UFC 123 Results: BJ Penn Returns, Rampage Jackson Rebels and 20 Lessons Learned
UFC 123 featured Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida as the brightest names in neon lights, but the rest of the card ended up stealing the show. Unfortunately, the judges grabbed a large share of the limelight which is never a welcome addition.
But so it goes.
With his split-decision victory over Machida, Jackson has reasserted himself in the light heavyweight pecking order, even if it's simply a more solid foothold for a rematch against the Dragon. Additionally, we saw an impressive performance from B.J. Penn in the rubber match of his triumvirate with Matt Hughes, George Sotiropoulos turn some heads in a battle against the American version of himself Joe Lauzon, Phil Davis add another name to his resume and a couple fresh faces make a stir.
Now that the dust is settling, let's take a look at 20 lessons learned from the action in Detroit.
No. 20—Karo Parisyan Complains Better Than He Fights
Every time Karo Parisyan loses while remaining conscious, he puts up a huge stink about the decision—whether by the judges or referee (to stop the bout). He's lost six times in his MMA career and I can almost promise you he'll tell you he should be undefeated.
When Diego Sanchez thumped him at UFC Fight Night Six, the unanimous decision was an outrageous miscarriage of justice.
When Thiago Alves put him momentarily in the black at UFC Fight Night 13, the Heat couldn't believe the ref jumped in to save him (despite being defenseless after a staggering combination from the Pitbull that started with a hellacious knee).
The pattern continued at UFC 123 after Dennis Hallman floored him with a hard right to the temple and then used the side of Parisyan's head as tambourine for a few unanswered seconds. Referee Dan Miragliotta dove in to save Karo and Karo started wailing.
Again, nothing new.
The problem, however is that what was once an irritating-but-tolerable habit due to the Heat's efficacy in the cage has become a deal-breaker because Parisyan has wilted of late.
If the Armenian wants to keep the charade going, he better tighten up his game. Quickly.
No. 19—Antoine Dodson Is a "Celebrity" from Detroit
To be honest, I thought Dodson was a woman when I first saw him and I had no idea why Antoine was on camera in the first place. I was thinking "American Idol" or some such reality flash-in-the-pan.
Turns out I was being too generous.
Anyway, he needs to ditch the hair straightener.
And Mike Goldberg needs to stop referring to YouTube sensations as "stars."
No. 18—The UFC Has Grown a Tad Since It Was Last in Detroit
UFC 9, the organization's first trip to the Motor City, had an attendance of 10,000 and was held at the Cobo Center with a gate not worth mentioning.
UFC 123, the organization's second trip to the Motor City, had an attendance over 16,000 and was held at the Palace of Auburn Hills with a gate worth over $2 million.
UFC 9 would also herald the beginning of the sport's underground days in the United States thanks to that paradigm of integrity (and huge boxing fan) Senator John McCain, who'd make it a personal crusade to get the "barbaric" sport banned under the Stars and Bars (guess Big Government is good for something).
UFC 123 sends the sport off into a sunset that's not quite so ominous.
No. 17—Nobody's Perfect, Not Even Joe Silva
What the hell were Gerald Harris and Maiquel Falcao doing on the main card?
UFC matchmaker extraordinaire Joe Silva has earned a lifetime of mulligans with the scintillating events he's deliver almost without fail, but these two had NO business in the bright lights ahead of such luminaries as Phil Davis, George Sotiropoulos, Joe Lauzon, Matt Brown, Mark Munoz, Aaron Simpson or Karo Parisyan.
Yet there they were.
Then the jokers complicated matters by deciding to have a two-round fight and use the third for some light sparring just to keep the crowd from tearing the arena apart with its teeth.
Not the UFC or Silva's finest moment.
No. 16—Someone Needs To Invent an Easier Exit from the Crucifix
Not all crucifixes are created equal, some are sincerely gruesome to behold:
Goodridge's version has been the exception rather than the rule of late. Typically, a contemporary technical knockout via the elbows from the crucifix is more of a technical trap than anything else. The compromised participant isn't really absorbing much damage, but the defenseless and hopeless nature of the position leaves the referee not choice but to end the "abuse."
