Ten Thoughts on UFC on FOX 9:
1. Demetrious Johnson has arrived. That’s back to back fights he has finished now and Joseph Benavidez is no joke. The guy is a legitimate #1 contender with the goods to be a champion. Knocking him out like that says a lot. It says that Johnson has KO power in his hands and that he has accuracy and skill. If he can knock out Benavidez like that, he can knock out anyone in the division. It also says that he learned from his split decision victory over Benavidez and has grown even more since becoming champion. And it says that we may be looking at the dominant flyweight champion of our era.
2. Benavidez has some thinking to do. After all, this is the second time he’s lost to the division champion, and this most recent loss was definitive. A statement loss. Benavidez is, much like teammate Urijah Faber, a clear #2 in the division who is most likely going to beat anyone and everyone except whoever the champion is. So what’s left to do? Make another round of the top guys and hope to get another shot? Move up to the bantamweight division and try his hand there? It’s not the best spot to be in right now in terms of his fighting future.
3. Urijah Faber is ready for another title shot. He made one of the most promising, talented and skilled up-and-coming fighters in MMA look amateurish. He beat McDonald badly, and did it much more effectively than Renan Barao did. Faber may not ever actually win in a title fight, but he’s clearly ready for another chance and probably deserves it. When Barao and Dominick Cruz face off to unify the titles, Faber may be the guy to take on the winner.
4. McDonald needs some rebuilding. He’s found a ton of success so early in his career, and he definitely has potential. Like UFC champion potential. But losing against both Renan Barao and Urijah Faber – and very badly against Faber, kind of shows his weaknesses right now. He didn’t look very sure of himself against Faber and was on the defensive for the majority of the fight. The guy certainly has a lot of potential, but he just needs time to realize it. Putting him against the best of the best right now may not be the most effective way to keep him relevant. Give him another few fights and more time to train and learn and he would most likely be a completely different fighter if he rematched Barao or Faber.
5. Mendes ready for Jose Aldo? Think again. That body kick (or the sinus infection) took a lot out of him. Body kicks and leg kicks are Aldo’s bread and butter. Aldo would brutalize him. It was certainly a strange fight. He looked like he might have injured something sometime during/after that first round, because he pretty much gave up on his striking game and turned to taking Lentz down and holding onto him, without any of his usual aggressive ground and pound. Mendes looked like a world beater in his previous fights, and his streak of KO finishes was bound to come to an end. Lentz made him look average compared to what he had done previously. If this fight had gone to further rounds, we might have seen a different outcome. Again, the sinus infection certainly explains a lot, but Jose Aldo, or Cub Swanson, or Ricardo Lamas, these guys aren’t going to care about sinus infections.
6. An off night for Team Alpha Male. Faber had a huge night, sure. And Mendes will take a W over a loss any night. But Benavidez and Castillo got plastered and even Mendes’s victory wasn’t as impressive as we all expected it to be. The big question mark for these elite and likeable fighters is when will one of them wear a championship belt around his waist? Benavidez had another opportunity tonight. Faber took another step towards earning a shot, but he’s had plenty already. Mendes is probably next in line in his division, but this performance didn’t light a fire under anyone. It just doesn’t seem like anyone can quite get over that last hurdle. Don’t be surprised to see some weight class changes if things don’t work out for them. It’s not a coincidence that these guys all fight at different weight classes.
7. Is Mike Dolce MMA’s most underrated strategist? He’s known primarily for his nutrition expertise and not as a tactician or coach, but nutrition is a huge part of fighting and training and life in general. He worked with Johny Hendricks, who supposedly makes huge cuts for fights and performs well on fight night, and it looked like it against GSP. Rogan and Goldie tossed around numbers for Lentz and said he was around 175 in the cage. From 145 at the weigh-ins, to 175 in the cage? Lentz looked pretty damn good against Mendes and had him in a bit of trouble for a few moments in the fight. Whenever Mendes took him down, he couldn’t do anything and Lentz got right back up and kept initiating the action. It wasn’t nearly the mismatch that people thought it would be and a part of that credit probably has to go to Dolce.
8. Lauzon proves that good grappling beats average striking. Danzig tagged him a few times, but Lauzon clearly had the upper hand with his takedowns and mounted positions. He passed Danzig’s guard at will and had all sorts of dominant positions, from full mounts to mounted crucifixes. MMA is such a tough sport because you have to be good at everything. Team sports usually have specialty positions, but individual sports obviously mean it’s all on one person, and weaknesses will quickly manifest themselves and get exploited. Fighters have to be good at everything and bad at nothing. Danzig unfortunately, was not quite up to par with Lauzon’s ground and grappling game and it won Lauzon the fight.
9. Big upsets early. Both Scott Jorgensen and Darren Uyenoyama went down to guys making their UFC debuts in Zach Makovsky and Alptekin Ozkilic, respectively. These are guys making UFC debuts beating tested veterans. Normally, UFC rookies get a case of the jitters and don’t perform to the best of their abilities in their first fights. Even the elite guys and girls get jitters. But these newcomers made their mark by beating some of the higher ranked fighters in their division. A great sign of things to come for them, but not a good sign if you’re Young Guns or Uyenoyama.
10. Don’t be surprised to see some cuts. Some guys lost their second consecutive fight here, and they should be safe. But an unfortunate few (Bowling, Danzig) suffered their third loss in a row and that puts job safety in the danger zone. Definitely not good tidings, especially if the three losses weren’t to the killers of the division. In today’s MMA, you have to win to keep fighting. Don’t be surprised to see a few fighters taken off the roster after this (and possibly every) card.
Tags: chad mendes, demetrious johnson, Joseph Benavidez, mac danzig, Michael McDonald, Nik Lentz, UFC on FOX 9, Urijah Faber