That was a strange night of fights, wasn’t it? Calling UFC 148 bizarre is probably being kind as I’ve seen the words the words “disappointing” and “boring” used too. To start off, we had a preliminary card that looked so promising on paper that I deemed it to be more PPV worthy than the UFC 147 (a glorified Ultimate Fighter finale). Shane Roller was a WEC standout, Costa Philippou is a rising star in the middleweight division and Gleison Tibau and Melvin Guillard are two of the UFC’s most experienced fighters. Yet the preliminaries fell flat. There were some sparks (Philippou’s flurries, Fabrício Camões’ reckless attempts to drag Guillard to the ground), but nothing close to a flame. I’m not a viewer who immediately dismisses decisions as boring, but these fights were lacking.
That feeling carried over onto the first fight of the main card between Ivan Menjivar and Mike Easton, a solid matchup that never got out of the gates. That letdown was followed by two strange TKOs, both seeming to involve rib injuries. Cung Le and Patrick Côté provided some excitement with a good back and forth battle, but that was quickly forgotten in the wake of the listless third meeting between Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz. The fight was fine (if a little monotonous), but Griffin’s post-match antics were strange and, frankly, dick-ish. What was supposed to be a send-off for Ortiz turned into yet another episode of “What the F**k is Wrong With Forrest”?
Even the main event had a touch of controversy. It’s hard to say what caused more of an uproar: a seemingly illegal knee by Silva or the cartoonish spinning back fist attempt by Sonnen that preceded it. The referee stoppage was spot on, but admittedly a tad anticlimactic in lieu of all the hype. Anticlimactic: another word that could sum up the event.
Let’s dig deeper starting with the first televised fight:
Lightweight Bout: Roller d. Alessio via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
How it went down: Alessio took the first round with takedown defense and effective striking, but Roller’s elite wrestling dictated the rest of the action. After the fight, Alessio looked annoyed at having been held down, but this was hardly lay and pray. Roller punished him with short punches and elbows from top control. A finish would have been great, but the former Division-I All American did more than enough to win and keep his job.
They may as well have put one of these on a pole.
What’s next for Alessio: (0-5 UFC, Lost last 1) A release, unfortunately.
What’s next for Roller: (2-3 UFC, Won last 1) The guarantee of another paycheck! Actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing him matched up with Rafaello Oliveira (who picked up a win on the Facebook prelim). If that’s too obvious, Roller would make a good test for one of the recent TUF 15 contestants, like Daron Cruickshank (who has a similar style) or the undefeated Myles Jury.
Middleweight Bout: Philippou d. Fukuda via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
How it went down: This had all the makings of a brawl, but Fukuda smartly stayed away once he felt the power of Philippou. Philippou, on the other hand, did everything he could to force the action while defending takedown attempts. A nasty eye poke derailed any chances of a finish in the closing moments, but he pressed forward anyway. Costa would later say that the thought he “lost his eye”.
What’s next for Fukuda: (1-2 UFC, L1) That record should read 2-1. In his UFC debut against Nick Ring, Fukuda was screwed over so egregiously by the judges that Dana White paid him his win money anyway. With the exception of a decent dust-up against Steve Cantwell, Fukuda is struggling to find his niche. Look for him to be matched up with the likes of Magnus Cedenblad, Caio Magalhaes or Clifford Starks as the UFC figures out just what to do with this talented Japanese fighter.
What’s next for Philippou: (4-1 UFC, W4) While a win over Fukuda doesn’t affect his standing dramatically, his current streak guarantees that he’ll be booked against a higher ranked opponent. It would be great to see him matched up with the dormant Ronny Markes or even Alan Belcher should that Belcher-Bisping encounter not materialize.
Lightweight Bout: Nurmagomedov d. Tibau via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
How it went down: I greatly underestimated Nurmagomedov’s grappling acumen as he actually attempted more takedowns than Tibau. He didn’t complete a single one, but he clearly got points for trying. This match was scored in a similar fashion to the Kampmann-Sanchez fight, except that Tibau isn’t the counter striker that Kampmann is. The Eagle’s constant pressure was the deciding factor in this considerable upset.
