Triskaphobia – Why Is The UFC Afraid Of Trilogies?

I want to see Joseph Benavidez get another crack at Mighty Mouse.  That’s not a match-up that’s high in demand, but I have my reasons.  There first fight was extremely close.  The second fight ended in the most unexpected manner possible (short of Demetrious Johnson flying off the cage like Vega and decapitating Benavidez…you know what I’m saying).  A one shot kill courtesy of the champ.  Here’s how unlikely that finish was:

  • In 22 career fights spanning 7 ½ years, Benavidez had never been finished much less knocked out.  His 3 career losses had come by decision, two of which were splits in championship fights.
  • Prior to the second Benavidez fight, Johnson’s last knockout occurred on February 10, 2010 when he was still competing at the regional level.  In 11 WEC/UFC appearances, he had never recorded a single knockout.

The narrative of the rematch was clear cut: Johnson should use his uncanny speed and mobility to outpoint Benavidez, while Benavidez should wait for his opportunity to land a power punch.  There are few fighters in the lighter weight classes as adept at stopping his opponents as Benavidez.  Two minutes in, the narrative got torn up, burnt to ashes and cast out into the wind.

Johnson dropped Benavidez with a hellacious right hand that robbed the Alpha Male challenger of his senses before he’d even touched the mat.  It was the hardest, most perfect punch that Johnson had landed and probably ever will land in his life.  The guy who never knocks people out just put down the guy who never gets knocked out.  Two minutes and eight seconds was the official time.  The fastest KO in UFC flyweight history.

And yet I want to see them go at it again.

None of this is to say that Johnson’s punch was a fluke or that the first fight was some sort of robbery and that Benavidez should be the champ.  Johnson won both fights fair and square.  The result of their rematch was countless hours of training and study combined with the champ’s incredible fight night instincts.  That was no lucky punch.  But it would be a situation that would be difficult to replicate.  Were they to fight 99 more times, I wouldn’t bet on a Mighty Mouse knockout happening again.  Not just because of the stated reasons, but because of what Benavidez undoubtedly could learn from this second loss.  Make no mistake; there is always something to be learned from losing, even a shockingly abrupt setback such as this one.

The real issue for me is that the UFC (and, admittedly, most fans) has established this pattern where you get two cracks at the champ and that’s it.  Couldn’t get the job done?  Time to change weight classes, find work in another organization or retire buddy.  Even though fighters like Benavidez, Urijah Faber and even Junior dos Santos (who actually completed a trilogy) are the consensus #2 fighters in their respective weight classes, they are somehow almost completely out of the running for a title shot in the near future.

I should clarify that I understand that the UFC isn’t against trilogies; more logically, they’re against trilogies where one of the fighters has proven to be superior.  To me, that feels like they’re killing off contenders too quickly.

Imagine if Juan Manuel Márquez had never got his third and fourth fights with Manny Pacquiao?  Yes, I’m aware there are stark differences.  The Márquez/Pacquiao series took course over an eight year stretch.  Despite Pacquiao going 2-0-1, the first three fights were all open to interpretation.  And a fifth meeting between the two would do bigger box office than three (maybe more) combined Faber/Barão match-ups.  I get that.

But what if they had never booked that 4th meeting?  The boxing community would have been robbed of what was one of the sport’s most exciting and relevant moments of the year when Márquez put Pacquiao down on his face.  My point is that when you put the best with the best, only good things can happen.  I’d much rather see rematch after rematch than fighters who are not ready for the top spot being shoehorned into title matches.  At the present moment, is there anyone who thinks John Moraga is a better fighter than Joseph Benavidez?

Does it ever need to end?  If the champ keeps winning and top contender is able to hold onto his spot, how many times can you mash those action figures together?  3 times?  4?  7?  Luckily, these situations tend to sort themselves out as the talent cycle naturally creates new contenders.  Though that’s not always the case as we saw with Michael McDonald (who is already dangerously close to contender limbo), Ian McCall and Phil Davis (in his first contender fight against Rashad Evans).  Sometimes the next generation isn’t ready, so why should the UFC be in such a hurry to usher out the current one?

