History probably isn’t going to look at this UFC on Fox 18 card as the most exciting event, but a number of emphatic statements were made. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson stamped the fact that he deserves another shot at the title as soon as Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier finish their business. Ben Rothwell declared he shouldn’t be forgotten in the midst of Cain Velasquez, Stipe Miocic, or a man he has already beaten in Alistair Overeem in terms of the Heavyweight Title picture. And the Sage Northcutt hype train has been derailed… for now.
Johnson’s victory over Bader was a bit anticlimactic, as he simply brutalized Bader on the ground, and Rothwell’s choke of Barnett wasn’t the most visually appealing sub, but that shouldn’t negate the impact of their performances. The problem is I anticipate the impact of these outcomes won’t be felt for a while, as Johnson is likely to sit for a while, and Rothwell will probably be the odd man out in the title picture as he always seems to be. We’ll have to see…
Anthony Johnson defeated Ryan Bader via KO at 1:26 of the first round
Am I the only one who is more excited to see Jon Jones fight Rumble Johnson rather than Daniel Cormier? I’ve got a feeling we’re going to see that before the end of the year. The fight was simple. Johnson stuffs Bader’s takedown attempt, takes his back, shakes off a kimura attempt, gets mount, and pounds out his poor victim. It wasn’t the most entertaining, but was still brutally impressive. The outcome isn’t really surprising, but one still can be in awe of what he just accomplished. Very few people in the history of the sport can pull what he did.
Johnson is likely to sit on the sidelines waiting for his shot at the belt, but I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him jump back into the cage to once again establish his dominance. I expect it won’t be until October at the earliest that he’ll get his shot at the belt, which is a long time to sit around, and history hasn’t been kind to those who have decided to sit on a title shot. The question is who would be worth putting in the cage with him? Glover Teixeira is the only one I can think of who might be worthwhile. It could be a good co-main for a pay-per-view or a Fight Night headliner. Anyone else on board with that?
I can’t help but feel bad for Bader. He rides into the fight on the most impressive streak of his career (a streak in which he lost a title shot due to politics to Alexander Gustafsson) only for it to come to such an abrupt end. He seemed to panic once Johnson got his back, and refused to give up on the kimura when it seemed obvious it wasn’t going to take any longer. Where does he go from here? Hard to say. A fight with Jimi Manuwa makes sense, as he was the last one to lose to Johnson before Bader got manhandled, and is one of the few in the division Bader hasn’t met yet. Some might suggest Gustafsson, but Gus has lost three of his last four and can’t afford another loss, which would be a realistic possibility against Bader. The UFC can’t risk Gus losing any more credibility, as he is one of the few names at 205 lbs with any value. If Jones doesn’t run up to heavyweight in a hurry, there is still the possibility of selling people on the idea of Gus and Jones re-matching. I’m not saying Bader and Gus is a bad fight, I’m saying the UFC has too much to lose in that fight.
Ben Rothwell defeated Josh Barnett via submission at 3:48 of the second round
This fight started out horribly… though I can’t blame either competitor. Rothwell has ungodly power and Barnett is, well, he’s a heavyweight, and all of them have power. So after a full round of feeling one another out, Rothwell upped his output in the second round and started pushing Barnett around a bit. Barnett finally got in on the behemoth, getting a leg and looking for a takedown. Rothwell managed to get to the fence and chomped down on Barnett’s neck as Barnett looked to finish the takedown. From there Rothwell used his superhuman strength to squeeze the air out of Barnett and elicit a tap from the renowned grappler, resulting in the most surprising result anyone could have expected. Let me repeat it just for emphasis: Ben Rothwell tapped out Josh Barnett.
Rothwell has now won four straight fights, second in the division only to the champ Werdum. Hopefully the UFC will start paying the big man a bit more respect, as he has routinely gotten the shaft in the matchmaking scenarios. Remember when Miocic pulled out of their bout and was ‘rewarded’ with a fight with Andrei Arlovski? With his win over Overeem as well, Rothwell absolutely NEEDS to be in the title conversation. I anticipate that he’ll get the shaft again and be matched up with Travis Browne. I don’t necessarily agree with that fight, but that’s what I foresee.
