Post UFC 94 Notes – More MMA Than You Expected

By Nicholas Bailey (nbailey@mmaratings.net)

Capping off a stretch that would give even the most hardcore MMA fan excitement fatigue, UFC 94 had a shocking number of split decisions, but even more surprisingly for a card that only had a couple of fights not go the distance, those extra rounds were generally filled with exciting and interesting action.

Jones announced his presence with a bang, GSP (hopefully) crushed BJ’s welterweight ambitions for good, Machida KO’d the naysayers, Tavares rehabilitated himself, and John Howard burst onto the scene. All in all, very high-quality stuff, especially considering anyone following my picks made a tidy profit on the event, and we came within a hair’s breadth of cashing in big on Diaz and Kim.

Georges St-Pierre defeated B.J. Penn via TKO (corner stoppage) after the end of round 4 to retain the UFC Welterweight belt

GSP showed why he’s THE top fighter in the world in this fight. His wrestling is well-known but you have to respect his striking ability here, working a very quick jab as part of a diverse striking game that saw him punish, at will, one of the fastest and most defensively talented fighters he’s ever faced.

Penn needs to go back to 155 and work with trainers that will really push him, because he hasn’t improved since beating up Pulver or Stevenson. If he wants to continue to campaign at 170, he’s really going to have to work out ways to dominate a fight without physically dominating opponents (as he did Pulver and Stevenson).

I think Thiago Alves has a real shot at beating GSP, but I can’t think of anyone at 155 that can touch BJ unless he quits training in depression over this loss. GSP fights with his heart, but BJ fights with his pride. If he realizes he cannot be an MMA messiah and champion of all weight classes, settling in as a dominant 155lb champion may not be enough for him.

Lyoto Machida defeated Thiago Silva via KO (punch) at 4:59 of round 1

This fight went just about exactly as I predicted, and I can’t believe it. How could Thiago come in with that gameplan and try to fight that way? The guy has tons of skills and is going to kill a lot of good opponents as his career goes on, but he came into this fight as if Machida was just a myth or all smoke and mirrors.

Well Thiago, and previous naysayers, now know that Machida is the real deal. If you try to hit him, he won’t be there and will hit you back. If you don’t try to hit him, he’ll hit you first and then get out of dodge. It’s not going to simply be a matter of “smashing his clowning” or “chasing him so he can’t run”. Lyoto has a real skill and is plying it against top fighters. Beating Tito Ortiz and Thiago Silva doesn’t just happen because you stall and run—you have to be a very special and talented individual.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Machida fights a more counter-oriented fighter or someone who is very strong defensively. Thiago is going to have to go to the back of the line, but it’ll be great fun watching him splatter the entry-level guys in the division for a while.

Jon Jones defeated Stephan Bonnar via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28×2)

As I wrote ever so long ago, Jones has phenomenal talent. The way he initiated takedowns with zero hesitation the moment Bonnar was out of position was beautiful, and there is probably more of that to come. Jones cleaned up much of his game and showed a fantastic ability to control the fight, but he still needs to clean up his striking and especially to figure out something to do with those takedowns. Throwing a guy a dozen times and then letting him get back up is a good way to wear yourself out (ask Alistair Overeem). Bonnar is a solid fighter with a hell of a chin, and what Jones had to offer would have finished off lesser fighters. Unfortunately for Jones, the win means he moves up, not down, in competition, so he’s going to have to improve even more. Hopefully Jones gets a bit of a soft touch so he can really grow into the fantastically exciting fighter he has the potential to be.

Meanwhile, Bonnar will continue his aimless drift through the 205-lb division, neither improving enough to be a star fighter nor losing enough to get booted out of the UFC for good. Which really is the fate Bonnar deserves for coming in to his fight with Jones with no gameplan whatsoever to deal with Jones’ obvious strengths or attack his obvious weaknesses.

Karo Parisyan defeated Dong Hyun Kim via split decision (29-28×2, 28-29)

Terrible performance from Karo, and really a fairly gutless showing by Kim. If Kim had the strength of will or gas to just turn the heat up a tiny notch in the final round, he could have taken this razor-close fight. Kim has real skills, however, and if he fights someone with poor grappling, he will probably look like an ace.

Karo, on the other hand, is looking very dated. The last couple of years have left him looking like a real relic of a different era. Maybe, in the unlikely event that Hughes doesn’t retire after embarrassing Matt Serra, Karo can get the match he’s wanted for so long, albeit (as is often the case in MMA) long after all relevance has faded.

Clay Guida defeated Nate Diaz via split decision (29-28×2, 28-29)

This was a very tough fight, but the decision was fair. Nate, with his takedown defense and throws, showed that he’s already got more tools in his bag than his brother, but Guida refused to lose control of the bout. Guida really couldn’t get anything done on the feet due to Diaz’s crisper boxing and massive reach advantage, but Diaz kept him from having to worry about grappling by struggling to fight off each and every takedown.

I really think Diaz could have won the fight if he’d simply given up those takedowns and then tried to work from his guard. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to get that Kimura! However, the amount of success Diaz found with his boxing must have led him to struggle endlessly for a standup battle. If Guida gets matched up against another top talent, I expect him to bounce his head off his performance ceiling again and go back to being a gatekeeper. Diaz has a longer and brighter future ahead of him.

Jon Fitch defeated Akihiro Gono via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-26)

Gono needs to get it together (and get easier matchups) before he becomes a bad joke. Silly entrances to fights you lose badly do not resonate well with fans. Fitch was very impressive in this fight, as he was until he ran into GSP. The guy is a brutal grinder and if Gono wasn’t so tough, wily, and experienced, he probably would not have made it to the third round. Fitch may be a Rich Franklin for this division, crushing possible contenders and prospects, but hopeless against the dominant champion. Gono, for all his skill, will never make it very far at 170 in the UFC, given that his greatest weakness (wrestling) is the great strength of so many fighters in the division.

Thiago Tavares defeated Manvel Gamburyan via unanimous decision (29-28×3)

Tavares seemed gun-shy, but heck, what he needed was better defense against getting bombed, so that’s a very positive development. Manny has terrible striking, even if he has power. Against a more confident striker he’s going to get bombed out just like Emerson did, and, strong as he may be, he’s still a midget and will get overpowered by guys the size of Gray Maynard. Go to the WEC and be a top-tier talent, Manny. It’ll be better for you! Tavares needed this win to get his confidence back. He was pushed too far too fast, and needs to some to rebuild and improve his game. Being able to strike with someone that wasn’t going to destroy him was a good step to getting back on track, since the guy obviously has a terrific amount of talent, shrugging off Manny’s submission attempts with ease.

John Howard defeated Chris Wilson via split decision (29-28×2, 28-29)

Howard has several more wins ahead of him in the UFC. The guy is a very powerful striker, which is common enough, but he has the wrestling and scrambling ability to control the fight and be a ring general and force the kind of fight he wants, event against an opponent as game as Chris Wilson. Side note: don’t smoke DMT kids – What was with Rogan? He kept calling Howard “Roberts” and seemed befuddled at the dysfunction of his own brain. Yikes.

What Do You Think of This Fight/Event?