I’m still on vacation, but that’s not going to stop me from sharing my thoughts on the UFC 155 fights. And I have a lot to say…
–Cain Velasquez broke Junior dos Santos early with a tremendous amount of pressure, culminating in a big right hand that had dos Santos clearly dazed. Early on, dos Santos looked fairly sharp, landing strikes and defending takedowns, but it took less than one round for Velasquez’s relentless attacks to wear him out. It’s a credit to dos Santos that he somehow made it to decision (and was landing some quality strikes in the later rounds). After this fight, it appears the dos Santos KO in their last fight was more a bump in the road for Velasquez than anything else. I’d like to wish the best of luck to Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, or anybody else who will be challenging Velasquez in the near future, because they’re going to need it.
-Velasquez showed the value of having tremendous conditioning in this fight. According to Fight Metric, Velasquez landed 111 significant strikes and 11 takedowns out of 33 attempts. The fact that Velasquez only landed one out of every three takedown attempts shows that dos Santos has very good takedown defense, especially since many of those defenses came after dos Santos was exhausted. But while most heavyweights would have been sucking wind after ten takedown attempts, Velasquez just kept coming. Don’t get me wrong, Velasquez did fade as the fight went on, but if he’s going to establish that kind of pace, I don’t think there’s a heavyweight alive that can handle it without becoming completely exhausted.
-The fact that Velasquez failed to finish dos Santos should not be held against him. Most of Velasquez’s wins are by TKO, and dos Santos has an iron chin. Similarly, it’s hard to hold this fight against dos Santos too much, since apart from Velasquez’s KO loss to dos Santos, this is what he does to everybody. It just means dos Santos is the #2 fighter at heavyweight, not #1…
–Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon was tremendous entertainment. Miller unloaded with a ton of strikes to Lauzon’s face early, but Lauzon never gave up. Many of Miller’s strikes landed because Lauzon’s go-to defense was to cover up instead of using strategic movement. Since fighters wear four-ounce gloves, covering up is not an optimal strategy, as this inevitably leaves openings for the opponent to attack with strikes. Miller did exactly that. For Miller’s sake, I would have liked to see him finish the fight, but he was understandably tired after the frenetic first round. Good win for Miller, but not one that leaves me excited to see him take on top 10 opponents at lightweight.
-It’s hard for me to go crazy about Costa Philippou, when Tim Boetsch broke his hand, got cut on the forehead, and got poked in the eye. Boetsch did appear to be gassing out regardless, which is a known flaw of his. I don’t want to take too much away from Philippou, who I do think is a good fighter, and may have gone on to win anyway, but this win comes with an asterisk to me. As for Boetsch… all I can say is that I’m glad for his sake that he didn’t face Chris Weidman.
-This is the third fight in a row that something wasn’t quite right with Yushin Okami. The first time, Okami got knocked out by Boetsch. The second time, Okami had a harder time with Buddy Roberts than expected. This time, Okami was able to out-grapple Alan Belcher… but he was buckled a couple times by strikes, and on more than one occasion, Okami tried to drag the fight to the ground, only to end up in bottom position. It’s good for Okami that his ground game was good enough to win anyway, but this was not an encouraging performance.
-Belcher is a C-plus middleweight (by UFC standards) who had been portrayed as an A-minus for beating Rousimar Palhares (I’ll admit to being one who overrated Palhares) and Jason MacDonald. Belcher has good striking and power, but no answer for Okami’s grappling. A good next opponent for Belcher would be Brian Stann, after Stann knocks out Wanderlei Silva.
-I sold Derek Brunson short a little bit. He has a good takedown game, and that alone should be respected. His striking didn’t look fantastic, but it was effective enough. The big story of this fight was that Chris Leben looked like a shot fighter. Leben has been through a lot in his personal life, has been fighting since 2002, and most of his 31 fights have been in the UFC. A career decline at this point is to be expected. Leben just looked like he had no sense of urgency, or real desire to do whatever he could to win a fight he knew he was losing. His conditioning was also fairly bad – that goes for Brunson too.
-I was just plain wrong on picking Brad Pickett vs. Eddie Wineland. I thought it was a 50-50 fight, but Wineland was the better man, landing crisp strikes, hitting Pickett hard, and stuffing Pickett’s takedown attempts. I would have liked to see Pickett go for takedowns more, but I have to give credit where it’s due – Wineland simply won the fight (although one judge strangely disagreed). As an analyst, I’ve dinged Wineland too much for his low activity against Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez – as it turns out, Faber and Benavidez are just plain good, and those fights shouldn’t be considered the norm for what Wineland can do.
–Erik Perez did everything that could have been expected of him, in stopping Byron Bloodworth with strikes in the first round. I’m expecting the Perez hype train to kick into full gear, but I won’t be getting aboard. Perez needs to beat somebody better than a fringe UFC bantamweight first. Just consider that fighters who enter the UFC with a record like 9-4 rarely become real threats to win the title.
-Unfortunately I missed the fight between Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard. It’s not a fight I wanted to miss, but apparently it didn’t disappoint, although from what I’ve read, the scorecards read 30-27 twice for Varner and 30-27 once for Guillard. The judges…
-The hype train I will be gladly boarding is the Myles Jury hype train. When Jury entered TUF 13, he was my favorite to win the show… sadly, Jury tore his ACL. Upon his return to TUF 15, I picked Jury again, and was very disappointed to see him lose to Al Iaquinta. I’ll write a post on Jury as soon as I get back from vacation, but take my word for it that I’ve been very high on Jury as a prospect, and I wish I’d had the guts to pick him to win against Michael Johnson (trust me, I wanted to). I’ll talk more about Jury’s fight against Johnson soon, but for now, I’ll just say that I’m blown away by how smart Jury is, and how he was able to just completely shut down Johnson’s offense.
–Todd Duffee won by first-round KO over Phil De Fries. I’d love to take credit for predicting exactly that… but let’s be honest, it wasn’t hard. More troubling is that Duffee took a couple hard strikes from De Fries, and was briefly taken down. I know everybody who says “TODDDUFFEE” does so tongue-in-cheek, but for all his talent, he has some real flaws that will eventually be exposed in the UFC heavyweight division.
-So much for Max Holloway being a good prospect. I don’t want to react too harshly based on what was technically a win for him, but he should have beaten Leonard Garcia by a very wide margin. And I will say that I felt Holloway was the better fighter. Maybe I need my eyes checked, but what I saw was Holloway landing jabs and body shots, while Garcia’s strikes were consistently being blocked, parried, or coming up just short. When they put up the graphic of “total strikes landed,” I thought somebody made a mistake when it showed Garcia and Holloway having landed almost an equal number of strikes. Garcia tended to land more in the second half of rounds, but overall, I scored the fight for Holloway. If you saw Garcia landing enough that he clearly should have won, let me know about it in the comments – because it’s possible my eyes were just deceiving me.
-Even though he lost, I have more respect for Chris Cariaso now than I did before his fight against John Moraga. What I saw on tape from Moraga was a very aggressive striker who also had great takedowns. In this fight, Moraga looked confused, like he didn’t know quite how to box up Cariaso – and that’s a credit to Cariaso’s defensive kickboxing. Moraga did a good job to come back with a clutch submission, but he did not leave me thinking he’s a threat to beat Demetrious Johnson quite yet.