UFC 90 delivered some close fights and some brutal finishes, and also poses some interesting questions for the future. Who’s unstoppably pushing on toward a title shot like a Sean Sherk takedown, and whose title aspirations have slumped down like they just received a Dos Santos uppercut? Here comes the fall out of what went down at UFC 90 and the implications for the combatants.
Sean Sherk showed his excellent boxing as he landed good left hooks and jabs en route to decisioning Tyson Griffin. Contrary to what some are saying, Sherk has always had excellent boxing. He displayed it against Nick Diaz and even BJ Penn, and frequently claims to have trained Muay Thai for 15 years. Tyson Griffin has a little way to go to catch up with Sherk on that front, but acquitted himself well against a super-experienced opponent. On a side note I was most disappointed with Joe Rogan’s commentary on this one. Sherk clearly landed the most damaging blows and yet Rogan only drew attention to Griffin’s work. There are times when in order to have an unbiased viewing I am forced to hit the mute button.
Tyson Griffin – Improves every outing and, if he continues to do so, will challenge for a belt sooner or later. He is still fairly new to the game and simply lacked the ring craft to upset Sherk. Spencer Fisher, Hermes Franca and the loser of Florian/Stevenson would make excellent next tests.
Sean Sherk – Sherk earned my respect back following his steroid scandal with the way he took the loss to BJ Penn. To re-affirm the phrase which Goldie mangled, reports of Sean Sherk’s demise were greatly exaggerated. He has still only lost to 3 of the pound for pound greats in history. Excellent boxing, an awesome chin, formidable wrestling and unparalleled cardio make him a favorite against anyone not BJ Penn. His next fight should be against a contender such as the winner of Florian/Stevenson, or Gray Maynard or Spencer Fisher, should they want the fight quite yet.
Fabricio Werdum fell pray to the curse of the contender, and it came in the guise of a brutally powerful striker in Junior Dos Santos. Here I’ll take a second to gloat about calling this one. Watching Dana White’s blog (it was a slow day for me) I saw a clip of Dos Santos hitting the mitts and could tell I was watching a fast and brutally powerful guy. Dana too commented that it was impressive. Werdum looked overweight and had little to gain from this fight. He looked a little sluggish compared to his usual self in the ring and slipped up against all odds, eating a bomb of a right uppercut right on the chin and slumping to the canvas.
Fabricio Werdum – I still believe this guy is an awesome athlete, having gone so quickly from a beginner to world beater in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world. Big, strong, technical, good gas and normally a great chin. Unfortunately for him he slipped up with his conditioning, played into his opponent’s strength and now has to build his contendership credentials back up. A next fight with Antoni Hardonk, Cheick Kongo or Cain Velasquez may get him back on track, if the UFC can convince anyone he’s a good fight for them. You can be sure he’ll be itching for a rematch to avenge this loss though. It’s the least the UFC could do for him after robbing him of his promised number one contender status when Couture returned and gifting it to Brock Lesnar.
Junior Dos Santos – Werdum has eaten shots from Andrei Arlovski, Sergei Kharitonov, Gabriel Gonzaga and many other big hitters and never gone down for the count. Therefore this guy must be very lucky… or have bricks in his hands. His record suggests it is the latter. One KO performance doesn’t guarantee a new star, but what a way to start your UFC career! Eyes peeled for this guy’s next fight, which should be against Christian Wellisch, Eddie Sanchez, Antoni Hardonk or Shane Carwin. They should be a sufficient test for the Team Nogueira product to prove he’s no fluke.
Gray Maynard successfully held Rich Clementi down and trudged toward a ground and pound victory. Maynard reverted to his wrestling roots at half way through the first round as Clementi mixed up his stand-up and confused his less experienced foe. Not the most exciting fight, but an impressive win for the up-and-comer against a gatekeeper many others have fallen short with.
Clementi – A stern test for anyone at 155 with an excellent all-around game. Perhaps not outstanding enough at any one thing to contend for a title, but always a solid competitor. In a division as good as lightweight, maybe being gatekeeper is no mean feat. Next for Clementi should be Frankie Edgar or Tyson Griffin, or for that matter anyone who wants to join the contenders list. A plea to the UFC, no more “No Love” puns we beg you.
Maynard – After beating Edgar and now Clementi, Gray sits firmly in the contenders waiting room. Not many can out-wrestle those guys so convincingly. A rematch of his Ultimate Fighter bout with Nate Diaz would be a compelling watch, as would a battle with Hermes Franca or Spencer Fisher. Maybe he’s not quite yet ready for the Sherks and Florians of the division, although his powerful wrestling is an equalizer with most anyone.
Wow, did Koscheck and Alves go to war! Alves is one of those guys who has the strikers’ Midas touch. At times it seems he only has to touch you, as he did Koscheck in the first round, and the impact will knock you down. Koscheck showed he’s no fool on the feet either in what may have been a clash between the two best strikers in the division.
Koscheck – Another 4 weeks of training camp may have sharpened his striking enough to get him the win here, and so he takes immense credit for taking on the tank Alves on two weeks notice. After being knocked down in the first he showed composure to come back and win the second round, charging Alves with punches to good effect. His boxing was effective but he struggled to deal with Alves’s kicks. He could still improve his striking-to-wrestling transitions but for me looked great in this fight. Next up he deserves near any fight he wants in my eyes, but I’d like to see him fight Yoshiyuki Yoshida next, as was previously scheduled. Kos is right in there with the guys just below Georges St.Pierre waiting for his chance at a shot, despite this fairly comprehensive loss.
Alves – How in the world is this guy 170 lbs? Alves is a solid block of muscle. His punches are straight, accurate and powerful. His kicks are technically superb. Watch him launch them without telegraphing, turn his hips over and thud them in at thigh, body and head alike. He brings the commentators’ tedious baseball bat analogies to life. It’s a frightening thing for the division if Koscheck can’t take him down and keep him there. Worse still, his composure and confidence are now on a roll as he carries a 7 fight winning streak, including 5 stoppages. We were looking for a test for GSP and it appears we have found it, given Alves is difficult to take down for anyone and a superior striker to St.Pierre. The number one Thiago in the UFC is surely guaranteed the next crack at the welterweight championship belt. Can’t wait to see that one.
Mixed reviews are echoing around for Anderson Silva’s title defense performance. Many fans say they saw a master at work toying with his opponent. In my opinion, for all his showmanship, Silva did only a few impressive things during the two and a bit rounds before Cote’s challenge was brutally cut short by a blown ACL injury. As always Silva was hard to hit, but Cote did hit him and landed some nice leg kicks. Silva landed a few nice punches and a couple of solid knees and kicks, but Cote ate them all and was still pressing forward. Silva had the fight under control, no doubt, but did he even nearly finish Cote? Most fans would probably rather he had imposed himself, and disposed of Cote sharply, than whatever it was he was trying to do in the name of entertainment. As for the possible rematch, Silva showed enough to suggest there’s little chance for Cote, but that was the supposition from the outset and the fight was still made. In the absence of a better challenger, why not Cote again, since at least he can go a few rounds with the middleweight king.
Cote – Showed his excellent chin, disciplined striking and ever-present heart. He showed he was as deserving of a title shot as anyone at 185 who has not yet faced the reaper currently holding the belt. With his heavy hands, granite noggin, improving ground game and takedown defense (as exhibited in his last fight with Ricardo Almeida) he’s a tough nut to crack for anyone at middleweight. You also get the feeling the best may be yet to come with the Canadian slugger. Next should be one of the top contenders like Nate Marquardt or Thales Leites.
Silva – Timing seemed a little off as he inevitably struggled to live up to the billing of “perfect fighter”. He may well have found his range and KO’d Cote in the remaining 12 or so minutes. Maybe he was a tad complacent or struggled for motivation for this fight, who knows. Cries of “Fedor is pound for pound king” will ring out purely because Silva didn’t destroy Cote in the first round. In truth neither has shown flaws of late to suggest one or the other is remotely beatable. Both attempt to solidify their legacies, as Fedor faces Arlovski next, and, without a legitimate contender at middleweight, Silva heads to light heavyweight, perhaps for a superfight with Chuck Liddell. He has stated his intention is to fight only 5 more times before retiring, and with the talent abounding at the 205 limit the possibilities are endless and exciting. Liddell, Keith Jardine and the winner of Griffin/Evans would all make for blockbuster fights for the Spider to start his final run. Although he has stated he wants to leave the 205 pound title alone, for fear of encroaching on his friend Lyoto Machida’s territory, UFC brass would love to see him try his luck.
Best of the Rest
Thales Leites and Spencer Fisher shone with slick submission victories and now both seem ready to fight top guys for a shot at the title.