Allow me to discuss the merits (or lack thereof) of a few other trilogy fights where one fighter is already down two sets:

  • Urijah Faber (6-3 UFC, 8-3 WEC, 30-7) v. Renan Barão (7-0 UFC, 2-0 WEC, 32-1 [1 NC])

The most immediate and obvious choice.  Even if you believe that Barão was on his way to a decisive finish of Faber, the early stoppage was as bad as we’ve seen in a championship bout.  Faber’s lack of success in title fights is well documented, but even his most dogged detractors would have to admit that he got a raw deal here.  He looked amazing in his previous fights and he’d rightly earned another crack at UFC gold.  The continued misfortune of Dominick Cruz only made Sean Shelby’s decision easier.

The situation reminded me of Ken Shamrock/Tito Ortiz II, where the second fight ended in what Shamrock perceived to be an early stoppage.  That match was headed down a similarly bad path.  In truth, Shamrock had even less of a case for a rematch than Faber and most would assume that Ortiz had his number no matter how many times they fought.  Still, the powers that be deigned them worthy of an immediate rematch that took place on Spike TV.  It should be noted that UFC had heavily invested in the second fight, including coaching stints on The Ultimate Fighter, so it made good sense for them to continue a feud that still had plenty of juice left.

I don’t see why Faber can’t get one more shot on one of the UFC’s many free fight cards.  It’s not like quality main events are falling from the sky.  If you recall, both Faber/Barão meetings have been the result of injuries to Cruz.  It would be nice to see them face off one more time away from the shadow of the ex-champ.

  • Anderson Silva (16-2 UFC, 33-6) v. Chris Weidman (7-0 UFC, 11-0)

From a competitive standpoint, this might be the least appealing rematch.  Make whatever excuses you want, Weidman clobbered Silva and took his belt.  The second fight was tough to watch for obvious reasons.  I haven’t viewed a replay of the finish since that night.  I don’t plan to.

So why am I listing it?  I’m a huge Weidman fan and I don’t even care about the preposterous “he’s never truly beaten a dedicated Anderson Silva before” argument.  At this stage in their careers, Weidman is the better fighter.  It’s hardly worth discussing.

No, the reason I bring this up is because it would still draw enormous bank.  Silva/Weidman I brought in approximately 500,000 buys, while the sequel reportedly cracked a million (with a healthy assist from Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey).  I think it’s fair to say that a third fight could fall somewhere in between.  That would be a boon for the UFC, who are currently struggling to convince the public that they still have plenty of viable PPV stars.  I mean, if Dana White keeps saying Rousey is the biggest star he’s ever had, it has to be true, right?  Speaking of which…

  • Miesha Tate (0-2 UFC, 13-5) v. Ronda Rousey (2-0 UFC, 8-0)

How weird is it that Tate is winless in the UFC, yet still regarded as one of the top challengers?  I’m not disputing it as we all know that you can’t take wins and losses at face value in combat sports.  It just looks funny is all.

This is almost as tough a sell as Silva/Weidman because Rousey’s wins have been so definitive.  Exciting, yes, but definitive.  I know for me, personally, I could watch these two fight a dozen times.  There is such an explosive mix of personalities and styles and a genuine animosity between the two that there is so much for fans of all pedigrees to sink their teeth into.

I am in no way suggesting that Tate get a rematch anytime soon, only that she not be ushered into the “could-a-been” category so quickly.  Let’s say she has a Belfort-esque run of dominant finishes over top ten fighters.  You don’t need much of an excuse to convince people to watch these two go at it again.  I’d hate for the UFC to put off another fight between these two just because we’ve seen it before

  • Benson Henderson (8-1 UFC, 5-1 WEC, 20-3) v. Anthony Pettis (4-1 UFC, 5-1 WEC, 17-2)

As with Tate and Rousey, these two have only had one match in the UFC so it is relatively fresh.  Other than the ninja kick, I’d wager there’s a large portion of fans who have never seen the entirety of their first meeting, which is a shame since that was a brilliant encounter.

The result of the second fight was as shocking as the Benavidez/Johnson finish.  Henderson had only been submitted once before and he’d made a habit of using his incredible smarts and flexibility to escape holds in ways nobody had seen before.  That would explain why the UFC 164 crowd was stunned to see him get caught by a lightning quick Pettis armbar.

Somehow, the 25 minutes they spent together in the WEC cage did more to cement Pettis as a champion in my eyes than the 4 minute submission in their rematch.  I felt like Pettis was the better man both times, but that it wasn’t out of the question for Henderson to someday figure out his rival.  After all, he’d done it to pretty much everybody else.

