Ronda Rousey recently made history with a win over Liz Carmouche in her UFC debut at UFC 157. That women's bantamweight title fight marked the first time women have ever competed inside the Octagon and opened a new chapter for MMA.
Now, a fighter who has been around much longer than Ronda Rousey will steal the headlines as UFC on Fuel TV 8 approaches. Wanderlei Silva will top the fight card, which will take place in his old stomping grounds of Japan, against Brian Stann.
Recently, UFC commentator Kenny Florian spoke with Bleacher Report, recapping UFC 157's biggest fights and previewing the UFC on Fuel TV 8 main card.
Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche
Heading into UFC 157, Rousey was a massive favorite and was expected by many to have no problem forcing Carmouche to tap in the opening round.
While the final result was anticipated, Carmouche gave Rousey everything she could handle by threatening with a submission attempt of her own from the champion's back. Still, Rousey was able to battle through the pain and ended up finishing the fight with her signature armbar before the first round came to a close.
"I'm just simply amazed by Rousey and how she consistently keeps finishing fights that way in Round 1," Florian said. "Unbelievable, but very impressed with Carmouche. She did exactly what she said she was going to do, which was not get intimidated and take the fight to (Rousey), and she truly did that."
When everyday MMA fans see a fighter like Rousey continually finish opponents with the same hold, they are impressed, but they may not truly understand everything that goes into making that move work with such high frequency.
Florian finished his career with eight submission wins inside the Octagon, so there aren't many better than him to explain exactly what it was that allowed Rousey to break through Carmouche's defense of the armbar and force a tap.
"One thing (Carmouche) didn't do was tuck in that far wrist," Florian explained, "and that's what Rousey was going for. That right far wrist was exposed, and the key in any type of submission is you always attack the lowest point of the joint. That's what Rousey did. She was able to get leverage on that wrist and pull down at the lowest point of the arm, and that's what Rousey did consistently. She was trying to counter with one thing, Carmouche countered again and then in the end Rousey was able to expose that wrist and get it to pop out and she put leverage on it and was able to finish it."
As great as Rousey is at trapping opponents' arms, she hasn't shown a whole lot of diversity in her skill set because she has not faced much resistance to date.
While it's likely Rousey has continued to develop other parts of her game behind the scenes, she will need to be ready to adjust to inevitable adversity when the pressure is on.
"It can be a blessing and a curse when you have a fighter who does something consistently," Florian said. "It can be mentally draining when you find somebody who finally counters that and takes advantage of a certain situation or missed opportunity with something that you do so strongly. I think Rousey's going to continue to develop her game. She's going to look at that fight and see there's things she needs to improve and work on those things. She didn't get to the level of being one of the best in the world in judo without doing that."
Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson
The UFC 157 co-main event featured elite light heavyweight contenders Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson. Although Henderson was the aggressor throughout much of the fight, he rarely touched the elusive Machida, who countered and did what he had to do to gain an edge on the judges' scorecards.
"It's not the most exciting fight to watch," Florian said. "It's not the most exciting style to watch, but Machida won that fight. He was very defensive and retreating many times during that fight, but he was still out-scoring Dan Henderson. It's kind of like watching Floyd Mayweather. He's so defensive and doesn't fight a lot, but if he hits you more than you hit him, then he's going to win the fight."
Although many were unimpressed with Machida's uneventful win over Henderson, the Brazilian has become the top contender in the 205-pound division by beating an opponent like the former Pride and Strikeforce champion.
Machida's performance on Saturday wasn't one that will be remembered long into the future, but his entire resume is as impressive as that of any other light heavyweight contender. While a case could be made that the UFC should wait until Alexander Gustafsson's upcoming fight with Gegard Mousasi to name the next 205-pound challenger, Machida is deserving.
"I certainly think Machida has the recipe to give anybody trouble," Florian said. "I think we saw that in the first round against Jon Jones. I think Machida deserves it as a former champion and as a guy who has fought so many high-level opponents. I think a lot of people forget about the knockouts that Machida has had in his career and very impressive ones against top-level competition. Not many guys are knocking out Rashad Evans. Not many guys are knocking out Thiago Silva. Not many guys are performing like he is on a consistent level."