Consequently, it's high time for someone to invent a solution that neutralizes the MMA equivalent of Chinese water torture or the more innocuous "typewriter" of horseplay fame.
No. 15—Chandella Powell Is Steadily Gaining Momentum
Here's our first lovely Octagon Girl, Chandella Powell.
She's not quite ready to unseat her femme fatale partner-in-crime, Chandella is steadily moving up the Rictor Scale.
No. 14—Conditioning Not a Constant
If you told me on Saturday morning that Rampage would use a game plan conditioned on cardio to pull out a razor-thin split decision while Joe Lauzon would suffer a submission defeat due to an empty gas tank, I'd have told you to watch an MMA fight before making stupid predictions.
But that's precisely what happened.
Jackson used constant aggression and periodic bursts of energy to do enough it he judges' eyes to take his tete-a-tete with Lyoto Machida. On the contrary, J-Lau had a scorching first round that saw him take the fight to George Sotiropoulos, but he came out with nothing in the second round.
He was dead on his feet and the Australian took full advantage—turning the tables in the stand-up before slamming the tussle to the ground and finishing with the kimura.
In other word, UFC 123 showed that your cardio is only as good as your last fight and Lauzon needs to work on his.
No. 13—Gabe Ruediger Was Supposed To Be in on the Action
Why, just why?
Wikipedia tells us the douche bucket was supposed to face Paul Kelly, but had to withdraw after suffering a groin injury. I'd make a joke here, but they all seem too obvious.
This tidbit begs the question: "What the *%!?!?!?!?"
Seriously, dude has done nothing but be an utter embarrassment on The Ultimate Fighter, clearly using the opportunity as a grab at celebrity rather than a shot at a career in the UFC. To boot, he's been humiliated by both Melvin Guillard and Joe Lauzon during his brief stint with Dana White and Company.
I get that he's a can who people love to see get beat up, but—if that's the goal here—where is Ken Shamrock?
Hey, let's bring back Tank Abbott while we're at it and I'm sure Junie Allen Browning is available (or will be once he's up for parole).
No. 12—Leg Kicks Rule
In one painful massacre, Edson Barboza trumpeted his presence on the 155-pound landscape and his weapon of choice was the leg kick.
Poor Mike Lullo didn't have a chance once the first few shins bit into the meat of his left leg—he was already had, the only question was how long he'd remain standing. The answer was just over 10 minutes as a second abusive barrage of kicks landed the American on his keister for good immediately after the start of the third round.
With such conclusive evidence, you'd think the attack would be on its way to becoming a staple in the sport. Yet that same Saturday night, Lyoto Machida would abandon the tactic after using it with much success in the first round of his clash with Rampage Jackson.
No. 11—Lightweight Division Is Getting Crowded
Goodness gracious, we've already got glutted division at heavyweight and light heavyweight. It also seems the welterweights are determined to join the deep end of the talent pool and now, we've got the lightweights beginning to jockey for their own watery real estate.
UFC 123 saw ostentatious displays from Nik Lentz, Edson Barboza and George Sotiropoulos not to mention valiant showing from Tyson Griffin and Joe Lauzon in defeat.
Since his debut, the Carny has defeated Rafaello Oliveira, Rob Emerson, Andre Winner and fought to a draw with Thiago Tavares. With this latest win over Griffin, Lentz has added perhaps the biggest name yet to his career hitlist.
He's still got a ways to go, but it might be time to take him a bit more seriously.
As for Barboza, it was only his first fight in the UFC, but those punishing leg kicks make him a player at 155 immediately.
The Australian Sotiropoulos has already established himself as a person of interest in the division, but his patient obliteration of J-Lau is his most profound pelt yet. He'll get Dennis Siver in his homeland at UFC 127 in what should be a burner between two underrated lightweights.
Lauzon suffered a bizarre deficiency of his energy reserves and Grifin dropped a split decision so the tarnish from the losses shouldn't be severe.
All in all, the division gained far more than it lost on Saturday.
