UFC Fight Night 25 Card: Ten Sober Thoughts on the Battle on the Bayou
First off, it's tough not to love the classic "side-profile staredown" image on a fight card.
Second off, we're a little ways away from "The War Master" Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier but, on Saturday, Sept. 17, UFC fans can salivate over a card that's the UFC's first in Louisiana since 2002.
This nine-years-in-the-making return to The Bayou may not have a lot of people reacting like the crowd at UFC 134 in Rio but, with the caliber of guys on the card, it does have fight-drunk lunatics such as myself thinking sober thoughts.
As a matter of fact, I have 10 of them right now, and if you're as fight-drunk as I am, there's a good chance you might be having at least one of these sober thoughts.
Before We Forget, This Is NOT a Card of the Year Candidate on Paper
Yes, I said it—and if you know me, I'm usually optimistic enough to call even the most boring fight on paper a potential "Fight of The Century" contender.
Is it a good card?
Absolutely—and some might say a tad underrated because of what precedes Jake Shields vs. Jake Ellenberger.
That said, this card might seem to some as a step down from what previous Fight Night cards were simply because there's mostly newcomers.
However, on a night where fight fans may choose the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz battle over a clash between "that dude GSP beat" and Ellenberger, this is how the UFC needed to advertise their return to Louisiana.
What they're presenting is a decent card, albeit one that may be hoping to attract fans simply because of Shields (NOT that I'm not going to watch it myself).
Now then, that being said, this is the only sober negative truth, as what follows this are the sober positive truths.
The UFC Is Coming to Louisiana for the First Time Since 2002
Louisiana, like California, knows how to party.
The UFC, like a kickboxer who gets leg kicked, knows how to kick back.
However, it's taken almost a decade for the two to come together for this shindig, in between the trips to Abu Dhabi, the UK, Germany, Brazil, Canada, and basically every place they've been that wasn't named Las Vegas.
All that time spent making worldwide moves to expand their market, and yet they still find the time to make a trip to New Orleans for a Fight Night card.
Well, then again, I guess the UFC offices could never be accused of being lazy.
They may take a long time to get things done, but at least they get things done.
Oh, and did I mention that this is the first time the UFC has come to Louisiana since UFC 37—a.k.a. "The night of the double-tap"?
"The Talent" Is Back, but Will Jason MacDonald Expose Cage Rust in Alan Belcher?
Alan Belcher vs. Jason MacDonald—on paper, it seems like another Wrestler-vs-Jiu-Jitsu-master collision, but there's more to this than just Belcher's striking and improved ground skills contending with MacDonald's calculated Jiu-Jitsu game.
This is Alan Belcher's first fight in over a year—UFC 113 against Patrick Cote was the last time Belcher fought.
He would have drawn Demian Maia at UFC Fight Night 22 had it not been for the eye injury that has sidelined him for the past year and a quarter, and there are definite questions about the adverse effects of Belcher's assumed "cage rust", which may or may not show itself on fight night.
Belcher will look to answer those questions by showing he has no cage rust when he and MacDonald collide in New Orleans, but will Belcher come out on the stronger end of it?
Jonathan Brookins Couldn't Have Gotten a Better Fight
Have you seen Erik Koch in the UFC?
If the answer is no, have you seen "The New Breed" in the WEC?
If the answer is still no, there might be something wrong with you. Koch is unquestionably the best Zuffa Featherweight prospect not named Chad Mendes.
Hatsu Hioki doesn't count—anything that makes people call you "the best Featherweight in MMA, not named Jose Aldo" doesn't make you a prospect.
Anyway, call this a two-way test for Koch and TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins, as both men are up-and-comers who want to test the other out in order to see who truly deserves to say they can beat Aldo after Kenny Florian and Mendes.
Actually, Brookins owns a loss to Aldo, so he'll likely be subjected to the whole "he'll beat Aldo/Aldo will kill him again" debate if he does put blemish No. 2 on Koch's record, but you get the point.
Now the overall fight card for this event may not be the greatest, but this clash of two Featherweight up-and-comers (one of whom won Season 12 of TUF) is one of those fights that, if you like your UFC or MMA bouts in general, will make the overall UFN 25 Fight Card watchable at least, and enjoyable at most.
Cody McKenzie Is in a Tough Fight Without Drawing a Top 5 Opponent
Maybe this is the type of fight McKenzie likes, or maybe this one is tailor-made for Vagner Rocha to rebound without actually being set up to draw a loss for McKenzie.
Either way, this is the toughest fight McKenzie could have drawn without drawing a Top 10 Lightweight, Evan Dunham (who fights Shamar Bailey before McKenzie faces Rocha), or George Sotiropoulos (who may need a win in his next fight just so people will remember that he still fights).
