UFC 103 Fallout: Legends Return, Legends Fall, Floyd Mayweather Laughs
At the risk of sounding trite or spoiled: This last UFC was something of a disappointment. It wasn’t the UFC`s fault. The production was solid as usual - though they really need to lock down those changing sound levels (or is it just my TV that`s fucked - someone let me know). The fighters (for the most part) were motivated, prepared, and showed up ready to fight and entertain. The fans were impatient and rude, booing even the slightest inaction - but it was in Texas, where everything is bigger, including apparently fan expectations. Everything seemed to be on ten.
Yet it was disappointing nonetheless. I think it’s mostly because of the way fights played out. The last couple of UFC`s trended towards long, hard fought decisions, but that trend was not in effect last Saturday. All the televised main card fights ended before the judges horn - usually well before, and always in a decisive manner. The quick finishes, the blowouts, the occasional questionable stoppage and the sadly more then occasional underwhelming performance left me feeling unsatisfied as the night wrapped up. But life goes forward, and there was a lot to talk about coming out of last weekend, starting with
Hermes Franca vs. Tyson Griffin
This fight was an interesting contrast of a surprisingly impressive performance with a surprisingly lacklustre one. The great performance was undoubtedly Griffin`s. Continuing to improve every time he steps into the cage, Tyson displayed improved footwork and overall diversity in his striking game. He also dispelled the notion that he can`t finish fights by dramatically halting Franca - who had never before been stopped in a UFC match - with strikes in the second frame. He showed the improvement in his striking game that was needed after the Sean Sherk loss - the ability to move into the pocket and prevent his opponent from putting together combos, while landing his own. Great win, and he could be one win away (Maynard, or Edgar possibly) from fighting for the title.
The poor performance, on the other hand, was all Franca`s. First, he missed weight (one of three fighters on the UFC 103 card to do so) by a whopping four and a half pounds. Then, he entered the fight sporting a hairstyle so bad, the written word may not be able to do it justice - imagine a roll of cotton candy that thinned out and got a perm, and you’d be in the neighbourhood. He looked out of shape and off his timing throughout the bout, the result of which left him looking up at the lights, wondering what happened. This is a setback for Franca, but it should not be reason to cut him or relegate him to gatekeeper status. Something like this makes me feel that there was a disruption or injury in his training camp, and he should have a chance to prove it was an isolated incident rather then a sign of things to come for him. He has a previous submission win over Nate Diaz - I`d make that rematch next for both men in the UFC to test their ability to endure at the elite level.
Josh Koscheck vs. Frank Trigg
Before the fight, Trigg openly talked about how Koscheck was the younger, stronger, faster version of himself at the same age - leaving many to wonder what avenue Trigg saw leading to victory. Turns out he, and most of the MMA world, was right on the money. Unable to outwrestle Kos, Trigg was forced into a standup exchange in which he was thoroughly outgunned. Koscheck caught Trigg with a brutal shot to drop him, then a few more to make it official. Blown out of the water in 89 seconds - not exactly the way ``Twinkletoes`saw his big UFC return going. It`s troubling for him (I don`t see any title shots on his horizon) but it shouldn’t be his swan song and it shouldn’t prevent him from competing in some more fun fights. Call me crazy, but I say put him up against Matt Serra. Sure, it would be the ultimate òld timers`match, and not relevant at all in helping to clear up the muddled 170 title picture. But it would be fun - if that isn’t enough of a reason for a fight to happen, I don’t know what is.
Koscheck surprised a few people by publicly calling out Matt Hughes following his win. He joins a long line of welterweight fighters - most of them team mates of Kos at AKA - who have called out Hughes in the twilight of his career. It`s no mystery - Hughes is still a huge name, and an impressive notch on the blt of any young 170`er angling for a title shot. He`s also well past his prime and in today`s ultra-competitive welterweight division could be viewed as an ``easy`` win. Personally, a Koscheck-Hughes match has no interest for me, as Koscheck seems a more improved version of the old legend and would probably defeat him in much the same way he dispatched Trigg. I`d rather see Kos thrown back into the shark tank against another hungry 170 challenger - Carlos Condit, Martin Kampmann, or even Anthony Johnson could all work to help build up Kos`s name for another run at the title.
Paul Daley vs. Martin Kampmann
This fight went down exactly as I thought it would - save for the part where Martin Kampmann realizes the obvious, makes more then a half-hearted attempted to ground the explosive Brit, and then promptly submits him. Instead, Kampmann commendably held true to his pre-fight smack talk and mainly kept the fight on the feet against Daley - the result of which was his loss, by first round TKO, to the more aggressive Daley. The referee stoppage in this fight was iffy - Kampmann was still standing when Yves Lavigne pulled Daley off him, prompting a flood of boos from the Texas crowd (poor Yves - does any referee in the sport catch more fan grief then him). Sure, Daley could have continued to tee off on the stumbling Dane until his legs gave out, and it might have been a more decisive finish - but the overall match, and its implications, would have changed little, at the cost of possible injury to Kampmann.
