All credit to ESPN for getting a post-UFC 193 interview with Ronda Rousey. And also kudos to them for getting something somewhat deep and juicy. I mean, I didn’t really need to know that after her loss to Holly Holm, Rousey went camping with her beau Travis Browne and crapped in the woods, using an […]
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After eight years and 18 professional fights, Brian Stann has decided to call it a career. The perennial UFC middleweight contender announced his retirement on Thursday’s special edition of The MMA Hour.
“If you look at my life, I’ve been getting hit in the head since I was in second grade playing football,” Stann said. “I’m now 32 years old. That’s a long time, and there’s only so long that I can roll those dice and be successful. For me, the risk is not worth it.
“I’m very, very lucky to have other options. I’ve maintained a fulltime job the entire time I was a fighter just because things like this could happen. You never know how successful you can be fighting. I’ve got some other options and I think it’s time I focus more on them. Dana (White) has been very supportive. We talked briefly about it, but he was extremely supportive. I hope that he and the UFC will continue to allow me to be involved in the sport in any way possible.”
A fan-favorite and one of the true gentlemen in the sport, Stann retires the owner of a 12-6 record and three UFC ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses, the last of which Stann earned in his final fight — a two-round, tooth-and-nail loss against Wanderlei Silva at the legendary Saitama Super Arena.
“Sometimes it takes losses to make you see things in a different perspective,” Stann explained.
“Losing that fight, I invested so much time, I trained so hard for that fight. I never, never saw myself losing, and I lost. Because of who I lost to and when I lost, it was my second loss in a row, it knocked me back down the ladder quite a bit — out of the top-10 in most people’s rankings. It would take a lot of fights to get me back to that level again to where I could compete for the big dollars, the big contracts, get to a title shot and all of those things that ultimately help you provide better for your family. When I look at that and the timeline and the things associated with it, it is not the most intelligent decision for me, as a father, to continue doing it. It’s one of those things where I need to look at it — because my fighting style, I’m not going to change that. It’s who I am as a person.
“It’s not a healthy fighting style. It’s not a fighting style that’s going to give you a long career. It’s going to give you a career that’s about as long as the one that I have. I think the best decision for a guy like me is to walk away at the right time.”
Stann never anticipated this moment would come so soon. Prior to his loss to Silva, the former Marine had never even been knocked unconscious. He admits, maybe things would’ve been different had he won that fight. But over time, as Stann reflected on the sacrifices necessary to thrive in this violent endeavor — a life away from family and a disregard for personal health — he grew to realize that this journey could only last so long.
“You do start to notice things as you fight more and more,” Stann said. “It’s interesting, as I talk to other fighters, early in your career you can take punches in sparring and take punches in fights that don’t even phase you. As you do it over time, over time, over time, years and years and years, all of a sudden in sparring, eh, you start to maybe have some headaches here and there. You start to realize, this isn’t exactly the best thing for your health. I think there’s going to be a paradigm shift in the way mixed martial arts fighters train.
“I have not had any issues with head injuries. I don’t have a number of documented concussions, but these are issues that you don’t know there’s something wrong until there is something wrong. Bringing my third child into the world this fall, my third daughter, it is not a good idea for me to roll those dice. I’ve had the opportunities to get to the highest levels of the sport and I’ve fought some of the best fighters in the world, and unfortunately I’ve lost a bunch of those fights and that has stopped from getting to the level that I would’ve liked to get to in the sport.
“I do think I could continue, but if I was to continue to try to revamp myself as a fighter, I think I run the risk of possible long term health problems, and that would be very irresponsible of me as a husband and father,” Stann continued. “And again, those are always going to be the most important jobs I have.”
Stann hopes to remain an ambassador for mixed martial arts, including maintaining his position as an analyst on the UFC’s pre- and post-fight shows. It’s strangely ironic. For a man who used to dread doing media, Stann’s profile within the FOX fold has grown leaps and bounds, to the point where it’s extended outside the realm of MMA.
In addition to his work with the UFC, Stann will transition into broadcast booth this fall to call ACC college football games for FOX Sports South. It’s a life he never envisioned, but then again, so was fighting. Back in 2008, after losing his WEC light heavyweight championship to Steve Cantwell, before getting that fateful call from the UFC, Stann expected to retire, to “keep moving on with a real job and be a normal person.”
“But I had an itch. I still wanted to do it,” he reflected. “I never thought I would have an MMA career. I thought I would do a couple amateur fights and be done while I was in the military. The whole time I felt like I was playing with house money. I never thought this would happen.”
Through it all, Stann traveled the world, fought legends and entertained millions. He poured everything he had into this sport, and ultimately he leaves with a message to the fans who made it all worthwhile.
“Just, thank you,” Stann said in closing. “I’m taking away much more from this sport than I ever gave. Their support, I don’t think the fans realize how much the positive reinforcement fuels fighters. With the growth of social media, every single day fighters look at that to get the motivation to into the gym. I can’t tell you how many fighters I talk to that’ll talk to me in private and say, ‘I’m looking for that motivation again. I’m looking for that fire again.’ It’s tough. Training is hard, this sport is hard. You look at your Twitter or you look at your e-mail, you look at whatever, and you see these fans that are really patting you on the back and saying, ‘Hey, keep doing it. We enjoy this.’ That fuels you, and I just can’t thank them enough for that.
