It felt like a true UFC event on Saturday based on how loud the crowd was. Sometimes you can see how the crowd is whether it’s a lackluster night of fights or an explosive night of fights. It may be odd to talk about the crowd before any of the fights, but they deserve it. The support that they gave to every fight was fantastic and they made it feel like a special night.
The UFC had their seventh show on Fox and it didn’t let down. If you watched the preliminary fights, you enjoyed seeing knockout after knockout. Sadly I didn’t see any of them live, although Chad Mendes could be in line for the next title shot at featherweight.
The review will be shorter than usual because it was on Fox and there isn’t much news going on. I’m not going to get into UFC 159 too much because I’m going to preview it on Friday. I’ll just review Saturday’s action and some other news in the MMA world.
Henderson Reigns Supreme Again
It was another close decision that had many people talking, but Benson Henderson continues to show why he’s becoming one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. He looked capable at fighting with Melendez’s fast pace and didn’t shy away from grappling with him.
He got off to a slow start and lost the first two rounds from my view. You can’t be stagnant against someone like Melendez, which was the case for Henderson. He wasn’t landing his jab and didn’t attempt many kicks regardless if it was low or high. The fight was becoming a grind, as the rounds wore on and Henderson became more elusive.
The fight shifted in the latter rounds with Henderson landing some significant shots, including a vicious elbow in the third round that cut Melendez open. It was just another fight, where we saw Henderson show off how dynamic and stronger he gets as the fight wore on.
Similar to this second fight with Frankie Edgar, this fight could have gone either way and Henderson didn’t look overly impressive. It was a hard-fought battle that Henderson won by connecting with more significant strikers and neutralized Melendez’s wrestling. This will go into the collection as another great fight in the lightweight division, along with Henderson having the best post fight interview ever by proposing to his girlfriend. He is truly a class act and is becoming an icon in this sport.
Melendez Falls Short
The San Jose crowd was heavily behind Gilbert Melendez and he seemed to feed off their energy. Despite his credentials, many people including myself underestimated him. We thought it was going to be more one-sided rather than end up being similar to Frankie Edgar versus Benson Henderson.
It ended up being very competitive and Melendez really took it to him. He used his upper body strength to his advantage, along with getting out of scrambles. Edgar may be faster than Melendez when it comes to striking, but it’s clear that Melendez is much stronger.
He landed some vicious shots to the body, along with landing a few right hooks early on. His cardio didn’t seem like a problem rather than it came down to him struggling to figure out Henderson at some points. He couldn’t get his reach back and couldn’t counter Henderson’s aggressiveness in the end. He showed some spurts, especially in the fifth round but the lack of significant strikes really hurt his chances in winning a decision victory.
Melendez still lived up to the hype and gave Henderson arguably his toughest fight of the title reign. The fight was close, but it doesn’t deserve an immediate rematch. A fight with Josh Thomson could be a great number one contender’s fight, even though they’ve fought already three times. I’ll get more into the lightweight title picture later and explain why Dana White made a poor decision.
The Big Heavyweight Letdown
I’ve been saying for weeks on twitter, blogs, and basically anywhere else how great the fight between Daniel Cormier and Frank Mir would be. These were two heavyweights that have been taking shots at each other and felt that they were both championship contenders. You would expect to see an explosive fight rather than three rounds of mostly cage control.
It was painful to see Mir completely helpless defending Cormier’s ability to just push him against the cage. Everyone knows how good Cormier is at wrestling, but you would expect Mir to be prepared for that. He looked to be in the best shape of his life yet he struggled to muster up anything offensively.
He barley landed any significant strikes on Cormier minus a few body kicks in the third round. The fight never went to the ground, which Cormier admitted to not wanting to take the fight to go the ground. It was clear that he respected Mir’s Jiu-Jitsu and felt more comfortable keeping the fight standing.
Nobody can deny that was a smart move by Cormier, but it was obvious that he played it safe. He never really showed his powerful punches other than a few good combinations in the first round. He used an effective game plan to ground an always-dangerous Mir.
The fight was still a complete letdown and neither fighter really looked that good. Cormier may be headed to light heavyweight, which could be a wise move for him. I wouldn’t like his chances against Junior Dos Santos or Alistair Overeem, let alone Cain Velasquez if that fight ever happened. As for Mir, it’s a shame that he looked that poor considering how much effort he put into getting in great shape. Hopefully, he can rebound from this because he’s too good to start fading away in the division even at 33 years old.
Thomson’s Coming Out Party
For almost nine years, Josh Thomson has been gone from the UFC. He’s made a name for himself in various promotions mainly Strikeforce. If you watched the “Road to the Octagon” special, you saw the tough life that Thomson has had and all the letdowns in his career. This was arguably the biggest fight of his career going against someone as talented as Nate Diaz.
This was the matchup that I kept going back and forth on because both fighters were so evenly matched. Thomson was my pick for a few days until my mind was made that Diaz would out-work him, before finishing him off with a submission. That wasn’t the case and Thomson came out taking the fight to Diaz. He was landing several significant strikes with a few elbows that cut Diaz open.
He looked very smooth and was moving around similar to what Carlos Condit did against Nick Diaz. Everyone knows how the Diaz brothers are very similar and like to stalk their opponents without really running. Nate tried to do that, but Thomson was more than prepared for that. He kept moving around and was out-striking Diaz that nobody really saw coming.
Eventually, Thomson hit two well-timed head kicks on different occasions to really fluster Diaz. It was shocking to see Thomson look so good on his feet and became the first person to knock out Diaz, who is the best striker in the division. Other than one minor takedown, it was a completely different game plan that I imagined for Thomson. It worked out great for him and now he’s a serious contender in the lightweight division.
