The Australians were overly enthusiastic from the get-go for UFC 110, selling out in the first hour, and after the conclusion of the event, their excitement was duly justified.
Every fight possessed a spectrum of qualities: last minute courage, promising previews of what is to come for the young lions of the promotion, victorious hometown heroes, a passing of the torch, and a close battle between two top middleweight contenders.
The Aussie crowd was electrifying, bringing down the Acer Arena with resonating chants. Such high level enthusiasm does not go unnoticed or unrewarded—Dana White announced his desire to put on a show in Australia at least once a year after the success of UFC 110.
Just as the UFC debuted in the Land Down Under, this piece will mark the inauguration of a new series, written by yours truly after every major MMA event, which speculates and analyzes the next move—as bright or grim as it may be—for the stand-out performers and key players of the night.
After each event, the landscape alters for each competitor. In such an individualistic sport like mixed martial arts, every fighter lives by the “sink or swim” mantra (unless, of course, your name is Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, or Wanderlei Silva)—an ultimate truth dictated by the numerous potential outcomes manifested in the octagon that are finally realized once the curtain closes.
Without further adieu, let me introduce for the first time, certainly not the last, the UFC 110 edition of After the Dust Settles.
With a lot of mystery and uncertainty shrouding the Croatian Sensation’s future in MMA, Cro-Cop came to Australia—despite a match-threatening cut over his eye and a last minute opponent replacement—to quiet the critics and prove that he has enough cardiovascular drive to remain relevant in an ever-changing heavyweight division.
Anthony Perosh, a Croatian-Australian, was called upon at the last minute to be that test for Cro-Cop. Unfortunately for the ex-Pride open-weight Grand Prix winner, the second degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black-belt Perosh, by no fault of his own testicular fortitude, had nothing dangerous to bring Cro-Cop.
The Aussie ate a plateful of straight lefts, a healthy amount of body kicks, and enough sprawl-stuffing to last him until next Thanksgiving—too bad the holiday doesn’t make its way to that side of the globe. To his credit, Perosh proved his toughness during some shaky moments, but he inevitably suffered a loss due to doctor stoppage after receiving a nasty cut above his right eye.
Surprisingly, Perosh was allowed to continue at the end of the first round, but once the doctor got another look at the cut, the fight was stopped before the second round began.
Did a victory against a mid-level fighter, who took the fight on two days' notice, really offer any insight on Cro-Cop’s mental state or octagon effectiveness? He performed decently against an out-matched Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist who lacked any real stand-up or threatening take-downs.
Where does that leave our Croatian high-kicking extraordinaire?
Thankfully, a win is a win. A loss against Perosh would have been game-over with no quarters left in Cro-Cop’s pockets. It’s difficult to say after a performance like this if the striker is really back to proper form, but if this is the case, a motivated Cro-Cop really mixes up the already interesting heavyweight division.
Verdict: Let’s give him a legendary fight against Nogueira, a fellow ex-Pride behemoth—a fan friendly bout that will be easily marketable, “A Matter of Pride.” Realistically, based on Cro-Cop’s pace up the ladder, let’s give him the winner of Roy “Big Country” Nelson and Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve.
What better way to test Bader’s legitimacy as a light-heavyweight prospect than giving him the troll under the bridge, the 205 lbs., gatekeeping, nipple-tweaking, Keith Jardine? This fight perfectly demonstrated the functionality of the gatekeeper: undefeated Bader gets an upgrade in competition and truly tested for the first time in his UFC career by an awkwardly dangerous Dean of Mean.
Say what you will about Jardine, he excels at his position.
Bader survived Jardine’s vicious leg-kicks and unorthodox punches by imposing his superior wrestling skills. His take-downs looked great, and he clearly throws dynamite in his punches. The potential is there for the muscular Bader, but he will have to improve his cardio—the Ultimate Fighter winner's Achilles Heel—if he wants to make a splash in the division.
Verdict: Bader is an excellent wrestler with powerful hands. He’s young and undefeated. Let’s give him fellow prospect Krzysztof Soszynski or Jon “Bones” Jones.
The self-proclaimed brawler turned the tide of the match against a very game Brian Foster who was dominating the fight until Lytle rolled out an unexpected leg-lock submission that ended the fight. It has been ages since “Lights Out” Lytle submitted an opponent, let alone pop an opponent's knee, even though the veteran carries a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Regardless of being 35-years-old and having over 45 fights on his record, Lytle is still a reliable work-horse with a consistent track record of putting on exciting bouts: he's won two “submission of the night” honors (one of which he earned at UFC 110), four “Fight of the Night” honors, and one “Knockout of the Night” honor throughout his ancient UFC career.
Verdict: Despite the accolades, Lytle will remain a highly decorated welterweight gatekeeper. He gets no closer to contention with this victory. Let’s give him [insert any prospective young welterweight here].
“Louder, louder” was the response of a smiling and victorious Sotiropoulus’ to his fellow Aussie crowd that erupted in applause after the decision was announced in his favor over a reinvented Joe “Daddy” Stevenson.
The Outback Experiment or the Australian Michael Bisping looked outstanding in all three rounds. Sotiropoulus dominated Stevenson in all areas of the fight; his crisp boxing and tenacious ground game left both his opponent and Greg Jackson confused throughout the fight.
The constant pressure, especially on the ground, was immense. He smothered Stevenson with submission attempts from all fronts, moves he apparently perfected at Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu where Joe Rogan gets first-hand experience rolling with all the UFC competition enlisted in the school. Even when Joe Daddy managed to get top position, Sotiropoulus used his rubber guard to nullify any possible ground and pound.
