July ended with quite a bang for MMA fans. UFC 201 delivered solid action and unexpected results, while World Series of Fighting 32 was an all-around fun show (besides an awful and questionable timeslot).
Let’s take a look at this week’s MMA news!
UFC 201: Tyron Woodley KO’s Robbie Lawler, Jake Ellenberger KO’s Matt Brown
UFC 201 was a unique pay-per-view event that will be remembered predominantly by its disdain for hard-nosed strikers.
Case and point: the main event of the evening.
Robbie Lawler came out aggressive and ready to bang just like he has so many times in the past, but Tyron Woodley was prepared. After a competitive and relatively uneventful opening two minutes, Woodley uncorked some of his famous power and connected cleanly on the chin of Lawler. “Ruthless” fell down and “T-Wood” followed up with additional shots which sealed the deal. The stoppage looked a bit early live, given the camera angle and Lawler’s toughness, but further replays confirmed that it was well-timed.
Tyron Woodley is a monster, and it goes without saying that this win is incredibly, incredibly impressive. More than marking a new era in the welterweight division, his triumph marks a new era in all of the MMA. Long gone are the days of a single athlete remaining on top of any division. There’re far too many gifted fighters out there, far too many styles to account for, and far too many ways to win. On any given night, anyone in the top ten can secure the belt.
It’s a thrilling time to be a fan.
In the co-main event of the evening, Karolina Kowalkiewicz went to war with Rose Namajunas in a contest that would ultimately be declared “Fight of the Night”. This back-and-forth strawweight tilt was very exciting, but I’ll openly admit that I wasn’t fully focused on it. I was too excited for the main event to watch as diligently as I should have (or would normally have). That’s what replays are for, though.
The win sets up what should be a very intriguing title fight between Kowalkiewicz and Joanna Jędrzejczyk—both natives of Poland.
UFC 201’s featured bout was a riveting affair between perennial contender Matt Brown and Jake Ellenberger, the explosive and skilled UFC welterweight who has entered a bit of a career rough patch.
Well, it looks as though the rough patch has ended.
Seconds into their contest, Jake Ellenberger tagged Matt Brown with a stunning right to the jaw that would have put most other humans (including fighters) out cold. Brown displayed his legendary grit and tenacity by recovering, but later in the round, Ellenberger landed again, this time with a perfectly placed kick to the side of Brown’s body. “The Immortal” was stunned and “The Juggernaut” followed-up with an abundance of strikes that caused the ref to call the bout. This marks the first time Brown has been defeated with strikes.
The win effectively threw Jake’s hat back into the crowded ring of welterweight contenders. It’s been a long road, and it’s good to see his hard work pay off. Matt Brown is just as tough and skilled as ever, and it’ll be fun to watch him compete going forward as well.
Before that, Francisco Rivera and Erik Perez went to war in a bantamweight slugfest. The first two rounds were competitive (more so in my eyes than those of the judges), with Rivera landing strikes on the feet and looking to keep the contest striking, and Perez landing shots of his own but consistently looking for the takedown. At the start of the third, Rivera dispensed what was left of his gas tank and connected with hard punches on Perez in the process, but they weren’t enough to put the hard-nosed up-and-comer away. Rivera was exhausted from this sequence, and Perez controlled the remainder of the round in top control, thereby sealing the fight.
The main card kicked off with a solid flyweight scrap between Ryan Benoit and Freddy Serrano. Benoit probably took the first round, Serrano the second, and Benoit the third; this was reflected in the split decision. A competitive fight overall, this is a big win for “Baby Face” Benoit. It feels like not that long ago he was fighting at Legacy on AXS TV.
As a whole, UFC 201 was reasonable. Most fans knew not to expect too much, and those who approached the card with hopes of average fighting action were probably pleased.
World Series of Fighting 32: Marlon Moraes Finishes Josh Hill, Lance Palmer Avenges His Loss to Alexandre Almeida
WSOF 32 was a overall solid set of fights that was marred by a very questionable start time. The main card began right as the UFC’s main fights were getting underway, and more specifically, both main events started at nearly the exact same time.