No. 10—Maiquel Falcao Needs Some Work Before He Starts Claiming Chute Boxe
If you've ever heard booing of the ilk that showered Maiquel Falcao and Gerald Harris during third round of their main card bout, I'd like to hear about it because it sounded almost as if the arena was unanimous in its displeasure.
And the unhappiness was justified.
Big Rig very nearly decapitated the Hurricane at various times during the first 10 minutes of the contest and clearly had it won. So clearly in fact, that the Brazilian decided to coast to victory and spent the final five minutes running from his American adversary.
His backpedal was so effective that the last stanza saw maybe two strikes of any consequence land. It was ugly.
As a Chute Boxe Academy product, that's the last thing anyone was expecting. Wanderlei Silva must've been spewing Portuguese profanities at the screen wherever he was when watching the display.
Falcao is still an edge-of-your-seat newcomer to the UFC, but he's gotta learn how to finish a fight better—either literally or just how to execute better in the last round of an in-the-bag decision—if he's to live up to the Chute Boxe mantle.
No. 9—Second Round of Malice at the Palace Was Much More Enjoyable
Something tells me the fans relished this bit of malice at the Palace much more thoroughly and unanimously than they did the NBA's version.
The UFC was welcomed to the Palace of Auburn Hills for UFC 123 exactly the way it's been welcomed to every other venue in recent memory—with open arms and thunderous applause. Whether it's been Anaheim, Oberhausen, London or Detroit, the organization is finding rabid fans wherever it goes.
It and the sport of MMA are riding a currently unparalleled surge of popularity and the fights on Saturday night did little to slow the momentum—seven stoppages in 11 bouts and an explosive end to six years of bad blood.
Yep, that'll do in a pinch.
No. 8—There's No Getting Around It, Arianny Celeste Is Gorgeous
Um...I'm sure I had something to say here.
No. 7—BJ Penn May Be Entering Yet Another Phase in His Career
This won't be the last time I caution against trusting the red-lining emotions that drive post-fight sound bytes.
Nevertheless, it was surreal to hear BJ Penn gushing with adoration in the wake of his 21-second destruction of Matt Hughes.
He loved Detroit, he loved the UFC, he loved the Fertitta Brothers (unless I'm mistaken), he loved Joe Rogan and he called Hughes his "idol." That last is the Mt. Everest of hyperbole considering the acerbic history shared by the two all-time greats, but the transparent shine doesn't rob the moment of all meaning.
We've already seen Baby J mature from an all-talent/no-work dynamo who was unpredictable to a more business-like professional who still ran hot and cold despite adding a tremendous work ethic to other-worldly genetic gifts.
Though this latter version of Penn was a force of nature at times, we saw it flag in the last two bouts with UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar. There didn't seem to be any joy or pleasure in, or appreciation for all the man had accomplished in the sport or the tremendously good fortune it represented.
Again, it might've just been the euphoria of an enormous win, but the Prodigy sounded pretty happy to be back in the winner's circle. Perhaps that mentality will carry over and propel Penn onto another legendary plateau.
No. 6—Bruce Buffer Has Serious Ups
I'll let the picture do all the talking here; really, what more needs to be said?
No. 5—Light Heavyweight Division Getting Ridiculous
If Quinton Jackson had lost, you might've been able to thin out the 205-pound division a bit—Rampage is still only 32, but he's endured some crippling damage from the likes of Mauricio Rua and Wanderlei Silva. Toss in the recent losses to Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin, and you might've been able to drop him from the title picture.
But the big fella won and now he's firmly entrenched in the portrait.
So is Machida, despite the loss; it wasn't a resounding victory for his opponent and many observers will argue he actually won the tilt. Either way, it's not a bad defeat at all.
Then there's the matter of Mr. Wonderful, Phil Davis. The former All-American collegiate wrestler at Penn State has a blatant vulnerability on his feet, but he's improving on a smothering wrestling base by leaps and bounds.
With his slick submission of Tim Boetsch, Davis has announced he's ready for a bump up the ladder of competition at 205. He's not ready for the biggest sharks in the light heavyweight waters, but he's nipping at the heels of other prospects Jon Jones and Ryan Bader.
