Philadelphia is supposed to be the City of Brotherly Love. This past Saturday night, it was more Broad Street Bullying than Brotherly Love going on at the Wells Fargo Center. Four of the five main card fights ended by (T)KO within the first ten minutes. And while there was no Brittney Palmer, her one-time replacement Chrissy Hubbard did an exceptional job filling in. The only thing more exciting than UFC 133was the Taylor Swift concert going on across the street.
*Alexander Gustafsson is definitely a future contender at light heavyweight while Matt Hamill needs to take a year off and just learn how to strike so he doesn’t shut down when his takedown is stuffed.
*Tough break for Chad Mendes – literally, that is, by breaking his hand in victory. Not the showcase performance he needed either.
*A good showing by both Ivan Menjivar and Nick Pace and the judges got it right.
*Johny Hendricks striking has come a long way but his wrestling hasn’t translated to MMA like many thought it would. Mike Pierce needs to spend less time trying to be funny and criticizing others, and more time beating people who matter.
*Mike Brown did enough to save his job but I think it’s obvious that he’s done as a top featherweight unless he can improve his cardio. Time to do Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia 2.
*Paul Bradley gave it his all but without a full training camp, Rafael Natal was able to take over the fight.
Rory MacDonald defeated Mike Pyle by TKO (Strikes) at 3:54 in Round One
No Pressure, Kid: Anyone remember Kirill Sidelnikov? He was dubbed, “Baby Fedor” because he was born in Russia and trained with Fedor Emelianenko. He’s currently 7-4. Now Rory MacDonald aka “Baby GSP” won’t end up irrelevant in a couple of years but the pressure is on him to be every bit as good as Georges St. Pierre. It’s not fair to him, but that’s what happens when you’re Canadian, you train with the champion, and your fighting style is similar.
MacDonald’s Future: Thanks to twitter, there’s some hype behind a potential MacDonald vs. Jon Fitch fight. That’s a major step up for MacDonald, and while he’s already seasoned beyond his age thanks to fights against Carlos Condit, Nate Diaz, and now Mike Pyle, I’m not sure he’s ready for Fitch. Not everyone can be Jon Jones where they’re ready for a title fight at 23. Let MacDonald grow, don’t stunt that growth by throwing him in there against the second best welterweight just because he finished Pyle. I’d like to see MacDonald take on Martin Kampmann, a tough fighter who’s well rounded and will also be out for revenge since Pyle is his jiu-jitsu instructor.
Pyle a Fine Gatekeeper: Every division needs a good gatekeeper to determine who is a contender or future contender and who just isn’t ready for the big time. Pyle is that guy at welterweight. He’s beat the fighters who aren’t ready to take that next step up in competition and he’ll lose to fighters who are ready to step into the cage against the upper echelon guys.
Predicted Next Fights: Pyle vs. Sadollah/Ludwig loser – MacDonald vs. Martin Kampmann
Constantinos Philippou defeated Jorge Rivera by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Philippou Gets It Done: Joe Rogan tried to give Constantinos Philippou credit for an entertaining fight but the New York native knew better. It wasn’t a bad performance, but he was given this fight because the UFC brass thought he would slug it out with Jorge Rivera. Instead he fought a safer fight, put Rivera against the cage, and scored takedowns in order to secure the victory. I can’t blame Philippou because he needed a victory to likely save his job and I liked that he realized it wasn’t his best performance. I’m sure he’ll be more willing to open up in his next bout, and if nothing else, he’ll learn how to finish the omoplata.
The End of a Rivera: It might be the end of the line for “El Conquistador.” He’s 39 years old and his body is just done for. If he’s content on fighting mid-level guys, winning a bit, and losing a bit, then more power to him and I hope he does what makes him happy. But I think he’s better off as a trainer or a motivational speaker or a future contestant on American Idol, but definitely not a future cast member on Saturday Night Live.
Rivera vs. Sakara: If Rivera isn’t going to retire, he must fight Alessio Sakara. That fight has been book a number of times and it’s fallen through each time. That’s why UFC can’t book the fight. They need to book Rivera and Sakara on the same card but against different opponents. Then, after Sakara is already in the cage, Rivera comes out and unless he trips during his walk out, we’ll finally get the fight we’ve all been waiting for.
Predicted Next Fights: Rivera vs. Retirement – Philippou vs. Rafael Natal
Brian Ebersole defeated Dennis Hallman by TKO (Elbows) at 4:28 in Round One
64 Fights Later: It took Brian Ebersole over 60 fights to get into the UFC and now that he’s made it he’s making the most of his opportunity. I don’t know how good Ebersole can be because he hasn’t fought the best of competition throughout his years in the sport and when you’ve fought as much as he has, your body is going to deteriorate faster, but I do know that when he steps in the cage, he’s going to fight you. He’ll fight anyone on any notice and he won’t mentally shut down. He had an excellent grappler on his back in this fight, yet he remained calm, escaped, and then pounded him unconscious for daring to take his back.
Hallman’s Fashion Statement: Dennis Hallman may have cost himself his job by wearing a banana hammock into the cage. I hope he didn’t, because he’s a good hand to have around, but really, what was he thinking? Personally, I thought it was funny because I like originality and people who aren’t afraid to embarrass themselves, but I’ve never been in front of millions eyeballs trying to make sure my twig and berries are secure while another man punches me in the face. How was he not sponsored by Condom Depot though? I thought that was a magnum mistake by all parties. If nothing else, at least Hallman will now be remembered for something other than beating Matt Hughes twice.
