Pittsburgh fans didn’t quite get the main event they expected but I don’t think they walked away disappointed as they were treated to one of the most dramatic turnarounds in MMA history and a hometown fighter, sporting the black and yellow, black and yellow, black and yellow, scoring the biggest win of his career. And if that wasn’t enough, fights fans in the Steel City got to see Brittney Palmer sporting red and white, red and white, red and white.
Cheick Kongo defeated Pat Barry by KO (Punches) at 2:39 in Round One
In one of the most amazing comebacks in MMA history, Cheick Kongo blasted Pat Barry unconscious just moments after looking unconscious himself.
Fight Recap: This fight started slow with Kongo keeping a good distance and unleashing some heavy leg kicks. Not to be outdone, Barry returned fire with some heavy leg kicks of his own. Then Barry clipped Kongo with a counter right hand that had Kongo flailing to the mat. Barry followed up with a flurry of punches, that put Kongo out and woke him up, and the referee was just seconds away from stopping the fight but pulled back just as he was about to intervene. Barry continued to unload with a flurry of punches but somehow Kongo survived, got up, and fell back into the cage. As Barry rushed in, Kongo caught him with a right hand behind the ear that wobbled Barry. Kongo followed that up with a right hand flush on the chin that put Barry out cold. A couple more punches on the ground that forced the ref to actually stop the fight this time and Kongo had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Barry Fight Assessment: Barry was doing well, very well, and then he just got caught. He was overaggressive, with reason because Kongo looked to be out of it, and he paid for it. Had the referee been a little meaner or didn’t like French people, then he likely would have stopped the fight.
Barry Future: Maybe it’s too early to call Barry a bust but for all the hype surrounding him, his career has nearly died in the UFC. We still don’t know if his ground game has improved and, while his striking is still high-level, there are flaws in his overall game. I don’t want to take too much away from him because had the ref stopped the fight, this would be a different paragraph but fact is, he’s 3-3 in the UFC. He’ll beat mid-level fighters on talent alone but maybe there’s too much Brandon Vera in him and not enough Jon Fitch.
Kongo Fight Assessment: Kongo was doing the right things early, keeping a good distance and using leg kicks, and then he got caught. He looked out of it but give him credit for surviving and then immediately coming back and KO’ing Barry. People have questioned Kongo’s heart in the past but that can no longer be the case after this fight.
Kongo Future: Despite the victory, there are still questions surrounding Kongo’s ground game and whether or not he can compete with the top heavyweights. Right now he’s sort of like the heavyweight gate-keeper, which is never where you want to be.
Predicted Next Fights: Barry vs. Aaron Rosa – Kongo vs. Dave Herman
Charlie Brenneman defeated Rick Story by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Scheduled to face Nate Marquardt in the main event before Marquardt was unexpectedly released for still largely unknown reasons, Rick Story got bumped down to the co-main event and bumped down the welterweight ladder by late replacement Charlie Brenneman.
Fight Recap Simply put, Brenneman was the better wrestler. Brenneman was all over Story from the opening bell and in the first two rounds, he scored early takedowns and controlled the position for the majority of first 10 minutes. Brenneman didn’t really do much damage to Story, outside of some short body shots, but his ability to control Story was outstanding. In the third round, Brenneman seemed to be slowing down but continued to get Story down with regularity. This time however, Story was more active off his back, going for kimuras and triangles. While he couldn’t lock either of them up, he was able to sweep Brenneman over and mount him for a short period of time. Brenneman was able to explode out though and finish the round on top. Even though he lost the final frame, Brenneman did enough in the first two rounds to win the fight in the eyes of the judges and score the biggest win of his career.
