The UFC stopped a long PPV-less drought with a satisfying event last Saturday as UFC 145 packed a lot of quality violence into a few hours. While the light heavyweight title showdown between champion Jon Jones and challenger Rashad Evans was understandably the focus of the show, the promotion’s sneaky promotion of some talented prospects paid off with a lot of memorable fights up and down the card.
Prospects Steal the Show from Jones, Evans
One thing that really impresses me about how the UFC does things is that when they have high profile main events, they pack the rest of the main card with up and coming fighters that a lot of fans may be less familiar with. With a fight like Jones-Evans, the UFC doesn’t have to fill the main card with UFC mainstays and former champions, so they intelligently use the opportunity to get a lot of eyes on their future stars, instead.
At UFC 145, you saw Rory MacDonald and Michael “Not The Guy Who Ruined The Doobie Brothers” McDonald each step up to the proverbial plate and knock the ball out of the park. MacDonald looked outstanding in his dominant win over the underrated Che Mills, while McDonald looked even better in his own explosive victory over former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres.
McDonald in particular showed a kind of aggression that you can imagine could only come from being saddled with a lifetime of jokes about “Yah Mo B There” as he savagely dispatched of a man that was once known as the best bantamweight on the planet. Myself and many others who think that Torres still has plenty left in the tank thought that this fight might have been a touch too early for McDonald, even if we believed that he had the makings of a future champ at 135 pounds. McDonald proved all of us wrong with a resounding right uppercut and follow-up punches to hand Torres another debilitating setback.
Can Hendo Give Jones a Challenge?
Dan Henderson is next for Jon Jones, and it’s a real testament to Jones’ prodigious ability that most people don’t seem to think that Hendo has more than a puncher’s chance to dethrone the champ. Count me among the skeptics, as much as I admire Hendo and think that he’s an all-time great. When you look at Henderson, he doesn’t have a whole lot more to offer than what Quinton “Rampage” Jackson or Rashad Evans did. I would argue that Hendo has more one punch power than either of the two, and his offensive wrestling is better than Rampage’s for sure.
However, he rarely relies on his wrestling background and he depends a lot on catching opponents with his tried and true overhand right. That’s great in a lot of bouts, but against a striker with the kind of length and dynamic offense that Jones brings to the table, I just don’t know that it will be enough. I’ll elaborate more when the fight actually arrives (Hendo may catch a bit of a break if Jones rushes back to action at UFC 149 in Calgary, Alberta…Canada, but I still don’t think it’ll be enough), but I stand by my earlier assertion that Jones won’t be losing to anyone at 205 pounds in the foreseeable future.
–It’s hard not to feel a bit bad for Mark Hominick, who’s had three tough losses in a row now. True, he should beat someone like Eddie Yagin, but Hominick proved in that fight that balls the size of grapefruits while coming back from the brink of defeat in each of the first two rounds, then winning the third stanza. Color me surprised by Yagin’s overall standup and impressive power, though.
–I decried the hasty comparisons between Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones in a recent column, and I’ll happily do the same with those between Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Lyoto Machida. Look, I see the vague similarities between Gustafsson and Jones, but the difference in accomplishments and actual fighting styles are too much to ignore. With Thompson and Machida, I can see why you may lump the two together as the poster boys for traditional martial arts in the UFC, but Thompson hasn’t come close to earning such a comparison.
Look no further than his fight with Matt Brown, who is a tough out for anyone but nonetheless a gatekeeper, for all the evidence you need. Machida got where he is largely because he is infamously hard to take down, which frustratingly forces opponents to play his game. Brown was able to take Thompson down with shots from way outside that he didn’t even set up particularly well. That ended up costing Thompson the fight, as the grappling portions of the bout wore him out enough that later on, when Brown was also gassed, he didn’t have enough in the tank to continue his flashy and effective striking.
–You think you know a guy, and then he comes into the cage in ridiculous shape and reminds you of the vicious power that made him a favorite of hardcore MMA fans years ago. Well done, Ben Rothwell. Well done.
–Yes, the Chad Griggs fight made me a little sad. Is it so wrong to want to see a dude rocking chops like that have a little success?
Adventures in Refereeing
Referee Mario Yamasaki either changed his definition of illegal strikes to the back of the head (and his philosophy of penalizing such strikes) since the famous Carlo Prater-Erick Silva bout, or he let all of the fan backlash get to him. Hopefully, for the integrity of the sport, it was the former and not the latter, because it looked to me as if Rory MacDonald was just as bad, if not worse, than Silva was when he finished off Che Mills. Now, I know the DQ in the Silva bout was not popular, but at the same time, referees should not ref toward the preferences of the fans. That’s not their job, though you see it all the time in the form of quick stand-ups when the fans are booing, etc. It’s weird that MacDonald’s barrage at the end of the fight didn’t even warrant a verbal warning from Yamasaki.
Movin’ On Up Award
There were a lot of fighters to choose from, but I’ll go with Michael McDonald after his stunning win over Miguel Torres. Not so stunning because he won, of course, but in the devastating way that he brought an end to the bout. McDonald now positions himself as a true player in a bantamweight division that can use some fresh contenders.
Beautiful Loser Award
I’m going with Mark Hominick here. Some may say Rashad Evans, because he may have stolen a round from Jon Jones (I personally still think Jones won the first round), but should winning one round in a five round title fight that was characterized by a lack of activity in the final few rounds win you praise? Should merely surviving win you praise? Hominick not only survived, but won the final round and made you think that in a five round fight, he probably would have emerged the victor. It could have been a ten round fight and I wouldn’t have favored Evans after what we saw.
Holy $#!& Award
After much deliberation, this goes to Ben Rothwell. There’s just something about heavyweights where even when they’re half-conscious, you don’t want to give them any chance to hit you on the button. Brendan Schaub made that mistake and he paid the price, as Rothwell turned the table in vicious fashion and knocked Schaub out cold.
Tags: awful refereeing, Ben Rothwell, Brendan Schaub, Che Mills, Dan Henderson, Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida, Matt Brown, Michael McDonald, Miguel Torres, Rashad Evans, Rory MacDonald, Stephen Thompson, UFC, UFC 145