*****

So what do you all think?  Did I leave any matches out?  Am I completely crazy?  Are these fights unpalatable at this point?  Will they ever be marketable?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Bigger They Are

If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything…it’s that you can kill anybody.

It was billed as one of the most intriguing title contests in recent memory and to say that Chris Weidman/Anderson Silva lived up to the hype would be an understatement.  That is not to say it was a great fight, it was a rather bizarre affair and an inarguably disappointing performance from Silva.  I give all the credit in the world to Weidman who I see as someone who will have several successful title defenses, but to say that Silva’s behaviour had nothing to do with the title changing hands would make me look more foolish than the man himself.  I’d even go as far to say that a Silva in his prime might have actually been able to get away with that kind of chicanery.

As I stressed in my main card preview, there were just too many factors working against Silva and in Weidman’s favour to view this as another routine defense for Silva.  So much of what I was reading and hearing revolved around Weidman’s virtues, with the arguments for Silva mostly comprised of He’s Anderson Silva!  Two or three years ago, that argument might have held weight.  In the here and now, we’re reminded of the harsh reality of professional sports.

If Silva, arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, can lose…then who might be next?

*****

The UFC has taken a lot of deserved criticism for their recent handling of title matches.  Jon Jones has had to defend his belt against two middleweights.  Georges St-Pierre talked the matchmakers into granting him his (highly profitable) grudge match with Nick Diaz, who was coming off a loss and a year-long drug suspension.  José Aldo faced Frankie Edgar, who was 1-3-1 in his last 5 fights.  There were perfectly valid reasons (injuries, intrigue, incompetence) for making those match-ups, but none of them involved the challenger legitimately earning their spot.

With all that nonsense out of the way, there is now at least some semblance of a meritocracy.  Antonio Silva was granted a second shot at Cain Velasquez based on the fact that he knocked out Alistair Overeem, the presumed number one contender.  It didn’t go well for Big Foot, but the logic was sound.  The UFC wanted to set up a rematch between Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, but Cat Zingano ruined their plans with a 3rd round comeback finish (due to a Zingano injury, Tate would later get the title shot anyway along with a juicy TUF coaching spot opposite Rousey).  Those are a couple of minor examples where the UFC did right by its winners.  Four more upcoming match-ups not only feature the worthiest of challengers but the possibility that a group of nigh invincible champions will fall.

In order of least likely to most likely to see a title change:

Light Heavyweight Title Bout: Alexander Gustafsson (7-1 UFC, 15-1) v. Jon Jones (Jon Jones (12-1 UFC, 18-1)

September 21, 2013 – UFC 165

How Gustafsson got here:

…by growing up.  Gustafsson’s only career loss came against Phil Davis in a fight that he was winning until he decided to take it to the ground.  Davis, a stronger grappler, was able to reverse the situation and sink in a match ending anaconda choke.  Since then, Gustafsson has fought a lot smarter, dominating when he’s supposed to and playing to his strengths to overcome the likes of Thiago Silva and Shogun Rua.  The victory over Shogun was a signature win and enough to cement Gustafsson as the number one contender, something many fans and critics had been clamoring for.

The match-up will also do wonders for dispelling the notion that Jones is only getting by on his physical gifts and that he is only capable of beating fighters who are past their prime.  Neither criticism is particularly valid, but a win over Gustafsson should be hater-proof.

Why Gustafsson could win:

I’m honestly not sure he can.  The only reason I added this match is because my uncle was working hard to convince me that the Swede is a live underdog.  I’m not seeing it.

If I had to make an argument for Gustafsson, it would go beyond just the fact that he can match the champ’s reach.  With every fight, Gustafsson gets better and better at using his range to score points and keep his opponents off balance.  When you can sweep the scorecards against Shogun, the most aggressive light heavyweight around, you have to be doing something right.

Another department that Gustafsson has improved in is his takedown defence and controlling scrambles.  They will have to stress this in his training as Jones has a good shot and an array of throws with which to set up his merciless ground and pound.  His best chance remains on the feet.

Let’s not forget that Jones had trouble with Lyoto Machida in the first round of their match.  If Gustafsson can do a reasonable job of emulating Machida’s tactics, an upset could be in order.

Why Gustafsson could lose:

As much as people talk about Jones never facing someone built like him, the same could be said for Gustafsson.  Does anyone think Gustafsson would have been able to pick apart Thiago Silva and Shogun so efficiently without those freakish limbs?  If all things are equal body-wise, I’m not sure there’s any area skill-wise that Gustafsson can claim an advantage.  Jones is faster, more explosive, more creative with his strikes and a monster on the ground.  Gustafsson should be able to go the distance, but expect Jones to take all five rounds.

Featherweight Title Bout: Chan Sung Jung (3-0 UFC, 0-2 WEC, 13-3) v. José Aldo (4-0 UFC, 8-0 WEC, 22-1)

August 3, 2013 – UFC 163

How Zombie got here:

…as much as anything, we’re the ones who have put Jung in this spot.  The Korean Zombie became an instant sensation in his WEC debut against Leonard Garcia.  I remember showing that fight to everyone I knew, not caring if this was a legit new star or an oddity.  Thankfully, he’s turned out to be the former and his distinct, exciting style carried over to the UFC where he found the wins to match the adulation.  A submission win in a rematch with Garcia removed any doubt that he was the better fighter.  He followed that up with an astonishing 7 second knockout of Mark Hominick (who had previously fought Aldo) and by coming out on top in another fight of the year candidate against Dustin Poirier.

When Anthony Pettis suffered an injury, there were two possible replacements for UFC 163: Ricardo Lamas and Zombie.  Despite his last three wins all coming against top ranked featherweights, Lamas remains relatively unknown.  The UFC sees dollar signs with the Jung-Aldo match so the Zombie gets to feast.

Why Zombie could win:

If he lives up to his moniker, there’s a chance he could outpace Aldo.  People often point to a difficult weight cut as to why Aldo faded in the Hominick fight.  What they forget is how Hominick stayed aggressive and even though he lost the majority of the rounds, it wasn’t as one-sided as the scores suggested.  Zombie doesn’t have Hominick’s consistency; rather, I expect his scrappy and unpredictable nature to work to his advantage.

There’s also the issue of Jung’s resiliency.  He’s only been finished once in his career (a picture perfect head shot courtesy of George Roop).  That stat is made even more incredible by the fact that he regularly engages in all-out wars that are undoubtedly shortening his lifespan.  Aldo is no stranger to decisions, having gone the full five rounds with Hominick, Kenny Florian and Frankie Edgar.  Neither Florian nor Edgar known for their risk-taking, so it should be interesting to see how Aldo reacts to an opponent who has no regard for his own well-being.

Why Zombie could lose:

As mentioned above, the UFC couldn’t wait for an excuse to put Zombie in the cage with Aldo.  He’s an international property and he’s got a cool gimmick that has caught on like wildfire in North America.  You could easily make an argument that his popularity exceeds his credentials.

It’s always fun to look at results and say that one guy is finishing his opponents while the other guy is winning by decision, but that doesn’t tell the story of Aldo’s dominance at 145.  Facing a murderer’s row of opponents (Urijah Faber, Hominick, Florian, Chad Mendes, Edgar), Aldo has rarely been in danger.  A lack of finishes speaks to how high the level of competition is when you reach Aldo’s level.  He’s soundly beaten elite strikers, elite jiu-jitsu practitioners and elite wrestlers.  That’s not a good sign for Zombie, who is more of a jack of all trades.

Welterweight Title Bout: Johny Hendricks (10-1 UFC, 15-1) v. Georges St-Pierre (18-2 UFC, 24-2)

November 16, 2013 – UFC 167

How Hendricks got here:

…by smashing just about everyone who got in his way.  Nobody on this list has been waiting longer or had a stronger claim to a title shot than Hendricks, who was egregiously passed over as a challenger in favour of Nick Diaz.  While the Stockton bad boy was losing to Carlos Condit and getting lifted, Hendricks was tearing through the division.  From March 2011 to March 2013, Hendricks had one of the most impressive runs in welterweight history.  A riveting win over Condit capped off a six-fight streak that displayed Hendricks’ guts (close split decision wins against Mike Pierce and Josh Koscheck) and sheer supremacy (finishing Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann in less than one total minute).  Bigg Rigg might not have the name recognition or a squeaky clean look, but the UFC couldn’t ignore his results any longer.

Why Hendricks could win:

Anyone who has seen a St-Pierre title fight is familiar with the image of the champ scoring a takedown, establishing top position and neutralizing his victim for 25 minutes.  That’s how you defend your title in the toughest division in the UFC.

