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The After Party – “UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort”

It was one of the most stacked UFC cards in recent months while maybe it didn’t deliver quite up to expectations; it had two moments that will be embedded in our memories for quite some time. I’m of course talking about Brittney Palmer, who is embedded in my memory whether there is a UFC event or not, and UFC debuting their latest time and money wasting pre-main event breakdown graphic. In all seriousness, this past weekend will be remembered for “Black and Yellow” sweeping the nation, and I’m not talking about that terrible song dedicated to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m talking about the colors worn by a current champion, a man who doesn’t give away things under pressure, and a man who forces himself upon others and gets away with it. Sorry Ben Roethlisberger, only one of those applies to you.

Anderson Silva defeated Vitor Belfort by KO (Strikes) at 3:25 in Round One to retain the UFC Middleweight Title

Prior to every Vitor Belfort fight, everyone speculates if “the old Vitor” will show up. Well the old Vitor may not have shown up but the greatest fighter in the world, Anderson Silva, sure did.

This fight started like almost every Silva fight seems to nowadays. He played things slow, moved around a lot, did a lot of goofy hand movements, and just waited for Belfort to commit. Belfort finally committed with a two punch combination that Silva responded to by smiling. Silva finally threw a strike, a head kick that Belfort used to get a takedown but Silva bounced right back up. Back on the feet, Silva looked down and then threw a front kick that jacked the jaw of Belfort and knocked him down. Silva immediately went in for the kill and landed two clean punches that put Belfort out cold. Just like the sky is still blue and the grass is still green, Silva is still champion.

For the first time in his career, Belfort got “Vitor’d.” The majority of Belfort’s victories have come via explosive knockouts while the majority of his losses have come via uninspiring decisions. This time he lost via explosive knockout. It’s tough to say that Belfort did anything wrong in this fight because of the quick nature of things but I guess it would have been smart of him to move away a little quicker when Silva kicked. I do think that he was a little too patient against Silva and maybe he should have tried exploding quicker but Belfort has become a much more patient striker over the years so to see him continue that trend in this fight wasn’t all that shocking. This fight really didn’t prove anything about Belfort unless you want to say that it’s another example of him lacking mental toughness because he lost another big fight. People have said that Belfort looked scared but I think maybe he just had too much respect for Silva. I didn’t like that Belfort got a title shot after such a long layoff because, even if he had won, I didn’t think we would see Belfort fight up to his full capabilities in this fight. His next bout is when he’ll prove whether or not he can make another title run or if he’s just destined to be that guy that peaked in his early 20’s. With a fight against Brian Stann looking less likely by each passing day, Wanderlei Silva seems like the perfect candidate for Belfort to fight next. The history is there, it’s a fight Wanderlei really seems to want, and it’s guaranteed to be exciting.

What can I really say about Silva that hasn’t already been said? So instead of wasting space typing about Silva, I’ll dedicate this paragraph to Silva’s son, Kalyl Silva, who was in his father’s corner for this fight. Did you see how much swagger this kid has? During the walk out he looked more intense and focused than Anderson and after the fight, with the belt on his shoulder, he just carried himself like a champion. Kalyl is only 12 years old but he scares me and I’m not afraid to admit that. Alright, back to Anderson. With each passing fight the guy finds a new way to get you talking about him, good or bad. This time, it just happened to be good, very good. The front kick that put Belfort down and essentially out was something that we’d never seen before and may never see again. I’m not sure if this kick supplanted “The Showtime Kick” of Anthony Pettis but it came close. The only thing that would have made it better is if Silva would have tapped his foot a couple of times and then mouthed, “I’m sorry, I love you” or “Where’s your hand speed now playboy?” right before he kicked him. Silva is simply amazing and I hope everyone appreciates exactly what you’ve seen over these past few years and continue to see today. Belfort was by far the quickest striker that Silva had faced in his UFC career and he once again made it look easy. Unless Georges St. Pierre loses to Jake Shields this April, it looks like we’ll finally get the super fight we’ve been waiting for between Silva and St. Pierre. If St. Pierre loses to Shields, Yushin Okami will likely get the title shot that he’s earned about three times now. I’m sure we’re all hoping for a St. Pierre victory because it’s going to take another special fighter to beat Silva and disrespect to Okami, who has the style to make it a competitive fight, but he’s just a great fighter.

