Last night, the UFC made its fourth co-venture with the cable network Versus. The card was unfortunately shrouded by a mass of controversy concerning Nate Marquardt and his subsequent firing by Dana White.
Like any event, this one had strong points, things that could have been better, and things that maybe just never should have happened.
Let's start off with the good:
- Charlie Brenneman may be the new representative for feel good stories in the year 2011. I mean, seriously, are you kidding me? This guy, who is still somewhat of a relative unknown (before last night, he may have been more well known for his appearance on "Pro's vs. Joe's" than for fighting), volunteered to take the main slot in place of Marquardt the DAY BEFORE the fight. For those unaware, Brenneman had been told a few days prior that he would no longer be fighting on the card because his previous opponent had pneumonia. When Marquardt was ruled unable to perform, the UFC asked Brenneman to step in last second and take on Rick Story, a guy who is one of the most hyped young fighters in the game. Not only did Brenneman step in, he won a dominating victory. It's hard to say just what kind of shape Story was in, since he was fighting so close in proximity to his last fight, but Brenneman used some phenomenal wrestling to stuff Story at every turn and do what he needed to do to win. You can't not be happy for this guy.
- Pat Barry vs. Cheick Kongo will go down as one of the craziest comebacks, as well as just one of the craziest fights of all time. They will be showing that match on UFC Unleashed for years to come. As it was happening, I swore Kongo was out...TWICE. Both times, he folded over and his arms went limp. Referee Dan Miragliotta came amazingly close to stopping the fight both times. He didn't stop it though, and the second time, Kongo popped back up, landed a vicious combo, finishing of with an uppercut that landed squarely on Barry's chin and put him to sleep instantly. All this in just the first 2:39 of Round 1. It was fantastic. I've watched several times again this morning, and probably will watch it more.
- The pre-fight and post-fight shows on Versus were great. There were some rough edges to refine, but nothing is perfect at first. I thought it gave it a much more official feel, like other pro sports. When you watch an NFL game, you don't have to scour the internet afterwards for interviews with the athletes and the press conference. Those things air directly after the broadcast, and usually on the same channel. The UFC is following in form. Better late than never.
- As somewhat of a sidenote to the last point, it was nice having Todd Harris on the broadcast. He always did such a great job with the WEC. I'd love to see Zuffa use him with Strikeforce, and have him replace any of the three stooges they currently use. I don't think that's currently contractually possible, but I have to believe Dana and his lawyers could figure something out.
- Matt "Meathead" Mitrione looks better with every fight. Prior to the fight, Christian "World Of" Morecraft (it's a nickname I gave him. Help me make it stick) talked at length to anyone who would listen about how he feels Mitrione's striking is over-rated. Still feel that way, Christian? Mitrione lit him up at every turn. As he continued to find his range and get loose, more and more of his punches got through to the head of his opponent. I'm not willing to get in line with the crowd of people chanting for him to get a title shot, or to be close to the head of the line. I don't believe Mitrione would want that either, judging by recent interviews he's done. He knows he still has a lot to learn, and to his credit, he's doing his best to learn those things. There was internet chatter after the fight from fans who wanted to see Mitrione go up against UFC newcomer Dave "Pee Wee" Herman. I love that and hate that simultaneously because I like both fighters so much, I don't know who I'd cheer for. That aside, it'd be a great fight, and I think Joe Silva should make it happen.
- Joe Lauzon looked amazing against Curt Warburton. It was like watching him fight Gabe Ruediger all over again. The kimura he finished him with was one of the nastier subs I've ever seen (in the UFC anyway). The problem is that he can finish a fight in the fashion he did last night, but he's also shown that he can BE finished (see: Jorge Masvidal, Ivan Menjivar, Raphael Assuncao, Kenny Florian and George Sotiropoulos). Still, he's 27 and has a lot of good fights left in him. I'd love to see him fight Donald Cerrone. I think it'd be a very exciting fight.
- Michael Johnson showed a lot of progress with his win over Edward Faaloloto. During his time on The Ultimate Fighter, Johnson showed promise, but looked very one-dimensional. Johnson showed that he has been working on his striking, and that it has really improved by stopping Faaloloto by TKO (strikes) in the first round.
- Ricardo "Lorenzo" Lamas looked very good in his featherweight debut. He looked more comfortable, and I think he has a very promising future in the weight class. I'd love to see him fight Diego Nunes. It'd be a great test for both fighters.
Now for the bad:
- I almost hate to even bring it up because it seems quasi-trollish and nit-picking, but I had a few issues with the way the UFC programmed the event from a timeline perspective. I, like many fans, was watching the prelim fights on the Facebook feed (which I'll get to in a minute). The feed went until about 8:30pm ET. The problem? The pre-fight show on Versus started at 8pm ET. This meant I was having to watch both at the same time for half an hour. I know it sounds like whining, but I just want excellence in broadcasting. I don't see any reason why they couldn't have shown the final 2 prelim fights on Versus. Again, maybe it's nit-picking, but I don't think the UFC or its fans should settle.
