UFC 87 Review and Commentary

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GSP Dominates

Jon Fitch was a game opponent, but ultimately, he was outclassed. Before the match, a very humble, but nonetheless confident, GSP proclaimed that he was superior to Fitch in all facets of the fight game. After last night’s bout, he proved the validity of that statement.

As always, GSP relied heavily on his wrestling. Like so many other opponents, Fitch was taken down almost at will. On his feet, GSP looked sharper than he has in a long time. His jabs were crisp and he set up his overhand right again and again. Analysts would be hard pressed to find any chinks in his armor.

The fact that GSP couldn’t finish Fitch is a testament to Jon’s enormous heart. Fitch was rocked and dropped several times and consistently took a beating throughout the fight. But, he never quit and never stopped moving forward. Although Fitch displayed true spirit, GSP was never in any real trouble at any point during the course of the 25-minute fight. There is no question that GSP can fluidly translate all variations of martial arts into one all encompassing fighter better then anybody else in the game.

GSP really does remind me of a rookie Michael Vick – the hybrid athlete with the abilities to change the way the sport is played. GSP is that same type of athlete, one with all the tools to be a new generation of fighter.

Currently, GSP is among the top four fighters in the world, along with B.J. Penn, Fedor Emelianenko and Anderson Silva. But, Penn and GSP have yet to reach the level of dominance that the other two currently possess.

Both GSP and Penn have won their last several bouts in impressive fashion. They manhandled quality opposition and did so without being truly threatened. As much of an accomplishment as that is, Anderson and Fedor punctuate their victories with even more brilliance. They finish their opponents so quickly and so savagely, that they make elite fighters seem amateurish. More importantly though, Fedor and Anderson thrill the audience with an incredible spectacle each and every time they fight. Both of them are awe-inspiring fighters who never cease to amaze the viewers. When Penn and GSP clash, the winner should have the right to ascend onto that next level of dominance.

Brock Shows Promise

Within the first 15 seconds of the bout, fans were on their feet. Brock Lesnar put Heath Herring on his back and then sent him flying across the octagon with one of the most forceful right hands I’ve ever seen. The roar was deafening when Lesnar connected and rose to a whole new stratosphere as Lesnar flew across the ring and attempted a spear- like maneuver straight out of the WWE.

While the rest of the fight was far less exciting, Lesnar controlled the bout from start to finish and acquired his first UFC victory. Any lingering questions regarding the legitimacy of Lesnar’s foray into mixed martial arts should be put to rest. This was a quality win over a solid opponent and provided many insights into the number of skills Lesnar possesses.

Watching the bout, it was clear Lesnar had abilities in a variety of areas. His overall power is scary. Whether it’s his striking, takedowns, or clinch, he is above and beyond the strongest man in the UFC.

His takedowns will be next to impossible to stop. If a fighter over commits and swings wildly, Lesnar will take them down. The combination of his explosiveness and strength makes it difficult to prevent.

Lesnar is comparable to an immovable object. Herring’s scrambles and escape attempts were admirable, but for the most part, Lesnar did the bare minimum damage to keep the fight grounded. He controlled Herring with his sheer size and body control. It looked like a perfect display of lay-n-pray. Lesnar did very little while on top, but prevented Herring from being able to do anything whatsoever.

There were, however, several drawbacks to Lesnar’s performance. For one, he did a lot of laying and not too much praying. Lesnar did not look like the same guy who went buck-wild on Frank Mir when he was on top. I fully realize the importance of Lesnar staying composed and being reserved in only his third pro fight, but it would have been nice to see a little more damage being inflicted from top position. Secondly, it’s clear because of his inexperience in MMA, that he is a very limited fighter. He had no jiu-jitsu to speak of whatsoever. Lesnar had Herring’s back on more than one occasion and did not attempt to sink his hooks in or apply a legitimate rear-naked-choke. Finally, Lesnar looked slow and prodding when striking. He certainly looked technical and landed a devastating right hand, but his other shots seemed telegraphed and almost moved in slow motion. He might want to continue working on his hand speed. But, for someone who is essentially learning MMA on the fly, he did more than a commendable job.

For only his third fight in MMA, Lesnar was impressive. Besides the opening punch, he didn’t land anything meaningful (besides some occasional knees), but thoroughly controlled the fight. He looked like a more athletic, stronger and quicker version of Tim Sylvia. Like Sylvia, Lesnar overwhelmed his opponent with his size. When standing, he didn’t give Herring room to strike. He used all his physical tools to his advantage and wasn’t overly aggressive. In fact, if anything, he could have been more aggressive. To dominate Herring the way he did, it’s clear that Lesnar has a promising future.

Word has it that Lesnar will fight Cheick Kongo next. Give him credit for taking on all comers. The man is fearless. Kongo will provide another good test for him because of his kickboxing and somewhat comparable strength. Hopefully, Lesnar will continue to work hard and improve his skills so that eventually, he can challenge for the belt. It became clear Saturday night that Brock Lesnar is truly worthy of being called, The Next Big Thing.

Florian the Man to Beat

Besides champion B.J. Penn, Kenny Florian is sitting pretty, atop the lightweight division. Florian has now reeled off five straight victories, against top competition, in very impressive fashion. Against the tough-as-nails Roger Huerta, Florian used far superior technique and a diverse range of skills to pick Huerta apart.

The fight was relatively close, but Florian was never in danger and Huerta never truly looked comfortable. Florian, on the other hand, looked right at home. He almost finished the fight with submissions, but somehow Huerta fought through seemingly fight ending positions. At no point did it seem Huerta had a concise game plan. Florian’s defense and effective counter punching perplexed the overmatched Huerta. Despite Huerta’s best efforts, Florian refused to engage in a brawl and landed with well-timed shots.

Florian is a complete fighter. He can box, wrestle, grapple and fight on the ground. His skills are varied and, although not superb at any one aspect, he is all-around very solid. Huerta is very athletic, has great stamina and a stout chin. His skills need to be refined and he needs help strategizing. I’d like to see him face another skilled opponent like Gray Maynard, to see if he can improve from this loss. As for Florian, he has positioned himself as a title contender once again, but must wait for Dana White to decide the fate of the division. Still, as good as Florian looked, he isn’t in the same class as a B.J. Penn. The fact remains that Penn is strides ahead of all the other fighters in the division.

Maia Shows Flashes

Down the road, Demian Maia could wind up being a potential opponent for Anderson Silva. His jiu-jitsu was very impressive and he fought well off his back, always looking to improve his position. The guy is clearly very dangerous and could pose problems for Silva on the ground. Clearly, his weakness is his striking. A step up in competition would help build the fighter up as a future star in the division.

Side Notes

Cheick Kong’s interview antics were hilarious. Joe Rogan tried to take him through the TKO on the jumbotron and instead Kongo simply walked away. Rogan looked dumbfounded and goes, “or not!”

The UFC added a new dimension to their telecast by adding statistics. I thought it was a great touch by the UFC and allowed fans to get a sense of the fighters’ strengths in a tangible sense.