Predicted Next Fights: Belfort vs. Wanderlei – Silva vs. St. Pierre/Okami

Forrest Griffin defeated Rich Franklin by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

While it wasn’t the classic slugfest some expected, crowd favorites Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin displayed their talents for 15 minutes in an inspiring battle.

From the opening moments is was clear that Griffin was going to fight smarter instead of entertaining. The first round consisted of Griffin getting a takedown off a body kick and then spending the rest of the round in the guard of Franklin raining down elbows. Franklin did a good job controlling the posture of Griffin and avoiding any major blows but he wasn’t able to attack off his back or get to his feet. The second round was more on the feet. Franklin was landing some good body kicks and a good right hook but Griffin was landing head kicks, that were blocked but still damaging the left arm of Franklin, and good counter punches. The two most significant moments of the round happened when Griffin wobbled Franklin with a left hook and when Griffin was able to get the back of Franklin and damage him a bit. The third round was almost entirely on the feet, outside of a couple of quick takedowns, where both men landed their fair share of strikes but neither looked to be in major trouble during the round. It may not have been the best performance of Griffin’s career but it was enough to get him the victory.

Franklin did his best in this fight but Griffin’s size was just too much for him to overcome. Franklin landed a good number of punches and some very hard body kicks but Griffin managed to get takedowns and Franklin, especially in the first round, had no answer for Griffin on the ground. I know Franklin feels more comfortable at light heavyweight but the size difference in this fight was extremely noticeable. Granted Griffin is one of the bigger light heavyweights and as long as “The Spider” is reigning in the middleweight division, Franklin won’t be getting a title shot, but it just seems like Franklin is better off at middleweight. I suspect that Franklin will remain at light heavyweight and his next fight will really determine if that’s where he belongs or if he’s better off at middleweight. Since UFC loves having Franklin fight guys that established stars and in most cases former champions, it seems like his next opponent will be the winner of the upcoming Tito Ortiz vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira fight.

Griffin showed some rust in this fight and, as expected, his conditioning suffered, but he still turned in your typical Griffin performance and this one was better than most because he fought a smart fight and actually used his size to his advantage. The first round may not have been what we all expected but it was a good round for Griffin because he guaranteed that he’d be up one round, he made Franklin carry his size, and he did some good damage on top. Given the layoff coupled with the injury, we didn’t see Griffin fight up to his full capabilities in this fight but he got the victory and that’s all that matters. Griffin is still very much in the light heavyweight mix. He’s won two straight fights now and each day that passes is a day further removed from his UFC 101 performance. Lets not forget that Griffin is a former light heavyweight champion and he beat Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson when they were the top light heavyweight in the world. Griffin is a very good fighter folks and it seems like people tend to forget that. With Rashad Evans liking not getting a title shot in his first fight back, I could see a rematch between the two former champion and Ultimate Fighter winners. Their first fight did huge business, it was a competitive fight, it’s a loss I’m sure Griffin would love to avenge, and it’s an opponent that Evans knows he can beat.

Predicted Next Fights: Franklin vs. Ortiz/Nogueira winner – Griffin vs. Evans

Jon Jones defeated Ryan Bader by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 4:20 in Round Two

It was the biggest fight between top prospects in some time and at the end of it, Jon Jones took one giant leap forward while Ryan Bader remained in the same position.