- Just like the first point in this section, I feel conflicted about bringing it up because of the context of the situation. That being said, I have to wonder where Rick Story goes from here. I know he just fought a few weeks ago. I know his opponent got changed last second. I know referee Mark Matheny made a few very questionable stand-ups when Story was in a good position to work a submission. Whatever the reason or excuse was, Story was completely dominated. You don't go from a performance like that to a title shot, or a conversation ABOUT a title shot. Dana White may have said (in the post fight presser) this loss doesn't take him further down the ladder, but how could it not? After that loss, would you put Story against Fitch? How about Jake Shields? Ellenberger? B.J. Penn? Carlos Condit? I wouldn't. It's sad, but the truth is that he's one or two fights further away than he was before last night. That's just how it works. I'd like to see him fight newcomer (and TUF 13 winner) Tony Ferguson.
- Joe "Daddy" Stevenson may be done. His fight against Javier Vasquez was not easy to watch at all. Vasquez was not super impressive. Stevenson was worse. Stevenson has got to find a way to sharpen his technique and stop fighting so emotionally. He came into this fight saying he was going to break one of Vasquez's limbs. The only thing he may have broken was the hearts of his fans who'd hoped a move to featherweight would be the spark his career needed. After three straight losses, Stevenson should have looked like a man on fire. Instead, he just like a guy who was about to be fired. Nothing's been announced, but I'd be very surprised if he weren't cut by Zuffa this week. It may do him some good to get a few wins under his belt for a smaller organization like MFC, Titan or Shark Fights.
- This next one was close to making it into the 'ugly' category, but I'm going to dive into the dumpster of this story and separate Charles Oliveira from referee Chip Snider. I'll get to Snider in a minute. For those who didn't see the fight, Charles Oliveira was in the process of scoring a commanding win over opponent Nik Lentz when, in the second round, Oliveira hit Lentz with one of the most blatantly illegal knees I've ever seen. I guess he got caught up in the moment and had an adrenaline rush. Who knows? Either way, it was terrible. He was looking right at Lentz, who had been down, and was clearly down. It's just so sad because he didn't need to do it. It would have been a fantastic win for Oliveira, and in my mind, would have broached the conversation of Oliveira knocking on the door of UFC LW Top 5.
Last of all, the ugly:
- John 'Doomsday' Howard needs to shut up. I know a different way to say it. Leading up this fight, all 'Doomsday' could talk about was how much he wants to fight Anthony Johnson, who wasn't even his opponent. Does that sound like the talk of a guy who had just lost 2 fights in a row? Howard's fight against Matt Brown was embarrassing. The fight, in general, was hard to watch, but of the two, Brown was the only one who looked like he was fighting for his job. If Howard isn't cut after this performance, he isn't far from it happening. Maybe focus on the opponent in front of you next time, John.
- Referee Chip Snider made one of the worst mistakes I've ever seen a professional sports official make in my entire life. As seen in the previous segment concerning "the bad", Snider watched as Charles Oliveira illegally kneed his down opponent.....and did nothing. He didn't warn, he didn't step in. He did nothing. Nik Lentz stumbled to his feet, where he was promptly met by another knee (this time a legal one), and was then finished by a rear naked choke from Oliveira. The truth is that Lentz was probably going to lose this fight regardless, but an illegal knee is an illegal knee. The circumstances are irrelevant. As I watched the miscue replayed repeatedly, I hoped to see Chip Snider in a bad spot. Maybe he just didn't see it? Maybe he tried to respond but couldn't get there fast enough? Nope. None of the above. Snider was in perfect position, and within distance to easily step in and stop the fight, or AT LEAST PAUSE the fight. Afterwards, an official from the athletic commission stepped into the cage and could be seen reaming Snider out. Later in the night, Oliveira's victory was overturned and changed to a No Contest, as it should have been. Snider should probably not ever officiate an MMA fight again. Very best case scenario: He is suspended without pay for a while and required to take some classes. The rules are set in place for a reason. Knees to the head of grounded opponents can be lethal. It really is a big deal, and Snider should be harshly punished. I also think Oliveira should be punished. He has to know better than that. Some sort of suspension is in order. We'll see what happens.
In other news:
- Dana White announced that Nate Marquardt will "never fight in the UFC again". He was clearly extremely agitated, and wanted to say more about the situation. According to White and to the PA Athletic Commisioner, the state laws precluded either of them from going into detail. One thing remains obvious, and that is that Marquardt did something that REALLY has White fired up. According to sources, and official announcement will be made by Marquardt or his camp tomorrow.
- Rampage Jackson was interviewed by Ariel Helwani on the post-fight show on Versus. Some of the questions had to be asked on Helwani's behalf by co-host Stefan Bonnar, since Rampage is still not talking to Helwani, and is still upset with him for...wait...why is he upset with him again? I don't know. Anyway, Rampage said: "The rumor is that I'm fighting Jon Jones, but I haven't signed any paperwork." Interesting. People have been talking about the fight like it's a done deal. It probably is pretty close to being one, but according to Jackson, there's still a ways to go. That gives a sliver of hope to people (like me) who aren't really thrilled about that match-up anyway.
That's it. Enjoy your Mondays. Make sure (if you're not already) to follow me on Twitter at: @mmabuffet.