The UFC’s second trip to Boston is now a thing of the past, with a network launched on the back of a collection of solid fights Saturday at TD Garden. FOX Sports 1 has a hot property on its hands if the performances in the octagon are any indication, and a bevy of new stars are available to be pushed going forward.
Most of those stars are the guys who came out on the winning end Saturday, and this may be what the future looks like for them.
With his surprising defeat of Boston's Joe Lauzon, Johnson put together his best UFC performance to date—by far.
His striking was crisp, his pacing was expert, and his capacity for violence was boundless. The beating he put on Lauzon was as bad as any that the scrappy submission ace has ever taken in the cage, and by the time it was over the baffled Garden crowd could do nothing but mourn the loss of one of its own.
With his wrestling background and athletic tools, the skill set was never in question for Johnson. Now he seems to be putting it together a bit, and with a win against a top-10 guy it's clear he needs to move another rung up the ladder in his next appearance.
A bout with Jim Miller, the last guy to batter Lauzon in a similar manner, could be a good fit.
In a bizarre bout filled with high fives and hugs, Howard did enough to get the nod over heavily-hyped prospect Uriah Hall. Howard looked good in his UFC return, a return that saw him reborn as a short-notice middleweight instead of an overly-drained welterweight.
With his compact build, fearsome power, and capable grappling, it seems like Howard may be around to stay this time. He’ll never be a champion, but handling the much-larger, much-flashier Hall with relative ease is a sign that he can hang.
Thales Leites, another retread fresh off a win, may be a guy to match him up with.
The remarkable resurgence of Matt Brown continues, this time with a 29-second Knockout of the Night win over veteran Mike Pyle.
Brown’s claims that Pyle is better than champion Georges St-Pierre are a little absurd, but stating that he needs a step up in competition is certainly fair now that he’s nailed down six straight victories.
His name may not be big enough to make it happen, but a fight with the “retired” Nick Diaz would be perfect. If that can’t come together, Brown’s original opponent Thiago Alves would be intriguing.
Faber was in a little trouble early on Saturday, with his opponent Yuri Alcantara crawling all over him like a monkey and threatening with a collection of different attacks.
The California Kid is not so easily shaken, however, and over the course of the next 12+ minutes he proceeded to put Alcantara in a number of bad spots and trounced him.
Faber is in the position of being the best guy in his weight class without the title (in any weight class, actually), but also a guy who has lost to both the champion and interim champion already. No one else can beat him, but he can’t beat the guys that matter.
As a result he’ll need a few more wins to force his way back into the title picture. A bout with fellow UFN 26 winner Michael McDonald might be the next step.
If anyone was treated more as an underdog Saturday and didn’t deserve it, Browne was that guy. After his stunning knockout of Alistair Overeem, he moved to 14-1-1 with his only loss coming on a freak accident in the cage.
On a list of dark horse title contenders, the giant Hawaiian would have to be at the top. Given his sheer toughness, athleticism, and growing skill, it’s not hard to envision him fighting in a top contender’s bout in short order.
With the schedules of other top heavyweights considered, both Browne and Fabricio Werdum are hot and available at the right time. Let them meet up for the right to face the winner of Velasquez/dos Santos III.
Was anyone calling ‘Sonnen by submission’ going into Saturday?
Didn’t think so.
The Gangster From West Linn looked great in his headliner against Shogun Rua, exchanging heated grappling exchanges before finally sinking in a guillotine choke on the former 205-pound top dog.
Rua tapped, left to ponder what happened, while Sonnen opened doors for himself at both light heavyweight and middleweight with the win.
Still, it’s hard to imagine the long-awaited fight with Wanderlei Silva not coming to fruition after all the back-and-forth between the two in recent years. Look for it to go down before the end of the year, either at 185, 195 or 205.