It’s hard to imagine Hendricks suffering the same treatment.  He’s lived up to the hype of being a 2-time national champion wrestling for Oklahoma State University.  That background has forged him into a mini-Iceman, able to control where the fight goes and set his opponents up for his infamous left hand.  A dream scenario sees GSP relying on a takedown heavy gameplan that Hendricks is able to stifle until the champ makes a rare mistake that leads to him getting laid out.

It’s somewhat unfair to bring it up, but St-Pierre’s ability to take a punch has been in question since his last loss to Matt Serra.  Since then, you can count on one hand the number of times he’s actually been rocked but people still insist that he’s always one solid punch away from losing the strap.  If there’s any credence to that theory, Hendricks is surely the one to prove it.

Why Hendricks could lose:

Hendricks’ only career loss was to Rick Story and surprisingly it was a match in which he was out-grappled.  While that loss clearly made him a better fighter, it’s worth noting that he is not unfamiliar with being put in bad positions.

On paper, Hendricks presents a lot of the same problems as Josh Koscheck, who boasted that he had the advantage as long as he could keep the fight standing against St-Pierre in their rematch.  St-Pierre was able to pick Koscheck apart with stiff jabs and was never in any real danger for the duration of their bout.  There is no evidence that Hendricks is uniquely equipped to deal with the latter.  Against a similarly gifted striker in Condit, Hendricks relied on his chin to absorb damage so he could get in close and attack.  He didn’t shut Condit down, he was able to land more consistently and land harder.  Getting St-Pierre to engage in a firefight like that is a near-impossibility.  Even with 25 minutes to work with, Hendricks will have to avoid getting desperate and focus on winning rounds if he cannot finish St-Pierre.

Lightweight Title Bout: TJ Grant (8-3 UFC, 21-5) v. Ben Henderson (7-0 UFC, 5-1 WEC, 18-2)

August 31, 2013 – UFC 164

How Grant got here:

…he went on a diet.  Fighting at 170, Grant had a respectable 3-3 record in the UFC, but there was no indication that he’d be challenging GSP anytime soon.  Changing weight classes is a popular move for fighters who appear to be stuck in a rut and it’s hard to name anyone who has made it work out better than Grant.  This wasn’t a big name moving down in the hopes of getting an immediate title shot.  No, Grant made the decision to jump into the increasingly deep lightweight waters.  The results speak for themselves: Five straight wins including a first round TKO of Gray Maynard, the only person to ever dispatch him that early.  He’s an exciting fighter and a proven finisher, leaving fans starving to see him test Henderson who has been criticized for being too safe.

Why Grant could win:

To understand why Henderson always seems to go to decisions, you have to look at his last few fights.  As great as Clay Guida, Edgar and Gilbert Melendez are, none of them are known for their finishing prowess (there was also Nate Diaz, but Henderson had an overwhelming physical advantage that he won’t have with the sizeable Grant).  If you know that your opponent doesn’t have the tools with which to put you away, it affords you certain luxuries.  Luxuries that Henderson won’t have against Grant.

This is not to say that Grant is necessarily better than the aforementioned names, only more likely to look for a finish.  The Maynard fight stands as proof.  Canadian MMA aficionado “Showdown” Joe Ferraro expressed his dismay at seeing his friend Grant willingly trade punches with Maynard.  One mistake and the fight easily could have gone the other way, but it is Grant’s temerity that has got him this far.  Don’t expect him to change his approach now that he’s this close to being the best in the world.

Why Grant could lose:

It’s a hard thing to quantify, but Henderson definitely seems to have the same gift as St-Pierre for attacking an opponent’s weaknesses.  This is likely why both men are maligned as “point fighters”.  I’ve never been a fan of using that term in a derogatory fashion because the last time I checked scoring points was how you won games.  Henderson wins games.

To draw another St-Pierre comparison, Henderson is unparalleled as an athlete in the lightweight division.  He’s incredibly strong and agile and he has an unlimited gas tank.  Grant has assured everyone that he normally trains for five round fights, but it’s an entirely different beast once you actually reach those championship periods.  Fighting Henderson can be a frustrating experience and Grant’s mental strength is going to be as important as his physical ones.  The last thing Grant wants is to go to the scorecards with Henderson, who has shown a knack for pulling out close decisions.