“It’s incredible when you get to live a life and have a brief moment in time when people supported you like that. Not everybody gets an opportunity, and I have been extremely lucky to be one of the few.”
(Editor’s note: Watch complete Brian Stann announcement below).
A few days after the left hook that shook the fight world, many have yet to fully process what happened. I know this because I’ve read things suggesting that Anderson Silva threw the fight, that he didn’t care about winning, that he was more interested in embarrassing Chris Weidman than defeating him.
All of these things are written and said with complete disregard for or ignorance in Silva’s own long-stated philosophies on martial arts. He is a student, first and foremost, and he counts Bruce Lee as his personal hero. That is why his documentary was named “Like Water.”
And what is the rest of that quote, that Bruce Lee quote, from where the title is taken?
“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow. Be like water.”
Silva’s style against Weidman has faced heavy criticism only because he lost. But if you follow the arc of his career, his actions were nothing out the ordinary, or at least, his ordinary. Which is to say, extraordinary. So much so that we can’t wrap our heads around it.
Silva’s style has always been defense into offense. He needs his opponent to come forward, and to throw something he can duck, dodge and counter. He does that by any means necessary. He goads. Puts his hands by his side. Taunts. Some people have incorrectly called it trolling, but that’s inaccurate. Trolling is in and of itself the end game. The description is the job. Silva goads his opponent as a setup of what is to come.
This may not sound traditional, but neither is Silva, a singular talent in an often cookie-cutter world. Neither was Lee, whose entire Jeet Kune Do style was designed to go against the grain.
“All fixed set pattern are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside all fixed patterns,” he once said.
Silva did things no one else did because he could, and because he believed in a philosophy. On Saturday, he was there to fight, and statistics bear that out. In his career he’s averaged 3.15 landed strikes per minute; against Weidman he landed 3.17 per minute. He just didn’t land the one he needed.
Sometimes water flows. Sometimes it crashes.
After a well-deserved vacation, he will likely eventually accept a rematch, but I wouldn’t expect something so different next time Silva and Weidman meet. The bobbing may not be quite so pronounced, the weaving might not be quite so theatrical, but his style is his philosophy. It cannot be changed.
On to the predictions …
After three straight losses, it’s back in the win column for Edgar, who outclassed a game Charles Oliveira in a decision. The fight was largely won by Edgar’s striking and conditioning, as he turned up the pace in each round, landing 31 strikes in the first, 34 in the second and 49 in the third. The ability to outpace opponents has always been his hallmark and Edgar showed no lack of hunger in his first non-title bout since 2009. Good sign.
Prediction: He fights Nik Lentz
After finishing the durable Siver, who’d only been KO’d once in 29 previous fights, Swanson has nothing else to prove when it comes to earning a chance at the title. It was over four years ago when he lost to Jose Aldo in eight seconds, and while that lopsided loss can’t be erased, Swanson has proven that his game has matured and that he’s ready to fight for the division’s biggest prize. A five-fight win streak with four knockouts makes him a credible challenger.
Prediction: He fights the winner of Jose Aldo vs. Chan Sung Jung
“The Filipino Wrecking Machine” put forth a strong effort in his return to the octagon a year after a crushing loss to Chris Weidman. In defeating Tim Boetsch, Munoz scored five takedowns and landed 132 strikes, which were both statistical leaders for the evening’s action. He looked both physically and mentally prepared for everything, and announced himself a viable contender again after so much doubt had crept in.
Prediction: Given the current state of the division, the matchup that makes the most sense is Luke Rockhold
Kennedy notched his first UFC win largely by out-grappling Roger Gracie. Showing fearlessness against a decorated Brazilian jiu-jtisu black belt, Kennedy had no hesitation in taking the fight to the ground twice, and even passed Gracie’s guard once. All told, he out-struck Gracie 101-14 as well. It was quite one-sided.
Prediction: He faces Francis Carmont
When Gabriel Gonzaga parted ways with the UFC in Oct. 2010, he clearly returned to his Brazilian jiu-jitsu roots, as evidenced by his results afterward — three submissions in three fights. But against Dave Herman, he showed he still has the massive knockout power that once made him the division’s No. 1 contender. Gonzaga starched Herman in just 17 seconds, giving him his third victory in four fights since coming back to the UFC.
Prediction: A fight with Stefan Struve sounds perfect
The 27-year-old Barboza remains one of the most exciting standup lightweights in MMA, with his thudding kicks and sharp Muay Thai often carving up opponents. His latest target was Rafaello Oliveira, who became Barboza’s third career leg-kick TKO victim. Time for a higher-profile opponent.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the UFC on FOX Sports 1 matchup between Joe Lauzon and Michael Johnson
Pierce is with little question the UFC’s most underrated, underappreciated fighter. He’s 9-3 in his UFC tenure, with his only losses coming against Jon Fitch, Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck, and two of those were by split-decision. He’s derided as a boring wrestler, yet he’s finished four of his last seven wins. Competing on the Facebook prelims, he KO’d David Mitchell inside of two rounds. He deserves better.