Predicted Next Fights: Hallman vs. Rich Attonito – Ebersole vs. Matt Serra
Vitor Belfort defeated Yoshihiro Akiyama by KO (Punches) at 1:54 in Round One
VITOR IS BACK! Vitor Belfort has made more comebacks than Brett Favre at this point. When Belfort lets his hands go, he’s amazing. His power, technique, and speed is second to only Anderson Silva. This fight proved what we’ve always already known about Belfort though. He can finish guys in the blink of an eye but can he survive when pressed? Does he still shut down when he can’t finish the guy? We don’t know. This is the same ol’ Vitor. He either finishes guys in the first couple of minutes or he fades. At UFC 133, he happened to finish his opponent in the first couple of minutes. And here’s how you know Vitor hasn’t changed: He said after the fight, “That’s what would have happened to Anderson if he didn’t kick me in the face.” Yes, and if wishes were kisses, I’d by lying next to Kate Upton right now. CREATE YOUR OWN ATMOSPHERE!
Back of the Head: The punches that ended the fight were clearly to the back of the head. Would it have mattered? Probably not as Yoshihiro Akiyama was clearly out of it and on his way to being finish, but that shouldn’t excuse Belfort or the referee. I know that in the heat of the moment, with your opponent moving around on the ground, sometime punches accidently hit the back of the head, but Belfort has to be more careful and the referee has to protect the fighters.
Akiyama to Welterweight: It’s clear that Akiyama can’t compete with the top guys at 185, so he needs to drop to 170. I know it’s cliché to say, “Oh, he can’t compete in this weight class so he should change weight classes” but in Akiyama’s case, he’s a guy who is undersized at 185, has the tools to be competitive, and needs a career resurgence. Plenty of other Japanese fighters have learned that, when you come to America, you need to master the art of weight cutting or else you won’t be able to compete with the guys that you can compete with in Japan. Akiyama needs to be next on that list.
Or Akiyama to Fight Different: If Akiyama isn’t going to drop to 170, which is very possible because he has the Japanese mentality of wanting to fight bigger guys and just being exciting, even if he loses, which he’s done in the UFC, then he needs to fight differently. He needs to use his grappling if he wants to be competitive because standing in front of quicker strikers isn’t working too well for him.
Predicted Next Fights: Akiyama vs. Matt Brown – Belfort vs. Leben/Munoz winner
Rashad Evans defeated Tito Ortiz by TKO (Strikes) at 4:48 in Round Two
Evans Starts Slow, Ends Fast: It seemed apparent to me early that the layoff affected Rashad Evans. He seemed to have trouble getting the timing and distance down, which led to Tito Ortiz sneaking in a couple of punches. Once Ortiz got the takedown and Evans immediately popped up, he started to realize he was in a fight. Then, when he was swinging away on Ortiz against the fence and Ortiz not only didn’t go down, but he was firing back, I know Evans realized he was in a fight and that’s when he started to take over. He finished the round strong with a big takedown and some ground and pound, carried that momentum into the second round, and finish Ortiz off late with a knee to the body and a barrage of strikes to force the stoppage.
Rashad Version 1.5: Due to the layoff and injury, this was not the best Evans we could have seen. He was still dominant but there were holes in his game, holes that Jon Jones or Quinton Jackson would have exploited, and holes that he’ll likely plug before he meets either of those men. Now that he’s shaken off the cage rust and gotten a full training camp in with his new camp, we should see the heavily hyped “Rashad Version 2.0” in his next bout.
Evans Needed This: Rashad couldn’t afford to walk out of the Octagon on Saturday with a lackluster performance that had the crowd booing the majority of the fight and Tito looking none the worse for wear. He needed to make a statement in this fight to solidify his title shot and he did. He finished a very tough Ortiz and did so in impressive fashion. At the end of the night, you knew Evans was the better fighter.
Ortiz Fought His Ass Off: I’ve never been a Tito fan thanks in large part to my undying love for Chuck Liddell, but he gave it his best in this fight. Unfortunately his best wasn’t good enough. He had his moments throughout the fight, landing a good knee in the first round and squeezing with all he had on a guillotine in the second, but Evans was the better fighter. He took this fight on short notice though and lost to a former champion and a guy getting a title shot. Oritz has nothing to be ashamed of.
But What Does Tito Have Left? Now, despite fighting hard and on short notice, we still don’t know what he has left. We didn’t learn much in the Ryan Bader fight because of how quick it was and we didn’t learn much in this fight because of the circumstances. He made a lot of mistakes that Tito of old made, like rushing forward with his punches, not setting up his takedowns, and not having the cardio to go three rounds. Tito is almost always competitive, but being competitive is just another way of saying, “You lost in style.”
UFC Now Owes Ortiz: Despite the loss, because Tito took this fight on short notice and really saved this PPV from a money drawing stand point, there is no doubt in my mind that the UFC brass will give Ortiz a big next fight, even though he’s only won once in his last seven bouts. Expect to see him fight the loser of Forrest Griffin vs. Shogun Rua either to complete the trilogy with Griffin or in a do or die fight for Rua.
Predicted Next Fights: Ortiz vs. Griffin/Rua loser – Evans vs. Jones/Jackson winner