So, Anderson Silva, the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, has fallen. The buzzards circled immediately, squawking and crowing about this great defeat, relishing the moment like a rubbernecker at a traffic accident. The told-you-sos and Captain Hindsights were in full effect, rubbing everybody's nose in it, screaming to the world that their clairvoyance and supreme intelligence allowed them to see what nobody else had been able to see. The bears of very little brain spent hours in masturbatory schadenfreude, relishing each replay of the champion being separated from consciousness for the first time inside the combat arena.
We've witnessed a lot of wonderful moments from Anderson Silva over the years, as well as a lot of frankly bizarre moments. In our hearts I think we all share an appreciation for his unparalleled skill and ingenuity. Regardless of why he decided to clown around and drop his hands and allow himself to get knocked out, we've seen things from this man that nobody should have been able to do. And frankly none of the buzzards, Captains, and mommy's basement dwellers can undo that.
"Every mountain seems unclimbable until it is climbed. Every ship seems unsinkable until it sinks."
The worst part about greatness is carrying the weight of expectations of the world. People think Anderson Silva should have performed according to their own vision of how his legacy should be. They have a certain assumption that he'll carry himself to a standard of professionalism demanded of martial artists. It must feel powerless to people to watch as a man refuses to live up to those expectations, yet continues to succeed in spite of it.
That's why last night's knockout was so cathartic to so many people. Watching Silva get his "comeuppance," as it were, was something people had been waiting for so long. As Kenny Florian said when Silva knocked out Yushin Okami, Anderson Silva breaks the rules and makes other people pay for it. He shouldn't be able to get away with what he does. His hands down, chin up and out style of in-the-Matrix fighting both contributed to his greatness and his inevitable hubris.
And yet I can't help but think Silva didn't entirely expect this to happen one day. As his t-shirt so prophetically proclaims, "Anderson knows." Only he really understands why he did what he did. The rest of us can only surmise with a mix of melancholy and jealousy while the less talented, less deserving, less exciting American fighter rests a paper belt upon his shoulder.
Card's report card: With six finishes and a changing of the guard at the top of the middleweight division, you'd have to think this card was a solid B+. None of the fights really got me up in my seat, with the exception of Sub Swanson's ridiculous hip throw in the second round.
My predictions: 8 for 11. With the exception of Seth Baczynski getting clowned by a newcomer, Mark Munoz returning with a vengeance, and the shocking fall of the GOAT, this went as predicted.
Fight of the Night: Cub Swanson versus Dennis Siver
Knockout of the Night: Chris Weidman
Submission of the Night: None
Biggest Upset: Chris Weidman
Worst judge's decision: A split decision after Andrew Craig handled Chris Leben for three rounds.
Most boring fight: Tim Kennedy versus Roger Gracie
Beatdown of the night: Mark Munoz versus Tim Boetsch
[DISCLAIMER NOTE - All UFC images in this post were sourced from Facebook.com/UFC and are the intellectual property of Zuffa LLC]
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Despite having a fairly predictable and boring game, Mike Pierce has quietly racked up four consecutive wins, including two stoppages. That's impressive, considering Pierce has been known as the 170-pound decisionator and heir to Jon Fitch's title of smothering leg-humping.
Pierce was surprisingly flat-footed last night, unable to get David Mitchell to the ground, a man who had been handled easily by Paulo Thiago in his second UFC fight. The shame of Mitchell's loss is that he had moments where he looked good, stuffing Pierce's takedowns and landing some sharp elbows in the clinch. I gave the first round to Mitchell.
But then something went terribly wrong in the second round. A momentary lapse, or a lazy break, I'm not sure which, but Mitchell wound up on the canvas and the fight was over. At 1-3 in the UFC, you'd have to assume he's done.
Winner: Pierce is in a weird situation. With each passing UFC event and victory, he slides further and further down the fight card. Clearly, somebody in Zuffa doesn't like him. But much like the aforementioned Fitch, if he keeps winning they'll eventually have to give him a real fight. To me, Dong Hyun Kim makes the most sense. Both guys are wrestling based, both have rebounded from setbacks to go on a short winning streak, and both are nearly unwatchable.
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Welterweight : Brian Melancon (A+) versus Seth Baczynski (F)
Prediction: Baczynski via SUB2
Result: Melancon via KO1
Who could have predicted that Brian Melancon, a Strikeforce castaway who was beaten by the rather mediocre Issac Vallie-Flagg, would lay a smackdown on UFC veteran Seth Baczynski that would leave no doubt he's a force to be reckoned with? Melancon, a 31-year-old Texan, hurt Seth with the first brutal left hook to the body he threw, and you could see Baczynski wanted no part of the standup from then on.
Melancon terrorized Seth on the feet for most of the first round, was never under any threat from the veteran whatsoever, and actually dropped Baczynski twice. The last time he did, while Maniacs were busy tabulating their scorecards for posting on the live chat, Melancon laid a brutal ground and pound that put Seth's lights out for good.
