UFC 103 Aftermath, Legends Fall and Stars Rise
Many waves were made in the fallout of UFC 103 this past weekend. Legends fell, new stars were introduced, the dreams of contenders were shattered, and potential title challengers were born.
In my opinion, the two most important undercard battles were the Efrain Escudero vs Cole Miller and the Rick Story vs Brian Foster fights. Escudero, despite being undefeated and The Ultimate Fighter Season 8 lightweight champion, had a lot of questions coming into the bout. All of his previous twelve wins had been either by decision or submission, and he had never faced anyone even close to the caliber of Miller. All those questions were quickly answered with a decisive second round knockout. Escudero seemed determined to keep the fight standing, and after viciously slamming Miller to the ground, he followed with a powerful right hook that dropped him for good. I expect Efrain to be climbing up the ladder quickly.
In the bout between Rick Story and Brian Foster, I didn’t really know either fighter that well. What followed was a tremendous back and forth battle which ended with Story submitting Foster in the second round via arm triangle choke in what ended up winning both Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night. While neither fighter jumped into the upper echelon of the welterweight division, both of them put on a great fight and it was a spectacular introduction to all UFC fans.
In the main card, Tyson Griffin answered a lot of detractors with a ferocious 2nd round knockout of Hermes Franca, who had never been finished in the UFC. Many fans love Griffin’s style, which produced several Fight of the Night honors, but they also questioned whether he had the ability to end a fight in any way other than a decision. While I believe Griffin looked great out there, with much more accurate and powerful striking, there are still a few questions. Franca was coming off a serious knee injury, and he looked noticeably slower. Also, he came into the fight seriously out of shape and was four pounds overweight at the weigh-ins the day before. Maybe we’ll be seeing a Gray Maynard – Tyson Griffin fight for number one contender status in the near future?
Frank Trigg’s valiant return to the UFC ended in severe disappointment with a first round knockout loss to Josh Koscheck. Trigg had said that he only returned to the UFC to make one more run at the title, and that now appears completely out of the question. It is not known if he will simply retire, or if he will stick around and be a gate keeper for up and coming welterweights. Koscheck looked great, and he certainly put his name back in the upper echelon of UFC welterweights, but it would be best to see him face another top contender before putting him back in the title picture as Trigg was not much of a test.
In other welterweight action, Martin Kampmann’s title shot dreams were crushed by Paul Daley via first round TKO when he stupidly decided to stand and bang with a guy who has won 21 of his 24 fights by some form of knockout. Kampmann had a strong wrestling and ground game advantage, but he only attempted one weak takedown which was easily bucked by Daley en route to his first round destruction. While Kampmann’s title dreams are over for the time being, Daley still needs to be tested before jumping in the mix of welterweight contenders. Maybe a bout with fellow UFC winner Josh Koshcheck would help settle a discombobulated division.
In the co-main event, Junior Dos Santos put himself in a position he had never been before in the UFC, the second round. Questions about his gas tank were answered when he continued to come forward, crushing MMA legend Mirko Filipovic in the third round with some brutal knees from the clinch and a straight right to the eye that ended the fight for good. It was sad seeing the once great Filipovic look so meek against a powerful opponent, and his dreams for a title are certainly dashed for good. Now the only question remaining will be if he chooses to retire and go back to his life in Croatia, or if he will stay in the UFC and have one last dream fight with Randy Couture. Dos Santos, on the other hand, put himself in a position to be receiving a title shot very soon. I would not be surprised if he fought Cain Velasquez (if he is victorious in his UFC 104 fight) for number one contender status in the heavyweight division.
Lastly, the phenom Vitor Belfort quickly put away Rich Franklin in the main event of the evening. Vitor appeared more patient than usual, but pounced on Franklin at the first sign of an opening, ending the fight by knockout at 3:02 of the very first round. With his victory, Belfort may finally be the matchup that gets Anderson Silva to quit his complaining and defend his middleweight title. Franklin appeared to be the slower man, and his chin certainly is not what it once was. While I don’t think he will ever get another title shot, his UFC career is not over. He puts on exciting fights, and he will stick around as a gatekeeper for both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions.