How silly does Dana White feel right now, seven years after cutting Fabricio Werdum after suffering a flash knockout to the only other dude to ever stop Cain Velasquez?
I'm guessing it's probably as silly as everybody else feels after writing off "Vai Cavalo" (don't try pronouncing that Mike Goldberg, you're brutal) following a butt scooting stinker against Alistair Overeem in Strikeforce. My, how fortunes have been reversed.
On June 18, 2011, when Werdum lost the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal, Velasquez was an undefeated (9-0) monster who had just put Brock Lesnar in a body bag. Following a merry-go-round of ridiculous Heavyweight title fights almost all involving the exact same three guys, Velasquez had an aura of invincibility about him headed into UFC 188 in Mexico City, Mexico, last night (Sat., June 13, 2015).
This aura, which included a No. 4 slot on the pound-for-pound rankings, persisted despite the aforementioned fact he'd fought only two separate opponents since Barack Obama was a first midterm president, and hadn't stepped inside a cage in 20 months.
During that near lifetime, Werdum quietly amassed a perfect (5-0) UFC record, including three brutal finishes and two dominant beatdowns. And still nobody gave the Brazilian the time of day headed into this fight. Velasquez was a 4:1 favorite in this one, ridiculous only in comparison to Henry Cejudo's 9:1 odds.
Nobody was giving a chance to the guy who not only submitted Brazilian jiu-jitsu boss Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and broke legendary Sambo master Fedor Emelianenko's 10-year undefeated streak, he knocked out Mark Hunt. Damn, son, what a fighter gotta do to get some respect?
(CLICK ON IMAGE FOR CHEAP LOLZ)
Well, somebody who bet large on Werdum is going to Disneyland.
Other than the spectacular main event UFC 188 was something of a dumpster-diving experience, with several of the fights failing to live up to expectations. Unsurprisingly, the worst of that was doled out upfront like a Sunday sermon, as two women weighing less than the new Heavyweight champion duked it out for three eyeball-scrubbing rounds of torture. These A-cups are getting double-Ds on the report card.
But, enough teasing, let's get out the red pen and start marking up the rest. School is in session.
After watching Velasquez marinate the Octagon with the blood of Antonio Silva and reduce the life expectancy of Junior dos Santos by several years, it's natural people thought he was going to do very bad things to Werdum. That's the thing about dominant champions. They make you think they're invincible. Which is exactly what we thought about Emelianenko until he decided to jump into the guard of Werdum.
Some credit goes to Valesquez in this fight.
He came out guns blazing, swinging for the fences, trying to put the kind of pressure on the challenger that makes folks cringe. But not only did Werdum resist the takedown attempts of the champ, he went toe to toe with him in a first round that was very evenly matched. Not since Anderson Silva's first fight with Rich Franklin have we seen a dominant champ completely shutdown by a Thai plum clinch. Speaking of which, Werdum might just have the best Muay Thai striking in MMA at the moment.
After expending five minutes of Level 10 Velasquez pressure, he got off his stool for round two looking very much like a man trying to climb Mount Everest off the couch. His mouth was gaping open, his lungs were trying to suck back every available oxygen molecule and I'm pretty sure if we had a listening device attached to his chest it would sound something like Rock That Body by The Black Eyed Peas. If you look into his eyes in Hi-Def I think you can see the moment it dawns on him that showing up to a mountain top for his first fight in two years without preparing for the elevation ... was probably a really fucking bad idea.
The second round saw Werdum take over with punishing kicks, combinations and counter pressure that left the champ staggering and exhausted to finish the round. So appalled by his efforts was his corner that an absolutely ingenious suggestion was made to save the day. Why not just take down Werdum? Why not, indeed? Hmm. Well, to his credit Velasquez did exactly what he was told. After taking another punishing blow he landed a power double leg, right into an airtight guillotine. How tight was it? So tight that Werdum was grinning like a madman before Velasquez even tapped.