Winner: I think it's fair to say this was a huge win for Melancon, given the fact Baczynski lost a close decision to Mike Pierce in his last outing in which he battered the wrestler in the final round. I'd be interested to see him fight a guy like Sean Pierson, a mid-tier threat with good standup and a well-rounded game.
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Edson Barboza has the kind of kick that would probably kill a million future children if it landed square to the testes. He has the kind of kick that tree trunks flinch to. He has the kind of kick that makes viewers suck their breath in sharply, turn to a friend and say, "that's got to hurt."
Barboza chopped down his second tree in the UFC last night, crippling fellow Brazilian Rafaello Oliveira with a barrage of leg attacks so brutal that the fighter was limping with a minute left in the first round. I'm not sure what's more amazing: that Oliveira continued to fight on one leg for another three minutes, or that he refused to switch his stance to protect his lead left leg. I mean, I know you don't fight southpaw, but could it really be worse than getting a 30th baseball bat to the leg?
Winner: Barboza has dominated pretty much every guy he's faced in the UFC except for wrestler Jamie Varner. That doesn't mean he's ready for a top 10 opponent. I think fellow Brazilian Francisco Trinaldo would be a great test of his evasiveness. I'd also be curious to see John Makdessi fight him, since both have great kicks.
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I keep asking but nobody seems to know the answer. How the hell does Dave Herman stay employed with the UFC? After beating a fighter who hadn't seen the inside of a cage since George W Bush was immersed in an Iraqi quagmire, the UFC's heavyweight division has run a train on Herman, all of those fights finishing before the end of the second round.
Although I expected Gonzaga to take this south, he didn't need to, dropping Herman's glass jaw on the first blow he landed, finishing the fight so quickly that Kim Winslow barely had time to stop being incompetent and become the cream between a 500-pound heavyweight sandwich.
Winner: Gonzaga's return to the Octagon has been a welcome addition to the 265-division. Despite a controversial and likely illegal KO against Travis Browne's 12-6 back of the head elbows, he's gone 3-1 in his return. That's why I'd like to make the case for a fight against Shawn Jordan. After a lacklustre performance against Cheick Kongo, Jordan has knocked out Mike Russow and Pat Barry. The wrestling and power of Jordan against Gonzaga's jiujitsu and unpredictable kicks and overhand rights makes this a pickem.
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If Chan Sung Jung is the Korean Zombie then surely Kazuki Tokudome is the Japanese Zombie. After taking a ridiculous amount of punishment on the feet, Tokudome continued to plow forward, even pressuring Parke in the third round and making it close.
Parke did better than expected in this fight, mixing takedowns with relatively crisp standup, but he still has a lot of questions. Most notably, how does he handle being pressured constantly? The answer might not be so good against a guy with more head movement than a tombstone.
Winner: I have nothing to back this up except it would just sound good. Norman Parke versus Mitch Clarke. Goldberg would stumble and stutter the play-by-play at least three times on that one.
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Middleweight : Andrew Craig (B+) versus Chris Leben (D)
Prediction: Craig via decision
Result: Craig via split decision
Sometimes Joe Rogan is right on the money. With Chris Leben's style sometimes it's just a matter of diminishing returns. You can only get hit in the head one too many times before you become slow and punch drunk. And Chris Leben is basically wasted out there. His 2002 style of walk forward and throw just doesn't work against today's counterstriking evasive fighters who can stick and move.
You'd think Leben would have learned something from fighting Michael Bisping, but he just hasn't. He's the same fighter he's always been, with a little less speed and lot more rust. I've always loved his sprawl and brawl with balls to the wall style but at a certain point you have to wake up and smell the brain damage. The only guys Leben is going to beat these days are people with the same reckless, ridiculous ancient MMA style (see: Silva, Wanderlei).
As for Andrew Craig, the kid has been called overrated but I don't see it. He showed tremendous heart and courage recovering from an absolute shitkicking against Rafael Natal in scoring a late second round knockout (which, by the way, is remarkably similar to the way Anderson Silva lost). And dropping Chris Leben, even a 32-year-old brain damaged one, is no small task.
By the way, it's hard to understand how Leben won a round, much less two. More terrible judging.
Winner: I'd say Francis Carmont would be a good setup. It's not like Carmont really deserved his win over Lorenz Larkin anyway, and the fight would be a good test to see if Craig has learned anything from his Ronny Markes fight.
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Featherweight : Cub Swanson (A) versus Dennis Siver (B-)
Prediction: Swanson via decision
Result: Swanson via TKO3
If there's a fighter in the UFC who is the most exciting to watch right now, it's got to be Cub Swanson. Not only is he dynamic and crafty, he finds ways to win in the late rounds. Swanson finished Ross Pearson, Charles Oliveira, and Dennis Siver, three guys who dropped from 155 to get an advantage over the "smaller" fighters at 145. Big mistake. In fact, after watching Frankie Edgar struggle with Oliveira for three rounds, you've got to wonder why Swanson wasn't fighting Frankie (no you don't, the UFC brass wanted Edgar to build up his brand again).