Prediction: He fights the winner of the UFC on FOX Sports 1 match between Matt Brown and Mike Pyle
This is a sport that requires supreme belief in one’s self, so you can understand why Roy Nelson took the chance that he did, rolling the dice on increasing his market value with a win at UFC 161. With one fight left on his contract, Nelson declined a UFC extension offer and instead took a fight with Stipe Miocic, a young and talented fighter who had yet to beat an opponent of any real name value.
On paper, it seemed a solid calculated bet. Nelson came into the bout on a three-fight win streak, and as a solid favorite. But in execution, the matchup was only one-sided in Miocic’s favor, as he battered Nelson around for 15 minutes, landing 129 total strikes to Nelson’s paltry 25. With that, Nelson’s negotiating leverage fell by the wayside.
It could have been in many ways a serious test case for free agency in MMA, as in the past, there have been few real viable possibilities for an upper-tier fighter to test his worth on the open market while riding a winning streak. If Nelson had captured his fourth straight, there is little question that both UFC and Bellator would have had interest in him, lifting his value. In short, he would have cashed in. Instead, the UFC now has the upper hand in negotiations, and more solid ground on which to extend a take-it-or-leave-it offer. If he stays, great. If Bellator trumps them and Nelson bolts, the UFC can simply claim that the soon-to-be 37-year-old Nelson is in the sunset of his career.
Though it didn’t quite work out for Nelson, there is increasing competition over talent between the UFC and Bellator, and that’s a trend to keep an eye on in the near future, especially when it comes to how many other fighters are willing to believe in themselves and roll the dice.
On to the predictions …
I thought it was a nice rebound performance from Evans, particularly because he couldn’t find a way to get the fight to the ground, but still out-struck Henderson anyway. Before the fight I would have thought an inability to put Hendo on his back would sink Evans, but he proved that assumption incorrect. Like many, I’d like to see him be the pace-setter on a more regular basis, but he’s almost always preferred a more measured approach. Unlike his fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Evans really wanted to be there, and he fought well from behind.
Prediction: I like two possibilities here: either he gets the fight that never happened against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, or faces Glover Teixeira.
After two straight losses, Hendo is moving further away from a light-heavyweight title shot rather than towards it. Worse yet, next time he fights, he’ll be 43 (his birthday is in August). I wonder if that makes this the spot where Henderson decides it is worth a move to middleweight. If he wants to win one more championship before he retires, it seems like it’s far more likely starting with a new slate at 185 than working his way back up among the 205-pound monsters.
Prediction: Henderson makes the move to 185 and fights Luke Rockhold.
I’m not sure that Miocic received his due for the way he beat Nelson. It was dominant, in much the same way that Junior dos Santos rolled past “Big Country” back in 2010. By comparison, while dos Santos out-landed Nelson 138-40, the number for Miocic was 129-25. He also did an excellent job mixing up his variety of strikes, from uppercuts to crosses to kicks. He showed a bit of everything and had Nelson confused for the duration. Perhaps his loss to Stefan Struve can be at least partially be attributed to a case of main-event nerves.
Prediction: Even though Mark Hunt is coming off a loss, I think he’s a fair next step for Miocic.
Davis almost earned the finish but instead went all three rounds with Rosi Sexton. Still, she did little to dissuade those who believe she’s the one to challenge Ronda Rousey that they’re off the mark. She brought danger on the ground and showed some standup ability as well. She’ll certainly have to time to get in another fight or two before she gets to the title.
Prediction: The winner of the UFC on FOX Sports 1 match between Sara McMann and Sarah Kaufman makes sense.
Let’s put it this way: Shields’ win over Tyron Woodley wasn’t exactly decisive. According to MMADecisions.com, which records a sample size of media scorecards, five outlets scored it for Shields, four scored it for Woodley and two had it as a 29-29 draw. Guh. I’d suggest a rematch but in this case it’s probably better to move along and go in another direction.
Prediction: He fights Dong Hyun Kim.
Do you guys remember when Krause was in the WEC, getting thumped by Donald Cerrone and Ricardo Lamas? No? Well, it was a long time ago, and it sure appears as though Krause has put in some serious work since then. Sam Stout hadn’t been finished in about seven years, and that span included dangerous opponents like Matt Wiman, Joe Lauzon and Yves Edwards. Welcome to the bigtime, young man.
Prediction: He faces Anthony Njokuani.
I’ve long believed the college football ranks would be a great recruiting ground for MMA, and the 28-year-old Jordan is a great example of why. He’s a fearless and gifted athlete who doesn’t mind contact. Sounds like a perfect match for MMA to me. More importantly, Jordan is progressing. After knocking out Pat Barry, Jordan has won four of his last five. As he continues to figure out the nuances of the wrestling and ground games, his momentum builds.
Prediction: He fights the winner of the UFC on FOX 8 matchup between Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione.
In late 2011, the website Fightnomics published an article which examined finishing rates in the UFC. At the time, fight finishes had decreased from 76 percent in 2005 to 51 percent in 2010, the last completed full year of the study.
One of the conclusions made from the analysis was that submission defense was improving across the sport, which led to fewer submissions. So it came as a breath of fresh air last Saturday when UFC on FUEL 10 saw a record eight finishes. By comparison, the last five UFC events before that combined had a grand total of nine submissions.
