Sometimes you wake up and you get it in your head to write 4500 words about UFC on Fox Sports 1. This is one of those times. Let’s get to it.
Lightweight Bout: James Vick d. Ramsey Nijem via Submission (:58, R1)
What you need to know: Due to the live format of TUF 15, Vick was forced off of the season finale after suffering an ill-timed concussion. He was one of the show’s more promising prospects, a big man with a thirst for knowledge.
Nijem was the runner-up of TUF 13. He was as well known for his spontaneous shedding of clothes as he was for his wrestling. He came into this fight with a respectable 3-2 record.
How it went down: A tall kickboxer like Vick is just asking to be taken down by someone with Nijem’s background. Sure enough, Nijem looked to take the action to the mat right out of the gate…and he fell into a match ending guillotine choke.
What’s next for Nijem: (3-3 UFC, Lost last 2) Since 2011, Nijem has made six appearances in the UFC, only missing one fight due to injury. The company has to respect a workhorse like that and it could be enough to keep him around even with two one-sided losses. If so, he’ll have to beat guys like Zhang Tie Quan, Rafaello Oliveira and Mac Danzig to avoid the axe.
What’s next for Vick: (1-0 UFC, W5) First, compete in a Tyler Hansbrough lookalike contest; second, get back in the gym and capitalize on this momentum. Look for him to face TUF: The Smashes winner Norman Parke, Grudge representative Justin Salas or Anthony Njokuani in what would be a great kickboxing exhibition. With the quick win, don’t be surprised if Vick is a prime candidate to step-in for an injured fighter on short notice either.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Ovince St. Preux d. Cody Donovan via KO (2:07, R1)
What you need to know: Donovan surprised a lot of people by knocking out highly touted Canadian Nick Penner on short notice. The win afforded him the opportunity to step up against St. Preux, one of Strikeforce’s emerging stars before that organization was acquired by Zuffa.
How it went down: Unlike in his first fight with Penner, Donovan actually managed to get the fight to the ground where he could work his magic. St. Preux made sure he was unable to do anything, using his instincts and athleticism to reverse and get on top where he was able to punch out Donovan from inside his guard.
What’s next for Donovan: (1-1 UFC, L1) 205 remains a top heavy division and this loss keeps Donovan near the bottom of the pack. Lingering around that range are Igor Pokrajac, Gian Villante and Ilir Latifi. It would be fun to see Donovan (a BJJ black belt) welcome famed grappling instructor Robert Drysdale to the octagon.
What’s next for St. Preux: (2-0 UFC, W2) Every win matters at this level and St. Preux could climb the charts fast if he keeps this up. Now would be a great time to pair him up with Rafael Cavalcante. Feijão was the light heavyweight champion in Strikeforce when he and St. Preux competed there. Coming off a loss, Feijão is still a deadly opponent who will either expose St. Preux or provide an instant shot of career adrenaline.
Featherweight Bout: Manvel Gamburyan d. Cole Miller via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
What you need to know: TUF 5 veterans collide! In a way, Gamburyan and Miller were “lightweight pioneers” having been part of the TUF season that ushered in the return of the 155 pound division. While neither man has ever been a headliner, they’ve both logged double digit appearances for Zuffa (including Gamburyan’s WEC work where he did face José Aldo in a main event). They are a familiar sight to many fans who became interested in the UFC around 2007, when the organization expanded to five weight classes. Since then, both have dropped to featherweight with Gamburyan once being world ranked and Miller struggling to find his footing.
How it went down: This is one to consider in the continuing study of judging philosophy. Gamburyan, a master of takedowns, repeatedly grounded Miller while staying in top control. Miller responded by striking from the bottom and attacking with submissions (that Gamburyan deftly fended off). There was also a peculiar sequence in between the first and second rounds where Gamburyan needed extra time to recover due to some illegal elbows to the back of the head that connected just as the opening round concluded. Miller did his best to be a good sport at the time, though he is apparently now asking for the results to be overturned due to the extended rest time.
What’s next for Miller: (8-6 UFC, L1) Is this the end of the line for Magrinho? With a 1-3 record, he’s been a flop at featherweight. The only validation for the move has been a submission victory over the respected Bart Palaszewski. Should he stay on, we can expect him to face someone like Cody McKenzie, Max Holloway or Daniel Pineda.
What’s next for Gamburyan: (4-5 UFC, W2) Gamburyan’s record is deceptive as it includes his time at lightweight, a division he was not suited for. As a featherweight, Gamburyan has a combined WEC/UFC record of 5-3, which keeps him firmly in the top 20 of the division. A match with any of the event’s other featherweight winners makes sense and he would be an ideal test for the budding Diego Brandao.
