The show opened with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan talking about how Henderson vs. Rampage was going to be the first of many PRIDE vs. UFC matches. That left me scratching my head. I’m sorry, but has Fedor been signed to unify the PRIDE heavyweight title against Randy Couture and the UFC heavyweight title? Has the UFC stepped up and beaten K-1 to the punch for Takanori Gomi and will we see him fight B.J. Penn again? And maybe I missed it and Dan Henderson has already agreed to fight at 185 and unify the titles in that division?
I guess if Chuck Liddell beats Keith Jardine then Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva for Dec. 29 will officially be signed and that will count as a PRIDE vs. UFC match. But other than that, what else is on the immediate horizon? I just don’t see the Super Bowl of MMA series ever taking place. Which is fine, but it’s time to stop promoting such a concept if there’s no guarantee of a satisfying payoff.
There’s also no point in promoting a PRIDE vs. UFC feud if you aren’t going to even show PRIDE enough respect to put their titles on TV. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall seeing Henderson’s PRIDE middleweight and welterweight titles being brought to the ring. And after Jackson was named the winner there was only one belt put around his waist — the UFC light heavyweight title. Did the PRIDE middleweight and welterweight titles decide not to sign contracts so the UFC elected to make the decision not to put them on camera? Were they lost in the mail when they were sent over from Japan? Why couldn’t they have waited until after the unification match to retire the PRIDE title?
Enough with the sarcasm because I thoroughly enjoyed UFC 75. It was a much better production than UFC 72 or UFC 70. For some reason those two international shows had a stale feeling (the resolution and lighting weren’t that great for those shows). UFC 75 truly felt like a big event and commercials aside, I really did feel like I was watching a PPV for free. Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan were very good on the show and Randy Couture added a lot during the Henderson vs. Rampage main event.
Even the commercials were better! UFC 70 felt so B-league when it came to advertisers. There weren’t any Girls Gone Wild promos or anything like that for UFC 75 so the prestige of the event wasn’t taken away from. The timing of the matches was good and the editing of the pre-recorded comments by Goldberg was a lot more seamless than usual.
A general thought that I have is in regard to a lot of people who have issues with Dana White for being critical of the competition. At the end of the day though, the UFC knows how to put on an event and they know how to run an MMA fight promotion. They aren’t in the learning stages. It isn’t trial and error with them. They have the game down to a science. I’ve even spoken to people inside the industry who aren’t fans of Dana and the way he carries himself yet even they admit that the UFC simply understands the business of MMA better than anyone else out there.
The fights themselves were good. There wasn’t a match of the year candidate but there weren’t any clunkers either.
Onto the matches…
Houston Alexander TKO over Alessio Sakara in round 1 - I guess technically as a journalist I’m supposed to remain impartial and not root for guys and what not. But this is the fight game and I pride myself as not being your typical sportswriter. So full disclosure: I’m a Houston Alexander fan. I was of Houston’s after the demolition of Jardine; I became a bigger fan last week after I interviewed him with Eric “Performify” Foster for MMAjunkie.com; and I completely marked out when he mugged Sakara and then got on the mic and showed MMAjunkie.com some love during his post-fight interview with Rogan. The guy is just a cool dude.
When Eric and I interviewed him he was super nice to us. I wondered if maybe it was because he knows we’re “media” and he was buttering us up a bit? Not so. With the Junkie name drop he showed me that he just sincerely appreciates the fact that Junkie gave him fair coverage leading up to his debut vs. Jardine. Everyone buried him but Junkie gave this guy the chance to tell his story. I think he claimed Junkie to be a sponsor but to my knowledge that technically isn’t the case. The site has done a lot to support him (as they do for a lot of fighters) but I don’t think they funded any of his training. I think he used the sponsorship route so he could work the mention in. I’m sure Eric and Dann can correct me if I’m wrong.
The fight itself was short but brutally entertaining. Rogan said it best when he stated “Houston Alexander is violent.” It’s kind of a weird statement considering this is fighting and fighting by nature is violent but Alexander kind of elevates the level of violence in his fights. It’s almost like not watching MMA but more of a guy assaulting another dude. Honestly, I can’t say I haven’t learned anything more about him as a fighter but we can’t say Alexander has fought nothing but suspect competition since entering the UFC. Granted, I don’t place a lot of stock in Sakara as an opponent but Keith Jardine rates as a quality win in my mind. I believe this dude is for real but I know not everyone does. But at the very least you have to admit that this guy is entertaining as hell.
Luke Thomas, Matt Cava and I discussed on the UFC 75 preview last week on Inside the Cage Radio how the “Italian boxer” thing in regard to Sakara is just a flat out promotional joke. Kudos to Luke for doing the research on Sakara’s boxing background because even though he is a boxer in Italy, his record isn’t all that impressive. His wins have come against some pretty weak competition. If you’re really a good boxer, wouldn’t you eventually graduate from the Italian boxing scene and take your act international? He’s simply a guy at this point that the UFC knows will do nothing but trade hands and probably end up losing the exchange.