UFC on Fuel TV 8
Prior to UFC 157, longtime welterweight contender Jon Fitch was surprisingly released from the world's top MMA organization. That cut sent shock waves all the way down the UFC roster, likely leaving many UFC fighters concerned about their future with the promotion.
Now, it has been made abundantly clear that every fight could greatly impact a fighter's future. More cuts are coming, so many fighters could be fighting for their jobs on Saturday night in Japan.
"A great ranking and great record doesn't guarantee you a spot in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, unfortunately," Florian said. "I think it's going to get fighters to hopefully become more exciting, to go for it a little bit more. I hope that it doesn't affect fighters in a negative way, though, putting pressure on them where every time they fight they're thinking, 'Am I going to get cut?' I hope that's not what happens.
"It's raising the stakes that much more in mixed martial arts," Florian continued. "Anything can happen already and the fighters already have to deal with all these pressures. It's tough, it's difficult. My heart goes out to those guys who were cut. I hope they can do whatever possible to get back in there and get what they deserve."
Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Dong Hyun Kim
One of the opening fights on the UFC on Fuel TV 8 main card is a welterweight bout between fringe contenders Siyar Bahadurzada and Dong Hyun Kim.
Bahadurzada recently burst onto the UFC scene with a knockout of Paulo Thiago, while Kim got himself back on the winning track by picking up a dominant win of his own over Thiago. By beating the other and picking up a second straight UFC win, one of these 170-pound fighters is sure to earn a step up in competition.
"I don't think Kim wants to trade with Siyar at all," Florian said. "Siyar has serious knockout power and he's just a gamer. You can see that this kid has so much heart and he's a dangerous guy. I think it's going to be an unbelievable fight because of that. Kim, though, is so long. He's going to have to use his reach to keep Siyar on the outside and then clinch when he can and really try to grind Siyar down. Kim just has the ability of shutting guys down so well, but so impressed with both of those guys. It kind of stinks to see a winner and a loser in that fight."
Hector Lombard vs. Yushin Okami
Following the fight between Bahaurzada and Kim, things will get even more interesting with a bout between a pair of top 10 middleweight competitors in Hector Lombard and Yushin Okami.
After a disappointing showing in his UFC debut against Tim Boetsch, Lombard bounced back by stopping Rousimar Palhares. Okami has also rallied following a surprising defeat to Boetsch, picking up back-to-back wins over Buddy Roberts and Alan Belcher.
"Okami really is Mr. Consistency and such a tough guy to beat," Florian said. "We saw Belcher, who was on such a roll and such a dangerous guy, and Okami is another guy who just shuts you down. Lombard really has to be very careful of that same thing. However, Okami, who really likes the upper-body clinch, is really going to have to deal with a different type of guy in that situation. Lombard comes from a high-level judo background, a short, stocky, powerful guy."
"Two southpaws going at it," Florian continued, "so that's going to be exciting on a striking level. I think we're going to see this fight on the feet. Okami is very fundamentally sound, but Lombard has that power and explosiveness that can take out anybody. I think we're going to have to see a more aggressive Lombard. That's when he fights at his best. I think he needs to make a statement, and who knows, he puts on a dominating performance here against Okami and he might get the next shot against Anderson Silva."
A world-class judoka, Lombard is near impossible to take down, which is often a large part of Okami's game plans. Florian was able to give some insight into how Okami can penetrate Lombard's takedown defense to avoid standing with the dangerous former Bellator champion.
"The key against a high-level judo guy is to not clinch with him," Florian explained. "Do not use any upper-body clinches, and if you are there, use it for mainly striking purposes and keep the judo guy's back up against the fence. You don't want to clinch with him in the open mat. I think (Lombard) will be able to throw (Okami) from there. Okami needs to attack the legs. He's going to need to play a wrestler's game and have to get in on singles and doubles to take Lombard down."
