UFC 123: The Dubious Rise of Phil Davis, The Inappropriate Scolding of Maiquel Falcao and More

After all was said and done Saturday night the UFC had taken a fairly great card and turned it into a pretty decent show, and no I do not mean that as an insult. It had everything you would ever want from a UFC PPV; high drama, controversy, crooked timekeepers, a big knockout and an entertaining enough main event. It could have always been better had this or that happened but all things considered I walked away feeling as though I had spent my money wisely.

Rampage Jackson vs. Lyoto Machida

In my pre-fight analysis of this highly anticipated battle between two former Light Heavyweight champs I said that I saw no way in which Jackson could pull off a victory. Clearly I had forgotten to take shoddy judging into account. . .I kid but only sort of. Much has been made about Jackson’s split decision victory but I’ll stand by the scorecard of Inside Fight’s Shawn Smith and admit that Jackson probably won the first two rounds even though they were underwhelming snoozefests and that Machida kicked the living shit out of him in round 3 but not enough to score the always way too elusive 10-8 round. Even if you wanted to make a case that Machida won the first round it would be hard because  Jackson pushed the pace and showed much more assertiveness. . .not that assertiveness alone is enough to win a round. And those first 2 rounds which could have gone either way served the purpose of setting up the terribly exciting 3rd round wherein Machida felt as though he needed to knock out the indestructible Rampage. He gave it his best and clearly hurt Rampage especially with a vicious flurry in the middle of the round, but in the end two judges came down on the side of Jackson. It’s worth noting that the analysts for ESPN, Sherdog, MMA Junkie, MMA Fighting and Bloody Elbow all had the fight scored 29-28 for Machida, while our friends at Fight Metric saw the fight as a virtual draw at 29-29. In any event we now move towards a possible rematch in the coming months, one that Dana White denies but I think we all know by now just how wishy washy the man can be.

Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn

Not much to say about the 21 second knockout delivered in dramatic fashion by Penn. Only that this is one of those fights where you didn’t want to see either guy lose. Nobody wants to watch Penn lose three straight fights and plummet into mid card hell and nobody wanted to see Hughes’ sudden resurgence all evaporate before our very eyes. But when putting on matches of this caliber these things are bound to happen and on the way up side this sets up the almost too good to be true fight between Penn and Jon Fitch at UFC 127.

Maiquel Falcao vs. Gerald Harris

This to me is where all of the real fascinating stories are emanating from. Take for instance the ending of round #1. Pick on my perceptiveness all you like but it wasn’t until today when I started to read the stories on the matter that I realized the clock fiasco that found the horn sounding a full 7 seconds before the end of the round. I was too busy watching the nasty rear naked choke Falcao had on Harris and the freak show that ensued after the premature horn sounded. First Falcao refused to release the hold, keeping his arm under Harris’ chin until referee Dan Miragliotta physically removed him, then when he was called on the matter he went with sheer ignorance and claimed that he never heard the horn, and then Harris, probably embarrassed after the whupping he had just been served started bellyaching about the hold. As it stands now the UFC is in discussion with the Michigan Unarmed Combat Commission and word is that nothing more than human error caused the mistake that led directly to the next controversy here.

I guess the UFC decided that Falcao’s maiden voyage in their company wasn’t screwed over enough by the timekeeper so after he won his fight via decision they refused to send Joe Rogan in to conduct a post-fight interview. Obviously with the lack of action in the third round (especially on Falcao’s part as he only threw 7 strikes) and the boos that were raining down on the competitors the message was clear: Don’t engage in safe boring fights or face the wrath of Dana White. This is an issue that has been rearing its ugly head lately (Silva vs. Maia mostly but there were hints of it after Okami vs. Marquardt as well) and it has become beyond tiresome. Look, I love exciting fights and I think the UFC excels as producing them. Their bonus system that rewards knockouts, submissions and fast paced, action packed fights is pure genius. But they need to recognize that not every single fight is going to please every single one of the most uneducated fans. Look at it from Falcao’s point of view. . .Here is a guy who has spent the last 6 years of his life fighting his way through southern Brazil hoping to be given this opportunity. He finally gets it, is placed on a PPV main card his first time out and is put up against the lethal Gerald Harris who was entering with a 10 fight win streak. Now if you clearly won the first two rounds, and if Harris is unwilling to take the fight to you then shouldn’t he have every right to sit back and take it easy without the UFC acting like a jealous girlfriend and giving him the silent treatment. Even Joe Rogan (who I only have positive thoughts about 99% of the time) got in on the act saying “He’s not winning any fans like this.” Well with that in mind I would like to openly declare myself a fan of his. I’m not going to boo a guy who earned the right to play it safe and protect his livelihood for playing it safe and protecting his livelihood. Nobody expects every football game to be Super Bowl 42 and I think it is all time we grew up and admitted that not every MMA bout is going to be Silva vs. Sonnen.

Tim Boetsch vs. Phil Davis

The most interesting thing about this match, before or after, was the absurd betting lines out there that had Davis as high as -625 coming in. At odds like that your only real options are to bet against him or not bet at all because who is going to place that kind of money on a guy making his main card PPV debut? I know the UFC is high on this guy and I assume they have their reasons but I have yet to see anything that would make me believe that he truly is the second coming. He has conquered  4 UFC opponents and the only one I think has a future is Alexander Gustafsson. He’s built like a Greek god and has an amateur wrestling background which seems to be the golden ticket these days but please let’s move him up the ladder a little. I’m hearing that perhaps Matt Hamill is next on his list and that is a match I would be very interested in. Yes, Hamill got bench pressed by Jon Jones but I would fully expect Jones to bench press Davis as well if they were to fight. So, let’s just say that as crafty and cutesy as his kimura submission was this event cannot count as a coming out party for him because his opposition was not up to snuff.

Joe Lauzon vs. George Sotiropoulos

Heading into this fight it seemed as though Lauzon was putting a lot of stake in his gameplan. He mentioned it in multiple pre-fight interviews and they even talked about it during the live broadcast. He apparently forgot to spend time on cardio however and that cost him dearly against one of the best lightweights in the world. For the first few minutes Lauzon was executing him plan and seemed to have Sotiropoulos under control. Once the second round started he was dead meat as he was gassed out in a major way and that allowed the Aussie to pick him apart and score a kimura victory. This sets up a match for Sotiropoulos against Dennis Siver and this is another contest that will be staged at UFC 127 that all true fans of the sport should be jazzed about. There has been no word about it being a #1 contender match but I would not be surprised if that info were to come out in the coming weeks.

MISC

* It was exciting (to me at least) to see “internet sensation” Antoine Dodson in attendance on Saturday not because it’s about time the UFC found another creepy D-List celebrity to fill in for when David Spade is not available but because any excuse to revisit The Bed Intruder Song is a good one.

* As someone who went to college in Auburn Hills, MI it pains me but I must call out Bruce Buffer for referring to it as “Auburn”, Michigan at the start of the Spike TV prelims. He’s forgiven and all that but I simply had to point it out.

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