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By Matt Pelkey, MMATorch Columnist
UFC 140 is in the books, leaving us with just one UFC event remaining in 2011. But before we move on to Brock vs. Overeem (or Mir, or whoever else it might be), let's find out what we learned last night.
1. The best way to stop Tito Ortiz is by hating his guts... literally.
Tito Ortiz is one of the toughest fighters ever to grace the Octagon, or any other medium of MMA for that matter. He's still never been legitimately knocked out. Sure, Chuck Liddell stopped him with strikes in both of their fights, but it was an accumulation of many, many punches that did him in, and he was certainly never "out". He just needed a ref to pull his opponent off of him. Aside from those two fights, we'd never seen Tito Ortiz stopped, whether by strikes or a submission, in an MMA fight.
Well... until his last two fights.
Against Rashad Evans at UFC 133, Tito Ortiz was folded by a brutal knee to the body. Sure, the fight wasn't stopped until Evans pounced and landed a series of punches, but the knee was the beginning of the end. It was a similar story against Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 140. After surviving an aggressive early onslaught by Ortiz, Lil Nog staggered his foe with a couple punches, but really turned the tide with not one, but two well placed knees to the body while they were standing. The second one dropped Tito, and Nogueira followed to the mat and unleashed a vicious assault of elbows and punches to the clearly injured midsection of Ortiz.
When the attack was mercifully stopped, Ortiz stayed on the mat doubled over in pain for quite some time. It only took 25 fights, but there finally seems to be a rock-solid blueprint for beating The Huntington Beach Bad Boy: avoid breaking your hands on that freakishly large, freakishly durable noggin and focus on his pre-tenderized midsection. I have to imagine that however many fights Tito has left in his career (my vote is for zero, but Tito rarely listens to me), his opponents will gear most of their gameplan on attacking the body.
2. The "...of the Year" Awards are going to be the toughest to choose in history.
UFC 140 didn't enter any new contenders to the "Fight of the Year" discussion, but it'll still have its say on several other awards. The Frank Mir-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira fight is a contender for both "Submission of the Year" (it's my choice. Sure, Chan Sung Jung's twister on Leonard Garcia was fantastic, but this was Big Nog for crying out loud, and the sub, complete with the transition that preceded it, was exquisite) and "Comeback of the Year" (it's right there with Barry-Kongo). Jon Jones' dropping of Lyoto Machida's lifeless body after a brutal standing power guillotine is also now on the "SotY" short-list. The Korean Zombie's record-tying KO of Mark Hominick will fall far short in any "KO of the Year" discussion, but that's mostly due to the fact that we witnessed two front kick KO's in higher profile fights this year. UFC 140 itself should also get some love in the "Card of the Year" department. It had a little bit of everything, but its lack of a truly great fight (I'm of the belief that Mir-Nog, while a fantastic one-round fight, was too short to qualify) will likely see it stay behind UFC 139 in that debate.
3. Turns out, Jon Jones CAN take a punch.
Hey, something we actually learned about a fighter that we didn't know going in! I love it when that happens. We've watched Jon Jones' meteoric rise through the ranks of the UFC, but he'd been so dominant to this point that many have been reluctant to throw him into the "greatest fighter alive" discussion until we'd seen him actually handle and survive some adversity.
Check and check.
He actually lost that first round to Lyoto Machida. The former Champion was calm and brilliantly varied in his attack, hitting Jones with body kick and head punch combos on several occasions in the first round. Bones was even staggered at one point. The champ didn't panic though. He went to his corner in between rounds, collected himself, and came out in the second round realizing he needed to be more varied in his attacks.
He committed to putting Machida on his back, and went back to what got him here: brutal elbows on the ground and stifling top control. He opened Machida's forehead up with one deadly elbow, and the blood that flowed out afterward signaled the change in momentum Bones needed. He dropped Machida with a beautiful short left hook as he was coming in, and as Lyoto tried to recover, Jones sunk in the vicious standing guillotine against the cage, from which there was no escape.
Jones' chin will be tested more thoroughly in the future against the likes of Dan Henderson and perhaps Rashad Evans (not to mention Anderson Silva, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. Isn't daydreaming fun?!), but for now we can put to rest the question of how Jon Jones responds when someone lands a hard, clean punch. For the first time, one of Jon Jones' "tests" didn't appear to be of the "open book" variety. Didn't matter, he still got an A.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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