Featherweight Bout: Diego Brandao d. Daniel Pineda via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
What you need to know: Brandao remains an intriguing prospect, decimating his TUF competition long before anyone had even heard of Uriah Hall. His natural ferocity tempered by the calming atmosphere of Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts has all the makings of a difference maker at 145.
Pineda made an immediate impact with first round submissions in his first two UFC fights and he opened a lot of eyes in a close decision loss to former featherweight kingpin Mike Brown. That momentum was deadened by a KO loss to Antonio Carvalho. Taking out Brandao would go a long way towards getting people talking again.
How it went down: In what is quickly becoming the blueprint for every Brandao fight, the Brazilian brought the fury early and survived late. As critical as that sounds, it is also a compliment. The competition in this division gets tougher and tougher and blowouts are hard to come by. On this occasion, Brandao had to use takedowns to snuff out a spirited comeback by Pineda. He landed several in the third round en route to a unanimous win.
What’s next for Pineda: (3-3 UFC, L1) Pineda needs to prove that he’s more than a building block for the careers of others. The key to that is finding consistency. He has looked brilliant at times (a spectacular kimura in his last fight earned him a Submission of the Night bonus) and flat at others (the Carvalho KO is still a head scratcher). Aside from the other featherweights in tonight’s losers’ circle, Robbie Peralta (when he returns from a suspension) would provide an interesting clash of styles for Pineda.
What’s next for Brandao: (4-1 UFC, W3) A top 20 opponent. I currently have him ranked just outside that range. His record dictates a step-up, which doesn’t give him much time to shore up those glaring weaknesses. I like the Gamburyan match-up, but I could also see him fighting Akira Corassani somewhere down the road, an exciting bout that never materialized during their time in the TUF house.
Featherweight Bout: Steve Siler d. Mike Brown via KO (:50, R1)
What you need to know: Brown has been working hard to rehab his career since a brutal stretch saw him lose three of five bouts after dropping the WEC title to José Aldo. There’s no nice way to put it: he’s getting up there in age and young guns like Siler are lining up to add him to their resume.
Siler has been quietly making a name for himself, losing only once in his first five UFC appearances. A number of decisions have failed to leave much of an imprint on the casual fan and he needs a flashy finish to propel him to a higher ranking.
How it went down: Siler got his flashy finish. After rocking Brown with a huge right, Siler bounced his head off of the mat a couple of times before Yves Lavigne stepped in. Brown protested, but the stoppage was a good one for his sake.
What’s next for Brown: (2-4 UFC, L1) With all due respect to Brown, retirement has to be a consideration. In his first 26 fights, Brown had never suffered a loss via knockout; in his last 9 he’s been knocked out 3 times and they were all nasty. There’s no questioning that Brown is still highly skilled and motivated, but the body and chin aren’t cooperating. If he sticks around, all that awaits him are more youthful, hungry challengers like the winner of the Charles Oliveira/Hacran Dias fight in October.
What’s next for Siler: (5-1 UFC, W2) This is exactly the kind of win that turns someone from card filler into a contender. Not only is Brown a relatively big name, Siler was able to dust him off in under a minute. He’s got no choice but to be ready for a potentially career changing match-up. Gamburyan makes a lot of sense, or he could be lined up for Conor McGregor (who still needs some seasoning himself). Outside of the card, a match-up with the streaking Dennis Bermudez would further reveal their potential.
Featherweight Bout: Conor McGregor d. Max Holloway via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
What you need to know: McGregor is the key to a potential UFC expansion into Ireland. Luckily for the UFC, he’s also one tough, talented and talkative son of a gun. His obliteration of Marcus Brimage backed up his credentials as Europe’s best prospect and Dana White has been happy to push him full force.
Holloway is getting the MMA world’s version of on-the-job training, having fought five times in the UFC at the tender age of 21. Statistically, he is one of the most active and effective strikers in the featherweight division.
How it went down: Depending on your level of expectations, this was either a tremendous letdown or a validation of McGregor’s skills. I’m not sure what people were expecting since Holloway is no push-over and difficult to finish (it has only happened once in nine previous contests). Both men had their moments, but McGregor was able to stay aggressive while consistently outscoring Holloway. For anyone seeing McGregor for the first time, his hybrid karate stance should have been enough to stick in their minds. He expressed disappointment in his own performance despite winning a clear-cut decision.
