While the headlines coming out of UFC 137 were all about Nick Diaz, both for his dominant win over BJ Penn and Dana White’s announcement that Diaz would challenge welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre instead of Carlos Condit, the biggest news should not have been about Diaz at all.
As great as Diaz’s performance was, the biggest news was the possible retirement of two MMA legends.
Firstly, an expected retirement occurred with Mirko Cro Cop. He looked okay at times, but mostly struggled with Roy Nelson. He was stopped with punches in the third round for the third fight in a row joining losses to Frank Mir and Brendan Schaub.
Cro Cop never made the transition to the UFC that was expected of him after signing with the organization in early 2007. He struggled to adapt to the cage, and was never even close to the legend he created in Japan. He won consecutive fights just once during his ten fight UFC career, and won via strikes just three times.
While it was nearly impossible for Cro Cop to surpass the expectations, or even come close to living up to them, his UFC career can be viewed as a supreme disappointment. He holds only two career wins against current UFC fighters, and one of those is against the struggling Pat Barry. The other occurred against a natural light heavyweight in Anthony Perosh.
Meanwhile, while Cro Cop’s retirement was expected, BJ Penn abruptly announced in the moments after losing to Nick Diaz that the main event would also be his last fight.
It does need to be mentioned that a fighter’s words following a loss should not be written in permanent ink. Luckily for me, this is only on the internet, so I can always go back and act like I never wrote this.
If Penn’s announcement holds true, the UFC is losing arguably the greatest fighter in the organization’s history. His accolades do not need to be listed in their entirety in order to fully grasp his legacy. With that said, I do feel the need to mention Penn winning both the lightweight and welterweight belts, only the second fighter to ever hold two different belts during his UFC career.
Penn’s kryptonite has really come to the forefront over the last two years. He was outpaced by Frankie Edgar in their two fights for the lightweight title. He lost his momentum and pace in the third round in a draw to Jon Fitch in February 2011. Lastly, he completely fell off the cliff following a strong first round against Nick Diaz on Saturday.
Some will question Penn’s desire and motivation during his career. It goes to note just how talented of a fighter Penn was to win two titles. It is not my position to criticize another person’s desire, but one can easily imagine what Penn could have done if he did have the kind of motivation to match his talent.
It seems ironic, but a comparison could be made between Penn and Fedor Emelianenko, neither of whom were ever knocked down during their career going into their last few fights, but were both easily battered and left the cage with similar looks in those final fights.
Biggest Winner: Nick Diaz
I have to mention Donald Cerrone and his fantastic performance against Dennis Siver. With a four fight win streak to begin his UFC career, 2012 could be even more special for Cowboy.
With that said, Diaz took the show over in the main event against Penn. Diaz displayed his premier boxing against Penn. No one has ever dismantled Penn that much, bruising and battering Pnn throughout the final two rounds. Following the fight, Diaz called out champion Georges St. Pierre, and St. Pierre responded, demanding Dana White make the matchup with Diaz. That will now take place in February at the Super Bowl weekend UFC card.
Biggest Loser: Tyson Griffin
Griffin got off to a bad start this past weekend, failing to make weight for his second featherweight fight in the UFC. He weighed 149 pounds at weigh-ins, and he did not even attempt to cut the remaining three pounds in order to refrain from having some of his purse money taken away.
Then on Saturday, that failed weight cut was on display, as Griffin looked sluggish against Bart Palaszewski. He was knocked out just three minutes into the first round, which does not bode well for a fighter who is now 1-4 in his last five fights.
Biggest Question: What do we make of Hatsu Hioki’s debut?
Hioki looked uncomfortable at times against UFC and WEC veteran George Roop. Hioki is arguably the number two featherweight in the world, but he did not look like that against Roop on Saturday. At 5’11, Hioki rarely has a height and reach disadvantage, but he had that with the 6’1 Roop. While his grappling was as strong as ever, his striking looked pedestrian. That will not go over well in a matchup with champion Jose Aldo.
Hioki will more than likely have another fight before being matched up with Aldo, so he will get another opportunity to improve on his very close victory over Roop.
Nick Diaz vs. Georges St. Pierre: Dana White agrees with this one. While I do not agree with pushing Carlos Condit to the side, just weeks after criticizing Diaz and coming close to cutting him for his behavior, this is correct if you want people to believe in paying for a St. Pierre fight again. How does St. Pierre fight when he truly does not like an opponent? We have never seen that before. I am anxious to see how the two react to the upcoming months of banter.
Cheick Kongo vs. Mark Hunt: This one is like an old school PRIDE fight, and those are the ones I love to see. Both are sporting two fight win streaks, and at 36 and 37, are nearing the ends of their careers. Surprisingly, only Frank Mir has more career fights amongst active UFC heavyweights than Kongo. He never came close to a title shot, and probably never will. But he can still put on exciting fights, and Mark Hunt would most certainly help provide that.
Scott Jorgensen vs. Eddie Wineland: Jorgensen is arguably a top five bantamweight, and he deserves to face top competition at 135 pounds. If he does not make the move to the upcoming flyweight division, he will have to really impress in order to get another opportunity at fighting for the bantamweight belt. Wineland, while on a two fight losing streak, still provides the top notch competition Jorgensen desires.
Roy Nelson vs. Travis Browne: I do not expect Nelson’s request to fight the winner of Cain Velasquez/Junior Dos Santos to be granted. He states he is getting too old to wait around, but he isn’t leaving himself with many choices. He showed better conditioning, as evident with his slimmed down physique. Browne is coming off a less than impressive win over Rob Broughton at UFC 135.
Hatsu Hioki vs. Ross Pearson: As mentioned, Hioki did not look incredible against Roop. It is very rare for a Japanese fighter to look overly impressive in his UFC debut, so this was not out of the ordinary. Pearson announced a successful test cut to 145 pounds, so he seems ready to make his featherweight debut. While he is coming off of a loss, Pearson will definitely prove to be a force in the new division. This matchup would test Hioki’s striking, while he would challenge Pearson’s ground game in return.
Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz: This one seems to be on the brink of being announced. While the main event is Alistair Overeem taking on Brock Lesnar, this matchup could be the best one that takes place at UFC 141.
Pictured: Diaz and Penn (via @LorenzoFertitta)