There wasn't a great deal of heat surrounding UFC 161 in Winnipeg. The whole thing was tepid and soupy, like a melted gelato.
That'll happen when your original main event—an interim bantamweight title bout between Renan Barao and challenger Eddie Wineland—hits the trash heap after a Barao injury. A co-main event between Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira later followed, thanks to Lil Nog's balky back.
And yet, fights are fights, and being the bona fide MMA junkie whom I am, I went ahead and ordered up. It's not like you couldn't find some intrigue, after all. Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson, two graying lions of the sport, trying to discover where—or if—they fit in today's light heavyweight landscape.
Roy Nelson, the popular and polarizing heavyweight brought in to bolster the anemic card, is rumored to be eyeing the free-agent waters after this, his final fight on his current UFC contract.
Those are just the top stories heading into the event. How did the action play out in the pay-per-view portion of the evening? Here are grades for every main-card fighter who laced up the gloves Saturday night on the Canadian prairie.
Result: Shawn Jordan def. Pat Barry by TKO, 0:59 of Round 1
Shawn, I hereby forgive you for Cheick Kongo.
The built-like-a-truck former college footballer landed two elephant-gun right uppercuts that left Barry turtled along the fence. Jordan finished it off with lefts and a mighty impressive celebratory backflip.
It was a needed jolt of excitement after that undercard slog.
Pat Barry is so likable and energetic outside the cage, it's easy to overlook his flaws inside it. But the truth is, the case against him is mounting.
This was his third knockout loss in six contests, so you can't say his chin is untouchable. His grappling presumably (because, you know, we didn't see any Saturday night) remains a work in progress. He is now 2-4 in the last two years.
Will he be cut? I don't think so. Stranger things have happened, though. I'll remain a fan wherever he goes, but right now, he's not going much of anywhere in the UFC.
Division: Women's bantamweight
Result: Alexis Davis def. Rosi Sexton by unanimous decision
Given that Alexis Davis was heavily favored, has seven of 13 pro wins by submission and is a jiu-jitsu black belt, it stood to reason that this might end up on the ground and in a submission attempt.
And it did. But the script took a turn when Davis locked on a triangle and simply couldn't finish. As Davis tired, Rosi Sexton upshifted and began using her fist to dribble Davis' skull on the canvas. Round 1 to Sexton.
Sexton, who is 35 years old and fought most of her career as a flyweight, also hung tough under some extended ground-and-pound late in the second stanza.
Davis ultimately got the win, essentially by attrition. I don't imagine Ronda Rousey's blood pressure spiked a great deal while she was watching at home, though.
Good on the UFC for giving the much-respected Rosi Sexton a chance in the Octagon. She might be past her fighting prime, and she was certainly undersized at UFC 161, but the British women's MMA pioneer showed great strength in the face of long odds.
She even won the first round, at least on my scorecard. Here's hoping she gets another fight if she wants one.
Division: Light heavyweight
Result: Ryan Jimmo def. Igor Pokrajac by unanimous decision
I love the look on Ryan Jimmo's face in this photo. "Should I robot dance? Should I NOT robot dance?"
Despite the victory, Jimmo did not show off his vaunted victory moves. There wasn't a lot of dancing among the fans, either, who booed their countryman after Jimmo spent about 14.5 of 15 minutes leaning against Igor Pokrajac on the fence or floor.
Jimmo admitted in his post-fight interview with broadcaster Joe Rogan that he fought "conservatively," and apologized for the effort. It's an extra frustrating admission because it confirmed what we already knew: Jimmo can put on a good fight, if he wants to. He just doesn't.
Yes, a win is a win. I get that. But if you're apologizing after said win, something didn't go right. It's especially true on a night like this, which badly needed a spark.
Igor Pokrajac is capable of fighting good fights, but only if he's fighting someone else who wants to put on a good fight (see Maldonado, Fabio). In other words, Pokrajac seems to have a hard time imposing his will on the other man. He takes what he's given, for better or for worse.
Against a grappler who can smother him, it's typically the latter. That's what happened Saturday night.
Result: Stipe Miocic def. Roy Nelson by unanimous decision
Give credit where credit is due. Stipe Miocic looked like a top guy tonight. He moved well, threw sharp and accurate strikes throughout and punished Nelson with shrewd combinations.
He also didn't seem to tire much (though that may be on a relative scale) and easily defended Nelson's bunker-busting, but predictable, overhand right.
It was evident Miocic trained hard and executed his game plan to a T. He doesn't seem to want to be overlooked anymore. And he won't be.
I'm a Roy Nelson fan. I'm not jumping off the Roy Nelson bandwagon. But come on, Roy. What the hell was that?
There's a phrase elite college basketball teams sometimes use: "You can't just throw your jersey on the court and expect to win."
At UFC 161, Nelson did the MMA equivalent. He strutted into the cage, full-throated crowd staunchly behind him, and started waving his fist around. That's not gonna win you many ballgames. Short notice, shmort shmotice. Miocic is a good fighter, and Nelson underestimated him. Badly.
Miocic was ready for the overhand right, and the Renzo Gracie black belt had no Plan B. To make matters worse, Nelson gassed badly after the first round. I haven't seen a fighter that exhausted since Ben Rothwell fought a mile above sea level.
To make matters worse, he was badly outstruck despite that being his sole weapon of choice. According to the FightMetric statistics, Nelson landed 23 significant strikes out of 127 thrown. Miocic landed 106 of 172.
Here's the capper, though: This was Nelson's last fight on his UFC contract. He's been coy on his plans for the future, even as he spent fight week publicly needling the UFC and Dana White. You think this might weaken his bargaining position juuuust a tiny bit?
None of it made sense. It was lazy, painful, embarrassing and unprofessional. Can Roy come back? He sure can. But he has some work to do.
Division: Light heavyweight
Result: Rashad Evans def. Dan Henderson by split decision
Rashad Evans did what he had to do to get the win, but it wasn't exactly the reintroduction of Old Rashad either.
He'll avoid that line of questioning for the time being, though, because he landed just enough strikes in the second and third round and kept Henderson clinched against the fence just long enough to take a close decision win.
It was an uninspiring effort, though. Evans will presumably get another bump up in competition. It will be extremely interesting to see how he does with that.
Hendo tried but couldn't find a home for the H-bomb. That was basically the difference in the fight.
Dan Henderson showed his 42 years and 39 fights at UFC 161 Saturday night. He was far slower than Evans and couldn't mount a resounding response when Evans tied him up. The former Olympic wrestler didn't even try for a takedown.
And yet, what he brought was nearly enough. A jab was all it took to floor Evans in the first round. But he just couldn't land that big right hand. And yeah. That made the difference.
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