UFC on Fox 7 Results: Seven Lessons from San Jose Card
UFC on Fox 7 is in the books from San Jose, CA, and anyone who tuned in experienced one of the better cards in recent memory.
The 12-fight event featured a total of eight knockout stoppages, a pair of high-profile matchups in the main and co-main events and a Fight of the Year candidate in Jordan Mein vs. Matt Brown.
All in all, the card was highly entertaining.
But amid the violent knockouts and high-octane excitement, plenty of questions were answered at the event.
Take a look at the lessons learned from UFC on Fox 7.
Chad Mendes Deserves a Challenge and a Main Card Slot
Chad "Money" Mendes clearly isn't getting paid by the hour.
The former featherweight top contender has spent a minimal amount of time in the cage in his past three performances—214 seconds to be exact—and has been matched up against inferior fighters.
Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza and Darren Elkins are his three victims of the past year. Each fighter was way out of his league against the Team Alpha Male product, and no one lasted more than two minutes in the cage against Mendes, with McKenzie's 31-second stoppage loss being the quickest.
In short, Mendes should be done with these tune-up fights.
To be fair, he was scheduled to fight Clay Guida at UFC on Fox 7, but an injury forced "The Carpenter" out of the bout. But I'm still not sure if that fight would have been right for Mendes. Guida has been less than impressive in recent outings, narrowly winning his featherweight debut against Hatsu Hioki.
Also, can Mendes get some quality television time? How is this guy not on a main card?
His fight did broadcast live on FX, so it's not as if he were buried on a Fuel TV preliminary broadcast or, heaven forbid, a Facebook stream. But Mendes is knocking on the door to a title shot and probably deserves a matchup against the winner of Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis (sorry, Chan Sung Jung, Cub Swanson and Ricardo Lamas).
It's about time Mendes was viewed as a main card attraction or at least given quality competition. If one of those things doesn't happen, we can plan on "Money" tearing through unranked fighters on the prelims indefinitely.
Duane Ludwig Has Rejuvenated Team Alpha Male
Speaking of Chad Mendes, his teammates from Team Alpha Male did well on Saturday night, too.
Apparently, Duane Ludwig is the man behind the magic.
In December of last year, Ludwig was named the head coach of Team Alpha Male, which features former longtime WEC featherweight champion and perennial UFC contender Urijah Faber. On Saturday night, the team walked away from the HP Pavilion undefeated.
T.J. Dillashaw started it off with a knockout victory over Hugo Viana, while Joseph Benavidez, the former flyweight top contender, got back on track with a technical knockout win over Darren Uyenoyama.
The third and final Team Alpha Male member to compete was Mendes, who needed just 68 seconds to derail the rise of Darren Elkins, who had won five straight and was undefeated at 145 pounds
Going 3-0 in one night? Not bad. Toss in Urijah Faber's dominant submission win against Scott Jorgensen at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, and it's been a strong month for Ludwig and his squad.
Josh Thomson Is in the Lightweight Title Mix
Josh Thomson is 2-2 in his last four fights, and after Saturday night, he belongs with the best of the UFC lightweight division. His performance may be the biggest surprise from UFC on Fox 7.
Heading into UFC on Fox 7, plenty of questions surrounded Thomson. The former Strikeforce lightweight champion had been inconsistent since 2009 and struggled with the injury bug. I did not expect Thomson to beat Nate Diaz, let alone become the first man to knock him out.
One vicious knockout win later, Thomson finds himself back where he belongs: edging in on a major title.
He and Gilbert Melendez, who lost to lightweight champion Ben Henderson in the main event of the evening, have shared a cage for 75 minutes total throughout their epic trilogy, and Melendez nearly walked away with the 155-pound strap on Saturday.
We now know Thomson can compete at the elite level and is a legitimate threat to Henderson. The only question remaining is whether or not "The Punk" can stay healthy.
Matt Brown Is a Top 10 Welterweight
It might be a bold statement considering the depth of the 170-pound division, but Matt Brown's 2012-13 tear should earn him a spot in the UFC welterweight rankings.
Currently, he is on the outside of the welterweight top 10, according to the official UFC rankings. After Saturday night, I have a hard time believing that Brown won't make the list.
