It felt like it had been months since the last UFC pay-per-view before UFC 152, even though it had only been 41 days in reality. That’s simply the effect you get from getting used to seeing 15+ pay-per-views per year, of course. Fortunately, UFC 152 delivered after what seemed like a long drought, and we were lucky enough to have a lot of compelling fights.
Even the main event between Vitor Belfort and Jon Jones, who defended his title successfully for the fourth time, turned out to be a better fight than expected.
Sure, Jones was never threatened by Belfort, outside of the unforgettable armbar that Belfort sunk in during the first round where it seemed inevitable during a moment or so that Jones would tap out. Still, that one moment made the other times when Jones was in Belfort’s guard, methodically slicing away with those dangerous elbows, that much more compelling. After all, Belfort had already nearly finished the fight off of his back.
The only thing that really disappointed me about Belfort’s better-than-expected performance was that he was hesitant to keep the fight standing up much of the time. Though he never clearly hurt Jones with a strike, he did land some good shots, and I would have liked to see him be a little more committed to striking rather than pulling guard several times (and in one case, pulling Jones down into side control- obviously a bad idea).
This fight accomplished a few things. For one, it showed that Belfort has grown as a fighter simply because he now fights through adversity. I think in previous years, Belfort may have folded mentally after his armbar didn’t finish the fight and Jones opened up that huge cut. This time, he persevered. It was a very good performance from a fighter who still seems to have a lot to give in the sport. Who knows? If Silva moves on in the next couple of years, he may have a title run left in him at 185 pounds.
Also, we got to see Jones struggle through honest-to-God adversity. Sure, he dropped a round to Lyoto Machida, but that seemed to be more of a case of Jones being methodical and Machida simply outworking him in the early going. I’m not sure that it meant much, in that Jones didn’t mind losing the first round, especially by a fairly slim margin. Having his arm hyper-extended and having to slam Belfort multiple times to loosen up the hold, though, shows real heart.
Finally, a third accomplishment of this fight is that it made a Jones fight with Dan Henderson infinitely more palatable. It is easy to watch Jones-Belfort and see Belfort landing some pretty solid shots that even backed Jones up a bit and say, “Imagine if Hendo landed a shot like that!” Jones is not like Anderson Silva in that he can be hit with pretty good shots if you come at him intelligently and aggressively at the right moments. Add Hendo’s game-changing power to the mix, and you have a fight you can sell.
The problem is that now Hendo has a date with Machida. We’ll have to see who wins that, because I know I’m not the only one who has a lot more interest in seeing Hendo challenge Jones than seeing Machida get another shot at him.
This Time, Dana is Right
In the post-fight press conference, Dana White absolutely ripped not only the fans who were booing during the Joseph Benavidez-Demetrious Johnson flyweight title fight, but also those who had voiced complaints directly to him on Twitter. He called the fans “morons”, going so far as to say “don’t ever buy another [pay-per-view]. I don’t want your money.”
To the contrary, I think he’s probably pretty happy to take your money, but I agree with him in principle. I know that watching fighters of lighter weights is a bit of an acquired taste- the action is fast, yet it sometimes feels like less is happening, since it can be hard for fighters with that kind of speed to land solid shots on similarly-speedy opponents. Add the fact that 125-pound fighters don’t pack the kind of power that they do at higher weights, and some fans are not going to really “get it”.
Still, I remember a time when the UFC itself discontinued the lightweight division altogether because they thought people didn’t want to see the “little guys” scrap. Of course, it’s a lot easier to say, “I don’t want your money” and stick to your guns once you’ve had some mainstream success.
–Mighty Mouse had some interesting things to say about Benavidez’s striking technique on Sherdog’s “Beatdown” radio show. He said he could see Benavidez’s overhand right coming because “Joseph likes to bury his feet and duck his head when he throws. When Joseph starts to duck his head a little bit at me, I can tell that he’s about to throw that overhand right.” That’s the kind of technical stuff I love hearing about, and Johnson certainly used that information to near-perfection. I was surprised, even as someone who knew Johnson was fast, at how few clean shots Benavidez landed. Even when he hit Johnson, Johnson was almost always moving his head with the punch so it only connected with partial power. Just a great performance by Mighty Mouse, the first-ever UFC Flyweight Champion.
–I’ll be damned. Michael Bisping is starting to look like a championship-caliber fighter. Er, in a world where Anderson Silva doesn’t exist, anyway.
–Props to Vinny Magalhaes for making a triumphant return via a nasty armbar against Igor Pokrajac. Pokrajac is not exactly a great ground fighter, but it was a good first step at a guy who needed eight fights to get back into the UFC fold.
–I am always outspoken with my assessments of referee performances, and that certainly applies to “Standin’ Dan” himself, Dan Miragliotta. However, I had no real problem with Dan’s stoppage of the Kyle Noke-Charlie Brenneman fight. Sure, Brenneman looked good to go afterward, but at the moment Miragliotta committed to stopping the fight Brenneman looked done. You have to go on what information the ref was working with at the time the fight was stopped- slow motion replays that show a guy recovering quickly after the stoppage are dirty pool, in my opinion.
Movin’ On Up Award
This goes to Cub Swanson, who takes a big step up in the packed featherweight ranks with an impressive win over Charles Oliveira. Word is now coming out that Oliveira may have injured his knee while warming up in the locker room, but it was an impressive victory nonetheless and gets Swanson into the title picture.
Beautiful Loser Award
This goes to Evan Dunham. Dunham lost a unanimous decision to TJ Grant, but likely earned a few new fans with a performance that never really slowed down and earned him Fight of the Night honors along with Grant.
Holy $#!% Award
The undisputed “Holy shit!” moment was when Belfort locked in that deep armbar against Jones in the first round. So many things went through my head as I waited for what I felt was the inevitable tap: “Vitor’s going to win? Holy crap, what a way for Jones to lose! Is he really going to tap? VITOR’S GOING TO WIN?!?” Okay, not the most profound thoughts, but in my defense, I was in shock.
Jones toughed it out and ended up clearly and decisively winning a fight he controlled the rest of the way, but what a great moment that was.
Tags: Charles Oliveira, Charlie Brenneman, Cub Swanson, Dana White, Demetrious Johnson, Evan Dunham, Igor Pokrajac, Jon Jones, Joseph Benavidez, Kyle Noke, Michael Bisping, TJ Grant, UFC, UFC 152, Vinny Magalhaes, Vitor Belfort