With the victory we get some badly needed new blood at the top of the division and it opens up a wealth of new opportunities and challengers. While it pains me to think of Andrei Arlovski getting another shot at UFC gold (go watch UFC 174 again, please) I would rather see him get mauled than watch dos Santos endure another horrific beating.
There's no getting around the fact that this fight was the biggest letdown since you watched George Lucas' prequels for the Star Wars franchise. Here was a fight between two guys, Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez, who love to stand and bang, who have been widely considered among the top five Lightweights in the world for the last six years, finally getting a chance to settle the score once and for all.
So, what did we get?
Three rounds of jabs, feints and takedown attempts. If I wanted to see this kind of futility after that many years of anticipation I'd have convinced the first woman who slept with me to let me video tape it.
Melendez started out like the Jon Fitch of stand up, waiting in the center of the Octagon and throwing measured jabs as Alvarez circled. It only took a few wild attacks, Diego Sanchez style, for Alvarez to realize that reckless measures were not going to work against the jabinator.
Make no mistake, Melendez did the most damage in this fight and all of it early in the first round with a most brutal elbow. So, after taking the rest of the round off Alvarez came back with a new gameplan in the next two rounds (something the aforementioned Sanchez has decided to never do in his entire MMA career).
Considering Melendez is no slouch in the wrestling department, watching him get manhandled by Alvarez was pretty impressive. Not impressive enough to make up for the fact that this fight sucked more than the finale to Lost, but I wasn't expecting it. The amazing thing about Eddie Alvarez, as you witnessed by his victory with two nearly closed up eyes, is that the man has no quit in him. In every single fight he winds up looking like his face played chicken with a train but he finds a way to grit it out. And to be honest I'd rather have a fighter like that than a guy who stands in the center of the cage and throws jabs for a round before gassing out.
If that wasn't Nate Marquardt's last fight... yeah, it probably should be. As somebody who's been watching this sport for a long time this battle reminded me very much of another aging Middleweight warrior who came up against somebody younger, stronger and more talented. Evan Tanner was the UFC's first Middleweight champion and amassed a 31-4 record before dropping four of his last five fights. In an eerily similar comeback attempt in June 2008, the 36-year-old, sporting a beard very much like Marquardt's, was beaten soundly by Kendell Grove. Whether he would have returned to the sport is unknown as he died three months later.
Marquardt, nearly the same age Tanner was, is also a fighter who was once dominant, compiling a 25-6-2 record before being destroyed by Anderson Silva at UFC 73. Following a brief career resurgence at welterweight, the fighter had also lost four of his last five headed into last night's fight. The once granite chin is gone, the hand speed has slowed and the will to fight seems to have dissipated entirely. Gastelum, playing the role of Grove here, broke Marquardt down over two rounds with constant aggression.
When the ref didn't stop the fight against the fence at first I was happy because I thought maybe he'd survive to help me earn more points in the pool. But as the cameras focused in on "Nate the Great" hunched over on his stool I could see it was over. His corner asked him if he was alright and he answered in a barely audible whisper, "I got nothing left."
To be honest, my eyes began to water up. I realized I had seen the end of a man I'd been watching fight for the past 10 years and in my cold and analytical way of predicting outcomes he had become little more than a round and method for me. But seeing him sit there on that stool realizing his body can't fulfill the dreams of his mind anymore, it took a great deal of courage to stop and say he'd had enough.
Don't get me wrong. There are quitters who aren't mentally strong enough to keep fighting. That's not Nate. He put his body through 50 fights of punishment in his career and he never once quit on his stool. No, he was mentally strong enough to know it was OK to walk away and still have the respect of everybody who has ever had the pleasure to watch his fights. We don't know for sure if he intended to retire then and there since the UFC was busy letting Gastelum pander to the Mexican crowd. But if he is, he has my thanks.