In six minutes of exciting action, Brown and prospect Jordan Mein delivered a fun, fast-paced brawl that ended with Brown earning a technical knockout stoppage.
Now Brown finds himself on a five-fight winning streak, which is improbable considering his 1-4 record between 2010 and 2011. His past two wins have come on national television (he defeated Mike Swick on the main card of UFC on Fox 5), and each has ended in dramatic fashion.
"The Immortal" will be the first to admit he isn't the most technically sound fighter, but his brawler's mentality, durability and heart—the intangible elements of the fight game—have led him into previously uncharted territory: the division's top 10.
Daniel Cormier's Athleticism Is Enough for Now
Daniel Cormier is not just a top heavyweight, he is an elite athlete. And on Saturday night against Frank Mir, that was enough to earn the former Strikeforce champion a win in his UFC debut.
It won't always be so easy.
Cormier made few fans in his winning effort, as he was content to grind away at Mir for the scheduled 15 minutes of "action," pressing the former UFC heavyweight champion into the cage for the majority of the contest.
Unsurprisingly, he walked away with the unanimous decision, but his future remains unclear.
What is clear? Cormier's athleticism alone will be enough for him to defeat the vast majority of competition in the UFC.
Although Mir is an aging veteran, he remains a dangerous heavyweight who is just two losses removed from a technical submission win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He's not elite anymore, but Mir is not a heavyweight to sleep on either.
Against above-average fighters, Cormier needs only his athleticism. He is so physically gifted that he can get by without much striking or grappling. He can just manhandle his competition up against the cage.
However, against the upper-echelon heavyweights such as Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos or against the top light heavyweights such as Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida, Cormier will require more than freak athleticism to prevail.
He was admittedly nervous heading into his UFC debut, so moving forward, Cormier will likely display his other tools alongside his athletic abilities, much like he did during his run through the Strikeforce heavyweight ranks.
Gilbert Melendez Lived Up to the Hype
Had Gilbert Melendez fought for a UFC title a few years ago, he'd be looking at an immediate rematch after his Saturday night performance.
However, the immediate rematch craze has fallen by the wayside, which means that Melendez falls back into the lightweight shark tank. Don't worry: He'll be just fine.
Melendez, who narrowly lost to Benson Henderson in the main event of UFC on Fox 7, is a top-five lightweight in the UFC, disproving those who questioned his hype as Strikeforce's final 155-pound champion.
Both he and Josh Thomson entered into the promotion with a good deal of hype, but few knew how well they would perform with the jump up in competition.
Thomson proved he could make the leap. And, though he did come up just short, Melendez made that leap as well.
Look for Melendez to fight another big name in the UFC in his next fight. A win against the T.J. Grant vs. Gray Maynard loser—the winner fights Henderson next—would propel Melendez back into title range.
Benson Henderson Needs to Lose the Distractions
In his post-fight analysis of UFC on Fox 7, Caged In's Jonathan Snowden grouped "Ben Henderson's Judgment" in with the "Loser" category of the fight card, citing the champion's constant attention to his hair and his post-fight marriage proposal.
I agree with that assessment, as I found Henderson's attention to his hair and the marriage proposal distracting. Neither made a whole lot of sense.
Henderson should have found them distracting as well. It's difficult to defend the strikes of Gilbert Melendez when you're focused on brushing strands of hair away from your face. And an impending marriage proposal is not going to give a fighter, even one as mentally strong as Henderson, a clear mind.
Is it plausible that the fight would have been less close had Henderson avoided these distractions? Completely.
In short, the hair and the proposal were unnecessary distractions not only for Henderson but for fans as well. Unfortunately, Henderson is not a first-time offender.
Against Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 5, the champion fought with a toothpick in his mouth, apparently carrying over the habit from training into the Octagon.
If Henderson was walking through his competition on a regular basis, these distractions would hardly be worth noting. The fact of the matter is he is not.
"Bendo" could have woken up on Sunday as just another lightweight contender. One could argue he shouldn't have earned the nod against former champion Frankie Edgar in one or both of their bouts as well.
For someone walking a thin line between victory and defeat every time he competes, Henderson has too many distractions. He has to spend less time on his hair and more time on lengthening the gap between him and his competition.