Barnett has been around for a long time (he is 38) and hasn’t been giving his full attention to MMA over the last few years. I’m guessing he’ll just be looking for fun fights that pique his interest. However, I think there is one potential matchup that would be absolutely perfect to make at this point: Arlovski. Both are former UFC champions who returned within the last few years after long absences that still have some name value. How in the hell have these two never met in a ring or cage before? Hopefully Barnett will be open to a quick return as Arlovski still believes he can re-enter the title picture. This would be a great fight to test that idea.
Jimmie Rivera defeated Iuri Alcantara via unanimous decision
In a weird way, this fight went as expected. What I mean by that is it was an entertaining fight, but I can’t remember anything specific about it, except that Rivera was in control from the start to the finish. Seriously, I remember Rivera landing a number of boxing combinations with good chunks being fought against the cage, but a specific moment? Not coming to mind. Regardless of what I remember, Rivera put on the type of performance that many expected from him which should result in Rivera joining a growing list of young bantamweights injected new blood into the rankings of a formerly stale division.
Rivera is a perfect example of why prospects should take their time in getting to the UFC, as he was ready-made once he finally got to the organization. He didn’t have to experience growing pains that often come with losses that might result in him being cut and having to work his way back. Rivera has come in and picked up three impressive wins in about a half a year’s time, making himself an immediate dark horse. He isn’t ready to face those sitting on the top shelf, but he isn’t too far. There are a number of good options for him next. I’ll be happy with Bryan Caraway, Takeya Mizugaki, or Michael McDonald. As for Alcantara, there are still fights he can win, but I think he’s on his way out… after one more fight. He can still win some, but I don’t think he’s going to get any easy fights based on his reputation. Mitch Gagnon would be a tough but winnable fight.
Bryan Barberena defeated Sage Northcutt via submission at 3:06 of the second round
Why do I get the feeling that the majority of the MMA world celebrated the fall of wunderkind Northcutt? Maybe it has something to do with the UFC shoving the not-ready-for-primetime teenager down our throats. I don’t think the Northcutt hype train is dead by any means, but this loss should slow it considerably… especially when one considers Northcutt tapped to an arm triangle choke from half guard. Wow… definitely not ready for primetime.
Northcutt did get to show off some of what has the UFC so damn excited about him, as he landed some good shots in the first round and showed incredible athleticism kicking Barberena off of him not once, but twice in the first round to get back to his feet following a takedown. However, the same issues that plagued him against Cody Pfister arose against Barberena, as he showed absolutely nothing off of his back when Barberena was able to put him down in the middle of the cage. Unlike the Pfister fight, there was no BS standup from the referee to save him. Northcutt did little to stop Barberena from sinking in the choke, showing all sorts of grappling inexperience. To be fair, I don’t know how deep Barberena had the choke in, but I wouldn’t have expected a UFC caliber fighter to have tapped from the choke in half guard. But that is just me.
I anticipate that we won’t see Northcutt again for a number of months after sitting through three of his fights in the span of four months. The kid still has a lot to learn, and though the UFC has ignored the hardcore MMA community quite often, even they have to realize that pumping the brakes on Northcutt would be wise at this point. Another thing that will need to be figured out is if Northcutt stays at welterweight or decides to continue with his original plan and fight at lightweight. He has been indicating all week that he likes the way welterweight feels, so I expect him to do that. I expect this will be the brightest spot in Barberena’s career. Toughness and heart are probably his best features and those are great things to have, but you’re in trouble if those are your best traits. He isn’t very athletic, doesn’t have KO power, and is a pretty small welterweight. There are fights he can win, but no one with a bigger name than Northcutt.
