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UFC 136 Parting Shots

By on October 12, 2011

I remember watching UFC 49 a few years ago (August 21, 2004 to be precise) and seeing one of the most dynamic finishes that I had ever seen in the sport, courtesy of lightweight fighter Yves Edwards. He was fighting Josh Thomson, and the two were unanimously considered to be the best two lightweights in the UFC at the time.

The fight was not for a title, though. The UFC Lightweight Title had been on the shelf since a tournament intended to crown a champion had ended with a draw between BJ Penn and Caol Uno at UFC 41. Not only did Yves Edwards not win a title belt for his spectacular head kick knockout of Thomson, but the fight also ended up being his last in the UFC for almost two years.

It wasn’t just Edwards that went MIA from August of 2004 to March of 2006; it was the whole lightweight division. For reasons that I’m still not clear on, the division was neglected for a year and seven months. The division would not come back until UFC 58, when Sam Stout defeated Spencer Fisher by split decision on the prelims in the first lightweight bout of two on the night. Yves Edwards competed in the other one and lost by submission to Mark Hominick.

From there, it was another seven months before a champion at 155 pounds was crowned at UFC 64. It took over six more years before the UFC would expand its ranks to also include featherweight and bantamweight fighters in the mix. To say that fighters at 155 pounds and below have had an uphill struggle to capture the respect of the average MMA fan and earn the trust of the UFC is probably an understatement.

You can understand the significance, then, of UFC 136, which not only featured many smaller fighters but flat-out relied on them: four of the five main card bouts featured either lightweight or featherweight fights, including the two co-main events.

How did it turn out? Quite simply put, UFC 136 was one of the best pay-per-views we have seen in a long time when it comes to great action from top to bottom. At this point, it is safe to say that the fans have proven that they are not as concerned about how fighters tip the scales as they are about how fighters compete once they are in the cage.

As far as that outdated theory that smaller fighters don’t finish their fights goes, all but three of UFC 136’s fights went to a decision. Two of the three that were finished involved lightweights, and the fight that was given the designation of “Fight of the Night” was contested between featherweights Nam Phan and Leonard Garcia, to boot.

Smaller fighters were entertaining to watch back when Yves Edwards was kicking Josh Thomson’s head nearly off of his shoulders, and that remains true today. Only now, fighters at the lighter weights have finally gotten their due, and that is good not only for them, but also for the fans. It’s safe to say that neither the people watching at home, the fans in the nosebleed section or those that bought UFC ringside tickets were disappointed.

Quick Shots

–Don’t assign all the blame to Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis for their less than classic bouts on Saturday night. It was clear that their opponents (Kenny Florian and Jeremy Stephens, respectively) had come to strategize rather than to WAR (c)Lorenzo Fertitta. I’m not here to complain that Florian and Stephens decided a more tactical approach (Florian’s in particular evoked memories of Randy Couture early on), but it was clear to me that in both fights, Aldo and Pettis flipped a switch when they saw they weren’t going to get the straight-up standup fights that both would probably prefer. When you know the other guy is out to steal rounds and is looking for takedowns, to boot, it necessarily changes your output as a striker.

–Has a winning fighter ever gotten to say less in his post-fight interview than Nam Phan did on Saturday night? It’s bad enough that Phan will have to hear Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg admire Garcia’s fighting style non-stop when he goes back to watch the fight on video, but the guy didn’t even get a chance to throw out a few thank yous or shout-outs? C’mon, man!

–What I learned from the Lauzon-Guillard fight: if you stand with your opponent, you may find yourself being caught with a good punch that quickly changes things. In other words, nothing new here. Guillard catching Lauzon was definitely the safer bet, but did anyone think Lauzon lacked power? Or that Guillard would be done if the fight hit the mat?

–Brian Stann is a warrior to the end and an entertaining fighter that I love to watch, but when Chael Sonnen telegraphed that arm triangle, he had to put up a better fight to keep Sonnen from passing to the other side and finishing. You know that he has to be on the other side of you to finish the choke; you have to keep him from doing so or better yet, fight to trap a leg or two as he inevitably looks to pass to that side.

–It’s been 32 months (or seven fights) since we’ve seen Demian Maia finish an opponent, but it somehow feels even longer. When did the guy with possibly the most dangerous jiu-jitsu in mixed martial arts become a decision machine? Did Anderson Silva break him, or was it that Nate Marquardt punch?

Say What?!?

“Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck!”– Chael Sonnen in a historically-inaccurate statement following his one-sided victory over Brian Stann. Lost somewhere in the WWE-style promo that Sonnen cut was that Silva has won fifteen straight fights, including one by submission over Sonnen himself not too long ago.

The Bob Seger “Beautiful Loser” Award

This time around, the most impressive fighter stuck in the “L” column was Gray Maynard. Hey, when you almost finish the #2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world (hey, Dana White says it’s so, it must be so!) yet again in the first round, that’s impressive. This is true even if you give away the second round in a startling display of apathy.

Movin’ On Up Award

Phan and Lauzon share this one. I love Phan’s standup: no one in the lightweight division uses body shots more effectively than he does, which continues to befuddle me. It’s a great technique! You’re willing to chop a guy’s legs down for three rounds, but not to go to the body when he covers up to take a little something out of him?

Lauzon, on the other hand, stood fearlessly in front of the scariest striker in the division and put him on his ass. He followed it with his usual deft jiu-jitsu and made Guillard look absolutely lost on the mat en route to the quick submission victory. Lauzon would provide a fun challenge for Frankie Edgar, if he can maintain his momentum long enough to get a shot.

Holy $#!% Award

Clearly, this goes to Edgar. I didn’t think I’d see anything like what happened in his last fight with Maynard for a long, long time. Not only was I wrong, but it was Edgar who once again survived an absolute nightmare of a round against an aggressive and powerful challenger in Maynard. There are no less than several moments in that round when you say to yourself, “Oh, he’s done,” yet Edgar somehow survives each time. Unbelievable.

E-Mail Jon Hartley

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