There was a lot of noise around McKeeís UFC debut, mainly because a lot of online fans were using him as an example of Zuffa running the UFC as a legitimate sport Ė for those who donít know, McKee has a reputation as *the* most boring fighter in all of MMA, yet coming into this he hadnít actually lost since a fight with Karo Parisyan in 2003. He was matched with fellow wrestler Volkmann for his debut fight, and the obvious pick seemed to be McKee by Ė what else? Ė decision.
Round One begins and the crowd are so fucking dead that you can hear some moron screaming at ring girl Ariane that he loves her and wants to marry her. Hint: Move out of fucking Vegas more often! Thatís to Zuffa, by the way, not to the moron in the crowd. Oh yeah, the fight. Volkmann pushes forward and backs him up early on, but little happens as both men swing air punches. Decent left hand lands for McKee. He follows with a side kick to the body. Couple of big shots miss for the newcomer. Takedown attempt from McKee off a punching exchange, but Volkmann sprawls and manages to defend, taking a knee to the groin in the process. He shakes it off though and they continue. McKee goes for the takedown again, but Volkmann uses a whizzer to block it and they wind up clinched. Volkmann shakes him off again and separates, then shoots with a double leg and gets McKee on his back. Into half-guard for Volkmann and he looks to work for the full mount. Reversal from McKee though and he escapes to his feet. Takedown attempt from McKee now but again he canít get Volkmann down. Good knee to the gut from McKee but Volkmann reverses position and breaks off. Less than a minute to go and they exchange some ineffective strikes, and thatís the round. 10-9 Volkmann.
Round Two and Volkmann pushes the action from the off, sensing that McKee might be a bit gassed. Good counter right from McKee but his punches look horribly stiff. Crowd are almost Japanese-levels of quiet. Takedown from McKee but Volkmann almost works an inverted triangle and uses it to sprawl his way out. McKee keeps going for the takedown but Volkmann slides out and spins around to take the back. He works the hooks in and pulls McKee back, and it looks like the rear naked choke is sunk, but somehow McKee manages to survive. Looks like Volkmannís arm was on the jaw rather than under the chin. Volkmann ought to switch to a body triangle here to stop McKee from turning into him. He goes for the choke again, but McKee manages to defend. One minute to go and even if McKee survives this Iíd say heís two rounds in the hole. McKee tries some odd double punches over his head which pops the crowd, but heís still stuck in a very bad position. Seconds remaining and McKee manages to roll into the guard, but canít do anything offensive and the buzzer sounds. 10-9 Jacob Volkmann as he did have the control for a 10-8 to be fair, but didnít come close enough to a finish for that I wouldnít say. Still, heís 20-18 up going into the third meaning McKee basically needs to stop him.
Round Three and they circle with very little action in the opening minute. For a guy so down on the scorecards McKee isnít looking too desperate. Crowd are beginning to get annoyed with this inactivity now. Looks like Volkmann knows heís ahead and doesnít want to risk anything. This round sucks. McKee tries to push forward with punches but he looks gassed and slows up immediately. Ninety seconds to go and McKee finally pushes forward and gets a takedown to guard. Volkmann looks very calm from his back though and quickly scoots towards the fence to attempt a wall-walk. Shock horror, McKee is doing nothing from the top position. Volkmann works to his feet, but McKee pulls him back down and the fight ends there. Probably 10-9 for McKee, but itís certainly not enough for him to win in my eyes.
Judges have it 29-28 McKee (?!), 29-28 Volkmann and 29-28 Volkmann to take the split decision. Fight was pretty dull outside of the period where Volkmann had McKeeís back, but hey, it was better than three rounds of lay-and-pray from McKee. McKee was actually released by the UFC after this fight, which surprised some, but then again, heís 40, doesnít have exciting fights, and no offense but if he canít beat Jacob Volkmann then he isnít going to be contending for the title anytime soon. So why keep him?
Both of these guys were coming off wins; Soto over Nick Osipczak and Roberts over Mike Guymon with a beautiful Sub of the Night anaconda choke. Roberts seemed to be the slightly better grappler though so I went with him.
First round begins and Roberts pushes forward right away throwing some really tentative punches. Good right hand from Soto wobbles him and he shoots, but Soto grabs a front facelock and sprawls out. They roll through and it looks like Sotoís considering a guillotine, but Roberts calmly pushes down on the elbow to alleviate the pressure, and they pop up where Soto lands some knees before breaking off. High kick misses for Soto. Soto pushes forward throwing punches, but Roberts shoots on a double leg and this time he gets the Pellegrino student on his back in half-guard. Roberts looks to set up for an arm triangle, but Soto has his legs on the cage preventing it. Couple of short punches and elbows land for Ninja before he works to pass. Soto manages to keep half-guard, but Roberts dives on a kimura and sweeps into top position before stepping over the head to crank it and force the tapout.
Beautiful grappling from Daniel Roberts. Lesson here? Do not fuck around with this guy on the ground. Well, unless your name is Claude Patrick. But thatís another show!
This was probably the biggest 145lbs fight in the UFC since the WEC was folded and I was pretty shocked it wasnít higher on the card, actually. Nunes had broken into the top ten in 2010 with a win over Raphael Assuncao, while the former champion Brown had won his previous fight to bounce back from his shocking KO loss to Manny Gamburyan. Smart money was on Brown via decision.
