Lots to talk about so let’s get to it: “The Ultimate 2008” delivered and delivered huge. The order of the bouts was all over the place but I can’t complain. The show was well paced and absolutely packed with fireworks and surprises. Kudos to the UFC for capping off the New Year strong.
Upset of the year? Try upset of the decade.
I can’t really think of a better phrase to sum up my thoughts on Frank Mir dominating Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira the way he did. Wow.
It’s not as if Rashad Evans, Quinton Jackson, Cheick Kongo and the rest of the winning crew weren’t equally impressive last night. But given the odds, the storyline, and the worldwide general consensus, Frank Mir’s performance absolutely stole the show, and for anyone who thinks otherwise- think again about what Frank Mir just accomplished.
Flashback: Frank Mir was lucky enough to pull out a knee bar/heel hook against an inexperienced Brock Lesnar, who was absolutely destroying his face until said submission transpired. Prior to that, Mir had only a few select “impress you” moments, and many more “maybe he isn’t so great” moments, peppered between victories over underwhelming heavyweights and devastating losses to Marcio Cruz and Brandon Vera. And before all of that, Mir was involved in a horrific motorcycle accident which should have ended his career (they wanted to amputate his leg.)
Now I, along with almost every other person in the MMA universe, am officially dining on crow. Not only did most of us suckas pick Mir to lose based on sheer aptitude, but Mir seemed to bet against himself in every interview leading up to the fight. When coming up with the prediction in my head, I ultimately concluded every time “Nope, Mir can’t win a striking exchange, a grappling match, Jenga, or any other type of contest over Nogueira. Nogueira has also never been finished and Mir has terrible cardio. He simply cannot win. Smart bet Eric, you deserve that last snickerdoodle.”
And then what happens? Frank Mir comes out with crisp boxing, solid in and out combinations, forces Minotauro to fight his fight, and moves in for the kill without getting caught in one of Nogueira’s famous back from the dead submissions. Wow, indeed. My hats off to anyone who bet the house on Mir.
Now that Mir has screwed up the anticipated Nogueira/Lesnar match, we the people are treated to Mir/Lesnar 2 for the heavyweight unification title. I’ll be honest, before last night’s upset I probably would have picked Brock over Mir in a second encounter between the two, but now it looks like Mir has the rejuvenated upper hand. Either way, the UFC can at least promote a decent fight as Mir already commenced the Lesnar antagonizing shortly after his big win last night. I can’t say I blame him. It has to be quite a rush to stop someone who has never been stopped in 38 fights by even the stiffest of competition.
As for one Minotauro Nogueira, the future seems pretty wide open. With the UFC’s HW division having a lot of up and comers but much less top 5 competition, it shouldn’t take Nogueira more than a couple of wins to get back into title contention. Bouts against one of the UFC’s heavyweight prospects are a possibility, but I think now might be the time to put Nogueira in there with Randy Couture, assuming Couture is up to it. Despite Couture’s age and Nogueira losing a little bit of luster, Couture/Nogueira could still make for a strong non-title main event for a future pay-per-view.
Rashad Evans has to be a happy man. The undersized perpetual underdog, Rashad gave up 4 inches in height to Forrest Griffin and was losing the bulk of the standing exchanges rather convincingly. But Evans wasn’t about to let himself get pummeled and risk a decision, and instead continued sticking combinations until a nice shot brought Forrest to the canvas where Evans put the original Ultimate Fighter away for good. I think, or at least hope, that some of the Rashad haters will see a different light now that Evans isn’t solely relying on his wrestling and laying n’ praying his way toward victory.
However, I would be remiss if I did not make mention of one glaring issue from last nights light-heavyweight contest: Rashad’s cardio looked damn near destroyed as he was trying to finish off Griffin. I guess that kind of pace and “explosiveness” really does take its toll. But there is no way Evans can defend that belt for very long if he isn’t prepared to rock and roll for 25 minutes. I can only assume that Greg Jackson is already on this matter.
Also, I am a little upset that I didn’t catch the infamous Jackson-camp nipple tweak, did anyone else?
Quinton Jackson is back…we think.
In a fashion similar to his dispatching of Chuck Liddell, Rampage managed to place a well timed hook directly on the ‘go to sleep’ button of Wanderlei Silva. This absolutely has to be just as much an internal victory for Jackson as well as a tangible one. So is Rampage back? Who knows. Jackson’s victory was so hard and swift that we weren’t able to find out how the rest of his arsenal is looking, though we can only assume that his camp (Wolfslair) is keeping him up to standard. We can also only assume that Jackson’s head is alas in the right place, and that he is just as mentally ready to maintain his climb back to the top. Though no one other than Jackson and a select few really have any idea.