Back to Alexander as I round this up. The UFC has struck gold in him and they need to keep the Houston Alexander express running. I don’t want to see an extended layoff for him that could kill his momentum. He’s used to fighting often so I’d book him to fight Stephan Bonnar at UFC 78 in Newark this November.
Marcus Davis armbar submission over Paul Taylor in round 1 - I wish I remembered the site but I remember reading a column by a pretty well-known pundit who claimed a year and a half ago that Davis was past his prime and was winding down his career. In reality, who could blame him? But the fact is that Davis is far from done as he’s in his prime right now. Davis was nothing more than a boxer for years but his work with Jorge Gurgel has paid dividends in his ground game. And his continued work with Kru Mark Della Grotte is also apparent. When I finish my overachievers article, Davis will be on it because this guy made himself into a mixed martial artist brick-by-brick. I guess his kettle bell work has paid off too because I don’t remember his physique ever having as much definition as we saw last night.
As for Taylor, he seems like he has solid kickboxing skills but I don’t think we need to see him as anything more than a local guy they use on the non-televised preliminary portion of European shows.
So what’s next for Davis? He’s on a 10 fight win streak and has won five consecutive fights in the UFC against Forrest Petz, Shonie Carter, Pete Spratt, Jason Tan, and now Taylor. It’s time for the UFC to challenge him and give him a step up in competition in the welterweight division. Josh Koscheck is coming off a loss at UFC 74 so why not Koscheck vs. Davis as Kos’ first match back?
Cheick Kongo defeats Mirko Cro Cop via unanimous decision – I guess nobody lives in fear of that left high kick anymore so guys are willing to come right at Cro Cop and fight him like anyone else. Cro Cop got beat my a bigger, stronger, and faster fighter who brought the fight to him the entire time. The crazy thing is, Cro Cop didn’t look that bad. He came into the fight in good shape and really stepped up his training. You could tell though that he gave into frustration. He’s not used to people fighting him like that. So now you’ve had Gonzaga and Kongo go right at him. It looks like the Cro Cop myth has been broken. He’s getting paid a ton of money and has yet to be involved in a big money matchup for the UFC and he’s not in a position to be involved in one for his next match.
Kongo really pushed the pace and you could tell that Cro Cop didn’t like it. Cro Cop is used to attacking guys and didn’t like constantly being put on the defensive. I think maybe he took Kongo lightly and assumed that because he was the more respected striker from a reputation standpoint that he’d be able to dictate the terms of the match. He just didn’t have a plan B when he realized things weren’t going his way.
I was also surprised to see Kongo show some ground skills. I didn’t think there was a chance in hell the match would go to the ground. Then again, I didn’t think there was a chance in hell the match would go the distance. I still wouldn’t call Kongo proficient on the ground but at least he showed us something on the mat. Some progress is better than no progress. I guess working with Juanito has made a huge difference. Man, I remember in PRIDE when Rampage had trouble affording decent sparring partners. Thanks to his success and his new affiliation with Juanito, he’s going to have top sparring partners for years to come and probably won’t have to pay a dime because a lot of people are going to want to improve their games under Juanito’s tutelage.
Kongo is just so marketable. I mean, the dude is huge and he’s jacked and he’s a striker! What more could you ask for? You just put him on a poster and non-MMA fans are just going to assume this guy is lethal. If he can improve his ground game further and develop a takedown defense then he could actually turn into what Cro Cop once was.
So what’s next for these two? How about an extended vacation for Cro Cop and a match between Cheick Kongo and Andrei Arlovski?
Michael Bisping wins split decision over Matt Hamill - If you’ve read my work you know I’m a Bisping mark. And if you listened to the UFC 75 preview on Inside the Cage you know that I said I might cry if he lost. Well, Bisping didn’t lose but I almost cried anyway. I’m a Bisping fan and even I know that Matt Hamill won that fight. Luke, Matt, and I kind of buried Hamill on the radio show last week but wherever Hamill has trained lately it’s done him some good because now he has some semblance of a standup game. Look, he’s very stiff when he punches and has no rhythm (like most wrestlers) but I was still surprised by his boxing skills in the first round. He was really heavy handed and now knows how to capitalize on that attribute. He’s clearly done a lot of sparring because he took some decent shots from Bisping and kept his composure (BTW, I love how they say he had to drop out of TUF 3 because he had a concussion… welcome to fighting!).