Story Fight Assessment: This is not a fight that Story will want to remember. He got out-wrestled and just couldn’t get anything going until the last round. He was never really damaged in the fight but he was also never able to get Brenneman off of him in the first two rounds. He looked good in the last round as Brenneman was slowing down but the fact that he couldn’t do anything with Brenneman on top of him in the first two rounds, not even get up to his feet, was a bit troubling. I’m sure the Thiago Alves fight didn’t have Story at 100% and the opponent change no doubt affected his mindset but when you take a fight on short notice or you can an opponent on short notice, you have to fight through those things, and when your supposed to be a top fighter, you have to beat guys who are below you.
Story Future: This was a huge blow for Story. He had a lot of momentum following the Alves fight and that’s all come to a halt now thanks to a loss to a relative unknown Brenneman. He’s still young and has plenty of time to make a run but it’s going to take a little longer than anticipated due to this loss.
Brenneman Fight Assessment: I give Brenneman a lot of credit. He stepped in the cage and took the fight from Story. He didn’t bother trying to trade strikes, he just constantly pressured Story with takedowns, stayed busy enough on top not to get stood up, and never lost his composure, especially in the third round. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but when you’re a huge underdog and an unknown fighting a guy who was scheduled to be in the main event, you’ll take any win you can get.
Brenneman Future: Now Brenneman has to build off this victory. He’s obviously a very good wrestler but lets not forget that less than a year ago, he was finished by Johny Hendricks. He’s a good athlete and trains at a great camp but now he’s not going to catch guys off guard like I think he did with Story.
Predicted Next Fights: Story vs. Hallman/Ebersole winner – Brenneman vs. MacDonald/Pyle winner
Matt Brown defeated John Howard by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Not many people expected this fight to go to a decision but it did and Matt Brown ended up outlasting John Howard.
Fight Recap: Despite the competitors involved, this was not a very exciting fight. It started off good with Howard throwing some very hard leg kicks and Brown firing back with good combinations. Brown looked like he hurt Howard with a knee to the chin and he tripped Howard down, almost locked on a d’arce choke, but then ended up letting Howard up and continued to tag him up with strikes. In the second round, Howard decided that he wanted to be a grappler and that’s when things really slowed down. Howard failed constantly at getting Brown to the ground and late in the round, Brown ended up getting Howard to the ground. Brown landed some good punches on the ground and then went Howard finally got a sweep, Brown immediately looked for a submission. The third round was more of the same from Howard, who constantly was going for takedowns and constantly failing for the most part. He got good positions on Brown, including taking his back standing a couple of times, but never really damaged Brown. Howard also ended the third round on top, which helped him secure the round, but wasn’t enough for him to secure the fight. The result was Brown snapping his three fight losing streak by handing Howard his third straight loss.
Howard Fight Assessment: I don’t know what Howard was thinking in this fight. He’s a muay-thai specialist who was having a lot of success with his leg kicks but then he decided that he wanted to be a wrestler. I’m sure that Howard thought Brown’s takedown defense wasn’t as good as he showed but once he realized that Brown wasn’t going to go down so easily, he should have gone back to what was working for him. Howard just seemed shocked at how good Brown was, both with his takedown defense and his striking, and he never adjusted.
Howard Future: With this being his third straight loss, I’m sure Howard will end up being cut. I always hate when guys on the main card get cut but if you can’t beat Brown, he probably don’t deserve to be in the UFC. Howard needs to go back to the drawing board and decide if he wants to be a striker with takedown defense or a more complete fighter.
Brown Fight Assessment: Brown looked good in this fight. He didn’t check the leg kicks very well but he was putting together good combinations and hurting Brown with everything he was throwing. He also showed off much improved takedown defense and did a nice job making Howard pay when they were stuck against the cage. Brown is usually an exciting fighter but Howard seemed more concern with winning than being exciting and Brown was happy to go a long with that strategy, which I can’t really blame him for given the circumstances.
Brown Future: Brown is who he is. He’s a good striker with underrated power and an underrated ground game as well. His biggest problem is his submission defense and he’s still going to get worked by good wrestlers and grapplers. Against the right opponents though, he’s going to turn in a very exciting fight.
