Compare UFC 85 with Elite XC’s most recent event on CBS and it becomes clear why the UFC is the most dominant organization in all of mixed martial arts. The UFC has mastered the basic format of how to produce a smoothly running event. There were no flashy, time consuming ring entrances. The space in-between each fight was perfectly timed. And each fight was entertaining. Above and beyond, the UFC is a much more refined and quality product.
As a whole, the night was certainly a success. Although the quality of fights was high, the disappointing main event and lack of a true headliner, was an unfulfilling end, to an otherwise solid evening of fights.
No Sign of Day — With two impressive victories in just under two months, Michael Bisping has established himself as a legitimate contender at middleweight. As Bisping jogged into the octagon he looked physically cut and mentally pumped up. There was a bounce in his step from the moment the bell rang, as the crowd rained down applause. Bisping walked through Jason Day with relative ease. He was able to secure takedowns and hurt Day with relentless ground n’ pound.
Bisping’s performance was comparable to his last bout, where he was extremely active, crisp, and overwhelmingly strong. Dropping down in weight has clearly had positive effects on Bisping’s overall game. With the UFC heavily marketing Bisping, he has finally begun to realize all his potential. His last two fights he has won in convincing.
His future looks very promising and there are several alluring matchups on the horizon (Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Thales Leites, Nate Marquardt, or Martin Kampmann). One thing is for sure; Bisping has made his presence felt at middleweight and has no intentions of leaving.
Hughes has Warrior Spirit — Say what you will about Matt Hughes, but this guy never backs down to anybody. Hughes stepped up big time and took the fight against Thiago Alves on short notice. Alves failed to make weight (weighing an unheard of four pounds above the limit ), but Hughes’ fortitude did not falter. He must be commended for his tremendous heart regardless of the outcome. For years, Hughes laid it all on the line inside the octagon and has ingrained his legacy into the history of the sport.
Evolving Werdum Proves Worth — This fight only lasted a round, but it was competitive from the outset. Brandon Vera desperately tried to utilize his knees in the clinch, but Fabricio Werdum proved far too slippery. Exhibiting his continually improving striking, Werdum was able to use effective punches to set up takedowns.
This was a huge win for Werdum, who has bounced back with two consecutive wins (over top notch guys like Vera and Gabriel Gonzaga), after losing his UFC debut (to Andrei Arlovski). Werdum was able to showcase his vastly improved striking and landed effective blows. At 30-years-old, Werdum has shown his evolution as a fighter. Initially he was primarily a jiu-jitsu wiz, but is now a complete fighter. Werdum is able to stand with his opponents and force them to be concerned with all aspects of his game. With this exceptional performance, a title shot should be within reach.
As the first round neared its end, Werdum secured a takedown and managed an excellent transition into full mount. He proceeded to rein down punches and had Vera stunned, but competently defending himself. With 15 seconds left, referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight to the dismay of Vera. This controversial stoppage was Miragliotta’s second questionable call in as many weeks. During the Kimbo Slice/James Thompson fight, he was criticized for stopping it too early on behalf of Kimbo and allowing Slice to survive the second round. It’s understandable that Miragliotta is a sought after referee, he has the “Big John McCarthy factor” going for him. None the less, his performances have been inconsistent and controversial as of late.
As for Vera, it seems as though his progress has plateaued. A clear indicator of why, would be the increased talent level of his opposition. Against Werdum and Tim Sylvia, none of Vera’s previous explosiveness and dynamic striking was put on display. Rather, Vera seemed content to try and smother both fighters against the octagon or in the clinch. He needs to locate that killer instinct which made him so fun to watch. After two losses in a row, Vera needs to rebound fast, or give some serious thought to a drop in weight.
Side Note: Despite his display of excellence in the octagon, the crowd mercilessly booed poor Werdum. You had to feel for the guy who was visibly upset with the fan reaction. He was classy in victory and should have been applauded for his action packed fight. Lastly, he needed a much better interpreter. Werdum was continually interrupted by the guy, who could only translate a sentence at a time. Looked a little bit clownish.
Wild and Crazy Match Embroiled in Controversy — This was a wild, back and forth contest, that saw both fighters on the verge of finishing the other. All sorts of mixed martial arts were exhibited in this brawl. There was monstrous striking exchanged, great takedowns, intricate submission attempts, and a fair amount of ground and pound. This fight gave the fans a little bit of everything, including controversy.
