On the Eve of Super Bowl Sunday, the UFC delivered an explosive night of fights from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Nova Uniao teammates Jose Aldo and Renan Barao successfully defended their UFC championships in dominant fashion. Aldo picked apart a game Ricardo Lamas for 25 minutes and, arguably, solidified his spot as MMA’s top pound-for-pound fighter.
Bantamweight champ Barao blitzkrieged Urijah Faber with a barrage of strikes in the first round to earn the TKO victory. Although the stoppage was highly controversial, Barao looked every bit like the berserker we’ve been accustomed to seeing in the Octagon.
Also on the card: Alistair Overeem manhandled Frank Mir, Ali Bagautinov beat John Lineker and Abel Trujillo knocked out Jamie Varner.
Let’s take a look at who scored the highest on the UFC 169 report card.
It wasn’t the most technical performance but Trujillo’s second round knockout victory over Jamie Varner will be replayed in highlight reels for years to come.
After an absolutely dreadful preliminary card, fans were begging for a barn burner to open the PPV. They got just that and then some.
Trujillo and Varner stood in the pocket and brawled like two field mice stuck in a wool sock. Varner came close to finishing Trujillo on two separate occasions: with a north-south choke in the first round and with a barrage of wild strikes in the second.
But Trujillo is resilient. This is a man that would rather die than quit.
Varner left himself wide open and Trujillo knocked his lights out.
If you weren’t a Trujillo fan before, you sure as hell are now! The future is looking bright for Trujillo.
From a technical perspective, this wasn’t Varner’s best performance. But, man, was it entertaining.
It’s hard to give the former WEC lightweight champion anything less than a B- here. Despite the sloppiness in his attacks, Varner put extreme pressure on Trujillo and almost stopped him on more than one occasion.
Obviously, it’s never a good thing to lose a fight by knockout but Varner was definitely winning up until then. He just got caught. Varner put on a show and that should count for something.
After systematically outpointing top ranked John Lineker, Bagautinov may have just sealed the deal for an inevitable showdown with flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
From start to finish, the heavy handed Russian was all over his Brazilian counterpart like a Tasmanian devil. Aside from the second round, Bagautinov shut Lineker down with powerful striking and relentless takedowns. He imposed his gameplan to a tee and roughed Lineker up from all angles.
To add insult to injury, when Lineker attempted a piss poor leg lock in the end of the fight, Bagautinov stood his ground and waved to the New Jersey crowd. He knew he wasn't in any danger and had the fight in the bag.
Lineker should be forced to move up to the bantamweight division after this loss. The fact that he almost missed weight for a fourth time should raise all sorts of red flags.
As for the actual fight, Lineker won the second round but it wasn’t anything special. He clearly lost the first and third frames and had very little to offer against the powerful Russian.
Still, it wasn’t a dominant loss either. I’ll give him a C here as he put forth a decent effort against the fastest rising star in the flyweight division.
There’s really not much to say about this. For 15 minutes, Alistair Overeem completely dominated Mir. It wasn’t even close at all.
I have all the respect in the world for Mir but he was nothing more than a punching bag to the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion.
This may be the end of the line for Mir. With four straight losses, Mir's best days are behind him. At 34 years old, I don’t see the former UFC heavyweight champ being able to dig himself out of this hole. Retirement should be heavily considered at this point.
After losing back-to-back fights to Travis Browne and Antonio Silva—fights he should have won—Overeem got back on track with an absolute mauling of Mir.
For three rounds, “The Reem” patiently dismantled the former UFC heavyweight champion with thunderous K-1 level striking and pure, unadulterated violence.
If Overeem can continue to pump out wins like this, it’s only a matter of time before we see him competing for UFC gold. He has all the talent in the world: world-class striking, explosive athleticism and an extremely underrated ground game.
His biggest enemy is his own ego but if he can keep that in check, Overeem is a nightmare for almost any heavyweight on the planet.
I was a little surprised he didn't finish Mir, though. I know he was being cautious but there were several openings that I felt Overeem could have capitalized on.
At this point, I don’t think there’s a featherweight alive that can beat Aldo. I really thought Ricardo Lamas was going to give the champ problems but Aldo is on a completely different level than anyone else in the division.
For the majority of the fight, Aldo brutalized Lamas with sniper-like leg kicks and laser fast striking. Aldo cruised through the first four rounds like it was a walk in the park. It wasn’t until the final round where we started to see some serious offense from Lamas but it was too little, too late for the challenger.
There’s really not much else to say about Aldo. He’s the greatest featherweight of all time and I’m interested to see how he’d fare against lightweight champ Anthony Pettis.
Lamas no doubt wishes that his fifth round against Aldo had come a lot sooner than it did. The Chicago native couldn’t get much going for the first 20 minutes but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Lamas was busy the whole time and, despite getting peppered by the champ at seemingly every turn, he kept moving forward.
It wasn’t the result he wanted but this fight will definitely make Lamas better in the long run. I feel sorry for the poor sap they match him up with next. If you thought what he did to Erik Koch was violent, you haven’t seen anything yet.
I want to start by saying that I completely disagreed with the stoppage by referee Herb Dean. Faber was hurt but he was protecting his head while also holding Barao’s leg. I thought it was extremely premature but it doesn’t change the fact that Barao looked like a killer out there.
I’ve never seen anyone pounce and stun Faber like that before. “The California Kid” is one of the toughest fighters of any weight class but Barao cracked him early and stopped him. Yes, it was controversial but it shouldn’t take away from Barao’s performance.
There really wasn’t much to go off of here. It was a quick fight but Faber wasn’t looking terrible in the early goings. He pushed the pace and landed a few strikes before getting caught and ultimately stopped at the 3:42 mark.
Faber will go back and beat everybody else that’s ranked below him but with two losses to Barao, I can’t imagine a third fight being an easy sell.