What’s next for Holloway: (3-3 UFC, L2) If the timing were different, it could be the Holloway getting the red carpet treatment afforded to McGregor; alas, the young Hawaiian is still searching for a marketable identity. For now, he’s fortunate to be able to show off his educated striking in the octagon until it’s his turn to board the UFC hype train. Daniel Pineda would be a logical opponent, but I’d love to see him matched up with someone like Maximo Blanco or TUF: Brazil runner-up Pepey.
What’s next for McGregor: (2-0 UFC, W10) Impressive though he is, it still feels too soon to put McGregor up against a top 10 opponent. Gamburyan, Siler or Brandao would all be suitable, though they definitely can’t match the buzz that McGregor has going for him right now. Thinking outside the box, it would be interesting to see how he would fare against a grappling specialist like Rani Yahya or Nik Lentz.
Bantamweight Bout: Michael McDonald d. Brad Pickett via Submission (3:43, R2)
What you need to know: Fresh off his first defeat in almost four years at the hands of interim bantamweight champion Renan Barão, McDonald was forced to deal with an unfamiliar reality. Renowned not just for his punching power but his poise, it remained to be seen how strongly he would bounce back after being reminded of his fallibility.
Pickett has been one of the best 135ers for some time, though he’s also had the misfortune of being cast as a stepping stone. Scott Jorgensen, Barão and Eddie Wineland have all gone on to title fights immediately after defeating Pickett.
How it went down: In addition to being well rounded, Pickett has got to be one of the most determined, strong-willed individuals on the roster. McDonald’s knockouts of Alex Soto and Miguel Torres exposed the dynamite in his hands. He had a short fuse on Saturday, doing his best to detonate Pickett’s skull. The man would not stay down. Afterwards, McDonald said he feared he’d mysteriously lost his knockout power. Rather than punch himself out, McDonald stayed patient even as Pickett found a second wind. Defending from the guard, McDonald waited until exactly the right moment before executing a flawless triangle choke to win the match.
What’s next for Pickett: (3-3 UFC, L1) Keep on truckin’, as they say. Pickett has already fought the majority of the top ten, making his next booking tricky. I’d like to see him face Brian Bowles when he returns or this evening’s Urijah Faber victim, Iuri Alcantara.
What’s next for McDonald: (5-1 UFC, W1) This sensational win isn’t enough to get him a rematch just yet, but he maintained his status as one of the five best bantamweights. The most compelling match-up would be a meeting with his friend Faber. Another possibility would be the TJ Dillashaw/Raphael Assunçao winner.
The Main Card
Lightweight Bout: Michael Johnson d. Joe Lauzon (30-27 x2, 30-25)
What you need to know: Lauzon is the consummate TV fighter; in the days when the UFC didn’t have a glut of free programming, Lauzon was called upon to spice up or even headline a card. He has the kind of game that can convince people to someday shell out real money for the PPVs. Aside from winning fights, his current goal appears to be avoiding prolonged battles that have been good for his bank account (matches with Jim Miller and Jamie Varner scored him back to back Fight of the Night bonuses totalling $115,000) and terrible for his long term health.
Johnson is a promising athlete who has grown by leaps and bounds since his stint on TUF 12. He put together a three fight win streak capped off by an explosive KO of Danny Castillo, but came into this fight on a losing streak including a submission loss to unheralded Reza Madadi in his last appearance. They couldn’t have picked a worse opponent for him, due to his propensity for tap outs (6 of Johnson’s 8 career losses have come by way of submission) and the fact that Lauzon would have a raucous Boston crowd supporting him.
How it went down: Johnson rose to the occasion and Lauzon fell flat on his face. As a fan of Lauzon, I’m inclined to believe that he had some lingering injury or illness that affected his performance. Nothing has been reported, so all the credit has to go to Johnson for putting all of his tools together and manhandling Lauzon.
What’s next for Lauzon: (9-6 UFC, L2) At the prime age of 29, Lauzon finds himself firmly in the veteran’s circle. Potential opponents residing there are Gray Maynard and Evan Dunham who are both recovering from losses. I, personally, would love to see him finally face Nate Diaz, a dream match that has been teased since their time in the TUF house.
What’s next for Johnson: (5-4 UFC, W1) “The Menace” is tough to rank and even tougher to book due his schizophrenic win-loss record (seriously, check out who he’s beaten and who has beaten him. Is he a top 20 lightweight? Top 30?). Josh Thomson might be too a stern test. I wouldn’t mind seeing him get the Gleison Tibau/Jamie Varner winner.
