UFC on Fox 7 provided everything a fan, or journalist, could want. There were knockouts galore, an underdog story in Thompson vs. Diaz, a young prospect against a veteran in Mir vs. Cormier and a controversial decision in the title match between Melendez and Henderson.
Let's jump right in to the analysis with a look at Mir vs. Cormier.
Daniel Cormier's Dirty Boxing
Most had the feeling when this fight was signed it was something of an easy match for Daniel Cormier. Historically, Mir has struggled with strong top players once he has exhausted himself with his submission attempts—hence his being picked for the UFC debut of Brock Lesnar. While the initial Lesnar-Mir match showed what an excellent opportunist Mir is, outside of the few seconds of his offense it went exactly as a great wrestler against a jiu-jitsu player with no inclination to return to his feet should.
Cormier surprised many by not attempting any takedowns throughout the fight and instead used his wrestling to move Mir to the fence—where he opened up with punches and beautiful clinching knees. I have a strong affection for the dirty boxing style because of the efficacy of the strikes which are landed through its use, but the crowd was not always on Cormier's side.
Holding a man of Mir's size—even though his wrestling has never been great—against the fence takes a great deal of effort even for an elite wrestler like Cormier, and he was unable to work with the fervor that defined Randy Couture's best performances. It was, however, far from a snoozer (which some of Couture's worst performances certainly were).
Cormier continually looked to take an underhook and hike it up, exposing Mir's ribs on that side. A hard knee strike in the ribs will do a lot more damage than one to a tensed or even flabby abdomen.
He often got away with resting his underhooking hand on the top of the cage to hold Mir in position, a cheeky but savvy move on Cormier's part.
Mir was immediately able to recognize the issue and began trying to free his arms whenever underhooked. As soon as Cormier felt Mir's arms come inside, he would push off and throw a nice combination with his hands.
The brief stints out in the open just showed Cormier to be the faster fighter of the two. Mir hasn't always been slow on the feet, but his attempts seem to have slowed him down severely. With the exception of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira I am hard pressed to think of a fighter who is so fast on the ground but so slow on the feet.
This was not Cormier's best performance, neither was it Mir's worst—this was entertaining but certainly not a crowd pleaser.
Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thompson
Nobody saw this one coming. I doubt even Thompson's own family would have pegged him to knock out the granite-jawed and iron-willed Nate Diaz.
The view which I have expressed numerous times through articles is that the Diaz brothers would eventually get stopped on the feet if they hang around the sport long enough. They simply get hit too much, but letting your strategy hinge around being the first person to stop them is a great way to have a bad night. Donald Cerrone, Marcus Davis and numerous others can testify to that.
I have been talking about it for some time now but fighters are finally starting to pick up on the glaring holes in the Diaz game—complete absence of the ability to cut off the cage and an inability to deal with low kicks.
Where the Diaz brothers walk straight after an opponent in a narrow stance—a fighter who is looking to cut off the ring will square up slightly and look to get between his opponent and the direction which they are looking to move. Using strikes from the side to which the opponent is moving is the best way to herd an opponent towards the fence.
Thompson switched stances constantly, fighting instead out of a squared stance as he side-stepped around the ring. This method of not using a stance at all until engaging was used through over 200 fights by the legendary boxer, Willie Pep.
Attacking with low kicks, Thompson would clinch Diaz any time he got close, and spin him onto the fence. From here Thompson would use knees and short elbows before breaking away and getting on his bike again.
Early in the first round Thompson connected two kicks to Diaz's head as Diaz continued to drop his hands in reaction to the low kicks. While Diaz was able to stay on his feet after these blows, taking two head kicks without adjustment is not a good sign.
In the second round Thompson crouched slightly and came up with another high kick, putting Diaz on rubber legs and clipped him with a right hand to put him on the floor. From here Thompson pounded the Stockton representative out.
There's not much more to say about the finishing technique—fake low, kick high, it's the oldest technique in the book but it keeps working.
Thompson has always shown a willingness to try exciting things on the feet—his jumping kicks against K.J. Noons in an otherwise boring match showed that, and he certainly made Gilbert Melendez work—but this is just about the most disciplined and intelligent Thompson we have seen on the feet. He was happy to punch Diaz when Diaz chased him, but he never pushed his luck.
Thompson's use of the full cage, low kicks and tie ups set up the knock out, the flashy head kick simply secured it.