Nate Diaz’s Future After Tough Defeat
When I saw this fight was announced, it seemed like a tough matchup for Diaz. In the past, we’ve seen him struggle with larger opponents. We just saw last December against Benson Henderson when he was soundly defeated. Thomson is one of the bigger lightweights and could have grounded him.
Instead Diaz was beaten at his own game and never really got going with his striking. I’ve never questioned the Diaz’s style because it has been so successful for so many years. That being said, the style of stalking your opponents and not running after them may be catching on. It’s become pretty evident that if you use your speed or wrestle with them and be patient, you could beat either Nate or Nick.
Diaz looked outmatched and totally misjudged the timing of the devastating head kick. You would expect much better defense from a veteran like Diaz, but it wasn’t the case. That is now two losses in a row and he has stated that he like to go back to welterweight.
Similar to Dana White’s opinion on that switch, I feel the same way in thinking it would be a bad decision by Nate. We’ve seen him get manhandled by the likes of Rory MacDonald and Dong Hyun Kim in that division. I’m not sure what is going to change with that move. I’ve always been a huge fan of Nate Diaz and realize how versatile he can be, but I’m skeptical of him returning to welterweight if he manages to make the switch.
Matt Brown Makes Another Huge Statement
I’ve doubted Matt Brown before and once again he proved me wrong. It amazes me how Brown imposes his will on his opponents. Whenever he fights, it seems like he continues to push the pace. Even when he took a hard knee to the body from Jordan Mein, he seemed to shake it off. There wasn’t a dull point to this fight.
Mein was being touted as a possible rising star and showed some promise. He looked explosive throughout the first round and seemed willing to bang with Brown. It wasn’t a good idea and he should have fought smarter. Brown is starting to show that he can knockout anyone in the past year or so. For Mein to try to get in a stand-up brawl, it wasn’t going to end well.
Brown is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the welterweight division. He deserves a bigger fight in this division, especially with the way he has blown through competition. I’m still concerned that Brown leaves his body too open during fights. It could come back to haunt him, if he goes up against someone like Jake Ellenberger or Robbie Lawler. He’s shown that he has knockout power, but it’s not on the level of the other two fights I’ve mentioned.
Awards Of The Night
As usual, I’m going to give out my best and worst fighter awards. For the best fight of the night, how can it not be Josh Thomson? It really shocked me to see how successful he was with his striking. Thomson shined the most and should be rewarded for it. I’m not happy that the winner of T.J Grant versus Gary Maynard will get the next title shot. Grant is still up and coming, while Maynard has been very injury prone over the past few years.
When you look at what Josh Thomson has done, he’s been a top lightweight for years. Now he came into the UFC as an underdog and destroyed Nate Diaz. Isn’t Diaz the same fighter, who dominated top fighters in the division like Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller in the division? It means more to me what Thomson done compared to either Grant or Maynard. I’ll always love Dana White and believe that he usually makes smart decisions, but this isn’t one of them.
The worst fighter of the night has to be Frank Mir. There is nobody else that really looked that bad. Diaz was soundly defeated, but he showed some glimpses of giving Thomson problems. Mir didn’t show anything, which is shocking to say considering the credentials of Mir’s career. I’m hoping he fights again in a few months because he can’t be that hurt and needs a win significantly because his stock is really damaged right now.
MMA News Roundup
I’m going to cover some topics because there is some news going on and should be discussed considering it’s been talked about heavily in the MMA world. I’ve tried to avoid talking about, but I’ll give a quick input about the Fallon Fox controversy. Similar to most people, I’m completely against her fighting against other women. It’s not fair and it should be natural women competing against each other. What she is doing is an insult to the sport and I’m sure Dana White won’t bother bringing her in.
My opinion on it is pretty much the same opinion that Matt Mitrione had on it, which got him suspended. I’ve always liked Mitrione and think he could be a top ten heavyweight, if he can be more consistent and stay healthy. Hopefully the suspension isn’t long and he can fight again soon because he’s coming off a quick knockout win over Phil De Fries.
It looks like that there will be no UFC event in New York in 2013. That doesn’t surprise me because the Culinary Union has been so stubborn. Since I live in New York, it pains me to see this and I’m desperate to see a major event in Madison Square Garden. I hope that we see it happen in 2014, which seems likely. If I had to pick a main event to happen, it would be Jon Jones versus Anderson Silva. They may save it for a possible stadium show one day, but it would make the most sense to get the biggest stars to fight in the main event.
Speaking of Anderson Silva, he may be fighting George St. Pierre. Dana White said that the welterweight title fight would be St. Pierre facing Johnny Hendricks isn’t 100 percent happening. I’m still struggling to buy into Hendricks as a huge threat to St. Pierre at all. If they were going to do St. Pierre versus Silva in late 2013, I wouldn’t complain about it. The super fight has been long overdue and it would bring in huge press.
This week coming up is huge with UFC 159 coming to the Northeast. I’ll be there like I mentioned last Friday. I’m not sure where I’m sitting yet, but I’ll know by Friday when the preview for the event is up. As for the fights I’m excited for the most minus the main event, how can anyone not be excited for Michael Bisping versus Alan Belcher? Both guys have made it clear that they don’t like each other and both fighters are coming off tough losses. I’ll be surprised if this goes all three rounds, especially with how explosive both fighters are.
Hopefully John Villarreal will be back with me next week to preview the show. He went 3-1 from the Fox show with Diaz being his only incorrect pick. I went 2-2 with Diaz and Mein being my incorrect picks. John is now 10-9 this year, while I’m 9-10 in picks. It’s been that kind of year so far with some massive upsets mainly from UFC 156. Thanks for reading.
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