There's nobody at 145 right now who seems to present as much of a challenge to Jose Aldo than Cub Swanson does, although Korean Zombie and Ricardo Lamas (who subbed Swanson in his UFC debut) might say otherwise. This is a fighter who has put everything together and is firing on all cylinders right now. As for Siver, you can't blame him for trying. He just came up short to the better guy.
Winner: I think everybody was sold on Swanson versus Frankie Edgar last night. Make it a title eliminator, or winner fights Ricardo Lamas.
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Middleweight : Mark Munoz (A+) versus Tim Boestch (C+)
Prediction: Boetsch via decision
Result: Munoz via decision
In fighting it's sometimes not just a matter of strength, conditioning, or skill. It's a matter of will. Mark Munoz was going to win last night, and nothing was going to stop him. The Munoz who fought Boetsch last night would have stomped the Munoz who fought Chris Weidman a year ago. This guy was a beast.
Munoz came out and just wore on Timmy. He leaned on him, pounded on him, tossed him around, and ultimately he broke him. At one point in the third round you could see Timmy break and cover up, Benji Radach style, turtling for dear life. But Munoz didn't stop.
At one point Munoz was hitting Boetsch so hard in the rib cage from the turtle position that I'm sure the heavybag in Munoz's gym was like, "dude, I'm glad dat aint me right now." I have never seen anybody put a beating like that on Boetsch for three rounds, and at the end of it Munoz looked ready for three more. Sick.
Winner: If we assume Anderson Silva is making good on his abdication of the 185 throne, then that means Dana White will have to book Weidman versus Belfort. That leaves Munoz without a dancing partner, unless you give him Luke Rockhold or Michael Bisping, both guys having recently eaten Belfort's heel. There is a chance for Costas Philippou, however, to make a big jump up. It makes sense, too, since both guys beat on Timmy like a redheaded stepchild.
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Middleweight : Tim Kennedy (C+) versus Roger Gracie (F)
Prediction: Kennedy via decision
Result: Kennedy via decision
It might be unkind to call this a cripple fight but... cripple fight. Roger Gracie is a onetrick beanpole with rudimentary standup skills who looks pretty slow witted whenever his head is three feet higher than the mat. Kennedy, meanwhile, is a hug and hold grappler who has two basic techniques: throw a right hook and grab a body lock.
Gracie started out pretty well with a quick takedown. But despite his world class training, he was unable to do anything whatsoever with the position, and even got reversed at the end of the round. In the second round, Gracie started sweating like Dana White whenever Roy Nelson has a mic in front of his face. Every time Kennedy took Gracie down it looked like the Brazilian lost a belt colour.
By the third round Kennedy was scoring back control, looking for rear naked chokes, and basically giving Gracie a lesson in jiujitsu. Gracie, on the other hand, looked like the reanimated corpse of Matthew McGrory, sucking wind and turning pale. Cardio level: Houston Alexander versus Kimbo Slice.
Winner: If Dana can't find somebody else for Bisping, it's a possibility, but I doubt he wants to ruin the British market like that. I think somebody further down the totem pole, like Ronny Markes, is going to happen.
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Featherweight : Frankie Edgar (B) versus Charles Oliveira (A)
Prediction: Edgar via TKO2
Result: Edgar via decision
I'm not sure whether to be underwhelmed by Frankie Edgar or impressed with Oliveira. I'll take the latter. At 23 years old, it's too soon to write off the Brazilian, especially after giving Frankie all he could handle for 15 minutes. At 4-4-0-1 inside the cage, Oliveira looks mediocre on paper. But the guy is definitely improving each time he fights. And experience against guys like Edgar, Swanson, Jim Miller, and Donald Cerrone, can only make him better.
As for Frankie Edgar, it's nice to see him back in the win column but I was hoping he'd get a stoppage for once. I feel like Edgar has the tools to make it happen but he really paces himself too much. You seldom see Edgar go into rage mode and stomp out a guy. That lack of killer instinct may be what's lacking from an otherwise pound-for-pound dynamo.
Winner: Cub Swanson.
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Middleweight Championship : Anderson Silva (F) versus Chris Weidman (B+)
Prediction: Silva via TKO2
Result: Weidman via KO2
When I was a kid I used to have EA Sports NHL 94 on the Super Nintendo. I mastered that game, dude. I played that game so much that I could win the Stanley Cup with the Ottawa Senators or the San Jose Sharks, two teams with no talent whatsoever. I was the Anderson Silva of NHL 93.
I dominated NHL 93 so much that each time I played it I needed a better challenge. So I began giving myself bigger challenges. I would deliberately give up a five goal lead and try and come back. Then six goals. Then seven goals. Each time I would try and outdo my last performance because I simply. could. not. lose.
One day I decided to play with Ottawa against the Buffalo Sabres without my goaltender. It was basically like playing the game on god mode because any single shot on net would go in. I played hard and furiously but in the end I lost 11-10. I lost because I was handicapping myself to such an extent that winning had become something beyond my skills.
And now you basically know what happened last night.
See you guys July 27.