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UFC Vegas: 'Hendricks vs Thompson,' The Report Card

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Well now, I don't think anybody saw that coming. A man who went 10 rounds with Robbie Lawler without getting knocked out was finished inside of four minutes against Stephen Thompson at UFC Fight Night 82 last night (Sat., Feb. 6, 2016).

Not only was the knockout a big surprise for the Las Vegas spectators, it was a great relief after watching back-to-back candidates for worst fights of 2016. Yes, the welterweights came through after the heavier guys dragged ass for the better part of an hour during the UFC on FOX Sports 1 broadcast.

Before we get into any of that let it be said for the record: This disaster was nearly a pay-pay-view called UFC 196. That was back when we thought we were watching the rematch of Cain Velasquez vs Fabricio Werdum.

But then Velasquez got a boo boo in training camp and was replaced by Stipe Miocic, but before the ink had even dried on the metaphorical pens of the reporters writing up the change Werdum also dropped out with an ouchie. With these sensitive souls on the sidelines UFC panicked and called their buddies at FOX. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

UFC: Bro
FOX: Dude, what up
UFC: Bro, we did it again
FOX: No. What. Dude. What did you do?
UFC: We booked two fighters to anchor our entire pay-per-view...
FOX: Duuuuuuuuuuuude
UFC: Bro, even though it was entirely predictable, they BOTH got injured and we are basically completely FUBAR'd because all we have left is a karate guy and a welterweight who can never make weight.
FOX: That sucks. Well best of luck...
UFC: Dude. Please.
FOX: No.
UFC: Don't make me beg. Come on.
FOX: Look, bro, you already make us air Demetrious Johnson even though literally zero people watch flyweight. There is no way we're putting these guys on our network.
UFC: Bro, tell you what. Look. We'll take Johnson and put him on one of our pay-per-views, one everybody has to buy anyway, like I don't know... Jones vs. Cormier 2.
FOX: ...
UFC: Dude
FOX: ...
UFC: Bra?
FOX: Fine. But you owe us.

Pretty sure that's how it went down.

Anyway, Who got top marks and who failed to pass in this week's "Report Card"? Find out below:

On paper this looked like a pretty easy fight for Johny Hendricks. On paper he'd be able to rush in and take Thompson down, grind him against the cage, ground and pound him on the mat. On paper this was a "keeping busy" fight while waiting for the trilogy with Robbie Lawler. On paper communism works.

In reality Thompson wrecked Johny's world inside of 3:31 minutes. This was a one-sided beatdown ala Ronda Rousey vs Holly Holm except that at least Rousey had her moments. Hendricks was relentlessly kicked and punched in the head until his little knees buckled and he passed out on the floor.

Johny Hendricks vs Stephen Thompson full fight video highlights from UFC Fight Night 82

But let's not take anything away from Thompson, who has oh so quietly amassed a six fight winning streak with four finishes in that span. His last two wins have come via first round TKO against guys at one time considered the hardest hitters in the 170-pound division.

When Thompson debuted in UFC nearly four years to the day in 2012 against the hapless Dan Stittgen (long-time readers will be aware of my pet name for him), I wasn't impressed. Then when Matt Brown steamrolled him in his second fight I felt like the hype train had been thoroughly derailed.

But there's a reason "Wonderboy" was an undefeated kickboxer with 28 wins via knockout before he transitioned into mixed martial arts (MMA). Sharp memories will recall Thompson hurt Brown in their UFC 145 fight and he prevailed by exploiting the karate fighter's inexperience against pressure fighters and wrestlers.

It would appear Thompson has shored up any weaknesses on that front, shutting down Hendricks on the first takedown attempt and then picking him apart from range. And when I say "picking him apart" I mean he hit him in the head whenever and however he felt like it.

As for Hendricks, any fire in his belly for that title must have been quenched during the brief reign he held it because there was little to no urgency in his style. He shrugged off repeated kicks to the head, showed early frustration with closing the distance on Thompson, and stopped trying to attack after getting caught on the way in and feeling his opponent's power. It was not a good night to be a "Bigg Rigg" fan.

I'll make this short and sweet. Hot garbage. No, wait. Scalding, skin-melting trash.

Let me ask you a question. Have you ever watched a Jared Rosholt fight and thought to yourself, holy shit, I hope they put this guy in a co-main event at midnight on a Saturday night? No? Wow, amazing. You'd make a terrible UFC matchmaker I guess.

