It’s been a while since my picks were a train wreck. That’s changed, thanks to the TUF 16 Finale!
With the two cards, I’m not going to give my thoughts on every fight. Instead, I’m going to touch on things I’m most interested in.
-Apparently Roy Nelson’s overhand right transcends the sport of mixed martial arts. This punch officially joins Dan Henderson’s right hand on the list of “punches everybody knows to look out for, but everybody gets hit with anyway.” You’d think fighters would learn to circle to their right, so they could take that punch out of the equation. Nelson’s pattern of either winning by first-round KO or getting pummeled continues.
-I had high hopes that Matt Mitrione’s 5-0 UFC and MMA career start was a sign of potential future greatness. With this loss, those hopes are mostly dashed. The conclusion to make here is that fighters really shouldn’t be competing in the UFC unless they have at least eight or nine professional fights on their record – preferably more like 12. There haven’t been many fighters to make their professional debut in the UFC recently, but those that have – Mitrione, Matt Riddle, Amir Sadollah – largely haven’t developed very well. I would encourage anybody training a fighter with potential to let that fighter get seasoning on the regional circuit before pushing him to the UFC.
-I knew that Mike Ricci had sub-par takedown defense from watching his fight against Dom Waters, but I still felt he would be able to out-strike and out-grapple Colton Smith. Instead, it was Smith who proved to be the better grappler, and Ricci had no answer for it. Congratulations go to Smith for performing very well despite his relative inexperience.
I have no idea if Smith will end up becoming an above-average UFC fighter. His wrestling base is a great starting point, and his Ultimate Fighter run was as good as any in recent seasons, but it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll develop a more rounded skill set. Here’s hoping the UFC gives Smith appropriate opponents instead of rushing him.
–Pat Barry must have seen my declaration that his fight against Shane del Rosario would be his swan song in the UFC. With that said, Barry did get his back taken in the first round, and had to defend rear naked choke attempts. Perhaps Barry’s KO power will be enough to prolong his UFC career for a while, but his ground game is still a serious liability. He’ll never be a title contender, but he should be good for some fun fights regardless.
-This is a bad loss for del Rosario, who was 11-0 before entering the UFC. Now, del Rosario’s been stopped by strikes twice, and his cardio has been exposed (by Stipe Miocic in his last fight). Del Rosario joins Christian Morecraft, Joey Beltran, Antoni Hardonk, and Dan Evensen on the list of fighters Pat Barry has defeated in the UFC. Not a good list…
-Sure enough, after I praised Jonathan Brookins for his intelligence and persistence in trying to get fights to the ground, he throws all that out the window against Dustin Poirier. Brookins had some good flurries early in the first round, which apparently were enough to convince him to keep trading strikes. Brookins still makes the amateur mistakes of leaving his hands low and his chin high. Memo to Joe Rogan: if a fighter is still leaving his chin high after 19 professional fights and six years of experience… he’s not going to break that habit.
-Poirier is a good fighter, and his Brabo choke of Brookins was sweet. I see him being a UFC mainstay for years to come. But the hyperbole offered by Mike Goldberg was a little much. Poirier is no future champion until he tightens up his striking defense; being flurried on by Jonathan Brookins is not something that reflects well on Poirier.
-The writing is on the wall for Mike Pyle. James Head was taking the fight to him before Pyle landed a hard knee to score a TKO victory. This is the fourth time in five fights Pyle has been out-struck by his opponent, with the one exception being Ricardo Funch. Pyle is on the decline, and this trend will catch up to him eventually. It’s a credit to Pyle’s intelligence as a fighter that he’s been able to keep winning despite this.
–Rustam Khabilov is a potential title contender in the lightweight division. He entered with a record of 14-1, but unlike other recent Russian imports like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Azamat Gashimov, Khabilov’s record includes a number of quality victories. Throwing Vinc Pichel around like a ragdoll was a good start. Look for Khabilov to follow that up with impressive victories against established UFC lightweights in the future.
UFC on FX 6
–George Sotiropoulos needs to get fights to the ground if he wants to win in the UFC. The problem is – he has a glass chin (I hate to say it, but he just does) and lacks a strong takedown. Fighters like Ross Pearson – a quality striker with strong takedown defense – are a near lock to knock Sotiropoulos out. It’s a shame, because I love watching Sotiropoulos work on the ground, but he doesn’t have what it takes to win fights at a high level in the UFC lightweight division.
-I like all of The Smashes finalists, but I don’t love any of them. Robert Whittaker and Brad Scott put on a very entertaining fight. Norman Parke did a great job of using his wrestling prowess to neutralize Colin Fletcher’s striking and submission game. But all four fighters have holes that UFC veterans will be able to exploit. I think they’ll all stick around a while, and be entertaining additions to the UFC, but I don’t see any future contenders here.
–Hector Lombard’s fight against Rousimar Palhares confirmed that Lombard is indeed a top-notch middleweight fighter. Lombard has all the tools anybody could ask for – a strong judo base, a very good ground game, and devastating knockout power. Where Lombard gets in trouble is with relative inactivity and less than stellar cardio. I might take Lombard to win against any middleweight in the UFC not named Anderson Silva or Chris Weidman.
-While I didn’t pick Joey Beltran to beat Igor Pokrajac, I did place a bet on him as a +275 underdog. Pokrajac’s best asset as a fighter is his knockout power, but Pokrajac is not a technically sound striker, and his defense is just bad. And for all of Beltran’s faults, he does have a blend of toughness and aggression that make him a tough opponent for sluggers like Pokrajac.
-Like Colin Fletcher, I had my eye on Mike Wilkinson as a possible contender for the future. Wilkinson won by decision, but I didn’t see anything consistent with a top prospect like what I hoped to see. The single best attribute a fighter can have is striking defense, but Wilkinson got tagged by a lot of strikes from Brendan Loughnane, particularly leg kicks. Wilkinson looks like another fighter who is likely to settle in as a decent UFC fighter, but not a future title contender.
As always, thanks for reading, and here’s hoping I can give you some better picks next time.