With hundreds of votes on each fight, Day One of Mania’s March MMAdness has officially come to a close.
- Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald 2 (#1) defeats Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice (#64) with 95 percent of Maniac votes
- Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier (#32) defeats Wanderlei Silva vs. Rampage Jackson 2 (#33) with 51 percent of Maniac votes
- Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon (#48) defeats Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko Filipovic (#17) with 51 percent of Maniac votes
- Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes 2 (#16) defeats Dominick Cruz vs. T.J. Dillashaw (#49) with 61 percent of Maniac votes
There were no surprises in our opening match, which saw No. 1-seed Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald 2 obliterate the No. 64-seeded Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice, and the clash between No. 32 and No. 33 was predictably razor-close. We got our first big upset rather earlier than expected, though, as Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon toppled the legendary Heavyweight clash between Fedor and Cro Cop. Finally, Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes cruised to a comfortable victory over Cruz and Dillashaw.
Hope your brain meats weren’t too taxed by yesterday, because we’ve got another quartet for you to examine.
Match 5: Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit (#9) vs. Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner (#56)
Carlos Condit’s previous title fight against an all-action striker wasn’t quite as entertaining as we’d have liked, but this one certainly was. “The Natural Born Killer” put in a phenomenal effort against one of the division’s all-time-great punchers in Lawler, producing a 25-minute classic at UFC 195.
The former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) king got off to a hot start, rocking Lawler with a right hand in the first round, and appeared to have secured the early momentum before getting caught off-balance by a heavy shot and floored in the second. Undaunted, he continued to seemingly outwork the “Ruthless” one until the home stretch rolled around and, with it, Fifth Round Lawler.
The final five minutes remain some of the most entertaining in the history of the sport as Lawler damned the torpedoes and unloaded with everything he had on an implacable Condit, securing himself a narrow split decision and further cementing his place as one of the sport’s most entertaining figures.
Jamie Varner had one of the more cursedly unfortunate UFC runs you’re likely to see. The four-fight losing streak that capped off his career featured a close split decision loss to Gleison Tibau, a one-punch knockout loss to Abel Trujillo in a fight “C-4” was winning, a freak ankle injury against James Krause, and a self-KO-to-submission defeat against Drew Dober.
Damned if that run wasn’t memorable as hell, though, from his upset beatdown of Edson Barboza to his absolute war with Lauzon.
Stepping up on short notice for the injured Terry Etim, Varner gave Lauzon everything he could handle in the first round, hurting him with heavy punches and flooring him late. Lauzon’s ground skills brought him back into the fight in the second, setting up a pivotal final five minutes. Though Varner appeared to have regained control, a late power double saw him swept and caught in a triangle to end one of 2012’s “Fights of the Year.”
Who wins Match Five?
This poll is closed
Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit
Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner
Match 6: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz I (#24) vs. Benson Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone I (#41)
For all of Nate Diaz’s skill and durability, it’s not controversial to say that he’s easy to hit. Against Conor McGregor, who’d just starched the iron-chinned Jose Aldo, that was more than a little worrisome, especially since Diaz was a late-notice replacement for injured Lightweight champ Rafael Dos Anjos.
The pair followed the script fairly faithfully in the first round, which also saw McGregor show off some unexpected grappling chops by sweeping his way out from under Diaz and doing a bit of damage from top position. “Notorious” kept hold of the reins throughout the first half of the second round as well, only for Diaz to catch him with a game-changing one-two combination. As Diaz continued to march through McGregor’s combinations, McGregor made the grievous mistake of attempting his own takedown, initiating a sequence that left him tapping to a rear-naked choke for a monumental upset.
In terms of amazing-fight density, it’s still hard to beat WEC, which proved that Japan didn’t have a monopoly on terrific lower-weight tussles. The Benson Henderson/Donald Cerrone/Jamie Varner triumvirate ruled the Lightweight roost before the advent of Anthony Pettis and produced classic after classic, though none quite as memorable as this first meeting of “Smooth” and “Cowboy.”
This fight installed Henderson’s submission defense in the halls of legend as Cerrone unleashed an unending array of chokes, armbars, omoplatas, and anything else that came to mind. To his credit, Henderson doggedly continued to enforce his wrestling, searching for ground-and-pound opportunities as Cerrone’s legs attempted to do bad things to his joints and arteries.
Henderson ultimately walked away with a controversial decision, beginning a trilogy that wouldn’t conclude until six years later.
Who wins Match Six?
This poll is closed
Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor I
Benson Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone I
Match 7: Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama (#25) vs. Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (#40)
There is no technical analysis to be done here. That’s because without exchanging a word, these two mutually agreed to grab a single collar tie and smash each other’s faces with right hands until someone had enough. It was a glorious moment, so cartoonishly violent and manly that you can’t help but stand up and cheer.
Within seconds, it turned into a sublime combination of ultra violence and slapstick. As they pound, pound, pounded each other’s skulls, you could see all the faces in the crowd light up with joy. Grown men, little girls— they’d been waiting their whole lives for this one perfect moment! Your brain damage does not happen in vain, Frye and Takayama!
Sadly, Takayama was paralyzed from the neck down from a professional wrestling accident in 2017; therefore, please keep him in your thoughts as you enjoy this moment of supreme machismo.
Chris Leben at his best was such a tough bastard that even his infamous declaration that he’d send Anderson Silva “back to Japan where the competition is easier” didn’t dull his shine. A concrete head, concrete fists, and ability to carry his power late made him a nightmare for even the most adept technician.
Despite being known for his judo prowess, “Sexyama” was more than happy to trade heat, slugging it out with the “Crippler” when he wasn’t throwing him to the mat. Leben, who’d scored a stoppage win just two weeks prior, somehow managed to outlast his foe and lock up a triangle in the waning seconds of the third for a while comeback victory.
Who wins Match Seven?
This poll is closed
Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama
Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
Match 8: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2 (#8) vs. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira I (#57)
For all of McGregor’s foibles and things that deserve harsher language than “foibles,” the man can adapt. A more patient approach than in their first meeting led to him scoring knockdown after knockdown against Diaz in the first two rounds, racking up damage to the body and lead leg as he went. Diaz, undauntable as ever, continued to plow forward, and his refusal to stop advancing or punching led to a near-finish late in the third.
Unlike that first fight, though, McGregor refused to succumb. He dug in his heels, recommitted to his gameplan, and banked the critical fourth round. Diaz’s clinchwork and late takedowns in the fifth weren’t enough to offset the Irishman’s early success, resulting in a majority decision for “Notorious.”
This was among the least competitive of the fights in our bracket, but it was a watershed moment in Heavyweight history. Emelianenko, who’d secured his place among the elite by mauling Heath Herring, took on the division’s kingpin, went right into his lethal guard, and beat the ever-loving snot out of him. It was a virtuoso performance, one that any prospective ground-and-pounder should treat as a religious text.
Who wins Match Eight?
This poll is closed
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz II
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Also, to reiterate, spread the word, share socially ... do whatever grassroots / viral “Get Out The Vote” campaign needed to ensure your favorite fights advance to the next round. Complaining in the comments section about seeding and whatnot will not impact the results and will just make you look like an unappreciative dick.
Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our March MMAdness archive — which includes the entire bracket — to catch up on the tournament right here.