MMA Stock Report for February: Who Rose, Who Fell, Who Stayed the Same
We were gifted a trio of UFC cards in addition to four Bellator events last month. That’s quite the dosage of hand-to-hand combat. The MMA community stayed abuzz as some scintillating action was broadcast each and every weekend of the month.
We witnessed some insanely brutal knockouts, a couple slick submissions and a few savage wars. In short, it was a fine month to be a fan of mixed martial arts.
For some it was a time to remind fans and promotions that their name and talent merits big pay and marquee card positioning. For others it was a time of extreme struggle.
Whose stock fell last month? Who has emerged a surprising commodity? Who simply stays afloat? Read on for the answers!
Jose Aldo: Holding With an Upward Trend
Jose Aldo’s stock should have shot through the roof with a victory over perennial badass Frankie Edgar at UFC 156. Instead we witnessed a remarkably close fight that netted Aldo a W, but didn’t necessarily convince everyone that he is without a proper challenge at 145 pounds.
Aldo rightfully earned the victory, but the fight was unbelievably close. There’s a strong case to be made that Edgar did enough to snatch gold from the champion’s waist. Statistically, Edgar actually out-landed the champion in rounds 3, 4 and 5.
When all was said and done, it was Aldo who got the nod. No one can be too angry over a fight that realistically should have been declared a draw going in either man’s direction.
It was a great win for Aldo, who probably eliminated the toughest test he’ll face at featherweight (depending upon how Anthony Pettis looks in August) inside the Octagon. However, it wasn’t quite convincing enough to declare Aldo’s stock skyrocketing. He holds firm with a slight upward trend after a terrific battle.
Frankie Edgar: Rising Slightly
Frankie Edgar did his job at UFC 156. He showed up and gave the champion everything he could handle for five full rounds.
The New Jersey rep might be the only man competing today who can post three consecutive losses and still be considered one of the greatest active competitors in the business. Every loss on Edgar’s record (he’s now dropped back-to-back fights with Benson Henderson in addition to the loss to Jose Aldo) has been the result of a razor-thin decision falling in favor of Edgar’s opponents. He hasn’t once been thoroughly out-worked or handily out-classed, and many feel he deserved the nod in the second fight with Henderson as well as the fight with Aldo.
Edgar just continues to exceed expectations.
MMA pundits believed Henderson would be too big and strong to overcome in the rematch with Edgar, especially considering the confidence Henderson brought to the cage having recently defeated “The Answer” to capture gold at UFC 144.
Edgar arguably did enough to win that fight.
The same can be (and has already been) said of the Aldo fight.
You can’t fault a fighter for the call a judge makes. Flip a coin and Edgar’s position in MMA today looks dramatically different. We see a man who’s 0-3 as of late, but we could easily see a guy at 2-1, or even 3-0, with title belts in two different divisions. That’s impressive.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Soaring
The two men to benefit most from UFC 156 were Antonio Silva and this man, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Leading up to Nogueira’s bout with Rashad Evans the MMA world had collectively written Nogueira off. Evans, they claimed (myself included), was simply too fast and diverse for the former Pride star, who appeared to be losing a step in recent years.
“Little Nog” proved the world wrong.
For three rounds Nogueira stuffed the occasional shot and hammered at the face of Evans with a steady stream of jabs that transformed agile athlete to near immobile statue. Evans simply could not find his timing or range and Nogueira worked a consistent attack that properly befuddled.
It isn’t a fight many will remember in a few years, but it was a huge win for Nogueira who now puts himself in a position to call for a marquee fight and sends a message to the rest of the division: He’s still dangerous.
Rashad Evans: Plummeting
Rashad Evans was supposed to blow through Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the co-headliner at UFC 156. That didn’t happen.
Instead, Nogueira administered a jab-heavy assault that derailed any momentum the former light heavyweight champion had hoped to establish. It was an awkward performance from Evans, who was being eyed as a potential challenger to Anderson Silva’s title in the buildup to the fight.
Evans has been considered a top three light heavyweight for years, but this defeat sets him back in staggering fashion. Having dropped his last two bouts, “Suga” has some climbing to do before being considered for any major title fights.
Antonio Silva: Rising
You’d think after scoring a devastating knockout over one of the most feared strikers in the sport a guy’s stock would fly to the moon. That’s not exactly the case for Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, who certainly sees his worth take a major leap, just not quite as major as possible.
For 10 minutes Silva was punished by Alistair Overeem. He was never visibly shaken, but Overeem worked effectively from the vertical stance in the first round before banking a second on the canvas.
Heading into Round 3, Silva faced a daunting knowledge: finish the fight or the judges would hand this one to “The Reem.”
Silva finished emphatically. Landing nearly 10 unanswered punches to a still upright but completely helpless Overeem who eventually slumped to the mat as referee Herb Dean stepped in to call closure to the contest.
Alistair Overeem: Falling Fast
UFC 156 produced a series of surprising upsets, but none shocked the world quite like Antonio Silva’s trouncing of Alistair Overeem.
Prior to the fight Overeem had stated that he had no concerns whatsoever about Silva. His arrogance was evident in the cage, as he taunted Silva with his hands low and a smug smirk etched across his mug.
The overconfidence came back to bite Overeem, who scored significant points in the first two stanzas, but was blitzed in the opening moments of the third round.
Overeem got “Reemed” and his stock in the heavyweight division took a major hit as a result. Interestingly enough, a higher fight IQ would have likely led to a significantly different outcome.
Alexander Shlemenko: Steadily Rising
Alexander Shlemenko remains the big fish in Bellator’s middleweight pond. The man hasn’t lost a fight since 2010 when he dropped a five-rounder to then-champion Hector Lombard. In the ensuing two-plus years he’s put together a 10-fight win streak. He’s finished six of those fights inside the allotted time frame.
February was big for Shlemenko as he met the man widely recognized as the second-most dangerous 185-pound competitor on the Bellator roster, Maiquel Falcao, at Bellator 88.
Falcao is known for his speed and relentlessness, but those attributes were negated and ultimately stomped on by the durable Russian.
After an interesting first round Shlemenko utilized his fists to put the Brazilian to sleep in memorable fashion.
So long as Shlemenko continues to fight under the Bellator banner, his stock can only climb so much. He’s obviously the greatest talent the promotion has north of 170 pounds, but if he hopes to leave a major mark on the sport before he hangs them up, a transition to the UFC feels necessary.
If Shlemenko can continue to win while fighting inside the Octagon, his stock really rises.
Maiquel Falcao: Falling
The steam Maiquel Falcao built up during his tear through Bellator’s season six middleweight tournament was brought to a screeching halt at Bellator 88.
The champion, Alexander Shlemenko left Falcao an unconscious heap in the event’s headlining bout, and in the process put the brakes to a surging contender who had earned three consecutive victories fighting for Bellator.
Falcao won’t be getting another crack at Shlemenko soon, and if he indeed hopes for a shot at redemption (can’t imagine he isn’t hungry to erase that one from immediate memory), he’ll likely be forced to once more work through a middleweight tournament to make a rematch reality.
Falcao falls to the back of a line thanks to the power and accuracy of Shlemenko.
Eduardo Dantas: Holding
Eduardo Dantas helped ease the pressure that comes in returning to combat following defeat.
Dantas was upset by Tyson Nam at Shooto Brazil 33 in August. That, however, did not affect his status as Bellator bantamweight champion, and apparently the effects of Nam’s knockout didn’t loom.
Dantas came out looking sharp in the main event of Bellator 89. Taking on fellow Brazilian Marcos Galvao, Dantas was respectful but clear in his intent. He aimed to knock Galvao, who possesses somewhat sloppy striking, unconscious using his refined kickboxing.
The plan paid off, as Dantas added another highlight-reel finish to his resume midway through the second round.
Marcos Galvao: Falling
If you look beyond two very, very suspicious decision losses (to Joe Warren and Alexis Vila), Marcos Galvao hadn’t dropped a bout since 2009.
His decision defeats to Warren and Vila were hardly defeats in my mind. I thought he did more than enough to merit a hand-raise against Warren, and the Vila fight looked like an obvious W in the bag.
Heading into his title fight with Eduardo Dantas, Galvao had major momentum on his side.
Exiting the cage after eight minutes of combat, that balloon had been deflated.
Galvao now sits in a similar position to that of Maiquel Falcao. A nice run has come to an end, and it’s going to be a long hard fight back to the top.
Renan Barao: Rising Steadily
Renan Barao has done a fine job of cleaning out the UFC’s bantamweight division. He’s beaten virtually every top-ranked opponent at 135 pounds outside of Dominick Cruz, who’s been sidelined by injuries.
Michael McDonald was one of the few top-flight occupants of the UFC’s 135-pound roster that Barao had yet to topple, but that’s a thing of the past. Barao submitted McDonald in the fourth round of their scheduled five-rounder at UFC on Fuel on TV 7.
McDonald was resilient, but Barao had a few too many resources to tap into.
