We arrive at Day Three of Mania’s March MMAdness tournament, which means it’s time to tabulate the votes and churn out some fresh fights to vote on.
- Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit (#9) defeats Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner (#56) with 82 percent of Maniac votes
- Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor I (#24) defeats Benson Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone 2 (#41) with 73 percent of Maniac votes
- Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama (#25) defeats Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (#40) with 64 percent of Maniac votes
- Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2 (#8) defeats Fedor Emelianko vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (#57) with 61 percent of Maniac votes
Despite a very spirited effort from our No. 57 seed, there’s no upsets to be found this time around as we finish up the first quadrant. Ready to keep going? Well, ready or not, on we go ...
Match 9: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson I (#4) vs. Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler 2 (#61)
It says something about a fight when you can remember exactly where you were when you saw it. Me, I was in college, watching at one of two nearby bars with the rest of our Brazilim jiu-jitsu club. I’m 90 percent sure the other one was a tax scam, but this one was legit.
UFC’s marketing for this fight revolved almost entirely on Gustafsson’s height, brushing aside the six-fight win streak that actually earned “The Mauler” a crack at the title. Not that I can really blame the promotion — Vitor Belfort’s Hail Mary armbar was the only bit of adversity Jones had faced in nearly four years. “He’s taller than all the guys Jones brutalized” was as good a sell as any.
Then Gustafsson boxed up Jones and took him down.
Gustafsson turned in the performance of a lifetime, going neck-and-neck with Jones for nearly the entirety of the fight. Had he not been badly rocked by a spinning elbow in the fourth frame, he could have easily been up 3-1 going into the fifth round. But, alas, Jones kept his composure, took over down the stretch, and retained his title in the first real nail-biter of his career.
This pair’s first meeting was top stuff: Alvarez was well entrenched as Bellator’s Lightweight king and looked poised to retain once again against a still-green Chandler, who’d failed to impress in his decision over Patricky Pitbull. Instead, Chandler exploited Alvarez’s tendency to start slow with some huge early damage, survived “The Underground King’s” third-round onslaught, and choked him out in the fourth.
Heading into their rematch, Chandler had won three straight by stoppage, while Alvarez rode high on knockouts of Shinya Aoki and the aforementioned Pitbull. The sequel promised violence and it absolutely delivered. After a pair of neck-and-neck rounds, Alvarez began to take over, unleashing combinations on the flagging Chandler as he had the first time around. Defying his own fatigue, Chandler roared back to absolutely dominate the fourth with strong top control and steady ground-and-pound, but it wasn’t enough to stop Alvarez from further mauling his face and putting a stamp on his victory with some late grappling dominance.
Who wins Match Nine?
This poll is closed
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson I
Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler II
Match 10: Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler I (#29) vs. Shogun Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira I (#36)
Three days, three Robbie Lawler fights. Is it any wonder that we love this guy?
Johny Hendricks entered this fight having just been robbed of a career-defining victory over Georges St-Pierre. Lawler entered having just beaten one of the division’s heirs apparent in Rory MacDonald. Even with “Big Rigg’s” history of producing razor-thin slogs with the same regularity as his hellacious knockouts, all signs pointed to a terrific scrap for the vacant Welterweight title.
Despite their respective areas of expertise, it was Hendricks dictating the striking early, using slick combination punching and heavy leg kicks to keep “Ruthless” on his heels. Lawler’s power soon made itself known, however, allowing him to bank the third and fourth rounds. Unfortunately for him, this was before the advent of Fifth Round Lawler, and Hendricks secured the title with an impressive surge in the final two minutes.
A fight so nice they made it thrice.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at his best was an absolute sight to be hold, an indestructible and unflagging engine of destruction with a taste for extreme violence that made teammate Wanderlei Silva look tame by comparison. “Minotouro” Nogueira was far from a stepping stone, though, entering their meeting on an eight-fight winning streak that saw him beat Guy Mezger, Kazushi Sakuraba, Alistair Overeem, and Dan Henderson.
Their meeting more than lived up to expectations. Nogueira claimed first blood with a brutal hook that left “Shogun” on rubber legs, but Rua took it to the mat and looked for his trademark stomps. The pace never waned, both men landing huge shots on the feet with the occasional breather on the mat. Rua’s strategic use of takedowns ultimately got him the win, sending him further along in PRIDE’s Middleweight tournament.
Who wins Match 10?
This poll is closed
Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler I
Shogun Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira I
Match 11: Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi (#20) vs. Matt Brown vs. Erick Silva (#45)
Takanori Gomi’s time at the pinnacle of the Lightweight division came to a crashing halt in 2006 when Marcus Aurelio put him to sleep with an arm-triangle choke, snapping a 10-fight unbeaten streak that included eight finishes. A fresh three-fight streak proved he wasn’t quite done, however, and he was still considered elite when he stepped into the ring against a 24-year-old Nick Diaz fresh out of UFC.
The size difference didn’t stop Gomi from taking an early lead via his oft-underutilized wrestling and a colossal right hook that Diaz would later describe as a “Hadouken.” Diaz’s legendary resilience soon came to the fore, though, as he began walking through Gomi’s bombs and wearing him down to the point where “The Fireball Kid” struggled to even keep his hands up.
Gomi got a bit of a second wind after the bell, but another takedown attempt proved his undoing when Diaz caught him in a picture-perfect gogoplata.
Erick Silva’s star had already faded considerably by the time he headlined a UFC Fight Night against the resurgent Matt Brown, but their meeting still promised fireworks and absolutely delivered. A crushing body kick had Silva on the brink of victory in the opening minutes as he swiftly took the stricken “Immortal’s” back, only for Brown to power his way back to the feet and unleash his signature “technical brawling.”
To his credit, Silva hung in there until the third round, stinging Brown despite an inability to blunt his advance. He just couldn’t turn aside the momentum, though, ultimately falling to Brown’s ground-and-pound.
Who wins Match 11?
This poll is closed
Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi
Matt Brown vs. Erick Silva
Match 12: Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi (#13) vs. Yair Rodriguez vs. Chan Sung Jung (#52)
Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi had all the signs of a passing-of-the-torch match up. “The Korean Superboy” — eight years Swanson’s junior — had been terrifyingly efficient during his Octagon tenure, needing less than a cumulative round to take out his first three opponents. Swanson, by contrast, wasn’t far removed from one-sided losses to Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway.
Choi’s textbook boxing defined their early engagements as he worked behind a powerful jab to set up his lethal right cross. Not long into the second, however, Swanson stung him with a heavy right hand and things descended into chaos. Swanson’s experience in slobberknockers proved invaluable as he out-slugged the game Choi, won their third-round grappling engagements, and had him on the brink of a technical knockout finish when the final bell rang.
No matter how far this fight goes in bracket, it’s indisputable that it had one of the greatest endings in the history of the sport. That said, the bits leading up to it weren’t half bad, either.
“Pantera” was his usual explosive self from the get-go, while Jung leaned on the patient, stalking pressure that had turned him from gimmick to top contender. As the minutes wore on and Jung refused to slow his advance, Rodriguez’s high-flying offense saw diminished returns, and “The Korean Zombie” had full control by the championship rounds. Then, in one jaw-dropping moment, Jung obliged Rodriguez in one final exchange and ate a reverse upward elbow for a literal last-second knockout defeat.
Who wins Match 12?
This poll is closed
Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi
Yair Rodriguez vs. Chan Sung Jung
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.