UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones was the organization’s inaugural event on Versus, the cable headquarters for the WEC. Leading up to the event, the Countdown hype machine reeled all of us in for what was supposed to be a night of fights to remember, but instead it was lackluster at best, leaving viewers thirsting for more of a competitive edge from the defeated main card fighters.
It was just a weird night that was off-centered by a bundle of oddly unfulfilling matches. To be fair, the UFC’s hottest prospects, Dos Santos and Jones, failed to disappoint by finishing their opponents in convincing manner. Other than that, the other fights left fans wondering what they were watching.
In walks the quagmire, something is being taken away from the excitement of the last two fights. I’m thrilled for these young fighters, who are truly the future of their respective divisions. Sunday night they got the opportunity to prove why the MMA community is buzzing about each fighter’s current quest to contention, but there was something missing afterwards. Maybe it was an overload of expectations that caused the empty feeling I felt after watching the event.
Can expectations be too far surpassed that the person who held them feels unsatisfied? Both Jones and Dos Santos were part of my official picks for the night; I was happy they won in such a fashion, that it almost seemed unreal. Vera and Gonzaga are or were, in theory, stiff opponents that just got bulldozed in the first round of their respective fights. So what was the problem?
Maybe it’s the fact that both of these bouts could have been “Fight of the Night” had Vera and Gonzaga weren’t ransacked. Are Dos Santos and Jones just that good or did their opponents just come in flat? Come to think of it, all the televised fights were fairly one-sided—no “Fight of the Night” nominees. It was a weird night of finishes, not an overall terrible event; we’ll just leave it at that.
Alessio “Legionarius” Sakara
Sakara outclassed James Irvin in the striking department, the tattoo department, and the cutting weight department. It was a complete shutout, a perfect game for the Italian. He threw hard combos throughout the fight—one, two, one, two. He was getting his punches off before Irvin, almost every time, with shots that were faster and crisper and were accompanied with smoother footwork. Irvin was the canvas to Sakara’s technically superb strokes.
Add Irvin’s failed attempt to make 185lbs work for him at high altitude to Sakara’s own accomplishments during the fight and you got a one-sided affair. Irvin appeared sluggish when reacting to Sakara, slow to the punch, and just deflated in general. Sakara’s strikes were coming in so fast it was underlining Irvin’s droopy demeanor; which in turn made the Italian look like he was throwing at mach speeds.
Dana White nailed it when he said “no more 185 for Irvin” at the post-fight presser, it was obviously way too much of a cut for a fighter that started his UFC career at heavyweight.
It was a knuckle James! I wonder how many times Sakara practiced the ‘ol lead-in left knuckle-to-the-eye punch?
Verdict: Sakara is riding high on the momentum of a three fight winning streak, overall 4-1 after signing with American Top Team, clearly a great career move. With the way the fight was going, Sakara would have easily won the fight had it not been stopped. Let’s give him Michael Bisping, who is coming off a close decision loss to Wanderlei Silva, and is the fighter Sakara has been calling out.
The boys at Wolfslair did a mighty fine job of creating Kongo’s perfect game plan for the one-dimensional slugger, Paul Buentello. I’m just surprised that Buentello’s corner failed to devise a plan for their fighter to counter that predictable one-two-double-leg combo by the second or third round. When a fighter like Kongo is dumping you all night like he was Randy Couture, you’ve done something wrong in preparation.
To make matters worse for Buentello, he tapped out due to elbow strikes to the thigh. With a performance like that, no matter if you’re an entertaining brawler or not, it should be enough for the UFC to send him some walking papers. Unfortunately, this win doesn’t greatly improve Kongo’s stake, but it does keep his name on the roster.
Verdict: This victory showcased an intellectual side, as rudimentary as it was, to Kongo’s game. Let’s give him Ben Rothwell.
Junior Dos Santos
The key to success is to surround yourself with successful people, preferably fighters from the famed Black House gym, home to MMA legends like Anderson Silva and the Nogueira brothers. Dos Santos is the Black House Frankenstein—one part Anderson Silva, two parts Antonio Nogueira. The MMA world has definitely been more exposed to the Anderson Silva side of the 25-year-old. This has left fans in the dark about Dos Santos’ ground game because he hasn’t had to resort to his brown belt knowledge; his striking has been devastating enough to prevent him from doing so.
Only one of his 12 fights has left the first round—the Gonzaga fight was no exception. Dos Santos movement and footwork was far superior to Gonzaga’s which allowed him the opportunity to set up his power shots with numerous jabs, particularly to the body. It was only a matter of time before one landed.
Dos Santos is making it look easy against more than compatible opponents. He is a octagon superhero still searching for his kryptonite.
Verdict: Besides being the latest heavyweight sensation, I’d really be interested in seeing Dos Santos fight a strong wrestler. Who’s a young, explosive fighter with great stand-up and top notch wrestling waiting on the sidelines for the interim/Brock situation to pan out…?
Let’s give him another hot prospect vying for the belt, Cain Velasquez; that is if the UFC can afford to make that fight a reality. Pitting two of their hottest stars, who both have profitable and exciting paths to the belt, this early in the year with the title essentially up for grabs for three other fighters, seems ballsy. There’s no doubt that it will eventually happen, and when it does, expect fireworks.
Jon “Bones” Jones
Here’s the Dos Santos of the light-heavyweight division, running through opponents at a very tender age of 22. The scariest part about Jon “Breaks Orbital Bones” Jones thrashing a veteran like Brandon Vera is the fact that he still has plenty of room for improvement—both in his stand-up and ground game. What he obviously has no problem doing is overpowering opponents in the clinch allowing him to utilize his natural wrestling talents, as we saw perfectly executed twice against Vera in their short encounter.
Despite all the pre-fight hype building up Vera’s chances off his back, Jones exposed the same deficiency in Vera’s ground game that has hampered his stand up—not being able to pull the trigger at the right time. Jones, still a developing fighter, left his arms extended enough times for a seasoned BJJ practitioner to have at least attempted an arm-bar. Instead, Vera sat on the opportunity and got half his face broken by one of Jones’ SCUD missile elbow strikes.
“The Truth” is Vera will be fighting his way back up after being delegated to the preliminary cards or he'll be fighting for Strikeforce by next year.
Verdict: Luckily for Jones, the 205lbs division is stacked full of tests for the young fighter, who will be getting ever so close to invading that Top 5 aura of the division. Let’s give him an upgrade in competition: Rich Franklin.