Kampmann`s problem is his reliance on his striking game over his equally well rounded other skills. His striking is great - but his willingness to get into firefights on the feet usually finds him eating leather he doesn`t have to eat, and his chin is by no means granite. Daley was very impressive in his UFC debut, on short notice no less. The originally slated fight between Kampmann and Mike Swick was a title eliminator, so with this win Daley certainly put himself far ahead in line. It was a quick fight with no injuries, and Swick is cleared to compete once again. So put Swick vs. Daley at UFC 105 from Manchester, for the number 1 contendership. Daley took Kampmann`s place in line with his win, and a win over Swick in similar fashion would comfortably give him a claim at a title shot. This fight would sell huge in Daley`s home of England, and could give Swick a fireworks filled match to make his own case for a bout with GSP. Sounds good all around - make it happen Joe.
Junior Dos Santos vs. Mirko Cro Cop
Despite a lacklustre run in the UFC so far, a great many of Mirko Cro Cop`s fans the world over were hyped up by his big `return` to the Octagon. Sure, he won an unimpressive victory over an unimpressive Mustapha Al-Turk, but the word out of his camp was encouraging - all injuries healed, surgery done and over with, and a real championship level hunger returned for the once universally feared Croatian kick boxer. This was truly his last hurrah, his last chance at the big time in North America - but it was not to be. Monday morning was a sad time around the forums, blogs, and message boards of the MMA world as the painful truth finally sunk into even the most devout fan - the Mirko Cro Cop of old was gone, and the new version was no longer championship materiel.
Cro Cop`s most effective weapon throughout this fight was the shove, which he used to keep the more active, aggressive, and powerful Junior Dos Santos from battering away at him continually. Cro Cop found a home for his straight left, hinting at the success he may have had if he had pushed the pace in his PRIDE and K-1 style. Instead, he willingly yielded the initiative and Dos Santos found success, like most do, walking the PRIDE standout down and keeping the pressure on him. Many were unimpressed by Dos Santos even in victory, but I don`t understand why. Sure he was more tentative then others might have been when faced with a retreating opponent, but Santos is a child in MMA compared to Cro Cop, and was battling big match nerves and expectations quite possibly for the first time. He passed his test in fine fashion I believe, using effective boxing to smack Cro Cop around and establishing himself as an elite level fighter in the UFC`s Heavyweight division. Give him the winner of RothwelléValasquez - as for Cro Cop, I hope he enjoys a well earned, wealthy retirement, possibly with a what-the-hell match with fellow old boy Randy Couture thrown in somewhere.
Vitor Belfort vs. Rich Franklin
The main event turned out to be the most disappointing fight on the night’s card overall, though again this wasn’t really anyone’s fault (maybe Rich`s - but I`ll get to that). I was expecting a Silva vs. Franklin style trench war, while also hoping Franklin would spoil the transparent plans of the UFC brass once again by pulling off the win. There was some tentative feeling out for a few minutes, before a Belfort hook caught Ace on the side of the head and dropped him. A couple of well timed hammer fists later, Franklin was unconscious, and Belfort had won an anticlimactic if still important victory in his UFC return. It felt like the fight never really got started - a trait that has become common in Belfort`s fights as of late.
Belfort`s recent tear at middleweight on top of his impressive performance here showed that whatever mental instability he used to suffer from is most likely a thing of the past. In a move that is perplexing to some, Dana White all but announced that Belfort would be the next man to challenge for Anderson Silva`s middleweight title. Sure, he`s 1-0 since his returning to the UFC now, that win having come at the 195 lb Franklinweight, but he brings a solid winning streak and big time name recognition with him. He could be just the man to get fans interested in an Anderson Silva title defense again (no offence to Patrick Cote or Thales Lates, but Anderson could probably have brought a GameBoy into the Octagon with him and won both fights). With this fight and the potential winner of Henderson vs. Marquardt on the horizon, 2010 looks to be an interesting year for The Spider.
Finally, it looks like the latest round in the utterly stupid boxing vs. MMA debate goes to boxing, as the Floyd Mayweather vs. Juan Manuel Marquez bout is reportedly drawing over a million buys vs. UFC 103`s 400-500K. Personally, I think that those are surprisingly big numbers for either event - especially considering they aired on the same night and drew from the same PPV buying audience. While Mayweather`s gloating is par for the course, I’m surprised at the stock MMA fans are putting in these numbers. Did anyone really think UFC 103 - devoid of a title fight or a blockbuster, Brock Lesnar or GSP level fighter, would outdraw Floyd Mayweather`s return to boxing in a summer and fall already oversaturated with MMA events (not that I`m complaining). The debate is pointless - so let Pretty Boy Floyd run his mouth and say whatever he wants (and Dana White too for that matter). Boxing isin`t bigger then God nor is it on dying - at least not before Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, hopefully.
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