Middleweight Bout: John Howard d. Uriah Hall via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
What you need to know: Two opponents were pulled due to injuries before they settled on Howard, a former UFC welterweight who had found a new groove at 185 since being released back in 2011. He was fighting on short notice, undersized and eager to stand and bang, which sounded like the perfect recipe for Hall to bounce back after looking dull in losing the TUF 17 championship
How it went down: Yuck. This one didn’t go down easy, did it? Neither Howard nor Hall should be particularly proud of what transpired here, though at least Howard can comfort himself with a nice win bonus and the promise of another UFC booking. Hall has no such guarantee. I’m all for fighters having fun and being good sportsmen, but seeing these two high five each other over and over again after uneventful striking exchanges was borderline appalling. Perhaps they were caught up in the moment. Either way, Howard outworked Hall who (once again) failed to pull the trigger.
What’s next for Hall: (0-2 UFC, L2) A lot of time to think. Hall is a gifted striker, nobody can deny that, but the sport of MMA has come so far that physicality and talent isn’t enough. Just like every major sport, psychology is a huge part of an athlete’s performance. All of those petty conflicts that were highlighted on TUF 17 that I’d figured was manufactured reality show drama are actually seriously affecting his career. The UFC shouldn’t give up on him so soon as he still has a star quality that you can’t buy or teach. You watch him enter the ring and fight for thirty seconds and you want to know more about him. I say throw him in there with other mystifying talents like Lorenz Larkin, Tom Watson or heck, Chris Leben, and let them sort themselves out.
What’s next for Howard: (5-3 UFC, W3) Talk about taking advantage of an opportunity, eh? Seeing him standing across from Hall, you have to believe Howard is considering a move back down to 170 even if he enjoys not having to cut weight. Should he stay where he is, he’d be a fun match-up for Cezar Ferreira, Thales Leites or C.B. Dollaway.
Welterweight Bout: Matt Brown d. Mike Pyle via KO (:29, R1)
What you need to know: Sometimes a match just makes itself. Brown and Pyle have been walking the same path; two proven finishers on white hot streaks only missing a win over a top name to put themselves into legitimate contention. Joe Silva could have crunched the numbers and consulted his brain trust to figure out how to properly keep both guys in the mix; instead, he threw two starving dogs in the cage to fight over the proverbial steak.
How it went down: To the surprise of absolutely no one, Brown and Pyle came charging out of the gate. Brown was first. A series of strikes left Pyle open for a knee right up the middle that put him on his butt. Ground and pound. Fight over.
What’s next for Pyle: (8-4 UFC, L1) At 37, this loss all but eliminates any chance of Pyle ever fighting for the title. That doesn’t mean he can’t continue to be a valuable member of the roster. His laid back personality and aggressive style have been a hit with the fans and there are still big ticket fights in his future. A rematch with Jake Ellenberger could work. He could also get the Carlos Condit/Martin Kampmann loser or Josh Koscheck.
What’s next for Brown: (11-5 UFC, W6) Brown wants that match with Georges St-Pierre so bad he can taste it. He’s been calling him out non-stop for the last few days, doing everything he can to drum up interest. If this were the WWE, he would have already attacked GSP backstage and filled his luxury sports car with cement. Don’t expect that match to materialize, though Brown is at the front of the line should Johny Hendricks or a future contender be forced to bow out due to an injury. That’s not a bad place to be. In the meantime, he’ll have to settle for Rory MacDonald or Robbie Lawler (who are in talks to face each other at UFC 167 in November).
Bantamweight Bout: Urijah Faber d. Iuri Alcantara via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-26 x2)
What you need to know: I’m embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t aware of Faber’s record of never losing non-title fights. Critics may scoff at his repeated failed challenges for UFC gold, but has there been a time in the last few years where he wasn’t one of the three best fighters in his division? Alcantara is a low-profile opponent compared to Faber’s usual rogues gallery, representing a high risk situation for the former WEC champ.
How it went down: One aspect of his game that Alcantara takes immense pride in is that he rarely ends up on the wrong end of a scramble. He and Faber locked up right away and Alcantara’s boast almost proved prophetic. Alcantara quickly took the back and for two minutes it looked like he might shock the world. The experience of Faber was evident, he kept his composure until he could reverse position and work from Alcantara’s guard. That was the story for the rest of the match as Faber used masterful top control to earn a comfortable decision win.
What’s next for Alcantara: (3-2 [1 NC], L1) Don’t let the fact that Alcantara spent the better part of the fifteen minute duration on his back fool you. He’s a dangerous fighter. He only has 2 losses in his last 16 contests (to Faber and Hacran Dias who had a record of 20-1-1 at the time). The top of the rankings is still within reach. Beating the aforementioned Brad Pickett or Scott Jorgensen would keep Alcantara in the thick of things.