Tarec Saffiedine defeated Jake Ellenberger via unanimous decision
Despite changing over to King’s MMA for this camp, it seems like too little, too late for Ellenberger to get his career back on track. Ellenberger was still far too inert, looking for the perfect shot which allowed Saffiedine to pick him apart for the majority of the 15 minutes that the fight lasted. Ellenberger did land a big shot in the first round that had Saffiedine wobbling, and a nice little flurry at the end of the third, but failed to follow up in the first round and ran out of time in the third. His power is still there, and so is his wrestling (he landed a good takedown in the second round), but he has no confidence in his abilities anymore and it has probably cost him his roster spot in the UFC. As for Saffiedine, this is a nice win, but hardly a proving win as Ellenberger has fallen far and fallen fast (1-5 in his last six). It was good to see him back in the cage after a 16 month absence as he looked pretty good despite not showing the volume I would have expected. If he can stay healthy, it would be wise to make up for lost time and get back in the cage as soon as possible as where he stands in the division is still very much a mystery. A fight with Dong Hyun Kim would help clear the air.
Diego Ferreira defeated Olivier Aubin-Mercier via unanimous decision
While this was a sizeable upset, I can’t say I was surprised in any way. Aubin-Mercier (OAM from here) had been receiving favorable matchups since losing the in the TUF Nations final, fighting guys who had minimal grappling ability which allowed him to dominate them on the ground. A highly regarded BJJ black belt, Ferreira wouldn’t be having any of that. What is ironic is I expect OAM to have more success on the ground as his standup is still very much in the developmental stage. He started finding his range in the second round after clearly losing the first round to Ferreira in a standup battle and took the second round in the eyes of two judges. Where OAM got into trouble is when he took Ferreira down in the third and gave up his back in an ensuing scramble. OAM was unable to shake Ferreira the rest of the fight and even came close to giving up a RNC. The win allows Ferreira to keep his job as he came in riding a two fight losing streak in addition to establishing him as a sound mid-tier gatekeeper. As for OAM, this should serve as a good learning experience as he is still exceptionally young in the sport for someone with five UFC fights under his belt. While his striking still has a ways to go, the strides he showed in the second round are encouraging to his future.
Wilson Reis defeated Dustin Ortiz via unanimous decision
While I’m not surprised that Reis won, I am shocked at how much he dominated the scrappy Ortiz. Not even former title challengers Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga had as seemingly easy of a time as Reis did against the Roufusport representative. Being a massive flyweight, Reis used his size advantage to bully Ortiz in all three rounds, controlling him against fence in addition to dragging him to the ground multiple times looking for submissions. It was expected that Ortiz would have the advantage in the striking, but he was never able to find his rhythm as Reis maintained a steady flow of his own strikes in addition to his constant pressure. As a result, the fight was never close. The win should move Reis into the top ten and a potential fight against a top flight opponent. While he fell in his previous effort against Jussier Formiga, Reis showed enough new wrinkles this time around to lead me to believe he could have a different result against the top five. A bout between him and the winner of next week’s Joseph Benavidez-Zach Makovsky bout would be appropriate. This was an unexpected setback for Ortiz. Few expected him to develop into a contender, but he was supposed to get past Reis. Perhaps he has hit his ceiling. He’s still a fine fighter who will be a fixture in the division and this could simply be a bump in the road. I’d like to see him against Ali Bagautinov next.
Alexander Yakovlev defeated George Sullivan via KO at 3:59 of the first round
Has Yakovlev gotten a new strength and conditioning coach or something? Seriously, the dude didn’t look nearly this strong in his two previous welterweight appearances in the UFC. Yakovlev’s KO was certainly the highlight of the fight and surprising in itself as he isn’t known for being a power puncher, but how easily he took Sullivan down earlier in the fight really surprised me. Any punch landed square on the chin can put someone down and out and it could be argued that’s the case here. However, Yakovlev hadn’t shown the type of strength to scoop Sullivan with the ease in which he did to dump him on the ground. And he did it twice! I’m not predicted Yakovlev is about to become a serious threat in the division, but he could make some louder noise than most believed as he is already incredibly difficult guy to put away in addition to a well-rounded skill set. Sullivan seems as though he is on the downside of his career. Almost 35, Sullivan has been fighting for 10 years now and hasn’t looked quite as dynamic in his last three efforts as he had in his first two UFC appearances. He’ll certainly get another look, but it could be his last chance.