This was fight of the night and for somewhat good reason. I mean, personally I think it's hard to top the main event, but Yair Rodriquez and Charles Rosa started with the pedal to the metal and never really let off. Rodriquez came out of the gates with the most ridonkulous series of flying knees and switch kicks, putting Rosa behind on the scorecards early. Even after getting taken down he demonstrated an incredible ground game (As Joe Rogan described loquaciously the entire fight), locking up a triangle that he didn't seem to know how to finish. This happened a few times in the fight. As one person remarked, he might be the Mexican John Albert.
The swing round appeared to be the first as Rosa scored takedowns and ground and pound while Rodriguez landed the flashier stuff and submission attempts. The second round was all Rodriguez as he punished Rosa's sloppy takedown attempts and continued to demonstrate his impressive skills on the feet. The third saw Rosa begin to gain some momentum back as his opponent began to visibly tire and surrender position on the ground. Watching the fight as a whole it seemed clear who won but the judges still went to a split in making a decision.
Rodriquez made a hell of a good impression, not just on Rogan, who is generally easily impressed, but on a lot of fans as well. Still, I'd like to see him compete at a more American elevation (not Denver) before we begin making any bold predictions about his future. He should welcome that change as well, after having upchucked during the post-fight interview with Rogan. As for Rosa, this is the second time he's won a bonus in a losing effort. It's great he's exiting and durable but that and a dollar will get you a bag of chips in this game. He needs to find a way to break guys with his style or he'll always just be that guy who can take a good facebashing.
It's not that I'm giving Angela Hill a bad grade because she necessarily failed in some spectacular way. It's more a failure in casting her in the role of a legitimate fighter on a pay-per-view event for a major UFC card in the year 2015. A woman with a 2-0 record, one by uninspiring decision in her promotional debut, belongs on a pay-per-view like broccoli belongs on a hamburger. The talent just isn't there. And whether it might be in 10 fights is hard to say. I'm not a talent scout. You would hope that would be somebody else's job at Zuffa.
As for Tecia "Tornado" Torres, how about we replace her nickname with "tepid"? Six decisions in a row in her pro MMA career? Three decisions on the reality show? Five consecutive decisions in her amateur career? Holy fuck, that's brutal. There is no way that any promotion anywhere on earth can market a person who will pillowfight to the finish line 100 percent of the time. And what, exactly, is tornado-like about her? She doesn't wreck shit like a tornado would. More like a summer's breeze coming off a tailing pond.
Look, with fighters like Paige Van Zant and Ronda Rousey it's clear Women's MMA has talented fighters who are here to stay. But, if UFC wants the fans to buy into the sport they had better think long and hard about the women who deserve to be on paid events and the ones who you may or may not care are being aired on Fox.
Quick Hits From The Undercard
Chico Camus (B-) might have had a better showing against Henry Cejudo (C) if he'd employed the same movement he demonstrated against Brad Pickett. Thumbs down to Cejudo for making up excuses about food poisoning after that putrid performance. Demetrious Johnson will finish that version of Cejudo inside the distance.
Efrain Escudero (A) and Patrick Williams (A) oddly score one of the most rare finishes in MMA back-to-back against Drew Dober (F) and Alejandro Perez (F). It must suck to go from finishing Jamie Varner to getting embarrassed in 54 seconds.
Francisco Trevino (B) was game for a war but was outclassed by the extremely talented Johnny Case (A) who won despite a vicious eye poke in the first round.
Cathal Pendred (F) showed that even talentless can beat lazy when lazy refuses to beat talentless. Wait, that's not the expression, how does it go again? Anyway, Augusto Montano (F) was given a "timidity" warning in the first round, which is a fancy word for fighting like a gigantic pussy.
Clay Collard (C-) demonstrated a hell of a chin and a lot of heart but not a whole lot of talent in a beatdown courtesy of Gabriel Benitez (B+).
That's a wrap!
See you next Saturday for another UFC Fight Night 69 in Berlin, Germany, featuring a host of fighters you don't know with names you can't pronounce (Łukasz Sajewski, I'm looking at you, bro). You can of course follow along with live scoring and comments right here on Mmamania.com.