Last night the Ultimate Fighting Championship hosted it's second fund raising event, UFC: Fight for the Troops 2. The event exceeded expectations by leaps and bounds.
Most of the fighters on the card were rising talents or gatekeepers, and no very big names were present on the card.
But the event wasn't about the fighters, it was about raising money for "The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund," an organization meant to provide medical and social help to soldiers and families dealing with injuries sustained in combat. The fact that the fights turned out to be so exciting was simply the cherry on top.
It was the dramatic leaps some of the fighters made in their careers with their respective performances that made the fights on last night's main card so exciting. The fighters that made massive impacts on their standing in their respective divisions include Ultimate Fighter alumnus Matt Mitrione, Canadian Fighter Mark Hominick and explosive striker Melvin Guillard.
Matt Mitrione took all of three minutes to put away Canadian heavyweight Tim Hague in dominant fashion. The Canadian never mounted any offense and Mitrione dropped Hague on two occasions, the second occasion being the beginning of the end.
Some people probably remember Tim Hague as being on the receiving end of a seven second knockout against UFC outcast Todd Duffee.
A win for Mitrione over Hague isn't anything special, right? This isn't really the case. Despite the knockout loss to Duffee, Hague fought to two close decision losses in the UFC that some argue could have gone his way against Chris Tuchscherer and Joey Beltran. He isn't a great heavyweight, but he is usually a pretty tough customer.
Mitrione didn't just catch Hague with a lucky punch or quick submission—he thoroughly dominated the Canadian from start to knockout finish. Mitrione displayed what looked to be some pretty technical and calculated striking.
Being a former National Football League linebacker, there has never been any questioning Mitrione's power, speed and size. At 6'3" and 260 pounds, Mitrione is a big man. What people did question was his technical prowess as a fighter.
Up until the Hague fight, Mitrione has looked like a brawler with awkward technique. It was a big knock on the guy and a lot of people weren't putting him very high on the heavyweight list.
With the technically sound win over Hague, Mitrione has demonstrated vast improvement in the technical department of his stand up game. What could be next for the Ultimate Fighter alumnus?
Shane Carwin is scheduled to fight at UFC 131 in Vancouver on June 11th. The one problem for Carwin right now is he has no opponent scheduled and there doesn't seem to be any on the horizon.
With the dominant win by Mitrione, a fight with Carwin would be the step up in competition he needs. After coming off a loss, a win over Mitrione would help get Carwin back on the right track. This would be an exciting fight—two huge heavyweights with knockout power and the athleticism of NFL caliber linebackers in the cage.
Who had the most unexpected performance last night?
Canadian Chris Hominick put on a little clinic of his own last night against opponent George Roop. Roop had the reach advantage and at the beginning he did a good job of keeping his distance with kicks and punches. It didn't take long for the Canadian to find his way inside of Roop's reach as he tagged Roop and sent him tumbling to the canvas a few short seconds before the fight was called by the referee.
Hominick was already 5-2 under the Zuffa banner, having fought for both the World Exchange Cagefighting and UFC and his win last night pushed his record to 6-2 with the company. The win over Roop also extends Hominick's win streak to five.
Unlike Mitrione, Hominick has been a guy on the radar in the featherweight division, and the fight with Roop had title contention buzz around it.
Luckily for Hominick, his performance was so dominant last night that the UFC didn't waste anytime in setting up his next fight. A title shot against Jose Aldo for the feather strap in Toronto is what's in store for Hominick. The Canadian couldn't have asked for anything more than that. This is an opportunity to fight not only for UFC gold, but to do it on home soil in front of what is expected to be a record-breaking 40,000 fans—the chance of a lifetime.
Last, but not least, Melvin Guillard did to Evan Dunham what Gray Maynard couldn't against Frankie Edgar.
Evan Dunham is no slouch with a record of 11-2 and has beaten Ultimate Fighter alumnus Efrain Escudero and veterans Tyson Griffin and Marcus Aurelio. Many also had Dunham beating former lightweight champion Sean Sherk in what was a hotly contested bout. Unfortunately for Dunham, Guillard sent him back to the drawing board and to the back of the line.
Dunham scored an early take down and tried to utilize his black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu against the powerful striker Guillard. Guillard has shown weakness in the past when it came to the ground game, with seven of eight losses coming by way of submission. It appears that Greg Jackson's camp has really helped Guillard in respect to fighting to his strengths and defending his weaknesses. Guillard remained calm while Dunham was on top of him and when he saw an opening he exploded back to his feet.
Once back to his feet, Guillard wasted no time and used his lightening-quick precision striking to put Dunham away. Once Dunham got caught, he tried shooting for take downs and running away in very similar fashion to Frankie Edgar in round one of his fight with Gray Maynard. Unlike Maynard, Guillard was able to pour it on and Dunham couldn't escape the striking of Guillard no matter how hard he tried.
After the win, I think Guillard sums up what his performance did for him best.
"I want my title shot. I'm the dark horse in the game. No disrespect to anyone in my weight class, but I'm the best 155 pound fighter in the world." Guillard said. "I will go undefeated in 2011, and I'll get a title shot no later than 2012," he told the crowd.
Guillard is just that, a dark horse. He is going to be a tough fight for anybody and one or two more solid wins like he had against Dunham should no doubt put him in contention for the belt. What he really has going for him is the excitement he brings to the fight with his explosive striking. Imagine a matchup with a guy like Anthony Pettis—it just screams "Fight of the Night" all over.
All in all, last night was a great night of fights. Aside from those fighters already talked about, Pat Barry showed why he is one of the best kick boxers in mixed martial arts as he systematically took Joey Beltran's left leg out of the picture in the third round of the fight. Barry wasn't as exciting as I expected, and with the way he was controlled against the cage by Beltran in rounds one and two, I was surprised to see him come away with the decision victory.
He did land the more damaging blows throughout the match, so quality probably outweighed quantity in this case. It just felt like Barry lacked the killer instinct. He didn't follow up his kicks with any kinds of combos. It seemed that he wasn't looking to finish.
If the UFC can continue to put on exciting free cards like this throughout 2011, fans won't be able to complain. The next free card will be on VS this coming March 3rd where fans will get to see a main event featuring the always exciting Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann. On March 26th, fans will get to watch UFC Fight Night 24—Ortiz vs. Nogueira for free on Spike TV once again. Three free events in a span of two months—who can complain about that, right?
Leon Horne has been contributing to The Bleacher Report for two years now. He focuses mainly on mixed martial arts, but he has also written about tennis, football and hockey. Just send him a message if you want to talk sports or discuss any opportunities. You can follow him on Twitter for updates: