In one of the clearest "gatekeeping" fights in the last year, Jamie Varner and Abel Trujillo faced off in the opening stanza of UFC 169's main card.
Varner, a former WEC champion, revived his floundering career after knocking out a seemingly unstoppable prospect in Edson Barboza. Since, he has put on some strong performances but hasn't put together a legitimate winning streak.
Trujillo hasn't looked amazing thus far in his UFC career but certainly showed that he has skills opposite Roger Bowling at UFC on Fox 9.
When the two faced off, the match wound up being absolute dynamite. Varner and Trujillo threw bombs at each other, and while Varner had Trujillo hurt badly, Killa landed a right hand from hell that knocked Varner out cold.
So what did we learn?
There Might Just Be Something to Abel Trujillo
Sometimes when a fighter beats a gatekeeper, it doesn't necessarily mean all that much. Brendan Schaub beating Gabriel Gonzaga is a great example of that.
When you come from behind and land a picture-perfect one-punch knockout, though? Well, that certainly means something. That isn't to say Abel Trujillo is suddenly top-10, but he has earned himself a step up in competition.
That said, his decision loss to even-more-surging Khabib Nurmagomedov is absolutely brutal to have on his record right now.
Jamie Varner Still Has Veteran Savvy
While the second round was essentially a power-punching version of Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia 1, the first round was all "Jamie Varner: Wily Veteran."
He punished Trujillo for clinching with him by getting a great takedown, bouncing around between dominant positions and threatening with submissions. Obviously, it didn't mean too much given the way the fight ended, but Varner can still punish all those cocky youngsters if they think they can beat him easily in any area of the cage.
Jamie Varner Is Still Mistake-Prone
While Varner showed himself to be a savvy, technical grappler in the first round, he tired out his arms by holding on to a choke for too long. He made up for that wear in the second round by landing his punches in the right spots, but when Trujillo was wobbly, he didn't have the zip on his punches to finish the job.
Even if he didn't end up getting blasted by Trujillo's right hand, he was looking tired from the ridiculous output in the first half of the second round. It's hard to imagine that he would've been able to recover in any strong way.
To put it frankly...that's not good! This sort of loss doesn't lower his stock too much, but he certainly doesn't feel like the dark-horse title contender he did a year ago.
One Fight Can Make Your Night
Seriously, UFC 169 was really, really bad before this fight. Every single bout went to decision, and not the "awesome, we get to see 15 minutes of action" decisions, but the "oh my God...let this fight end" kind of decision.
Varner and Trujillo, though, made all that seem like a distant memory as they got their names on early Fight of the Year ballots. The rest of the card might stink from here, but at least for a little while, UFC 169 seemed like the greatest event ever.
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