Now what, you say? Rampage vs. Rashad Evans would make for an excellent fight stylistically, and word has it that Dana wants him to challenge Evans as soon as possible- although Jackson apparently still wants his revenge with Forrest Griffin. I thought it made more sense to have Jackson fight the winner of Lyoto Machida/Thiago Silva for the number one contender spot, but I guess that would keep Rashad on the shelf for too long. And keeping a champion out of competition for extended periods of time is definitely a trend the UFC should work to avoid.
The inevitable question is can Rashad successfully defend against Machida, Thiago or Jackson? Off the top of my head- Rashad loses all three of those fights, but I would nonetheless pay to see any one of them to find out.
Wanderlei Silva on the other hand has a much less predictable future ahead. Since returning to the UFC, Silva has lost a tough battle to Chuck Liddell, destroyed Keith Jardine, and been floored by old foe Rampage. Prior to that Silva was knocked unconscious in consecutive losses to Dan Henderson and Mirko Cro Cop. That’s a lot of MRI’s for anyone. But Silva has stated that he wishes to continue fighting for a good while, and I imagine the UFC will keep the Axe Muderer on the roster so long as that is the case. Wanderlei still has a very marketable name, and even if he isn’t the one doing the bashing, his style is just too exciting to let work for the competition. An immediate thought of Silva vs. Griffin just danced in my head; perhaps it will become a reality…
Cheick Kongo is a sprawling machine. While his ground game has much to be desired, it really doesn’t matter when you can out-muscle even the strongest attackers. Though a more natural, well sized grappler, Mustapha Al Turk just couldn’t get the mountain that is Kongo down where he needed to. Given that the pickings are generally slim, Kongo probably deserves a slot somewhere in the newly reformed heavyweight title picture, but it might be a while before Dana can pencil him in. Patience Kongo, patience…
C.B. Dollaway is better than I would like to admit. He comes off like a Varsity Blues stereotype and got armbar’d twice consecutively by the same guy. He also has a lame voice. But past all of that, Dollaway showed legitimate skill in his quick dispatching of Mike Massenzio. Dollaway avoided serious guillotine trouble and a minor triangle threat en route to a strong TKO victory. I still don’t like him, but the kid can at least hold his own.
Given, Dan Evensen has never done anything remotely impressive since coming to the UFC, but Pat Barry put a striking clinic on him the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Bas Rutten tuned up Ruben Villareal. Assuming Barry puts serious time in on his ground game (remember Pat this is MMA now, not K-1) he could become a contender sooner than later. But the ground game needs work…seriously Pat. We will enjoy watching you make people look foolish standing up, but you will only look twice as foolish if you turn into a heavyweight Houston Alexander.
Does anyone else find it strange that Matt Hamill didn’t use his wrestling more? I love to see fighters get TKO’d just as much as the next guy, but I feel like Hamill could have ended things earlier had he wanted to out grapple Reese Andy and sink in a submission. Ah well. Hamill still looked great while Andy’s UFC contract is likely in serious Jeopardy.
Antoni Hardonk knows some jiujitsu. That will definitely prove helpful in future MMA bouts. Newcomer Mike Wessel didn’t really show much of a reason to be kept around, but he is a heavyweight so he could be used as fodder for one of the better up and comers in the division.
While I thought it strange to relegate Yushin Okami vs. Dean Lister to the unaired portion, it looks like the UFC made the right call- as all of the liveblogs I read described the contest as little more than a snooze-fest. Furthermore, Yushin Okami has won yet another fight in the UFC against solid competition. So what the heck does he do now? He can’t get a shot at The Spyder any time soon and other contenders will probably have a tough time getting one over on him. Oh Yushin, you’re just too good for your own good. Maybe you should grab a beer with Lyoto Machida.
Unrelated notes: My buddy Willis, who doesn’t know anything about anything, picked Mir to win at the bar last night, despite all of my screaming and violent hand gestures. Boy was my face red.
Also, to the trashy drunk chick behind me who was shouting at her boyfriend for 20 minutes: We all get that you are hammered and hate when people “talk shit” on you, and we get that you think you are really hot, but please take your thousand-decibel drunken tirade outside or to the bathroom or something. Despite your rampant need for attention, there are some of us here who just want to watch the fights. I know, crazy right?