What We Learned – UFC on Fox 7 (Gilbert Melendez vs. Benson Henderson)

Every major event in the world of MMA always has a number of smaller things to pick up on that we can’t write about at feature length but are worth discussing. Thus comes “What We Learned,” where we discuss all these little ideas en masse for public consumption.

What a weekend this was for combat sports! Alvarez/Trout was a heck of a capper to the UFC on Fox 7 and Glory even had a first rate kickboxing card as well earlier in the afternoon. If you didn’t want to leave the house and just watch live, non-stop fighting action you didn’t have to for the most part. And it all happened to be fairly great fights, too, so it’s not as if you’d be wasting time watching crappy fights for the sake of watching crappy fights. All in all it was well worth it and there were any number of things we can take away from Saturday night’s card.

The elite of Strikeforce will hold up in the elite of MMA – Benson Henderson lost on plenty of media member’s scorecards, and on a judge’s scorecard to boot, but the key thing we saw was that the very best of Strikeforce at the end more than held its own with the Zuffa elite.

Strikeforce may have died a long time ago but this was a much better send off than the farce that the final show, nicknamed by someone cleverer than I as “Pros vs. Joes,” was.

Benson Henderson wins … even when it looks like he loses – I tallied my informal round scores for Bendo against his actual results in his last four fights and it was astounding. Against Frankie Edgar and Gilbert Melendez I’ve overall scored his fights 6-9 against him and he gets to 11-9 when you throw in the Diaz fight. I had him winning the first Edgar fight 48-47, losing the second 49-46 and losing to Melendez 48-47.

And I can’t be the only one, either.

Most people have scored at least two of the three close decision wins for Henderson the other way. For some reason this guy just keeps getting extremely close wins going in his favor, like Leonard Garcia but to a much higher degree.

Duane Ludwig has done miraculous things at Team Alpha Male … but we need to keep it in perspective – Ludwig hasn’t done anything to make Urijah Faber’s team that much better on any significant organizational level; they were winning fighters well before he showed up. Faber recruited guys to his camp that had similar backgrounds and they all fought in similar ways; his was a camp where everyone was a badass wrestler with a sick guillotine and incredible physical tools.

When everyone has similar talents and abilities to begin with Ludwig’s ability to train guys in technical striking and modify it to their game is easier for him than a lot of coaches. He has guys with the same skill sets, et al, and thus correcting things isn’t as nuanced as it would be at Team Jackson’s or American Top Team. Ludwig is dealing with elite fighters who mirror one another in nearly every way; thus helping them improve is easier as a group because there aren’t wide variants in styles to account for.

He was also a fighter who got to the UFC because of how hard he worked and how good he was at fighting, not his physical gifts. Guys like that tend to make for better coaches than someone like Jon Jones, who can compensate for not being the best at something by just being a freak athlete.

Gilbert Melendez deserves a rematch … but shouldn’t get it – The one thing the lightweight division doesn’t need right now is another situation like we just experience with BJ Penn, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson. Up until Nate Diaz challenged Henderson those four were the only who had fought for the lightweight title over a number of years. The lightweight division needs to move forward and Gil will get another shot sooner than later if he wins a fight or two. If the division was lacking contenders it’d be one thing but lightweight is so stacked with talent that moving forward so other guys who deserve shots who haven’t had them yet must happen.

Omar from “The Wire” had it right over the years: ‘When you come at the king you best not miss.’

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