Verdict: Along with Cain Velasquez, George Sotiropoulus leaves UFC 110 as a force to be reckoned with in their respective divisions. After defeating a former No. 1 contender, the Aussie needs a couple more impressive wins before he cements his own contention status. Let’s give him Gray Maynard or the winner of Kenny Florian and Takanori Gomi.
Promises are meant to be broken. There’s no time like the present—the past is the past. These are words of wisdom for Wandy faithfuls, who sat on the edge of their seats as the strobe lights flashed and the techno music filled the Acer Arena. All of us believers wanted to relive the Pride days of old after receiving “The Axe Murderer’s” memo from the UFC 110 installment of The Countdown: “I’m back to my old aggressive style under the tutelage of Chute Box expert, Rafael Cordeiro.”
There were flickering moments of old Chute Box Silva; unfortunately, it all happened towards the late seconds of each round, throughout Silva’s discouraging unanimous decision over Bisping.
The most frustrating thing to watch was the fact that Wandy was the most effective when he had Bisping on the run, backing up into the chain-linked barrier with nowhere to go except right or left, each undesirable routes that ended with destructive windmill haymakers.
His old style played perfectly into a winning strategy that was laid out by yours truly and other colleagues, days leading up to the fight. The aggressive blueprint was proven at the end of each round, only to be abandoned by the beginning of the next—a tactical error Silva’s corner should be ashamed of—an in-between round failure.
End of round one—Wanderlei cuts loose and pressures Bisping into a dead end, forcing his back into cage with some hard shots.
End of round two—Silva sinks in a deep guillotine, the most refreshing moment of the fight that reminded us that he still has that black belt. Unfortunately, due to the mounting rust on his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game from years of neglect, the Pride legend pulled his momentum away from Bisping’s head instead on top of it. It was a technical error that allowed the Brit an opportunity to survive, which he did.
End of round three—The most heart-breaking moment in the fight, saw Wandy engaging Bisping, pushing him into the cage during the last seconds of the fight. The difference between the third and the first round: Bisping actually got clipped hard enough to be on the brink of consciousness—again proving the effectiveness of an aggressive strategy.
We diehard fans, chirping with our necks outstretched like hungry baby birds, were ready to bask in the glory of a returning Pride champion, but instead were left to fend for ourselves after being given only small tastes of a resurrected Wandy.
The fight left everyone (or just me and my buddy) yelling at the screen like a couple of idiots at a cheesy horror flick; waiting for him to “shake the crowd” with his rediscovered natural aggression that was the foundation of his legacy, the catalyst for his wild-west, Muay Thai-inspired striking.
A win is clearly better than a loss, but it just seems like the beginning of an unfamiliar era of an all-too-familiar fighter—regardless of his new eyebrows and nose, which gives him an eerie resemblance of the Wand Fight Team logo.
Verdict: We all know who Wanderlei is getting next—just in time for the UFC’s invasion of the Land of the Rising Sun—prodigal son, Yoshiro “Sexiyama” Akiyama. Dana White must be licking his lips somewhere. In economic theory, this is a perfect matchup between a strong native fighter in Akiyama and Silva, a fighter who built his legacy in Japan; this bout has unanimous decision written all over it.
Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira/Cain Velasquez
This shouldn’t take long. Unless you erroneously timed your bathroom break during the fight, we all saw Cain make short work of Big Nog. Personally, this was another heart-breaker; the Pride alumni have seen better days.
Cain Velasquez beat Big Nog to every punch in every exchange; rattling off stiff shots to Nogueira’s already battered dome before the Brazilian could muster up a single counter. It was a deceiving chain of events—was Velasquez just that quick or was the aging Minotauro just that slow?
It was probably more of the first scenario considering the fact that Velasquez landed an additional five shots on Big Nog, after he got dropped, before referee Herb Dean’s neurons could urge him to save the slain Minotauro.
It could be a mixture of the two, but the only thing that is certain after what transpired last night in the main event is the fact that Cain Velasquez appears to be an unstoppable force in the division, waiting to collide with whomever is left standing with the heavyweight belt.
Time and time again the proud Mexican-American has displayed an incomparable set of championship tools that have the potential to defeat any fellow heavyweight revolving after the belt: Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, and even Brock Lesnar, who would definitely be the more difficult challenge of the three.
Verdict: Velasquez is ready to fight for the belt right now. At 245 lbs., there is nobody in the heavyweight division that can match his speed, except for maybe Brock. Cain’s striking was extremely crisp and, based on previous fights, his explosive wrestling is second to none (except for Brock’s).
Let’s hope that Mir and Carwin will be unable to welcome Brock back in July, passing off the honors to the real No. 1 contender, Cain Velasquez. Let’s give him Brock, Carwin, or Mir.
Verdict on Nogueira: He still remains a prominent figure in the heavyweight division regardless of the devastating loss at UFC 110—Nogueira can still clean out a good portion of the heavyweight roster. The unfortunate reality is how unlikely it will be for him to crack the top echelons again in order to get another shot at the belt.
If upcoming heavyweight prospects are anything like Cain, the best thing for Nogueira to do is pass the torch. He’s still a fan favorite, a dangerous opponent, a marketable figure who is obviously not irrelevant yet, but this does mark the beginning of a slow decline.
Let’s give him either Cro-Cop for a huge fight between two of the most recognizable heavyweights in MMA history or someone like Todd Duffee, Pat Barry, Roy Nelson, or Stefan Struve as a precursor to a position as gatekeeper or a stepping stone to one last hurrah down the path of contention...hopefully that’s not wishful thinking.