If ever there was an event that proved the value of free UFC events on Spike, last night was it. Despite the near constant barrage of advertising (lame Ashton Kutcher style pranks pulled off by a man in a plastic King costume – makes me want to buy a whopper!) when the fights were on, they were on. The opening fight was one of the most exciting back and forth wars I’ve ever seen, and the second bout was not far behind. Even Maynard/Huerta was more exciting and entertaining than I expected it was going to be.
For a free card, they don’t get much better than this. Commercial overload couldn’t ruin the night, nor the obligatory pre-recorded “live” interview, this time with a Rich Franklin who seemed to be halfway through a bottle of Ambien by the time they got to him. Finally, without bragging too much, it’s worth pointing out that all of my predictions were on the money this time around. King’s back on his throne. Kicking off the night’s fistic entertainment was…
Nate Quarry vs. Time Credeur
Question: Why isn’t Nate Quarry the “backup” color commentary guy for the UFC instead of Kenny Florian? No offense to KenFlo, but he seems to do better facing a camera, reading a teleprompter. Quarry is a funny, charismatic personality who could offer a Joe Rogan-like humorous counterpoint to Mike Goldberg (having K-Flo and Goldie bounce off each other usually leads to laughs, just not intentional ones).
After last night’s fight, I think Quarry’s need for work outside the Octagon is pretty much nil. This was an amazing, back and forth fight, and Florian was correct in saying during the post-fight that this was the kind of fight no one loses. In a way, this fight went like I thought it would: Credeur looking to bang on the feet, gets sloppy, and leaves himself open to Quarry’s power counters. I just didn’t expect Tim to be as game on the feet as he was. He dropped Quarry in the first frame, and I think a check on FightMetric would show he out struck him in total shots landed in all three rounds.
Quarry earned his “Rock” moniker in this fight – weathering some blistering shots and combinations as well as a deep choke attempt from Credeur to get the openings he needed. Nate should kiss his fists tonight, because his power was the difference maker – he could land 1 punch for every 5 of Credeur’s, but he only needed that 1 to plant the “Cajun Royce Gracie” on his back. Great effort from both guys, well deserved “Fight of the Night”. Give Quarry Drew Mcfederies next for another back and forth war - once he facially resembles a human being again.
Carlos Condit vs. Jake Ellenberger
The first two minutes of this fight were pretty hair raising. I had confidently predicted that the overmatched Ellenberger would be blown out of the water by Condit. Instead, the UFC debutant seemed poised to run over the WEC champ with brutal power punches that had “The Natural Born Killer” falling all over himself. To Condit’s credit, he recovered, at the point where many referee’s would have stopped the fight, and came back to win the narrowest of narrow split decisions.
Phew. Speaking of the referee, for all the praise Goldberg was heaping on him for allowing Condit a chance to recover, I couldn’t help but notice he allowed about twenty full on hammer fists to the back of Condit’s head before he even thought to issue a verbal warning. As always, the line between insightful and incompetent in MMA officiating is a fine and blurry one indeed.
Great effort by Ellenberger, who like Credeur probably had his stock go up in this fight even though he lost. He showed he had good power in his shots, and displayed no signs of first time Octagon jitters. Condit showed some championship level poise in recovering, and displayed some slick ground work – though again, Ellenberger surprised with a deep guillotine attempt in the 3rd round. Condit should get someone elite now, someone to match his pace and heart – give him the winner of Koshcheck/Trigg. Give Ellenberger a slugger to match his power and truly test it – I think Marcus Davis would be an amazing fight, and could happen with Davis coming off a loss.
Gray Maynard vs. Roger Huerta
For some strange reason, Maynard decided to forgo his usual grinding wrestling style in the first two rounds of his bout with Huerta in favor of a kickboxing battle, exactly the kind of dangerous situation I was hoping he wouldn’t get into. Not that he got outclassed or overwhelmed in the standup battle – I gave the first round to Huerta and the second round to Maynard. Huerta was effective at controlling the distance at first, but as the fight went on Gray found more success getting inside with his straight punches. Huerta showed some pretty good takedown defense as well – at least until round 3.
A straight left from Maynard finally set up a single leg takedown that I had expected him to be landing all night. On the floor, Maynard latched on a kimura so tight, Roger could probably have scratched behind his own ears with the arm that was in the lock. Huerta showed his usual heart, refusing to tap and eventually using the hold to sweep a shocked Maynard. A game effort, but not enough to give him the fight, which went 29-28 deservedly in favor of “The Bully”.
Maynard is in an interesting position now, in that he’s the consensus #2 contender, and there was talk that a win here would set him up to challenge the winner of Sanchez/Penn for the title in 2010. I think he’s still in that position, but I honestly don’t know how well a fight between Gray and either of those guys would do in attracting money and interest. Gray didn’t show anything that makes me think he could take either of those guys – both of whom bring better offensive (Diego) or defensive (BJ) wrestling, better boxing, a more complete ground game and an equal if not higher level of intensity. Then again, with Penn/Sanchez in December, he likely has at least six months to train and improve before he could conceivably challenge for the title, so anything is possible.
Nate Diaz vs. Melvin Guillard
Of all the fights on the card, this one came the closest to unfolding exactly as I thought it would. The only difference is that I thought Diaz would be more competitive on the feet, and Guillard could put him down with his power. Instead, we saw Guillard easily control the standup, doing all kinds of damage to Diaz’s already grimey looking face and staying out of the Stockton kid’s reach. We also saw Diaz absorb some serious shots and stay standing – proving definitively that the Diaz grit was not exclusively passed on to older brother Nick.
Guillard was solidly in the driver’s seat and Diaz seemed to be getting frustrated going into the second frame. Then, in a few seconds, it all changed. Diaz caught Guillard with a jab, and Guillard stumbled back, playing possum before exploding through Diaz with a double leg to the delight of the crowd. But wait – his showy takedown left his neck exposed, and Diaz locks on a tight half-guard guillotine. Three seconds later and Melvin is tapping out.
Just like I suspected it would, once this fight hit the floor Diaz would find a way to tap Guillard, who tends to cost himself in fights via poor calculation. This was no different – his rope-a-dope into takedown combo was crowd pleasing, but he stuck his neck way out there and was basically asking for a submission to be sunk in. In modern MMA, if you tap someone with a half-guard guillotine, I think it’s safe to say it’s because your opponent helped you, just a little bit.
What makes it even more mystifying is that Guillard had no reason to shoot. He was easily winning the standup battle, and had done serious damage to Diaz without being touched himself. Diaz, as I expected him to, showed no inclination to take the fight down despite getting busted up; Guillard could have conceivably kept the fight in his realm all 15 minutes, or until Nate’s chin finally gave out on him. The lesson? Gameplan, kids. Gameplan. If you leave your neck out there for a elite grappler to find, you’re probably going to sleep.
According to Diaz’s team, this is his last appearance at 155 – he had difficulty making the weight this time (failed his first attempt) and now feels the weight class is too small for him. Fair enough, but I don’t see where this leaves his career, because at 170 I think he’d be too small, assuming he doesn’t pack on a little more muscle. Too bad there’s no 160 lb. division in the UFC. If he is going to 170, give him the winner of Karo Parisyian/Dustin Hazelett. Either we get the grudge match from TUF 5 (remember their locker room faceoff? “Don’t you know who I am, bro!?”) or what could be an epic BJJ battle. Give Guillard Sam Stout or Spencer Fisher for a standup war – or more likely, his walking papers.