UFC 104 Thoughts and Observations
You’ve already heard what I thought about the main event between Lyota Machida and Mauricio Rua, and I’m very thankful that it has already been announced there will be a rematch. Machida vs Rua 2 will probably be a huge PPV seller after all the controversy. Anyways, what you may not have known was that the outrage from the headline fight completely overshadowed what was a stellar night of fights.
In the co-main event, undefeated Cain Velasquez absolutely manhandled Ben Rothwell. This fight was not even close. Velasquez did whatever he wanted to Rothwell whenever he wanted. Cain’s standup looked much better than his previous fight against Kongo, and his wrestling was just as strong as always. Many people are clamoring for a title shot for Cain but I say hold your horses. He’s still young and developing. Beating Ben Rothwell does not make you the #1 challenger, and Cain still hasn’t shown much power in his hands. Some fans complained about an early stoppage in this fight (although there was no way Velasquez was going to lose). Look for one more fight against a top heavyweight before Cain gets his shot.
In a battle of lightweights looking to step back into contention, Joe Stevenson put a severe hurting on Spencer Fisher. Stevenson was all but written off after losing 3 of 4 fights (to the top 3 lightweights in the UFC mind you) but after his last loss to Diego Sanchez, he switched over to Greg Jackson’s camp which has done wonders for his game. No longer does Stevenson rely on boxing and guillotine chokes, he used his full repertoire of Brazilian jiu jitsu against Fisher, finishing him by pinning his arms and dropping repeated elbows to his head while also mixing it up and throwing some kicks in the standup.
In another lightweight battle, Gleison Tibau used his powerful takedowns to eek out a decision against the always game Josh Neer. Tibau took Neer down at least 10 times, and several of those takedowns were incredibly powerful. Neer used above average ground skills to stand back up immediately each time unlike his previous fight against Kurt Pellegrino. I thought Neer got the better of the standup but his inability to avoid the takedowns was what cost him the fight. If he worked as hard on his takedown defense as he did on getting back up from being on the ground, he would have won the fight against the one-trick-pony Tibau.
In welterweight news, Anthony Johnson absolutely decimated Yoshiyuki Yoshida via knockout in the first minute of the fight. This is the second consecutive devastating KO of Yoshida, who might be considering moving down to 155 pounds. Johnson, on the other hand, had a very difficult time with the weight cut to 170. Despite being dehydrated, he still weighed in 6 pounds over the 170 limit. This cost him not only 20% of his fight purse, but also the Knockout of the Night bonus, which was instead given to Patrick Barry. Johnson will get an immediate chance to make weight again as he will be the co-headliner of UFC 106 against Josh Koscheck.
There were a couple other important fights on the undercard. Hardcore MMA fans love Yushin Okami and wanted him to get a title shot against Anderson Silva, but those plans were foiled when he was defeated via unanimous decision by Chael Sonnen. Sonnen kept Okami on his heels throughout the fight by keeping the pressure on him, constantly moving forward and never letting Okami take the fight to the ground.
Season 8 Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader returned to the octagon against his toughest opponent yet, Eric Schafer. Bader landed some huge shots early and spent the last half of the first round trying to finish the fight. Schafer showed tremendous heart and countered in the second round against Bader, who appeared to be tired from the tremendous first round effort. In the third round, Bader appeared recovered and his aggression pulled out the decision victory. I like Bader and I think he has a good future in the UFC. He has a ton of power with his standup and wrestling, but he needs to work on being less predictable. He goes for a huge looping left hook a little too often and against opponents with better standup, he could be punished.
Lastly, in a heavyweight battle between prospects Chase Gormley and Stefan Struve, Struve used his excellent jiu jitsu skills to win via triangle choke in the first round and win the Submission of the Night bonus. Stefan Struve is a very exciting fighter, and at 6 feet 11 inches tall, he is going to provide severe matchup problems against opponents. He’s still very young at 21 years old, and he could easily afford to put on about 30-40 pounds (he weighed in at 240 lbs). He has a very unique skill set for a heavyweight and he may have more potential than any current fighter in the UFC. I look forward to a long and exciting career from him.