UFC set up shop in Newark, New Jersey, once again last Saturday night (April 18, 2015) for the UFC on FOX 15 card. And a serious threat to Chris Weidman's middleweight strap has emerged in Luke Rockhold, who bludgeoned Lyoto Machida before submitting the former champion with a rear-naked choke in the second round.
Video highlights here.
Of course, we have to await the winner of the middleweight title fight at UFC 187 between current champion Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort before the next title fight is announced, but many feel after his performance on Saturday night, it should be Rockhold.
UFC president Dana White wasn't ready to anoint Rockhold or "Jacare" Souza when he was asked about it at the post-fight press conference, but if we are talking about strictly merit, then next in line should be Rockhold. Another possibility would be a title-contender fight between Rockhold and Souza, which would be a rematch from their fight in Strikeforce, where Rockhold defeated "Jacare" by unanimous decision to win the title in 2011.
Whatever route the UFC decides to take, there will be some very interesting and exciting fights to come in the middleweight division. Weidman will face Belfort at UFC 187, then you have several possibilities going forward in the division based on who wins that fight. Weidman vs. Rockhold, or the Belfort vs. Rockhold rematch will get many fans excited.
Then you still have Machida's next opponent, which could be Belfort or a rematch with Weidman, depending on who loses. Lastly you still have Souza, who is ranked No.1 in the UFC middleweight rankings and Yoel Romero, who was supposed to face Souza at UFC on FOX 15, but dropped out due to injury. Some great fights headed our way in the middleweight division for the remainder of 2015.
Aside from the main event there were some other excellent finishes on what turned out to be a very exciting fight card. It was also a bit of a coming out part for four of the younger fighters in the UFC, who picked up big victories at The Prudential Center in Newark.
Let's take a look back at the some of the best and worst moments of UFC on FOX 15.
Luke Rockhold is the best around
The former Strikeforce middleweight champion won most of us over with the song he chose for his walkout at UFC on FOX 15, Joe Esposito's "You're the best around" from the 1984 classic, The Karate Kid. Which was a subtle dig at Lyoto Machida, who has often been called the Karate Kid throughout his career.
But then the Santa Cruz native beat the former UFC light heavyweight champion from pillar to post before locking in a fight ending rear-naked choke in the second round to pick the victory (highlights). It was truly a dominant performance by Rockhold, who looked outstanding on the feet and just orchestrated a clinic on the ground, completely controlling Machida. He should emerge as the No. 1-contender for the winner of the fight between current champ Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort, which takes place at UFC 187 on May 23, 2015.
Yes, Jacare Souza looked awesome too, but he faced Chris Camozzi, and Rockhold has fought stiffer competition in the UFC. Not to mention, Rockhold defeated Souza in Strikeforce when the two fought. Dana White said he will let the Weidman vs. Belfort fight play out and take a wait and see approach, but after Rockhold's statement victory, it seems logical to surmise Rockhold will be next in line for a title shot.
"Jacare" Souza clamps his jaws down on another submission win
Souza's ground acumen is what Ol' Joe Rogan would refer to as "world class." The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt is truly remarkable to watch. Now look, we all know Chris Camozzi was completely over matched here, but still, the ease in which Souza passed his guard and transitioned into position for the armbar victory was a sight to behold. That is as high level as you will ever see in the Octagon (highlights).
He is called "Jacare" for a reason and that sub over Camozzi was certainly similar to watching a National Geographic show where a poor unsuspecting antelope strayed too close to the water and got eaten by a crocodile. That is five straight wins in the UFC for Souza, but two are over Camozzi. Albeit, not his fault for he is matched up against, but he cannot be given too much praise for it, and his UFC resume pales in comparison to Rockhold. The UFC could decide to pit Souza and Rockhold against one another for a number-one contender fight, but I suspect Rockhold will get the shot.
Blessed be the mounted guillotine
Max Holloway has been in the UFC for over three years, but he was only 22 when he made his Octagon debut. Three years later, he is now 9-3 in the UFC and picked up the biggest win in his career, a guillotine finish over Cub Swanson, who was ranked several spots above him in the division. At 25, his ceiling is still very high and his fights from here on out will be in the top half of the 145-pound division. The submission victory also earned the Hawaiian fighter a $50,000 dollar "Performance" bonus (highlights).
"12 Gauge" is for real
Many knocked the match up between Vanzant and Felice Herrig prior to UFC on FOX 15, but now, not so much. Vanzant put an absolute beating on Felice Herrig to a win a unanimous decision and she will likely be thrust into the top ten of the strawweight division's rankings (recap). The assault on Herrig was so bad during the third round it prompted Joe Rogan to just say "damn." Vanzant is only 21 years old and has won both her fights inside the Octagon, picking up a "Fight of the Night" bonus in her Octagon debut, a win over Kailin Curran at UFC Fight Night 57.
"12 Gauge" may have been a model and a ring card girl, and on the receiving end of a lot of heat due to being the lone non-champion to earn a Reebok sponsorship, but her win over Herrig proves she belongs among the best in the 115-pound division.
The Iranian is no jabroni
Beneil Dariush has been in the UFC for a little over a year now. At UFC on FOX 15, the Iranian fighter earned his most significant win by earning a unanimous decision victory over Jim Miller. Dariush was in trouble a few times in the opening round, but turned the tides and had Miller fighting out of submission attempts in the second and third frames to earn a trio of 29-28 score cards from the judges.
The win over Miller, who was ranked No. 11 in the lightweight division prior to the fight, came just over a month after defeating Daron Cruickshank at UFC 185. Now 5-1 in the UFC, with his lone defeat a TKO loss to Ramsey Nijem, the Kings MMA fighter could be facing someone inside the top-10 next. The 25-year old is someone to keep your eye on going forward.
"Funk Master" has a Herculean squeeze
Last but certainly not least is Aljamain Sterling. The undefeated Serra-Longo bantamweight picked up his 11th career victory and third in the UFC. Not only did "The Funk Master" submit the No. 6-ranked Takeya Mizugaki, but it was the way in which he did so that stood out and impressed many. Sterling locked up a side-triangle choke -- which is quite common in MMA -- but he locked it up from the bottom while Mizugaki was in his guard. That takes a He-Man-worthy squeeze to put a guy out from there and Sterling did just that to force the tap. Shockingly enough, that submission was not deemed "performance bonus" worthy. Sterling, 25, wasn't ranked prior to the fight against Mizugaki, but he should most likely crack the top 10.
Always be closing
"A-B-C. Always be closing." Eight out of the 11 fights on the card ended inside the distance, making for an action-packed evening. In addition to the aforementioned finishes, Diego Brandao earned a TKO victory over Jimy Hettes, as did Gian Villante against Corey Anderson. Ovince St. Preux knocked out Patrick Cummins and Tim means locked up an arm-triangle on George Sullivan for the submission victory.
Can you hear this?
Kudos to the commission for stopping the Diego Brandao vs. Jimy Hettes fight in between the first and second rounds due to the huge laceration on Hettes' ear (see it). No one needs to see an ear fall off. With a few more punches to the ear, the iconic scene from Reservoir Dogs with Michael Madsen dancing to Steeler Wheels "Stuck in the middle with you" while he cuts off Marvin the cop's ear, could've been recreated. Hettes will live to fight another day. Better to be safe than lose part of your ear.
While the Chris Dempsey split decision victory over Eddie Gordon did raise a few eyebrows, even though it was an extremely close fight (and boring), the fight that really could've sparked controversy was decided late in the third round and avoided going to the judges. Gian Villante scored the TKO win over Corey Anderson late in the final round after repeatedly hammering away at Anderson's right leg with low kicks for the majority of the fight. Heading into the third round, judges Eric Colon and Dave Tirelli had the fight knotted at 19-19. Judge Derek Clearly had Anderson up 20-18, winning both rounds.
This fight was a perfect example of whether or not a judge would rate the the quantity of punches landed as more effective than leg kicks, which were landed less frequently, but were visibly more impactful. Anderson was landing punches, but Villante's leg kicks were wobbling Anderson each time they landed. Villante slowed down a bit in the final frame before coming on strong late and pouring it on for the win, but he could've ended up on a wrong side of a decision, with the judges not valuing the impact and effectiveness of his leg strikes.
For sticking around to the end of this article, I've included this gem of a video as your reward. Kung Fury is going to be an amazing fun and cheesy ride when it finally comes out. The men behind that movie just released the video for the song that will be featured in it. It's called "True Survivor" and it's by the one and only, David Hasselhoff.