UFC 125 is in the books and it was the first event post WEC era. There were a lot of mixed reviews about that merger. Some felt it was great that the WEC fighters would have an opportunity to get better notoriety and consequently more financial security, while others felt that there were some drawbacks. Blending what most knew to be always entertaining WEC fighters into sometimes the UFC’s clinging to paper promise matchups could mean one organization would be slightly improved instead of one guaranteed exciting one and the other being a constant unpredictable force. Surely to the delight of any UFC supporter, 125 delivered one of the best performances in several months. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Now, onto the results…
Phil Baroni can break your heart. The “New York Badass” has only shown a glimmer of his former self in the Octagon. The brash young fighter who emerged in the UFC by storm appears to be a thing of the past and fans who remember his early days will definitely see the glaring contrast. If a chiseled physique could win a fight, then Baroni may very well be champ, but clearly in some cases, hard training and dedication are not enough. Baroni looked great for part of the first round having most of his success with grappling and takedowns, despite being known for his knockout prowess, but eventually was caught by the young former TUF contestant Brad Tavares and finished in the first round. Losing to an up comer with considerably less experience is devastating for a guy like Baroni who admitted that he has no idea what else to do as a career other than fight. This most recent defeat and especially considering the method in which it ended, will likely result in Baroni being fired from the UFC. Despite all of the perceived negatives, this could be a good thing for Baroni. People pay to be entertained. If Baroni is fired and lands a spot on another roster with slightly less experienced and less skilled fighters, he can make a name for himself once again and use his Badass persona to gain more attention and sponsorship money. Either way, the ending has not yet been written but considering Baroni’s candor, a documentary film about his journey could end up being his biggest money maker when he’s done.
Having picked Jeremy Stephens to win against Marcus Davis was looking like a fool’s errand for the majority of the fight but eventually Stephens came through with a knockout half way through the third round. Stephens will maintain his spot in the UFC, but the real question is about Davis. Davis has been through many battles and surely his body is not what it used to be. The Irish hand grenade recently cut down to 155 in hopes of rejuvenating his career but it wasn’t enough against the tough Stephens who withstood Davis attack long enough for the knockout. The UFC will probably keep Davis around for another fight or two to let him adjust more to the new weight. The question is who will he fight next? My suggestion is one of the WEC guys on the verge of being cut.
Clay Guida had yet another impressive performance in finishing Takanori Gomi in the second round via guillotine choke. The most comical portion of the fight was hearing Joe Rogan sound legitimately surprised by Clay Guida’s movement. Joe – you’ve said that for every other one of his fights in the past. No need to feign surprise here. Guida is stuck in lightweight division limbo. He’s not in line for a title only because the lightweight title picture is a mess but he deserves to fight guys ranked at least in the top 5.
Dong Hyun Kim defeated Nate Diaz by outworking the trash talking brother of brawl inducing Nick Diaz. Kim outworked and out muscled Diaz for a decision. Maybe Diaz should have accepted the handshake offered by Kim at the weigh-ins instead of insisting on the nose to nose confrontation.
Brandon Vera has been creeping up on it for a while and he’s finally succeeded… at being the biggest false promiser in MMA today. He was talented and dominating when he first came on the UFC scene, even saying he wanted to be champion in two different weight divisions at the same time. Those days are over. Instead we get Vera who comes in and promises to deliver, be better than his last fight, he’s a changed man, he’s been humbled and now he is really taking his training seriously. Once again, Vera lost his most recent fight. There is no shame in losing to Thiago Silva, despite it being Silva’s first fight since back surgery and a one year layoff. Silva may be champion one day. The shame for Vera lies in not delivering for his fans, his camp or himself. Moreso, it’s for his bold promises before all of his fights that fail to come to fruition. There was no sense of urgency on Vera’s behalf in this fight. This was not the old Brandon Vera as we were all promised. To make matters worse, Vera made comments about underestimating Jon ‘Bones’ Jones and divulging to the media that he was goading Jone’s while under him receiving elbows to his head. “Is that all you got?” Then Jones struck again and the fight was over. Vera promised that we would never allow himself to be in such a situation again. Despite Vera’s words, this is precisely what happened. Silva mounted Vera throughout the fight with ease and Vera displayed no sense of urgency to get back to his feet as promised. Silva even paddled Veras ears with humiliating handslaps at one point. Brandon Vera was the biggest loser on this card by far for a number of reasons.
Brian Stann called out Chris Leben for a fist fight and that’s exactly what fans received. To Stann’s utmost credit, he stood and traded with the brawler but did so intelligently by landing more accurate strikes and eventually finishing the fight. Leben did his best frankenstein impersonation by getting back up several times after being rocked and knocked down by Stann which was impressive in its own right. Stann was probably the biggest winner on the night. He was the underdog, he backed up his words to call out Leben, best entrance music (Five Finger Death Punch – Hard to See) and he stood and traded as promised and put on a great performance. Stann deserves someone in the top 5 next.
The Edgar vs Maynard 2 fight lived up to its top billing in every way. This is a must see fight. Maynard knocked down Edgar numerous times in the first round and shockingly, Edgar continued to battle and eventually recovered. It was miraculous that he escaped the first round. Maynard had blown his wad in the first round and got dominated in the second round though. In the third, fourth and fifth rounds, things were fairly even but I had felt that Edgar was the more aggressive fighter, moved forward more often and was trying to find openings the entire time. Judges had the fight 48-46 Maynard, 48-46 Edgar and 47-47 to result in a draw. Anthony Pettis had been promised the winner and this was confirmed at the post fight press conference, but Dana later changed his mind and has decided on an immediate rematch which is the right choice in the eyes of many. As disappointing that may for Pettis (who thought Edgar won the fight), it might not be too long before this happens. In the meantime, Pettis should be given the choice to wait or stay active.
All in all, it was a great event and the prelims were aired free on the ION channel which surely gained a ton of publicity by agreeing to show the fights on short notice by agreeing to terms with Dana. Surely the UFC team are pleased with an auspicious start to 2011.