Alright, so you can’t accuse me of being a guy who doesn’t listen to feedback. I know there were a few guys on the BoD who didn’t like my other MMA-related stuff namely because the shows are a few months (or in the case of the PRIDE stuff, years) old and they didn’t like so much play-by-play. So hey, I figured I’d change it up and do some shorter stuff, kinda like Scott’s ‘Quick and Dirty’ recaps (and hey, I ripped my whole style off Scott anyway so it’s all good!) looking at the UFC show from the night before. In this case, it’s UFN 31 AKA Fight For The Troops 3. I’ll still do the longer recaps because I know some people like reading them, so fuck it, if you don’t like it don’t read. Just read this instead, ha!
Couple of things you probably need to know before we get going. As a Brit these shows are on waaay late at night and so it’s crazy difficult to stay awake throughout them even if I abuse various substances. So sometimes – particularly in those seemingly common fights where the judging is a bit controversial – I may well seem a little confused and my memory might be foggy unless I’ve had a chance to rewatch. Don’t hate me, hate the body clock, dude. Secondly I freely admit I’m super-biased towards certain fighters (hi Diego!) and so often without the time to let stuff sink in I might make hyperbolic statements like when I swore that the ref should’ve stopped Diego vs. Ellenberger when Diego was beating the shit out of him in the third round. With that out of the way….
I thought last night’s show was solid enough for a FFTT card. I mean, sure the main event was weaksauce but in a way doing Kennedy vs. Natal was smarter than doing Kennedy vs. Machida because we got Kennedy winning in exciting fashion in front of tons of soldiers who love him, which made for a really memorable ending to the show. Machida/Kennedy probably would’ve been a tentative type thing with Lyoto winning which wouldn’t have pleased anyone really. Basically the only guys who got dicked over in the whole deal were Michael Bisping and Mark Munoz, and hey, I’m sure they’ll bounce back. But yeah, the card was low on star power but high on excitement for the most part.
Tim Kennedy vs. Rafael Natal
I had a worrying feeling about this one going in if I’m honest because I thought Sapo could stifle Kennedy enough to last five rounds, and make for a pretty shitty fight, but in the end I guess Kennedy’s blood lust was up due to the crowd he was fighting in front of and he ended up turning Sapo’s lights out with a lunging left hook reminiscent of Gray Maynard’s lone highlight reel KO on Joe Veres back in 2007. Really fun main event in the end, thankfully. Can’t forget Kennedy’s BADASS entrance theme either. ROOSTER!~! The big issue here to me though is this – there’s been a ton of talk online recently about the dropping PPV buyrates and TV ratings for the UFC and one ridiculous notion seems to be that they DON’T MAKE STARS and they don’t WANT to make stars and the only star they want is Dana White. Which is bullshit, sorry. Watch that documentary about the 20 years of UFC (fantastic stuff btw) and they outright say the reason they grew so much was stars like Tito and Chuck and Hughes, etc.
Now, last night Tim Kennedy came off like a star. He got a huge crowd pop for his entrance, knocked out his opponent in brutal fashion, made the fans go wild and then showed a ton of charisma in his post-fight interview. I know some find him annoying but the guy has character at least. And yet this star-making performance probably won’t be so star-making because most likely nobody was watching the show. It’s the tree falling in the woods issue. How can UFC make stars if nobody is watching these shows on FS1? But on the flip-side, people won’t watch unless they think a big star is fighting. I dunno, it’s a big catch-22 and I don’t have the answer. Great win for Kennedy, though. Give him Bisping next maybe? The heel Brit against the babyface US soldier sounds like a good gimmick to me. Sapo moves back down the card, where quite frankly, he belongs.
