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UFC 87 Thoughts & Commentary

UFC 87 is now in the books and it was one of the best shows, if not the best show, all year. Georges St. Pierre defended his title against an incredibly game Jon Fitch, Brock Lesnar proved his worth against Heath Herring, and Roger Huerta failed to do the same against a technical Kenny Florian. Let’s get right into breaking it down.

Georges St. Pierre is on another level at 170 lbs.

Jon Fitch proved tonight that he is a man’s man and has zero quit in him. His tenacity, recovery speed, and aggression were all extremely admirable. What he also showed is that no one, and I mean no one, in the weight class has what it takes to contend with St. Pierre’s overall game. Standing or on the ground, St. Pierre is dominant. If he can’t finish you with his strikes, he will take you down. If he can’t take you down, he’ll work you over on the feet. He is as multi-dimensional of a fighter as there is in all of mixed martial arts right now and that includes the current consensus pound-for-pound king, Anderson Silva. No one in the weight class has a prayer right now to beat him. Not Thiago Alves, not Jake Shields, not Karo Parisyan, nobody. B.J. Penn is the only fighter with a sliver of a chance and with Penn’s in-ring challenge after the fight, it’s looking like we’ll get to see that superfight sooner than later, hopefully in December.

Jon Fitch is the second best welterweight in the world, hands down.

Jake Shields, Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, and Carlos Condit, please have a seat. Jon Fitch is far and away ahead of all of you. And that’s no disrespect, it’s just plain fact. No one thought that Fitch would last all five rounds tonight. A lot of people didn’t even think Fitch would last into the championship rounds. Not only did he do both of those things, but he was threatening almost the entire way. His recovery speed was absolutely insane. Normal fighters don’t take clean punches followed up by a knee to the head and recover like Fitch did. Not only did he take those shots and recover, but he kept coming forward. He showed us all tonight that he belonged in the same cage as St. Pierre even if he was dominated. At this point, who at 170 lbs. wouldn’t be dominated by St. Pierre? No one. The fact that Fitch took that kind of beating and lasted all five rounds speaks volumes about not only his talent, but his character as a fighter as well. Fitch should hold his head high for hanging tough against one of the best fighters in the entire world of combat sports.

Brock Lesnar proved that he belongs in the UFC.

With a decisive victory over Heath Herring, one of the best gatekeepers in MMA, Brock Lesnar proved to all of the doubters tonight that he belongs in the major leagues of mixed martial arts, the UFC. From the opening bell, Lesnar was dominant, dropping Herring with a crushing right hand and suffocating him from there on out. His back control was ridiculous. His fists are the size of watermelons and inflict so much damage from very small punches. Lesnar played to his strength tonight and used his world class wrestling to dominate a dangerous opponent. If Lesnar can continue his progress and start to learn how to use his dominant position to finish, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the UFC’s heavyweight division. The win for him tonight was huge for the UFC, especially as far as making Lesnar a legitimate MMA fighter and marketing him in the future.

Kenny Florian spoiled Roger Huerta’s big payday.

Kenny Florian did what most pundits thought he would do, and that’s beat Roger Huerta with a technical game. Not only did he beat Huerta but he most likely ruined his demands for a big time contract with the UFC. Huerta reportedly has been asking for a contract that’s bigger than current lightweight champion B.J. Penn’s contract. Florian most likely put a stop to all that talk tonight. The surprising thing was that Florian dominated the striking game. It was a given that if the fight hit the floor that Florian would have the advantage. What wasn’t evident, though, was that Florian would so soundly beat Huerta standing. Huerta is a good talent and a great young fighter with a lot of heart. His antics, his maturity, and his skills, however, need some work. His striking is wild. He throws big looping punches that leave him open to counters. The antic with spitting to the side in the Octagon cost him a takedown. Florian looked better in all aspects of MMA tonight. Huerta just looked flat.

Demian Maia is ready for a step up in competition.

Maia has beaten two of the middleweight division’s best gatekeepers in Jason MacDonald and Ed Herman and now it’s clear that he’s ready to face some of the division’s top dogs. The fight tonight against MacDonald started out as one of the most technical grappling battles that we’ve seen in quite some time. It was a fantastic way to start the show and the transitions that we saw take place were just out of this world. Maia, however, is on another level when it comes to the jiu jitsu game. He is so technically and fundamentally sound in his game that he sometimes makes good jiu jitsu fighters, like MacDonald, look silly. He’s ready for a step up in competition. Perhaps the winner of Palhares vs. Henderson? Perhaps a fight against Yushin Okami when he comes back? Whatever it may be, Maia is very for real and deserves to move up to the next level of competition.

Other musings…

  • You could tell from Dan Evensen’s ridiculous intro that he was getting knocked out at some point during the fight. That had to be the worst combination of music and antics that I’ve ever seen walking out to the cage. Evensen got what was coming to him. Put aside the fact that Kongo is on another level. Anyone who acts like that deserves to get their teeth smashed in.
  • The Minnesota crowd was phenomenal. One of the best UFC crowds in a long, long time. When they were cheering the ground work between Maia and MacDonald it became clear that not only were they educated MMA fans but also enthusiastic about the evening’s fights. It made for a great at home viewing experience.
  • Say what you will about Brock Lesnar’s post fight antics, but I personally loved it. The guy has legitimate skills and he can talk a little trash and hype a fight. Josh Barnett does the same kind of thing and people love him for it. Lesnar is good for the popularity of the sport and if he wants to add some theatrics to the deal then so be it. Tito Ortiz has done far worse.
  • Rob Emerson is probably taking home a knockout bonus tonight for his knockout of Manny Gamburyan. Let’s hope he spreads the wealth around to The Lords of South County.
  • I’m very interested in seeing the McCrory vs. Cummo fight. By all accounts it was the best undercard fight of the evening.
  • Best show of the year? It’s very possible. UFC 84 was my top choice for than honor going into tonight’s event but I may have to re-evaluate following tonight’s top notch show. No matter what, it’s a solid #2 at the least. The UFC is doing a great job of putting on very good shows this year.
  • 8-3 on picks for the evening. I’ll take it.

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