UFC on Fox 18 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from New Jersey
One of the great things about MMA is its athletic purity. Not to get all purple on you, but nothing else strips physical competition to bare wood like fighting.
The tenet was on full display Saturday in the main event of UFC on Fox 18, which went down from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Said main event featured a stylistic matchup as old as organized combat. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, the favorite, is a knockout artist, with 14 of his 20 professional wins arriving at the ends of his heavy fists and feet. He has also been dogged by a tendency throughout his career to tire and flag in later rounds.
As it happens, Ryan Bader, the underdog, was an All-American wrestler in college, more of a grinder who, the assumptions went, would try to control and outlast the dangerous striker on the mat.
The main event was only one of the 13 bouts on Saturday's docket. In the co-main event, bruising heavyweights Josh Barnett and Ben Rothwell met, and the meeting had implications for the top end of that division.
Oh, and there was that Sage Northcutt guy, too.
As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. Here are the real winners and losers from UFC on Fox 18.
Loser: Ryan Bader
Normally you want to recognize the winner of a given engagement before you recognize the loser, but, well, this is not a normal circumstance.
Sometimes the loser has more to do with the outcome than the winner, and Johnson's 86-second knockout of Bader on Saturday was one of those times.
Given that Johnson is at his scariest early in the fight when his gas tank is full, it stands to reason that Bader would try to wait it out a little. You know, weather the proverbial storm.
Not the case. Approximately 25 seconds into the fight and having made no other offensive maneuver of any kind (including anything resembling a setup), Bader shot in for a takedown. It came from very long range and fell short. Johnson, himself a junior college wrestler, quickly took Bader's back. Not long after, mount ensued, and Johnson's battering-ram punches finished the job.
After the fight, Bader told reporters, according to Shaheen Al-Shatti of MMA Fighting, "It wasn't the strategy to shoot on him right away. I was originally going to try to stick and move."
That's not what happened. So, what happened? No one else is inside Bader's head, but it's hard not to see the writing on his career wall. This is not the first time this has happened.
Earlier this week, Bader's camp claimed they had the advantage because Johnson was mentally weak. Looks like the glove is on the other hand now.
Winner: Anthony Johnson
In the past three years, Johnson has 12 fights and one loss on his record. That's a pretty good ratio.
Especially when you remember that his only defeat came to Daniel Cormier, the current UFC light heavyweight champ and an Olympic wrestler.
So it has been a good run for Rumble, and his masterful and efficient destruction of Bader was another feather in his cap.
Is another title shot so far away? Jon Jones is probably ahead of Johnson on the pecking order, but Johnson is a formidable challenge to absolutely anyone right now.
“I will be waiting for whoever has that belt," Johnson told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight.
Proof positive it's not always so good to be the king.
Winner: Ben Rothwell
In 19 years of professional MMA competition, Josh Barnett never once tapped out from grappling. The two submission losses on his 40-plus-fight ledger came to strikes and an injury.
There's a first time for everything. Ben Rothwell may not have seemed such a likely candidate to force Barnett's first tapout of this kind. But there he was, taking a lackluster Barnett entry and turning it into what first looked like a standard guillotine but eventually metamorphosized into the gogo choke.
Not only that, but it was Rothwell's second consecutive win as a result of the move, which he last used to tap Matt Mitrione.
Chris Martin of Chicago's MMA breaks down Rothwell's hold, which he learned from coach Luiz Claudio:
Ben Rothwell boosted himself in the MMA rankings by forcing former NFL player and UFC star Matt Mitrione to submit handily with a scary-looking choke that made Mitrione’s face look like an 80’s troll doll. A traditional guillotine choke doesn’t normally cause Troll Face, nor does it cause such swift and powerful tapping. ... The choke that Rothwell used is what we call a “GOGO” choke. ... As Luiz incorporated new adjustments to his shoulder leverage and grips, the choke improved. Though it was still not producing the results he was looking for. One day, he finally found what had been missing–a sensitive touch point on the neck. He started to play with it over the next year, and over time it developed into the GOGO choke.
Ben Rothwell, jiu-jitsu wizard? Stranger things have happened. But in the wake of the big Wisconsonite tapping out Josh Barnett—and winning a $50,000 performance bonus from the UFC in the process—nothing comes to mind.
Loser: Sage Northcutt
Sage Northcutt had it all lined up. Despite being only 19 years old and 7-0 as a pro, Northcutt was raking in relatively big dollars and garnering star treatment from the UFC.
The clinically upbeat Northcutt even had his response to the haters all planned out.
The plan hit a little snag Saturday when Northcutt found himself in deep grappling waters with Bryan Barberena, and therein tapped to an arm-triangle choke.
Given the UFC's interest in making a celebrity out of Northcutt and his '80s surfer movie villain looks, one has to imagine that Northcutt will have plenty of opportunities to atone for the misstep. But his unblemished record is no more, and there are at least a few cracks in the Northcutt shellac.
Winners: Jimmie Rivera and Yuri Alcantara
Jimmie Rivera hasn't done anything in the UFC except win.
It hasn't always been glamorous or backed with the full faith and credit of the UFC hype machine, but the 26-year-old New Jersey native gets the job done.
He won another close one Saturday over respected veteran Yuri Alcantara, and did it in front of his home-state fans. Rivera used his aggression and punch combinations to score on the Brazilian.
Alcantara, however, gave about as good as he gave, rocking Rivera late, but Rivera took the decision to move to 19-1 as a pro.
Here's hoping for Alcantara that the $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus he and Rivera received for their troubles helps him get over the defeat.
UFC on Fox 18 Full Card Results
Anthony Johnson def. Ryan Bader by KO, 1:26, Rd. 1
Ben Rothwell def. Josh Barnett by submission (gogo choke), 3:48, Rd. 2
Jimmie Rivera def. Yuri Alcantara by unanimous decision
Bryan Barberena def. Sage Northcutt by submission (arm-triangle choke), 3:06, Rd. 2
Tarec Saffiedine def. Jake Ellenberger by unanimous decision
Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Olivier Aubin-Mercier by unanimous decision
Rafael Natal def. Kevin Casey by TKO, 3:37, Rd. 3
Wilson Reis def. Dustin Ortiz by unanimous decision
Alexander Yakovlev def. George Sullivan by TKO, 3:59, Rd. 1
Alex Caceres def. Masio Fullen by unanimous decision
Randy Brown def. Matt Dwyer by unanimous decision
Damon Jackson vs. Levan Makashvili ruled majority draw
Tony Martin def. Felipe Olivieri by technical submission (rear-naked choke), 3:02, Rd. 3
Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. For more stuff like this, follow Scott on Twitter.