Fans wanted fireworks on Fourth of July and UFC delivered by bringing Justin Bieber to Las Vegas. Conspicuous by her absence though was Selena Gomez, which disappointed me more than watching Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye with no cutaways of Hayden Panettiere. Luckily the in cage action produced spectacular KO’s, a stunning submission, and a sparkling display of skill, all while Brittney Palmer shined bright in Bud Light Lime green.
Dominick Cruz defeated Urijah Faber by Unanimous Decision (50-45, 49-46, 48-47) to retain the UFC Bantamweight Title
Dominick Cruz extracted a bit of revenge by defeating Urijah Faber, avenging his only career loss, and retaining his title.
Fight Recap: It’s almost impossible to recap this fight because both guys moved so much and there was a ton of action but I’ll try my best. Cruz implemented his usual moving, switching, and angling style to throw Faber off balance. He started the fight off with a great straight right that immediately set the tone. Faber stayed with him though and dropped Cruz in the first round with a right hand just as Cruz landed with a knee to the body. Faber had a lot of success in the first round clinching and then throwing a hook or elbow on the break. Cruz went for a late round takedown but Faber ended up throwing Cruz just as the horn sounded. It was a close round but I felt that Faber did more damage and gave him the edge. Rounds two and three is where Cruz really started to take over. He started finding his rhythm on the feet, pecking at Faber with the jab, landing some good leg kicks, continuing to have success with a straight right hand, and scoring with the uppercut. Faber hung tough but he couldn’t seem to get anything going in the rounds. Faber did stumble Cruz in the second round but Cruz quickly regained and Faber couldn’t follow up. The second and third rounds clearly went in Cruz’ favor and he seemed well in control. Then in the fourth round, Faber dropped Cruz early and really slowed down the champion for the rest of the round. Cruz still had success in the round with his diversity but he failed on multiple takedown attempts and Faber was tagging Cruz more than he had in previous rounds. So after four rounds I had the fight tied up at 2 rounds apiece. The one minute rest is exactly what Cruz needed as he came out with a flying knee in the fifth round that wobbled Faber. Cruz went in for the finish but Faber fired off a couple of right hands that stopped Cruz in his tracks. For the majority of the rest of the round, Cruz landed takedown after takedown but Faber was immediately back to his feet every single time. Cruz was pressing the action though but was eating some good counters by Faber. Faber ended up stuffing the final takedown attempt of Cruz but it wasn’t enough to win him the round as I thought Cruz’ aggressiveness and takedowns were enough to give him the round and the fight. All three judges agreed, albeit in different ways, and Cruz officially became the first ever UFC bantamweight champion.
Faber Fight Assessment: Faber didn’t fight a bad fight, but he didn’t fight a winning fight. He was a little too patient on the feet and I thought he should have been more aggressive. He didn’t use many kicks, which I thought would be a key to an eventual victory, and he didn’t push the pace like I thought he should. Now he did rock Cruz and did have the most success against Cruz of anyone in his recent fights but it just seems like he could have won this fight if he was a bit more aggressive. When you’re fighting a guy like Cruz, whose style is a point-fighting style, you have to take the fight from him and Faber didn’t do that. He had a lot of success on clinch breaks but he didn’t get inside enough to create more of those opportunities. He fought with a little too much calmness, which is his style, and not enough urgency.
Faber Future: Faber is now in a weird position. He’s 0-4 in his last four title fights but he’s still the most popular guy in the division and it’s not like he was blown out in this fight. That said, how many title shots can you keep giving this guy? My guess is at least one more. If he can pick up another victory at 135 against Brian Bowles or possibly Miguel Torres, I think they come back and give Faber one last title shot, whether it be against Cruz or the new champion. The problem though, if he loses his next title fight, is that he’s sort of in the Rich Franklin position where he’s going to knock off a lot of top contenders but he can’t get past the champion.
