I have been very critical of the UFC over the last few weeks. I was frustrated with a series of cards with lackluster main events and the expectation that fans will continue to pay for them. Additionally, I repeatedly documented my frustrations over the Griffin/Ortiz main event at UFC 106.
Despite all my frustrations, UFC 106 turned out to be a very solid card. The results from 106 had as many upsets and divisional/title implications as any card in recent history. Let's review the fights.
The Under card
George Sotiropoulos vs Jason Dent
This fight is a testament to the depth of UFC’s lightweight division. Many may think of it as a simple filler fight between TUF alumni, but realistically Sotiropoulos is a surging fighter. He did lose on the show, but he lost a somewhat controversial match shortly after being poked in the eye.
His last loss outside of TUF was a 2006 disqualification loss to Shinya Aoki. He is now 4—0 in the UFC. Despite being new to the lightweight division, it looks like Sotiropoulos is ready for a step up in competition.
Brock Larson vs Brian Foster
The reason this fight is significant is because Brock Larson lost. Again. Two months ago, Larson was considered a fighter on the move. How quickly things change. In just over two months, he has two losses and will have to regroup if he wants to move back up the rankings.
This is further proof that there is no such thing as an easy fight in the UFC’s welterweight division. Unless your name is George St. Pierre.
Marcus Davis vs Ben Saunders
Wow! This was an impressive fight for Ben Saunders. It was not the same Saunders who was overwhelmed by Mike Swick earlier this year. He rebounded well from his first loss and absolutely destroyed Marcus Davis. That is no easy task. Davis hadn’t been finished in over four years despite fights with some very solid strikers.
This fight seems to solidify Davis as someone who will never surpass the gatekeeper moniker.
Saunders, on the other hand, is looking to take big steps forward squaring off against ranked opponents.
An opponent like Dan Hardy would be an interesting match up for Saunders, but he is obviously tied up. Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson could also make for an exciting fight.
The Main Card
Amir Sadollah vs Phil Baroni
This fight isn’t of any real relevance to rankings, but the UFC wants to push Sadollah and he may end up fighting tough opponents sooner rather than later. Sadollah showed some nice versatility in his strikes and also that he can take a punch. He will need to avoid slow starts and some strikes if he wants to have a viable UFC career.
Amir will likely remain a main card combatant, even if it is not deserved. A fight with someone like Brock Larson is a possibility or maybe the UFC will sign another showy tomato can for him to beat up on.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs Luiz Cane
This was a battle between two ranked fighters looking to legitimize their positioning. Nog was fighting his first in the UFC and Cane was facing his first true top level opponent.
Nogueira proved he is a force to be reckoned with in the UFC’s LHW division. It may be plum full of contenders, but Machida has already dispatched a few of them. If Machida is still the title holder after his rematch with Rua, Little Nog starts to come into play as a serious contender.
In the meantime, the UFC could potentially match him up with Brandon Vera or a participant of Griffin/Ortiz or Evans/Silva. One way or another Little Nog is immediately a contender. In my opinion, he would hold up well in many of those match ups.
Cane obviously has to take a step back and re—evaluate his game. He faced his first truly elite striker and got tagged multiple times. He has some work to do and may be years away from any type of serious contention. This guy has skill and passion; expect to see a different Cane next time around.
Paulo Thiago vs Jacob Volkmann
This turned out to be a very entertaining match. Paulo showed the versatility that makes him dangerous, while Volkmann, in his UFC debut, showed he was a worthy opponent. The future is bright for both of these fighters.
Thiago doesn’t seem interested in easy matchups, so look for him to fight another top 10 fighter. He may fight Swick or maybe even Saunders. A fight like that would give the winner a chance to shoot up in the rankings.
The UFC desperately needs to create some welterweight contenders and a solid striker/grappler like Thiago could create some interesting matchups.
Josh Koscheck vs Anthony Johnson
Eye pokes and phantom eye pokes aside, this was a great fight. It was everything I hoped it would be. Johnson came into this fight with a lot of hype, but it was a fight that was Koscheck’s to lose. Koscheck has a bit of an edge when it comes to experience and versatility.
And he showed as much.
Kosheck does like to stand and bang, but he used his wrestling when he had to and was leading the fight early on. It was a great fight for him. The win helps erase memories of the KO loss to Thiago, but still leaves him with no real direction.
Along with Thiago Alves and Jon Fitch, Kosheck remains in limbo due to one-sided losses to the current champion. He will continue to fight top level talent with no real promise of it getting him anywhere.
Look for Koscheck to fight anyone the UFC throws in front of him. Love him or hate him, the guy is a competitor and will take pleasure in ruining someone else’s attempt at a title run.
Johnson on the other hand won’t likely be fighting another top 5 fighter right away. Expect him to fight someone coming off a loss like Swick or Marcus Davis. Or perhaps the victorious Saunders.
Tito Ortiz vs Forrest Griffin
I was not a fan of Griffin/Ortiz as a main event; both were clearly on the comeback trail. However, it ended up being a very solid fight and both guys seemed to give it all that they had.
Ortiz obviously wasn't in tip top shape, but Griffin looked healthy.
Nothing about this fight was surprising to me. People have been saying for years that Ortiz needs to evolve. Clearly he has no interest in doing so.
As for Griffin, he is still the same guy. I was worried he would be a little more gun shy, but couldn't blame him for as much given his last two fights. Instead he came out willing to take one to give one. Very encouraging.
Griffin had to prove to himself that he could take a punch and he did just that.
His comeback will be a process, and not an easy one. Griffin has to learn how to take advantage of his strengths and not expose himself like he has in the past. That said, I'm unsure he will take that step.
If you have read his book (which is a great read, by the way) you realize he truly is a bit nuts and rather likes taking punishment. I don't think we will ever see him change his ways.
Ultimately, that will mean some more KO losses with dangerous strikers like Antônio Rogério Nogueira, Lyoto Machida, a reinvigorated Mauricio Rua, Rashad Evans, Thiago Silva, Luiz Cane and Keith Jardine standing in front of him. Even the winner of Matt Hammill/Jon Jones is a dangerous match up.
I don’t know who Ortiz will face next; some of the same fighters are in play for both him and Forrest. Ortiz may end up matched against Hammill, Jones, Jardine, Cane or maybe even Chuck Liddell. After what I saw tonight, I don’t like his chances against most of them.
I appreciate the UFC airing prelim fights for free on Spike, but I find it rather irritating to watch all of the same fights again during the PPV. I know this is to resolve timing issues, but I don’t know if anyone wants to watch three fights twice.
Calling Out Hardy
Koscheck made some valid points about Dan Hardy. Hardy hasn’t fought anyone as good as Koscheck and doesn’t exactly deserve a title shot, but the UFC doesn’t have any other options. Plus Kosheck has nothing to gain from these remarks.
Hardy will still be fighting GSP and Koscheck’s comments take legitimacy away from what the UFC is doing, which won’t make Dana happy. It doesn’t bother me though; he may not gain anything from it, but I don’t have a problem with him calling a spade a spade.
Griffin is a Pro
After his loss, Ortiz got on the mic and complained about his injuries. The crowd didn’t appreciate his excuses and quickly let him know it. Griffin heard the chorus of boos and asked for the microphone back.
Griffin simply explained that injuries happen when you train to fight people. The crowd immediately laid off on the boos and gave Ortiz respectful applause.
This was a stand up move. I have a lot of respect for Griffin and despite Silva “breaking him”, I wish him well in the future.
More to Come
In the end, UFC 106 turned out to be a very good card.
But I can’t wait for UFC 107.