What’s next for Faber: (5-2, W3) Michael McDonald, right?
Heavyweight Bout: Travis Browne d. Alistair Overeem via KO (4:08, R1)
What you need to know: With Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos taking care of unfinished business, the onus is now on the rest of the heavyweight division to position themselves for a marquee match when the dust settles.
Overeem had been touted as the uncrowned king for years, despite doing a whole lot of nothing until he won a rematch against Fabricio Werdum in a snoozer. His first round finish of Brock Lesnar was legit, though it’s telling that Lesnar was mentally absent and retired from MMA soon after. Coming in noticeably smaller against Antonio Silva, he won the first two rounds before paying the ultimate price for his lollygagging in the third: Big Foot pounding his face in. I don’t like Overeem.
Browne is somewhat of an enigma, alternating between terrifying and perplexing. A first round TKO of James McSweeney followed by a draw against Cheick Kongo. The most vicious Superman punch of all time to destroy Stefan Struve followed by a stinker of a win over Rob Broughton. He overwhelmed Chad Griggs and then suffered an unfortunate injury that hampered his performance against Antonio Silva. His last win against Gabriel Gonzaga came as a result of some fishy looking elbows. What Travis Browne would show up on Saturday night?
How it went down: Looking slightly less monstrous these days, Overeem reminded everyone that first and foremost he’s an elite kickboxer. He bullied Browne against the cage and brutalized him with knees to the body. This must have lead to some unpleasant trips to the washroom for Browne afterwards. As Browne faded, Overeem started throwing hands that were just off the mark. Unable to land the telling blow, Overeem gassed out. How do I know this? He couldn’t raise his arms up to properly defend against Browne’s front kick assault. A big foot (see what I did there?) finally made it right through the uprights, dazing the K1 Grand Prix winner and leaving him helpless to stop Browne from finishing.
What’s next for Overeem: (1-2 UFC, L2) Heavyweight draws like Overeem are a rare commodity. He shouldn’t be too worried about his job security, even though he’s a big ticket item (around $300,000 to $400,000 per fight) that isn’t earning his keep at the moment. It would be quite a sight to see him face someone like Stefan Struve or, on the opposite end of the ruler, Mark Hunt (a rematch from 2008).
What’s next for Browne: (6-1-1 UFC, W2) Like Matt Brown, Travis Browne has placed himself in a plum spot should the UFC need an emergency title challenger. Just break the glass and he’ll be ready to go. The most popular suggestions I’ve seen are that he face the winner of August’s Frank Mir/Josh Barnett contest or October’s Roy Nelson/Daniel Cormier contest.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Chael Sonnen d. Shogun Rua via Submission (4:47, R1)
What you need to know: By hook or by crook, Sonnen manages to stay in the spotlight. How do you lose two straight fights and still end up in the main event of one of the most important cards of the year? Chael Sonnen, that’s how.
It wasn’t the opponent Shogun wanted, but after a back injury took out Antônio Rogério Nogueira, it was what he got. On the surface, it was easy to say that Shogun had not faced an opponent with such a wrestling heavy attack since Mark Coleman (Dan Henderson and Jon Jones are fine grapplers in their own right who are just as likely to strike as they are to shoot). He shouldn’t have been worried about Sonnen’s propensity for fast starts since Shogun himself was famous for blitzing foes.
How it went down: Sonnen scored a takedown right away. Shogun recovered and got one of his own. Sonnen regained control. Shogun powered up sloppily. Sonnen submits Shogun with a guillotine choke. Shogun had not been submitted in almost six years.
I…did not see that one coming.
What’s next for Shogun: (5-6 UFC, L2) The first losing streak of his career apparently. I’d go as far as to say that this loss was almost as shocking as when he was tapped by Forrest Griffin. Before Bones came along, Shogun was arguably the greatest light heavyweight of all time. Can that title go to a fighter with a losing record in the UFC? I don’t want to see Shogun retire, but there are few match-ups that make sense for him at the moment because most of the 205ers in the losers circle are far below him in prestige. Two enticing rematches do appeal to me: Shogun/Lyoto Machida III (should Machida stay at light heavyweight) or even better, Shogun/Henderson II.
What’s next for Sonnen: (7-6 UFC, W1) Another title shot! Whooooo! Nah. His post-match callout of Wanderlei Silva was classic. Dana, Joe, whoever, let’s make this one happen, please.