What’s next for Tibau: (10-6 UFC, L1) He just can’t get ahead. The UFC has given him more than enough opportunities to step up, but he’s lost against every top ten opponent he’s faced. Now he’s lost to a prospect, all but confirming his status as a stepping stone. I could see him in competitive bouts with Jacob Volkmann or Sam Stout, but I’d like to see him face Edson Barboza so we can see how these two bounce back from tough losses.
What’s next for Nurmagomedov: (2-0 UFC, W18) I thought Tibau was already a pretty big leap in competition, so if they’re going to throw him to the wolves why not give him Melvin Guillard?
Lightweight Bout: Guillard d. Camões via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
How it went down: The score above doesn’t reflect how close some of these rounds were. Guillard predictably dominated the striking for the duration of the bout, but I thought Camões stole round one when he managed to reach full mount and land some brief, but vicious ground and pound. Then again, that round also ended with him whiffing on a takedown attempt and eating some punches himself. The second round had an almost identical ending. Camões’ clumsy takedowns sealed his fate.
What’s next for Camões: (1-2-1 UFC, L1) Like I said, he really didn’t look as bad as that score suggested. He really needs to work on his striking and takedowns though. His jiu-jitsu is at an elite level, but it’s extraordinarily difficult to win at this level with only one skill set. The days of Royce Gracie are long gone. I’d like to see how he’d fare against TUF 15 runner-up Al Iaquinta, equally one-dimensional kickboxer John Makdessi, or veteran Carlo Prater.
What’s next for Guillard: (11-6 UFC, W1) If they think it’s too soon for him to face Nurmagomedov, I wouldn’t mind seeing him face off with Clay Guida.
Bantamweight Bout: Easton d. Menjivar via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
How it went down: Along with the Philippou-Fukuda fight, I thought this had serious Fight of the Night potential. Neither even came close. Menjivar was wary of the massive hands of Easton. He was determined to land a definitive counter-punch, but with only fifteen minutes to work that opportunity doesn’t always come in an MMA bout. Easton showed great footwork and refused to give Menjivar any convenient angles. It’s a shame these clashing game plans made for an unappealing fight.
I mentioned the hands, right?
What’s next for Menjivar: (3-2 UFC, L1) He had an off-night, but he remains near the top of the bantamweight rankings and a couple of solid wins would put him back on track. Most of the marquee names are already booked, so the UFC might ask him to provide a rude welcome to incoming talents like Mitch Gagnon or Azamat Gashimov. Otherwise, it would be a treat to see him fight Brian Bowles whenever the former bantamweight champ returns from injury.
What’s next for Easton: (3-0 UFC, W8) His win over Menjivar makes Easton one of the ten best bantamweights in the world. After his fight, Easton told Ariel Helwani that he would be open to facing his teammate Dominick Cruz should that opportunity arise in the future. He stated that it would be insulting to Cruz if he refused to fight him, commending his warrior’s spirit. If he can get past the resurgent Eddie Wineland or the explosive Michael McDonald, we might soon see an all Alliance championship bout.
Featherweight Bout: Mendes d. McKenzie via TKO (:31, R1)
How it went down: Man, who could have seen this one coming? Oh right, everyone in the world except for this blogger. I admit to falling into the trap of fandom and talking myself into the whole “once you step into the cage anything can happen” mindset. There’s a reason I don’t gamble. McKenzie didn’t look right from the beginning. This is purely my opinion, but it looked like he didn’t cut weight the right way. Some guys can change weight classes and look more or less the same as they did before, but McKenzie looked drawn out and he was already a gangly lightweight. This suggests to me that he just starved or severely dehydrated himself to make weight as opposed to making the necessary changes to his diet. Again, this is purely speculation. As for the fight itself, Mendes took care of business. He caught an errant kick, nearly punched McKenzie’s rib cage out of his torso and finished with ground strikes.
Like this, but even harder.
What’s next for McKenzie: (2-3 UFC, L1) Hopefully a smoother weight cut and an easier opponent. Body shots were also his undoing when he lost to Nam Phan in the quarterfinals of TUF 12, so he needs to work on protecting that area. With his crowd pleasing style and unique look, it would be ideal for the UFC to feature him on one of their free cards in the near future. Possible opponents include fellow string bean Pablo Garza, former TUF housemate Jonathan Brookins or TUF: Brazil runner-up Pepey.
