Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tied a ribbon around its latest network television mixed martial arts (MMA) special last evening (Sat., April 20, 2013) from HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.
In the UFC on Fox 7 main event of the evening, UFC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson introduced long-time Strikeforce 155-pound kingpin Gilbert Melendez to the Octagon for the first time ever, an opportunity for which "El Nino" pined for years, claiming he was the best of the bunch.
Unfortunately for Melendez, after five rounds of close back-and-forth action, only one of three judges sitting ringside agreed with him.
Henderson did what Henderson does, unleashing leg kicks ad nauseum and flying in with short, sharp elbows."Bendo," naturally, also stayed out of trouble even though Melendez did seemingly everything in his power to get a grip of Henderson. His only real opportunities opened up to do that, however, were when he caught Henderson's kicks, which was often -- especially in the early moments of the fight -- but ultimately didn't amount to much other than pile up scorecard points.
Melendez walked down Henderson in rounds one and two, which were close, but he seemingly lost his way in the pair that followed. Indeed, he took his foot off the gas pedal, which allowed Henderson to heat up and look flashier than normal, even though when in flashier than normal mode, he still can't seem to do anything other than look good and keep busy without really doing anything.
Seriously, Henderson has emerged as a bigger, better and flashier version of Frankie Edgar who doesn't get hurt. Stay super busy, look razor sharp and coast to close victory. Just win baby! That's just fine, and it certainly takes an incredible amount of talent and skill to have that ability, but playing the judging game night-in, night-out can be a slippery slope.
Just ask "The Answer."
In the co-featured fight of the night, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir was tasked with handing Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier his first-ever professional MMA loss, a daunting proposition even though "DC" is remarkably undersized for the division.
Size, apparently, really doesn't matter.
Mir made it clear that he wanted to box the former Olympic wrestler, fighting off his back foot and circling as Cormier slithered in to lock up and dirty box. That plan didn't stick for too long, though, as Cormier -- despite having to eat a knee to the face -- eventually got what he wanted.
The fans, however, did not.
Mir did a fine job of staying upright, which is where most of the first five minutes was spent, jockeying for position alongside the fence with sporadic exchanges on the breaks sprinkled sparingly between.
It was pretty much more of the same in the second stanza much to the chagrin of the boo birds, who apparently were unimpressed with the tie up madness. But, it seemed as though it was all part of Cormier's plan, which came together late in final frame as Mir -- exhausted from 10 minutes of clinching -- finally began to fade.
Cormier, faster and fresher, began to land nice inside punches and knees as Mir merely bear hugged his way to the bell. It wasn't even remotely pretty, but Cormier ultimately got the job done, earning a unanimous decision in his first-ever Octagon appearance.
He demonstrated once again that he is a force in the division even if he is a true Light Heavyweight. Most fighters in Cormier's position would call for a title fight or another big-money bout, but the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained standout is unlike most.
That's because he shares a gym, as well as a friendship, with current UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez.
Therefore, whether fight fans -- or even UFC President Dana White -- like it or not, Cormier's Heavyweight future rests in the giant paws of Antonio Silva, who has the next crack at Velasquez. But, even if "Brown Pride" retains his title at UFC 160 next month, there ain't nothing wrong with Cormier fighting 205-pound deity Jon Jones instead.
Now that's a big-money bout.
Nate Diaz and Josh Thomson, oddly, were both looking to rebound from championship losses, coming out on the wrong end of decisions to, perhaps more oddly, the two men -- Henderson and Melendez -- who were featured atop the same fight card. There was nothing odd, however, about the way in which Thomson approached the Lightweight scrap, his first inside the eight-walled cage in nearly a decade, keeping his distance from the lanky "Stockton Slapper" by pulverizing his lead leg with blistering kicks.
And Diaz was none too happy with the educated gameplan.
Indeed, he dialed up the pressure, as well as the trash talk, in round two, closing the distance and looking to tie up "The Punk" and turn it into a phonebooth-style scrap. He was successful in getting the fight on his terms, but did little else in terms of damage.
In fact, it was the complete opposite.
Thomson did a fantastic job of avoiding damage from the inside and when he finally found some room he uncorked a savage shin that nearly scalped The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 5 winner, who wobbled backward and then absorbed several perfectly-placed hooks to the mug as he fell to the canvas.
The former Strikeforce champion continued his beatdown as Diaz, terribly hurt for the first time in his UFC career, turtled up with the hopes that Thomson would stop. He didn't, and as the referee moved in to rescue Diaz, his corner, which included his older brother Nick Diaz, threw in the white towel to signal unreal surrender.
Unreal because there aren't many fighters tougher and more resilient than Diaz -- who has never been finished with strikes in his 25-fight professional MMA career.
Except, perhaps, Thomson.
Matt Brown has made a career out of knock-down, drag-out brawls, throwing caution to the wind and swinging for the fences. He hoped to do the same against Jordan Mein, who was coming off an impressive finish of Dan Miller in his Octagon debut at UFC 158 just four weeks ago, in the opening main card match.
Mein, 23, took the bait hook, line and sinker ... from the opening bell.
Brown came out of his corner on fire, pressing "Young Gun" from the outset with a barrage of strikes, with Mein delivering a short inside elbow that seemed to slow "The Immortal" roll, but only for an instant. He continued with the insane pressure and Mein had no choice but to valiantly fight back albeit on his heels.
Mein actually landed a sick body shot that dropped Brown midway through the frame, but The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 7 alum was able to avoid the ground-and-pound attack of the Canadian upstart and eventually catch him in a tight triangle choke. Mein eventually wriggled free and the Welterweight pair went back to stand up battle until the final buzzer.
It didn't stop there.
Brown once again roared out like a crazed dog for the second stanza, torching Mein with brutal knees and punches from the Muay Thai clinch. This time, Mein was unable to escape the assault, eating a knee to the forehead along the fence and falling to his knees. Brown sealed the deal with another shot to the face and then several hellacious hellbows to the kidneys that compelled the referee to intervene.
And good thing because Brown looked unstoppable.
He now has five straight 170-pound victories, including back-to-back highlight-real FOX finishes (Mike Swick was the other). Brown certainly doesn't get any points for style, but he more than makes up for it with sheer aggression and awesome action.
That's enough from us. Now it's your turn to discuss UFC on FOX 7: "Henderson vs. Melendez" in the comments section below.
Does Melendez deserve and immediate rematch? Is Henderson's approach starting to irritate you? Where does Mir go from here? More important, where will Cormier land next? How about Thomson! Is Brown top contender caliber?
Let's hear it, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our complete UFC on FOX 7 blow-by-blow coverage of the entire "Henderson vs. Melendez" event right here. And for a detailed recap of the UFC on FOX 7 "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX click here.