to see him face the loser of Vitor Belfort versus Luke Rockhold. The winner of that fight could be in line for a possible title shot, although that may be on hold since Anderson Silva has contacted Dana White about a possible super fight. Regardless of what happens there, a rematch between Belfort and Bisping would be really exciting based on the beef between them.
What Happened To Alan Belcher
After seeing Alan Belcher grounded by Yushin Okami at UFC 155, it was expected to see him really come out attacking. There was even more ammunition built based on the trash talk with Bisping. He came out sluggish and never looked threatening at all. I’m not sure what his game plan was going into this fight because nothing looked effective.
He’s never really been a great boxer so I’m not sure what he was thinking by constantly throwing jabs. When he decided using kicks, it was predictable and Bisping defended them perfectly. It was the most frustrating thing to watch because Belcher has shown how dynamic he is in the past.
Another issue with Belcher that became apparent was his cardio. He looked very fatigued in the third round and seemed to be breathing heavily. I re-watched the fight yesterday because there had to be something up with Belcher that I didn’t see live. It was odd to see him look that fatigued.
The finish was very unfortunate to see and clearly accidental. It was an end to a terrible performance for Belcher. I’ve had high expectations for Belcher over the past few years despite his injuries. The expectations were high for this fight and he was soundly defeated. This was a much bigger letdown compared to his loss against Okami.
Roy Nelson Is A Legitimate Contender
I’m not sure if there has been a better comeback story than Roy Nelson in the past two years. It was about two years when he was massively out of shape and got manhandled by Frank Mir. Dana White, Joe Rogan and other critics were very critical of Nelson and questioned his commitment to staying in fighting shape.
Now it’s two years later and he’s won four out of his past five fights. His only loss was to Fabricio Werdum, which was very competitive and the fight of the night. Nelson has looked to be in better shape and has been destroying the competition. The always-dangerous right hook was used once again in finishing Cheick Kongo with ease.
The scary thing about that fight was that I was telling people to watch how he is going to corner Kongo and pick his spot. He did just that and earned his third straight first round knockout victory. Nelson has to be one fight away from a title shot, which could be either against Mark Hunt or Daniel Cormier. Both fights look very appealing, especially since it’s long overdue for Nelson to fight a top ten heavyweight.
As for Kongo, his questionable chin was once again exposed. The stoppage was obvious, especially with the way he went down. Kongo should be concerned about his future. In the past four fights, he’s either lost or won in boring fights against Matt Mitrione or Shawn Jordan. In a heavyweight division that is starting to get crowded with contenders, he is starting to get phased out. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit and I’m not sure how anyone can defend him if he was cut.
Phil Davis’ Improved Striking
Even though the fight was easily the most boring fight on the main card, it was still a positive performance by Phil Davis. After receiving past criticism on his lackluster striking, he looked much better. His combinations were smoother and constantly made Vinny Magalhaes back up.
It wasn’t an outstanding performance by any means, but there was definite optimism that Davis can continue to go up in the light heavyweight rankings. Everyone knows how good of a wrestler he is, but now he’s starting to elevate himself as more of a complete fighter.
He still needs to be more unpredictable with his strikes because there was a series of times, where he just continued to go for the same spot directed to Magalhaes’ head. If he added more body punches or even more kicks, it could have led to an actual finish.
Similar to Belcher, Magalhaes talked a lot going into this fight. It didn’t translate too much when it came to the fight and he couldn’t get much going. He should have attempted to pull guard at some point, especially since Davis was having no interest in trying to go to the ground with him. Magalhaes didn’t really show anything and won’t be getting a main card fight anytime soon.
Healy Pulls The Mild Upset
Many people really doubted Pat Healy going into this fight. Jim Miller has been one of the top lightweights in the world for years and presented many matchup problems for Healy. His speed and stand-up game were two massive advantages going into this fight.
He looked good in the first round, but Healy began to take control in the second round. If you look at him, he’s up there with Benson Henderson as the biggest lightweight in the division. He is very massive for his size and once again controlled his mount throughout the late second round.
The fight was going to be a grind and Healy did just that. He kept staying aggressive, which is what you have to do against someone like Miller. The pressure was put on early and Healy never looked back. For him to submit Miller was also an impressive feat because Miller rarely gets submitted.
Other than the submission victory, the biggest moment of the fight was how Healy suplexed Miller. It was mostly a dominating performance and Healy has made a huge impact in his return in the UFC. Miller has to be letdown by this because he was close to a title shot. Now he’ll once again miss an opportunity to fight for the title in the upcoming future.
Live Experience In Itself
For the most part, the live experience was very enjoyable. My brother and I sat next to some intelligent fans that clearly knew what they were talking about. The issue was on the other side from where I was sitting, where we had a few goofballs yelling for Brittany Palmer and was annoying for most of the night. My streak of sitting in a bad section at sporting events has continued.
