UFC 102: Things I Learned Last Night
1. "Minotauro" Nogueira is Far From Done
You can now officially call his fight with Frank Mir an aberration, as it was clear last night that the staph infection and knee troubles Nogueira was suffering from heading into that bout took a lot out of the Pride veteran.
From the opening bell, the former Pride and UFC champion looked crisp, connecting with the more powerful and precise strikes, while working his usual submission magic when the two warriors went to the ground.
Though it remains to be seen how Nogueira would deal with the combination of talents and size that is Brock Lesnar, "Minotauro" is very much still a force to be reckoned with in the UFC Heavyweight division.
2. Randy Couture is My Hero Too!
Joe Rogan makes this statement at least once per Couture fight, and after his gutty performance against Nogueira last night, you can add me to the list of people who are simply in awe of the 46-year-old superstar.
Though Nogueira was clearly the better man, Couture displayed the heart and tenacity that has endeared him to fight fans around the globe, fending off submissions, coming back from a couple staggering shots and refusing to quit at points when younger men would have been finished.
And he's 46!
3. Retirement Certainly Isn't Happening
Prior to his bout, Couture inked a contract extension with the UFC that will keep him inside the Octagon for the rest of his storied career.
The agreement is for six fights and 28 months, beginning with last night's instant classic against Nogueira, and is rumored to be a similar deal to the one the UFC offered to a certain Russian heavyweight who didn't want to fight in the UFC.
While this move clears up questions about Couture's future with the company, the question remains whether "The Natural" will continue to slug it out at heavyweight or make the drop down to 205 and the deep water that is the UFC light heavyweight division.
4. Nate Marquardt Deserves a Title Shot
With all due respect to Dan Henderson, what Nate Marquardt did to Demian Maia cemented his standing as the No. 1 Contender to Anderson Silva's title.
While Henderson dispatched an over-hyped Michael Bisping, Marquardt made quick work of an undefeated fighter with stunning precision. When coupled with his dominant performances over Wilson Gouveia and Martin Kampmann, there is no question that Marquardt has earned the rematch.
5. That Being Said...
Anderson Silva's camp is now lobbying for a Dan Henderson-Nate Marquardt eliminator fight.
While it makes some sense as Silva has bested both fighters before and each of their previous fights were billed as determining who would be next for "The Spider," Henderson has already balked at the fight, saying if a title shot against Silva wasn't next, he'd prefer to move back to 205.
Though all three options (Hendo - Silva, Marquardt - Silva and Hendo - Marquardt) are reasonable, keeping the middleweight title on the shelf for an extended period of time isn't all that appealing, especially when each of these potential title fights would go a long way in erasing the memory of Silva's last two title defenses.
6. The 90 Second Rule Still Applies
When Keith Jardine makes it through the first 90 seconds of a fight, he wins 87 percent of the time. Last night, Thiago Silva stopped "The Dean of Mean" at the 92 second mark, validating the rule and bringing questions about both fighter's place in the division into question.
Jardine has long been considered the gatekeeper at 205 and perhaps he now takes a step down to a lower rung, having lost three of his last four fights, all by way of (technical) knockout.
As for Silva, he's now 1-1 against Top 10 competition and a loss to the division's best is never something to hang your head about. Who he faces next will really go a long way in cementing his status as a contender, as he'll certainly get another Top 10 competitor and preferably one who won't just stand and trade.
I'm advocating a fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira once his deal gets done.
7. The Curse is Alive
Two fighters have done interviews with me prior to events.
Both fighters suffered defeats, with the latest interviewee falling in dramatic fashion.
Maybe I should stop talking about this for the sake of getting interviews in the future...
8. Everyone, Meet Todd Duffee
Back in December, I read an article in Fight! Magazine about the Hardcore Gym in Athens, GA, the place Forrest Griffin got his start.
Operated by Adam and Rory Singer, the latter of whom you might remember from The Ultimate Fighter, the article chronicled some of the emerging talent coming from the gym. One fighter was Brian Bowles, the current WEC Bantamweight champion. Another was Todd Duffee.
Since then, I've been dying to see this monster in the ring and while we only got seven seconds of action last night, it was enough for me to proclaim that Todd Duffee is a threat. Great big, athletic kids (he's only 23) who can drop you with a jab and finish you in seven seconds don't come around every day.
You've been warned.
9. Sooner Rather Than Later
Another card, another tough situation for a referee, as Yves Lavigne's hesitation at the end of the Chris Leben/Jake Rosholt fight will certainly go under the microscope in the next couple days.
From where I was sitting (on the couch at Tyler & Shawna's house), Leben looked like he tapped and Lavigne was ready to dive in, only to stop when Leben bucked his hips and his legs swung out at Lavigne. Seconds later, Leben is out cold, twitching on the mat for all the MMA opponents to jump on.
I'm not a ref and I would never want to be one, but for as much as all of us often criticize early stoppages and fighters complain that they didn't tap **cough** CD Dollaway, Chael Sonnen **cough**, an early stoppage is always better than an injured fighter and Lavigne needed to go with his initial instinct last night.
10. The Truth Is...
Brandon Vera isn't as good as Brandon Vera believes he is.
Say what you will about me piling on the Filipino fighter, but nothing about last night's performance against Krzysztof Soszynski backed up an ounce of the smack Vera talks or the accolades Rogan and Goldie were tossing his way.
Does anyone honestly think that the Brandon Vera we saw last night would defeat anyone in the Top 10 right now? If you do, put down the Kool-Aid...
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