The interim champion looks frightening. He could be the man to rule bantamweight with an iron fist for years to come. His stock is without a doubt rising steadily.
Michael McDonald: Holding
Michael McDonald’s stock doesn’t really take a hit after his submission defeat to Renan Barao. McDonald himself had plenty of fine moments in the fight, hurting the champion more than once.
He began to fade as the championship rounds approached, and I think a little bit of that fatigue played part in McDonald’s eventual defeat.
At 22 years old, with just 17 bouts on his record, McDonald could easily be the future of the division. He already proved himself capable of competing with the very best in the world, a guy who hasn’t been fazed by the level of competition in the UFC and currently rides a gaudy 30-fight unbeaten streak.
Not bad for a 22-year-old kid.
Cub Swanson: Rising Quickly
Cub Swanson failed to finish Dustin Poirier when they met in the UFC on Fuel TV 7 co-main event, but he did enough to ensure the judges saw the fight in his favor, and he beat a highly ranked opponent in the process.
Swanson now rides a wave of consistent success, something that has seemed to elude him in the past, as he’s earned four consecutive wins inside the UFC’s Octagon.
Poirier, Charles Oliveira and Ross Pearson are quality names that make up for three of Cub’s four recent victories. Given the talent level of said men, it’s hard to imagine Swanson’s mental state as anything other than wildly confident. His self-belief is extremely high right now, as is his stock as a fighter.
Dustin Poirier: Falling
Dustin Poirier has earned a single victory in his last three outings. A formerly top-ranked featherweight, Poirier has seen his star dim a bit since meeting Chan Sung Jung in the cage at UFC on Fuel TV 3.
Jung kept himself one stride ahead of Poirier throughout the fight and eventually closed the show with a Brabo Choke in the championship rounds.
Poirier rebounded with a solid win over Jonathan Brookins at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale, but again had designs on a title fight thwarted by Swanson.
Poirier is in a curious spot. He’s capable of beating good solid competition, but he has yet to prove he’s able to batter the division’s elite.
Poirier has plenty of time to rebound and get his career back on track, but as of now, things aren’t looking spectacular for the Tim Credeur protege.
Emanuel Newton: Soaring
Who is Emanuel Newton you ask? He’s a young, slept-on commodity who is not only hitting his peak as a fighter, but also he’s hitting other fighters really hard.
Newton knocked former Strikeforce champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal unconscious with a beautiful spinning back-fist at Bellator 90 and woke the MMA community to his talents in the process.
It was just one of many amazing upsets this month, but it was one of the more spectacular and memorable moments churned out this February.
This guy moves fast, hits hard and brings a legitimate toughness to the cage that you’re either born with or you’re not. Newton may have been overlooked two months ago, but those days are long gone.
We’ve suddenly got a new player to study at 205 pounds.
Muhammed Lawal: Falling Fast
Muhammed Lawal looked as though he suffered from the same illness that overcame Alistair Overeem at UFC 156. The arrogance bug bit him, multiple times it would seem.
Lawal didn’t look as though he respected anything Emanuel Newton brought to the cage with him at Bellator 90, and he paid for that lack of respect.
You’d think the part time professional wrestler would have made some adjustments after Newton dropped a couple of flush punches on his noggin, but that wasn’t the case. He moved forward with his hands low from the opening bell, looking as though he was more interested in toying with Newton than beating him up. Newton wasn’t playing around.
Lawal now finds himself a piece of Newton’s highlight reel after eating a brilliantly placed spinning back-fist. He also finds his stock on a steep decline having posted just a pair of victories in his last five bouts.
Ronda Rousey: Soaring
It’s ironic that UFC president Dana White once denounced the idea of hosting a female division in the UFC, but now talks up Ronda Rousey, one the promotion’s biggest stars, and her talents as though this was all inevitable.
Rousey is a firework inside the cage and out, and she’s selling tickets and pay-per-views.
Her first-round armbar submission victory over Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 was a monumental moment for MMA, and Rousey turned in the perfect performance. She faced some adversity, overcame and finished with trademark movie, all the while looking gorgeous.
How does it get any better?
Rousey is a priceless figure in the MMA world right now.
Liz Carmouche: Holding With a Downward Trend
Liz Carmouche made a valiant attempt to shock the world by submitting Ronda Rousey with a standing rear-naked choke at UFC 157, but she came just short of finishing.
Instead it was Rousey who would turn the tides and finish the fight inside the opening frame.
Carmouche was game and looked solid in giving Rousey her greatest challenge to date. Ultimately however, she was finished in the first round, and it wasn’t exactly a shocking finish.