The UFC does a great job of having a tailgating party and how to enjoy an event before the fights begin. They have a few mini stores and other promotional things to get involved with. Then when you walk around, you see some fighters doing signings.
Frankie Edgar, Anthony Pettis and Demetrious Johnson were doing the signings from what I saw. It seemed very well organized to go along with merchandise all around. Based on crowd reactions, Nelson may have gotten the biggest reaction. He is just that appealing and continues to be a human highlight reel. It’s a shame that Jones still gets booed even in Jersey, which is close to his hometown.
Herald Square Takeover
Last Wednesday, I went to Manhattan for a UFC fan access to meet some fighters and participate in some Q & A’s. Unlike the WWE, it was free and they didn’t charge you 50 dollars. It was open to the public and they really set it up well.
Unfortunately, I missed out on meeting Ronda Rousey personally by a few minutes. They stopped giving out passes to meet her, so I made sure to get my ticket to meet Anthony Pettis. Ronda was doing interviews after and was talking to some other fans. She responded to my heckling when I said “Please break Kim Kardashian’s arm”. If you never seen the video, she isn’t very fond of Kardashian.
Ronda was super sweet though and really embraced all the fans showing why she’s one of the most popular fighters in the world. Within the next hour, I got to meet Anthony Pettis, Urijah Faber, and Kenny Florian. All three guys were stand-up guys, especially Florian who was telling me a lot of information of his show on Tuesday nights with Sonnen, Evans, and other fighters.
Then I got to meet up with Ariel Helwani, who if you don’t know who he is and you’re an MMA fan, then you should. Ariel is a three time MMA journalist of the year and is very open to talking with fans. He’s always been super nice to me and we got to chat for a bit. He hosted pretty much everything going on, including the Urijah Faber Q & A session.
I’ve never been a Faber fan, but he is very entertaining. He definitely had my interest and was talking about how he can’t wait until Dominick Cruz returns. Eventually, Dana White showed up and he didn’t disappoint. If you ever listen to a Dana White interview, there is no filter to what he says. He says how he feels and makes you think he’s 33 years old, not 43 years old.
My question for Dana was about Shane Carwin considering how big of a star Carwin was at one point yey he hasn’t fought in almost two years. He chuckled because he asked Joe Silva on what ever happened to him, since he was injured in December before his fight with Roy Nelson. Carwin is supposed to be healing up, after going through a mini-depression since it’s been a long recovery for him after having back surgery and dealing with knee issues.
Dana couldn’t have been nicer to the public, where he took pictures with at least 100 people and probably more. He answered questions from New York legalizing MMA, Jon Jones versus Anderson Silva possibly happening and the big show on Fox Sports 1 in Boston. After the Q & A, I got to speak to Dana for a bit and this happened.
I’ve met some really cool people in my life from CM Punk, Larry Johnson (NBA player) and The Miz. Despite meeting some awesome people in the UFC, this tops off everything. I’ve always loved Dana White and how real he is to everyone so this doesn’t change my opinion at all. Some people may dislike him, which is fine but you have to respect how Dana is so friendly to the public and gives you a straight answer every time.
As usual, I’ll pick the best and worst fighter of the night. This was tougher than usual because nobody truly stood out. I’m going to give best fighter of the night to Jon Jones for fighting for a few minutes with a broken toe and absolutely dominating Chael Sonnen. How he took down Chael three times was very impressive, since it’s rare to see Chael being taken down.
The worst fighter of the night will go to Alan Belcher. Sure it could go to Chieck Kongo or even Chael, but Belcher really had opportunities to hurt Bisping. He didn’t show much in three rounds other than being out-paced. Hopefully he can recover from this because this was a huge missed opportunity to go up the ranks in the middleweight division.
After four straight weeks of fights, we get a few weeks off. I’m looking forward to see how Luke Rockhold looks against Vitor Belfort on May 18. The fact that the UFC gave Rockhold someone as good as Belfort shows how much value they have in him coming from Strikeforce.
Also in late May, we’ll see the big heavyweight matchups finally fight. It won’t be like last year with every fight being heavyweights. It’ll be the last two fights with Mark Hunt facing Junior Dos Santos in a fight that I’m drooling over. Then it’ll be the heavyweight title fight between Antonio Silva versus Cain Velasquez, which hopefully will be more competitive than their fight from last year.
I want to give a huge shout out to Ariel Helwani for being super cool to me and giving me the information about the Herald Square Takeover. If the UFC does any Fan Expo or any accesses near your town, you should absolutely go. They keep you entertained and you get to meet so many cool people. It was a memorable day meeting so many people.
Thanks for reading and I’ll be doing a lot of NBA playoff coverage for the few weeks or so, since there won’t be any UFC events for the next few weeks. You can follow me at @Allen_Strk or e-mail me at AStrk19@gmail.com for any questions or comment below.