Last Saturday night (July 5, 2014), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its return to the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, with UFC 175: "Weidman vs. Machida." The promotion's Fourth of July weekend card featured two highly anticipated title fights, as well as the expected return of Stefan Struve.
In the main event, UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman put his title on the line against former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida. It would prove to be the biggest test of both men's respective careers and one of the best fights of the year (watch it again here).
The co-main event featured another incredible performance from UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey, as she quickly dispatched Alexis Davis in just 16 seconds in the first round. But enough with this introduction, let's get the the good stuff.
Chris Weidman is the once and future champ ...
Chris Weidman's tenure as UFC middleweight champion has been shaky at best. Even with two victories over Anderson Silva, there were still detractors who passed those wins off as "flukes." He has all the talent in the world, but it's very easy to understand why people don't consider him the best example of a champion.
Last night, he proved to everyone that he is the very best fighter in the middleweight division.
Beating Lyoto Machida has been a riddle that few have been able to solve. "The Dragon" tends to do extremely well with pressure wrestlers, which is pretty much how you'd describe Weidman's style inside the Octagon. For the first time in a very long time, Machida looked incredibly vulnerable.
Weidman's wrestling impressed yet again, but it was his effectiveness on the feet that is the real story. For the first three rounds, he dominated the stand-up aspect of the bout and opened up a big cut on Machida's face. He also hit multiple takedowns and looked dominant on the ground as he maintained top position (video highlights here).
It was a perfect fight to introduce Weidman to the greater MMA world. He went the full five rounds and was tested by an extremely talented fighter. It wasn't the run-of-the-mill sloppy kickboxing fight that fans tend to appreciate, but it was a very fun bout nonetheless.
I'm not sure who is next in line for the champ. There isn't a clear contender right now, especially with the questions surrounding Vitor Belfort right now. But whoever faces Weidman next, I wish you good luck. The champ is here and he's not giving up that belt.
Rousey by ... TKO?
Is anyone surprised by this result? Is anyone honestly shocked that Rousey defeated Davis? Maybe the method is a bit surprising, but this was the least-anticipated Rousey bout to date, at least in this author's opinion. She's just on a different level than the ladies in the women's bantamweight division.
She's shown improvement through every outing and is now what could be described as a "complete" fighter. She's no longer vulnerable on the feet and no longer needs to rely on the armbar as a way to finish the fight. And what's more amazing is that she's done it while on the sets of Fast and Furious 7 and the Expendables 3.
All this being said, I will likely forget about this fight because I was disappointed in the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.
Rogan is usually a solid interviewer after fights. The competitors are comfortable with him and he's great in that role. But last night, someone in the production truck screwed up and screwed up big. Inexplicably, Rogan was told to ask Ronda if she'd be up for fighting at UFC 176 next month, effectively saving the event.
With Jose Aldo injured, the card is currently without a main event. And with less than a month before showtime, it's likely the UFC won't find a suitable replacement. However, it was bush league to ask Rousey about stepping in on short notice.
To his credit, UFC President Dana White seemed genuinely upset that someone in production gave that cue.
Struve faints, gives everyone a scare ...
We never got to see the long awaited return of UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve as his bout against Matt Mitrione was scrapped due to health issues. Minutes before his fight, Struve started to hyperventilate and fainted in his locker room. After undergoing observations, it was determined he suffered a panic attack.
Here's the thing: I'm happy that Struve is okay, but I'm also concerned about his longterm health. He was sidelined because he had a leaking valve in his heart. Sure, he made a full recovery, but there will always be health concerns moving forward.
I know that he's the kind of guy who loves to fight and it's probably breaking his heart that his return to the cage was delayed. I know it's crass to say but in a way, the UFC lucked out last night that Struve's issues took place inside the locker room. If he made it to the cage and fainted during the action, we could have had a legitimate debacle on our hands.
- Seeing Machida tee off on Weidman to close to fight kind of annoyed me. If he has that kind of viciousness in him, why not do that all the time? Maybe I'm just nitpicking but those final seconds proved that he can be an exciting fighter, so why not be an exciting fighter?
- Urijah Faber is still a great fighter. I know that's not exactly a controversial opinion, but it's incredible that he continues to fight at a high level after competing for all of these years.
- That being said, Alex Caceres nearly went the distance with the "California Kid" and should be applauded. He's made great leaps to become a complete fighter and still has youth on his side. I'm not sure he becomes a champion, but he'll definitely be a fighter to watch in these coming years.
- Uriah Hall's bone was sticking out of his toe and he still put on a great performance against Thiago Santos. As a professional wrestling mark, I also appreciated the heel turn while speaking with Rogan. The old Uriah Hall was way too respectful to say his opponents "hit like a bitch." This guy? This guy I can get on board with.
- Chris Camozzi can be upset about the scoring in his bout against Bruno Santos but that won't change the fact that he shouldn't have gone to the ground in the first place. Camozzi is a veteran and knows how judges score fights. Even if Santos was doing nothing, he was still the guy on top on the ground. That's going to win fights.
- George Roop fell funny. That was a Departed reference for you people who want to pretend to be a cawp.
- Good for Luke Zachrich who worked his way back to the UFC. The time on the regional circuit definitely allowed him to sharpen his skill set. He's an example of a guy who needed more time to develop after The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). He wasn't UFC ready at the time. Now he is. MMA is great that way.
- It's a small detail but I really liked the fact that the referees seemed to be on point last night. They made it clear to the fighters that points would be deducted for fouls. Sure, guys still grabbed the fence (cough-Camozzi-cough) but it seemed to be a "cleaner" event.
There you have it.
For extensive coverage of UFC 175, including post-fight recaps, video highlights, and more, click here.