For UFC 112, in Abu Dhabi, I’m mixing things up into two parts: a championship installment followed up by a recap of the other main card bouts.
The reasoning behind this unorthodox After The Dust Settles edition is because of how oddly played out the night’s events were, specifically the two title fights.
In other words, there wasn’t just dust settling after UFC 112, but more of a sandstorm, justifying the two-part presentation.
On to the unpredictable championship bouts that shocked everyone, one not necessarily in a good way and the other in an absolutely refreshing way.
BJ Penn/Frankie Edgar
Wait, I need a reality check. Is Frankie Edgar really the lightweight champion? Was he really the first fighter in six years to successfully take 155-pound Penn down to the mat?
Did Edgar just survive five rounds standing up with the “Prodigy”, one of the best technical boxers in the sport? Is Frankie Edgar really the 155-pound titleholder? Did he really have the answer…did he?
Yes to all the above. Frankie Edgar deservedly won a unanimous decision dethroning lightweight royalty in BJ Penn, a fighter who once boasted an eight-year win streak at 155-pound before stepping into the octagon with his New Jersey challenger.
Some might dispute the unanimous decision rendered in Edgar’s favor, especially the (50-45) score from one judge, but in the infamous words of Dana White, “Don’t let the fight go to the judges.”
Luckily, the overall decision was fair and accurate—Edgar beat Penn. We shouldn’t be waiting around for an Edgar versus Penn II anytime soon; Frankie proved that he did indeed have the “answer” for Penn (sorry, it was irresistible).
How does a huge underdog like Edgar, who on paper is nearly inferior in comparison to Penn, pull out a victory?
Speed—move around the ring like a tornado.
Variety—keep your opponent guessing by mixing up your strikes and angles.
Movement—maintaining excellent head and foot movement and a fiercely cardio reliant pace throughout the whole fight.
With a combination of all three elements, Edgar was able to avoid damage from the few counters Penn landed.
He was also able to throw effective combos which allowed him the opportunity to stamp the Hawaiian’s face and body with some hard shots. Ultimately, Edgar scored a prized takedown in what was a generally great performance.
On the contrary, Penn seemed unable to find his rhythm, going through the whole fight without a sense of urgency.
At one point in between the fourth and final rounds, Penn was given instructions to bring the fight to the ground, a suggestion resulting from the lackluster results he was having on his feet.
Overall, the hungry Penn that destroyed Diego Sanchez, decisively ending the fight in the fifth round, was absent throughout the whole night against Edgar.
Penn didn’t seem like himself, and Edgar seemed like a whole new version of himself.
Verdict: It shouldn’t be too long before Edgar has to defend his newly acquired title in a division that is never short of contenders. Let’s give him the winner of Gray Maynard versus Kenny Florian, assuming that fight comes to fruition.
It’s safe to say that Penn would have preferred moving up to welterweight on better terms, for example, vacating his belt or simultaneously defending instead of losing it. But, history has it otherwise.
So predicting how this loss will affect Penn’s divisional future is difficult. On one hand, it might ignite some fiery determination to win the lightweight belt back.
On the other, losing the title might be enough reason for him to start anew and challenge himself by vying for the 170-pound strap.
If he remains at lightweight, let’s give him a contender in George Sotiropoulus, Jim Miller, or Kurt Pellegrino.
Either one of those opponents offers a fresh challenge for Penn. Consequently, a win over Penn will give all three of them a chance to become a No. 1 contender.
If he moves up to welterweight, he needs a top five fighter. It's still the same BJ Penn whose only losses in the division have come from current champ Georges St-Pierre and future Hall of Famer Matt Hughes.
Let's give him the winner of Paul Daley versus Josh Koscheck or Paulo Thiago.
Anderson Silva/Demian Maia
Mike Goldberg said it best, towards the latter part of the fight, “Ok, Anderson has made his point, now he has to finish the fight.”
I’ve never seen such an enigmatic championship fight like that before. To have witnessed the first two magical rounds of Anderson doing his best impression of Bruce Lee, hitting Maia with whatever imaginative strikes that came to mind, to experiencing three rounds of confusion and frustration brought on by the champion’s refusal or lack of interest in ending the one-sided affair. It has become an unfortunate consistency when the Brazilian is defending his middleweight belt.
For instance, during the beginning of the match, Silva borderline insulted his opponent by verbally and physically taunting him, dancing around him with his chin stuck out, praying for Maia to engage.
It was as if the champion was blaming his challenger for making the fight uneventful by not playing into his strengths, not giving Silva anything to counter.
Ironically, as Silva’s antics petered off after the second half of the third round, he became almost uninterested in fighting, not pushing the pace at all. It was about this time that Maia started to express his own frustrations.
Even after being battered and bruised, Maia refused to concede to the fact that he was incredibly out-matched, coming to terms with the fact that a victory was nearly impossible.
But despite the fact, he threw caution to the wind and approached the champ with his own combos. Bless his heart, he actually landed a couple of hard shots despite everything—a busted nose gushing blood and a swollen left eye.
The final decision aside, Maia certainly came out of that fight in a favorable light with the fans and UFC brass, unlike Silva, who was not only testing the patience of the viewers, but also of Dana White.
It was so evident at one point; Joe Rogan brought attention to the matter when the UFC president supposedly got off his seat after the third round to go have a word with Silva’s manager, Ed Soares.
So what was the champ, a fan favorite and arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, trying to accomplish?
There only seem to be a couple theories present that night for the viewers to ponder. Was Anderson making a point to the UFC that he needs to be challenged by the biggest fights possible?
As a result, was he posturing for a super-fight with Georges St-Pierre at 170 pounds? Or was he simply too fatigued to finish Maia after exerting all that energy being flamboyant in the first and second rounds?
Verdict: There is a time and place for the middleweight champion to make his points and frustrations know to the world, but the UFC’s first outdoor Abu Dhabi card wasn’t one of them.
Silva, we know you need a real challenge, but don’t mock your fellow mixed martial artist and sport by being a clown during a title fight you can’t even finish.
If he desperately wants to fight in other divisions, let him prove his invincibility. Let’s give him any top three competitor from any division, with the obvious exception of lightweight.
Despite suffering a lopsided defeat, in what was probably the most anti-climatic title fight the year will see, Maia’s stock rose.
He displayed an abundance of will power, discipline, and sportsmanship that will keep him a viable contender and fan favorite.
Let’s give him Rousimar Palhares, in what would be a classic Brazilian jiu jitsu contest, or Mark Munoz, who is fresh off a win over Kendall Grove.