So where did this come from? Maybe it was Brazilians paying homage to their lineage. Maybe a few one-sided matchups helped. Maybe it was just a bizarre set of circumstances. Whatever it was, MMA fans are never ungrateful for action and decisive conclusions, especially in events where intrigue is minimal beforehand. Well done, gents.
On to the predictions …
Werdum took care of business against “Big Nog,” but now what? After a year off, he might be in for another lengthy layoff. If the UFC considers him for a title shot, he’ll have to wait for Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos to finalize their trilogy, and a date has yet to be determined for that. So Werdum may be in limbo for a while. I’m not quite sure what else would make sense for him. It wouldn’t be wise to match him up against Daniel Cormier when Cormier says he’s moving down to 205. Perhaps a third match with Alistair Overeem would work if Overeem beats Travis Browne in August? Perhaps he meets Josh Barnett if the “Warmaster” beats Frank Mir, again in August? Bottom line, he’s likely to wait any which way.
Prediction: He’s put in the queue for a title shot against the Velasquez-dos Santos winner.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Nogueira fought 37 times before he ever suffered a defeat by finish, but in his last seven fights, he’s lost four times. He’s been knocked out twice and submitted twice. He’s struggling with the elites, with losses to Mir, Velasquez and now Werdum. Those aren’t exactly embarrassing names, but at 37 years old, Nog is quickly moving into the “what else does he have left to prove” conversation, if he isn’t already there. He’s such a nice man and he’s accomplished so much, no one wants to see him fight on too long. For now though, I doubt he’s done.
Prediction: He fights Stefan Struve
Silva’s always had the reputation of a wildly talented guy, but in recent years, he’s let some off-the-mat issues sidetrack any forward momentum. After returning from his latest suspension, Silva looked good against “Feijao, who is in many ways a perfect opponent for him because of his propensity to come forward. Silva held off his early storm and took over in the late stages of round one. During his layoff, Silva appeared to have tightened up his right hand, and improved his conditioning, two important developments going forward.
Prediction: A matchup with Jimi Manuwa sounds like a good time.
After a failed drug test and a knockout loss, Cavalcante may be on the chopping block, but I’m going to guess he gets one more chance. “Feijao” better make this one count.
Prediction: He draws Ilir Latifi.
Silva’s blinding victory over Jason High might have been one of those corner-turning wins that propels a fighter to the next level. If anything, it seemed like Silva learned his lessons from his fight with Jon Fitch, easily stopping High’s first takedown and then turning his defense into offense with a fight-ending submission. This kid remains one to watch.
Prediction: You know what? Erick Silva vs. Jordan Mein. Because who wouldn’t want to see that?
Well, that Rony Jason is sure getting popular in Brazil in a hurry, isn’t he? His flair for showmanship doesn’t hurt. Neither does his willingness to scrap. In his last fight against Sam Sicilia, he stood against a banger and knocked him out. This time, after being taken down by Mike Wilkinson, Jason quickly locked up a triangle. Since he’s already 29, he may not have far to go until he reaches his ceiling, but it seems as though it’s going to be an interesting ride there.
Prediction: He faces Steven Siler.
What a mess the UFC bantamweight division is in right now. You have a champion (Dominick Cruz) and an interim titleholder (Renan Barao) both on the shelf. You have an always No. 1 contender in waiting Urijah Faber who can’t seem to lose in title eliminator matchups but can’t seem to beat anyone wearing gold, and you have a few others (Eddie Wineland and now Assuncao) a half-step behind. This is one time it’s good not to be Joe Silva.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the UFC on FOX Sports 1 matchup between Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett.
The best kind of matchmaking is the kind that leads to something tangible. That’s not always possible, of course, because of the various career stages of the names on the card as well as the constantly shifting landscape of the sport, with injuries and suspensions, and on and on. But at least for those at the top, it’s nice when there is something real at stake, something substantial to chase.
That’s how things came together at the TUF 17 Finale, not for the main-eventers, or even the co-headliners. Instead, it was the women halfway down the main card who could see the future straight ahead.
The winner would not only receive the next title shot against Ronda Rousey, but a coaching job on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, a gig that brings with it two of the things every fighter dreams of: publicity and opportunity.
It was Cat Zingano who won on Saturday, rebounding from a rough start to finish Miesha Tate in the third round. As a result, her life will change. A few weeks ago, Zingano was a veritable unknown, but sometime soon she will board a plane and fly to Las Vegas to film a series that will effectively function as a 12-week infomercial for her match with Rousey. Maybe she’ll win and go on to become a star, or maybe she’ll lose and fade away. But all athletes can ask for is that short window where everything comes together and offers them a chance to make their dreams come true. For Zingano, that moment is now.
On to the predictions …
By virtue of his submission win over Scott Jorgensen, Faber finds himself knocking on the door for yet another title shot. There simply aren’t any other wannabe-champions in the division with resumes that stand above his. No other contender has some win streak that can’t be ignored, or the list of vanquished that Faber can boast. Personally, I’d like to see him have to fight one more time in order to gain a crack at the belt.
