UFC 191 in Las Vegas, Nevada, last night (Sat., Sept. 5, 2015) felt a lot like watching "Hot Tub Time Machine 2," a crappy sequel to a crappy movie that should never have been made in the first place. And I'm not just talking about the main event.
UFC 191 was like a repeat of UFC 174, with a five-round lopsided title fight, an agonizingly dull Andrei Arlovski fight, and a bunch of stupid, inexplicable split decisions.
When I saw the line up for this pay-per-view (PPV) my first thought was that this card needs more cowbell because it literally has nothing else going for it. Even the adorable savagery of tiny blonde girl Paige VanZant couldn't help redeem what was essentially a doomed card.
I'm not sure why some cards are destined to fail so hard. However, it probably has something to do with the watered down content of placing a guy like Jan Blachowicz in the fourth slot. I mean, I could understand if it were a Fight Night in Poland, but people had to pay to see that. As an advocate for better fighter pay, this is one of the few times I'd say that guy deserves a plane ticket back to Europe and a quarter to call somebody who gives a damn.
Anyway, let's not dilly dally here. Who got top marks and who failed to pass in this week's "Report Card"? Find out below:
Yeah, sure, Demetrious Johnson dominated John Dodson once again and I know I'm supposed to be impressed, but my overall sense was kind of ... meh. Whatever. First off, this is yet another wolf tickets rematch that UFC sold fight fans in a division thinner than Dana White's hair.
Look, Johnson did what we all knew he would do. He used his speed and incomparable cardio to outwork and outclass Dodson, who once again showed up to a title fight with sass but no gas. Although Dodson showed some initial promise in the first two rounds his performance was even less competitive than the first match, which despite the scores, wasn't altogether close either.
I really don't want to be disrespectful to "Mighty Mouse," but other than being extremely dominant in his weight class, there's not a whole hell of a lot to get excited about when he's booked for fights. And if you're going to watch somebody destroy all comers you'd rather it be in the form of Ronda Rousey, who requires somewhat less than 25 minutes to dispatch her competition. If a fight is going to go the distance it needs to be eventful and dramatic like Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler.
Johnson pushed the pace with a relentless attack that wore down the energetic Dodson over the course of five rounds, but it was disappointing to see the "Magician" simply allow his cardio tank to slowly drain until the needle hit empty without really going for broke and trying something crazy. Nothing is worse than watching a slow death. And Dodson's execution was an agonizing -- yet predictable -- lethal injection that took entirely too long to witness.
At least in the first fight Dodson dropped the champion once or twice. In this one he went out with a whimper.
So where do we go from here? Well, UFC is facing yet another problem with a dominant champion and no clear contenders. Obviously, there's the largely untested Henry Cejudo, but beyond that the contenders are as paper thin as the walls at a rent-by-the-hour hotel room. Can UFC drum up interest in another ridiculous Johnson vs. Cariaso mismatch?
Garbage. Sheer garbage.
This was the Andrei Arlovski who made me fast forward fights in the days of Paul Buentello and Tim Sylvia and Cheick Kongo. When guys would stand there for five rounds and huff and puff and do fuck all.
But, let's face it: This fight never had a hope in hell of being any good. I was willing to believe that Arlovski had made an improbable return to the upper echelons of the UFC heavyweight division after dispatching Travis Browne and Antonio Silva in brutal fashion, but Joe Rogan's hysterical hype over Frank Mir's recent successes were practically exo-planetary.
This was the same slow, plodding, washed up has-been who acted as punching bag in consecutive fights to Junior dos Santos, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett and Alistair Overeem. But, it was even worse because that fleshy, sweaty 266 pounds of meat hanging off his frame made him even slower and more useless this time around.
Not that Arlovski seemed able to capitalize. As he is wont to do in fights where nothing is happening, Arlovski did a whole lot of nothing, pawing at the air like a cat looking for food and landing the occasional inside leg kick to keep from falling asleep.