Jones proved just how strong he was early in this fight by easily putting Bader on his back and controlling him for the first part of the round. Jones landed some good elbows to the body and it looked like he was going to lock up a choke from north south position but he couldn’t quite sink it in and Bader finally managed to get to his feet. Bader then tried to prove his wrestling prowess by putting Jones on his back but Jones blocked it and once again put Bader down, where he continued to lay in elbows to the body before finishing the round with a flurry. The second round was all on the feet early with Jones using his reach to land a good left hook and legs kicks. Bader had a moment of opportunity when Jones went for a superman elbow and Bader threw a counter right but Jones took it well. Bader tried to steal the round with a late takedown but Jones reversed it, ended up on top, and quickly sunk in a guillotine for the victory. It was the biggest win of Jones’ career and little did we know, it was just the beginning of Jones’ push to the top as immediately after the fight, Joe Rogan announced that Jones would be facing Mauricio Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title at UFC 128 due to Rashad Evans having to pull out with a knee injury.

If Bader can hang his hat on anything with this performance, it’s that he wasn’t completely destroyed and tossed around like previous opponents of Jones. Bader still has a lot of potential but he needs to figure out a secondary game plan when his wrestling isn’t there. His secondary game plan in this fight was to pull guard, which seemed like a complete panic move given that he’s never shown any type of ground game off his back. His wrestling is very good but he doesn’t really set up his takedowns and he fades as the fight goes on. Prior to fighting Jones, he was getting by almost exclusively with his strength, both in his wrestling and punching, but light heavyweight is filled with a number of strong guys so that just won’t cut it anymore. He has the build and athleticism to be a champion in this sport, he just needs to refine his technical game a bit and work on his conditioning. I think this loss will be the best thing for him because now he doesn’t have the pressure of remaining unbeaten and he knows that pure strength and athleticism won’t quite cut it against the top guys. Bader’s next opponent will likely be another guy who is considered to be in the middle of the pack with the winner taking a big step towards contention.

Jones continues to impress with each passing fight. Bader is no joke in the wrestling department and yet Jones handled and controlled him like it was nothing. Jones was clearly the superior striker given his reach advantage but I liked that he didn’t get too flashy in this fight outside of a superman elbow, which he should just go ahead and take out of his repertoire because it’s just not a smart strike to use. Like in the Griffin vs. Franklin fight, the size difference between these two was very evident and Jones did a good job using that to his advantage. His head control is outstanding and he has a very strong guillotine choke. The best thing about Jones though is that he’s finishing people. In his first two UFC victories he won comfortable decisions but in his last four wins he’s finished his opponents within two rounds. Most people believed that Jones would be challenging for the title in late 2011 or early 2012. Instead Jones will be challenging for the title in just six weeks. Jesse Ventura might want to investigate the Team Greg Jackson and Jones though because Rashad Evans getting injured and his training partner Jones getting a title shot has conspiracy theory written all over it. This is obviously a huge opportunity for Jones and even though it seems a bit rushed, he says he’ll be more than ready in six weeks so I believe him. How will he do against Rua? Come back the week before UFC 128 and read “The Walk Out – UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones.” That’s a tease folks.

Predicted Next Fights: Bader vs. Hamill/Davis winner – Jones vs. Rua

Jake Ellenberger defeat Carlos Eduardo Rocha by Split Decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)

Carlos Eduardo Rocha almost pulled off a major upset but Jake Ellenberger continued his slow climb up the welterweight ladder with a too close for comfort decision victory.

Ellenberger looked to finish things quickly with a left hook but then he clinched with Rocha and went for a takedown. Rocha got right back up and then put Ellenberger on his back and into side control. Rocha constantly switched positions and threatened with a couple of submissions but while nothing come too close, Rocha’s top control was extremely impressive. Then at the end of the round, Ellenberger sprawled on a takedown, Rocha grabbed his wrist, flipped him over with a kimura, and almost finished the fight but Ellenberger managed to escape and survive the round. The next two rounds were about the same. Ellenberger wanted nothing to do with the ground game of Rocha so he kept the fight standing and tagged Rocha with a stiff jab and a good counter right hand. Rocha hung in there though and landed some big leg kicks but he didn’t use them often enough to make a noticeable difference. Near the end of both rounds Ellenberger scored with takedowns, where he really didn’t do anything but finishing the rounds on top looked good for the judges. And it looked good enough for two judges as Ellenberger eeked out a split decision.