When I spoke with Bisping he basically indicated he didn’t think Hamill could hurt him. His concern was getting taken to the ground and being controlled by Hamill. He wasn’t worried about standup and wasn’t worried about ground and pound. Basically, I don’t think Bisping was mentally prepared to get hit last night. It’s possible he went light on sparring and instead focused more on his takedown defense during training. He just kind of looked shocked that Hamill was standing with him and his face looked like a mess towards the end of the first round.
Two things are obvious to me after this match.
First, Bisping needs to drop down to middleweight… NOW! His philosophy about not needing to fix something if it wasn’t broken made a lot of sense at the time but I’ve done a 180 after last night’s bout. It’s inevitable that he’s going to have to move to 185 lbs. There’s just no way around it. He’s not big enough and doesn’t have the punching power. Hamill was just too strong. Why wait until he loses to drop? What’s the point in not making the move until he gets obliterated by someone like Liddell, Silva, or Shogun? Why not take his perfect 14-0 record and pack his bags for the middleweight division and go there with his head held high as opposed to making the move under the auspices of trying to make a comeback. It’s not like the division doesn’t need him.
And second, I have to go on a rant about the judging, which is something I rarely have done in the past but Hamill got robbed and I can’t contain my thoughts any longer.
It’s hard to call it a hometown decision because the lone UK judge, Chris Watts, scored it 30-27 for Hamill. It was the two clowns from the U.S., Jeff Mullen and Cecil Peoples, who scored it 29-28 for Bisping. The hometown thing was still a factor though because the crowd reaction had to have influenced how Mullen and Peoples scored the match. Peoples has a history of judging poorly. To this day I do not understand why boxing judges who don’t understand the MMA game are used. MMA is getting bigger and needs MMA-specific judges. Look, if there’s a guy who understands both boxing and MMA then he should be allowed to judge. But he should be used as an MMA judge based on his merits in regard to MMA and his boxing credentials should have nothing to do with anything. Seriously though, you could take random fans from the audience and they know how to judge an MMA match better than people like Dalby Shirley and Cecil Peoples. And correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t Peoples a lousy boxing judge? I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all and knows his stuff, but I think he might have short-term memory issues. I’m not just saying that to be funny. Perhaps five minute rounds are too long for him and he only remembers the last three minutes of each round?
The biggest issue is accountability. The NBA, NFL, and MLB have a grading system for their officials and use that system to determine who gets assigned to playoff and All-Star games. Do the commissions have any kind of accountability system whatsoever? Or is being a judge like a bureaucratic position and the only way to lose your gig is if you do something corrupt and get caught?
BTW, can someone tell me why everyone pronounces Bisping’s last name as “Bis-Bing?” Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there a “P” in his last name instead of a “B?” Is it a UK thing where “P” is pronounced “B” like “R” is pronounced as “H” in Brazil?
So what’s next for these two? Obviously a drop to middleweight for Bisping. If he stays at light heavyweight then I really need to see a rematch between him and Hamill. As for Hamill, if Bisping drops then I’d like to see him possibly face one of the losers in the upcoming Liddell vs. Jardine, Shogun vs. Griffin, and Ortiz vs. Evans matches.
Quinton Jackson defeats Dan Henderson via unanimous decision - Finally a UFC main event with a payoff! It’s nice to have a match with a lot of hype going into it that lasts more than two minutes. Rampage vs. Liddell was just so unsatisfying. This one did the trick for me. And what was with the intense staredown from Jackson before the start of the match? Henderson simply grinned but Jackson didn’t break character and Henderson wiped the grin off real quick. It’s kind of weird trying to staredown a friend of yours. I guess it sent a message to Henderson that the match was going to be no joke.
Henderson is a strong guy and really showed a lot of moxie vs. Rampage but the match kind of reminded an NFL game where a 265 lbs. speed rusher gets off to a strong start against a 300 lbs. offensive lineman but just wears down as the game progresses. By the end of the match Henderson was clearly tired.
It wasn’t non-stop action but I thought the wrestling was good and I thought the exchanges the two had when it came to punching were plenty of action.
Rampage looked well prepared and I don’t care about the size disadvantage, a win over Henderson is impressive. He looked like a complete fighter tonight and reminded me of the old Rampage. He’s a worthy champ and I can’t wait to see a rematch with Shogun early next year.
As for Henderson, I think he can be a .500 guy at light heavyweight but he can be a dynasty if he goes back down to middleweight. If I was the UFC I would sign him to an extension and pay him like a top light heavyweight but get him to commit to the middleweight division. I know Henderson wants to stay a light heavyweight and I know he can hang with the best guys in the division, but money talks and bullshit walks. Pay him fairly and I’m sure he’ll go back down. They promoted the hell out of the PRIDE vs. UFC feud at the top of the show and they really don’t have the fighters under contract to make those claims. But they still have the PRIDE welterweight (185 lbs.) champ in Henderson under contract and I think a match between him and the winner of Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin is the only way to go.