The aftermath of Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen is still settling within the MMA community, the hangover of one of the sports’ biggest eventsstill looms overhead as the Middleweight division comes into shape. With UFC 149, Strikeforce, and UFC on Fuel all going down within two weeks of each other, July was a busy month for Zuffa
Chris Weidman and Mark Munoz squared off in what some considered a number one contender’s bout in the main event of UFC on Fuel on July 11. Weidman has been the subject of substantial hype. Weidman was quick to live up to the hype, as he brutally finished Mark Munoz via ground and pound, allowing absolutely no offense from the formerly top 5 middleweight. Weidman, at 28 years old, moves to 5-0 in the UFC, with all of his wins coming in the past 15 months.
Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold continued his reign of terror over the shallow Strikeforce roster, earning a unanimous decision victory over Tim Kennedy at last week’s Strikeforce event.. Rockhold was able to control the pace of the entire fight, and completed his second title defense. Rockhold and Strikeforce are now in dire need of credible contenders.
Former Middleweight Nate Marquardt returned after a year-long layoff to hand Tyron Woodley his first defeat, with a fourth round KO, in addition to earning the vacant Welterweight title. Marquardt succeeded at 185, and after a career re-birth at 170, will look to become one of Strikeforce’s marquee talents. With wins over Demian Maia and Martin Kampmann, both of whom now compete in the UFC’s welterweight division, he has a pretty good start.
With the four-time defending Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz on the shelf with a Torn ACL, the legendary Urijah Faber took on Renan Barao (29-1) in the main event of UFC 149. With Cruz out for at least a year, the bout was scheduled for the Interim Bantamweight title, in order to keep the division active. Oddly enough, despite his impressive resume, Faber had lost a WEC/UFC title fight every year since 2008. This trend continued, as Renan Barao outpointed the former Featherweight champion, on his way to victory.
Not much could be said about the bout, aside from Barao controlled the striking game. An unusual sight happened in the fifth round, as Barao and Faber were essentially near a knuckle lock, while Barao would land strikes. Being the veteran Faber is, you would think he would know better than to do this against a fighter with a longer reach. Nevertheless, Barao extended his unbeaten streak to 30 fights.
With all of the hype surrounding Chris Weidman, perhaps even more was placed around Hector Lombard, the 34 year old former Bellator Fighting Champion. His opponent was Tim Boetsch, who made a huge splash by defeating Yushin Okami earlier this year with huge European-style uppercuts, after being controlled for the previous two rounds.
Regardless of the hype, the timid striking from both of these fighters essentially penciled in Chris Weidman as the next opponent to face Anderson Silva. For three rounds, Hector Lombard remained flat footed (as some counter strikers do), while Boetsch tried to stick and move. Unfortunately for Boetsch, Lombard, wouldn’t follow the footwork.
After three rounds of sticking and moving, it was Tim Boetsch who picked up the split decision victory, and firmly placing himself in the top 5 of the middleweight division. The fans of Calgary were visibly upset at this point of the event, after being forced to sit through another slowly paced fight (after Kongo/Jordan and Ebersole/Head).
Ryan Jimmo moved to 17-1 in his MMA career, extending his win streak to 17, with a seven second knockout of veteran Anthony Perosh. Jimmo, a former Ultimate Fighter Season 8 reject, has not lost since his first professional fight. Bryan Caraway, Francisco Rivera, and Antonio Carvalho (who entered the cage to Bret “The Hitman” Hart’s entrance song) all had impressive stoppage victories. While on the subject of Bret Hart, the ‘Excellence of Execution’ accompanied fellow Canadian Nick Ring to the cage for his UFC 149 bout against Court McGee.
THE VIRTUOUS ONE’S VIEWPOINTS
The middleweight division that used to suffer from a lack of challengers, and saw Anderson Silva embarrassing Demian Maia, Patrick Cote, and Thales Leites, is now full of credible opponents. Chris Weidman has proven his worth within the division, and has the tools necessary to put Silva on his back, an area proven to be somewhat uncomfortable for the champion. Many claim that such a challenge would be far too early for Weidman, but people also said the same about a much younger Jon Jones last year.
Poor Luke Rockhold is stuck in limbo. After defending his Strikeforce title twice, it has been revealed that Strikeforce fighters that become free agents are unable to sign with Zuffa, due to a non-compete clause in the Strikeforce-Showtime contract. This just weeks after a Showtime executive told Ariel Helwani live-on air, that this was untrue. Rockhold is one of 3 contenders, along with Weidman and maybe Boetsch (doubtful), that I feel could remain on Anderson Silva’s radar before retirement. Although after the Boetsch/Lombard snoozefest, it’s fairly obvious that Weidman will get the next shot. If that scenario doesn’t play out, and Silva doesn’t feel like jumping right back into the cage, I could see Weidman taking on Vitor Belfort.
Brian Ebersole’s winning streak was snapped Saturday night against James Head, and will likely be his last fight at 170 pounds. I could see Ebersole immediately challenging Gil Melendez for the Strikeforce Lightweight title, as the choices are pretty slim in Strikeforce. However, if I were in the UFC’s shoes, I wouldn’t help out Showtime in any manner given the Strikeforce/UFC free agent situation I mentioned earlier.
For the love of god, I hope the UFC plans on having the Interim Bantamweight title be defended. With Cruz out for at least another year, this leaves plenty of time for Barao to defend the title. While the bantamweight division is shallow, this doesn’t need to be a Carlos Condit situation, where the title is won, and not defended for another 9-10 months. If the Interim titles aren’t defended, where is a point in creating them?
Ryan Jimmo is a welcome addition to the UFC Light Heavyweight Division. With an impressive 17-1 record, Jimmo is piled on to the list of prospects in the division, which has been dominated by older, established fighters for the past five years. If fighters like Jimmo, Glover Texiera, Alexander Gustafsson, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis and James Te Huna can continue their winning ways, it will bode well for the UFC as a whole. For years, Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Lyoto Machida, Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin, Shogun Rua, and Dan Henderson have held on to the top spots in the division, and the marquee fights, which is slowly but surely changing. Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson and Gegard Mousasi are other names that could eventually be brought into the UFC fold as well.
That’s it for now, be sure to follow me on twitter @SeanRossSappMMA for breaking MMA and Pro Wrestling news and opinions, as well as live tweeting during all live WWE, TNA, UFC and Strikeforce events.