The second fight on the UFC 170 main card was a bout between welterweight vets Mike Pyle and TJ Waldburger.
Pyle, the former WEC welterweight champion, got very close to entering the division's top 10 when he broke off a strong four-fight winning streak. The dark horse title contender hopes, however, evaporated when he was knocked out by fellow resurgent veteran Matt Brown.
Waldburger, meanwhile, owns a modest 4-3 record in the UFC, with his biggest win coming over...Pat Healy, I suppose. That said, he was an on-paper tough matchup for Pyle who had a deceptively solid chance entering the fight.
Mike Pyle's Still Got It!
Right? I mean, the dude beat Waldburger in every area of the cage and made him pay for every hint of offense. That comes from the 15 years of MMA experience he has under his belt, and it's not something many other fighters can hope to imitate.
Pyle landed hands from striking range, worked knees in the clinch, scored takedowns at will before finishing Waldburger in the third round. It was one of Pyle's most impressive performances to date.
Herb Dean Is Not Actually That Great a Referee
Now look, I know that refereeing is a tough job and all that jazz. That said, you don't often see them let a clearly unconscious guy get hit in the face for a solid 15 seconds.
Herb Dean, regularly pointed to as the best ref in the MMA business by the UFC's commentators, officiated this fight and plain-and-simple let the fight go on far, far too long. It's inexcusable, it's dangerous and I doubt you're going to hear UFC President Dana White go on a tirade on par with one you'd hear if it was Steve Mazzagatti in the cage.
Nobody should play favorites with Dean when it comes to a mistake like that.
The Welterweight Division is Uber-Deep
So Mike Pyle looked like a beast, and he is ranked at No. 15 in the welterweight division. That isn't even a bad place to put him, either. The welterweight division is just so stacked that a really solid fighter like Pyle finds himself buried underneath 14 other guys.
Pyle, in reality, is one of the best gatekeepers in the UFC, consistently exposing good-but-not-great fighters while getting beaten by legitimate contenders. That isn't to say he is permanently locked outside of title contention. He has the skills to put together a lengthy winning streak against the right opponents.
Right now, though, he finds himself as the ultimate test for fighters hoping to crack into the top-10.
TJ Waldburger Might Want to Retire
So TJ Waldburger looked decent for a little bit there, but was consistently a step behind the 38-year-old Pyle. Much less positive, though, is this:
TJ Waldburger's 7 career knockout defeats are tied with Frank Mir for second-most of anyone on the #UFC roster behind Alistair Overeem (8).— Adam Martin (@MMAdamMartin) February 23, 2014
Chins don't strengthen with time, and Waldburger's has already been reduced to porcelain...and he's just 25 years old. It's not like we're talking about Andrei Arlovski or Chuck Liddell, who both had over a decade of combat sports under his belt before finding themselves prone to getting knocked out by even a glancing blow.
Waldburger's health is at risk here.