*****

As fun as it is to say, upsets are not contagious and the fall of Silva has no metaphysical impact on the rest of the title holders.  However, for the first time in a while you get the feeling that it wouldn’t be a surprise if the titles did change hands.  It remains to be seen if MMA will be like every other sport, with competitors being inextricably attached to each other in their respective eras: Spouting off names like Liddell-Ortiz-Couture or Minotauro-Cro Cop-Fedor or Silva-St-Pierre-Jones can conjure up unmistakeable images and provide timestamps for the most important events in this young sport.  Perhaps one of Gustafsson, Zombie, Hendricks or Grant will be the first to take their place in the world that’s coming.

How Soon is Now? – UFC on Fuel TV 4 Thoughts

It would be understandable if the Chris Weidman bandwagon was a little lighter after his last fight against Demian Maia.  The blue chip prospect looked sluggish in outlasting Maia and scraping out a unanimous decision victory.  There were a few factors that contributed to this, the main one being the massive weight cut that Weidman had to endure after taking the fight on only eleven days notice.  Despite not being in prime condition, he was able to defeat Maia, a mainstay in the top five of the middleweight rankings.  This was a nationwide broadcast on Fox and what should have been a coming out party for him was instead forgettable in the minds of many.  It might have helped his ranking, but it did no favours for him in the court of public perception.

Taking a short notice fight against such a high calibre opponent was not only a stern test for him but a fine way to get into the good graces of his employers.  Weidman was justly rewarded with a main event spot against and the man who many considered next in line for a title shot, fellow Division I wrestler Mark Muñoz.  Muñoz is the more experienced fighter and a key piece in the UFC’s mission to expand internationally, so I assumed that Weidman would need to put on a show if he wanted to move to the front of the line.  Well, he put on one hell of a show.

For such a decorated wrestler, Muñoz’ takedown game (both offensively and defensively) has always been suspect.  He’s been unable to impose his will on fighters with limited or non-existent wrestling pedigrees and he’s even been taken down by Chris Leben.  Weidman took full advantage of this, nearly spearing Muñoz to the mat in the opening seconds of their bout and soundly out-grappling Muñoz while delivering effective ground strikes.  He’s been touted as a BJJ prodigy and that talent was on full display as he refused to give Muñoz any chance to get up or attack from his back.

The second round was more of the same as Weidman avoided the power and took the fight to the ground again.  Muñoz did a much better job of getting up to his feet, but this proved to be the beginning of the end.  Weidman conducted the match like a maestro and he capped off the crescendo with a virtuoso standing elbow that sent Muñoz crashing down.  About a dozen unnecessary punches later and Weidman had his first highlight reel knockout in the UFC.  I hadn’t seen someone land an elbow so cleanly in the middle of an exchange like that since…well, Anderson Silva.

A quick recap of the rest of the night (new UFC divisional ranking in parentheses):

Bantamweight Bout: Assunçao (13) d. Tamura (30) via TKO (:25, R2)

What you need to know: Assunçao is a veteran who has made a gradual descent from lightweight to bantamweight over a span of eight years.  He owns early career wins over Jorge Masvidal and Joe Lauzon, but recently lost to top featherweights Urijah Faber, Diego Nunes and Erik Koch.  Tamura made a name for himself with a dynamite knockout of Zhang Tie Quan in his UFC debut, but remains unproven.

How it went down (in one sentence): Assunçao took it to Tamura, soundly taking the first round before finishing him off in the second.

What’s next for Tamura: (1-1 UFC, Lost last 1) John Albert, Jared Papazian or Nick Denis.

What’s next for Assunçao: (2-1 UFC, Won last 2) Ken Stone, Edwin Figueroa or TJ Dillashaw.

Welterweight Bout: Guimaraes (49) d. Stittgen (54) via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

What you need to know: Guimaraes is an undefeated Brazilian fighter and a former Jungle Fight middleweight champion.  Stittgen is getting a second chance after being knocked out by Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.

How it went down (in one sentence): Whether it was the upgrade in competition or octagon jitters, Guimaraes was less than impressive in eking out an unsatisfying decision win.

What’s next for Stittgen: (0-2 UFC, L2) Back to the minors for seasoning.

What’s next for Guimaraes: (1-0 UFC, W7) Simeon Thoreson, Thompson, or if the matchmakers think he’s ready, Aaron Simpson.