Prediction: He faces Brad Pickett
The parallels between Gastelum and former TUF winner Efrain Escudero are stunning. Both fighters are from Yuma, Arizona and trained at the Arizona Athletic Club. Both men were the youngest on their respective seasons of TUF. And both upset a highly favored opponent in the final to capture the crown. Now Gastelum will have to work to avoid Escudero’s post-TUF fate as a journeyman. His first step seems likely to be a drop to the welterweight division, which seems the right match for his 5-foot-9 frame.
Prediction: A matchup against Papy Abedi
UFC president Dana White thinks Hall mentally broke in his fight with Gastelum, but I didn’t see that at all. It’s not like he gave up trying to get up to his feet when Gastelum took him down, which is a clear signal that a fighter is ready to surrender and move on. He always tried to get back to standing. To be fair, he did a lot of the same things he did during the show. But there were also two developments. One is that Gastelum didn’t crumble in his presence, and the other is that Hall made a couple of correctable mistakes in backing up to the fence and closing off his own escape routes, allowing Gastelum to more easily close the distance for a takedown. Bottom line: I wouldn’t write him off just yet.
Prediction: He fights Bristol Marunde
About eight years ago, Rich Franklin beat Evan Tanner in a middleweight championship match that also decided The Ultimate Fighter’s season two coach. It was a turning point in the careers of both men. The show’s exposure was a major factor in Franklin’s popularity, and helped launch his career. Tanner, who openly hoped for the platform, would never again find his previous success. At 26 years old, Tate is still young enough to capitalize on other opportunities, but at least for the immediate future, it probably won’t be easy to swallow the one that got away.
Prediction: She faces the loser of the UFC 161 matchup between Alexis Davis and Rosi Sexton
Browne’s next booking will be quite interesting, because here’s a guy who was steaming along towards contender status before losing in a knockout to Antonio Silva in a fight where he was compromised by a freak knee injury. After dominant wins in four of his last five fights, Browne is moving towards becoming an undeniable factor in the division.
Prediction: This is a tough one due to timing. I think if Roy Nelson beats Cheick Kongo, a Browne-Nelson matchup makes sense. If not, perhaps he gets the Fabricio Werdum vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira winner.
After an inconsistent run on TUF, McDaniel looked very strong in his win over Gilbert Smith, an improvement that could be credited to a full camp and a more conventional weight cut. For most TUF competitors I would recommend another inexperienced opponent next time out, but McDaniel already has nearly 30 pro fights, so his timeline should be a bit accelerated.
Prediction: He faces the winner of UFC on FUEL 10′s Karlos Vemola vs. Caio Magalhaes fight
Due to his attempts to manipulate the TUF matchmaking process in his favor, Samman came across as the cast villain, but that aside — and why wouldn’t you try to make a clear path to the final, by the way — you can’t deny the guy has some talent. Is it long-term talent? He just turned 25, so there is still some potential waiting to be tapped.
Prediction: He faces Ultimate Fighter: Brazil winner Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira
From a matchmaking perspective, UFC on FUEL 9 didn’t leave us with a whole lot of clarity near the top of the card. Within a couple of days of the event’s conclusion, we learned that Gegard Mousasi is injured and probably out for a while, and Matt Mitrione is suspended. Ross Pearson, too, left injured, though his foot is not broken, as he originally believed.
All the winners of the night’s top three bouts are destined to be out for some amount of time, and that impacts any projections that might otherwise be made on the strength of a victory.
On the bright side, we had Conor McGregor living up to the hype and already being added on to a future event, so at least we walk away with something concrete.
On to the predictions …
Mousasi only indicated after his fight that he would require surgery, but not how long he would be sidelined. It seems that his admission quieted the critics who were initially judgmental over his jab-heavy three-round decision over Latifi. In my opinion, Mousasi was in almost a no-win situation from the beginning. If he didn’t knock Latifi out in the opening 60 seconds, it was never going to be quite enough. But Mousasi went from preparing for a 6-foot-5 striker to a 5-foot-9 wrestler with little time to ready himself. That’s a seismic shift. On the positive side for Mousasi, he was able to stop Latifi’s takedown offense, a good sign that portends well for his future. Unfortunately, he now has to contend with another surgical procedure, and hope that he comes back at full strength, and that, my friends, is no sure thing.
Prediction: With his return time a mystery, it’s almost impossible to guess what the division will look like when he returns, but someone like Dan Henderson might make sense.
Fighting on one week’s notice, Latifi wasn’t able to show any real offensive gifts but at least illustrated his courage in going all three rounds against one of the sport’s top finishers. That said, the performance against a compromised foe doesn’t exactly make it easy to project where he fits into the division. Given his track record, we can surmise that next time, he’s not likely to match up with anyone inside the top 20.
Prediction: He fights the winner of the UFC on FX 8 matchup between Fabio Maldonado and Roger Hollett
Another mature, crisp striking display for Pearson, who landed an astonishing 77.4 percent of his total strikes, according to FightMetric. Since returning back into the lightweight division, it’s become abundantly clear that 155 is the place for him, with two fights and two TKO’s.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the UFC on FX 8 fight between Evan Dunham and Rafael dos Anjos
Even before the event, there were many who voiced the belief that Couture was coming too far, too fast, but in reality, after fights with former EliteXC lightweight champ K.J. Noons as well as Conor Heun, it was a reasonable jump. Pearson was simply better than him on Saturday night. He’ll no doubt get another shot in the octagon, but perhaps be pulled back when it comes to opponent experience level.
