Sunday may be the Day of Rest, but there are no brakes on the mixed martial arts (MMA) train. MMAmania.com’s March MMAdness rumbles on with another batch of legendary slugfests ...
- Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez (#12) defeats Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis (#53) with 51 percent of Maniac votes
- Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum (#21) defeats Jorge Santiago vs. Kazuo Misaki 2 (#44) with 79 percent of Maniac votes
- Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley (#28) defeats Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Randy Couture (#37) with 76 percent of Maniac votes
- Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 2 (#5) defeats Diego Sanchez vs. Karo Parisyan (#60) with 84 percent of Maniac votes
No surprises this time around, though Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis nearly managed a major upset despite just two rounds of action.
Enough reminiscing on past polls, though — let’s get back to reminiscing on past fights.
Match 17: Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar 1 (#2) vs. Junior dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic 1 (#63)
Of all the accolades one could heap upon the 64 fights in this bracket, “single-handedly saved UFC from certain doom” certainly ranks among the most laudable.
Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar — the last men standing after the inaugural The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) experiment — spent 15 minutes beating the absolute crap out of each other. The sheer violence on display launched UFC from the precipice of disaster into cultural icon status. Whether it’s the best scrap of all time is up to your discretion, but it’s hard to argue against it having the greatest tangible impact of any fight in the bracket.
Cain Velasquez’s second mauling of Junior dos Santos erased all doubt that “Cigano’s” blueprint had been found: for all his boxing prowess, takedown defense, and one-shot power, dos Santos simply could not handle pressure. Stipe Miocic — a cool 3-0 since a surprise knockout loss to Stefan Struve — clearly did his homework, keeping dos Santos on the back foot through two rounds as he threatened with heavy right hands and regular takedowns.
As it turned out, though, Miocic was missing the inhuman cardio that made Velasquez such a potent force. A massive left hook in the third round sent him to his knees and forcibly redirected the fight’s momentum, allowing dos Santos’ veteran savvy to take command. Miocic gave it his all, but dos Santos’ impressive work down the stretch swayed the judges and reminded the Heavyweight division that he wasn’t done quite yet.
Who wins Match 17?
This poll is closed
Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar I
Junior Dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic I
Match 18: Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje (#31) vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin (#34)
If the left-hand side of the bracket was Robbie Lawler’s domain, the right side is Justin Gaethje’s. “The Highlight’s” first three Octagon bouts all landed impressive seeds for very good reason: he’s can’t-miss television. Against the equally enthralling Dustin Poirier, he produced a heart-poundingly brutal war of attrition.
As Poirier uncorked nasty combinations and Gaethje stalked after him with his customary implacability, it quickly became a question of which would give out first, Poirier’s leg or Gaethje’s chin. In the lead but stumbling after countless blows to the thigh, Poirier capitalized brilliantly on Gaethje’s over-eagerness in the fourth round, blasting him with a counter off of a naked low kick and never letting him recover.
There was a time when the future of the Heavyweight division lay in the hands of hulking monsters who cut weight to make the 265-pound limit. It wasn’t a hard prediction to make after seeing what Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin did to people; Lesnar’s mauling of Frank Mir remains one of the gnarliest ground-and-pound performances in the promotion’s history and Carwin obliterated Mir with point-blank punches in equally devastating fashion.
This was essentially UFC’s version of a kaiju battle.
Lesnar, back in action for the first time since a life-threatening bout with diverticulitis, seemed unable to withstand Carwin’s heinous power, covering up under fire and absorbing a prolonged barrage from the promotion’s largest fists. As the minutes wore on and Carwin continued to slam punches against Lesnar’s forearms, though, the former’s inexperience with longer fights caught up to him. By the time the ref sent them to their respective corners, Carwin was spent, allowing Lesnar to hit an early takedown in the second and retain his title via arm triangle choke.
Who wins Match 18?
This poll is closed
Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje
Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin
Match 19: Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez 1 (#18) vs. Roger Huerta vs. Clay Guida (#47)
This fight’s sequel had the misfortune of facing the #4-seed in the opening round, but it might just have the goods for a deep run in bracket.
When these two first met in 2011, Alvarez was Bellator’s crown jewel, unblemished since a 2008 loss to Shinya Aoki and sporting six dominant wins under the promotion’s banner. Chandler was a top prospect, having choked out Polish young gun Marcin Held and beaten tough veterans Lloyd Woodard and Patricky Pitbull, but this looked like a classic case of too much, too soon.
That narrative quickly disintegrated as Chandler tore into the champion with punches, taking advantage of “The Underground King’s” penchant for slow starts and gunning for an early finish. Alvarez’s resilience carried him through a horrific first round and competitive second, allowing him to punish Chandler with an endless stream of punches in the third. Just as Chandler’s early blitz appeared to have totally backfired, though, “Iron” managed to hurt him again, take him down, and choke him out for an incredible comeback finish.
Clay Guida’s propensity for execrable fights, like the ones he had against Gray Maynard and Hatsu Hioki, make it easy to forget that he can really put a hurting on people under the right circumstances. Roger Huerta, an undefeated up-and-comer whose charisma and entertaining style had him tabbed as a budding star, learned this the hard way.
“The Carpenter” put Huerta through the meat grinder for two rounds, capping off his efforts with a fake level change to draw a sprawl and smash Huerta’s unprotected chin with a nasty right hand. “The Matador,” showing off the grit that would become his trademark, not only survived but caught Guida coming in with a knee early in the third, tearing into his wobbling foe until he left his neck exposed for a come-from-behind submission win.
Who wins Match 19?
This poll is closed
Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez I
Roger Huerta vs. Clay Guida
Match 20: Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero 2 (#13) vs. Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway 2 (#50)
Robert Whittaker’s and Yoel Romero’s first meeting was a solid affair which saw Whittaker power through a nasty knee injury to out-box the Cuban monster and claim the vacant Middleweight title. Their second meeting was 25 minutes of exhilaration, an absolute slugfest that pushed both men to their limits.
After two rounds of Whittaker outworking Romero, “Soldier of God” found the mark with a lethal right hand that put Whittaker on his seat. “The Reaper,” doggedly un-reaped, survived the ensuing barrage and rocked him in return, landing heavy elbows and a flush head kick that Romero’s meat slab of a neck somehow absorbed. Persistent volume put Whittaker back in control, only for Romero to hurt him late in the fourth and nearly knock him silly in the fifth. The fact that Whittaker survived to the bell is a feat in and of itself, but taking the fourth round amid that artillery to claim the split decision is something else.
The first time these two met, Dustin Poirier was a rough-around-the-edges brawler and Max Holloway a skilled, skeletal striker with an underdeveloped ground game. “The Diamond” took full advantage of that last descriptor, dragging “Blessed” to the mat and wrapping up a mounted triangle armbar for a swift finish.
By the time their rematch rolled around, each man had developed into a genuine monster, and the ensuing war somehow lived up to the impossible standard set by Israel Adesanya vs Kelvin Gastelum just minutes prior. Poirier came out looking for yet another early finish, putting Holloway’s iron chin to the test with a barrage of teeth-rattling punches. Holloway, ever the warrior, looked to match him blow for blow, only to discover that his high-volume barrages couldn’t dissuade Poirier the way they could Featherweights. Though never out of the fight, Holloway simply could not overcome Poirier’s firepower, and left Atlanta’s State Farm Arena empty-handed while Poirier celebrated his long-awaited ascension to champion status.
Who wins Match 20?
This poll is closed
Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero II
Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway II
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.