Fight begins and Nunes opens with a leg kick and a spinning back kick that glances off the midsection. Another good leg kick lands for the Brazilian. Brown looks to close the distance and drops for a double leg, forcing Nunes into the cage. Nunes shows some good defense, but Brown opens up with some really vicious knees to the left thigh. He literally lands about fifteen of them, popping the crowd, before Nunes tries to muscle out and lands a knee of his own. Brown stays on him and keeps trying for the takedown, finally dragging Diego to the ground. Nunes takes a couple of shots to the face, and then Brown gets the back with one hook. Brown loses the hook but keeps over/under control, then switches off to deliver a slam to half-guard. Nunes looks for a kimura on the right arm, but ends up giving his back in order to scramble to his feet. Right hand connects for Brown on the way out. Nunes looks a bit wobbly and Brown rushes forward, swinging wildly, but the Brazilian fires right back. Nice uppercut from Brown but Nunes comes back with a knee to the body. One minute to go and Brown continues to push forward, but Nunes keeps him at bay with some more kicks. Beautiful leg kick and a spinning back kick to the body from Nunes. Spinning backfist glances off the temple of the former champion and he looks to fire back, but Nunes comes in swinging to end the round, although Brown clocks him with a right on the buzzer. Close round but 10-9 Brown.
Second round and it looks like Nunes got caught with something nasty in the first as his left eye is basically swollen shut. Replay canít quite confirm which shot did the damage. Kicks from Nunes begin the round and again he lands with the vicious spinning back kick. Brown catches him with a right though, taking advantage of the sight issues the Brazilianís obviously having. Nice left from Nunes as Brown pushes forward. Takedown attempt from Brown and he really drives in with the double leg, but Nunes shows some excellent defense and breaks free. Joe Rogan is claiming an illegal knee in the first round did the damage to the eye. Clinch from Nunes and he forces Brown into the cage. Spinning elbow glances for the Brazilian on the way out. Plum clinch from Nunes and he lands some nasty knees to the midsection. Brown has visibly slowed down in this round. Good body kick from Diego and he backs Brown up with a left hand and a spinning back kick right to the body. Axe kick doesnít quite land though. Nunes is beginning to light him up standing here. Takedown attempt from Brown and he manages to throw him around for a second, but Nunes manages to work back up to his feet. Brown manages to move to a rear waistlock, but Nunes uses a whizzer to stay vertical and then lands another harsh spinning back kick to the body, followed by a series of heavy knees from the plum clinch. Seconds to go and Nunes lands some punches and another spin kick. Nunes took that round with his striking, so I have it 19-19 going into the third.
Third and final round and they open with the infamous BRO HUG. Wild axe kick just about misses for Nunes. His kicks are sick. Left hook lands for Nunes and he follows with a leg kick. Nunes is like Jose Aldo-lite. Heís owning Brown on the feet here. Takedown attempt from the former champion and he drives Nunes back and gets him down, but Nunes immediately works back up, giving his back in the process to attempt a kimura. Brown again attacks with the knees to the legs, then he lands a knee to the face too. Nunes manages to turn into him though, forcing Brown into the fence, before landing a knee. Pair of wild hooks land for Brown but Nunes keeps him forced into the cage and lands some nice knees to the body. Good combo from Nunes before they break off. This is a great fight. Brown comes forward and looks for the takedown again, transitioning to the rear waistlock again, where he lands some more knees to the legs. Nunes tries to turn into him, and manages to bring it back to a regular clinch where he delivers some knees of his own. They break off with a minute to go and Brown drops for a low single, but Nunes sprawls out with a front facelock and lands a heavy knee as they come up. They break and Nunes lands the spinning back kick again. Big takedown from Brown though and he lands in the guard. Nunes immediately scrambles free though and sprawls into the front facelock, and they end the round trading strikes. Hell of a fight. Iíve got it 29-28 for Diego Nunes.
Aaaand...itís a split decision, 29-28 Nunes, 29-28 Brown, and 29-28 for Diego Nunes to steal the victory. Close fight but I think the decision went the right way as Nunes really lit a seemingly tired Brown up with strikes throughout the second and third rounds after a dodgy start. The whole performance was especially impressive when you consider his eye was swollen shut after the first round. Great UFC debut for Nunes and I can definitely see him amongst the title contenders in the future.
After a bad comeback performance at 170lbs against Amir Sadollah, this was Baroniís move back up to 185lbs to take on one of the better fighters from TUF 11 in Tavares. Being a Baroni fan....this time I didnít actually take him by VICIOUS KO as Iím pretty convinced at this point that heís done, sadly enough.