Prediction: He faces the loser of UFC on FOX 7′s Jon Tuck vs. Norman Parke match
First off, both Pickett and Mike Easton deserve credit for a technical, fast-paced thriller that ended in a split-decision. Both fighters illustrated the best of MMA through tight striking, wrestling and grappling. Pickett’s been around a while, so he gets another grizzled veteran next time.
Prediction: He fights Takeya Mizugaki
Brandao seems to be maturing, which is a great sign for his future prospects. Gone is the berserker who goes hellbent for the finish in round one, and if he doesn’t get it, has nothing left for what remains. Instead, he’s controlled violence, hunting for openings but pulling back when nothing’s there. That’s a much smarter way of competing, and it allowed him to methodically deconstruct Pablo Garza on the way to a first-round submission.
Prediction: He faces another UFC on FUEL 9 winner, Akira Corassani
Was there a bigger breakout star on Saturday night than McGregor, the Irishman who steamrolled past Marcus Brimage in 67 seconds? After the win, UFC president Dana White confirmed that he was aiming to place McGregor in front of the UFC event set for Boston in August. I would expect a slow build for McGregor, who is just 24 years old. He deserves a few fights to gauge his potential, but with finishes in all 13 of his wins, the early signs are positive.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the TUF 17 Finale fight between Bart Palaszewski and Cole Miller
Last Saturday was one of those increasingly rare nights when we felt like we left an event with some real clarity about what’s next for more than one star. Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks set a date to meet up after capturing decisions in the UFC 158 main event, and co-main event, respectively.
The way they did it had similar elements, but played out quite differently. St-Pierre had nine takedowns while Hendricks actually outdid him with 12 in just three rounds. Yet despite that, no one would argue that St-Pierre matched Hendricks in the riskiness of his game plan. Hendricks is alternately comfortable brawling and grappling, and is capable of switching tracks in an instant. On Saturday, Hendricks waited for Condit to get off before countering. That’s a dangerous play against a finisher, but he did it with a great deal of success. St-Pierre was far more conservative with both his striking and ground games. His best punch on Saturday night was the jab, which he used both offensively and defensively to out-box his rangy opponent. On the ground, he rarely tried to leave Diaz’s guard, content to control him and cherry-pick shots to the head and body.
The similarity of their ability to control an opponent along with the contrasting nature of their risk aversion is what makes St-Pierre vs. Hendricks so intriguing. St-Pierre sees his opponents as math problems, but Hendricks can’t be so easily distilled; he’s a wild card. The early read has to be for St-Pierre, who shows a much more diverse striking game and mastery of all-around MMA, but if Hendricks can take away his security blanket and force him into more of a firefight, the odds start moving back towards the middle.
On to the predictions …
We have to preface this by reminding ourselves that we really have no idea what he will do next. He could retire. He could decide he wants to be a pro triathlete. He could go to jail for tax evasion. Anything seems possible. Diaz doesn’t like the grind, but I think that deep within, he still has that burning desire to compete. It just has to be scratched by the right opponent. From that standpoint, there is only one matchup that makes sense.
Prediction: He faces Carlos Condit in a rematch of their 2012 fight
If you wanted to package the perfect spirit of an MMA fighter, you would go to Condit, who brought hell to Hendricks for 15 minutes, the same way he did to St-Pierre for 25, and on and on. If you’ve never wrestled, you have no idea how grueling it is to try to stop the shot of a four-time NCAA champion, let alone to work back to your feet time after time after time. Condit not only did that; he was in good enough shape to turn the heat up highest in the last round. It wasn’t enough to win the decision, but it was a grade-A display of guts and will. I know Condit still wants the Rory MacDonald rematch, but it doesn’t really make sense right now. With both him and Diaz in the midst of two-fight losing streaks, it’s now or never for the rematch.
Prediction: He fights Diaz. However, if Diaz decides he’s going to retire or take a few months off before deciding, a Condit vs. Martin Kampmann rematch will work.
This man is essentially a right-handed Hendricks, is he not? Thunderous punches, excellent wrestling. No wonder he has repeatedly called out Hendricks. Of course, he’s not getting Hendricks any time soon, unless St-Pierre suffers an injury or decides to move forward with a super fight or something else crazy happens. More likely is a matchup with another top five welterweight that will help the division determine it’s next top contender.
Prediction: He faces Demian Maia
Camozzi snuck by Nick Ring in a fight during which he was out-landed by Ring 86-67, according to FightMetric. The victory gives him four wins in a row, but I still don’t forecast a major name for him quite yet.
Prediction: He faces Brad Tavares
Cote looked physically better than he has in years, and his new diet should help him to extend his career, but most believe he should have lost a decision to Bobby Voelker. With that lucky break in his back pocket, he looks to do some damage in the welterweight division.
