Before I go into the fights, I want to say this was probably the most entertaining fight card I’ve watched this year, the most entertaining since UFC 139. Almost every fight was action-packed. Kudos to these fighters and the UFC for a great night of fights.
–Benson Henderson fought very smart against Nate Diaz. He basically made the fight anything but a boxing match, which is what Diaz would have wanted. Henderson had very hard kicks, a bunch of takedowns, strong ground and pound, and even some power punches that dropped Diaz multiple times. I’ll never cease to be amazed at the Diaz brothers and their ability to take so much punishment, but never come close to being stopped. Diaz’s identity in the lightweight division hasn’t changed – he’s a good fighter, above-average in the talent-rich lightweight division, but not a championship level fighter.
–Mauricio Rua’s days of being an elite light-heavyweight have sadly come to an end. It’s sad for me, because I’m such a fan of his, but “Shogun” was out-struck, out-wrestled, and just plain out-fought by Alexander Gustafsson. Rua was competitive, and landed a number of hard strikes, particularly in the second round, but the flaws that have shown up in his recent fights were on full display in this one. Rua can get away with those flaws against opponents like Brandon Vera, but Gustafsson was too skilled for him.
-And don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for Gustafsson, as he’s a fighter I’ve touted as a potential title contender for a while. But Gustafsson himself showed flaws that fighters like Jon Jones or Rashad Evans would be able to exploit better. Gustafsson ate a number of overhand rights and left hooks, and had a lot of difficulty controlling Rua on the ground. His performance was still very good overall, but he still has some improving to do if he wants to be competitive against Jones.
-The nine-year rule is alive and well, as was shown by both Rua and B.J. Penn. And I’ll admit right now to being horribly wrong about Penn against Rory MacDonald. While I felt MacDonald was overrated and overhyped, I conveniently forgot that the same is true of Penn, and that Penn hasn’t really been good since he fought Diego Sanchez. MacDonald showed the best striking of his career, particularly with body shots, and really controlled the entire fight. MacDonald is legitimately a very good UFC welterweight, one who at least deserves to be regarded alongside names like Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann. As for Penn… if he doesn’t retire again, which is what I would recommend, he really needs to fight at 155 pounds. But Penn will never be a contender again. I accept the virtual tomatoes you surely want to throw at me for my prediction…
–Mike Swick looked rough against DaMarques Johnson, and even rougher against Matt Brown. The Swick of a few years ago would likely have kept up with Brown standing before either submitting him, or wearing him out to take a decision. The Swick we saw tonight was a fighter who really needs to take a hard look at how much longer he should keep fighting. I hate to say that, because Swick is talented, but it’s clear his long layoff and health issues have negatively affected him, and I fear what will happen if he keeps taking beatings like the one Brown dished out.
-Fans of old-school fighters did have one great moment, when Yves Edwards knocked out Jeremy Stephens. It was a great moment for Edwards, who seems like a genuinely nice guy and a skilled fighter. But even in this short fight, Edwards took a number of big strikes. His long-term outlook is unchanged… he has virtually no upside in the UFC lightweight division. If Edwards keeps being matched up against strikers, he’s bound to get knocked out again.
-Once again, Mike Easton opted to stand and strike with an opponent, instead of using the strength of his game (grappling). But this time, Easton didn’t get away with it, as he was methodically out-struck by Raphael Assuncao. Easton can be forgiven for not wanting to grapple with the jiu-jitsu expert in Assuncao, but at the same time he was exposed by Assuncao’s boxing. Easton is an average UFC bantamweight, one who will beat fringe competition like Byron Bloodworth, but one who will struggle against quality UFC fighters.
–Ramsey Nijem was good enough to beat Joe Proctor, but took a lot of punishment and was put in some bad situations at times. Proctor was a good choice of opponent for Nijem, as Proctor is a skilled opponent. I would have liked to see Nijem win more decisively for him to step up to a tougher level of competition at lightweight, but I think he would be better served by getting a little more experience against lower-level UFC lightweights for the time being.
-I still don’t understand what people see in Henry Martinez. He showed a lot of toughness, and did damage to Daron Cruickshank in flurries, but his striking was unpolished, and he took a ton of punishment in under two rounds. Cruickshank looked good, particularly with his kicks, but he also took punishment, and has been knocked out before. Cruickshank looks like he’ll be an exciting fighter for the future, as his offense is a lot better than his defense.
–Abel Trujillo made the most of his UFC debut, stopping Marcus LeVesseur by strikes. I hate to be too negative, and I feel like this post is trending that way too much, but LeVesseur really isn’t a UFC-level fighter. Trujillo did a good job of pouring it on when he had LeVesseur hurt, and certainly showed more talent than I saw from him on tape. But he still has a lot to prove.
–Dennis Siver looked fantastic at 145 pounds. It still seems ridiculous that he’s fighting at featherweight, given how big he is, but he established a frenetic pace and kept it up for three hard rounds. Nam Phan didn’t stand a chance. Why Sean Shelby (I always forget Shelby is the matchmaker at weight classes below lightweight) thought Phan would be a good match for Siver is beyond me – Siver basically treated Phan like a grappling dummy…
–John Albert is a fun fighter to watch because of his aggression, but in the UFC, his aggression has translated more to being finished than anything else. On one hand, I don’t want to see Albert get cut, but on the other, he almost has to be at this point. Scott Jorgensen may not be a great bantamweight, but he’s a well-established gatekeeper at the very least, and he really belongs somewhere other than the Facebook prelims.