By my count, that's Suga Rashad, Rampage, the Dragon, Anderson Silva, Randy Couture and the winner of Bones Jones vs. Darth Bader as elite challengers to Shogun's reign with the loser of Jones/Bader and Mr. Wonderful hard charging to join the ranks.
Oh, and keep an eye on Karlos Vemola.
No. 4—Machida Can't Always Rely on the Decision
The saying goes, "win by decision, die by decision."
Or maybe it doesn't, but it should.
Many MMA fans were laughing all the way to the bar after Rampage got the controversial split decision over the Dragon, considering it poetic justice for the even-more-poorly-received unanimous decision Machida scored against Mauricio Rua in their original bout for the light heavyweight belt.
Whether that's fair or not is beside the point.
What is very much the point is that Lyoto can't complain too much when the judges go against him. It's a product of his counter-striking approach that his bouts will be amongst the most difficult to score when they don't end via stoppage.
Consequently, if the Brazilian stud isn't going to adjust his approach or put a stronger emphasis on knockouts/submissions, he has no other choice but to embrace the decision.
Good or bad.
No. 3—Matt Hughes Really, REALLY Wanted To Beat BJ Penn
"I don't know what the plan is now."
Again, let's not read too much into the post-fight comments from Hughes given the visceral emotions that are unleashed by either win or loss. But that's still not the kind of thing you're used to hearing from a mixed martial artist, even one who just absorbed a bad loss.
Further, "I had a perfect training camp. This is one of those fights where I would have paid my purse to Dana White to put this fight together. I had a lot on the line. To be honest, I don't know what will go on now."
Suffice it to say that the UFC Hall of Famer was extremely motivated for the finale of his trilogy with BJ Penn. Given the way it ended and the fact that the Illinois native has zilch left to prove, it wouldn't be a stunner if this were the last time we see him in the Octagon.
I'd expect him to try to rinse the taste from such a bitter loss out of his mouth with another bout, but who knows?
Clearly not the former welterweight champion.
No. 2—B.J. Penn Looked Nice at Welterweight
Yes, it was against an aging Matt Hughes so let's not get too carried away.
But the Hilo Kid looked fit and trim without being haggard or overtaxed from a weight cut. Additionally, as has been pointed out by others, BJ didn't get beaten up by Frankie Edgar so much as he ran into an awful stylistic matchup—an excellent wrestler who can flit around the cage beyond the Hawaiian's reach. In other words, the man is still dangerous.
And there aren't too many cut from the Answer's cloth at 170 pounds; the ones who do exist (if any) aren't at the top of the food chain.
Granted, Georges St-Pierre is, but no idea is perfect.
Regardless, Baby J gets Jon Fitch at UFC 127 in his next test at welterweight so we'll find out how far this thing could go.
No. 1—UFC Judges Overrate Aggression
That look says it all.
When the guy who wins has an incredulous look on his face, you know there's been some questionable judging. Most mixed martial artists, even the abnormally realistic ones like Quinton Jackson, look for every reason to agree with a decision in their favor.
So when an athlete is surprised, it means he saw NO REASON to expect a victory—that's a severe condemnation of the decision.
As Rampage and Joe Rogan discussed in the post-fight interview, the only thing that could've possibly won the former the bout was his aggression and anyone who's been paying close attention to the controversial decisions in the UFC of late must agree.
And that's retar...really dumb.
Think about it—the judges are essentially rewarding the appearance of action rather to the detriment of effective striking. Because if I'm in there with an opponent who keeps rushing in without inflicting any damage, why should I waste valuable energy trying to stop and/or "out-aggressive" him?
As far as I'm concerned, he's wasting energy and thereby giving me an advantage.
Except this is apparently the most important element to winning short of beating the sense out of someone.
I get that it's a fix to the Harris-Falcao dilemma of individuals who lay back, but it's a short-sighted one—the equivalent of the NFL making it damn near impossible for a defensive back to cover a receiver or the NBA trying to increase scoring through the rulebook.
It will eventually blunt the very element that makes the sport great.
So it's got to go.