UFC 115 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the locale’s inaugural event, will go down as the sleeper card of the summer, having gone under most casual fans’ radar for the lack of star power beyond headliners Liddell and Franklin.
With so many high profile cards spanning from the end of spring and continuing throughout the rest of the summer, after the performances last night, UFC 115 held its own as a standout event despite being sandwiched between Machida vs. Shogun 2, Rashad vs. Rampage on one side and Brock vs. Carwin, Silva vs. Sonnen on the other.
To illustrate, the most recognizable fighters on the main card are pushing 35 plus years old—Franklin and Cro-Cop both at 35 years old and Liddell coming in at 40 years old. With no title fight or contender bouts to speak of, along with Tito Ortiz bailing out of the main event due to injury, UFC 115 could have been a tough sell to anybody outside of British Columbia.
Nevertheless, appreciative fans got the chance to witness promising performances in very entertaining fights, from some of the organization’s top young talent. The young lions were not alone, the older veterans also fought hard to prove the doubters wrong, making the point that they still have plenty in the tank.
Most importantly, the mixed martial arts world saw the end of a legacy, bidding MMA pioneer Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell adieu after he got clipped—a brutal reoccurrence from his last six fights—by Rich Franklin.
As Liddell went tumbling down, head smacking the canvas for the fourth time in his last five losses, his future as a professional fighter in the UFC did as well—a sentiment that collectively resonated through long-time fans and Dana White.
Pride and circumstance may have got the better of Liddell in the latter years of his career, but his contribution to MMA’s growth as a thriving legitimate sport will not be forgotten by the faithful.
Chuck, hold your head high and embrace the next chapter of your life as a continued ambassador for the sport—even if it’s from the other side of the cage.
Carlos Condit, 26, (25-5) – two-fight win streak
The incredible battle put on by both Condit and MacDonald was well-deserving of “Fight of the Night” honors, which was a memorable first impression seared in the minds of the Vancouver fans. It was the best way possible to kick off the event; two young fighters clawing fiercely at each other throughout the grueling rounds.
Eventually, after losing the first two rounds, Condit staged a comeback in the third, coming forward bringing the fight to MacDonald. The strategy was successful for Condit. After unloading leather in the exchanges, Condit found himself on top of the 20 year-old Canadian, raining down a storm of punishing shots until the referee stepped in with ten seconds left in the third round.
Regardless if you think the stoppage was wrong, the nearly limp MacDonald was spared unnecessary damage to his already busted up face and fractured orbital—his resemblance to The Goonie’s Sloth Fratelli was eerie.
Verdict: The welterweight division continues to be home to some of the best talent in the UFC. Regardless of losing in front of his hometown fans, Rory MacDonald posses an impressive amount of skill for such a young fighter, who will certainly have a long future in the sport.
Condit was equally impressive in pulling off such a hard fought comeback after losing most of the fight. Let’s give him Dan Hardy or John Hathaway.
Ben Rothwell, 28, (31-7) – one-fight win streak
After a less than desirable UFC debut against top contender, Cain Velasquez, Ben Rothwell can release a sigh of relief after defeating Gilbert Yvel in his first octagon victory. He may have dug deep to sidestepped a disastrous second consecutive loss, but Rothwell was right to be disappointed by his performance at the post-fight press conference.
The hype surrounding Rothwell’s entry into the UFC has yet to be justified. Going into the fight with more than a full training camp and still struggling against a mediocre Yvel, is a sure sign that there are improvements for Big Ben to make—namely his cardio.
Due to many reasons—Gilbert being terrible off his back and being equally tired—Rothwell did control most of the fight from the top position, if only to take a nap on Yvel.
Verdict: This was more of an air-gasping contest between two less-than-ripped heavyweights than a display of two fighters looking to get into the mix in their division.
With guys like Dos Santos, Carwin, Lesnar, Velasquez, hell even Big Country Nelson, dominating the ranks; Rothwell has a hard road ahead of him if he wants to be considered one of the top competitors of the division. Let’s give him his original UFC 110 opponent, Mirko Cro-Cop.
