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The Monday After: Final reflections on TUF 20 Finale, UFC on FOX 13 and WSOF 16

It's the start of a new week in MMA and there has been plenty of time to let the three fight cards from this past weekend marinate. Let's take a look back at some of the good, bad and memorable moments one last time.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bushido, which means "the way of the warrior," is the code of moral principles among the Samurai.

Now, fighters in modern-day mixed martial arts (MMA) MMA aren't wielding swords or wearing armor, nor are they in feudal-era Japan, but many train in different martial art forms and many call themselves martial artists.

As a martial artist, or mixed martial artist, many a fighter have learned about holding themselves as well as others in high esteem.There is a unwritten rule of conducting one's self with honor, dignity, class and respect for another opponent.

Not all who compete in MMA are martial artists. In fact, I'd say there are actually few who fit the true definition of one, but they are aware of moral and ethical standards in combat sports as well as team sports. There may be trash talk and there may be bad blood, but there is a mutual respect and understanding between two combatants once the cage door closes to fight clean and to compete with both honor and integrity.

Which brings me back to UFC on FOX 13 "Prelims" on Saturday night (Dec. 13, 2014) and the Flyweight fight between John Moraga and Willie Gates.

During the first round, Moraga felt he was hit with a low blow and brought it to referee Jason Herzog's attention. Herzog then told Moraga to continue, and as Moraga was looking at Herzog to speak with him further, Gates saw he wasn't looking and proceeded to drill Moraga with a punch that sent him to the canvas, where he then took the back of the stunned Moraga and nearly ended the fight with a rear-naked choke.

It was disgusting display in my opinion and one that showed extremely poor sportsmanship. I got into a huge debate on Twitter with fellow MMA scribes when I said my peace about it and how I thought it was a punk move by Gates and a equivalent to a sucker punch on the street. Their response continued to be, 'it was legal 'and 'protect yourself at all times.'

Oh, and I was also called a racist. Figure that one out because I sure can't. If the Pope pulled that crap I would call him a punk too.

Look, first of all, I'm aware fighters are supposed to protect themselves, but I wasn't arguing the legality of Gates' punch. And to me, the fact that I had to argue my point about why that was such a bad moment in the sport is really sad. If they are supposed to be honorable to one another, explain to me what's honorable about punching a guy who isn't looking? Gates knew there was a break in the action and saw an advantageous opening and took a swing.

Gamesmanship? No, that is more like lack of integrity and respect for an opponent and for the sport as a whole. If Gates got the victory, would it have been a deserving one? One he really earned? The answer is no. He should've treated it as if the fight was stopped for a low blow and waited for Moraga to face him.

GLORY welterweight champion "Bazooka" Joe Valtellini, who is one of the most honorable and respected fighters in his sport was watching and he weighed in on the topic. It was quite refreshing to hear from a fighter on the matter and to know I wasn't alone in my thinking.

Legal punch? Yes. Honorable action? No. And if you can't see how that is bad for the sport and that it has no place in it, then I really don't know what to say. Maybe I'm just Will MCavoy from Newsroom and I'm on a mission to civilize.

On that note, the series finale of Newsroom was just tremendous. The writing by Aaron Sorkin was moving and tear inducing. In the episode, everyone was remembering the character Charlie Skinner after his death through different flashbacks. Played brilliantly by Sam Waterston, the pull-no-punches, tough love, bourbon drinking news director, was tough and demanding of his employees, but he could be a father figure to all of his staff too. And they paid tribute to him for all the things he stood for: Integrity, honor, respect.

Sound familiar?

You think Charlie Skinner would've punched John Moraga when he wasn't looking? I don't.

And now I will take a look back at what went down over this past weekend. Bulldog chokes were the flavor of last week and this week 1st round finishes by heel hook and technical knockout were all the rage.

Carla Esparza wins the first UFC women's Strawweight title

Shame on you if you underestimated Esparza's chances against Rose Namajunas. As great as "Thug Rose" was on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20, I did not see how she would beat Esparza. "Cookie Monster" got after it and put on a dominant performance before sealing the deal with a rear-naked choke in the third round to win the title and also a "Performance of the Night" bonus.

Esparza abdicated her Invicta strawweight title to be a part of TUF 20, and went through the gauntlet and won the first-ever UFC strawweight title. And from the looks of things, this division is going to be a ton of fun to watch.

Namajunas may have lost, but she is young and her ceiling is incredibly high. She has shown flashes of the talent she possesses and blitzed through all three of her opponents on TUF to get to the title fight. She will continue to rise and grow and will be a force inside the division.