I’m sure you understand how stupid this is. By the way, WSOF, you can send me my check in the mail. I successfully asked a Buffalo Wild Wings staff member to turn on your show, and he obliged.
In the main event of the evening, Marlon Moraes put his first fight with Josh Hill in the rearview, winning this time via second-round KO. After connecting cleanly with a head kick, Moraes landed solid ground and pound until the referee rightfully called a stop to the action. He is one of the best bantamweights in the world, and both Bellator and the UFC would be wise to hunt for his contract.
The co-main event of the evening was another awesome title rematch, for the featherweight belt. Alexandre Almeida bested Team Alpha Male’s Lance Palmer last year via unanimous decision, and this time around, Palmer took the belt and the decision by using his energy more effectively and landing notable strikes with consistency.
The featured fight between brothers Caros and Joey Fodor went about as one would expect. Caros, the brother with twice as many pro fights against better opposition, won with ease by implementing his takedowns.
Finally, the main card kicked off with an impressive upset from Louis Taylor as he defeated the highly touted Blackzillian Phil Hawes via second-guillotine. In the process of claiming Hawes’s undefeated record, Taylor expanded his win streak to six.
WSOF 32 was good once again, but I just don’t have any admiration whatsoever for the timeslot; it seems like a real waste of time and resources for a struggling but a high-quality promotion like WSOF to compete directly with the industry leader.
Joe Rogan Re-Signs with the UFC, Establishes Reduced Schedule
Longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan has re-signed with the UFC for at least another year, although he will maintain a less-frequent schedule than he has in the past—particularly in terms of international events, many of which he will no longer cover.
This development comes after Rogan indicated he was thinking of leaving the UFC (especially if the promotion sold). Now, after some long talks with Dana White (who will remain president under the new owners), Rogan changed his mind.
Most fans have already read between the lines and gathered that the new UFC owners decided to pay Joe Rogan a (larger) boatload of money for his services (the talks with Dana were a good cover). The reasoning is simple: recognition. His enthusiasm and love for the sport are easily recognizable to any viewer, as are his voice and likeness to both hardcore and casual fans. It’s been abundantly clear in the past that the UFC values this recognition; who could forget when they chased Rogan’s longtime partner Mike Goldberg down before he signed with the WWE for more money (whether the deal was very close to being completed or Goldberg was playing it up to receive a larger UFC check is unknown, but he began recording voiceovers for the wrestling company in their studio).
Furthermore, like Bruce Buffer, Arianny Celeste, Dana White, and many other UFC employees, Rogan is very good at his job. While it’s true that he (and the other mentioned individuals) could be replaced by someone who will also do a quality job, finding these candidates is costly, time-consuming, and frustrating.
Additionally, it’s impossible to fully determine just how good potential replacements are until they complete a live broadcast—when any and all errors will be closely scrutinized. Factor in the aforementioned recognition and the time it would take to re-build with a new employee, and it’s clear that the easiest course is to keep good employees on for as long as possible.
Former UFC Heavyweight Champ Shane Carwin Considering an Octagon Return
In 2013, Shane Carwin abruptly retired from MMA. Despite coaching The Ultimate Fighter alongside Roy Nelson and being scheduled to fight him, the former interim champ was forced to hang up the gloves due to injuries accumulated over a long and storied career.
Now, it looks like he’s coming back.
A Tweet sent out by Carwin early this week made clear his intentions to compete in the Octagon once again. The fan reaction was expectedly positive, and critics are currently few and far between. Most individuals like Carwin, and even though he’s forty-one years of age, it’s not fair or objective to tell him he’s too old to fight. Seven of the UFC’s top fifteen heavyweights are thirty-five or older, with several having already cracked forty.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, and hopefully, we’ll be watching Carwin compete in the Octagon again soon (rebooking the Roy Nelson fight makes sense to me).
MMA Fight Announcements
Gegard Mousasi vs Vitor Belfort at UFC 204 on October 8
Long-time veteran and former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort will clash with the perennial, well-rounded contender Gegard Mousasi at UFC 204—the UK card where Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson will rematch.
