For the second time in 2014, UFC Fight Night 36 favored the technical over the exciting. Ten of the 12 cards ended in decision, just like UFC 169. We have a few items to look at in the aftermath of a patience-testing fight night.
Could Tactical Fights Become the Norm?
It's most likely a series of matchup flukes, but we should think about evolution of the sport, as well.
With 10 decisions out of 12 fights, last night gave us a reason to fear a chilling effect from the abolition of KO and Submission of the Night bonuses in favor of the grayer Performance of the Night bonus.
The UFC still gave the performance bonuses to Erick Silva and Charles Oliveira for their respective knockout and submission. Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi won the Fight of the Night bonus, though, and that's important because it illustrates the gulf between boring and skillful.
They fought a measured, precise and entertaining fight. Tactical and technical doesn't have to mean tentative and slow, and they showed us how and why.
If the evolution of boxing is any indication, the UFC could be moving toward fewer finishes. Boxing had far more KO's and TKO's in its early days. We might be getting a development of Octagon-craft at the cost of finishes.
Middleweight Ranks Tightening
The circle of the middleweight division just got a little more competitive. We now have several Brazilians looking hungry to get Chris Weidman's belt.
Machida looks more natural at middleweight than light heavyweight. What’s more, he doesn’t have the steroid issues, credibility challenges or broken shins of some other middleweights we could mention.
A new, clean, two-belt champion would restore some of the juice the UFC lost with Silva. Machida's nationality helps. Another Brazilian champion in a popular division helps the UFC’s continued entry into the Brazilian market.
Gegard Mousasi, for his part, looked outmatched but not overwhelmed. No. 3 ranked Brazilian Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza showed a great wrestling display against Francis Carmont. This puts Souza in title contention but not enough to jump the queue in front of Machida. This ought to pressure Machida and the organization to move hard against title holder Chris Weidman, set to fight Vitor Belfort later this year.
Refs Need to Be More Active
It's too early in the year to have a list of refereeing flubs. After Herb Dean's early stoppage of the Barao-Faber fight, UFC refs should lay the law down more consistently and proactively.
Featherweight Felipe Arantes recovered from a groin-shot heard 'round the world for a unanimous decision win against Maximo Blanco. Ref Mario Yamasaki deducted a point, though the kick was a clearly accidental inside leg kick gone awry.
Ivan Jorge got two pokes in the eye from Rodrigo Damm in their preliminary lightweight match. Damm also planted a heel kick to Jorge's stomach a little too low. These accidents, troublesome as they were, didn't get any points deducted from Damm, who won a unanimous decision to the crowd's boos.
Gegard Mousasi landed an illegal up-kick to Lyoto Machida's face during the fourth round of their match. Mario Yamasaki stopped the fight but didn't penalize Mousasi.
In both the Jorge-Damm and Machida-Mousasi fights, the referee seemed to respond rather than call the shots. Jorge and Machida looked to make the calls more than Yamasaki, halting their action before the call was made the same way Barao implored Herb Dean to give him a TKO stoppage against Faber.
Hopefully this won't be a pattern, and the referees tighten their game.