UFC 93 took place in Dublin, Ireland in front of a capacity crowd, positively foaming at the mouth to be part of the world’s premier fight show’s first foray into the Emerald Isle. The fights were every bit the mixed bag we’ve come to expect. Here we break down the performances and ask “What’s next?” for the climbers and fallers of the weekend’s action.
In the earliest televised fight, English newcomer John Hathaway mauled local rookie Tom Egan, using a frenetic pace, dynamic ground control and sheer aggression to overwhelm his green opponent in the first round. Given that Hathaway is known as a striker and is only 23, things look promising for the Englishman. Perhaps in his next fight he should take on a lower level fighter with some experience, such as Steve Bruno, Luke Cummo or, for a challenge, John Goulet. A fight with Dennis Siver in Germany would be a close one. Tom Egan needs to gain some ring time and a few ground skills, perhaps against Jason Tan, Matt Arroyo or Troy Mandaloniz.
Marcus Davis and Chris Lytle swung for the fences en route to a tight split decision win for Davies. Sooner or later Chris Lytle needs to learn how to fight a good fight AND win. It’s just an opinion, but he needs to postpone his fire fighting career and go full time to be anything other than an exciting gatekeeper. A good next fight for him would be against Martin Kampmann. Both guys have skills everywhere and this would be a great way to see if Kampmann is legit at 170 lbs. Marcus Davis has established himself as a popular fighter, but the clock is now ticking down on his career and he needs a contendership battle soon. One possibility for a contenders’ face off would be Josh Koscheck after his reported February bout. Dustin Hazelett or Carlos Condit, should he be allowed to show his stuff in the UFC, would make attractive feathers in the ex-boxer’s cap.
Once again a lapse in concentration cost Denis Kang a probable victory, just when it seemed he had Alan Belcher licked in every facet of the game. We see glimpses of the megastar skills we hear Kang shows in training every time he fights, but, it has to be said, his Achilles heel is his mental game. Kang can strike with the best, but has a weak chin. He can take anyone down and wrecks high level grapplers in training, but can’t avoid and defend a simple triangle or arm in guillotine? I’m going to suggest a prescription of Ritalin, as all Kang needs to do is learn to concentrate and he can be a beast. It would be a crying shame to see him waste his incredible talent, and he should probably ask Georges St.Pierre for the number of his sports psychologist. Maybe the UFC could match him up with fellow conundrum Yushin Okami, who is his exact opposite. Alan Belcher asked to be known as a contender now and UFC should give him his wish, he should fight Goran Reljic, Ricardo Almeida or Rousimar Palhares for the right to be called a top contender for the title.
Palhares vs Horn turned out to be as much a mismatch in reality as on paper. Palhares controlled and beat up Horn for nearly the entire 3 rounds. The game seems to have passed Jeremy Horn by, not technically, but athletically. His skills are still up to par, but, by his own admission, Horn is one of the least athletic people in a growing roster of amazing UFC athletes. As a gatekeeper you could ask for no more, as Horn will expose the weaknesses of newcomers. Middleweight newbs Jake Rosholt, Mike Massenzio, CB Dolloway and Amir Sadollah should all be given the Horn test soon. If Palhares can keep improving his cardio and striking, he can avoid falling into the Paulo Filho trap and be a title contender within a year. Goran Reljic, Ricardo Almeida or Alan Belcher would make ideal next fights for the miniature hulk.
In the co-main event of the evening, former Chute Boxe whirlwind Shogun Rua outlasted a 44 year old Mark Coleman in less than dominant fashion. Shogun was able to land punches on the tough Coleman at will throughout, but simply hadn’t the steam on his punches to put him away after gassing after the first round. Coleman took everything Shogun threw and even landed some good jabs and takedowns against the shattered stationary Brazilian. Eventually, with only seconds remaining, Shogun landed a solid combination ending in a brutal uppercut which put Coleman on the deck, where he was finished. Coleman showed enough improved striking, toughness and entertainment value to warrant a decent opponent such as Houston Alexander, Eric Schafer or Tomas Drwal. The truth is that Shogun didn’t look his old self here. His operations and injuries clearly took their toll on his once endless cardio endurance. No air means you can’t think clearly, no power in your punches and an inability to defend yourself. Shogun accepted a fight in only a few months with Chuck Liddell immediately after the match. If he can re-sharpen skills and conditioning back to their old best he can thaw the “Iceman” for good. The Shogun we saw Saturday wakes up staring at the lights an ex-UFC fighter after a clash with Liddell.
It was too little, too late for Rich Franklin in his battle with Dan Henderson. Franklin seemed tentative from the start and was taken down and held down too frequently by Henderson, who gassed and was somewhat of a sitting duck by the third round. Both men were too wily and well drilled to receive any serious damage on the feet. Franklin did the most damage standing, with his kicks to Hendo’s ribs, but Henderson got the nod from the judges using his takedowns and perhaps landing the few telling punches of the fight. Henderson goes on to coach the USA team in The Ultimate Fighter, after which he will fight Mike Bisping, probably for a title shot. As for Franklin, this loss should not pull him too far down the ranks. As we know, there’s no shame in losing to Dan Henderson, especially in such an atom thin split decision. He continues to head toward the top at light heavyweight. A match with Brandon Vera, Luiz Cane or Forrest Griffin would be a great test of whether Franklin has the chops to hang with the big boys at 205.
On the undercard, Denis Siver delivered a vicious spinning heel kick and finished Mate Mohr after being behind after three rounds. Mohr’s UFC place may be in jeopardy while Siver looks for a middle of the range opponent for his next fight. Tomas Drwal showed what he can do when he’s in shape by blasting out Ivan Serati with a ground and pound attack in the first round. Drwal has some serious physical power, he seems a real talent and deserves a top opponent like the winner of the Stephan Bonnar/Jon Jones fight next. Eric Schafer displayed truly impressive and effective ground skills en route to a TKO victory over Antonio Mendes. Schafer’s sweeps and passing were exceptional, and he has earned a shot against an up and comer such as Drwal, Stephan Bonnar or Jon Jones.
All in all a tremendous night of fights again, as a few new prospects were unveiled and some old prospects made a resurgence.