As a fan, I’m shocked. As a journalist, I’m excited, and as an analyst I’m blown away. With one of the most importantly implicated shows in the history of the sport, two title matches, two possible title eliminators, and a fight of the year took place
Going into UFC 136, there were six names firmly atop the Lightweight division. Three of those, Melvin Guillard, number one contender Gray Maynard, and champion Frank Edgar were all on the card. By the end of the night, the Lightweight title picture cleared up significantly.
To begin the night, one of my personal favorites (see my implicit bias?), Melvin Guillard took on Joe Lauzon. Guillard had been all but promised a title shot by Dana White if he were to win Saturday night, jumping over a crowded pack vying for the title shot.
Early in the fight (that didn’t go beyond early anyway), Guillard displayed his excellent footwork and power, but two crisp punches from Lauzon, and a slip to the floor, Guillard was out of his comfort zone. With Lauzon on his back, it was Guillard who proved to be his own worst enemy yet again as Lauzon submitted him with a rear naked choke in under a minute, eliminating Melvin Guillard from his date with destiny.
I’m unsure if many of you, predominantly pro wrestling fans, have ever had the pleasure/misery of seeing Leonard Garcia fight. No, he isn’t a dominant, face-crushing superstar. Instead he employs a strategy only known as “Chuck and duck”. After picking up controversial, but incredibly exciting victories over “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung and Ultimate Fighter alumni Nam Phan, he found himself decisively losing the re-matches.
UFC 136 was Nam Phan’s go at it, and he dominated from start to finish, with the exception of a large flurry from Garcia in round 3. Not much more to say about the science of this fight, besides that Nam Phan was technical, and Leonard Garcia was not. It looked like a kickboxer taking on a bar-room brawler, and nine times out of ten, the kickboxer wins. I wouldn’t look for a re-match OR for Garcia to be losing his job over this one though.
A main selling point of the evening’s show was the return of former number 1 middleweight contender Chael Sonnen, fresh off of a dominant (but losing) performance of Anderson Silva. However he was also fresh off of a
suspension due to PED’s and a conviction for money laundering. Many wondered if ring rust would play a factor into Sonnen’s return fight 14 months later, it wasn’t.
Chael Sonnen made Brian Stann look like he didn’t belong in the cage with him. Stann was able to manage little to no offense, as the beginning of the fight looked like two bulls locking horns, as they clinched against the cage. Sonnen quickly displayed why he has the best wrestling for MMA in the UFC. Taking the former marine Stann down, control him, stay active with ground and pound, and ultimately submit him with an arm-triangle.
However, the post-fight interview is what made the most waves. I’ll quote it straight from Sonnen.
‘I’m calling you out, Silva but we’re upping the stakes. I beat you, you leave the division. You beat me, I’ll leave the UFC forever.”
You read, and saw correctly. Chael Sonnen challenged UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva to a Loser-Leaves-Town match. Paul Heyman tweeted shortly after “If (Sonnen) doesn’t stay in UFC, he has one helluva future in WWE!”
Anderson Silva did not look pleased.
I have to agree with him. As a fan, I’ve grown tired of Chael Sonnen acting like he won their first bout. Title fights are scheduled for five rounds, not four and a half. Especially after testing positive for PED’s, one would think Sonnen could just respectfully earn another title shot. The businessman in me sees this as pure gold. Super Bowl weekend is always a big moneymaker for the UFC, and is the particular event Sonnen laid down the challenge for. Also for the UFC, it’s win-win. If Silva beats Sonnen, his legendary status is further cemented. If Silva were to lose, the much talked about bout with GSP, Jon Jones, and others can be set up.
There were also two title fights on the 136 card, the first of which saw Jose Aldo once again successfully defend his featherweight title against Kenny Florian, who six years ago, was fighting 40 pounds heavier than he currently is.
The first round was Kenny Florian’s in my book, as he utilized his unfortunately predictable “jab-leg kick-clinch” strategy. After that round Jose Aldo imposed his will, although in a much less exciting manner than usual for him. Handling Florian with his sick leg kicks and quick combos, Aldo took Florian past his limit on his way to his fourth defense of the title, one off of the record. Chad “Money” Mendes looks to be next in line. Maybe we’ll discover if Aldo has a ground game, or if it’s all a perpetuated myth!
The evening’s main event saw the incredible trilogy of Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar finally reach a conclusion, for now. After being defeated by Maynard in their first bout, and reaching a draw for the second, Edgar played “Rocky” yet again, and knocked out Maynard in the fourth round, knotting the series at 1-1-1.
Almost to an eerie level, the fight played out like the one in January of this year. Gray Maynard dominated and injured Edgar in the first round, on his way to a 10-8 crushing. Edgar was badly busted up, and had a dangerous cut over his left eyelid.
In almost an Arturo Gatti-esque (Or SUPERCENA, for wrestling fans) way, Edgar charged back, unphased, and won the next two rounds. Maynard was unable to take down Edgar, and his powerful shots that worked well in the first round, got slower by the minute. Going into the fourth round, the scorecards were tied up yet again, and a second draw was looking very possible. Suddenly, with around a minute and change remaining in the round, Edgar was able to unleash a series of five punches on the feet, along with five more on the ground, that stopped his rival in his tracks, and extended his unbeaten streak to seven fights.
Even more impressive in all of this calamity, is by all means, Edgar should be fighting in the featherweight division. As many fighters did, Edgar preferred to take on larger competitors in the UFC’s Lightweight division, as opposed to fighting in the WEC’s featherweight division, as the UFC had yet to Anderson Silva in the world’s MMA Pound for Pound rankings. Edgar has a host of possibilities to take on next, including Strikeforce Champion Gil Melendez, and the winner of Clay Guida vs. Ben “Smooth” Henderson.
Other big winners for the night were Demian Maia and Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, as both fighters look to get back into their respective title hunts, after being ousted by tough losses of late.
Easily, UFC 136 was one of the most stacked MMA cards of all-time. Of late, MMA fans have been spoiled by title fights. By the time UFC on FOX rolls around, we’ll have seen all UFC titles defended over the course of two and a half months, which is quite unprecedented with the addition of the bantamweight and featherweight divisions. With the addition of Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem, and Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida, the box office smashing main events aren’t slowing down any time soon
Now for a question I’d like to ask all of you. Who do you, as fans, think the next champion in each weight division will be? Send me your answers on Twitter, and I’ll post the general consensus in my next column.
TWITTER?!?! Twitter you say!?? Yes! Follow me, I tweet live during most pro wrestling and major MMA events.