UFC 154 Reflections
It’s a good thing UFC cards are generally remembered for the fights at the top of the card rather than the event as a whole. While the undercard was rather lacklustre — save for a beautiful submission from Ivan Menjivar and a potential round of the year candidate between Mark Hominick and Pablo Garza — the final two fights of the evening delivered more than anyone could have expected, and really made the return of Georges St-Pierre a memorable one.
In terms of my picks, I went a respectable 8-4. My betting night was also successful, as I ended the night up 3.62 units despite really missing the mark on a couple fights.
Looking back at the card, here are some of my thoughts, and the things I learned from last night:
- I’m not sure if you guys are aware of this, but Georges St-Pierre is pretty good. He was able to take Carlos Condit down at will, which is what I anticipated, and did more work from the top than he has in recent fights. Even when he was rocked in the third round (which I tweeted was more Condit flailing around in desperation than a pinpoint strike, but on a second viewing seemed quite a bit more intentional, just weird looking), he recovered well and won the round on two judges’ scorecards. I had expressed that GSP’s mental state was more worrisome to me than his knee, and he seemed to be in an excellent state of mind in the cage. He wasn’t rushing takedowns, he wasn’t desperate to avoid the striking, he just put together another dominating performance, and further illustrated that he has one of the best top games in MMA.
- For all the talk of how Carlos Condit wasn’t going to fight tentatively on the feet like all of St-Pierre’s opponents are forced to, that’s exactly what he did. Yes, he had the one head kick which caught GSP, but he really didn’t bring the fight to St-Pierre as consistently as he needed to in order to win the bout. When you know you’re going to get taken down, you know that you’re going to get passed at least to half guard, and you know that you’re likely going to spend the rest of the round on your back, it’s just impossible for your aggression to not be affected. A very game performance however, and Condit is one of those ho-hum guys outside of the cage, but inside of it, few fighters are more entertaining.
- Martin Kampmann has made a career of absorbing punches and coming back to win despite it, but not so much against Johny Hendricks. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy has that silly type of power that guys like Shogun Rua possess, where regardless of where they hit you, and whether or not it’s flush, it does a ton of damage. If I’m being honest, I see the same fate befalling Hendricks as anyone else who faces St-Pierre (although with Hendricks propensity to fade in fights there could be a stoppage in store there), but that is the next fight I want to see for the Welterweight champ.
- Francis Carmont and Tom Lawlor put on such an atrocious performance that I don’t think anybody cares enough to call that fight a bad decision or robbery. I mentioned that I wasn’t sold on Carmont prior to the fight, and he really solidified my thinking there. I also mentioned that someone would be the benefactor of Nick Ring’s judge mojo, and apparently it was Carmont.
- Rafael dos Anjos looked like a top 10 Lightweight last night. I picked Mark Bocek, as I thought he would be able to grind on the Brazilian and slowly impose his will, but man was I wrong. dos Anjos completely shut down Bocek’s wrestling, punished him standing, and took control of the wrestling himself as he appeared to get stronger throughout the fight. The win was actually reminiscent of Benson Henderson’s win over Bocek, which says a lot about where dos Anjos can get to in the division.
- Mark Hominick and Pablo Garza put on a round that was, in my estimation, one of the best we’ve seen all year. Unfortunately for Hominick and the Canadian fans he offered far too little after those opening five minutes. I’d still like to see Mark fight, as he is always entertaining, but it’s quite clear he’s not in the upper tier of the Featherweight division anymore.
- Pablo Garza seems as though he’s improved his wrestling to a certain degree, but he was so thoroughly overmatched in that capacity against Dennis Bermudez that I still can’t picture him going very far in the division. When he’s able to stop someone who wants to take him down, rather than just being able to take a lesser wrestler down, then I’ll take notice. He’s incredibly fun to watch though.
- I actually didn’t get to see the Patrick Cote/Alessio Sakara fight, because the picture on my TV was out, so I don’t have any comments on whatever happened there. Sounded like I was wrong about them being passive though, which I’m quite alright with.
- I hope it’s pretty clear that Chad Griggs isn’t a UFC quality fighter now, as Cyrille Diabate just steamrolled him. I was glad that oddsmakers — and for some reason, the public — thought that was going to be a competitive fight, because that was my biggest play, and I didn’t sweat it for a second. Diabate is still flawed, and him subbing Griggs doesn’t mean that he’s going to be able to stop solid grapplers from taking him down and exploiting his defence on the ground. He’s still a gatekeeper to the mid-tier of the division, but he does it in a generally entertaining way, win or lose.
- Another fight I was wrong on here, and it just came down to John Makdessi having much more developed takedown defence than I expected him to have. Him being the more effective striker wasn’t surprising, but his use of the jab, and his ability to reign in his spinning attacks helped him keep the distance better, which made Sam Stout‘s takedowns quite easy to defend. I’m not getting carried away with Makdessi though, he still hasn’t stopped the takedowns of a good wrestler (of which there are many at 155), and he did lose in a kickboxing match with Anthony Njokuani not so long ago. The Tristar product’s performance was a step in the right direction, but he’s still got plenty of holes to fill to be competitive in the Lightweight division.
- Antonio Carvalho and Rodrigo Damm put on a measured kickboxing match for the balance of their bout, with Carvalho’s always effective leg kicks being the decisive weapon, as it has been in the past. I just wish we’d see him do more off of the leg kicks. This was almost the exact same performance that he put on against Doug Evans in his last fight before joining the UFC, but it’s the type of performance that will only get you to the UFC, it won’t really move you up the ladder.
- I thought that Matt Riddle did just enough to win 29-28, taking the first and third rounds, but the man has a way with the judges as well, convincing a couple of them that he won every round in that fight. I used to think Riddle needed some time out of the UFC to develop against lesser competition, but he’s getting the same opportunity inside the UFC and he’s really not progressing. John Maguire is just going to struggle in the UFC at this point in time. He’s a tricky grappler, but he’s not a great striker, not a great wrestler, and just has no way to get the fight to his world unless his opponent wants it to go there.
- Ivan Menjivar dispatched Azamat Gashimov with relative ease, which given their relative experience and position in the sport was not at all shocking. Beautiful armbar from guard, which is something relatively rarely seen these days. Menjivar is always exciting, and the UFC was smart to give him a relative softball so that he can get back in with some of the better Bantamweights in the world.
- Darren Elkins impressed me. His absolutely overpowered Steven Siler in the wrestling game, but then showed a greater ability to advance position and do damage than we’ve ever seen from him before. As the introductions were being done, I joked about his nickname being “The Damage” since he hasn’t really done any in his UFC career, but this was by far his best performance. Siler obviously took a step back in this fight, as he pulled back his aggression on the feet as soon as Elkins was able to take him down, and wasn’t able to threaten with anything from his back.
A few good performances early on, some dull activity in the middle of the event, and then great action from the four best Welterweights in the world made for an enjoyable night, and hopefully one that helps the UFC get back on track. The upcoming UFC on Fox offering, which is the best Fox effort yet, should continue the roll with some great fights designed to turn some young prospects into draws at the expense of some aging ex-champions, and just getting exposure for Lightweights Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz.