Fans hoping for fireworks on Memorial Weekend courtesy of the UFC were probably a bit disappointed. The show was better than just snakes and sparklers but thanks to the two main events, the show provided “in house” fireworks rather than “major production” fireworks that it had the potential to deliver. By far the hottest thing of the night was none other than Brittney Palmer in her combat boots, looking ready for action if called upon.
Quinton Jackson defeated Matt Hamill by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Matt Hamill asked to fight Quinton Jackson and said he would break his will. Instead it was the will of Hamill that was broken as Jackson cruised to a decision victory.
Everyone knew that Hamill’s path to victory would be via the takedown. Well Jackson knew that as well and that’s why he brought his takedown defense to this fight, fending off Hamill every time he went for the leg. When Hamill would go for the takedown, not only would Jackson stuff it but he would make Hamill pay with a right uppercut or left hook. This is how the majority of the fight went for the 15-minute duration. Jackson managed to rock Hamill a couple of times but Hamill proved, as he’s done throughout his entire career, that he has a solid chin on him and never went down. Jackson’s biggest success came when he would attack the body of Hamill with short uppercuts and hooks but he didn’t really go there until the later stages of the fight. Hamill couldn’t really get anything going on the feet outside of some leg kicks early and his straight right to set up his takedown failed every time. It wasn’t the best performance in the world for Jackson but it was a solid performance and one good enough to earn him the decision.
Hamill gave away this fight after the first takedown. I’m not saying he would have won but prior to going for a takedown, he was having success with leg kicks and landing a decent jab-straight combo. Then he went for a takedown, Jackson blocked it, and Hamill just looked confused. It’s like he expected to takedown Jackson at will and when it didn’t happen, his spirit was crushed. To further extend the problem, he just kept going for takedowns even though it was obvious that they weren’t going to work. And Jackson’s biggest success came when Hamill would sloppily shoot in and Jackson would counter with an uppercut or hook. If Hamill had stayed on the out, and jabbed and kicked away then who knows how this fight could have turned out. Hamill is going to be a tough out for anyone in the division because of his heart but I think he needs a camp change if he’s going to become an elite light heavyweight. I feel like he could really benefit from going to a place like AKA, where they’re used to molding good wrestlers into well rounded fighters because I don’t think he’s working with the best guys at his current camp. Jackson was a good jump in competition for Hamill so now he needs to fight someone who is also near the top in the middle of the pack. The winner of Stephan Bonnar vs. Karlos Vemola would be a good fight for him.
I can’t fault Jackson for not finishing Hamill. He came into the fight with a fractured hand and he hit Hamill with some big punches. Hamill just has an iron chin to make up for his soft head. Overall I thought Jackson looked solid. He stuffed every takedown attempt, he made Hamill pay, and he mixed things up a bit better than he’s done in his past couple of fights. The body shots were especially devastating to Hamill and those are what really sealed the fight for Jackson in the third round. Now it looks like Jackson will face Jon Jones as long as Jackson’s hand heals up in time. While Jackson hasn’t really put an exclamation point on his title shot claim with his last three performances, he’s a still a former champion and one of the most recognizable guys in the company. Plus Jackson vs. Jones has all the makings of a great fight. Jones is a very aggressive fighter while Jackson is one of the best counter punchers in the sport. Plus Jackson still has the one punch power and I think we’ll see the most motivated and prepared Jackson since UFC 92.
Predicted Next Fights: Hamill vs. Bonnar/Vemola winner – Jackson vs. Jones
Frank Mir defeated Roy Nelson by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Proving that a grappling contest in 2003 means nothing in a MMA fight in 2010, Frank Mir dominated Roy Nelson for 15-minute en route to a comfortable decision.
Then fight started off hot with Nelson looking for the big right hand and Mir trying to avoid it. Nelson tried hard to get the fight to the ground by clinching with Mir but his attempts backfired as Mir connected with multiple knees to the chin of Nelson. Mir’s knees are made of meat though, which meant that Nelson just ate them until he was full. As the fight went on Mir started having success with a body kick, which took away some more of the gas of Nelson. In a bit of a surprise, Mir was able to takedown Nelson multiple times by using the clinch and cage to his advantage. While Nelson was able to get up without taking too much damage, Mir did land some good elbows every now and then while he had top position. By the third round both guys were completely spent but Mir has a little more left to give and he continued to press forward and get takedowns. Nelson kept looking for the right hand but it became easier and easier for Mir to avoid. The fight was extremely cool by the end but it was a clear cut victory for Mir, who now finds himself one step close to another title shot.