Round One begins and itís clear right away that Tavares has a HUGE size advantage over the NYBA. They circle to begin and Brad lands a leg kick before Baroni fires back with a quick combo. Couple more leg kicks from Tavares but a wild left hand connects for the Bad Ass and Tavares drops! He manages to recover and scrambles back up, but Phil grabs a front choke and forces him back to the ground in half-guard. Brad looks to scramble from the bottom, but Baroni keeps him down and he doesnít seem to be running out of steam yet either. Brad gets up and Baroni grabs the choke again and looks to deliver some knees, but the Hawaiian works his head free. Combo breaks for Phil and Tavares misses with a head kick. They clinch and Brad backs him up with some knees, then drops for a double leg. Baroni stuffs it and sprawls out nicely, and they exchange knees from the clinch. One catches Tavares low and the ref calls time to let him recover. Baroni isnít even breathing heavily! They restart and Tavares lands a combo and follows with a left high kick that rocks Baroni and sends him stumbling back! Brad follows in with a right hand, knee, and then OPENS UP WITH MACHINE GUN PUNCHES that send Phil DOWN AND OUT! Damn!
Amazing that the combination that would send Baroni packing from the UFC and quite possibly from MMA in general would so much resemble the one that Phil used to put away Dave Menne in his most famous win; even down to the first strike causing him to stagger backwards. As a Baroni fan this was sad to see. Big win for Brad Tavares though who continues to show flashes of brilliant potential. Heís a guy to watch in my eyes.
Well, this was a pretty bad drop for poor Grispi. Originally set to co-main event the show in a title fight against champion Jose Aldo, once the Brazilian pulled out he was shunted onto the prelims to face the unknown Poirier, who was dropping down from 155lbs. I figured Grispi would run through him to pencil himself in for the title shot later in 2011.
Fight begins and Poirier pushes forward early on as they exchange some strikes. They trade shots into the clinch, where Grispi leaps up into guard, but Poirier refuses to let him drag the fight down, and they remain clinched up. Nice elbow inside from Poirier. He follows with a solid knee too. They exchange in the clinch but Poirier gets the better of it and then lights Grispi up with some big combos once they break, forcing Grispi to shoot and then pull guard. Poirier decides to stand free and force him back up, and continues to be the aggressor, backing Grispi up with some nice leg kicks as well as a hard front kick to the body. The front kick drops Grispi, but he uses an ankle pick to trip Poirier down. Poirier manages to get on top though, and then stands back up. Another heavy combo lands for Poirier, and it looks like Grispi might be in trouble as Dustin chases him across the cage just smacking him around. Takedown attempt from Grispi is stuffed and Poirier transitions to take the back. Grispi tries to grab an arm for a kimura, but Poirier looks calm and defends from the top. Grispi keeps trying though and for a second it looks like heís got it synched in, but Poirier manages again to avoid it. Seconds remaining and Poirier ends the round on top in guard. Surprisingly, that round was all Dustin Poirier.
2nd round and Grispi comes out swinging, but walks into a hard knee to the body. He looks for the takedown, but Poirier shrugs it off and forces him into the cage. Heavy left elbow from Poirier followed by a pair of uppercuts land hard, and Grispi looks in trouble and backs up covering his face. Big shots from Poirier have him rocked badly and he looks for the takedown, and this time he almost gets it, but Poirier uses a whizzer to avoid. Grispi manages to trip him down and mounts, but Poirier quickly reverses and gets on top in guard, avoiding a triangle and an armbar in the process. He lands some solid shots from the top, then stands free. Another combo lands for Poirier and they clinch, where he delivers some hard knees from the plum. Grispi drops for another takedown, but Poirier sprawls out and winds up on top in the guard. Just over a minute remaining and it looks like Poirier might be content to ride out the round on top landing short elbows. Sudden triangle attempt from Grispi, but Poirier slams his way free and lands some clean ground-and-pound for good measure. They come back to their feet and Poirier lands a hard leg kick. Grispi looks exhausted. They clinch again and Poirier opens up with some more knees, then ends the round with another combo that has Grispi on the ropes. Huge round again for Poirier, very close to being a 10-8 in fact.
Round Three and Grispi is looking totally out of gas as well as being badly hurt. Poirier backs him up again with a combo and grabs the clinch, forcing Grispi into the fence. Grispi breaks off and eats a leg kick and a left hand before shooting. Poirier stuffs the takedown and gets on top in guard, then stands free. Back up and itís another combo from Poirier before he grabs the plum to land more knees. Grispi tries an odd attempt at rolling into a triangle and then a leglock, but Poirierís having none of that and he stands free. He grabs the plum again and lands another strong knee, but Grispi catches another and manages to drag him to the ground in guard. Grispi works to pass and gets into half-guard, but Poirier prevents the full mount and regains full guard. Grispi does a good job of working into side mount, but thereís less than a minute to go and he really needs to tap him. Poirier scrambles back to guard and time is running out here. Fight ends in Poirierís guard and has to be a whitewash in his favour.
Judges all score it for Dustin Poirier, no surprise there. This was just a fantastic showing from him as he totally derailed the Grispi hype train, making a name for himself in the process. I guess it just goes to show that the 145lbs division is still a work in progress as Grispi was the highly touted contender while Poirier was a largely unknown guy dropping from 155lbs, and yet he just overpowered Grispi and smacked him around for three rounds solid. Well, either that or Grispi was a little overrated based on a string of very quick wins. Probably a bit of both, really. Fight was fun as hell, though.
After suffering a loss to Nate Diaz in August Ė his third in four fights Ė Davis made the surprising drop to 155lbs for this fight. I was pretty shocked at that as he always looked stacked at 170lbs, but such is the modern science of weight cutting I guess. The big question here was whether Davisís far better technical striking could let him avoid the big haymaker from Stephens, who hits as hard as anyone at 155lbs.