Cruz Fight Assessment: Cruz fought the fight he needed to fight. He was his usual elusive self and he hit Faber with a lot of good punches. Cruz was finally hit, and hit hard, at 135 but every time he was dropped he was immediately back to his feet. I was really impressed with Cruz in the scrambles because Faber’s best attribute to his ability to scramble and Cruz hung with him. Cruz didn’t blow out Faber by any means but he stuck to his game plan and seemed to frustrate Faber a bit with his movement and activity. Cruz did seem to tire a bit in the fourth round but he looked recovered by the fifth, and the opening round knee that wobbled Faber certainly didn’t hurt either.
Cruz Future: The Cruzix Cube remains unsolved. I still think that the way to beat him is to slow him down with kicks but thus far; nobody has been able to do that. During his run as champion, Cruz has beaten a power puncher and grappler in Bowles, a quick diverse striker in Joseph Benavidez, a power wrestler and puncher in Scott Jorgensen, and now a quick well-rounded fighter in Faber. My guess is that he fights Demetrious Johnson next. Johnson is someone that can match speed with Cruz but Cruz will have a big size advantage. Bantamweight is a division filled with talent but with the way Cruz is fighting, all of them look like match ups that Cruz can handle.
Predicted Next Fights: Faber vs. Bowles – Cruz vs. Johnson
Chris Leben defeated Wanderlei Silva by KO (Punches) at 0:27 in Round One
In a middleweight fight between heavy hitters, Chris Leben made short work of the legendary Wanderlei Silva.
Fight Recap: This fight didn’t last long. Leben threw an early leg kick that Silva countered with a quick flurry but Leben fired right back with a left hand that wobbled Silva. Silva kept moving forward though and ended up tied up with Leben, who landed a series of uppercuts with the single-collar tie up that sent Silva crashing down to the mat. Leben followed that up with more big punches that put Silva out cold and scored Leben the biggest victory of his career.
Silva Fight Assessment: Silva hit Leben and then he got hit. He did a great job countering the leg kick of Leben but then he got tagged with a left hand and instead of resetting, he kept moving forward, which allowed Leben to grab a hold of him and uppercut him into oblivion.
Silva Future: Dana White talked about Silva possibly retiring but I think he has one more fight left in him. Lets not forget that Silva was coming off a year long layoff couple with surgery, which means that he wasn’t going to fight up to his full potential in this fight. His chin might be shot but it’s not like Leben throws pillow punches. I say give Silva one more fight and if he ends up trying to pull guard against the referee again, then talk to him about hanging it up.
Leben Fight Assessment: Leben got hit, which is what turns him on, and then like any good electrical gadget, when he’s turned on, he begins to work. And working for Leben is punching back. He hit Silva with a good left hand, dropped him with a series of uppercuts, and finished him on the ground. It was what we’ve come to expect from Leben.
Leben Future: I don’t want to make a huge deal out of a 27 second KO over a guy coming off a Mir Layoff so I won’t. Leben did what he needed to do, which was score a big KO, but he’s still who he is. He’s going to make it a fight against anyone but I’m not sure if he’s ready to contend for the middleweight title just yet. That said, if he wins another fight or two, because of his name value and style, he could end up challenging for the title.
Predicted Next Fights: Silva vs. Belfort/Akiyama loser – Leben vs. Chael Sonnen
Dennis Siver defeated Matt Wiman by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Dennis Siver and Matt Wiman battled in a hard fought contest that ended in a close and possibly controversial decision.