What’s next for Mendes: (3-1 UFC, W1) People are already saying that he’s destined to become the Jon Fitch of the featherweight division. He’s the clear cut second best featherweight, but was handled so easily by the champion that he’s a tough sell to main event again. I wouldn’t be against a rematch. Mendes got caught in a bad position and ate a knockout kick from José Aldo. There’s no shame in that. He’ll need to reclaim his place in line by beating upstarts Erik Koch, Ricardo Lamas or Chan Sung Jung. If the UFC doesn’t want to risk halting the momentum of one of those young stars, Cub Swanson would be a fun matchup as well.
Welterweight Bout: Maia d. Kim via TKO-Injury (:47, R1)
How it went down: Continuing the mystifying action, Kim was finished in under a minute after suffering what appeared to be a crippling rib injury. Maia looked good dropping down to 170, doing what he does best: grappling. Despite Kim having excellent takedown defence, once Maia got a hold of him he wasn’t letting go until he brought the fight into his world. The injury might have been a fluke, but Maia did exactly what he wanted do and was rewarded for it.
What’s next for Kim: (6-2 [1 NC] UFC, L1) It’s hard to believe that only a year ago, Kim was facing off against Carlos Condit in what was essentially a no. 1 contender’s bout. Stun Gun is a long ways from those lofty heights now. He finds himself stuck in the middle of the pack with the likes of Thiago Alves, Diego Sanchez and Paulo Thiago, all marketable names who might have to climb over each other to stay relevant.
What’s next for Maia: (10-4 UFC, W1) GSP was in the building and if I were Maia, I would have called him out. Then again, Maia is a professional fighter and not a moron like me, so I guess you can see why he might not do that. Maia’s going to be tough to book because he’s a former middleweight title contender, but still an unknown property at welterweight. This fight didn’t answer many questions. I’d like to see how he’d fare against grinders like Mike Pierce or Rick Story, but Mike Pyle would make for the most exciting fight.
Middleweight Bout: Le d. Côté via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
How it went down: Another fight that was closer than the scorecard suggests. Côté actually came into this fight as the favourite, which is fair considering he’s fought for the title before and was riding a four fight win streak outside of the UFC. Le, on the other hand, snatched a Fight of the Night bonus with Wanderlei Silva, but it’s fair to say that he’s getting up there in age. Côté has improved his wrestling a lot, but he found himself on his back more than once thanks to some beautifully timed trips by Le. The Sanshou master’s arsenal of kicks was on full display and he landed several nice shots to the leg and body from angles that most fighters wouldn’t attempt. To Côté’s credit, he fought hard to the end and made Le earn every round.
What’s next for Côté: (4-8 UFC, L1) He did the boss a solid by stepping in for a Rich Franklin (who had to step in for an injured Vitor Belfort at UFC 147) and he looked sharp too. He’s now in a similar situation to the aforementioned Riki Fukuda, so expect him to be slotted with the same level of opponents or maybe even Fukuda himself.
What’s next for Le: (1-1 UFC, W1) Were he ten years younger, there would be a plethora of choices but at this stage in his career there’s only one fight that makes sense: his originally scheduled opponent Rich Franklin.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Griffin d. Ortiz via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
How it went down: Much like W. Silva-Franklin II, this was another fight that was labelled as irrelevant by fans. Unlike Silva and Franklin, these two failed to deliver. This match was almost identical to their last encounter except that Griffin and Ortiz looked diminished. Ortiz no longer has his dynamite takedowns and Griffin’s pitter-patter shots looked pitter-patterier than ever. Griffin out-struck Ortiz by a wide margin, but Ortiz rocked Griffin and the crowd was firmly behind him by the time the final bell rang. Griffin then proceeded to make an ass of himself. First, he ran out of the octagon as if anticipating an unfavourable decision and then he ruined Ortiz’ chance to have a closing interview with Joe Rogan by conducting the interview himself. He also took some odd cheap shots at Ortiz while talking to him. It was a classless move by such a likeable fighter and regardless of how you feel about Ortiz that should have been his moment to enjoy.