This is an awesome stylistic fight, but its competitors are in entirely different career spots. Since being forced to abandon TRT (testosterone replacement therapy), Vitor Belfort has seen his physical characteristics and fight performances deflate. He’s competed just three times since the end of 2013 (about when TRT was outlawed) and present day, having lost two of those encounters via first-round TKO to the elite opposition in Chris Weidman and Jacare Souza.
Inversely, Gegard Mousasi has put together two consecutive, high-quality wins since being caught by an ultra-impressive, one-in-a-million, flying technique from Uriah Hall.
In other words, Vitor Belfort desperately needs a win here. Gegard has a lot more riding on the outcome, though, as a loss would effectively delay his title aspirations by at least two years.
Randy Brown vs. Erick Montano at UFC Fight Night Hidalgo on September 17
Both of these up-and-coming competitors are explosive and fun to watch, and their fight should accordingly be exciting. Given their current divisional standing, the man who loses here will be thrown off his path towards a top fifteen ranking for a long time, in all likelihood.
Jim Wallhead vs. Jessin Ayari at UFC Fight Night Hamburg on September 3
“Judo” Jim Wallhead, longtime MMA veteran and former Bellator and Bamma competitor, will finally make his UFC debut, replacing Emil Weber Meek (who once again encountered USADA testing issues) against Jessin Ayari at UFN Hamburg.
This is a best-case replacement for fans. Judo Jim is skilled and always thrilling inside the cage—twenty of his twenty-seven wins have come by way of stoppage—while his opponent, Jessin Ayari, is an up-and-coming twenty-four-year-old submission specialist who hasn’t lost a fight since 2013.
Saad Awad vs. Derek Anderson at Bellator 160 on August 26
Saad Awad is one of the most underrated competitors in Bellator, and Derek Anderson is also very skilled. More than being stylistically appealing, this contest will directly shape the lightweight divisional landscape, as Anderson is coming off of the biggest win of his career over Patricky Pitbull, and Awad has won four of his last five contests.
UFC Cuts Women’s Bantamweight Sarah Kaufman
UFC women’s bantamweight contender Sarah Kaufman has been cut by the UFC. Although many headlines indicate that “the UFC opted not to re-sign her”, the truth is that she was cut. While it’s technically accurate that the promotion didn’t offer her another contract, they probably would have just voided an ongoing agreement if she incurred her latest loss while it was still applicable.
With that said, this is a bold move from the UFC. Kaufman may have lost her last two fights, but the former of these losses came against Alexis Davis (who has only been bested by Ronda Rousey inside the Octagon, winning all four of her other UFC contests) and Valentina Shevchenko, who defeated Holly Holm in clear-cut fashion just last week. Moreover, the Shevchenko loss was a competitive split decision.
The women’s bantamweight division, like several others in the organization, desperately requires new title challengers (even with the recent upsets of Miesha Tate and Holly Holm). However, the answer to this dilemma isn’t to cut established and skilled athletes like Kaufman.
Luke Rockhold Calls for Contest Against Anderson Silva
Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is calling for a match against fellow former champion and all-time great Anderson Silva.
At first, I was wondering why in the world someone like Rockhold—an intelligent person and longtime competitor in the sport—would call-out Silva, who despite still being skilled, hasn’t found a win in his last five fights. Then it hit me: Rockhold believes he’ll capture a relatively easy victory against a big-named opponent.
This may have been obvious to others, but whenever a fighter call out another athlete, I immediately begin to think about what can be gained by this competitor with a win—after all, the potential reward serves as the motivator of most everything that’s promotionally charged.
I see where Luke Rockhold is coming from, but I don’t at all agree with his thinking. There’s an incredibly long way to fall with a loss against Silva, but not all that far to move upwards. To make matters worse, we all know Silva’s still got “something left in the tank”—we saw him unleash devastating strikes against Michael Bisping (although the biggest was illegal) and Daniel Cormier, in their brief stand-up exchanges.
I would have gunned for a Yoel Romero contest or the Vitor Belfort rematch that Gegard Mousasi now commands if I were Rockhold, but I’m not; if he does fight Anderson Silva, let’s hope he doesn’t underestimate him. It would be easy to do at this point.
This week in MMA was a bit uneventful, barring two major shows, but sometimes that’s a good thing. Until next week!