What a mess...
Strikeforce imports Ovince St. Preux and Gian Villante faced off in their UFC debuts on Saturday night in Newark, New Jersey, each hoping to make a good first impression at UFC 159. That wouldn't happen, as the fight was prematurely stopped due to an accidental eye poke.
St. Preux was given the majority-decision victory, but it was as ugly a victory as one could see.
Here's what we learned from the fight.
What we'll remember about this fight
While St. Preux, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight prospect, started off as the stronger fighter and showed glimmers of promise, this fight will not be remembered as the moment he introduced himself to the UFC.
Instead, we'll remember this fight for referee Kevin Mulhall's decision to stop the bout about 30 seconds into the third round after an accidental eye poke, courtesy of St. Preux.
When asked by the official if he could see following the eye poke, Villante stated that he could not, and the fight was stopped immediately. It should be assumed that Villante expected a time period to recover instead of the fight being called on the spot. The stoppage led to a loss for Villante and a controversial win for St. Preux.
But the biggest talking point from this fight was the ridiculous end to the contest.
What we learned about Ovince St. Preux
He was once the top prospect in the Strikeforce light heavyweight division, but in his UFC debut, he displayed plenty of room for improvement.
There's no doubt about it: St. Preux is a naturally gifted athlete. However, after the first round featured some bright spots, he faded quickly in the second. And he was well on his way to losing the third round to Villante had the fight not been prematurely stopped.
The former Tennessee Volunteer has talent and the ability to succeed, as he demonstrated in the first round. However, his gas tank needs work if he plans to break into the top 10 of the 205-pound division. The second round just showed how much his cardio needs to improve.
What we learned about Gian Villante
Villante got off to a slow start, clearly losing the first round to St. Preux. However, as his opponent faded, Villante dialed things up and entered the third round as the fresher fighter. Of course, he only had about 30 seconds of fight time before that round was called, and then he was dealt a loss just moments later.
Still, Villante showed a great deal of promise in this fight, and there is a chance he could carve out a spot for himself in the UFC light heavyweight division.
St. Preux was expected by many to run through Villante. That didn't happen. Instead, St. Preux walked away with a majority decision. Now, Villante should receive another shot to prove himself in the UFC. We know he can keep it close with other lower mid-tier guys. Unfortunately, due to the fight's premature conclusion, we don't know much else.
What's next for St. Preux?
Any chance we can get a rematch?
If those two can't settle the score after that controversial ending to their first meeting, St. Preux should expect to meet another Strikeforce import or low-ranked UFC light heavyweight.
The former Strikeforce prospect could meet the winner of Fabio Maldonado vs. Roger Hollett later this year. Those two meet on May 18 at UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Rockhold.
What's next for Villante?
Again, a rematch seems to be in order, but there are a few other options for Villante as well.
He could meet the loser of Maldonado vs. Hollett, although it's plausible that the loser of that bout will be looking for work elsewhere. In that event, a bout against Ilir Latifi, who stepped in last minute against Gegard Mousasi at UFC on FUEL TV 9, would make sense, and it would almost certainly be a loser-goes-home matchup.