Martin Kampmann, 28, (17-3) – two-fight win streak
Kampmann looked speculator against fellow welterweight contender Paulo Thiago, outclassing the Brazilian in the stand-up and surprisingly on the ground—slapping on numerous arm-triangles and guillotines throughout the fight.
The main difference in this anticipated 170lbs bout was Kampmann’s technical striking, which contributed to his success on the ground against a formable Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
After continuously trumping Thiago’s wide looping punches with crisp straight counters and lead in jabs, the Dane was able to showcase his wrestling by getting the fight to the ground where he attempted different submissions on a very tired opponent.
Getting picked apart on the feet by a superior striker with better footwork takes a lot of a fighter.
Verdict: This is a big win for Kampmann that will more than likely propel him into serious contention within the welterweight division—one more convincing performance and Kampmann will be ready for a title shot against the winner of Koscheck and St-Pierre sometime in the beginning of next year. Let’s give him the winner of Thiago Alves vs. Jon Fitch.
Mirko “Cro-Cop” Filipovic, 35, (27-7-2) – two-fight win streak
Everybody meet the humorous, out-going, press-friendly former headhunter Mirko Cro-Cop; or at least his newly found persona. Now meet, his number one fan, Pat Barry, who happened to be his opponent as well.
Barry’s admiration and loss to Cro-Cop reminded me a little of the relationship between Patton Oswald’s character and the fictional football star in cult film favorite Big Fan . Oswald is so obsessed with this player that when he finally meets him, he gets the fan-boy kicked out of him.
Cro-Cop and Barry, save the loving embraces for sparring, not when you’re in the middle of a professional fight! There’s a time and place for man-dates, an octagon in front of millions of viewers, isn’t one of them.
Barry, a self-proclaimed Cro-Cop fan, never did get the autograph he was asking for at the pre-fight press conference, but instead got a third round thumping and a rear-naked choke to remember the Croatian by.
The early success experienced by Barry in the first two rounds, knocking Cro-Cop down in each round, became a distant memory by the final round after becoming fatigued. The further the last round went, the more intensified Cro-Cop’s attacks became, landing good combinations, knocking Barry to the mat—a prequel to the end.
Verdict: High-kicking Cro-Cop choking out a younger, hungrier version of himself, was easily the biggest surprise of the night. Seriously, if you predicted that outcome, I need to take you to Vegas.
It’s certainly a relief to see the former 2006 Pride Grand-Prix champion return to some kind of competitive form after making his octagon debut back in 2007. There seems to be some opportunity to avenge some losses. Let’s give him Ben Rothwell or a rematch with Antonio Nogueira, Chieck Kongo, or Gabriel Gonzaga.
Rich Franklin, 35, (28-5) – one-fight win streak
Company man or not, Rich Franklin is one of the toughest competitors on the roster, breaking his power arm two minutes into his bout with Chuck Liddell, only to come back with ten seconds left to knock his opponent into retirement.
This isn’t the first time Franklin has overcame a severe break to defeat his opponent—he defended his middleweight title against David Loiseau with a broken hand.
Unfortunately, Franklin will be sidelined for awhile after beating Liddell, due to the injury; something a 35 year-old fighter never likes to hear. It will be interesting to see how Franklin progresses after this fight.
After implementing such a smart game plan and pulling out a dramatic victory like this, the Ohio native will be posed to begin his lasting quest to the top of the 205lbs division, where there is no shortage of big fights for him to take.
Verdict: It’s hard to say which weight-class Rich Franklin will find himself in come his next fight, a common dilemma for the company’s number one utility man. Regardless of weight, Franklin has proven he deserves to fight the best.
Assuming he stays at 205lbs, let’s give him Forrest Griffin, which has been openly suggested by Dana White, or Randy Couture, if the fight with boxing’s James Toney falls through.