Either way, it'll either be Rocha's less-than-stellar UFC 131 debut against Donald Cerrone, or McKenzie's tap to Yves Edwards that we quickly forget, and yet it won't be that easy for McKenzie.
Some might be inclined to back "Mr. McKenzitine" while others might want to pull for Rocha, just to say they went for the kid. But what if Rocha shows us something?
What if he earns his paycheck—and his spot in the UFC Lightweight division—by making McKenzie look like he should retire right now?
It might not happen (and besides, I'm going McKenzie), but just because it might not happen, doesn't mean that it couldn't.
It's MMA—you tell me what fight is predictable.
Evan Dunham Is Back While Shamar Bailey Is in More Natural Territory
Do you really want me to talk about the same fights from Evan Dunham's career a thousand times until you get sick of him?
Didn't think so.
All you need to know is that many fans saw the judges give Sean Sherk a UFC 119 decision, but they didn't consider Dunham's unbeaten streak "broken" until Melvin Guillard wrecked his stuff at UFC Fight For the Troops 2.
Well, add that to the fact that he's facing one of the more stylistically unpopular TUF favorites in the second to last Facebook prelim on the card.
Shamar Bailey might look more comfortable at 155 than he did at 170, but anyone that knows enough about MMA to know that it's nothing like boxing, knows that finding comfort at a different weight class doesn't mean that a terrible decision is Bailey's only way of losing to Dunham.
Besides, we haven't seen Dunham fight since the fight with Guillard so, for all we know, this fight could still be bad for Bailey.
We Already Know About Court McGee...
...and we know in addition to some sick submissions, McGee has good stand-up, good takedowns and a competent ground game.
We also know McGee is not going to take Dongi Yang very lightly and, above most else, we know Court is co-headlining this card, which is why Yang is in such an important spot right now.
That, plus it's a Fight Night card.
Josh Burkman headlined one of those.
Anyway, we know what we need to know about Court McGee before his bout with "The Ox" in New Orleans, right down to the hopes of him showing some speed, but...
...What Will We Learn About Dongi "The Ox" Yang?
The title should say it all, especially if you didn't buy a ticket to see UFC Live 3 in person.
All I can say about Yang, off of what I've heard and seen in small doses, is that he's active on his feet, has good takedowns and he's always active on the ground.
He likes to tire guys out and blast them with his heavy, yet sometimes wild, striking and so it is not so hard to reckon that he'll want to stand with McGee.
However, what we will find out is a total of two things:
1. How good is Dongi Yang, really? and,
2. What will he do when he gets a major jump up in competition like this fight against McGee?
Don't believe McGee is a step up?
Let's say it like this:
"Rob Kimmons vs. Court McGee"—who would prevail?
I rest my case.
Jake Ellenberger Has Crushed Some Impressive Names so Far
Jake Ellenberger has caught some attention as of late for his style—he is a wrestler who controlled Carlos Eduardo Rocha and dominated him convincingly at UFC 126.
Then, most recently, he knocked Sean Pierson out with relative ease, capping off a four-fight win streak in a five-fight UFC run.
By now, it's already established that "The Juggernaut" has some strong wrestling and knockout power which is enough to put anyone away, or at least give them an alien eye, a la John Howard.
What more can you say?
Can Jake Ellenberger Crush Jake Shields?
If you haven't heard by now, Jake Shields went 15 fights unbeaten, took a round from Georges St-Pierre at UFC 129, won four rounds after Dan Henderson almost knocked him out and, despite what we all really saw, his record shows a win over Martin Kampmann.
Oh yeah, and I didn't mean to undersell it, but Shields can take a punch.
Granted, so can John Howard, so can Carlos Condit (a name from Shields' past), so can Mike Pyle and so can Carlos Eduardo Rocha, and yes, there is a reason why I haven't said Sean Pierson.
Pierson took an Ellenberger punch and was left looking at the lights.
Still, those other four Welterweights I mentioned can take punches, but here's a bit of breaking news for anyone that still doesn't comprehend fully:
Neither of those four names are Jake Shields.
The argument of whether Condit, Pyle, or Shields has better Jiu-Jitsu these days is up for debate (although I don't know who argues for Pyle), but Shields' Jiu-Jitsu is nothing like what Ellenberger has had to contend with so far.
Shields hasn't found the tap since debuting in the UFC as a Welterweight, and he hasn't found the tap in his MMA career since he choked Robbie Lawler out.
Finding the tap won't be any easier with Ellenberger than it was with GSP or Kampmann, but it's always possible that Shields does find it.