Prediction: He’s matched up with another fighter who recently made the move to 170, Court McGee
It was a truly stellar debut for Mein, who became the first man to stop Dan Miller. Among the opponents who had previously faced Miller: Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Michael Bisping, Nate Marquardt and Rousimar Palhares. Yet it was a young 23-year-old who pulled off the trick. With the result, there is now expectation moving forward, but Mein should not be moved ahead too quickly.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the UFC 159 matchup between James Head and Nick Catone
Makdessi showed some true smarts and poise in defeating the flashy Daron Cruickshank. Makdessi got off to a slow start in the first round, but as it went along, you could tell that he was sizing up his opponent, figuring out his reach, timing and tendencies. And as he did so, he got more and more comfortable, sometimes anticipating what Cruickshank was doing, other times countering perfectly. That allowed him to sweep the last two rounds and earn the win.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the UFC on FUEL 9 matchup between Ross Pearson and Ryan Couture
When Robbie Lawler returned to the UFC after nearly nine years away, the calendar insisted he was only 30 years old. How could that be? Lawler is one of those guys who seems to have been around forever. He competed in the old Extreme Challenge shows. He fought in the UFC soon after Zuffa bought it from original owners SEG. He challenged Tiki Ghosn and Evan Tanner and Pete Spratt and others who had their best success during what seemed like another time.
Lawler himself was a onetime UFC poster boy who didn’t quite work out the first time around. He was a crushing puncher with a connection to what was at the time arguably the world’s premier fight team, Miletich Fighting Systems, and he was earmarked for glory. It didn’t quite work out. He won his first three fights, then lost three out of his next four. From there, an elbow injury derailed his UFC run and sent Lawler on an odyssey around the map. It was a long and rocky trip.
In the last five years, for example, Lawler was capable of the brilliant, like his stunning comeback KO of Melvin Manhoef in January 2010, and the disappointing, like his upset at the hands of Lorenz Larkin.
Even during those times, Lawler could often be found on the periphery of the UFC scene, working with other fighters but looking like someone who was trying to find his way back home.
MMA is a sport in which athletes often age prematurely. Is Lawler 30 years old or 30 years young? At least for one night, he proved it was the latter, but the clock ticks on.
On to the predictions …
Even the “fans” who boycotted the event in protest of women topping the marquee owe Rousey the respect due any fighter who withstood the pressure that came with history, the distracting attention of fight week as a headliner, and most significantly, the adversity of an opponent’s tight squeeze. Rousey survived and extended her first-round arm bar streak to a lucky seven. In each of her last two fights, though, she has shown cracks of vulnerability. That’s actually a good selling point for the Rousey haters, who now have a more realistic hope of seeing her unseated in the near future.
Prediction: It’s almost a lock that she faces the winner of April’s Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano fight.
Carmouche brought the fight to Rousey, extending her longer than anyone else has been able to. That’s not much of a silver lining but it’s something. While Rousey was a sure thing as a media darling during the leadup to the bout, Carmouche was right on her heels, doing interviews with Larry King, The New York Times and other mainstream outlets. That’s very meaningful in a time when it’s difficult to stand out from the other 400+ fighters on the roster. Carmouche should have a fairly high-profile fight her next time out.
Prediction: She faces Julie Kedzie.
This one is supposed to be easy. Machida won, and Dana White said that he is now the No. 1 contender. I don’t think it’s a lock though. Far from it. Here’s what he’s up against. 1) Other fighters competing for that spot — including Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira — are preparing to fight. 2) The UFC would love to do Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva in the fall if it’s possible. 3) Daniel Cormier is planning a drop to 205 after fighting Frank Mir in April. With all that and a long wait until the Jones vs. Chael Sonnen winner is ready to go, that’s a lot of time for Dana White and company to reconsider their decision.
Prediction: Machida ends up fighting the Gustafsson vs. Mousasi winner in the summer.
Hendo is now 42 years, and after losing his No. 1 contender slot, you have to wonder if he’s lost his last best chance at fighting for a UFC belt. The division’s terrain is difficult to navigate even for the young and powerful. On the other hand, I suppose it’s possible that Henderson’s timing was a little bit off after 15 months away. It’s not like he was routed. According to FightMetric, he actually out-landed Machida 54-28, but it was Machida who landed the more significant strikes, 27-20. I guess we’ll get our answer next time.
Prediction: He faces the loser of the Gustafsson vs. Mousasi fight.
Here, we have ourselves a problem. For the last five years or so, Faber has beaten every contender put in front of him, but he can’t win any time a title is in front of him. He’s 0-5 with belts on the line, and has already lost to bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz and interim bantamweight titleholder Renan Barao. But he’s already beaten contenders like Eddie Wineland and Raphael Assuncao. Ugh. I just don’t feel it’s right to shove him back into another title match, so he has to win another fight against top competition.
Prediction: He faces Michael McDonald.
Any concerns about McGee’s trademark conditioning being affected by his move to welterweight were allayed in a performance which saw him land 198 total strikes. McGee’s activity, strong wrestling base and excellent chin will make him an intriguing talent at 170.
Prediction: He fights the winner of the Dan Miller vs. Jordan Mein fight at UFC 158.
Well, that’s how to return with an impact. In his return to welterweight, the thumper retained his power with a knockout of longtime contender Koscheck. Lawler also said something interesting at the post-fight press conference, saying that Koscheck didn’t feel heavy on top of him, which means as much about Lawler’s defensive wrestling skills and ability to return to his feet as it does about Koscheck. A mobile and agile Lawler is a scary proposition.