This has been the biggest knock on the Belorussian since day one, the tendency to become lulled into a shadow boxing match with his opponent where he forgets all technique and strategy and stands there with his mouth open trying to remember how to breathe.
If that performance is what wins title shots these days then somebody go find Houston Alexander and Kimbo Slice because I think Daniel Cormier needs a real contender at 205 pounds.
When Anthony "Rumble" Johnson took Jimi Manuwa to the mat in the first round I was screaming in frustration. Well, not really, but inside my brain I was.
After all, we had just endured one of 2015's worst fights (more on that below) and it looked like Johnson was about to put on a repeat of that performance. Which is the reason it's so hard to assess the performance of the heavy hitting slugger, because he did, after all, score a "Performance of the Night" bonus with a brutal knockout in the second round.
But, Johnson, dude, bro, what the fuck were you doing taking down Manuwa after you nearly decapitated him early? The weird thing about Johnson is that he's got insane power at this weight class. He literally only has to land and guys start blacking out.
So why did he take down Manuwa? Does he really think that his loss to Daniel Cormier was about his wrestling skill? Buddy, you're not going to ever become a better wrestler than Cormier. So stop trying and stick to what you do best: Landing bricks.
As for Manuwa, he probably got a generous grade considering he got knocked out and decided to trade with a dangerous striker. Indeed, I would have been curious to see whether the Englishman could have landed his kicks from range, tired out the notoriously cardio-poor Johnson and made the third round interesting. But, I figured he doesn't deserve a failing grade merely for the fact he was something of a 4:1 underdog in this fight.
But, getting knocked out like that certainly won't do wonders for his marketability, such as it is after dropping two of his last three. And without trying to be insulting or anything, the fact is he kind of entered the UFC with a Chris Weidman-esque level of fluke wins, including three injury/doctor stoppages in a row. His victory over Jan Blachowicz may be his only truly legitimate UFC win, and after seeing what the Polish fighter did last night even that victory might not be something to be proud about.
Wow. I mean, every fighter deserves praise for having the courage to step into a cage in the first place, but still. Wow. Jan Blachowicz put on one of the worst performances in the history of mixed martial arts (MMA). And that's saying a lot.
I have no idea what Blachowicz was thinking, but it may have been better to have simply given up and thrown in the towel than lie on his back uselessly for 10 minutes and get the proverbial shit kicked out of him. No amount of hypnotherapy will likely help erase this travesty of a performance and if UFC doesn't cut him outright it will only be because they somehow believe they can use him on the undercard of the undercard in some Polish backwater down the road.
But jimminy crickets, how fucking useless was Blachowicz last night? Wow.
As for Corey Anderson, he used his wrestling and ground and pound to great effect, finding his opponent's weakness early and exploiting it for every last drop of goodness he could. I wouldn't say I was impressed with his performance since he didn't actually seem able to finish a man who literally did nothing in the final five minutes, but lay there like a slug in the sun, but a win is a win I guess.
Anderson did get busted up early in the first round, too, which lowers his performance grade to a "B." In the post-fight press conference his face was so puffy I actually had no idea who he was or why he was there to answer questions from the media. Which I guess goes to show that when Blachowicz isn't busy mentally quitting or lying uselessly on his back for 10 minutes doing nothing whatsoever to improve his position he's actually a pretty dangerous fighter.
But nah, cut him anyway.
A reporter in the post-event press conference compared Paige VanZant's third round stoppage of Alex Chambers to Ronda Rousey. Ahem. Such a comment ranks right up there with Mike Goldberg's, "He's like the Michael Jordan of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!"
Look, Paige VanZant has won her fights in UFC and she's looked decent so far, but allow me to inject some much needed perspective to the so-called No. 7-ranked Strawweight in the world.
First off, she's clearly being protected. Since joining the promotion she's competed against newbie Kailin Curran, Felice Herrig and now Alex Chambers. Her most recent victim is a 36-year-old Australian with a 5-3 MMA record who if not for a miracle armbar victory against Curran, against whom she was being mauled, she would be on a three-fight losing streak. Four, if you count her time on The Ultimate Fighter (which I do).
