The UFC ended its year with a solid show last night, with the UFC Heavyweight Championship on the line in the main event. While that fight ended up being one-sided and some of the other fights featured head-scratching scorecards, the night also featured some really good bouts, including a late candidate for fight of the year between lightweights Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon.
The night belonged to Cain Velasquez, though. After a devastating quick KO loss like the one Velasquez suffered against Junior dos Santos in their first meeting, you can go two ways: become more tentative and get a bit gun-shy, or fiercely battle back with renewed determination. I thought the beating he laid on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva showed that Velasquez was going with the latter option rather than the former, and Velasquez proved me right last night.
Cain was determined from the outset to take it to the champ, persevering through multiple failed takedown attempts early on (including one where he visibly cursed himself in frustration for not setting the shot up effectively) and just stuck with his gameplan of constant pressure and offensive wrestling. I do wonder whether he would have dominated so had dos Santos not been rocked in the first round, but it seemed that barring being knocked out himself, he was not going to give dos Santos any breathing room.
The stifling performance was a masterful one that, even with the two tied at one win apiece against one another, would seem to hurt any anticipation for a rubber match. It’s clear that Velasquez knows exactly how to beat dos Santos, and though dos Santos showed resilience and worked hard throughout the fight to try to clip Velasquez, by the middle rounds Velasquez was just walking right through dos Santos’s punches, confidently absorbing them in order to get his own offense in.
Fortunately, Dana White has said that there will be no immediate rematch, and we will likely see Alistair Overeem take on Velasquez instead, barring any testosterone-related shenanigans or an upset loss by Overeem to Antonio Silva.
–It seems strange to say this, but it was refreshing to see two guys who absolutely needed to win actually fighting as if they knew how important the bout was to their respective careers. I’m speaking, of course, of the fantastic scrap between Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon. Too often, you see a lack of urgency from fighters in what would appear to be very significant bouts. None of that was on display in Miller-Lauzon, though, as you instead saw two guys who were willing to do whatever it took to get back in the “W” column. It’s a shame either one had to lose, really.
–On the other hand, you have Melvin Guillard’s rather lethargic performance against Jamie Varner. When Varner walked through Guillard’s leg kicks and turned up the heat, Guillard never really responded, which was pretty puzzling. Guillard, who was on the cusp of title contention before losing to Joe Lauzon just over a year ago, has now dropped four of five and has been finished in three of those four losses. The only positive thing to come out of that fight for Guillard was that he wasn’t seriously injured when Varner dropped him on his head at the end of the fight. That was a scary moment.
–While I may not have seen urgency in Guillard’s performance, UFC 155 was full of gutsy performances by fighters on the losing end of things. Besides Lauzon, Miller, and dos Santos, Brad Pickett was also worthy of mention for weathering a very dicey first round where he was rocked by the powerful punches of Eddie Wineland multiple times. It wasn’t quite Maynard-Edgar II or III, but it was extremely impressive that Pickett was able to continue recovering.
–I couldn’t be more surprised by the improvements I saw in the overall skill set of Constantinos Philippou, who put Tim Boetsch away via TKO. Boetsch was likely not destined to be a top ten middleweight, and this was likely an example of market correction, but he’s still a very tough opponent and seemed tailor made to give Philippou problems. I was similarly impressed by Derek Brunson, though I think Leben may have taken him lightly and should have been able to capitalize on Brunson’s failing gas tank. Brunson took the fight on a week’s notice and it showed, so he gets credit for getting it done.
Adventures in Judging
Aside from Herb Dean’s strange indifference toward the regular fence-grabbing of Junior dos Santos in the main event, UFC 155 was a well-reffed event. The judging, however, was not so consistent. Go figure.
You know it’s a bad night when there are three split decisions. This is especially true when in the case of two fights (Wineland-Pickett and Varner-Guillard), the winning fighter was awarded all three rounds by two of the three judges. Mark Smith was particularly out of sync with his colleagues, registering dissenting scorecards in both the Max Holloway-Leonard Garcia fight (in which he seemed to be the only one to get it right by giving the bout to Garcia) and the Wineland-Pickett fight, where he inexplicably gave two rounds to Pickett.
Then, there was Marcos Rosales, who not only gave Holloway the win over Garcia, but also failed to score a single 10-8 round in Velasquez-dos Santos. Keep in mind that Rosales gave Benson Henderson not one, but two 10-8s in his win over Nate Diaz a few weeks ago, so it’s not like he’s averse to using 10-8 rounds.
No one had a worse night than the atrocious Adalaide Byrd, though, who has built a reputation in both boxing and MMA as one of the worst judges around. Byrd somehow scored every round in favor of Melvin Guillard in his fight against Jamie Varner. Fortunately, it takes at least two crazy judges to give a fight to an undeserving fighter, so Varner still got his well-earned win, but this kind of judging still needs to be pointed out and ridiculed.
Movin’ On Up Award
Eddie Wineland got a taste of the upper echelon of the sport in 2011, when he faced and lost to both Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez, both by decision. However, he has since defeated two high-level opponents in Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett, and he appears to be moving right back up to the top to take another shot at hanging with the big boys. The power and striking technique he showed against the extremely tough Pickett was really impressive.
Beautiful Loser Award
On a night of gutsy performances, this still can’t go to anyone but Joe Lauzon. Lauzon had his moments, throwing a variety of submission attempts Miller’s way after surviving a disastrous first round, and ultimately though he came up short, you have to think he banked some goodwill in the process and will continue to be booked as one of the division’s best.
Holy $#!% Award
It appeared early on as if Junior dos Santos was going to be able to thwart Cain Velasquez’s takedown attempts and ply his trade in the standup, but what we didn’t count on was Velasquez swarming dos Santos later in the round and dropping the champion with a barrage of punches that would lead to a near finish. As an added bonus, the fact that dos Santos survived the follow-up shots on the ground and went on to go the distance was impressive, too.
Tags: Adalaide Byrd, awful judging, Brad Pickett, Cain Velasquez, Chris Leben, Constantinos Philippou, Derek Brunson, Eddie Wineland, Jamie Varner, Jim Miller, Joe Lauzon, Junior Dos Santos, Melvin Guillard, Tim Boetsch, UFC, UFC 155