Prediction: He faces the winner of UFC on FUEL 8′s Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Dong Hyun Kim match.
Schaub wasn’t a crowd-pleaser on Saturday night, but his minimalist execution was at least understandable. After suffering crushing knockouts in consecutive fights, Schaub did what was necessary to survive Lavar Johnson’s firepower and exit the scene with his consciousness and his job.
Prediction: Schaub faces Travis Browne as long as Browne gets past Gabriel Gonzaga at the TUF 17 Finale.
There are ways to get ahead, and ways to bury yourself. Matt Riddle did a little bit of both last week. Let’s recap. Riddle did an interview with Bloody Elbow in which he voiced disappointment with not drawing Dan Hardy. That’s fine, but he went a step further. Because he was angry he was unlikely to draw Hardy in the immediate future, he was going to take out his disappointment in his UFC on FUEL 7 fight with Che Mills. But not in the way that you might think.
“I really don’t care,” he said. “I’m just gonna go out there and get my win. Maybe I’ll just go out there and hug Che for 15 minutes, give the UFC what they want, I guess. If they want me to get disrespected, I may as well disrespect the fight game [Editor's note: emphasis mine] and take down Che Mills and hug him. I can. I’m really good at hugging people. I think I might go out there and hold Che Mills down for 15 minutes and not even punch him. My cardio is good enough to where I can take him down about four times a round. Even if they stand me up after 20 seconds, I’ll take him down again. Whatever.
So what happened? Riddle went out and attempted 14 takedowns, completing five. And how many significant strikes did he land from constantly having top position? Twenty-three. Mills, fighting from the bottom, had 28 significant strikes in the three-rounder. To be fair, Riddle did land an overall total of 126 strikes, but judging from the FightMetric stats, most of them weren’t too impactful. Couple that in with his pre-fight statements and people are much more likely to perceive his win as lackluster.
To be clear, I’m not criticizing his game plan. Every fighter should do what he or she is good at. Riddle certainly did the right thing by capitalizing on Mills’s takedown defense deficiencies. But MMA is the excitement business, and UFC brass is keenly aware of that. Riddle’s decision to tell the world he was going to be boring, and that he might be disrespecting the sport certainly colored the lens with which many viewed his performance. In the end, it’s still a win, and while that’s the most important thing, his attitude and execution will not convince the promotion that Riddle is quite ready for prime time.
On to the predictions …
The next few weeks will decide whether Barao finally gets to matchup with Dominick Cruz or attempt to defend the interim title for a second time. Barao’s performance against McDonald was measured. In an attempt to stay away from the powerful right hand, Barao took the fight to the mat four times and kept things at distance while standing. Cruz and his frenetic style will be a whole different challenge. I think that as long as Cruz’s return won’t take more than 7-8 months, it’s the fight.
Prediction: Barao vs. Cruz sometime around September.
The 22-year-old will definitely go home with things to work on after landing just 30 percent of his strikes. Barao approached him in a new and different way, and it’s something he might see replicated against him in the future. The silver lining is that he got some big-fight experience at a young age, and can incorporate the new level of understanding that comes with it along with his increasing skill-set. Don’t be surprised to see McDonald back in a title fight within the next 2-3 years.
Prediction: He faces Yuri Alcantara
With every win, Swanson’s one-sided loss to Jose Aldo moves further from relevance when discussing his title hopes. Though his knockout streak ended, his win over Poirier was perhaps his most impressive when taking into account opponent quality and style matchup. Since Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis won’t take place until August, there will be at least one or two more fights for Swanson to get a chance at gold.
Prediction: He faces his original UFC on FUEL 7 opponent, Dennis Siver
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Poirier to beat Swanson on just four weeks of notice, but he did reasonably well, struggling most in the takedown department. His inability to get the fight to the mat didn’t cost him the fight though. Swanson was just better on this particular night. Poirier still boasts many valuable tools, not the least of which is his unrelenting tenacity. That will drive him to improve and return impressively.
Prediction: He fights Diego Nunes
After flashing glimpses of power in the first round, Manuwa was effectively robbed of the opportunity to finish in the style to which he’s accustomed when Cyrille Diabate couldn’t continue due to a calf injury. Manuwa’s explosive striking style is something to behold, and could quickly vault him up the rankings if he doesn’t show any glaring holes in his grappling game. For now though, expect to see UFC keep him on a similar path of fighting strikers.
Prediction: He faces another Saturday night winner, James Te Huna
Nelson has anti-star star quality given the eerily calm trance that seems to overtake him from the moment he walks into the arena. There will always be great excitement surrounding the fighters that show enthusiasm for their jobs, but there’s something to be said for the Nelson/Rory MacDonald/Gegard Mousasi types, who look they can beat their opponents into a oblivion without their pulse rising past 60 beats per minute. Stoicism during danger is an endearing quality.
Prediction: He continues the steady path and fights T.J. Waldburger
James Te Huna
Te Huna nearly got squashed in the opening round, taking a drubbing from Jimmo before completely reversing the momentum and inflicting payback on the Canadian for the final 10 minutes of the fight. It was a performance long on heart, one that likely won him a few new fans aboard the bandwagon.
Prediction: The aforementioned Te Huna vs. Manuwa fight