KJ Noons and Daron Cruickshank ends prematurely in a "No Contest" after accidental eye poke

Dana White said "harsher penalties are needed for eye-poke offenders" at TUF 20 Finale post-fight presser and I agree with the UFC president. Enough is enough now. No warnings, dock a point right away and see how many fighters stop doing it. It may be an accident, but too bad. Keep your hands closed when they get near an opponent's face.

Jamie Varner's retirement and Joe RIggs' return to UFC

Two of the strangest endings to fights we have seen in some time, but wonders never cease in MMA. Varner knocked himself silly after attempting to take down Drew Dober, and proceeded to get finished by a rear-naked choke soon after because of that. Varner then announced his retirement in his hometown of Phoenix. He is only 30, but has been fighting since a very young age and took part in some wars in the WEC.

"C-4" didn't have the success he was hoping since he returned to the UFC in 2012, going 2-5, but he won two "FIght of the Night" bonuses and was always entertaining. He began fighting at 19 and finishes with a record of 21-11-1 (2).

Riggs hurt himself while slamming Ben Saunders to the canvas and tapped because of pain ... not a submission. Saunders was starting to work his rubber guard when Riggs tapped out. The veteran of over 50 professional fights said he his arm went numb and he tapped because he was concerned for an injury. Tough break for Riggs, but after nearly killing himself while cleaning his hand gun, this seems like something he can overcome.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk defeats Claudia Gadelha by split decision/ punch after the horn sounded

Just an awesome fight by these two and with the win, it appears Jedrzejczyk (I hope she acquires a nickname) will be next in line for a shot at Esparza's 115-pound title. Many felt the decision was controversial and should've gone in favor of the Brazilian. I thought the undefeated Polish standout had won the first two rounds. Judges assess what is more effective for that entire round. Turns out they felt Jedrzejczyk's striking was more effective than Gadhela's takedowns. Gadhela worked some takedowns, but Jedrzejczyk's knockdown toward the end of the first and the strikes she landed were simply more effective than what Gadehla's output was for that round.

Now, as for the post-fight shenanigans of Gadhela hitting Jedrzejczyk after the fight was over, that was really bad. She kicked her after the bell and Jedrzejczyk punched her in the body, and Gadelha punched her around the referee. She knew what she was doing and she should be punished. While I agree with Dana White that it is much different than Paul Daley/Josh Koscheck incident because the fight just ended the two were both in the middle of an exchange, it is still not okay. At the very least a fine is in order.

A fighter can't act that way and not get punished for it.

And as far as respect for another opponent, I can't abhor Gadelha's actions like I did Gates, because it was a "heat of the moment" type of situation, but still, fighters need to remain in control at all times. No punishment for Gadelha sets a weak precedent going forward. It wasn't Daley sucker punching Koschek, which is as disgusting as it gets, but it was not something that needed to happen either.

Matt Mitrione wins by TKO over Gabriel Gonzaga

I'll admit, I'm eating some crow on this one. I thought for sure Gonzaga would get the submission victory. Mitrione has beaten the Philip de Fries and Christian Morecrafts' of the world, but once he has stepped up in talent he has failed to get to the next level, as evident against Cheick Kongo, and Roy Nelson. MItirone seems to be putting in the work and having a striking coach like Henri Hooft is only to his benefit. Mitirone connected with a short left hook as Gonzaga came in toward him and then finished up on the ground (highlights here). Herb Dean inexplicably let him get one last kill shot before calling it a day. I still don't see him getting to the upper echelon of the division, but with the improvements he has shown, it looks like he has got a good chance of cleaning out the bottom half of it.

Alistair Overeem finishes Stefan Struve by TKO on the ground

While I'm not going to be beating the drum for Overeem, he looked quite good by hammering home a definitive win over Stefan Struve. "The Reem" scored a nice takedown when he couldn't find his range against the seven-foot Struve and landed the fight ending blows while standing in Struve's open guard. Overeem is now 3-3 in UFC. Not sure who they will match him up with next, but I don't see a title fight on the horizon at any point going forward.

Tough loss for Struve, but a moral victory for certain, after being out an extended period of time from a heart condition. Great to see him back in the Octagon, and at 26, he still has plenty to offer in the Heavyweight division in the years to come.

Rafael dos Anjos dominates Nate Diaz in unanimous decision victory

Diaz gonna Diaz. From the comments during fight week, missing open workouts,  missing weight, to the poor performance in the co-main event, Diaz remains as much of an enigmatic fighter and personality as ever. dos Anjos pounded away with leg kicks at Diaz's lead leg and pounded away on Diaz while in his guard on the ground. Just an all-around solid and dominant performance by the Brazilian, who finished Benson Henderson his last time out and has won three in a row since a tough loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dana White said dos Anjos should be facing Anthony Pettis for the lightweight title next, especially after he should've been arrested for murder after the beatdown he gave Diaz.