Fight begins and Davis doesnít look physically horrible or anything for being 15lbs lighter. Stephens comes out aggressively and pushes forward as Davis looks to fire off the right jab to keep the distance. Clinch from Stephens and he muscles Davis into the fence and lands a couple of knees inside, but Davis breaks off. Marcus works the jab again and heís moving around nicely to avoid the power of Stephens too. Jeremy looks for the clinch again and muscles Davis into the cage, and it actually looks like heís going for the takedown. Davis reverses though and dumps Stephens on his back in half-guard. Stephens manages to work back to his feet, but Davis keeps him pushed against the cage. They break after a moment and Davis dances around a little and lands with a left hand. Big left hook lands for Marcus in an exchange and Stephens looks wobbled and staggers back, and Davis quickly follows in by looking for the takedown. Stephens stuffs it though and it looks like heís recovered. That was a mistake from Davis. Round ends in the clinch. Kind of a dull round, 10-9 Davis, but he probably threw away a chance at finishing by clinching with a stunned Stephens late on.
Into the 2nd and Stephens comes out swinging for the fences, but Marcus stays on his toes and uses his smart footwork to avoid the big shot. Good leg kick connects for Stephens though. Couple of combos land for Davis but he takes another leg kick. Brief clinch is broken by Davis. Spinning backfist narrowly misses for Stephens. Davis works some more jabs before Stephens muscles him into the cage, looking for a single leg, but he canít get Marcus off his feet. Davis reverses and gets his own takedown, but Stephens looks to twist up a kimura. Marcus smartly passes to side mount to avoid that, but Stephens regains half-guard and then full guard, and the kimura looks a bit dangerous. Davis looks calm though and punches at the body, and thereís less than a minute to go too. He escapes the kimura and remains on top, where he feeds Stephens some mild ground-and-pound as Jeremy tries to answer from the bottom. Round ends there. Close one to call but probably 10-9 Davis again.
3rd round and Stephens looks ANGRY. He comes out swinging but walks right into a stiff jab to open the round. Marcus begins to circle out again and avoids the haymakers, and he begins to get the better of the exchanges again. Stephens shoots for a takedown, but Davis stuffs it and follows with a body kick. Solid one-two from Davis. Left hook catches Stephens and wobbles him for a split second. They exchange a couple of times and Stephens does land a couple of shots, but nothing that seems to have Marcus hurt. Davis continues to move on the outside and fire in with the jab and straight left. Stephens keeps swinging though, and suddenly he connects with a HUGE RIGHT HAND that KNOCKS MARCUS DEAD!~!
Vicious, vicious stuff. Replay shows Davis basically ducked right into the right haymaker and was out before he hit the ground, but of course Stephens followed in with the Dan Henderson Special diving forearm for good measure. Amazing turnaround as Stephens had basically had no success at all in this fight, particularly standing, and yet once he was able to land it was lights out for Davis. Just goes to show what big power can do for you in MMA with the small gloves and so many variables. Big win for Stephens and the loss was enough for Davis to be cut from the UFC, which surprised me, but then again he has lost four of his last five and isnít getting any younger. One of the nastiest KOs in recent memory.
This was the fight that had me most excited on the card, as Gomi had seemingly regained his PRIDE powers in August with a sick one-punch KO of Tyson Griffin, while Guida had been on a run since hooking up with Greg Jackson, beating Shannon Gugerty and Rafael Dos Anjos and looking impressive in both outings. Given how Gomi had traditionally handled wrestleboxers though (read, by killing them dead) I took the Fireball Kid to win by KO.
Round One begins and Guida comes out with some of the wildest movement Iíve ever seen in the UFC, dancing around on the outside and bobbing his head all over the place. This is odd as hell. Crowd begin a huge chant for Guida as he continues to dance while Gomi takes the center of the cage. Very little action so far but this is interesting as hell due to Guidaís movement. Suddenly though he throws a wild head kick that clips Gomi slightly and knocks him off balance, and follows with a takedown attempt. Gomi blocks it and narrowly avoids a couple of wild punches from Guida. He looks okay as I guess the kick didnít land cleanly. Single leg attempt from Guida and he really goes for it, but Gomi does a tremendous job of avoiding and they wind up clinched before Gomi breaks. Jab to the body lands for Gomi. Heís looking a little confused and flustered by Guidaís movement though. More jabs miss for Gomi and if this were any other fighter but Guida the crowd would probably be booing wildly. Less than a minute to go and Guida lands the high kick a little cleaner this time and follows by tackling the Japanese fighter to the ground, passing quickly into half-guard. Gomi locks down on the leg though and the round ends before Guida can try anything. Seriously weird round, but 10-9 Guida I guess.
Round Two and Guida continues to dance, but this time Gomi clocks him with a right hand that puts him on the retreat a little. Wild overhand right misses for Gomi. Single leg attempt from Guida and he drives forward as Gomi sprawls out, again showing some excellent defense as Guida switches to an ankle pick. Gomi escapes to his feet and lands a knee, but Guida forces him into the fence. Gomi breaks and Guida goes back to dancing as the Japanese fighter looks to impose the jab. He still looks a little confused though and Guida lands with a glancing head kick and a right hand. Guida continues to WHIP HIS HAIR BACK AND FORTH before Gomi lands a knee to the body. Guida catches it though and gets a takedown into half-guard from it. Arm triangle attempt from Guida and he looks to pass, but Gomi frees his head and looks like he might be prepping a kimura. Less than a minute left and Guida locks up a guillotine from the top, then rolls into guard and GOMI TAPS!
Bah. I was really pulling for Gomi there but you have to give credit to Guida, his odd movement standing just completely threw Gomi off his game and he was unable to get off with any of his strikes, and once Guida managed to get it to the ground he was able to capitalize on what has traditionally been Gomiís Achilles heel Ė his submission defense. To be honest I never bought Guida as a title contender but after seeing this and his fight recently with Anthony Pettis he might be on that level now. Huge win for him.
This was another interesting bout as Diaz had won two fights on the bounce since moving to 170lbs while Kim was looking for a big win to throw his name into the hat of title contenders. Given Diazís lack of wrestling skill despite his greatness in all other areas, the smart money was on the Korean to be able to pound out a decision win over the TUF 5 winner.
We begin and both men gauge the distance early on with Kim landing a couple of leg kicks. You can see Diaz talking some trash already; whether Kim understands him is another matter. Front kick from Nate but Kim takes him down. Diaz goes for a kimura as they go down, but doesnít get proper control and the Korean winds up on top in half-guard. Diaz manages to work back into full guard and keeps his hips active, taking a couple of solid shots from Kim in the process. Big left hand from Kim and he moves into half-guard. He manages to step into mount, but Diaz scrambles and works back into half-guard. You can tell these guys are real high-level grapplers. Diaz tries a reversal, but Kim rides it out and keeps top position before coming over the top with a heavy right hand. Diaz goes for a weird position where heís got the left leg hooked with his arm and his own legs in position for an armbar attempt, but Kim stands free. He avoids an upkick and drops back into the guard, but Nate goes for a leglock. He loses it though and Kim gets back on top in half-guard. This guyís top game is really smothering. Kim tries to pass again and takes the back, where he lands a knee to the body and goes for the hooks. Diaz dives for a leglock and almost gets a heel hook, but Kim escapes to his feet. Seconds to go and they trade punches standing to end the round. Good stuff. 10-9 Dong Hyun Kim.
Second round and Kim opens with a pair of leg kicks and a solid left hand. Diaz pushes forward throwing combos, but he canít seem to land cleanly on the Korean. Good shot does land to the body though. Jab pushes Kim back. Overhand right glances off the jaw of the TUF winner. Low single leg attempt from Kim but Nate manages to scramble away from it. Beautiful trip takedown follows though and Kim avoids a triangle and postures up in the guard. Diaz keeps working from the bottom and they end up in an odd position for a second before Nate goes for the triangle again. Kim avoids, but heís constantly in danger due to Diazís right leg. Kim pulls off a nice pass though, getting into half-guard, but itís only for a second as Nate hip escapes back to full. Heís landing some shots from the bottom too. Good left from Kim as he postures up in the guard. Diaz manages to use his legs to push the Korean off and escape to his feet, but Kim quickly tackles him down to the ground again. More of the same follows before Diaz gives his back in an attempt to escape, and they jockey for position before Diaz manages to take Kimís back! He canít finish it though and slides off the top just before the round ends. Really close round and despite Kim getting takedowns Iíd go 10-10 because Diaz threatened just as much from the bottom.
Third round and Kim is looking slightly tired. Nice jab opens the round for Diaz. They exchange some jabs before Diaz just about ducks a big head kick from Kim. Takedown attempt from Kim but Diaz stuffs it and spins to take the back with a rear waistlock. He gets Kim down for a second but the Korean pops right back up and they wind up clinched against the fence. Kim shoves Diaz away but Nate lands a jab and then grabs a front facelock to deliver some knees. Kim goes down, but the ref calls time and apparently itís because Diaz landed a knee to the head as Kim put one hand down. That rule is such bullshit. Firstly the replay shows that it was really tight in terms of whether the hand was down or not, and secondly how can one hand being on the mat mean a knee strike is more dangerous? Ridiculous stuff. They restart, thankfully without referee Yves Lavigne taking a point from Diaz. They exchange into a clinch and Diaz muscles him into the fence, where they jockey for position. Judo throw attempt by Kim allows Diaz on top for a second, but the Korean uses brute strength to reverse into Diazís guard. Kim transitions to take Nateís back, but Diaz gets to his feet. Kim pulls him down and gets his hooks in, but Diaz hits a wild scramble and goes for a leglock. Kim avoids it nicely and gets the back again, holding a standing waistlock as Diaz protests to Yves Lavigne for something. Diaz manages to reverse and gets Kim down for a second, but he pops right back up. Good combo from Nate though and he lands an odd head kick as Kim turns away. They clinch and Diaz continues to land strikes, including some hard, clean right hands to the face. Kim looks like heís wilting. More good punches follow and Diaz ends the round with a takedown. You know what? I think Diaz stole that round, so Iíd go 29-29 for a draw.
Judges end up going 29-28 for a unanimous decision for Dong Hyun Kim. Well, I guess thatís understandable. First round was clearly Kimís, third was Diazís, and Kim spent the majority of the second in top position so there you go. Tough break for Diaz but the US judges always favour the fighter on top. Really good grappling-based fight as Diaz definitely tested Kimís resolve, but Iíd say the Korean passed for the most part. If Diaz wants to move up the ladder he really needs to fix the wrestling hole in his game. Post-fight Kim calls out GSP, but I donít think heís quite ready for that yet. If he beats Carlos Condit next month though then a title shot wouldnít be too far off.
This was Silvaís first foray into the Octagon in a year, as after his loss to Rashad Evans heíd taken time off to get back surgery. Vera meanwhile hadnít fought since having his face shattered at the hands of Jon Jones. The question to me here was whether Vera would come out aggressively, or would be the same Brandon Vera weíd seen in his most recent fights. An aggressive Vera could beat Silva, but the passive one almost certainly wouldnít in my opinion.
Round One and itís obvious right away that Silva is in better shape, looking far more ripped and muscular than his previous fight. More on that in a bit, although coming in I assumed it was due to his back surgery allowing him to train more intensely. Vera immediately clinches and begins to go to town with knees, as Silva looks to fire back with some dirty boxing. They break off and Brandon lands a pair of leg kicks. Silva stalks forward with punches, but takes a leg kick and a hard knee to the body en route to the clinch. They muscle for position along the fence before Silva looks for a single leg and manages to drag Brandon to the ground in half-guard. Thiago controls him but doesnít really do much with the position, and Vera manages to get to full butterfly guard. Crowd are being incredibly patient here. Silva looks for a pass and gets it, moving into side mount. Few solid rights land for Silva and Vera tries to squirm to avoid the shots. Silva continues to control him and lands some nasty elbows, but he attempts to get to full mount and Vera gets half-guard. Seconds to go and Thiago drops back for a leglock, then gives it up and takes top position for some ground-and-pound as the round ends. As the buzzer sounds Silva gets in Veraís face clapping and it looks like theyíre going to go, but the ref quickly stops that. Ha. 10-9 Silva.
2nd round and Vera looks pissed off coming out of his corner. He comes out swinging leg kicks and combinations and lands on Thiago who tries to answer back with little success. Nice combo lands hard for Vera but Silva walks through it and tags Vera with some shots of his own, then clinches. Good knees inside from Brandon but Thiago trips him down to the ground. Full guard for Brandon but Silva controls him and lands some punches, easily blocking his attempt to grab a kimura. The strength advantage for Silva seems very evident. Silva postures up and avoids some upkicks to pass into half-guard, and Vera looks unable to shake him off. Action slows down a little, angering the crowd, before Silva lands some clubbing punches with Brandon covering up. For a second it looks like Veraís prepping for a sweep attempt, but he just canít break Silvaís base. Big shots land for Silva as the round comes towards the end. Vera turns and almost gives his back, but remains on his side trapped under Silva as the buzzer sounds. 10-9 Silva.
3rd and final round and Vera catches a body kick attempt and kicks Silvaís leg from under him, sending him to the ground before raising his arms in a taunt. This fight is getting PERSONAL, dude. Vera continues to swing, but doesnít land anything else major and Silva manages to grab him off an unsuccessful head kick and forces him into the fence. Crowd begin to boo but Silva muscles his way into a rear waistlock and dumps Brandon to the ground. Vera looks in trouble as Silva gets one hook in with Brandon in a crouched position. Vera looks a bit stuck as Silva just controls him and lands some punches from behind, dragging his legs out from under him to stop him from standing. Vera manages to sort-of stand, but Silva remains on the back and he forces him back to the crouching position. Big punches from Thiago and then he decides to land some slaps for good measure before PLAYING THE BONGOS on Brandonís back. Damn. BIG SHOTS follow though and absolutely smash Veraís nose across his face. Holy shit. Vera is taking a beating. Fight ends with Silva in firm control. Clear win for Silva.
Post-fight Veraís nose is smashed halfway across his face, even worse than Rich Franklin following the first Anderson Silva fight. Horrid stuff. Judges score it 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 for Thiago Silva. The story of this fight was basically that Vera could get the better of Silva standing, but couldnít prevent the takedown and once they were on the ground Silva was far, far stronger physically than Brandon and just dominated him. Sounds like an impressive performance from Thiago and a disappointing one for Vera, right? Well, sort of. Turns out it probably wasnít the back surgery that caused Thiagoís impressive physique, as he was popped for steroids shortly after the fight, which caused the result to be changed to a No Contest and also saved Veraís job with the UFC. Sigh. I like Silva but to see him busted like that is pretty disappointing. As for the fight, it had its entertaining moments but was also slow in parts too.
Bit of a weird co-main event, but I guess it got bumped up due to the loss of the Featherweight Title fight. Leben Ė after two big wins in 2010 over Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama Ė was originally pegged to fight Wanderlei Silva, but instead he was matched with former marine Brian Stann. With Stannís penchant for brawling this to me seemed to play right into Lebenís hands and I took him to win by KO. Alarming side note though, Leben sounds HORRIBLY punch-drunk in the pre-fight video, slurring his way through his lines.
First round gets underway and Stann circles around the outside, clearly looking to play the counterpuncher as Leben swings his trademark haymakers. They clinch and Stann muscles him into the fence with a knee to the body, then lands some punches as Leben looks for a takedown. They break for a moment before clinching again, and this time they trade and Leben opens up with some nice uppercuts. Stann forces him into the cage though and they continue to exchange shots inside. Stann breaks off, and Leben pushes forward, catching a body kick and going for a single leg. Stann blocks and lands a right hand to back Leben up. Leben fires back by swinging wildly, but Stann steps off and counters with a combo before landing a right that FOLDS LEBEN LIKE A HOUSE OF CARDS! Stann pounces and looks to finish, but somehow Leben gets to his feet. Stann grabs a standing guillotine and then releases, and Leben takes a big deep breath as they clinch against the fence. Three left uppercuts from Stann drop him again though, and the marine rains down punches as Leben desperately tries to recover. Somehow he manages to get up again, but this time Stann nails him with a BIG KNEE TO THE HEAD and Leben is DONE.
Jesus Christ. That was an absolute slaughter. Massive win for Brian Stann and somewhat of an upset too. I think what happened here was a combination of a few things Ė Stannís massive improvement since hooking up with Greg Jackson, who obviously gave Stann the strategy to avoid brawling; Stannís obvious heavy punching power, which heís packed since his WEC days; and finally and probably most importantly, the fact that all of the past beatings heís taken seem to have caught up with Leben and his once-iron chin may be cracked for good. Really the sky may be the limit for Stann now heís with Jackson full time, while for Leben I guess weíll find out where he is in his next couple of fights. Personally I suspect he might be shot, but we shall see. Super-impressive knockout for Stann, however.
After his two shocking wins over BJ Penn had made him the consensus top 155lber in the world, this was Edgarís chance to really prove that, as he was faced with the only man to ever beat him Ė the still-unbeaten Maynard, who had beaten up Kenny Florian to take the title shot. Despite all of Edgarís improvements since the first fight, I thought that as Maynard is still the better wrestler and the rules seem to favour that style, weíd probably see a new champion to open 2011.
Fight begins and they circle with Edgar looking to work combinations from the outside. Good leg kick from the champ. They continue to circle and suddenly Maynard lands with a BIG LEFT HOOK that floors Edgar, sending him rolling backwards! Gray charges in looking to finish, landing big punches as Edgar wobbles all over the place on the retreat, and he lands some huge shots as Frankie dives for a desperate single leg. They come up and some BIG UPPERCUTS drop Edgar again and he looks done, but somehow he keeps rolling to try to defend! Holy shit. Frankie wobbles to his feet but Gray decks him AGAIN and continues to land punches to the face. Good lord. Frankie ends up crawling along the fence but Maynard stays on him and keeps on landing, then uses a front facelock to control him. Somehow Edgar gets up into the clinch, but heís still on dream street and Maynard lands a couple of right hooks before stuffing a takedown. Frankie again manages to stand and force him into the cage, but Gray breaks off. Left hook wobbles Frankie again and then a right hand sends him sliding around like a drunkard on ice. He desperately goes for a double leg, but Gray stiffs it and nails him with another pair of rights that drop him face-first. How Edgar is still in this I donít know. He dives on a leg again, but Gray stuffs it and spins to the back, then lets him up. Frankie can barely stand at this point. Somehow he lands a right hand, but Gray shrugs it off and nails him with a couple more hooks. I donít think heís landing as cleanly now but it looks like he is as Frankieís so wobbly. Left lands for Edgar to little effect. He does look a bit recovered now though. Seconds to go and it looks like heís going to survive the round, incredibly. Got to be 10-8 Maynard though, if not 10-7! How that fight wasnít stopped I donít know. Tremendous job from referee Yves Lavigne to recognize that Edgar was still with it though.
Into the 2nd and Frankie looks recovered, circling around and landing a leg kick and a nice right hand. Looks like Maynard is headhunting as he swings heavy hooks that miss. Gray steps in but takes a combo from Edgar. Man, youíve got to admire Edgarís recovery powers. Jabs from the champion. Big punches from Maynard miss and Edgar fires back with a BIG RIGHT that snaps the challengerís head back! Whoa. Maynard is looking marked up now. Takedown attempt from Gray but Frankie shrugs it off. Maynard keeps on swinging but itís Edgar whoís landing in this round. Big crowd chant for Frankie as he lands a sharp right. Big swing from Gray but Frankie ducks under and NAILS HIM WITH A BIG BODYSLAM! Gray quickly reverses to his feet though, but takes another clipping right. Less than a minute to go and Maynard lands with the left hook, but doesnít catch him clean. Big combo answers for Frankie. Takedown attempt from Maynard but Edgar stuffs it only to receive a knee. Frankie comes back though with a pair of rights that wobble the challenger, and thatís the round. 10-9 Frankie Edgar, incredibly. Dude has BALLS OF STEEL.
Between rounds Randy Couture is fuming at Maynard, saying that heís trying too hard to knock Edgar out when he should just be trying to beat him up. Fair assessment.
Third round and both men come out with a lot of movement, but Edgar lands the right hand again to draw first blood. Good body shot from Maynard, but Edgar lands with a leg kick. Gray begins to stalk him, but takes another combo. Another combo lands for Edgar and heís quite clearly beating Gray to the punch at this point. Takedown attempt from Maynard but Edgar manages to stuff it. Left hand connects a couple of times for Gray. Body kick from Edgar is caught and Gray looks for the takedown, but Frankie blocks it again. Both men land shots in a brief exchange. Nice left hook into a right hand lands flush for Maynard and hurts Frankie again. Uppercut and a stiff jab follow. Left hook lands for Gray and suddenly heís landing more. Good leg kick from Gray too. Edgar fires back with one of his own. Takedown attempt from Maynard off a caught low kick and he gets Frankie down. Edgar looks to get back up immediately, giving up a rear waistlock in the process, but Gray tackles him into half-guard. Edgar looks to secure an arm, but Maynard spins out into side mount. Edgar recovers half-guard but his nose is very bloody. Guillotine attempt from Frankie but the buzzer sounds. Very, very close round to score. Iíd probably lean towards Gray Maynard but it was insanely close.
Fourth round and neither man looks close to being gassed really. Both men come out firing but Edgar lands with an uppercut and then follows with a takedown. Maynard looks to scramble to his feet but Edgar latches onto a guillotine and squeezes, before opening up with a combination as he decides to release. Both men are looking bloody now. Maynard swings but Edgar ducks under and hits another takedown, getting on top in half-guard. He looks to pass and controls the neck before taking an over/under on the back, but he canít get hooks in and Gray escapes to his feet. They clinch for a second and then break off where Edgar pushes in with a body kick and a leg kick. Maynard tries to grab him but Frankie shrugs him off and lands a right hand. Another takedown attempt from Gray is stuffed but he does land a glancing combo on the way out. Maynard swings with some big shots that miss and eats a knee for his efforts. Frankie goes for another takedown and gets it, transitioning to a waistlock by the cage where he lands some BIG SHOTS to the unprotected face of the challenger. Two minutes to go and now Gray is looking tired as they clinch up. Break and Maynardís punches are looking slower while Edgar is still dancing around throwing combos. Nice combination lands for Frankie. Takedown attempt from Edgar is stuffed. Big swing misses for Gray. Another combo from Frankie and the round ends shortly after. Frankieís round so going into the fifth Iíve got it 38-37 for Maynard. This is a WAR.
Fifth and final round! Maynard comes out swinging, landing a couple of glancing lefts, but Edgar remains on his bike and his footwork still looks excellent. Beautiful leg kick from the champion. Nice counter combo from Edgar. Big swing from Maynard but Edgar counters with a swift combo. Gray fires right back with a heavy left hook. This fight is SO CLOSE. Takedown is stuffed by Frankie and he lands with a knee. Frankie tries a takedown of his own now but Maynard stuffs it and grabs a front headlock. They break off again and both men land glancing shots. Good combination from Edgar and he stuffs a takedown. Two minutes to go and both men land in an exchange. This might be the closest round yet. Takedown from Maynard is stuffed again. Beautiful combo from Frankie and he stuffs another shot. One minute to go. Right hand from Maynard is answered by a combo from Edgar and a second combo snaps Grayís head back. Takedown attempt from Maynard is stuffed. Single leg from Gray but Frankie blocks it. Ten seconds to go! Both men swing wildly but neither lands clean and thatís the fight. Crowd are going mental. Iíve got that round razor-close for Frankie Edgar, and if thatís 10-9 for Edgar, itís a 47-47 draw. Buuut, you could give the third to Edgar meaning itíd be 48-46 for Edgar, or the fifth to Maynard making it 48-46 for him instead.
Judges have it 48-46 Maynard......48-46 Edgar.....and 47-47 for the draw. Crowd boo and both men look disappointed but for once I think that was the right call. Of course, it means that really nothing was settled and we need a third meeting between the two, but come on Ė who the hell would complain about a rematch after a fight like that? Quite simply this was one of the best, if not THE best title fight in modern UFC history. I mean, I canít remember anyone coming back from a beating like Edgar did in the first round Ė the guy was literally knocked all over the cage and so many times when it looked like Yves Lavigne was going to step in, heíd roll or slightly move or cover up enough to show he was still in the fight. And then to come back and arguably take three of the next four rounds? Thatís just unheard of. The guy has the heart of a lion, and thatís taking nothing away from Maynard, as a lot of fighters wouldíve just been broken once they realized they couldnít put Edgar away, and yet Gray kept on fighting just as hard in the fifth as heíd done in the first. You canít say enough good things about both men. Amazing that we mightíve gotten the Fight of the Year on New Yearís Day!
-Highlight reel rolls and what a beginning to 2011!
Despite losing one of its title fights I thought this turned out to be a fantastic show in the end. There were only a couple of slower fights (Volkmann-McKee and parts of Silva-Vera) and everything else was pretty damn good, from the vicious knockouts from Tavares, Stephens and Stann, to some sick grappling from Kim and Diaz, Daniel Roberts and Clay Guida, a great fight between Brown and Nunes and then a high-end FOTYC from Edgar and Maynard. It probably wonít turn out to be the very best show of 2011, but I think top to bottom itíll end up a contender. Thumbs way up.
Best Fight: Edgar-Maynard
Worst Fight: Volkmann-McKee
Overall Rating: ****1/4
UFC: 126-131, Fight Night 23 and 24, Versus 3
King of the Cage: Various shows