The UFC opened up the floodgates for UFC Fight Night 24 on Saturday.
Five full under card fights were presented on Facebook, leading up to the four main event bouts scheduled on Spike TV.
For nearly five hours of consecutive action, Seattle played host to strong victories for Ultimate Fighter winner Amir Sabollah and Korean standout Chan Sung Jung, a slew of hard fought preliminary matches, Dan Hardy’s fall from grace and yet another loss for another Pride era icon.
Furthermore, what is becoming more and more evident within the current state of MMA is the continued dominance of wrestling based fighters over their striking and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu counterparts that lack experience wearing the doublets.
This phenomenon started gaining traction last year after some pivotal fights ended in the favor of the guy with the more convincing wrestling ability.
Frankie Edgar dethroned reigning lightweight champion BJ Penn with speed, footwork and wrestling—being the first opponent to take Penn down in six years at lightweight.
Chael Sonnen was two minutes away from producing the greatest upset in the sport’s history by controlling Anderson Silva from top position thanks to his wrestling.
Gray Maynard not only took Kenny Florian down at will during their No. 1 Contender bout last summer, but as a result took away his opponent’s chance at a third title shot.
Let’s not forget welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre’s utter schooling of Dan Hardy, who spent a blink of an eye’s worth of time standing on his two feet during their title headliner back in April.
Diego Sanchez’s wrestling inspired victory over Paulo Thiago and anytime Jon Fitch’s hand is raised in the octagon can also be attributed to a wrestling-based approach to the fight game—the list goes on and on.
As a result, wrestling has arguably become the most important asset or base for any fighter hoping to compete at a high level in the UFC.
As more and more people started to take notice, this observation—or frustration if you weren’t a collegiate wrestler currently employed by the UFC—began to fuse with growing concern over how take-downs were being rewarded by judges and dangerous fallout affecting the legitimacy of MMA judging as a whole.
Like many events before it, the wrestling conundrum played a vital part in the outcome of UFN 24’s co and main event, underlining how crucial it is for a fighter deficient in wrestling to at least have a reliable take-down defense.
Obviously, easier to type or say than do.
All Hardy fans had to relive that familiar nightmare from his fight with GSP, while Anthony Johnson reminded everyone that the bane of Hardy’s existence as a contender in the UFC continues to be his lack of take-down defense.
On the other hand, despite garnering the same result as Hardy, Antonio Nogueira prevented Phil Davis from completing the majority of his take-down attempts.
In the end, after Davis successfully adjusted to his single-leg take-downs in the second and third round, it was just another night when elite wrestling trumped all other disciplines and proved to be the key ingredient in the winning formula.
For those on the main card who found themselves in the winner’s circle, let’s take a quick peek at where these victories will lead moving forward.
Chan Jung Sung, 24, (11-3) – one fight win-streak
The Korean Zombie moniker will have to rest in peace after getting dissolved by a smarter, better prepared Sung, who now appreciates the less violent paths to victory.
After Nam Pham was forced to drop out of his immediate rematch with Leonard Garcia, he was quickly replaced by Sung in a bid by UFC executives to recreate the slug-fest that was their first encounter. Nothing entertains the casual fans more than a mindless game of striking roulette.
To their disappointment though, Sung was able to showcase his willingness to evolve as a mixed martial artist, avoiding all encounters in the pocket with Garcia and getting the fight to the ground where he applied a unique “twist” rear naked choke for the win.
What’s next for Sung: Let’s give him a young featherweight prospect in Erik Koch, who is coming off an impressive knockout win over Raphael Assuncao at UFC 128.
Amir Sadollah, 30, (5-2) – two fight win-streak
Sadollah has made the most of his young budding MMA career, winning the Ultimate Fighter Season 7 with no prior professional record and quickly becoming one of the more technically sound welterweights on the roster.
After losing the first round to fellow TUF alumni DaMarques Johnson, Sadollah changed the momentum in the second round once he got the fight to the ground and started raining down some serious ground and pound.
The fight was stopped after Johnson verbal tapped to strikes, a testament to Sadollah’s brutal work from a dominant top position. While only having seven professional fights—all in the octagon—Sadollah shows great improvement after each outing in the UFC.
What’s next for Sadollah: A step up in competition; let’s give him the winner of Nate Diaz and Rory MacDonald.
Anthony Johnson, 27, (9-3) – one fight win-streak
After a long layoff of eating an array of junk food and playing video games, Johnson was back to business as usual, cutting a fictional amount of weight and imposing his athletic ability on his opponents—think again ring rust, Rumble is not hearing it.
Like many in the MMA community, Johnson had Dan Hardy convinced he wanted to partake in a stand-up war, taking the risk for the reward of a glamorous knockout win over a seasoned striker. The proclamation was believable to an extent since Johnson has crumpled fighters like Kevin Burns, Luigi Fioravanti and Yoshiyuki Yoshida for wins.
Since neither of those opponents are on the same striking level as Hardy, Johnson’s intellectual side prevailed and he decided to manipulate Hardy’s weakness and use his wrestling to hand the Brit his third consecutive loss.
What’s next for Johnson: Light-heavyweight? No, let’s give him Mike Pyle.
Phil Davis, 26, (9-0) – nine fight win-streak
Let’s establish a mindful consensus on where Phil Davis ranks amongst his fellow light-heavyweight brethren: he is not on the same level as Jon Jones at this point in his career.This reality should have outweighed the hype going into the Nogueira fight. Consequentially, that fight from Saturday night only strengthens that aforementioned sentiment.
To even begin breaking down his chances against the champ, Davis’ stand up has far too many holes to avoid an onslaught from an equally tested wrestler in Jones.
With that said, Davis’ unanimous decision over a seasoned veteran like Nogueira is an accomplishment and a step in the right direction, opening a path that leads to more highly touted competition. Once Davis is primed enough after facing more Nogueira quality opponents at 205 lbs, then people should talk about a title contest with Jones.
After this most recent performance, a future shot at the title down the road does not seem unreasonable, considering how scary Davis’ potential will be after sharpening his skills and testing his resolve in a few more fights. He did a great job altering his game plan after several failed double leg attempts, switching to single-leg take-down which got Lil Nog on his back.
Defeating Nogueira, impressively or not, is no doubt a feather in Davis’ cap.
What’s next for Davis: Not Jones; let’s give him the winner of Tito Ortiz and Ryan Bader.
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Check out Vince Carey's UFN 24: What's Next for the Losers