Middleweight Bout: Craig (28) d. Natal (32) via KO (4:52, R2)

What you need to know: Craig made his debut in Australia against Kyle Noke as an injury replacement.  He overcame hostile territory to upset Noke via unanimous decision.  Natal is searching for consistency, but he made a name for himself knocking out Travis Lutter at Moosin: God of Martial Arts a couple of years ago.

How it went down (in one sentence): Natal was clearly winning the fight before gassing just enough for Craig to land a vicious head kick that ended the fight.

What’s next for Natal: (2-2-1 UFC, L1) Patrick Côté, Karlos Vemola or Maccarão.

What’s next for Craig: (2-0 UFC, W8) Thiago Bodão, Tom Lawlor or the winner of Court McGee-Nick Ring.

Flyweight Bout: Chris Cariaso (5) d. Josh Ferguson (10) via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

What you need to know: Cariaso won his last two fights at bantamweight, but at 5’3” he made the right choice in dropping down to the 125 lb. division.  Ferguson, a TUF 14 cast member, is also making the transition to a new class.

How it went down (in one sentence): The flyweight division continues to live up the hype as Cariaso came out on top in an exciting back and forth battle.

What’s next for Ferguson: (0-2 UFC, L3) He might get released, but with the flyweight division being so thin he should get another chance.  Look for him to face Darren Uyenoyama, Tim Elliott or John Lineker.

What’s next for Cariaso: (4-1 UFC, W3) Taking into account his previous success and the thin flyweight ranks (the UFC currently employs only 11 flyweights), there’s really no easy fight waiting for Cariaso.  He can look forward to touch matchups with Louis Gaudinot, Yasuhiro Urushitani or John Dodson.

Bantamweight Bout: Caceres (20) d. Page (36) via Submission (1:27, R2)

What you need to know: Caceres made a name for himself with his “Bruce Leeroy” persona, but the 24 year old has shown a lot of potential since moving to bantamweight.  Page was once one of the top bantamweights in the world, but has fallen on hard times losing three straight by choke submission.

How it went down (in one sentence): Page loses his fourth straight by choke submission.

What’s next for Page: (0-3 UFC, L4) A release and some much needed free time to work on his submission defense.

What’s next for Caceres: (2-3 UFC, W1) Johnny Bedford (currently out with an injury), Erik Perez or Dillashaw.

Lightweight Bout: Dos Anjos (14) d. Njokuani (34) via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

What you need to know: Dos Anjos remains a reliable hand for the UFC, able to match up with any style and put on a good show.  Njokuani has alternated wins and losses since coming to the UFC, a far cry from the three straight Knockout of the Night awards he won while in the WEC.

How it went down (in one sentence): Dos Anjos used his underrated wrestling to repeatedly take Njokuani to the mat while utilizing leg kicks to keep him honest in the stand up.

What’s next for Njokuani: (2-3 UFC, L1) He needs a good showing to keep his job.  I’d like to see how he’d fare against Fabrício Camões, John Cholish or TUF 13 winner Tony Ferguson.

What’s next for dos Anjos: (6-4 UFC, W2) Khabib Nurmagomedov, Jim Miller or the winner of the Jamie Varner-Joe Lauzon fight.

Bantamweight Bout: Dillashaw (15) d. Lee (23) via Submission (2:33, R1)

What you need to know: Dillashaw looked unstoppable against Walel Watson, bouncing back nicely from his first loss.  Lee experienced a career highlight in his last bout, submitting the declining “Kid” Yamamoto.

How it went down (in one sentence): A poorly executed high kick led to Lee being taken down and trapped in a standing rear naked choke in the ensuing scramble.

What’s next for Lee: (1-2 UFC, L1) Young and always willing to engage, fans would be happy to see him matched up with the likes of Dustin Pague, Papazian or the loser of the Jeff Hougland-Takeya Mizugaki fight.

What’s next for Dillashaw: (2-1 UFC, W2) Caceres or Assunçao both make sense, but I think it would be great if they paired him up with Mike Easton to further the Team Alpha Male-Alliance MMA rivalry.

Middleweight Bout: Carmont (18) d. Vemola (34) via Submission (1:39, R2)

What you need to know: Carmont is the latest stud to come out of Tristar Gym in Montreal and he came in having won seven straight fights including his first two UFC contests.  Vemola has competed in three different weight classes in his last four fights.  He’s finally at his ideal weight and is looking to make a splash at 185.