Rumor has it that Nelson was sick coming into this fight and I tend to believe that. He just didn’t look like himself in the cage. His wrestling, which he obviously trained with Dan Hardy, wasn’t as good as it usually is and his cardio was dreadful. Even though he is a fat 260 lbs, his conditioning is usually a lot better than it was on Saturday. He was headhunting with his right hand and even though it landed a couple of times, it wasn’t enough to put Mir away. Once again Joe Rogan was adamant about Nelson dropping to 205 but I don’t think that’s happening, nor should it. It does appear that he will drop a little bit of weight though and get into better shape. Moving to 240 or so may ruin Nelson’s gimmick but if it makes him a more dangerous fighter then I don’t think fans of “Big Country” will mind. Mirko Cro Cop wants one more fight and I say let him fight Nelson. There’s no point in wasting either guy, both of whom are perceived as big name fighters, against lesser known competition.
Even though Mir was gassed at the end of the fight, I thought he looked very good. He was able to take Nelson’s best punch a couple of times and not go down, he battered Nelson with knees, and he landed numerous takedowns. He did everything but finish Nelson but that’s a credit to Nelson’s chin and toughness, not a knock on Mir. His conditioning is still very questionable, especially with all the muscle he’s put on, but he did a nice job of fighting through the exhaustion. With Brock Lesnar rumored to be returning in early 2012, it’s possible that Mir sits out the rest of the year in order to get a rubber match against his nemesis but Mir usually likes to fight twice a year and there is no guarantee that Lesnar will be back when claimed. So going with the mindset that Lesnar won’t be back that early, I’ll say that Mir will probably face the winner of Brendan Schaub vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira next.
Predicted Next Fights: Nelson vs. Cro Cop – Mir vs. Schaub/Nogueira winner
Travis Browne defeated Stefan Struve by KO (Superman Punch) at 4:11 in Round One
Travis Browne remained undefeated in MMA by stopped the popular Stefan Struve with one punch.
Browne did what he does in every fight and that’s try and get off to a fast start. Struve showed good defense early, slipping and countering with the right hand. Struve was also throwing some good kicks early, especially the front kick, which is something he should have been using since he hit 6’5’’. Browne ended up putting Struve on his back but Struve reversed him and almost locked in an anaconda choke but Browne escaped. Back on the feet, Browne landed a huge superman punch that sent Struve crashing down. A couple more punches on the ground and Struve was out while Browne was victorious.
At least for now, it appears that Struve is a mid-level heavyweight who has exciting fights. That could change because he’s still very young but every time he’s taken a step up in competition, he’s failed and Browne wasn’t even the kind of step Struve took when he faced Junior Dos Santos and Roy Nelson. He didn’t look bad in this fight, although he still needs to develop and jab and use the front kick more, but he has a habit of getting caught with the right hand more times than not and taking more damage than necessary in general. I’m sure it’ll be back to mid-level fighters for Struve and I expect him to face one of the four heavyweights on the UFC 131 card not named Dos Santos or Carwin.
Browne might be for real. He destroyed James McSweeney, who is not a good fighter but is very unlikable so at least he got some fans from that, he held his own against Cheick Kongo, and he stopped Struve. If nothing else, the guy has power in his hands and looks like he’s starting to get very comfortable in the cage. We still don’t know how good his ground game is but his offensive wrestling appears to be solid and if he can finish guys before he gets put on his back then he doesn’t need takedown defense. I think they may want to protect Browne a bit and give him some strikes to see how his game goes along to the winner of Kongo vs. Pat Barry would be a good next fight for him. Plus, if it happens to be Kongo, they can hopefully settle their score.
Predicted Next Fights: Struve vs. Beltran/Rosa winner – Browne vs. Kongo/Barry winner
Rick Story defeated Thiago Alves by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
In the biggest fight of his career, Rick Story handed Thiago Alves his third loss in four fights with a grinding three round performance.
Story came out like a man possessed in this fight. For the first two rounds he was willing to exchange with Alves and just when Alves got a little too comfortable, Story put him against the cage and wore him down. Story managed to get multiple takedowns throughout the fight but Alves got up without taking much damage. Story’s biggest success came when he had Alves against the cage and was roughing him up with knees to the thighs. Story didn’t do a ton of damage to Alves in close quarters but he controlled him enough to go up two rounds to none after 10 minutes. In the third round Story seemed to gas a little, which allowed Alves to turn up the pressure. Alves hit Story with a flurry of knees, left hooks, and straight right hands but Story didn’t budge and kept firing back and coming forward. Even though Alves dominated the third round, he didn’t get the finish he needed after dropping the first two rounds so Story got the nod on all scorecards.