If you're in a masochistic mood watch the highlights here

That fight was 15 minutes of a fat, lazy, old, delusionally overrated man whose entire career depends on his right hand trying to chase down a slightly less fat, flinching man of dubious technique and talent. Nelson stalked and winged punches at Rosholt all night, while the latter man ran for his life, retreating to distances where he would offer a meek, closed-eyes response and hope for the best.

The fact Rosholt survived is either a testament to his unwillingness to get hit or Nelson's declining accuracy as he ages out of consideration to call himself UFC material. In whatever answer you happen to give it might be best to simply send both to Bellator MMA. There was certainly nothing in those 15 minutes of sloppy slobbery action that fans would wish to see again.

And if it is Nelson's last fight, let's take this moment to mourn the loss of great potential. A man who reveled in his mediocrity, who turned his poor work ethic and diet into a crowd-pleasing joke, and who was nevertheless able to make it to the big leagues on little more than a right hand and a granite chin. A man who, according to UFC broadcasters last night, has accumulated over 700 punches in his career, more than 500 to the skull, because he refused to become anything more than a durable punching bag.

Nelson was always a popular fighter because his physique inspired a legion of like-bodied men to look at him and say, "See? Fat guys are tough." But being tough isn't enough to become a world champion. You've got to have work ethic and dedication, and that was something "Big Country" never had.

Hey, did you hear about Rafael Cavalcante's insane power? Dude knocked out Muhammad Lawal, Yoel Romero and Igor Pokrajac! Yeah, and dinosaurs used to roam the Earth. Both are extinct today.

It's the same old thing with "Feijao", one of the least motivated people with natural talent and power I think I've ever seen. There are flashes of brilliance, signs of his old power, hints that he can do something other than stare at another man for 15 minutes. But they are just that: flashes.

For most of last night's fight Cavalcante stood and stared at St Preux, backing up and circling the entire time. Even when he clearly had "OSP" hurt, he stood there. And stared at him. And stared some more. It was like witnessing somebody running their career through a paper shredder.

After two horrendous rounds likely both won by St Preux, Cavalcante came out in the third and for a few seconds was throwing heat like Roger Clemens at Fenway Park. And then the flurry ended, and so did Cavalcante's urgency. He spent the rest of the fight standing and staring.

As for OSP, he gets a slight pass for injuring himself in the first round, but it was no less frustrating watching him plod around unable to pull the trigger. St Preux reminds me a lot of another hulking fighter named Cheick Kongo who also seemed unable to commit to an attack despite having a frame genetically built for knocking fools the fuck out.

I thought St Preux had realized he's a power striker after knocking out Mauricio Rua and Patrick Cummins, both in the first round. But this was the old Strikeforce St Preux, the man who used to take everybody to a decision by standing there menacingly and doing little to no damage.

In many respects St Preux is an Anthony Johnson who doesn't realize he's an Anthony Johnson. If he did I think he'd begin wrecking people in in the same way Rumble drops bricks. Fans of OSP can only hope.

I didn't watch this fight. Sorry.

I mean, I did, but it was sort of like the way you watch traffic while texting in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. Glance up, roll forward four feet, stop, glance down to your cell phone, glance back up. Don't judge me, you know you do it, too.

I saw enough to see what I always see when I watch a Joseph Benavidez fight when he isn't fighting men named Demetrious Johnson or Dominick Cruz. He won easily. By the way, Benavidez's record when not fighting those men is 24-0.

Zach Makovsky had his moments, namely in the wrestling department. Benavidez trains full-time at the testosterone-fueled Team Alpha Male where brosephs presumably power lift each other on the end of barbells and spend inordinate amounts of time grappling with one another inside and outside the cage. The fact Makovsky was able to manhandle "Joe B" several times was impressive.

But that's all that was impressive, as Benavidez owned all other aspects of the fight, including the striking department. The closest round was the second in which Makovsky landed two takedowns and was nearly equal in strikes, but his inability to capitalize on his wrestling or hurt Benavidez meant this fight had little excitement or drama.

And that also sums up the feeling about Benavidez winning another flyweight fight. He's got nowhere to go from here. He's 24-0 against everybody except the champions at 125 pounds and 135 pounds so there's no story to develop here or case to be made for a run at a belt. It was yet another impressive notch in the win column and that's about it. Congrats, I guess.

If you were a time traveller who arrived at a random date in history how would you know you were watching a watered down UFC card in 2016? Because Alex Nicholson is fighting on the "main" portion of a FOX card.

