With UFC 185 in the rearview, and a little bit of time over the weekend to digest what happened, it’s time to give out some Props—to those that impressed—and some Slops—to those that didn’t.
Props: Rafael dos Anjos
Remember on Friday, when some dummy said “There’s no doubt that RDA has more than a puncher’s chance in this fight?” What an idiot! Turns out that RDA definitely had more than a chance as he dominated every aspect of every round of this fight. He denied Pettis the space to unleash those flashy, devastating kicks while himself inflicting damage in the clinch, he took Pettis down whenever he wanted to (and he wanted to frequently) and completely stifled the former champ’s gameplan while managing to launch an offense of his own. Oh, and he also kept a remarkable pace for 5 full rounds, even for a lightweight fighter. All in all, probably the best performance we’ve ever seen from RDA, definitely worthy of the belt.
Lastly, it’s important to take a moment and bask in RDA’s Cinderella story. The man’s been in the UFC forever (since 2008) and started off 0-2. After his first 8 fights he stood at a very pedestrian 4-4. And now, one monster winning-streak later—where he had great performances against tough guys at the right time—he stands the undisputed champion of the UFC’s deepest, most competitive division. Respect.
Slops: Anthony Pettis
Real rough night for your boy Tony P. The guy is a human highlight reel, with devastating finishes over Joe Lauzon, Donald Cerrone, Ben Henderson, and Gilbert Melendez. The guy is super fun to watch, and man if you let him off the leash he will go to town.
He did however lose his first fight in the UFC way back when to Clay Guida. What happened in that fight? Guida denied Pettis the space to unleash those flashy, devastating kicks while himself inflicting damage in the clinch, he took Pettis down whenever he wanted to (and he wanted to frequently) and completely stifled the former champ’s gameplan while managing to launch an offense of his own. Sound familiar? Looks like RDA’s camp paid a little more attention to the tape and looks like Pettis may not have done quite as much homework to shore up his weaknesses. It didn’t help Pettis that an early RDA left had Pettis’ right eye hurt and partially blinded for most of the fight as well, which has just got to suck.
Here’s hoping in his next fight that Pettis comes out real hungry and also real prepared to face a high-caliber wrestler looking to grind it out.
Slops: Internet Tough Guys
I saw a lot of posts (comments, naturally) on MMA websites and on Twitter about Anthony Pettis showing “no heart” in there. That is absolute nonsense and I cannot stand it. Anthony Pettis was locked in a cage for 25 minutes with a guy who had a perfect gameplan, crazy cardio and Pettis couldn’t see out of half of his face for the entire duration of the fight (the blinding punch landed within the first 30 seconds). He fought much of the fight in uncomfortable situations and never gave up, never stopped trying to get back up and take the fight to RDA even though he was getting outclassed in every round. “No heart?” Be better than that, Internet.
Props: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Our other new champion for the night made a statement. The only finish on the entire main card involved JJ stuffing Carla Esparza’s takedowns and obliterating her on the feet. After JJ got up from Esparza’s first takedown, it was JJ’s world and unfortunately Esparza was still living in it. The second round was actually tough to watch and I’m glad it got stopped. The only unfortunate part of Joanna Jedrzejczyk (pronounced Juh-Dre-Chick)’s victory is that spelling her name is hard. Luckily, we here at the Sports Download have had to deal with the spelling of Polish last names for years with colleague Greg Brozoweoislkadki (pronounced “Greg”).
Props: Johny Hendricks
In his last fight, Hendricks showed up fat on fight week, had a disastrous weight cut, and was either too gassed out or too lackadaisical in the 5th Round when Robbie Lawler decided to put the hard hat on and go to work. This fight, Hendricks showed that oh yeah, maybe he really wants this UFC Title thing. Hendricks brought the noise against very tough opponent Matt Brown. Rather than rely on his hands like he has in a few previous fights, Hendricks used his solid boxing to get Brown off balance and then launched in for many takedowns, often completing them, and then maintaining position while inflicting damage. Could he have used a finish there? Absolutely. But it’s nice to see Hendricks doing everything in his power to get a win instead of trying to coast on the scorecards like he may have done in the past during high-stakes bouts. His last two fights with Lawler have been very fun. Assuming Robbie gets past Rory MacDonald in a few months, I’d love to see Lawler/Hendricks III.