Alex Caceres defeated Masio Fullen via unanimous decision
Caceres looked better than he has in a long time. Then again, Caceres was also facing the worst competition that he had faced in a long time. Long a favorite of Dana White, Caceres got this softball when others likely would have been cut and he made the most of it by cruising to an easy victory. There were little moments of interest as Caceres simply picked apart Fullen from the outside with a mix of punches and kicks, displaying his prominent athleticism in the process. Returning to the featherweight division with the IV ban in effect, it’s hard to know how well the transition back up in weight will work for Caceres as he is usually dependent upon his grappling which will be harder for him now that he is trying to outmuscle larger dudes. We didn’t see that as Fullen has little to offer in the wrestling and grappling department and Caceres didn’t push the issue when he saw an opportunity to brush up his striking. Fullen probably be cut with his second loss in a row. No biggie as he was merely a TUF Latin America product who never really belonged in the UFC in the first place.
Randy Brown defeated Matt Dwyer via unanimous decision
Brown’s debut showed everything that is right as well as wrong with the Lookin’ for a Fight show. Brown showed his athleticism and raw skills as the fight went longer, but also showed how raw that he is. The UFC brass wouldn’t have made this fight for him if they didn’t believe that he was going to win, and though he did that, he only just barely did so. He looked very tentative in the first round, struggling with Dwyer’s range and giving the round away. Brown got more comfortable as the fight progressed and was able to score the last two rounds using a mix of his boxing and wrestling to outpoint Dwyer. So what to do with Brown now? He should be fighting near the bottom of the division for the next little while if the UFC hopes to develop him. Considering the UFC has struggled in developing raw fighters, this should be interesting. Dwyer is probably going to be cut as it was his second loss in a row with a 1-3 UFC record overall. While he’s a good action fighter, he doesn’t have enough upside to justify keeping around long term. He could pick up some wins on the regional scene and be back, but I’ve got a hankering he could ultimately go to Bellator or WSOF.
Levan Makashvili fought Damon Jackson to a majority draw
I don’t know how I feel about the point deduction that led to this fight being a draw, but I’m not going to complain about it as one of the hottest topics in the MMA world has been how it pays to cheat. Perhaps if more referees follow Gaspar Oliver’s lead and being quicker on the draw with penalties, we’ll see less. I disagreed with the score though as I felt Makashvili stifled all of Jackson’s takedown attempts and scored far more damage in the clinch. The distance striking seemed fairly equal, but Makashvili was landing harder shots. So I gave Makashvili all of the rounds since they all played out the same way. So what to take from the fight? Jackson is lucky. He is now 0-1-1 (1 NC) in his UFC run. Not impressive. I’ll admit that he did better in the clinch than I anticipated, but couldn’t get the fight to the ground which is his wheelhouse. He won’t be cut since he didn’t lose, but he is on very shaky ground. Makashvili’s striking looked improved from a technical standpoint and he didn’t have the volume issues that he has had in the past. I expected he would have been more controlling in the clinch, but at least he stayed busy from there. I’m not so sure he is going to develop into a guy who becomes a mainstay in the rankings, but I still anticipate a long UFC run.
Tony Martin defeated Felipe Olivieri via submission at 3:02 of the third round
Great fight to open the card. I was ready to write of Martin after the first round. He usually has little left to offer after that point, and Olivieri took that round pretty handily as he pulverized Martin’s lead leg with some hard kicks. But Martin showed growth in both his strategy as well as his conditioning. Realizing the takedowns weren’t working, Martin started boxing up Olivieri in the second round and rocked him with about 30 seconds left. Once Olivieri was a bit more worn down, Martin went back to the ground game, eventually taking the Brazilian’s back and sinking in a RNC. I’m glad to see Martin stick around as he still has a lot of undeveloped talent and a loss would have sent him packing. If his conditioning holds up like it did here, he could start a serious ascent up the division. He still has holes such, particularly his striking defense, but I anticipate he’ll continue to smooth out his rough edges. Olivieri inexplicably abandoned his leg kicks halfway through the second round which is when Martin started making his comeback. He did go back to them to open the third, but was done once Martin got inside to clinch up for the takedown. He can win a number of fights in the deep lightweight division, but he could just as easily wash out. I see him as the new Valmir Lazaro of the division.
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