Alexis Davis vs. Liz Carmouche
First off, good but not great fight between the two women. I guess I’ve started to expect a spectacular fight every time from the girls and that’s probably unfair, but hey, they’ve delivered so far for the most part. The big story here for me was the overvaluing of Liz Carmouche by practically all parties (including the betting sites who had Davis as a big underdog and allowed me to win some money!). Now, I won’t pretend to be a beacon of knowledge when it comes to WMMA, but the fact is that prior to her July win over an undersized Jessica Andrade, Carmouche had never beaten a fighter with a winning record. She’s been pushed by the UFC because she put on a great fight with Ronda Rousey and she’s got a likeable and marketable personality, but it doesn’t mean she’s a top five talent or anything. Davis meanwhile has wins over the likes of Shayna Baszler and Amanda Nunes and has generally looked really good every time I’ve seen her fight. So yeah, no idea how she was the underdog.
The fight was basically won by the fact that Davis was able to control the pace, walk Carmouche down and land a lot of leg kicks that wore Liz down. Carmouche didn’t seem to have much of an answer for it although she did cut Davis quite badly in the second round, and that was the fight basically. A big win for Davis over one of the most recognizable fighters in the division, but whether this means a big push for her I don’t know as she doesn’t seem that charismatic even if she’s clearly a talented fighter. This probably puts her one win away from a title shot though and with a champion like Rousey, it probably doesn’t matter who you put against her, it’ll draw eyeballs. Wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Davis in a title fight in 2014. Carmouche meanwhile? Sarah Kaufman sounds like a good fight next as she lost her previous fight too.
Yoel Romero vs. Ronny Markes
I figured this would end with Romero winning by knockout just because Markes is largely a one-dimensional grappler and Romero on credentials alone is arguably the best wrestler in UFC history. I didn’t think it’d go as long as it did though and once again it showed that wrestling credentials don’t necessarily mean all that in MMA as Markes was able to get Romero to the ground at one point. The fact that Markes, with his largely rudimentary stand-up, was able to last three rounds suggests that Romero isn’t quite ready for the elite-level 185lbers yet, which is a bad sign in a way as he’s already 36. With that said I personally think it’s more about the damage you’ve taken in your career rather than your chronological age and I actually think Romero will be fine for a few more years at least. Knockout was really nice and Romero showed some absolutely brutal power. If more people were watching the show then he’s likely a recognisable star, but well, you know. Fight was perfectly acceptable if not great or anything like that. Knockout was awesome though and can be used on highlight reels for a long time to come.
I think the fight that was scrapped from UFC 164 – Romero vs. Derek Brunson – would be fine next, particularly if they can get it onto a card quickly, say the undercard of UFC 169 or something like that. Romero needs cage time badly and I think despite Brunson looking excellent on the prelims on this card, Romero probably handles him comfortably. With more cage time the guy could definitely make some waves at the upper end of the division. Markes looked more aggressive than usual in this fight and he’ll still prove to be a difficult foe for fighters who can’t stop his takedown, but he still needs a lot of work on his striking. Most likely another appearance on the undercard of a Brazil show is next for him. Maybe a match with Sapo would work?
Jorge Masvidal vs. Rustam Khabilov
I was expecting fireworks here and while we didn’t really get that, I thought this was an excellent fight that really could’ve gone either way. For me the difference seemed to be Khabilov’s aggression, particularly on the feet. While he didn’t land all that many big strikes or hurt Masvidal outside of that insane spinning kick in the third round, he did push the pace throughout and kept Masvidal backing up for the most part, which counts a lot with the judges. Masvidal clearly had Khabilov’s grappling well-scouted as he was able to avoid the much-vaunted suplexes and Khabilov never managed to keep him grounded when he did take him down, but I didn’t think he did enough on offense to warrant the victory. I don’t think the loss hurts Masvidal much as a lot of people suspected Khabilov was probably an elite-level talent going in and by not being blown out, Jorge didn’t lose much stock. Khabilov meanwhile probably needs to be careful against any opponent who can counter-strike better than Masvidal as he looked very wild on the feet and hittable at points.
Diego Sanchez sounds like a nice fight for Masvidal next as it’d be interesting to see how he’d deal with Diego’s wildness and aggression and I think both guys are around the same level in the division – somewhere in the top fifteen but just outside the top ten. Khabilov needs a tougher test next time and so I think the Maynard/Diaz winner works. With Diaz we’d see how he’d deal with an aggressive boxer, and we’d also find out if Diaz has improved his defense in terms of avoiding being thrown around by a stronger guy, and with Maynard I’d like to see whether Khabilov could take him down with those suplexes and if he couldn’t, what he’s like off his back. Both guys have a bright future in the division in my opinion and while I’m not sure if I’d have awarded them FOTN (I might’ve been tempted to go with Chiesa/Smith) this was excellent.
Colton Smith vs. Michael Chiesa
This was perhaps the most underwhelming battle of TUF winners we’ve ever had and I wasn’t at all surprised with the outcome. I think TUF 16, which Smith won, was the weakest season of TUF that the UFC has ever put on, and in Smith they probably have the weakest of all the winners, too. Basically anyone with good grappling defence is likely to beat him as his stand-up just isn’t UFC-level and while he did come close to finishing Chiesa with the choke in this fight and didn’t come off like a boring one-dimensional wrestler for once, it’s not like he’s going to be able to take anyone down at will as his wrestling background just isn’t as strong as say a Gray Maynard or a Frankie Edgar. The fact that this was actually an entertaining, back-and-forth fight may save Colton’s UFC career for the time being, but personally I don’t feel that he’s a UFC-level talent and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him wash out after another fight. As for Chiesa, he showed a ton of holes in his game too but I think those holes are going to be easier for him to close than the ones that Smith has, and the biggest difference is that Chiesa is always going to be a fun “action” fighter and so the UFC are much more likely to keep him around. I mean what does Smith have going for him outside of active military service? And Zuffa already have two better fighters in Kennedy and Carmouche with the same background. Fun opener, though! The throw Chiesa hit on Colton to set up the winning choke was particularly impressive.
I didn’t see Larkin/Camozzi so no comment there. Medeiros and Brunson – surprisingly enough – both picked up great highlight reel wins and looked fantastic. Yves Edwards I think is probably done and it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s his last UFC fight. Dude has a TON of mileage on him – remember he was busting up Aaron Riley’s jaw in 1999! Amanda Nunes looked phenomenal in taking out Germaine de Randamie with absolute ease. Nunes/Jessica Eye sounds good to me next or hell, do Brazilian vs. Brazilian on the main card of a Brazil show with Nunes/Jessica Andrade. Bermudez/Siler was a ton of fun as is any fight involving DENNIS THE MENACE!~! and it’s time to give him a tougher test next time out methinks. Rivera/Roop had me in stitches as it took so much punishment for Roop to go down and I hope he never gets cut as win or lose he’s usually exciting and when he DOES get KOd he goes down in comical fashion. Despite this Rivera still seems persona-non-grata to me, sorry. And finally Green vs. Krause was just odd. I personally felt that Krause was looking for a DQ win as that final kick looked to me like it hit the belt-line, and shit, who am I to argue with Big John McCarthy? The fact that Krause instantly leapt up to protest the call like he was Cristiano Ronaldo begging for a penalty after taking another blatant dive was also suspect. I think a rematch is due though due to the controversy.
A fun night of fights. If you missed it you didn’t miss that much, but it was worth a watch and no dull fights is always a bonus. UFC probably got what they wanted for the most part with Kennedy, Romero and Khabilov winning although they probably hoped Carmouche would beat Davis. In hindsight though they ought to be glad for Alexis winning as Carmouche has already had a title shot and it makes for a fresher contender to feed to Rousey at some point. If you missed this DO NOT MISS SATURDAY’S CARD. Vitor/Hendo is a quality main event but even if you haven’t heard of the Brazilians on the undercard there’s some FANTASTIC talent there. Thatch, Ponzinibbio, Jason, Sarafian and Mutante are all awesome and there’s the added awesomeness of FEIJAO on there too.
Hope you enjoyed this more than the play-by-play ish. Peace out.