UFC 115 provided plenty of memorable moments, as every fight on the main card delivered entertainment for MMA fans. The fights were mostly competitive and all had their bright spots, whether it was the back-and-forth action of the Carlos Condit-Rory MacDonald bout or the stunning conclusion of the Chuck Liddell-Rich Franklin fight. Here are my parting shots for UFC 115, as we move forward to a week packed with MMA events from Strikeforce, the WEC, and of course, the UFC itself.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable
If there was any advice to give a fighter on Saturday night’s card, it would be to not get too comfortable with their success during the night’s fights. Nearly every main card fight featured the kinds of momentum swings that are not often seen in high-level MMA. The Martin Kampmann-Paulo Thiago match was the only bout that featured one fighter really taking it to the other for the duration of the bout.
We got a wide variety of fights, too. Gilbert Yvel and Ben Rothwell gave it their all in an often-sloppy but completely gutsy brawl that featured plenty of reversals between the two on the mat. Rory MacDonald looked good enough early on in his fight against Condit (although the first round was closer than most are saying due to Condit’s activity from the bottom and MacDonald’s lack thereof), but Condit had what it took to keep the pressure on and get a stoppage in the third stanza. Pat Barry hurt himself and possibly gave Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic a pass or two before the MMA legend took control and dominated the final two rounds en route to a submission victory. And who can forget what may be Chuck Liddell’s last MMA fight, where he looked great right up until a seemingly-hurt Rich Franklin hit him with a right hand out of nowhere to end his chances of victory?
These kinds of fights are great for the sport, and the card itself was full of the kind of action that has been somewhat sparse throughout many of this year’s UFC cards. Those that complained before the fights about the lineup had to eat their words, as each fight delivered on what was a very entertaining night.
What More Can Cro Cop Give?
It’s funny: for my money, Chuck Liddell looked better in his loss to Franklin than Cro Cop did in his win over Barry, but you don’t see anyone saying that Liddell still has what it takes. Sure, that has a lot to do with Liddell’s chin not being trustworthy enough to carry him through an exchange with even a somewhat hard-punching light heavyweight. Still, though, why are people getting ahead of themselves and saying that Cro Cop can regain his relevancy at heavyweight?
The guy fought a lot more like the Cro Cop of old on Saturday night than he had in his previous few fights, but that still doesn’t mean that he’s back to his old form. Let’s not forget that he faced someone who was perfectly happy to play into his strengths, and he still barely got out of the first round alive. What did we see that would show us that Cro Cop is ready to face the division’s “holy trinity” of big wrestlers? Furthermore, what showed us that even a rematch with someone like Cheick Kongo or Junior dos Santos would go differently?
I hope that Cro Cop re-signs with the UFC, if he decides to keep fighting. However, I wouldn’t call him even a dark horse when it comes to UFC heavyweight title contenders…not just yet. He needs to face someone who will take him where he doesn’t want to be, first. He at least needs to rematch- and defeat- either Kongo or Gabriel Gonzaga before we get ahead of ourselves with Cro Cop mania.
What About Franklin?
Amidst all of the Liddell career eulogies and talk about the refereeing at UFC 115, it seems like Rich Franklin has once again had his performance lost in the shuffle. Hey, I’m just as guilty as anyone, but I think it’s time to give Franklin his due. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Franklin is one of the most underrated fighters of his generation. It’s unfortunate that because Liddell hasn’t been the same lately, Franklin’s win over the UFC Hall of Famer will be devalued by fans and pundits alike.
I think this is wrong, honestly. Liddell looked better than he has in years, and was finally in good fighting shape. Sure, Liddell hasn’t been as hard to knock out as he would have been earlier in his career over his past few fights, but who’s to say that Franklin’s right hook wouldn’t have done the job at any other point in Liddell’s career. Liddell ate one on the chin when he wasn’t protecting himself, and that can spell “knockout” for any professional fighter at any stage of his career.
Furthermore, Franklin once again proved himself to be one of the gutsiest fighters in the game by completing the round with a broken left ulna (a bone in the forearm), which he sustained while blocking one of Liddell’s more powerful kicks. Franklin is always prepared to fight, has a ton of heart, and is one of the more well-rounded competitors in the sport. I’m not saying he’s going to win the light heavyweight title, but I wouldn’t count him out, either.
–I’m going to surprisingly side with Dana White when it comes to the officiating of the Condit-MacDonald fight. Serious injuries and brain damage don’t care how much time is on the clock when the punches are thrown, and neither should referees. Seven or eight seconds can be an eternity when someone is beating the tar out of you. White said that referees aren’t worried about the amount of time on the clock, and it’s hard to disagree. A stoppage during the middle of a round should be a stoppage at any point in a round, including seven or eight seconds before the end of it. If this was a Gina Carano-Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos situation where the fight was stopped almost simultaneously with the final bell, I could understand the controversy.
–Martin Kampmann has gotten right back in line for a future welterweight title shot with his ridiculously impressive performance against the underrated Paulo Thiago. Still, Kampmann should have to defeat someone on the level of Jon Fitch or Thiago Alves to earn that right. In the meantime, a fight with Dan Hardy would be a lot of fun. Kampmann deserves a lot of credit for rounding out his game over the past few years. Other fighters should take note of that effort and seek to emulate it.