What’s next for Ortiz: (15-11-1 UFC, L3) A well deserved retirement. I remember him walking to the ring when he was facing Ryan Bader and just looking solemn. I don’t think his belief in himself ever wavered, but he definitely was aware that fans were prepared to say good-bye. He scored a miraculous win that night and three fights later he can finally walk away knowing that he left it all in the octagon. He carried the torch for the UFC during their darkest days, never attempting to distance himself even as fair-weather fans and the mainstream media vilified the sport he loved. He may have been motivated by his own interests, but he paved the way for increased fighter salaries (an ongoing battle) and widespread acceptance. He was a cocky punk and an ambassador all at the same time. Tito Ortiz has a comfortable perch amongst the legends of mixed martial arts.
What’s next for Griffin: (10-5 UFC, W1) A psychiatrist, perhaps?
Middleweight bout: Silva d. Sonnen via TKO (1:55, R2)
How it went down: Round six started off the same as rounds one through five. Sonnen walked Silva down, eating a couple of shots before getting a grip around Silva’s waist and taking him down. Right away, you could see a change in Silva’s strategy. Rather than waste energy attempting to get up or apply submissions, Silva held on and didn’t allow Sonnen to posture up. Sonnen remained active enough to avoid being stood up, but he wasn’t able to land anything substantial other than a few glancing elbows. The challenger took round one easily and it seemed like everything was going his way except for the fact that Silva wasn’t really hurt.
In the second round, it took a little longer but Sonnen took Silva down again. This time they were pressed against the cage giving Silva the opportunity to wall walk up, which he eventually did while blatantly grabbing on to Sonnen’s shorts. Referee Yves Lavigne was reluctant to intervene for some reason, allowing Silva to maintain his illegal hold while peppering Sonnen with straight rights. It’s at this point that Sonnen might have been seriously hurt, though it’s unclear. It’s the best explanation for what happened next though. As Silva was backed up against the cage again, Sonnen threw a preposterous spinning back fist, a move that nobody had ever seen him use before. I could be wrong, but you’re not supposed to end up flat on your ass after throwing one of those, right?
Smelling blood, Silva pounced immediately landing effective strikes as Sonnen struggled to get back up. He fell again and Silva threw what looked to be knee to the head of a downed opponent. Further angles showed it being buried deep into Sonnen’s chest. As Sonnen was being pummelled, Lavigne made the wise decision to call the fight.
One last note: There’s no way Silva was aiming for Sonnen’s head with that knee. It’s one thing to grab onto the shorts and risk a point deduction; it’s another to risk getting disqualified and lose your title. Also, considering how much damage that knee did, I have a hard time believing that it didn’t land exactly where it was supposed to. Anderson is the best striker mixed martial arts has ever seen. He knows what he’s doing.
I mean, come on, this isn’t Malaysia.
What’s next for Sonnen: (6-5 UFC, L1) A well deserved retirement…oh, wait no. Despite the brilliant challenge he laid down against Silva, swearing to leave the UFC forever if he lost, he remains highly marketable and it would suck to see Sonnen hang it up. He made a healthy pay day (only $50,000 to show, but I guarantee he’s getting a cut of the PPV money that should put him past seven figures) and he deserves to take some time off to rest after working his ass off to build up this fight. A move to light heavyweight has been discussed, but it’s better for Sonnen to take a few more big money fights before he retires. Depending on how some key middleweight matchups go over the next few months, Sonnen could find himself facing off with Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort or Jake Shields.
What’s next for Silva: (15-0 UFC, W16) As always seems to be the case with Silva, there is no immediate challenger to his throne. Mark Muñoz is the most likely option if he can get past Chris Weidman on Wednesday, but don’t expect Weidman to be picked if he manages to upset The Filipino Wrecking Machine unless he does it in spectacular fashion. The same goes for Hector Lombard who should reasonably be two fights away, but a decisive defeat of Tim Boetsch might get him the nod, especially considering he’s unbeaten in twenty-five straight contests. Boetsch is also a legitimate threat and a win over Lombard would make him 4-0 in the middleweight division. Lastly, there’s Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher. Bisping has an 8-3 record at middleweight, with Dan Henderson being the only man to beat him definitively. Love him or hate him, he was arguably the division’s second biggest name before Sonnen’s campaign and a match between he and Silva would draw. Belcher would be my choice, as he’s 6-1 in his last seven fights including a controversial split decision loss to Sexyama. Bisping and Belcher have been begging to have a crack at each other and whoever wins would be more than worthy of a main event slot opposite the Spider. I’ve championed Belcher for a long time as the man to topple Silva, but that’s an article for another day.
Another one of my sterling predictions.