Who is Nicholson? I mean, other than a man who randomly became the first guy to ever propose to his girlfriend while in the process of depriving his body of water and sustenance? He's a 6-1 fighter whose last win came in "Square Ring Promotions - Island Fights 34." The boots, they quake.

Watch Cirkunov choke out Nicholson in the second round here

Misha Cirkunov, a Russian fighter who trains out of his adopted country of Canada, had little trouble picking apart the sloppy striking of Nicholson, who missed no fewer than four spinning backfists en route to getting choked out in the second round. While Cirkunov has showed some promise in his UFC fights, it was a poor showing for Nicholson who showed little more than a reckless style buttressed by a strong chin.

That chin did give way in the second round, however, when Cirkunov got the back of Nicholson during one of his classic failed spinning backfist attempts, and cranked out a submission by applying pressure not on his neck but on his jaw. Somehow I don't think it was a red panties night after that loss.

Although the 41-year-old in me was happy for the 40-year-old Mike Pyle, I felt bad for Sean Spencer. The 28-year-old is 3-4 in UFC and will likely get cut after suffering his third loss in his last four fights but he deserves another chance, especially considering he was involved in "Fight of the Night."

Watch 40-year-old Mike Pyle get the spinning back elbow finish against Sean Spencer here

Other than getting submitted by Rafael Natal in his debut at middleweight, Spencer has put on exciting fights in the UFC and demonstrated a tremendous chin, as anybody who watched him split a decision against Alex Garcia will attest. He's also got some power in his hands and mixes it up nicely with wrestling and aggression.

Spencer looked good early on against Pyle, landing the double jab again and again to set up the right hand. It even led to a knockdown for Spencer in the first, though it wasn't hard enough to finish the veteran fighter. Pyle returned the favor in the second round by hurting Spencer, however the Virginia native recovered and even returned fire to end the round.

Things were looking fairly even in the third until Pyle finally landed a technique he'd been trying all night, sending a spinning elbow into the forehead of Spencer that left the fighter dazed and confused. The finish wasn't far behind.

Pyle has played spoiler to many a surging UFC career in his time, including Rick Story, James Head, the six-fight winning streak of Josh Neer, and the 14-0 record of John Hathaway. At 40 it's amazing to think he's still both so durable and deadly. He looks like he's still got many a fight left in him. His 1980s mullet and all.

Quick Hits From The Undercard

  • Josh Burkman (C-) looked exactly like a man who admitted he cut 18 pounds in 24 hours to take on K.J. Noons (F), who is a kickboxer that has abandoned all pretense of kicking. If I told a newcomer to the sport that Noons is a former Muay Thai, Karate and Sanshou fighter and not simply a boxer, they would likely laugh in my face.
  • Derrick Lewis (A+) said after destroying the overhyped Damian Grabowski (F) in two minutes that "I can't be the beast if I don't fight like one." This guy has so much power in his hands that when he throws you can see birds flying away from trees in terror. I see good things for Lewis based on his improved wrestling and aggression.
  • Justin Scoggins (A) looked incredible outclassing Ray Borg (D) for most of three rounds. I don't think anybody expected Borg to beat him on the feet, but nor did they expect him to get completely stymied in takedowns and outstruck in every single exchange. It was a beatdown.
  • Diego Rivas (B) landed one of the most brutal flying knees I've ever seen against Noad Lahat (C-) who likely won the first round by a 10-8 margin. Lahat now has the distinction of being 9-0 when not hit by a flying knee, however he's 0-2 and both by brutal KO when he is, the other courtesy Godofredo Pepey. Lahat was so rocked by that knee I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see him back for at least a year.
  • Mickey Gall (A), a man with a 1-0 pro MMA record, beat Mike Jackson (F), a man with an 0-1 amateur MMA record, to win the CM Punk sweepstakes. I'm not sure why UFC chose to do it this way or whether it was something Punk wanted to do, but it's all somewhat bizarre and slightly embarrassing to witness.
  • At a certain point merely being a friend of Conor McGregor shouldn't be enough to score a UFC contract. Artem Lobov (F) fell to 11-12 after losing to Alex White (B) in the first fight of the night in an affair that exposed the Russian's considerable lack of any ability whatsoever. Lobov did little more than gas out and wing punches at White, who had merely to step back, counter, and take him down at will.
That's all she wrote, folks! See you in two weeks for UFC Fight Night 83 when Cowboy will take on... Cowboy. Neat.

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