There are enough serious holes in the game of VanZant to concern any UFC matchmaker crazy enough to think about pairing her with a real 115-pound threat like Randa Markos, Carla Esparza, Claudia Gadelha or *gasp* Joanna Jedrzejczyk. I actually shudder to think of the beating she would receive at the hands of the champion, especially given VanZant's style of bite down on mouthpiece, swing wildly, clinch.
Fighters like VanZant often find success at the lower tiers of weight classes where their style of overwhelming aggression, cardio and toughness is enough to win most fights. But then you get a situation where that fighter runs into a top striker and no amount of granite chin, relentless forward pressure and cardio is going to help overcome the fact that the other fighter is just better.
See: Paul Felder vs. Ross Pearson.
Having said all that, there's a lot to be excited about for Paige VanZant. She's only 21 so she's still rapidly improving, she has cardio for days, her pressure definitely is overwhelming and relentless, and her chin seems to hold up just fine which is a key component to any high volume striker not particularly concerned about defence (like a Nick Diaz).
It's easy to see why UFC protects her. She's the "American Pie" girl-next-door who can kick ass and grace the cover of a magazine with aplomb. But, I'd rather wait until she actually earns her No. 7 ranking before really planting my ass on the Paige VanZant bandwagon.
Oh, and as for Alex Chambers, I'm sorry to say she looked pretty out of her depth in this one. Not just from the aggression displayed by VanZant, but in rudimentary boxing technique.
Quick Hits From The Undercard
- I know we have a lot of British readers and I pissed many of them off when I said Ross Pearson (A+) was terrible in his last fight against Evan Dunham and should be cut. Honestly, I thought he was done and his career was on its last legs. But, his performance and come-from-behind win against Paul Felder (C) after dropping the first round last night was nothing short of spectacular. (By the way, it was 12-2 for Pearson on mmadecisions.com.)
- John Lineker (A+) looked incredible in his Bantamweight fight against Francisco Rivera (C-) who seemed to tower over the Brazilian, but still got dropped and stopped nonetheless. I really think he should think about staying at this weight class.
- Jessica Andrade (D) really had a mental lapse when she tried to stand up with seconds remaining in the second round and got choked out by Raquel Pennington (A). Andrade hurt Pennington in the second and may even have had a chance in the third if she didn't panic and pull a Nick Denis circa 2012.
- Clay Collard (C) may want to spend more time learning to box and less time trying to act like a clown and he might string together some wins. Tiago Trator (A) was clearly the inferior fighter but clean technique beats assclown behavior most days of the week. (For the record, mmadecisions.com shows media scored it 8-6 for Collard, despite his antics).
- Referee Jason Herzog (F) pulled a Steve Mazzagatti and called a disqualification for a move that didn't end the fight. Joe Riggs (C+) was hurt in the first round by a combination by Ron Stallings (C-), but Herzog believed it was an illegal upkick that rendered Riggs unable to continue. Technically, it should have been ruled a "No Contest" if Riggs could not continue, or a 1 point penalty if he could. Under no circumstances was that a disqualification win for Riggs, at least not under any rules that can be verified.
- I actually scored a 30-27 victory for Nazareno Malegarie (B+) in his bout with Joaquim Silva (B-), despite the fact Silva earned 30-27 scores from two judges in his split decision victory. Not only did Malegarie convincingly win the third round (he may have lost the first), he outstruck his opponent and landed an important takedown in the second. He was money with that left hook and honestly all Silva did was throw flying knees and land the occasional right hand. Was I crazy to score it for Malegarie? Well, mmadecisions.com shows media had it 9-5 for Malegarie. So, a wipeout for Silva just goes to show how unpredictable judging is these days.
That's a wrap!
We once again have a bit of a holiday from UFC before we're back with UFC Fight Night: Barnett vs. Nelson on Sept. 27, 2015, in Japan.
See you guys on fight night!