In a very savvy move by the UFC, we got to enjoy a Fight Card in the early afternoon (or right around weekend breakfast time if you’re a West Coaster like me) so the UFC didn’t have to worry about going up against March Madness (a wise idea). I was already primed to watch some sports on Saturday anyway, but now I got to watch some fights at a time when I almost never get to otherwise. It was nice. This card was not without some flash and controversy, so let’s get down to it.
Props: Chad Mendes
Great Googily Moogily this guy can hit. Ever since striking coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig came to his Team Alpha Male (and has since left), Mendes has gone 5-1, with his loss coming from Champ Jose Aldo and 4 of those 5 wins coming via TKO/KO. For a little guy, the dude comes to strike. What’s unfortunate for Mendes is that the only two losses in his career both come from the same guy—the Champ—and both were in the UFC. It’s gonna be a rather tough sell to get him another title shot anytime soon in a surprisingly deep and fun Featherweight division. At this point he should be Conor McGregor’s biggest cheerleader and pray that his teammate Urijah Faber can best Frankie Edgar next month in Manila. But whoever Mendes is up against next, be it the Champ or another contender, better bring his A-Game. Money Mendes does not mess around.
Slops: Dan Miragliotta
Chad Mendes sent a lot of punches to Ricardo Lamas’ head towards the end of that brief contest. It looked like a lot more than were necessary. Referee Dan Miragliotta should have intervened a little earlier; Mendes even gave him a “You sure I should still be doing this?” look towards the end of it. These fighters are game and they are ridiculously tough, but that’s why the ref is in there. Because sometimes these guys are too tough for their own good and someone needs to look out for their safety. I applaud Miragliotta for his desire to let Lamas try to get back into it, but some of that dude’s brain matter became mashed potatoes in that cage and it’s his job to stop that from happening as much as possible.
Props: Al Iaquinta
I feel like these props are a bit controversial, so let’s explain the situation fully so that you, dear reader, get the full story.
Al Iaquinta had a tough fight against longtime veteran lightweight Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal was doing more damage, especially in a dangerous round 1 that saw Masvidal turn it up late in the round and do a lot of damage including opening up a nasty cut right below Raging Al’s right eye.
The next two rounds saw the contest between power and volume, with Masvidal seeming to land some harder shots but Iaquinta landing more punches, kicks, everything. The judges—two of them anyway—decided that volume was more important and awarded Raging Al the decision. The crowd wasn’t pleased, and there was a lot of booing.
Under the mic, Al chose to respond like this (Warning-some New-York-accented-profanity). Perhaps not the wisest decision.
So why, might you ask, am I assigning him Props? Because this kind of thing makes me more interested in watching Al Iaquinta. He’s a hot-headed Long Islander who gives it his all. He wasn’t going to knock Masvidal out so he did everything he could to get that decision. And it worked! And after this tidal wave of emotion, he’s got to deal with the boos and just can’t do it. I can relate to that, and it’s fun for me to watch someone with his heart on his sleeve. Any fighter can go “Eh he shouldn’t have left it in the hands of the judges” or “We got there” or whatever. Show me the rage! Raging Al Iaquinta is unique right now in the UFC. And unique sells fights, especially if they’re coming up with Ws.
Slops: Jorge Masvidal
I thought Masvidal won the fight. Clearly he has what it takes to compete with the best guys in the deepest division in the UFC, and in the fight against Iaquinta he looked like he was doing some serious damage whenever he committed to it. So Mr. Masvidal, why did you take the entire 2nd round off? You were winning! Decisively! And you let the guy back in the fight and he took it from you! Masvidal might have gotten a little screwed, but from the way I watched it Masvidal is entirely to blame. His inactivity made the fight a very close decision instead of a landslide or a stoppage, and I’m just not sure why he didn’t turn it on for the last 2/3s of the fight.
Slops: Doug Crosby/The Virginia State Athletic Commission
Right after the Co-Main event, I was catching up on Twitter when I saw this post from MMA Journalist Ariel Helwani. In my opinion, this is inexcusable. Crosby should have recused himself and someone should have been made aware of this dislike. Fighters have it tough enough. Many of them don’t make substantial money, they get beaten up for a living, and the road to the top is basically an impossible climb. We don’t need to add “bitter judge grudges” to the list of things they have to overcome. Do better, Athletic Commissions.
Props: Michael Chiesa
Goodness gracious Chiesa seemed to have Mitch Clarke’s number on this one. Chiesa put on an absolute clinic on the ground, and although Clarke’s submission defense was solid enough to prevent a submission Chiesa had complete and utter control. Dominant performance. Even in the 3rd round when Clarke’s standup started to loosen up, Chiesa had solid counters that prevented Clarke from getting back in it in any substantial way. The man has dealt with some pretty serious injuries in his career, but I think it’s time to set him up against some of the better fighters in the division and see what happens.
Props: Clay Guida
It’s so crazy to think that Featherweight Clay Guida has wins over both the current Lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and former Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. His style is fairly uncomplicated: he’ll smother you and control you for however long the fight lasts. What makes him especially difficult is the relentless pace he pushes. He wants to go back to 155 after his win on Saturday, and that’s commendable because he’s usually very fun to watch. But be careful Clay! You’re a little older than you were in those Lightweight days, and this win does only mark 3-4 in the last 7. But you put Clay Guida on TV on a fight card, and I’ll watch it. Oh, he also does this in basically every fight.
Props: Julianna Pena
Good God. This fight was a mugging. In my opinion the most dominant of the evening. The Mendes fight was brutal, but anyone can get caught. This fight though…yikes. Pena has had a rough go of it with injuries in her career, and it was great to see someone with her potential come back from them and make a statement. I’m not saying she’s Ronda Rousey, but it’s great to see fresh faces in that division that could maybe one day try to get to the summit of 135.
Props: Dustin Poirier
Another dominant performance. Guy’s got tremendous power in his hands and I love seeing him wreak some havoc. Poirier was featured heavily in the excellent MMA documentary Fightville—which I encourage anyone reading to check out—and I’m glad to see him get some success. It’s also nice that he wins in relatively unscathed fashion, which allows him to almost certainly play a part in the card in Louisiana (his home state) later this summer.
Slops: Dustin Poirier
I know he won in dominant fashion, but it kills me that a guy of his caliber risked his health fighting at 145 for so long. Basically everything he said to press after the fight was that his weight cut was so arduous that the weeks leading up to the fight were always terrible and that he enjoyed himself this time. Then he described some of his dietary customs on fight week.
If your fight week diet is commensurate with that of the average refugee, you need to flip the script. I understand that for a long time in the UFC the weight cut was sort of the new arms race that allowed fighters who now knew all of the different MMA disciplines a competitive advantage, but at some point the risks to the fighter’s health are just too severe. And it shows. Guys like Frankie Edgar and Demetrious Johnson who were “too small” for their divisions had success because they were always relatively healthy and didn’t have to kill themselves to get in the cage. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson—a man who will soon be fighting for the 205 lb title!—used to fight in the UFC at Welterweight! 170 lbs! And Rumble isn’t even a small Light Heavyweight! Things like this are ridiculous, and I’m glad to see Poirier fighting at a weight class that is healthy for him. I’m just a little sad that it took him this long to get there.