Spread across Fox, Fuel, Facebook, FX, Showtime, and PPV, the UFC and Strikeforce are attacking every possible media outlet they can during their end-of summer run. The Light Heavyweight, Lightweight, and soon, the Women’s divisions will take center stage, and as a result, we were treated to some classic fights.
The Lightweight division took precedence at UFC 150, headlined by a rematch between champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson and former champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar. For Edgar, this is the third consecutive matchup that led to a re-match, and like several of those fights, it was a razor thin decision.
The first round saw Henderson chopping away at the legs of Edgar, effectively taking out Edgar’s footwork, one of his greatest tools. As the fight wore on, Henderson became less active, put less of an emphasis on the legs and Edgar was able to to get in and out of Henderson’s range with jabs.
After round 2, the rounds seemed to be toss-ups, as it pertained to who won them. The fight was extremely technical, but also saw multiple submission attempts that were ultimately thwarted by each competitor. Edgar had moderate success in taking Henderson down, but found himself in an awkward position when trying to single-leg the tree trunks that Henderson has attached to his hips.
When all was said and done, Henderson was declared the victor via split decision. As with any split-decision, there was much controversy. However, UFC President Dana White made it very clear that after three years of re-matches, Nate Diaz would be receiving the next UFC Lightweight title shot.
One year ago, Melvin Guillard and Donald Cerrone were both in line for UFC lightweight title shots. Unfortunately, career hiccups prevented both of them from reaching the brass ring. With Cerrone coming off of a dominant defeat to now-contender Nate Diaz, and Guillard losing two of his last three, this fight had major career implications.
This fight was especially unique, considering the friendship between these two, as they both were Jackson’s MMA team member. Coach Greg Jackson has been long accused of “ruining” MMA, due to his extensive, and often boring gameplans. This myth is dead.
What unfolded was one of the most exciting 90 seconds in UFC history, as Guillard blasted Cerrone out of the gate, landing the first knockdown on Cerrone in his career. Guillard attempted to finish the fight with a flying knee, elbows and punches, but was unsuccessful. Shortly after, Cerrone landed a head kick, and a huge shot to Guillard, to win the fight via KO.
Melvin Guillard, not the most popular fighter on the roster amongst fans, was rumored to be facing being cut by the UFC, but I have confirmed that this isn’t the case. Guillard accepted this fight after fighting four weeks prior, when the UFC was in dire need of a co-main event. Donald Cerrone called out former WEC Lightweight champ Anthony “Showtime” Pettis after the bout, and will likely face him this fall.
On UFC on Fox, the Light Heavyweight title picture looked to take shape. The main events of the card pitted Shogun Rua against Brandon Vera, as well as Lyoto Machida against Ryan Bader. All four men, who were beaten soundly by champion Jon Jones, were vying to be next in line for a title shot. Initially, it was announced that the winner of Shogun/Vera would receive the shot, but after a fan uproar, it was decided that the most impressive fighter of the four would take home the honors.
In typical Lyoto Machida fashion, he was very elusive throughout the first round. In the second, Ryan Bader knew he had to make an impressive case for a title shot, and ended up running into Machida’s fist, and a TKO loss.
Shogun was expected to take care of things early against Vera, as a huge favorite going into the fight. Vera, who was looking for a career re-birth made a fight out of it though, and almost finished Shogun with a guillotine choke early. For the next four rounds, we were treated to an exciting war, and unfortunately some bad cardiovascular conditioning. The two exhausted fighters stood and traded, until ultimately, Shogun landed a fourth round TKO victory, which wasn’t enough to earn him a title shot.
Shogun, who passed up a fight with up-and-comer Glover Teixiera, is likely to be matched up with Rashad Evans, or possible Alexander Gustafsson in the future, while Machida will face the winner of Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson.
THE VIRTUOUS ONE’S VIEWPOINTS
Saturday was rough as a fan. I try to separate being a fan, and being a journalist, but sometimes, it’s impossible. Seeing Melvin Guillard so close to victory, only to be defeated seconds later was gut wrenching as a fan of his. At his age of 29, he still has room, and time, for a possible title run, but improvement is needed. I couldn’t see a scenario where he’ll be released, unless he goes on some kind of horrible losing streak, due to the exciting nature of his fights.
Donald Cerrone only helped his case at UFC 150, as he has won 8 of his last 9 fights. More importantly for his bank account, it’s the 10th of his last 15 fights where he received a fight night bonus. Since joining the UFC in February 2011, Cerrone has earned 725k in salary and fight night bonuses, a ridiculous amount for a lightweight fighter.
Part of me feels for Frankie Edgar, who I scored as winning the fight at UFC 150. However, as a man once famously said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man”. Personally, I don’t think Edgar did enough to take the title from Henderson. I’m sure it’s hard competing at such a weight disadvantage, but this is specifically why Edgar should be a featherweight. He passed up a guaranteed title shot at 145 pounds to take this re-match, which I don’t think he should have done. Very few fights below Welterweight draw big numbers for the UFC, and I think Aldo vs. Edgar could have been one of them. Unless Edgar is able to erase the image of being a passive fighter from Saturday night, I don’t think it will draw as well as anticipated.
I’m very interested to see how Ben Henderson responds to Nate Diaz’s aggressive style. We’ve seen him face aggressive fighters such as Pettis, Guida, and Cerrone in the past, and he’s had mixed results. The Diaz brothers typically struggle or avoid fighters with good wrestling backgrounds, which Henderson does have.
As it pertains to the Light Heavyweight title picture, of the four men involved, I think the most deserving, Machida, got the shot. He put up somewhat of a fight against Jones previously, but, honestly, none of the four should have been in title contention, especially Vera. Machida’s only recent win prior, was over a retiring Randy Couture, and could be argued that he had lost four of five previous fights. Shogun hasn’t pieced together three consecutive wins since 2006-2007. Ryan Bader was actually the most qualified, and he’d lost two of his last four going in, and I’ll not get into Vera’s credentials.
Luckily for the UFC, there is a talent uprising taking place in the Light Heavyweight division. For years we’ve had a revolving door of Evans, Rampage, Machida, Shogun, Griffin, Wanderlei, Franklin, Liddell, Couture etc. However, now, Glover Teixiera, Alexander Gustafsson, Ryan Jimmo, James Te Huna, Gegard Mousasi (in Strikeforce), Phil Davis, and Stan Nedkov have good starts within the division, and Bader can’t be counted out, either. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, a former welterweight, who has moved up to 205, will likely find himself back in the UFC if he is successful on the regional shows, as well. The division was pretty stagnant before Jon Jones came along and breathed new life into it….until he beat all of the top challengers. Here’s to hoping some new blood comes along.
Also, don’t forget, a Strikeforce card takes place next Saturday, featuring Strikeforce Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey defending her title.
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