Sunday afternoons are always a good time for post-fight reflection and while thinking back on UFC 118 I noticed a particular trend: almost all of the fights were completely one-sided. I remember the betting odds and pre-fight picks around the internet in the days leading up to the fights and there were solid favorites up and down the card, yet two of those favorites lost completely.
Let’s start with the last fight on Spike before the pay-per-view went live. Joe Lauzon was facing his former Team Penn running buddy Gabe Ruediger. There were plenty of jokes made about Ruediger in the last few weeks but there was no joking around once the fight got underway. Lauzon beat Ruediger so badly that even Joe Silva has to be sitting around today wondering, “Why the hell did I bring this guy back?”
The PPV proper got underway and the show opened with Nate Diaz making his second appearance at welterweight against Marcus Davis. This was the closest thing to a pick ‘em in the days leading up to UFC 118, but you never would’ve known that by the way the fight unfolded. Diaz was able to pick apart a much more highly-regarded striker, but in the end it was that reliable Gracie Jiu-Jitsu magic that sealed the deal and gave Davis his third tough loss in his last four fights.
Then we get to the first “big” fight of the night as Kenny Florian faced off with Gray Maynard to determine the next top contender in the lightweight division. While I did pick Gray to win I was certainly in the minority. At the very least I figured we’d see some of the same stuff from Kenny that we saw in his dominating victory over Clay Guida, but instead we saw a Florian that seemed nervous as hell against his opponent. Kenny was so scared of the takedown that he focused on defending shots that never came and allowing Gray to dictate the pace. Maynard capitalized on Florian’s tentativeness by getting the better of the striking exchanges and taking “KenFlo” down whenever he felt it was necessary to do so.
Midway through the live broadcast we saw former top contender for the middleweight title Demian Maia squaring off with another Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in Mario Miranda. This fight was nothing more than another chance for Maia to show exactly how much better he is than everybody else once the fight hits the ground. Miranda’s knowledge kept him from having to tap out, but he had little-to-no-offense during the large portions of the fight spent in horizontal positioning.
Then we come to the two largest examples of a fight being one-sided, although in this case it’s for completely different reasons. Nobody in their right mind gave James Toney a real chance of beating Randy Couture, and thankfully things ended exactly the way they should have. I would love to see some younger boxers make a go at a real MMA career, but I guess James Toney earned his fat payday and that’s all that matters to him.
Now we come to the main event. I wrote on this very site last week about how I thought BJ Penn was going to look far better this time than he did in the first fight with Frank Edgar. I predicted a one-sided fight but made the unfortunate error of predicting it for the wrong man. I know for a fact that I’m not alone.
I’ve sung the praises of Frank Edgar pretty much ever since I started writing about MMA. The guy gives all of himself for each and every fight and now he is truly reaping the benefits. His second straight victory over Penn is a proclamation to MMA fans that he is not to be underrated anymore. Yes, he’s a small guy for 155 lbs. Stop asking when he’s going to move to featherweight and accept the fact that he now stands amongst the pound-for-pound best in the sport.
I don’t need to recap the five-round exclamation point Edgar put on Penn last night, but for me the most telling moments of that fight came in the fifth round. Penn had no urgency and never came close to winning the striking exchanges. Penn got back control yet couldn’t capitalize and then wilted when Edgar reversed the position to wind up on top. We also can’t forget those last few minutes of the fight when Penn looked like he was ready to pass out and Edgar looked exactly the same as when the fight started.
Despite Dana White and Joe Silva’s best efforts a majority of the fights were incredibly uneven. The UFC hardly ever puts on freakshow fights so it was somewhat enjoyable to indulge in that aspect of the fight game, but the rest of the card was at least designed to be compelling and competitive. Nobody was prepared for Edgar and Maynard to announce themselves as the premier lightweights in the UFC, and all the other fights on the card were simply a chance for one guy to shine brightest in a dominant victory.