Diego Sanchez vs. Takanori Gomi
Florian's first official UFC bout came against Diego Sanchez in the first TUF finale back in April 2005. Though Florian lost that bout in a first-round stoppage, he went on to have a UFC career equally impressive in comparison with Sanchez's.
The UFC analyst and commentator also has experience competing against former Pride champion Takanori Gomi. In March 2010, Florian put together one of the strongest performances of his career by submitting Gomi with a rear-naked choke.
Having history with both Sanchez and Gomi, there aren't many more capable of breaking down a fight between the two lightweights.
"Sanchez is going to have to go to his wrestling background and his ground game," Florian said. "That's when we've seen Gomi truly exposed. To trade with Gomi consistently, you're playing with fire, especially if you don't have an educated jab. Diego Sanchez, more of a power guy, he throws a nice one-two combination and goes to take you down. I think what he needs to do against Gomi is get the takedown. Sanchez has tremendous ground-and-pound and that's where he needs to take the fight."
"Gomi needs to keep it on the feet and keep switching stances to confuse Sanchez and try to land one of those big shots," Florian continued. "Gomi's right hook is his most dangerous punch, and from a southpaw position, you're going to have to be very aware of that. That's going to be the key for Sanchez, stay out of range of that right hook. It can be tricky and (Gomi) throws with a lot of power."
Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt
With wins in four straight fights, Stefan Struve is finally reaching his potential by figuring out how to use his massive reach. In order to continue his run of success, Florian believes Struve will need to pick up where he left off by using his reach advantage to stay away from Mark Hunt's lethal power.
"Hunt is a completely different level of striker and has the ability to get on the inside unlike anybody," Florian said. "He's got so much power and we've seen Struve rocked in the past, but Struve has that long reach and he has to use that jab and he has to do it early. He cannot let a guy like Mark Hunt get in there early. We saw him adjust in a few fights, which is a unique skill, the ability to adjust in a mixed martial arts fight, and Struve has that. But against Hunt, all he needs is one shot, so Struve is going to need to get off to a strong start and utilize that jab and try to get Hunt to the ground."
Overcoming Struve's long jab is a tough task for anyone, but being a former K-1 striker, Hunt is as capable of beating Struve on his feet as anyone. That said, there is more to countering a reach disadvantage than just moving forward and winging punches.
"The key for Hunt is going to be to feint," Florian said. "Use a lot of head movement to get on the inside, look for that overhand shot on Struve, which we've seen him susceptible to because he carries his chin a little bit too high, so he's going to have to keep that chin really low does Struve. For Hunt, he's got to get right out of the gates because Struve is a slow starter. Hunt's got to get right out there in the middle of the cage and get right after him as soon as that bell rings."
Brian Stann vs. Wanderlei Silva
The UFC on Fuel TV 8 main event promises to provide action early and often, as Stann and Silva are fighters who have accumulated numerous knockout wins during their MMA careers.
"I don't see that fight going the distance," Florian said. "I think both those guys and their styles, they want to trade, they want to see who has the better power and who has the better chin. I don't think that fight's going to go the distance. If it does, you're still going to get an unbelievable fight because of the way these guys approach the fight game."
If the headlining fight turns into the slugfest many think it will, Florian gives an edge to Stann, who has not taken nearly as much punishment as Silva in his much shorter time in this sport. However, there is the potential for Silva to pull off an upset by taking a more tactical approach to the matchup.
"I think Stann has the consistently better chin," Florian said. "We've seen Wanderlei decline a little bit in the last few years. I think he needs to be careful of when he trades with Stann. Stann just has a tremendous amount of power. Stann has the kind of power where he can catch you with just a few inches. He's got that crushing power on the inside, and he can knock out anybody, whether at 185 or 205. He's got speed too and he throws straighter punches than Wanderlei, so Wanderlei really has to be careful with that. He's going to have to look to pick Stann apart from the outside and maybe see if he can get a takedown here and there."