Fight Recap: This was the tale of three different rounds. In the first round, Siver did a nice job avoiding the takedowns of Wiman and not spending much time against the cage. On the feet, Siver did more damage with his strikes but didn’t land anything too clean on Wiman. Siver was doing very well with kicks though, which was by far his best weapon during the fight. Wiman ended up getting a takedown with about ten seconds left in the round but wasn’t able to do anything with it and I didn’t think it counted for much. It was a close round thanks to the late takedown by Wiman but one that I felt Siver won because his takedown defense was so good and he did more damage on the feet. Round two was a much different story. Wiman was able to get the takedown early in the round and for the majority of the round he batter Wiman from the guard with hammerfists and elbows. Wiman ended up opening up a cut or two on the forehead of Siver, leaving him a bloody mess. I had it tied after two rounds with the momentum clearly in Wiman’s favor. The third round was like a mix of the first two rounds. Siver did a nice job stuffing the takedowns early and making Wiman pay with punches. Siver also continued to have success with leg kicks when they were at a trading distance but Wiman did have success with an overhand right. Wiman went for a guillotine from the clinch but Siver was able to escape. Wiman was also able to get a takedown and went for another guillotine as Siver tried to scramble up but again couldn’t finish it. The end of the fight saw Siver stumble Wiman with a leg kick, Wiman recover enough to just complete a takedown, but Siver threatening with a partial guillotine choke as the round ended. It was a very close round that I thought Wiman won based on his control, activity, and aggressiveness. The judges saw it differently though as they all gave the fight to Siver, leading to heavy boos from the crowd but another victory for the German striker.
Wiman Fight Assessment: Wiman did what he needed to do, and if the judging system were different, he would have won the fight. But unfortunately the system is what it is. Wiman was able to get Siver down to the ground and he really put a beating on him on round two but couldn’t follow up in round three. I still thought he won round three because Siver didn’t do much but it was a close round. The biggest mistake Wiman made in the fight was probably going for the guillotine in the third when he had Siver down rather than trying to keep him down.
Wiman Future: I like Wiman and I think he’s a Spencer Fisher type guy who you can put in there against anyone and he’ll make it a competitive fight. I doubt his stock dropped much, if at all, because most people thought he won. If you want to know what you have with certain fighters, have them face Wiman because he’ll test anyone in all areas.
Siver Fight Assessment: Siver’s takedown defense was once again on display in this fight. Wiman was able to get him down for a period of time once but for the most part, Siver once again kept the fight on the feet and was able to win most of the striking exchanges. Siver’s biggest key to victory was all the leg kicks he threw. They not only disrupted the timing of Wiman but they eventually slowed him down in the third round. It wasn’t an overly impressive performance by Siver but he did enough to win rounds one and three in the judges eyes and continue his rise up the division.
Siver Future: The talk now is Siver rematching Melvin Guillard and I feel like the only person who doesn’t want to see that fight. No knock on Siver but I don’t think he’s as good as made out to be while Guillard is even better than he was at UFC 86, where he KO’d Siver in 36 seconds. Siver has improved as well, especially his takedown defense, but I still believe that Guillard would get the better of him on the feet. That said, it is a fight that makes sense given the streak both men are on.
Predicted Next Fights – Wiman vs. Anthony Njokuani – Siver vs. Guillard
Tito Ortiz defeated Ryan Bader by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 1:58 in Round One
With his back against the wall, Tito Ortiz turned in his best performance in years by finishing the younger and stronger Ryan Bader.
Fight Recap: The fight was moving along slowly with both men missing with their punches but Bader doing a good job with inside leg kicks. It looked like Bader tagged Ortiz with his patented right hand but Ortiz took it and shook it off. Then, out of nowhere, Ortiz dropped Bader with a right hand. Ortiz followed him to the ground, locked on a guillotine choke, rolled to his back, and forced Bader to tap out with a tight squeeze. It was a must-win situation for Ortiz and he not only won, but delivered a spectacular performance and finish.
Bader Fight Assessment: I thought Bader was doing well early with the inside leg kick but then he got caught with a right hand, put down, and choked out. Maybe he should have looked for the takedown sooner but I’m sure he felt he was the better striker than Ortiz and obviously that wasn’t the case.
Bader Future: This is a huge blow to Bader. I’m not sure Ortiz has ever dropped anyone standing and yet he was able to drop Bader with one punch. I don’t want to say Bader’s chin is weak but this doesn’t do him any favors. Losing to Jon Jones is one thing but losing to and seriously, GETTING DROPPED BY ORTIZ, is another. I think Bader has a lot of raw talent but perhaps we all overestimated just how good he is.
