A review of UFC on Fuel TV 3, which featured one of the best fights of the year, improvements by a lightweight contender, and a bunch of meaningless fights.
Chan Sung Jung def. Dustin Poirier: THIS. FIGHT. WAS. AWESOME. In the first two rounds, Jung showed off an aspect of his game that we haven’t seen much of before and an aspect where I thought he would be dominated in this fight: his grappling and wrestling. Submitting Leonard Garcia (even though it was with a twister) is one thing, but the transitions and submission attempts he was throwing at Poirier were totally different. Not only that, but he landed some good takedowns, both from the clinch and by catching the kicks of Poirier, which paid some dividends later as Poirier barely threw a kick after he was put on his back. Jung almost submitted Poirier with a triangle at the end of round two, but “The Diamond” was saved by the bell. Jung slowed down in the third round, allowing Poirier to take over and land a crisp straight left at will, but Jung did have his usual flurries that backed up Poirier throughout the round. It looked like both guys were dead tired after three and I thought we were going to get sloppy brawling for the next ten minutes, but I was happy to be wrong. Jung landed a perfect uppercut through the guard of Poirier that had him shooting for a desperation takedown. Jung stuffed the takedown and locked on a d’arce choke that put Poirier to sleep. It was by far the best performance of Jung’s career and one that likely earned him a title shot against champion Jose Aldo. While I’m in the majority of thinking that Aldo destroys Jung just because Jung still gets hit way too much, there’s no denying that Jung is the most credible contender, and more importantly, the biggest draw to the title. Once agin, Jung’s wrestling and grappling have really come a long way since his brawl against Garcia and those elements at least make the Aldo fight a bit more intriguing. As for Poirier, he’s only 23 and will continue to improve. He’s already racked up some big wins at 145 and one loss to Jung isn’t going to kill his career. Hopefully he looks at this as a learning experience and improves.
Amir Sadollah def. Jorge Lopez: Sadollah won a close decision that could have gone either way, which really says a lot about Sadollah. His wrestling game is terrible and it was on display again in this fight as Lopez was able to dominate him in the clinch and get takedowns. If Lopez had any type of gas tank, he probably would have won this fight. Instead Sadollah won, looked shocked that he won, and the hometown crowd even boo’d the decision. So there you go. Sadollah should go back to being on TUF.
Donald Cerrone def. Jeremy Stephens: If you thought that Stephens was more than just a heavy hitter with his hands, watch this fight. I’m not saying Stephens is just a wild brawler, but he’s not nearly the technical striker that many make him out to be and Cerrone exposed that. Cerrone was on cruise control for 15 minutes, picking apart Stephens with combinations and ending a lot of them with leg kicks. This was the kind of performance Cerrone needed to have against Nate Diaz, but he, like so many before him, got caught in in Diaz’s game and decided to engage in a brawl rather than use his footwork and kicks. When Cerrone is on his game, putting together his strikes, and using a lot of movement he’s one of the best fighters in the division. Because he’s awesome, Cerrone wants to fight in Colorado in a couple of months, and if Anthony Pettis is ready, that’s a fight that must happen. Stephens is who he is. He’ll beat inferior competition every time because he’s a good fighter and has KO power, but when he faces the top guys in the division, he’s lost each time out.
Yves Jabouin def. Jeff Hougland: This fight was all Jabouin. The fight started slow but Jabouin landed a beautiful spinning back kick to the liver that put Hougland down and had Kenny Florian been reefing this fight, it would have been stopped. Hougland did a nice job moving, covering, and surviving though. Unfortunately it didn’t do him any good as, after a lackluster second round, Jabouin put Hougland down again with a left hook and continued to beat him down on the ground. It was the first fight of Jabouin’s UFC career where he left no doubt about who won and easily his most impressive performance since his WEC days. I still don’t know about his ground game, but on the feet you know Jabouin is going to bring it with his 500 spinning attacks. Jabouin has now won 3 straight and is setting himself up for a big fight at 145. I thought Hougland fought a pretty dumb fight for the most part as he never went for a takedown and tried to play a striking game with a much better striker. Hopefully he learns from this and comes back better.
Igor Pokrajac def. Fabio Maldonado: This was a hell of a scrap. Pokrajac got an early takedown and it looked like he would make short work of Maldonado on the ground, but Maldonado survived, got to his feet, and then started unloading with some outstanding body shots. The next two rounds were extremely close and contested mainly in the clinch. Pokrajac would land some good knees, including an awesome looking jump knee, while Maldonado continued to land body shots. Both guys showed off very good chins because when they were at a distance, it seemed like every punch they threw landed flush. I had the fight 29-28 for Pokrajac and two judges agreed, while one judge gave the fight to him 30-27. Giving the second round to Pokrajac was a little much because Maldonado definitely landed the better shots in that round but the first round was Pokrajac’s (unless you don’t value 2-3 minutes of ground control even though it happened in the first 2-3 minutes, and if you don’t, start scoring fights under the Samer Scoring System) and the third round was close. Of course people scream robbery at any close decision, but I didn’t think it was a robbery and had Maldonado won, my opinion wouldn’t change. Pokrajac has now quietly won 4 of his last 5 and could take a step up in competition although chances are he’ll fight another midlevel guy. Maldonado is a good boxer with a hell of a chin, but his wrestling and grappling still need a ton of work. He’s another guy who is likely stuck at the midlevel just having entertaining fights.
Tom Lawlor def. Jason MacDonald: There wasn’t much to this fight. MacDonald went for an early takedown, Lawlor shrugged him off and then hit a nice straight left followed by a right hand on the temple that put MacDonald down and out. It was a big win for Lawlor and one that will look nice on the highlight reels, but honestly, MacDonald is way past it as a fighter both psychically and mentally. I give Lawlor credit because he took out a guy he should have beaten and he did it quickly, but he’s still going to struggle against top level middleweights with his poor cardio and average grappling. Lawlor is an extremely entertaining personality and usually has exciting fights though, so as long as he wins more than he loses, he’ll always have a job in the UFC. It was a sad ending for the career of MacDonald, who is a nice guy and did far better than most probably expected him to do in the UFC, but his body just couldn’t take it anymore. His grappling battle with Demian Maia is still one of the best ground fights in recent memory. He’d be a great grappling coach should he chose to go that route.