Lyoto Machida: Holding With an Upward Trend
It’s tough to discuss this match, it was such an utter disappointment. Lyoto Machida earned a split-decision win over Dan Henderson in a light heavyweight title eliminator that produced very few fireworks.
Machida’s elusive style was a bit too much for Henderson to overcome, but it wasn’t enough to dish out any memorable damage.
Machida did just enough to win. His stock veers in the direction of the incline, but not by much.
Dan Henderson: Holding with a Downward Trend
Dan Henderson couldn’t find a home for his patented “H-Bomb” when he met Lyoto Machida in the co-main event of UFC 157.
He chased, he threw, but Machida was gone.
A dull affair that won’t be remembered in a year, this fight just didn’t live up to the potential. A lot of the blame goes to Machida, for implementing a defensive-minded game plan, but “Hendo” has to take some of the burden on his shoulders as well, as he failed to make the adjustments necessary to land something worthy of note.
The loss really doesn’t do a whole lot to Henderson’s stock one way or the other. Most of us would probably prefer to just forget the fight ever occurred, to be completely honest.
Urijah Faber: Rising
Urijah Faber is the best man competing at 135 pounds who doesn’t have a shiny gold belt around his waist.
Faber has shown us, time and again, that he can beat the best contenders in the game. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem capable of dethroning longtime champ Dominick Cruz or interim champ Renan Barao.
He is, however, solid enough to put crafty veteran Ivan Menjivar away in quick and impressive fashion.
His single-round stoppage over Menjivar was a thing of beauty. Faber looks like a young hungry buck still willing to learn. He’s also put himself right back onto the path of success. With the return to the win column comes a rise in stock.
Ivan Menjivar: Falling
Ivan Menjivar had the chance to secure a career-defining victory and leapfrog the division at UFC 157, but his opponent Urijah Faber was having none of it.
Menjivar couldn’t get his timing down, and allowed Faber to dictate a fast-paced fight. It was Menjivar who made the first mistake, and Faber wasted no time in capitalizing.
The fight ended with Menjivar submitting to a rear-naked choke and looking two steps too slow to ever make the fight the barn-burner we’d hoped for.
Robbie Lawler: Rising
Very few gave Robbie Lawler a shot at defeating the dangerous wrestler Josh Koscheck at UFC 157. But Robbie wasn’t deterred in the slightest.
Returning to the welterweight division after a lengthy trip to middleweight, Lawler looked fresh and focused. His power was also on full display.
With just over one minute remaining in the first round, Lawler was able to pin Koscheck against the steel mesh and begin firing heavy ground and pound. Seconds later the former American Kickboxing Academy pupil was flirting with unconsciousness and Lawler was celebrating one of the greatest wins of his career.
Josh Koscheck: Falling Fast
Josh Koscheck got beat up by Robbie Lawler at UFC 157, flat out. He found himself in an ugly position late in the first round and ate some huge fight-finishing shots as a result.
It was a tough loss for the former title challenger, who now holds just two victories in his last five fights. The defeat to Lawler marks two in a row.
Koscheck needs a big win soon, or he’ll be in danger of falling from the UFC’s top 10 rankings.
Attila Vegh: Rising
Attila Vegh seemed as though he could have put then-champion Christian M’Pumbu away at any point during their five-round title tilt at Bellator 91. For some reason he refused to push the pace and take the required risks, instead opting to pick up big points by dictating the pace and keeping M’Pumpu at the end of his punches.
What could have been a fantastic fight felt a bit stale, as neither man showed any urgency in the bout. Vegh in all likelihood should have closed the show, but the finish never materialized.
Vegh’s stock is on the rise just the same. The man has now won nine consecutive bouts and holds promotional gold.
If he hopes to continue his ascent, Vegh will need to start consistently finishing fights. Of his five Bellator fights he’s finished only two. He’s effective, but he’s not yet found his inner killer instinct.
Christian M'Pumbu: Plummeting
Christian M’Pumbu hasn’t won a fight since May of 2011. He was thoroughly out-worked by Travis Wiuff at Bellator 55, before once again being bullied about the cage by Attila Vegh last month at Bellator 91.
Things aren’t looking good for the one-time Bellator champion, and if he fails to secure a victory in his next trip to the cage, we may see “Tonton” handed his walking papers.
It could be a different story had M’Pumbu put forth spirited efforts in last two fights, but that wasn’t the case. The man seems content to move backwards and hope for a prime opportunity to counter strike. Take the holes out of the equation and this dude is in trouble.
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