UFC 91 Notes

By Nicholas Bailey (

UFC 91 was an awesome event. All the fights were entertaining, some were very high-quality, and the bulk of them were competitive, and we had a couple of classic finishes. Not to mention we got to see ALL of them. I’d like to thank all the hideously out-matched fighters for being obliterated in very quick fashion so I could see more competitive fights. Hopefully some of you tuned in and picked up my wagering record to the tune of 3.73 units. (5.23 units for those of you playing at home who took the grain of salt and didn’t take the plays on Stevenson).

Brock Lesnar def. Randy Couture via TKO (strikes) — Round 2, 3:07 (to become UFC heavyweight champ)

This was a more compelling and revealing fight than I expected. I expected one to run over the other. Instead, it was legitimately competitive and we really got to see a lot from the fighters. First of all, Couture is one tough, strong, and mean old man. Seeing them clinch up and struggle back and forth was pretty epic. Lesnar did some impressive things, but he also had some ugly shots and also seemed to take naps in the clinch at times, like he did with Herring.

One thing we learned about Brock is that he’s a natural fighter. Lesnar threw a wide variety of strikes beyond his jab and one-two, and seemed to have a good sense for when there were chances for him to strike and hurt his opponent, which is very important. His knees are going to give a lot of people fits, and he obviously has an enormous amount of power in his hands. We still haven’t seen him eat really big shots, but he doesn’t have a glass chin or no heart, because he just walked through the stiff shots Randy landed a couple of times.

The sad thing about this fight is that Lesnar being the title-holder means that Lesnar cannot get the matchups he really needs to have the best career possible. Lesnar, even with a win over Couture, needs more ringtime and needs more fights where he can be put in different situations without being unduly threatened. I think he’ll be a short-lived champion and quite a large stepping stone for Antonio Nogueira to unify the titles and (hopefully) emerge as a breakout US star.

Kenny Florian def. Joe Stevenson via submission (rear-naked choke) — Round 1, 4:03

I told you that I always underestimate Florian. He was simply vicious in this fight and will probably beat up a lot more guys over the next five years. I still don’t think he has what it takes to be champion and I expect the top of the food chain at 155 will embarrass him again. Sadly, the amiable Joe Stevenson most likely won’t even get another chance to be embarrassed in a title fight, although he’s still a tough fighter that’s going to kick around and guillotine tons of guys who aren’t in immediate title contention.

Dustin Hazelett def. Tamdan McCrory via submission (armbar) — Round 1, 3:59

Hazelett looked like a civil war soldier with that beard. One of the haggard confederate ones. Tamdan has sharpened up his striking, and I will be excited for his next fight, but he was simply playing with fire by testing himself on the ground with Hazelett.

Gabriel Gonzaga def. Josh Hendricks via TKO (strikes) — Round 1, 1:01

Gonzaga is going to look this great against a lot of guys he’s way better than. However, until he demonstrates that he can win a blood-and-guts fight and not just one where he steamrolls the guy, he will still have a giant question mark shaved into his back hair.

Demian Maia def. Nate Quarry via submission (rear-naked choke) — Round 1, 2:13

Maia isn’t the world’s best wrestler, but he finishes takedowns. It’s good to see that sort of thing, and his finishing rate is just nasty.

Aaron Riley def. Jorge Gurgel via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

If I were Gurgel’s trainer I’d seriously kick him out of the gym. Trying to make the guy win fights is a waste of time. Jorge was most likely up the creek in this fight anyway, but flexing an improved standup game was not what the doctor ordered here. Nice kicks, though. I’m glad Riley got a win in the UFC, in a cosmic justice sense. The guy has bled and broken for the sport, and he deserves a place in the ‘pioneers’ wing of some sort of hypothetical MMA hall of fame.

Jeremy Stephens def. Rafael dos Anjos via TKO (strikes) — Round 3, 0:39

Stephens struck a blow for strikers who disdain “that gay ground stuff” across the planet. What a beautiful punch. Anjos did his part by being totally murdered by it, too. Stephens did a good job of surviving through the fight. Anjos showed how important finishing is for a ground specialist in MMA. You only get so many chances on the floor, so you have to be able to capitalize on them.

Mark Bocek def. Alvin Robinson via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 3:16

Bocek showed a really improved gas tank in this fight. Alvin Robinson really needs to stop giving up position for guillotine attempts all the time. Bocek has one of the most interesting and different wrestling games of anyone in MMA, always busting out very pretty and technical trips and tackles. He seems to have integrated his grappling into MMA better, either that or just benefited from not gassing. He was much tighter on his opponent here and showed he’s definitely not someone anyone at 155 wants to be underneath.

Matt Brown def. Ryan Thomas via submission (arm-bar) — Round 2, 0:57

Ryan Thomas has a lot of physical potential, but the kid simply doesn’t know anything about submissions. It’s sad considering he has a number of submission wins on his record. He needs to bounce around smaller shows, beat up on the local tough guys, and just train more if he wants to be more than a rehabilitation fight for the supposed hardass toughguy from TUF 47. It wouldn’t hurt if he started fighting UFC-washout caliber fighters instead of trying to jump immediately from absolute nobodies to the UFC.

The biggest lesson to be learned from this fight is that “slam the guy” isn’t the world’s best submission defense. Unless you fundamentally understand the mechanics and leverage of the submission being applied (like Rampage) AND have the physical gifts to really elevate guys and smash their bodies against the canvas (like Rampage) then you’re probably better off going to a jiu-jitsu school and putting the work in. Simply bonking your opponent against the mat and driving your arm deeper into a hold shouldn’t be your plan.

Unless Matt Brown gets very gentle treatment, I expect him to be beaten up badly sometime in the near future.

What Do You Think of This Fight/Event?