UFC 124 is officially in the books, has been for over 24 hours now, and after giving it some time to marinate in my brain I’ve decided that the show was a success though by no means a massive one. The Canadian fans got what they wanted to see and while I didn’t have a ton of interest in seeing Koscheck/Shields I would have loved to have seen the reaction from the crowd had St-Pierre been submitted in the center of the cage. Still we got to see a devastating knockout, the return of the real Thiago Alves (on weight and everything!!), and the absolute, bar none best fighter in the world as he put on a jabbing clinic. Therefore I’m happy to report that the UFC ended their year on a high note.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck (Welterweight Title Bout)
Seeing as how the fight itself was very anticlimactic and sort of dull there is a surprisingly amount of stuff to discuss. First and foremost though we really do have to applaud the perfection of St-Pierre as he executed a gameplan and really destroyed a high quality opponent in every aspect of the match. Some have complained about his lack of finishes but I’m going to choose to write that off as more nonsense from the cheap seats. Instead I saw this as more proof that St-Pierre is actually comfortably in control of his #1 ranking on my pound for pound list. Is it really more impressive that Anderson Silva finished Chael Sonnen even though he spent the first four rounds flat on his back taking shot after shot to the head? Yes, I know Sonnen was juiced for the fight but to me that makes little difference. I’m also a little exhausted of all of the St-Pierre/Silva talk. I wish people would recognize how great they have it as MMA fans. We get great fights almost on a weekly basis. The divisional matches, especially within the UFC, make sense and tell a story. We shouldn’t be so desperate and whiney that we start demanding people from different weight classes fight each other. Of course I want to see it and of course I would pay for it, but I’m just as happy with the supposed St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields fight which is being rumored for Toronto in April. On the Inside Fights radio show after the fight Saturday night Will Cooling made the brilliant point that if St-Pierre really is jumping to the Middleweight division then you may want to think about holding Shields back because we don’t necessarily want to be stuck with a Welterweight division that is comprised of GSP’s leftovers. If nothing else it is something to think about going forward. Koscheck, it is now being reported, has a broken orbital bone and is being driven to Boston where he will undergo surgery so he will be out of action for a while. The fight itself became so one-sided that the story kind of became Koscheck’s eye and how mangled it really was. I know he was playing up the heel role and all of Canada tuned in to watch him get pummeled so on a certain level this had to be cathartic for them. Personally I kind of like the guy and he looked to be in so much pain by the time the fight was over it was truly hard to watch. In any case, the fight will surely be deemed a financial success and the natural order of things is maintained so everybody, sans Koscheck and his orbital bone, wins.
Sean McCorkle vs. Stefan Struve
This capped a three fight streak of bouts that ended in the first round. I had this one wrong as I envisioned McCorkle tapping Struve in the opening round and for a minute there I thought it was going to happen as he got a hold of an incredibly tight kimura that Struve was miraculously able to slip out of. He then quickly countered that, got a full mount and pounded his way to a stoppage victory. To my eyes the stoppage game a bit early but we are dealing with Heavyweights and things can get dangerous very quickly so I’m willing to accept it. It is just kind of sad to see McCorkle’s perfect record get put to rest when he seemed to still be intelligently defending himself. No matter though, Struve moves onward and upwards winning two straight now since being demolished by Roy Nelson.
Charles Oliveira vs. Jim Miller
Sitting down to watch the show this was probably the matchup I was most interested in seeing. Of course I love the glitz and glamour around the main event, especially this one, but I assumed that we were just going to see a five round domination by St-Pierre that would be reminiscent of his fight with Dan Hardy. This one, however, was just as one sided and a whole lot quicker. Oliveira came out swinging and then quickly tried to go for some of his deadly submission holds. Miller, the seasoned veteran, was too wise and turned it into a knee bar that Oliveira was unable to escape from. Joe Rogan was outraged at the bad strategy used by Oliveira as he tried to use hammerfists to escape as opposed to actual martial arts techniques. In any case the skyrocketing career of Oliveira has stalled for the time being while Miller’s ever creeping ascension up the Lightweight ladder continues on. Obviously we have spent a lot of time talking about the over-stuffed Lightweight division, how it was crowded before the merge with the WEC and how it now really needs to trim some fat. Miller is a perfect example of a victim of those circumstances. He has an 8-1 record in the UFC, his only loss coming to Gray Maynard. His only other loss in his career came to Frankie Edgar, reigning UFC Lightweight champ, back in 2006. But where does he get in line? Obviously we have Edgar/Maynard and the winner of that faces the winner of Henderson/Pettis. What does the UFC 127 match between George Sotiropoulos and Dennis Siver represent? It should be something fun to watch in the new year.
Mac Danzig vs. Joe Stevenson
Danzig walked out the clear winner of knockout of the night but he probably also won upset of the night in many fan’s minds. And what makes it even more shocking is that when I was watching it live I didn’t even see the punch land. I saw him shuffle backwards in an attempt to escape Stevenson’s onslaught and then I just saw Stevenson do a nosedive right into the mat. Replays showed that Danzig hit a fade away left hook that connected precisely where it needed to. Danzig will soldier on, probably drop weight classes and help fill out their new Featherweight roster. Stevenson is more difficult to figure out. He’s lost his last 2 and 4 out of his last 6. Dana White wasn’t saying one way or another after the event on Saturday but he seemed quite willing to give Daddy another chance. And considering that he is a former title contender and considering that he could do damage in other promotions the UFC would probably be wise to hold on to him for a bit.
Thiago Alves vs. John Howard
My favorite subplot of this UFC was their attempt to reach out to the fans, in the name of democracy I suppose, and allow them to award the $100,000 fight of the night bonus. Shock of all unholy shocks they went ahead and voted for the fight that they were paying for and the rather dull GSP/Koscheck jabfest was crowned the winner. Afterwards Dana White was asked if they would do it again and heroically he confirmed that it was a one-time deal saying “They blew it.” What should have won was this brawl that opened the live PPV card. Alves looked about as good as he ever has and even though the scorecards weren’t all that close (Alves won with 30-27’s all around) both fighters came to swing and put on a very intense fight. Alves, coming off of two straight losses, needed this win badly and he delivered employing a very Jose Aldo-like strategy build around vicious leg kicks that destroyed the legs of Howard. The win is also good for the UFC who now does not have to decide whether or not to release one of the top welterweights in the world and can begin moving him into bigger matches further up the card. Some have gone on record as saying he should next square off with Koscheck but considering the condition of his orbital bone I don’t think we will be seeing him for a while. Maybe a John Hathaway or a Dan Hardy would be a logical next place to go.
Georges St-Pierre def Josh Koscheck via decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) to retain Welterweight title
Stefan Struve def. Sean McCorkle via TKO (Round 1, 3:55)
Jim Miller def. Charles Oliveira via submission (Round 1, 1:59)
Mac Danzig def. Joe Stevenson via KO (Round 1, 1:54)
Thiago Alves def. John Howard via decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Dan Miller def. Joe Doerksen via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Mark Bocek def. Dustin Hazelett via submission (Round 1, 2:33)