The second bout of the night in UFC 154 was a showdown between bantamweights whose careers are heading in opposite directions.
Ivan Menjivar was looking to get back on track after having a three-fight winning streak derailed by Mike Easton. His opponent, Azamat “Tough Guy” Gashimov (or as I call him, the Rushin' Russian), made his UFC debut after going 7-1 in various Asian promotions.
Ultimately, what decided the fight was experience.
Menjivar, the senior fighter of the two, ended up pulling over Gashimov's leg to set up an armbar. Gashimov tried to slam his way out of it, but only sunk himself in deeper and nearly had his arm pretzeled.
So, what did we learn?
Azamat Gashimov is Not Quite “There” Yet
As a very young, very talented fighter in a thin division from a market the UFC may be looking to break into, Azamat Gashimov's job is secure, at least for now.
Matching him up against a fighter who is 11 years deep into his MMA career, with wins over fighters like Joe Lauzon and Jeff Curran, and fights against Georges St-Pierre, Matt Serra, Urijah Faber and Caol Uno, was a bit much.
Gashimov has a solid ground game, but Ivan Menjivar has fought some of the best in the business. This is the kind of fighter that the UFC needs to grow and nurture, not throw into the deep end.
Obviously, if Gashimov won, this would be a totally different discussion.
As it stands, though, it kind of feels like the UFC just fed a young gun to a guy with a very limited ceiling.
Ivan Menjivar Remains a Force at Bantamweight
Will Menjivar be beating Dominick Cruz any time soon? Almost certainly not. But he is still a scary opponent for anybody in the bantamweight division.
Menjivar has been fighting for a very long time in a variety of weight classes.
He actually made his UFC debut in 2004 against Matt Serra at UFC 48. Menjivar has as much veteran savvy as anybody in the UFC and because of that, he is very, very difficult to finish.
Again, it does not feel like Menjivar will be having a belt strapped around his waist. Ultimately, though, there is something to be said for somebody who has managed to stick around in the sport for as long as Menjivar has.
Mike Easton Might Be the Next Big Bantamweight
A bit unrelated, but after gushing over Ivan Menjivar's veteran savvy, it is important to point out that he was beaten by Mike Easton pretty handily.
Easton is 3-0 in the UFC right now, and with the bantamweight division very short on noteworthy fighters not named Renan Barao, Dominick Cruz or Urijah Faber, he may be getting into position to make a title run.
Granted, he is going to need to get a win over somebody like Takeya Mizugaki or Brad Pickett before he truly enters the title picture.
Still, the UFC has to be happy with this guy.
Gashimov's Wrestling Can Take Him Far
So as stated, bantamweight is an ugly weight class right now.
While the fight didn't last long, we saw that Gashimov has powerful takedowns and can out-muscle somebody like Ivan Menjivar who, again, has had success fighting welterweights. A loss in your UFC debut is rarely a good thing.
But as a very young, very strong fighter with a very good base who is being trained by Greg Jackson, the ceiling for Gashimov is sky-high at this point. Hopefully, he gets matched against somebody less-experienced in his next fight and hopefully his arm isn't too mangled from that arm bar.