I was really impressed with Rocha in this fight, despite losing, for one round at least. Even though he entered this bout undefeated, from the limited footage I had seen, his ground control wasn’t as nearly as good as it looked in this bout. Granted Ellenberger didn’t fight smart in the first round and initiated a lot of clinch situations but Rocha showed some very impressive strength and control to handle Ellenberger the way he did in the opening frame. Then he pretty much gave the fight away. It seemed like he blew a lot of energy in the first round and just didn’t have that same pop he had in rounds two and three. He landed some good leg kicks but that’s about all he did standing and when he went for takedowns, they were stuffed and he didn’t pull guard, which seems like it would have been a smart thing to at least try. Unfortunately for Rocha, he’ll likely be moved back down to the prelims where he’ll need to win his next fight in order to save his job.

Ellenberger may have won but it wasn’t the dominant performance that many expected. I give him credit for bouncing back after a very bad first round and taking the last two rounds but he just seemed very off in this fight. Maybe the letdown of going from Jon Fitch to Rocha messed with him mentally and he took Rocha lightly but he’s known for at least two months about the opponent switch and he’s a fool for taking anyone in the UFC lightly. He won the fight though and while that’s all that matters, his performance didn’t earn him that big next fight against a well-known star the he likely would have gotten if he KO’d Rocha in 30 seconds.

Predicted Next Fights: Rocha vs. Charlie Brenneman – Ellenberger vs. Dong Hyun Kim

Miguel Torres defeated Antonio Banuelos by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

The first bantamweight fight in UFC PPV history was more fizzle than sizzle but Miguel Torres did enough to frustrate Antonio Banuelos and pick up a clear victory.

The story of this fight was Torres’ jab and Banuelos’ inability to deal with. There was honestly very little else to this fight. Torres would sometimes throw a quick right straight behind his jab and mix in some leg kicks but for the most part, he was content with just jabbing and moving away every time Banuelos pressed forward. Banuelos managed to initiate a couple of wild exchanges late in rounds but it was too little too late to make a dent in the judges eyes. It was probably the least exciting performances of both men’s respective careers but someone had to win and that someone was Torres.

As expected, Banuelos had a ton of trouble with the reach of Torres and it clearly frustrated him. What was amazing was his complete lack of strategy in this fight. He tried his best to counter when Torres threw but all of his punches came up a mile short and he had nothing to fall back on. He didn’t throw kicks, he didn’t go for takedowns, and the one time he did put Torres down, he immediately let him back up. It’s like Banuelos expected Torres to just brawl with him, which he would have realized wasn’t going to happen had he watched Torres’ last fight and even if he didn’t watch that fight, he should have realized that wasn’t going to happen about a minute in when Torres was just circling and jabbing. Banuelos’ lack of height puts him at a major disadvantage in fights but other guys in the division, namely Joseph Benavidez, aren’t very tall either and he does just fine because he knows how to use his speed to get inside. Until Banuelos learns to get inside or starts mixing things up better, he’s never going to make it to the next level in the division. I think he’d be the perfect next opponent for ‘Kid’ Yamamoto because he’s not as quick as Demetrious Johnson and he’s a guy who will get into a slugfest with ‘Kid’ while ignoring his wrestling.

Everyone seems to blame Greg Jackson for turning exciting fighters into boring ones but I think it’s pretty clear that Firas Zahabi is the real problem. Joking aside, Torres fought a smart fight but he did seem a little too comfortable just cruising to a decision rather than trying to put Banuelos away, which he probably could have done if he just threw his right straight a bit more. Torres might be a better fighter from here on out but he’s not going to win over the audience like he did in WEC unless he starts putting people away. There are a good number of opponents out there for Torres right now but I’d like to see if he’s truly regained his championship form and the only way to determine that is to face a guy who is considered a top bantamweight and someone who will really bring the fight to him. To me, that guy is Scott Jorgensen. I’m sure Jorgensen is hungry to get back into the cage following his loss to Dominick Cruz and he’s never been one to back down from a fight.

Predicted Next Fights: Banuelos vs. Yamamoto – Torres vs. Jorgensen


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