Post UFC 99 Notes: Cheick Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

By Nicholas Bailey (nbailey@mmaratings.net)

Nobody really came back at UFC 99: The Comeback, since the main story was that of young guns knocking off more established fighters, and the two old warhorses in the main event looked like old warhorses, bashing each other into premature physical deterioration and then struggling on into the late rounds in this reduced state.

Cheick Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Cheick Kongo still can’t wrestle, and Cain Velasquez still has a ways to go in the standup department. The takeaway from this fight, according to Rogan’s commentary, is that Cain has a monster chin but no finishing power. This is garbage. First of all, nobody generates enormous amounts of power from what amounts to referee’s position, and secondly, Kongo, for all his limitations in technique, is a fantastically strong individual that never quits struggling, making it difficult to accumulate real damage. The beating Velasquez put on Kongo would have absolutely crushed most fighters into a quivering heap by the second round, just as Herring’s resilience and defense masked Lesnar’s finishing power prior to Brock’s dismantling of Couture. After all, how often do you see a fighter get thrown around and slammed as much as Kongo was in this fight without being stopped?

Cain showed great cardio on top of his dominant wrestling and punishment game, but it was obvious he still needed to work on his other skills. Cain survived, thanks to what must be a good chin, but he also got hit by legitimate killshots multiple times in the approximately 50 seconds of total time he spent on the feet with Kongo, and he appeared to be within one punch of being finished on more than one occasion. While this shows that Cain’s chin isn’t going to be a glaring weakness and that his recovery is phenomenal, he’s also not as invulnerable as some. Fortunately for Cain, very few heavyweights have the length, power, and skill to land those kinds of shots straight through his guard and crush his face, although if he walks into a shot from Gonzaga or Carwin you could see similar results.

That’s really the problem with this fight. Cain was able to persevere and overcome, but he had to continually fall back on his wrestling. It’s been said before, but this win isn’t a wholly beneficial outcome for Cain’s career. He was able to eke out a victory against a tough opponent, but the UFC response is most likely going to treat him as if he can always beat this level of opponent and must be tested against even tougher fighters now. While Cain would be well-served to work out his other skills and test himself under lower-pressure scenarios, such as beating up Denis Stojnic on the feet, at this level he’ll be put into do-or-die situations such as with Kongo, where any point in the fight that he’s not forcing the fight into his comfort zone is a time when he’s an instant away from defeat. If Cain is endlessly put into wrestle-or-die situations, eventually he’s going to make a mistake and not get the takedown, or be taken down, and that kind of loss is going to hurt him, and even more victories like this won’t let him grow into a well-rounded fighter.

There may be something in the air at Wolfslair, as Kongo, like teammate Rampage Jackson recently, didn’t fight his best fight here and appeared woefully one-dimensional. Kongo attempted to power out of every bad position, with predictably subpar results. Kongo loves pinning fighters against the cage and tearing them up with knees, where he can use his strength and length to control them in the clinch, but it’s amazing that he tried to do this against a wrestler the caliber of Cain, especially when he was ripping him apart at range and on the brink of stopping him for good. Unless Kongo can seriously improve his wrestling and ground skills in addition to comporting himself in a more intelligent fashion in the cage, he’s going to have a lot more losses like this on his record, as the blueprint to defeating him has more or less been written at this point.

Marcus Davis Needs to Be Quiet

Marcus Davis needs to shut up. He put on an impressive and entertaining performance against Dan Hardy, but he did not come close to winning. In fact, he came far closer to being KO’d than anything, so it’s fairly classless to act as if he won for some ground control and submission attempts, when he was dropped twice in the standup and cut wide open. A competitive fight, to be sure, but one that Davis clearly lost. It must sting like hell to lose to Hardy, but Hardy winning doesn’t prove that Hardy’s verbal barbs were accurate or absolve him of classless behavior either, it just means he was the better fighter.

Aside from the manufactured drama of the bout, which is a tiresome way to promote fights at this point, this was a high quality scrap with an excellent level of action and skill. The only shame is that there wasn’t a more decisive conclusion. Like all great bouts, both fighters elevated their stature here. Hardy showed he has an A-level game and can handle himself in a variety of situations (although he still seemed weak off his back), and Davis showed that in addition to his well-respected striking, his wrestling and ground game are for real. Hardy is already looking to the future, but hopefully Davis can move on with his career as well and put on similar performances against new opponents.


Those of us who bet on Struve got extremely lucky, as Stojnic’s flailing ground-and-pound attack opened a massive gash that would have resulted in a cut stoppage nine times out of ten (a cut so wide and deep that a cutman apparently lost a q-tip in there between rounds), but was allowed to continue in this case. While Joe Rogan nearly blew a fuse, Struve showed that he’s a talented, if hittable, heavyweight against a surprisingly effective Stojnic, and earned every drop of that victory. Although he might want to talk to whoever patched him up after the fight, as he looked quite a mess, with giant Frankenstein stitches/staples.

Stojnic continues to be an amusing foil for any heavyweight, with surprisingly good core strength and balance, aggressive ground-and-pound, and a callous disregard for life and limb that means he’d just as soon pound your skull in with a mallet as share a beer with you and will take an epic beating (such as Cain Velasquez put on him) without batting an eye. Sure he’s one-dimensional, not in very good shape, and never going to string together a lot of wins at the UFC level, but there’s a place for tough, limited guys that don’t quit in testing new prospects and putting on good shows–there’s much to be learned from what Struve and Velasquez were able to do against him, as well as what they were not able to do. UFC fans should demand more of the Bosnian brawler. It would be interesting to see what Junior dos Santos does against someone he can’t knock out in the first 60 seconds of a fight.

Goodbye Tim Sylvia

You’d think after a guy has been blasted by one big punch very early in the fight that he’d keep his hands up early against a legitimate professional boxer. I guess not. Showing up at 310lbs was a very bad sign for Sylvia’s future, and being KO’d in 10 seconds might have put him on Ricco Rodriguez’s career path as well as diet.

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