Nate Marquardt searched for his range in the opening round against Thales Leites. At one
point he was almost knocked out, when he lunged directly into an oncoming right hand that floored him. But, in the second and third rounds, Marquardt was able to use his takedowns to control Leites. Unfortunately, Marquardt made several critical mistakes that resulted in separate point deductions.
In the second round, Leites scrambled in an attempt to get to his feet after a Marquardt takedown. With one of Leites legs still on the ground, Marquardt delivered a vicious knee to his face. When an opponent is still on the ground, knees are illegal and referee Herb Dean rightfully halted the bout. When it restarted, Marquardt was more effective and looked to have broken Leites nose with an elbow.
The third round was controversial. Marquardt was winning by adhering to his ground and pound strategy and at one point reigned down several elbows. Herb Dean, who had apparently warned Marquardt previously, deducted another point for elbows to the back of the head. There was outrage from the crowd, because the elbows had appeared to be clean. So despite edging Leites out in two close final rounds, Marquardt lost via decision because of the deducted points. What resulted in a very exciting fight was almost overshadowed by questionable officiating.
Both of these fighters sit atop the middleweight division and expect both to have meaningful fights in the future. Marquardt is determined to regain a title shot and claimed he will not be deterred by this loss.
Paging ‘Quick’ Swick — Whatever happened to Mike ‘Quick’ Swick? Remember him? The middleweight who reeled off four consecutive first round finishes. The fan favorite, who was known for his exciting and wild style. If you find that fighter, please alert the media, because he has gone missing in his last two bouts.
In spite of the fact that Swick was dominant in his win over Marcus Davis, he looked like a shadow of his former self. Swick’s killer instinct was nowhere to be found. At no point did he seem willing to trade on his feet. As the fight progressed, it became clear Swick was unwilling to commit to his striking. Instead, he executed a smart, careful, but boring game plan.
Swick moved in and out, throwing a quick jab and then getting out of harm’s way. He used continuous high kicks and was often able to take Davis to the ground, where most of the fight was spent. While controlling the pace, Swick never landed devastating blows from the ground. Though he tried again and again, Swick simply could not pass Davis’ guard. He was perfectly content landing the occasional shot, as long as he could maintain control. By the end of the fight it was clear Davis was frustrated. Swick had opened up a deep gash by Davis’ cheek and virtually nullified his boxing. Swick did enough to win the fight, but did not have any of the flashiness or explosiveness that made him a star. Credit must be given, because Swick adhered to a strict strategy that helped him gain another significant victory. But, the exciting Swick of old has yet to emerge in his welterweight bouts.
The End of an Era — Matt Hughes’ career has followed a similar trajectory as that of Tito Ortiz. Both dominated opponents during the earlier years of the UFC. Both were faces of the organization and title holders. But, as the sport began to evolve, Hughes and Ortiz refused to adapt their skills. Instead of changing with the times, Hughes has remained one dimensional, always relying on his wrestling and ground and pound. Today’s generation of fighters are far more well versed than the fighters of ten years ago. Success requires the mastery of many different disciplines. Ignoring other aspects of MMA and excelling at just one, is no longer acceptable if one wishes to be great. Although Hughes has had a great career, his skills have clearly eroded and he has been exposed for not having developed more weapons.
Throughout the fight, Hughes constantly attempted takedowns. He wanted no part of Alves striking. When Hughes did manage to get Alves down, he was almost entirely ineffective. Alves, on the other hand, laced Hughes with destructive punches every time he put him on his back. He ended the fight with a massive flying knee.
At this point in his career, Hughes only has one meaningful fight left in him. A long awaited grudge match against Matt Serra. Besides that prospect, Hughes has very few options left. His better days are behind him and his skills have diminished considerably. In stark contrast, Alves’ career is sky rocketing. He has beaten two of the world’s best welterweights and looked impressive doing so.
When Alves entered the ring it was shocking how enormous he looked. Hughes is a strong welterweight and Alves looked at least ten pounds heavier than him. Not making weight is inexcusable at this level. The rigors of making weight are strenuous, but as a professional, you must take the proper measures in order to make the weight cut. This is Alves second infraction for missing the proper weight and it is highly unprofessional. Still, Alves has become a first rate mixed martial artist. He has skills in all aspects and is a destructive striker.
After his victory, Alves begged Dana White for a title shot. After this huge victory, he is certainly deserving of it.