Predicted Next Fights: Howard vs. Local Fight – Brown vs. Rich Attonito
Matt Mitrione defeated Christian Morecraft by KO (Punches) at 4:28 in Round Two
Matt Mitrione continues his meteoric rise to the top, finishing a tough Christian Morecraft and making it look easy.
Fight Recap: This fight was all about Mitrione’s straight left hand. He landed that punch almost at will and Morecraft had no answer for it. In the first round, Mitrione dropped Morecraft twice but couldn’t put him away either time. The first time he dropped him, Morecraft was still clearly conscious and Mitrione just let him up. The second time he dropped him, he looked out but Mitrione rushed in a little too hard and ended up on his back. Morecraft couldn’t do anything with the position though and Mitrione got up as the round ended. The second round was more of the same from Mitrione. Morecraft showed some life though as he was able to get Mitrione to the ground with a big takedown but Mitrione showed a good defensive guard and just held on to Morecraft until the ref stood things up. Back on the feet, Mitrione landed a big right hook-left straight-right hook combo that sent Morecraft down and Mitrione walking away, knowing that his work was down. The victory once again showed the improvement of Mitrione and kept him undefeated in MMA.
Morecraft Fight Assessment: Morecraft didn’t show much in this fight. He couldn’t get close to Mitrione in the first round and, despite landing some decent punches and leg kicks, way taking more damage than he was giving. When he finally got Mitrione to the ground, he did nothing with the position. I don’t want to make excuses for Morecraft but it seemed like he took Mitrione lightly, which was obviously a huge mistake if that’s the case.
Morecraft Future: It’s likely do or die for Morecraft in his next fight. He gave Stefan Struve all he could handle and looked good in victory over Sean McCorkle but this fight was many steps back for him. He’s still young and has plenty of time to improve but he might be improving in local shows if he doesn’t win his next fight.
Mitrione Fight Assessment: Mitrione continues to improve with every passing bout. His inside leg kick, which has always been good, looked quicker and harder than ever in this fight. And his straight left, which has always been his best punch, was quicker and set up better than ever. Mitrione also looked quicker than ever in this fight, easily avoiding the attempts by Morecraft to get inside. The one time Mitrione found himself on his back, he did a very good job just holding on and forcing stand up. It was a great all-around performance by Mitrione.
Mitrione Future: Mitrione is obviously a quick learner but there are still question marks surrounding his game. He’s still never faced a high-level wrestler or grappler but he does have quick hips and is very athletic for his size. I like that UFC is bringing him up slowly and I hope they continue to do so by giving him someone like Struve, who is a good test for guys looking to take that next step, rather than someone like Roy Nelson, who has the talent to beat even the best heavyweights.
Predicted Next Fights: Morecraft vs. Jon Olav Einemo – Mitrione vs. Struve
Quick Preliminary Fight Thoughts
*That was probably the worst version of Tyson Griffin we’ll see at 145. I expect big things from him at featherweight.
*Joe Stevenson is 29 and he peaked at the age of 25. What a huge fall ever since his fight with BJ Penn. Not a pretty win for Javier Vazquez but a win nonetheless.
*Joe Lauzon doesn’t know how to have a boring fight. He still needs that signature UFC win though.
*How the hell did Rich Attonito not finish Daniel Roberts in the final round? Overall a good performance by Attonito but even he knew he needed a finish.
*Charles Oliveira is a future champion. Shame the fight essentially ended because on an illegal knee but lets not take anything away from Oliveira’s performance. And thanks for an exciting fight and a blown call, Nik Lentz lives to fight again.
*Ricardo Lamas has some serious power. His striking looks pretty good for a wrestler and will be a tough out at 145.
*Michael Johnson has improved a ton since The Ultimate Fighter. If he continues to improve at such a high rate, he’ll be a fighter to look out for in the next year or so.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC