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By: Shawn Ennis, MMATorch Senior Columnist
Here we are again with another UFC PPV in the books. Jon Jones has re-established his dominance in the light heavyweight division, and it seems like the contenders at this point are few and far between. The whole shark tank that we used to think was this division? It's still there. It's still tough, and we'd probably still see champions who only defended once if they defended at all... if Jon Jones wasn't a part of it. As it is, right now we've got Dan Henderson waiting in the wings, and after Jones takes care of that challenge (and he will), there's a pretty steep drop off. Time will tell the tale, but a move to heavyweight might be closer than we think. But we'll get back to Jones in a bit. For now, let's take a look at the good and the bad from that night in Atlanta.
Thumbs Up: to Mac Danzig's toughness. I don't know how you even walk right with an ankle like Danzig had. And he fought most of a three round fight with it. It goes without saying that fighters are tougher than I am, but this goes a step further. Danzig was still bouncing around in the third round, and it was obvious that he was hurt after the fight. Oh yeah, and he also beat Efrain Escudero in the process. Not too shabby.
Thumbs Down: to high expectations for a fight between two great strikers. John Makdessi and Anthony Njokuani on paper looked like it was going to be a great showcase of technical striking, but mostly it was just cautious and underwhelming. You can't fault Njokuani for doing what it takes to win - using his range and fighting at distance - but it didn't make for an exciting fight. That having been said, Makdessi just didn't look right. He looked sluggish, and his kicks lacked pop.
Thumbs Up: to Matt Brown's fearlessness. On paper, Stephen Thompson should have owned this fight. He's by far the more technical striker, and when you think of Matt Brown you're not exactly thinking of a guy who's going to get the fight on the floor on purpose. Had the fight remained on the feet, we would have likely seen a drastically different result, but Brown fought the smart fight, exploiting the non-existent takedown defense of Thompson and not letting him strike from the outside.
Thumbs Down: to Stephen Thompson's takedown defense. I mean really, maybe I'm underrating Matt Brown here, but an exhausted Brown should not be able to drag down the fresher fighter with a half-hearted single leg takedown. Thompson is clearly not ready for the big time. Matt Brown's list of UFC wins is not exactly a murderer's row; he's a gatekeeper, and if you don't beat Matt Brown, you probably don't belong in the UFC. That's just life. Stephen Thompson has some upside, but he has some serious work to do if he's going to catch on in a division that's lousy with wrestlers.
Thumbs Up: to Travis Browne taking care of business. Chad Griggs was overmatched, and Browne treated him as such. Griggs made the most of his opportunities as a likeable underdog in Strikeforce, but this is no longer Strikeforce, and Travis Browne is not Valentijn Overeem. This win for Browne probably shouldn't be overblown, but it was impressive nonetheless. There's something to be said for winning the fights you're supposed to win handily.
Thumbs Down: to fights on Facebook. I realize I'm acting spoiled by complaining about free fights, but here's the thing: when fights start at 7:00, I usually can't watch them live. I've got four kids, man. That time of night is directly in the middle of nightly activities. Does Fuel really have something going on to where they can't show a couple of prelim fights? And this is hardly the most egregious example. I can at least understand the logic of not wanting to air fights on three different channels in one night (though I don't totally agree with it). When you're looking at a Fuel or FX card? What excuse does Fuel TV possibly have to not show every prelim? The UFC is far and away the network's most popular programming. But I won't get carried away here. I'm just sayin. I wanted to see Maximo Blanco and Chris Clements (though apparently I didn't miss much in Blanco's case).
Thumbs Down: to underrating Mark Bocek. I don't know how much longer Bocek can be considered underrated when everyone who talks about him talks about how underrated he is, but Bocek is a good fighter. Frankie Edgar, Mac Danzig, Jim Miller (in a robbery), and Ben Henderson. That's a list of Bocek's only losses in 11 UFC fights. This guy is a very good fighter. He may not end up as a title contender, but he's no one to take lightly. Speaking of which, John Alessio can probably hang around in the lightweight division for a while, too. He looked pretty solid even in defeat.
Thumbs Up: to Eddie Yagin and Mark Hominick. I was just going to put Yagin here, but Hominick deserves some credit too. Yagin was brought in to lose here, but he never acted like he felt overmatched. He brought the fight to Hominick for three rounds and never backed down. Hominick, for his part, knew he was supposed to win this fight. It would have been very easy to fold when he started to face some adversity against Yagin, but Hominick hung in there and continued to fight hard. This was a war of attrition in the truest sense. It was brutal and unrelenting, and both fighters deserve a ton of credit.
Thumbs Up: to Michael McDonald. McDonald validated the amount of hype he's been receiving with the most devastating knockout on the card. McDonald has won eight straight now in increasingly impressive fashion, and he's 15-1 with no unavenged losses. I'd love to see a fight between McDonald and Barao as a title eliminator, but I don't know that it'll happen – the UFC may want to have two viable bantamweight contenders. At the same time, though, the timing is right with Cruz and Faber set to square off this summer. If McDonald-Barao were to be on the same card, that could potentially be great.
Thumbs Up: to Ben Rothwell and not giving up. Rothwell was unquestionably at a crossroads going into his fight with Brendan Schaub. He was able to take what Schaub threw at him (which was not insignificant), and goad the younger fighter into a firefight. Of course, all this happened in just under a minute, so it's hard to read too much into it, especially with the increasingly questionable ability of Schaub to take a punch, but Rothwell was obviously in better shape than he has been in quite some time, and he's got enough skill to hang around in the ever-shallow heavyweight division if he continues to keep himself in good condition.
Thumbs Down: to questionable chins. It's a shame when a special athlete like Schaub is unable to take the next step because he can't take a punch with the best of them. This isn't a matter of taking someone's best shot and going down. The three best fighters that Schaub has fought have all put him out definitively. The question is how long a guy like that should stick around if he's going to get knocked out at the same rate as today's version of Andrei Arlovski, and I just don't have an answer for that. What I will say is that it can't be a good idea for a guy who's liable to get knocked out to hang around in a division where the hardest punchers live.
Thumbs Up: to validating the hype. Again. Rory MacDonald joined his fellow heavily-hyped McDonald in impressive victory. MacDonald was straight up brutal in dispatching Che Mills. No matter what Joe Rogan tells us, Mills was simply not on the level of MacDonald, and that result was not going to be in question, but the way in which MacDonald dominated Mills was still quite impressive. This is not a guy you want on top of you raining down blows. He invokes some serious violence from the top position. The other great thing about MacDonald is that we've got any number of interesting fights in the division. Jon Fitch-Aaron Simpson and Johny Hendricks-Josh Koscheck are no-brainers, depending on how quickly you want to put MacDonald in position to contend for the title. Of course, GSP being a training partner is an unfortunate complication, but seriously – who wouldn't love to see that fight if MacDonald just ran over his next two or three opponents?
Thumbs Down: to overt hyperbole. Che Mills is solid, yes. But Joe Rogan went a little crazy with the hard sell on how great Mills was. Usually Rogan is pretty... well... solid with his analysis, and last night was a good night for him. But that was a bit much. Goldberg on the other hand? Goldberg is becoming a liability in the booth. At this point you could pretty much use a recording of "Goldberg-isms" during any fight, and it would sound the same. He lends very little to the fights other than letting us know when it's starting ("And here we go!") and when it ends ("It is all over!")
Thumbs Down: to teammates not fighting teammates. Just throwing that out there. I know the emotional component involved, and I realize that I don't understand the dynamic, but as a fan, it sucks not being able to see some of these fights.
Thumbs Up: to Jon Jones. Jones had his first pro fight four years ago, and you can make the case right now that he's the best light heavyweight ever. That's pure insanity. Jones has dominated four former UFC champions in a row. Just laid waste to them. Lyoto Machida had never been submitted. Rampage Jackson had never been choked out. Shogun Rua had never been knocked out (if you don't count his broken arm against Mark Coleman). Rashad Evans had taken down everyone he ever tried to take down. Jones changed all of those things. He made those men seem not only mortal, but inferior. There were five Light Heavyweight Champions between Chuck Liddell (the last dominant champ) and Jon Jones. They defended the title once (Rampage) zero times (Griffin, Evans), once (Machida), and zero times (Shogun). Jones has not only defended the title thrice in this era, but has throttled four of those five champions in the process. It wasn't long ago that we questioned when we'd see the next dominant Light Heavyweight Champion. Well, here he is folks. And get comfortable, because he's not going anywhere.
Thumbs Down: to anticlimactic blowoff fights It stands to reason that fans everywhere expected a violent finish to one of the more intense feuds we've seen in MMA in recent years. But sometimes it just doesn't happen. It's hard to fault the fighters in this case - though Jones probably could have pounced on Evans earlier in the fight when Evans was hurt, and Evans was a bit cautious in the latter rounds. But unfortunately that's just how it goes. At least the result wasn't in question. Jon Jones is the better fighter and he showed that. Jones is mostly a finisher when the fight hits the ground, and this was going to be hard to get to the ground for either fighter. Had Jones gotten on top of Evans at some point we probably would have seen something more definitive, but it just wasn't going to happen. So be it. Oh, and let's remember this next time Evans is embroiled in a blood feud, shall we? This is twice now that he's been involved in heavily hyped feuds that didn't exactly deliver the finish that everyone was looking for.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
STAFF COLUMNISTS: Shawn Ennis - Jason Amadi
Frank Hyden - Rich Hansen
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