How it went down (in one sentence): After calmly escaping a couple of guillotine chokes, Carmont used his superior grappling to repeatedly pass to dominant positions until Vemola gave up his back and succumbed to a rear naked choke.

What’s next for Vemola: (2-3 UFC, L1) The jury is still out on Vemola as a middleweight.  Matchups with Riki Fukuda, Serginho or Natal could help with the deliberation.

What’s next for Carmont: (3-0 UFC, W8) A top ten opponent would be nice, but several are already booked or shelved with an injury.  Just outside of the top ten and waiting in the winner’s circle are Costa Philippou, C.B. Dollaway or the winner of the Ed Herman-Jake Shields match.

Welterweight Bout: Simpson (35) d. Robertson (50) via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

What you need to know: Simpson is making his long awaited drop to welterweight in what was originally supposed to be a match with Jon Fitch.  Robertson is not Jon Fitch.

How it went down (in one sentence): As many people predicted, the weight cut seemed to take its toll on Simpson, a former top 15 middleweight, and he was forced to grind out a decision against an opponent he should have smashed.

What’s next for Robertson: (0-2 UFC, L1) This is actually Robertson’s second chance in the UFC as he was released back in February after only one fight.  He was replacing an injured Fitch so we should see if the third time is the charm.  A meeting with Papi Abedy, Keith Wisniewski or David Mitchell should prove entertaining as each man would be fighting to keep those Zuffa paychecks coming in.

What’s next for Simpson: (7-3 UFC, W1) Presumably Fitch, but if they can’t put that together then he could face off with the recently extended Josh Neer or fellow middleweight transplant Dan Miller.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Te-Huna (14) d. Beltran (-) via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-27 x2)

What you need to know: Te-Huna is a knockout artist, having punched out seven of his last eight opponents.  Beltran shed all the baby fat and looked svelte in his return to the UFC, now at 205.  He replaced Brandon Vera after Vera was sentenced, pardon me, scheduled to face Shogun.

How it went down (in one sentence): The record for combined significant strikes in a light heavyweight match was shattered in this brawl as Beltran, as usual, refused to go down even as he ate haymaker after haymaker.

What’s next for Beltran: (3-5 UFC, L1) If it were up to me, the Mexicutioner would take a long break.  There’s no way he should be within the next six months after taking all of those punches.  Then again, I’m an absolute hypocrite because when he does come back I would pay a hundred dollars to see him go to war with Chad Griggs.  That clash would be one for the neurologists to study afterwards, that’s for sure.

What’s next for Te-Huna: (4-1 UFC, W3) Stephan Bonnar, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or the winner of the Shogun-Vera match.  Time to step up.

Middleweight Bout: Weidman (4) d. Muñoz (6) via KO (1:37, R2)

What you need to know: Weidman has been the number one middleweight prospect for the last couple of years and he’s answered every challenge that’s been given to him.  Muñoz has been a force at middleweight, going 7-1 in his last eight fights including stoppages of Kendall Grove, C.B. Dollaway and Chris Leben.

How it went down (in one sentence): Weidman manhandled Muñoz before finishing him off with a standing elbow that would have induced a rage quit if you did that in a game of UFC Undisputed.

What’s next for Muñoz: (7-3 UFC, L1) Back to the drawing board.  If this had happened a year ago I’d say that Muñoz’ spot was safe, but the middleweight division is starting to show signs of new life and the window for his title shot could be closing fast.  He needs to get in the mix with Michael Bisping, Tim Boetsch and Alan Belcher or he could find himself playing the role of gatekeeper.

What’s next for Weidman: (5-0 UFC, W9) It would be awesome to see Weidman face off with the names I just mentioned, but is it even necessary?  Before the fight started, I was telling a friend that I wouldn’t want to see Weidman get a shot if he won because I didn’t think he was ready yet.  After seeing him cruise through the most difficult test of his young career, I can’t imagine any of the other middleweights outside of Silva giving him a hard time.  He looked that good.

Weidman politely requested a fight with the champ in his post-fight interview.  At the press conference, he let everyone know that he felt he could submit Silva.  His confident proclamations were delivered modestly, in stark contrast to Silva’s last challenger, Chael Sonnen.  However, the message was the same: I’m not afraid of Anderson Silva and I have the tools to beat him.  Is there anyone who wants to bet against him?