Ortiz Fight Assessment: It looked like Ortiz was very tentative early but then he did a nice job getting passed the kicks of Bader, dropping him with a right hand, and finishing him with a very good guillotine. It was an absolutely stunning performance that I don’t think anyone could have predicted.
Ortiz Future: Maybe Ortiz is now 100% healthy and ready to make a run at the title. I have my doubts but I give him credit for winning a fight that, on paper, was a bad match up for him and a fight that almost no one thought he would win. He still has a lot to prove but at least for now, Ortiz lives to fight another day.
Predicted Next Fights: Bader vs. Matt Hamill – Ortiz vs. Franklin/Nogueira winner
Carlos Condit defeated Dong Hyun Kim by TKO (Strikes) at 2:58 in Round One
Carlos Condit solidified his spot atop the welterweight division with a huge KO victory over the previously undefeated Dong Hyun Kim.
Fight Recap: The fight started slow on the feet before Kim did a nice job ducking under Condit’s strikes and getting a takedown. Condit almost immediately swept Kim over to mount though and looked for a guillotine but Kim did a nice job avoiding it and scrambling to his feet. Condit then started having success with a straight right hand before landing a flying knee right on the chin of Kim that knocked Kim down. Condit fell over onto Kim and ended up putting him out with a flurry of punches. It was a huge victory for Condit, who made a statement to the rest of the division with the finish.
Kim Fight Assessment:Kim did what he needed to do early, and that’s get the fight to the ground but he couldn’t keep Condit there. Once Condit swept Kim and got to his feet, it seemed to take a lot of Kim and he was almost surprised at how easy Condit was able to deal with him on the ground. After that Kim could never really get his game going and then eventually ducked right into a knee and was out cold.
Kim Future: Now we’ll see what Kim is really made of. He’s finally tasted defeat and not only defeat but he was KO’d. He’s still a tough match up for a lot of guys in the division but Condit was his first big test and he failed. I’m really interested to see how Kim bounces back from this loss and there are plenty of guys who I’m sure would love to test how he’ll bounce back.
Condit Fight Assessment: Condit continues to deliver exciting fights. The way he swept over Kim to full mount was a thing of beauty and then the flying knee to put him away was spectacular. It’s like Joe Rogan mentioned on commentary, Condit isn’t afraid to do things like that because he trusts his ground game so much, and that makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone.
Condit Future: The talk now is that Condit will get a title shot but because Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz is so far away, Condit wants to take another fight. So question is, does UFC have him fight a guy like Chris Lytle (pending he beats Dan Hardy) or Anthony Johnson, where only he could get a title shot if he wins or should he fight Jon Fitch, where no matter who wins, they can challenge for the belt? I personally like the Fitch fight better because I always favor true #1 contender fights rather than “showcase the #1 contender” fights. We’ll see what UFC does though.
Predicted Next Fights: Kim vs. Rick Story – Condit vs. Fitch
Quick Preliminary Fight Thoughts
*Melvin Guillard is a scary man under Greg Jackson. He’s finally putting everything together and could be a fight or two away from a title shot.
*A quick fall from grace for George Sotiropoulos. Rafael dos Anjos is very legit, only UFC losses are to good fighters and he improves with every fight.
*I know I wasn’t the only person expecting more out of Brian Bowles vs. Takeya Mizugaki. I’m pretty sure Bowles thinks he breaks his hand every time he hits someone and they don’t go out.
*An ugly win but a win nonetheless for Aaron Simpson. I thought Brad Tavares had the better performance with his hands and takedown defense, he just couldn’t get off the cage.
*Anthony Njokuani can stand with anyone but I still want to see whether or not his takedown defense has improved. Great performance against Andre Winner though.
*Jeff Hougland and Donny Walker had an entertaining bout for two unknown guys fighting on relatively short notice. I’d like to see how both guys do when they have a full camp.
*Note to all MMA fans: UFC 129: St. Pierre vs Shields comes out of DVD Tuesday, July 5. Make sure to go pick it up.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC