Before I get to the breakdown of the night’s winners and losers, let me indulge in this simple, fanboyish statement: Wow. Just wow. What a hell of a night of fights.
At a cursory glance, it doesn’t seem to have been a “special” UFC event. Torres/Banuelos failed to live up to expectations. Griffin/Franklin was a slower fight then some expected. Ellenberger/Rocha had some great ground scrambles, but it didn’t set up Ellenberger as the next contender at 170 lbs like it was supposed to. Cerrone appeared lackadaisical, Omigawa and “Kid” Yammamoto both disappointed, and the two remaining fights went pretty much as we thought they would.
Yet despite all that, it was still a great night of fights. Epic, even. Maybe it was Jon Jones' froggy jump to take Bader’s back. Maybe it was Kyle Kingsbury’s blitzkrieg of Ricardo Romero. Maybe it was Joe Rogan's almost inhuman amount of excitement and enthusiasm seeping through my television screen.
In all likelihood, it was because of Anderson Silva and the coolest knockout victory we’ve seen in MMA in years.
Here are the five biggest winners from UFC 126.
When it came out that the greatest P4P fighter in MMA was training with
martial arts legend acting legend hackneyed has-been Steven Seagal, the response from fans was something akin to a bemused shrug. That’s just Anderson being Anderson, we all said.
To his fans, it was further proof that MMA’s best was “above the law.” For his detractors, it was just another reason to keep him “under seige”. Akido practicioner Seagal even came “under seige too”, because striking skills were a “dark territory” for him.
OK, enough bad Seagal film puns. Clearly, Anderson and Seagal knew something fans, media, and Vitor Belfort did not. If I might paraphrase Sakuraba here, “Akido is indeed strong”.
What a performance.
And out of nowhere! Nearly three minutes of dancing, jogging, and staring from Anderson likely had Dana White reaching for a fistful of Asprin and a bottle of Scotch to wash it down with. Then, “The Spider” decided to take the callouses on the bottom of his foot and slam them into Vitor's face hard enough to induce unconsciousness. It was unreal. If you put that move in a movie, people would call BS.
And wouldn’t you know it, turns out the architect of the “Dr. Scholls” special was none other then Mr. Seagal. Seagal took credit for teaching the champ that move in an interview with Ariel Helwani, and Anderson confirmed it at the post-fight presser.
So be warned, MMA world. The future of elite level coaching is over the hill 90′s action stars. I hear Chuck Norris is already being scouted by Xtreme Couture. Dolph Lundgren is rumoured to be training Fedor for the Strikeforce HW tourney. And Jean Claude Van Damme is considering taking a fight to show the world just how it's done.
I’m not an American, so my experience isn’t first hand, but for some reason, poor old New Jersey seems to be the most picked on state.
OK, Florida and California occasionally steal the spotlight with acts of world-class boneheadedness, but for the most part, New Jersey takes all the flack. For every Bruce Springsteen or Kevin Smith who do Jersey proud, there’s a Peter Cammarano or Snooki ruining the fun for everyone else.
So Garden Staters, hold your heads up high, because what was a good UFC 128 event in Newark just became even better with the announcement that Jon Jones, and not Rashad Evans, will be getting the next crack at champ “Shogun” Rua in March.
In a funny way, this unfortunate injury to Rashad is karma coming back to bite him. He sat out on the sidelines for almost a full year, waiting for his crack at Rua’s belt. Then, on the eve of that fight he gets injured and watches teammate Jon Jones take his place in line. Should Jones win, it raises serious questions about whether Rashad will even get his title shot, as Jones and Evans have vowed on multiple occasions never to meet in the Octagon.
Nothing against Evans, who would no doubt have made this fight interesting and competitive, but in Jones, there’s a quality you don’t have in any other fighter. He has that hype, that buzz, that energy of everyone talking about him. People lose mentally before they even step in the cage with them. He’s the killer, the unstoppable force, the “future”. Like Chuck Liddell circa 2003, only even more hyped.
This is the perfect fight to re-ignite the 205 lbs division.
As I was watching UFC this past Saturday, one thing I kept hearing from those I was watching it with was how former LHW champ Forrest was “done”. How his “moment” was “over”. How he was “pretty much finished” in the sport.
Normally I would let it go, but I had some beers in me and I was angry. I went red and when I came to…well, let’s just say I’m looking for new friends to watch UFC with.
Seriously, though, that kind of sentiment is ironic for two reasons. One, it's the same thing we heard after Forrest lost to Keith Jardine. He bounced back by making that “Shogun” guy tap like Woody Woodpecker on meth. Then, he heard it again after the Anderson Silva loss. He bounced back by decisioning Tito Ortiz (not the most impressive feat anymore I grant, but it was a loss he avenged in a headlining PPV fight).
It’s also ironic because Forrest has never been bigger with fans then he is now. Strangely, his greatest sucsess has come in the literary world (if you had told me four years ago I would one day write that sentence, I would have laughed in your face). His last two books have both broken the vaunted New York Times bestseller list and been really damn funny to boot. He packs fans in for booksignings and appearances and is still one of the most in demand interviews for the MMA media, for good or ill.
With this win, Forrest can finally shake off the “done at the top” vibe that’s been hanging over him since Anderson Silva devoured his soul. The truth is Forrest is far from finished in the sport’s elite level as long as he maintains he monstrous work ethic. He owns victories over the current champion as well as top five ranked “Rampage” Jackson. On his day, he’s still a threat to beat anyone in the division.
And speaking of “Rampage”, assuming he gets by Thiago Silva in May, I’d love to see him and Forrest throw down in a rematch. It is a fight Jackson has talked openly about wanting back, and with Jones getting his surprise title shot, it makes sense for both guys. Book it, Danno.
Can we finally lay the “Greg Jackson makes boring fighters” meme to rest now? Seriously. Because if you think that after UFC 126, then you must be smoking whatever Joe Rogan was on at the pre-fight weigh-ins.
Jackson cornered two fighters directly that night: Donald Cerrone and Jon Jones. Cerrone, for his part, proved he could hang in the UFC and showed the most well-rounded, intelligent version of himself as a fighter we have yet seen. He also finished his opponent via rear naked choke and. oh yeah, won “Fight of the Night” too.
And then there was Jon Jones, who put on his usual jaw-dropping display of dominance, creativity, and unbridled awesome. He mulched Ryan Bader and finished him with a guillotine variation he made up pretty much on the spot. He won “Submission of the Night” for his troubles and a world title shot.
Two Greg Jackson fighters. Two dominant finish victories in very exciting fights. No wall n’ stall in sight.
Ok, so Miguel Torres fought a slower, more tactical fight. And he trains at Tristar gym, which is sorta affiliated with Greg Jackson, so I guess the meme is back on again. Damn. Guy just can’t catch a break.
Yes, as usually is the case when a UFC wraps up, the night’s biggest winner was welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, and he didn’t even fight Saturday night.
Still, St. Pierre is suddently looking at a stacked 2011 schedule, one that is guaranteed to make him (even more) wealthy, (even more) popular, and oh yeah, possibly the greatest fighter on planet Earth, hands down. If you don’t rank him there already, 2011 could be the year that changes your mind.
That’s because Dana White at long last laid out his timeline for the much discussed St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva superfight. Now all GSP needs to do is get by Jake Sheilds (no easy feat), and the most anticipated fight in Mixed Martial Arts will be made, with GSP making the move up a class to challenge for Silva’s 185 lbs title.
Excuse me while I fanboy out here a second, but c'mon. If you aren’t pumped to the gills for this fight, you don’t have a pulse. This would be by far the biggest fight in MMA history. Biggest gate, biggest PPV buyrate, most fan interest, and more on the line then any fight MMA has ever done, ever.
And now, we’re one fight away from watching it happen. Assuming Jake Shields doesn’t get his grind on GSP for 25 minutes and spoil the party in Toronto, then the fights gets made. This is the MMA equivalent of Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, the fight everyone will be talking about, watching, and then talking about again. This is the fight that will define our generation of MMA; hell, of any combat sports. This is the PPV event of 2011, assuming it happens.
Someone tell Jake to take one for the team and let GSP jab his face off all night like he did to Koscheck.