Junior dos Santos defeats Stipe Miocic in a five-round bloody war by split decision

I think we are all overlooking how rare a treat it is to watch two top-level Heavyweights go five full rounds. It was quite the rarity in MMA for a very long time. Now, in the last couple of years, we've seen Cain Velasquez and dos Santos do it twice, Mark Hunt and Antonio Silva's epic battle and now this one from UFC on FOX 13 (highlights here).

Miocic looked to have the early lead, but "Cigano" found his stride later on and landed a crucial knockdown in the third round. Miocic was employing the Velasquez strategy but could only land one takedown. Both fighters showed great chins and both landed some killer punches throughout. Miocic was clearly sapped of energy late. One because five rounds is never easy and two because dos Santos was landing a ton of body shots. dos Santos absorbed more visible damage but his experience and skill proved to be the difference maker. It was close, there is no argument there, but two 49-46 score cards is a bit bewildering (score cards here).

A tough loss for Miocic, but his stock only rises after a performance like that. Not many people thought he could stand with dos Santos for the duration of the contest.

Great win for dos Santos, but at what cost. The former UFC heavyweight champion got absolutely battered by Velasquez in both of their rematches, took some heavy damage in his win over Mark Hunt and went a grueling five rounds with Miocic where he absorbed almost 90 significant strikes. 77 to the head, according to FightMetric. That is not good folks. It is actually scary for his long-term health. With Velasquez on the shelf, and Werdum now the interim champion, it is unclear what the UFC is planning with the top fighters of the division. But, you have to figure dos Santos won't be fighting for 7-9 months after that fight.

Rousimar Palhares owns Jon Fitch at WSOF 16

Palhares added another leg to his mantle on Saturday night in Sacramento, California (GIF here).

Fitch told MMAmania he was more than prepared to handle Palhares and then got steamrolled in 90 seconds. What is crazy to me, is how a 12-year veteran can get submitted this fast after having a whole fight camp to prepare and knowing that Palhares goes for a leg lock every single fight.

I mean, after all, the Brazilian has 12 career wins by that method.

Leg lock defense is clearly lacking in MMA. Fighters either don't know how to prepare for them, or they aren't seeing them enough in practice, because they keep making basic mistakes. Perhaps they aren't being taught properly either. Now, before you roll your eyes at me and my opinion, I used to train at NY Combat Sambo in New York City under Stephen Koepfer, who is a master of sport in Sambo. Koepfer was brought in by Pablo Popovitch to help him prepare for a possible match up versus Palhares in the ADCC tournament in 2013, but Palhares ended up not being a part of it. His top student, Reilly Bodycomb, has been making a huge name for himself on the grappling scene the last few years as well. I trained for more than two years, and while I am by no means an expert grappler, I know a thing or two about proper leg-lock defense.

And I know what not to do as I was taught the basic principles.

Rolling to get out of a leg lock is only going to seal your fate. Could you get out if your are sweaty and slippery, sure. But more often than not, you won't, like Fitch and Steve Carl before him. Fitch actually had Palhares leg peeled off of his own, but instead of scooting over and working to sit up toward "Toquinho," he rolled anyway and Palhares switched to a knee bar and Fitch was forced to tap and may now have a torn PCL.

Alan Belcher showed you what the proper way to defend looks like when he defeated Palhares at UFC on FOX 3. He laid the blueprint that no one has followed since then. That in itself, is hard to fathom. And frankly, he doesn't get enough credit. Go re-watch that fight and watch how Belcher sits close to Palhares and how he defends and more importantly how he doesn't lay back and try to roll out.

Similar situation in the Ian Entwistle submission win over Anthony Birchak on the UFC on FOX 13 under card. Birchak just kept rolling until he hit the cage and Entwistle sealed the deal. Entwistle had a gorgeous entry from butterfly guard, but Birchak made it easier for him to get the finish by rolling away.

Look, sometimes you are going to get caught in a submission. it happens. They are black belts for a reason. My point is, don't make it easy for them. And at this level, I don't think Palhares should be continuing to dismantle guys in less than two minutes each time out. Especially a veteran of FItch's caliber. I'd like to see more performances like Belcher's because that means the sport is advancing and growing.

One more fight card to go before the end of 2014, and MMA seems to be heading into 2015 with some great momentum. Talk to you Maniacs next week after UFC Fight Night 58.

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