Now that UFC 108 has come and gone, the public finally has a chance to judge the show based on performances.
For all the flack that the promotion, its president, and match maker received over the past few weeks, the show put on at the MGM Grand was one of excitement, impressive submissions, and devastating knockouts.
While the main event remained the focus of the night, it was Paul Daley that made the biggest impact, literally.
A tremendous left hook echoed down the Vegas strip when he connected with Hazelett through an exchange, leaving the jiu-jitsu ace on the mat seeing stars. Daley followed up with three more strikes to the head while Hazelett tried to collect himself to no avail.
The win puts Daley, as expected, in the mix for a shot at Georges St. Pierre’s welterweight title. Dana White made it clear in the post-fight presser that Daley would have to have a couple more fights with top contenders in the division in order to get to GSP—maybe Jon Fitch or Josh Koscheck.
When asked about the opportunity to fight the top fighters in the weight class, Daley made mention of Thiago Alves, which brings up an interesting striker vs. striker scenario.
Daley’s heavy hands and Alves’ devastating Muay Thai in the same octagon can have fans flipping, boiling over in anticipation of a knockout. Don’t expect any grappling on the ground in this matchup. Each fighter would look to take the other’s head off.
Junior dos Santos made another enormous statement about his intention to fight for the UFC heavyweight strap when he put down former PrideFC fighter Gilbert Yvel.
Having a giant cauliflower ear made no difference to the young Brazilian stand-out as he looked sharper than ever. It took all of 3:05 into the first round for dos Santos to deliver a left hook that rammed Yvel’s eyes into the back of his head leading to a finish on the ground.
The fight was called to the surprise of Gilbert Yvel. It appeared as though he was the only one at the MGM who felt that way.
This marks a fifth straight win, fourth in the UFC for "Cigano." The complicated heavyweight title picture is getting more intriguing by the month as news of Brock Lesnar’s health should be updated this week. Dos Santos is hungry for a shot at that title, however, fighters like Shane Carwin, Frank Mir, and Cain Velasquez are desperate to make a claim for the title as well.
One of dos Santos’ biggest obstacles will continue to be his mentor and fellow Black House fighter Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
My colleague Bryan Levick wrote a great article about this very issue. The problem is that dos Santos and Nogueira, like all Black House fighters, have vowed never to fight each other, as a sign of respect. If Nogueira gets past Velasquez at UFC 110, he is sure to get the next shot at whomever is the heavyweight champion at that time.
Luckily for dos Santos, he is only 25 years old and has a number of years ahead of him, unlike Nogueira who has been in the fight game for several years and will likely retire around the time dos Santos is at his peak.
If there is a cynical side to Junior dos Santos, then it would have him hoping Velasquez puts away Nogueira at their bout in Australia. With Nogueira down, dos Santos is given an opening to a title shot and top three status in the division.
Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva stepped into the main event knowing a lot was on the line.
For Evans, the thought of losing a second straight time was his biggest fear after not having a loss in his first 19 outings. Dana White made a statement relative to Evans getting a shot at Rampage if, and only if, he beats the American Top Team striker Silva. With so much media attention on a pending bout with Jackson, Evans stuck to a game plan that had him winning the fight with Silva after two-and-a-half rounds.
It wasn’t until halfway through the final five minutes of the bout that something turned itself on in Silva.
Almost as though he was trying to sell a highly criticized UFC 108 card himself, Silva raised his hands, egging on the crowd to get excited about what was going on inside the octagon. Silva began to taunt Evans, very different from his attitude leading into fight night where he answered all his press questions with, what sounded like, pre-written answers written so as to not disrespect his opponent.
Dancing around, shucking and jiving, Silva looked to get under his opponent's skin. Whether or not it affected Evans mentally is unclear, but it definitely opened up an unexpected flurry from Silva.
Down for a majority of the fight, a victim of takedown after takedown, Silva finally connected with a right cross that made Evans wobbly. The Brazilian, Silva, engaged and knocked down the former light heavyweight champion and landed a few more strikes on the ground. Unfortunately for Silva, his gas tank ran out and he had nothing left to finish off Evans as time ran out with little offense from both fighters.
The unanimous decision went to Evans and, even though the crowd booed the judges' opinions, the rightful winner was announced. Despite having had his senses knocked around in the third round, Evans controlled the majority of the fight with aggressive stand-up leading into solid take downs. If it had not been for Silva’s flurry in the third, Evans would have collected a flawless victory.
Thiago Silva is now in a place where no fighter wants to be. This loss puts him in a crowded swamp of light heavyweight fighters seeking division supremacy. A rematch with Lyoto Machida is all but impossible, and title hopes are now a distant fantasy for the Brazilian. It appears now that the only UFC title Silva will own will be that of “gate keeper."
Perhaps too much was made about UFC 108 not having a big draw fighter, and not enough attention was given to the potential of what could happen with the fight card provided.
At the post-fight press conference, Dana White made a good point about how many say the UFC doesn’t respect its fighters, but leading into fight night the fighters were disrespected by people for labeling the card lackluster.
UFC 108 definitely beat the critics on Saturday. If you are a fight fan you will agree that it takes more than marquee fighters to make a great card. It’s the quality of the fights beyond the star power of the fighters.
I’ll quote Walter Cronkite to express how I feel about the topic: “...and that’s the way it is!”