Slops: Kerry Hatley
Being a Mixed Martial Arts referee is a tough gig. I’ll grant you that. Your job is to keep the fighters safe, which often conflicts with the viewers having an entertaining experience. Sometimes you might stop a fight too early and people get grumpy, etc. It is by no means an easy job.
But for once in my [expletive] life, I would love to see a referee actually punish a breach of the rules. In this case, it was Matt Brown reflexively grabbing the cage in response to a Hendricks takedown attempt. This is illegal. And most of the time, it amounts to a ‘warning.’ Other ‘warning’ infractions include eye pokes, hits to the groin, grabbing a fighter’s shorts (most commonly during grappling). And you know what? These kinds of things happen all the time during fights. I think they would happen substantially less if they were punished. You don’t fix bad behavior through “stern warnings.”
If eye pokes resulted in 1) Warning 2) A point deduction (huge punishment in the 10-point-must system, where most rounds end up scored in a 10-9 fashion) then I guarantee you would see a lot fewer eye pokes. Same goes for all minor infractions. Fighters would not want to risk the result of their fight on that stuff. And when Brown grabbed the cage (lightly) a few more times in the fight, warnings just aren’t sufficient. Sometimes a line needs to be drawn, and Saturday night would have been a great time to do it. Oh well.
Props: Alistair Overeem
Alistair Overeem was a huge signing to the UFC back in late 2011. With his win over Roy Nelson, he is now above .500 for the first time in a long time. He fought a great fight, a smart fight that had him utilizing his fantastic kickboxing. His cardio was fine, his strategy was solid, his defense—something he usually lacks in MMA which has resulted in the nasty KOs—was much better than usual. His leg kicks in particular greatly contributed to his victory; Nelson’s tough chin is legendary and if you probably aren’t going to knock him out, limiting his mobility is a fine alternative. Unfortunately for me and my bad Twitter jokes, Overeem called out the Champ and Interrim Champ during his victory talk with Joe Rogan (instead of last time when he called out Brock Lesnar, a fighter who is currently retired from the UFC and a guy Overeem had already beaten in spectacular fashion) but all in all a great performance from a guy with a lot of potential.
Slops: Roy Nelson
In the beginnings of MMA, it was all about specialty. Can the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guy beat the Muy Thai Kickboxer? Can the Wrestler land the takedown before the Karate guy does something spectacular? The sport was founded off the age old, formerly theoretical debates of “could guy x with specialty y beat guy z with specialty k?” Nowadays, it’s all about versatility. Everyone at the top of the divisions has become proficient in everything. This makes it very tough for a guy like Roy Nelson, who has basically one weapon: his overhand right. At the lower/mid levels of the division, it’s a fun question: Is the other guy prepared for that Overhand Right? Will he see it coming; did he do his homework? But at the top of the division, with the elites, the answer is always yes. If you can move well, if you’re faster than Roy (likely), and if you are a versatile fighter than I like your chances. Roy’s a fun guy to watch because when he wins, you don’t listen to the judge’s scorecards and his physique is…unique for athletes in the UFC. But at this point it’s safe to say that he just does not belong at with the elites at Heavyweight.
Props: Roy Nelson
Wait, you might think to yourself, didn’t we just read Slops about Roy Nelson? Indeed you did, dear reader. But it’s also important to highlight one attribute about Roy Nelson that sets him apart from pretty much everyone else in the division: his toughness. Roy Nelson can absorb an inhuman amount of punishment. He has been TKO’d exactly one time in the UFC. Guys like Junior Dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum—both UFC Champions!—could beat Roy but not finish him. And man did they try. Daniel Cormier couldn’t finish him. Overeem couldn’t finish him. The man is the toughest, most durable fighter in the organization and it is truly remarkable. I just wish I didn’t have to watch that claim be put to the test quite as much.
Props: Prelim Fighters
On the Main Card for UFC 185, there were 4 decisions and 1 finish. On the Prelims, there were 7 fights and 7 finishes. Holy [expletive]! That is awesome! Huge step up with the prelim fights, that are sometimes very exciting and sometimes a reminder of why they don’t show these guys when the big audiences are tuning in. Here’s hoping that this one starts trending.
All things considered, UFC 185 was fun. The belt in the most competitive division continues to be a hot potato, and the newest division showed that unlike the Women’s Bantamweight Division, the first champion will not be its only champion. Good stuff.