Even though Alves lost, he put in a strong enough third round to gain back some respectability. I’m not really sure what happened to Alves in this fight. I think the knees to the thighs in the first round did more damage than one would think and they made Alves a little slower and tentative. Once again, just like in his fights against Georges St. Pierre and Jon Fitch, he was afraid to unleash his kicks in fear of the takedown. He hurt Story in the third round but Story’s parents blessed him with a heck of a chin. This makes three losses in four fights for Alves, and even though two of those losses were against the top two welterweights in the world, he can’t keep losing fights. Based on his twitter comments, it looks like Mike Pierce isn’t a fan of Alves. Now thanks to this new, “twitter bonus” concept I don’t know how many twitter feuds are manufactured and how many are real but if Pierce is angling for a fight with Alves, he might get it. Of course he has to get by Johny Hendricks first.
In a division filled with top guys who GSP has already beaten, Story is a breath of fresh air. He’s big for the weight class, he’s a grinding wrestler, and he’s willing to bang it out with guys. Alves isn’t the easiest guy in the world to takedown and control but Story did a nice job of doing both of those things in the first two rounds. I was also impressed with Story’s ability to get up off his back after Alves got him down and reverse Alves. Seeing as the welterweight division needs new contenders, Story could be a fight or two away from a title shot. The consensus seems to be that Story should fight Jake Ellenberger next and I’m all for that. Even though Story does hold a victory over Ellenberger, that fight was many years ago and both men are different fighters.
Predicted Next Fights: Alves vs. Pierce/Hendricks winner – Story vs. Ellenberger
Brian Stann defeated Jorge Santiago by TKO (Punches) at 4:29 in Round Two
Brian Stann made his fellow veterans proud on Memorial Weekend by spoiling the UFC return of Jorge Santiago with his devastating power.
From the opening bell it looked like Santiago would be in trouble against the more powerful Stann. Santiago tried to tag Stann with the straight hand but either Stann would avoid it or take it and no matter, which, he always fired back with a one-two that Santiago couldn’t avoid. Stann was moving very well on the feet, putting together combinations, and landing good legs while Santiago struggled to get anything going with his strikes. Stann clipped Santiago with a left hook in the third round but Santiago managed to survive the frame. The second round was more of the same except that Santiago tried to put Stann on his back but to no avail. Eventually Stann caught Santiago again, this time with a right hook, and was able to put him away on the ground. Santiago’s second UFC run picked up where his first one left off while Stann picked up his third straight victory at 185.
While I didn’t expect too much from Santiago in this fight, I did think he’d be better than what he showed, which was very little. Santiago isn’t a bad fighter but he just didn’t have it on Saturday. He kept looking for a straight right that was never really there and once he tasted the power of Stann, he tried his best to stay away for the rest of the fight. I’m willing to give Santiago a break in this fight because it was his first time back in the US after a long stint in Japan and he was facing a guy who hits like a truck but he really needs to impress in his next fight unless he wants to head back to Japan. I’d like to see Santiago fight Jorge Rivera next although Rivera has to get through Santiago’s teammate Alessio Sakara first. Then again, even if Rivera loses I guess they can still do the fight.
If Stann wasn’t a star or a contender prior to this fight, he is now. He once again looked improved for his previous outing and he continues to show that he’s not just a power puncher. He was light on his feet, putting combinations together, and really taking the fight to Santiago. I really think UFC made a mistake going with Jason Miller as a coach for this upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter and not waiting to see if Stann was victorious. Stann just has that “it” factor that doesn’t come off forced or potentially get annoy like it can with Miller. Plus Stann needs a big time opponent in his next fight and Michael Bisping would have been the perfect opponent. Instead, I expect Stann to face the winner of Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz, which is a very interesting fight either way because it will test Stann’s ground skills.
Predicted Next Fights: Santiago vs. Rivera – Stann vs. Maia/Munoz winner
Quick Preliminary Thoughts
*Miguel Torres vs. Demetrious Johnson should have been a draw. Neither man did a ton of damage and they both had dominant positions. I thought Torres won based on activity and aggressiveness but a draw would have been more apt.
*Tim Boetsch could be a force at middleweight with his size and grinding style. Kendall Grove could be unemployed.
*Gleison Tibau is very underrated and legit at lightweight. He’s young, skilled, big for the weight class, and has fought good competition. He just needs to put it together, which he seems to be doing.
*I expected more out of Michael McDonald based on the hype but the kid is only 20 years old. Credit Chris Cariaso as well for giving him a tough fight.
*I’m disappointed that Cole Escovedo lost but hopefully he gets another shot. Time for Renan Barao to take a step up in competition to see if he’s as good as his record would indicate.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC