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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The promise of excitement and action from the UFC on Saturday night at UFC 146 was fulfilled, with all five heavyweight main card fights ending before the third round. It was an excellent pay-per-view event, and featured strong support from the night's preliminary card as well, making for one of the most enjoyable MMA events top to bottom in some time.
--Junior dos Santos fought an extremely intelligent fight. He was absolutely a better fighter than Frank Mir in their Championship bout, but he didn't approach it as a cocky champ who knew he was better. He took his time, picked his spots, and avoided any situation that could have gotten him into trouble. After a quick finish of Cain Velasquez (we'll get to him in a moment) last November, dos Santos didn't rush anything in this fight. Mir couldn't accomplish anything on the feet, and so dos Santos made him stand after knocking him down multiple times. When he had him really hurting near the end of the fight, he engaged on the ground only until it looked like Mir was ready to grab an arm. That's when he stood and it was apparent Mir was out of it. All in all, it wasn't the most spectacular or thrilling UFC Title fight ever, but it was a very good performance from the Champ nonetheless.
--While dos Santos did just what was expected of him, Cain Velasquez went a bit above and beyond in his first round stoppage of Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. After losing his title in just 64 seconds last fall, he made it clear he's ready and willing to try to get it back. His destruction of Silva was bloody, brutal, and immensely impressive, and he's likely going to get his rematch with JDS in his next fight. The timing works out to have the two rematch in the fall, with the winner likely facing a returning Alistair Overeem in January. Fabricio Werdum could have something to say about that after his fight with Mike Russow next month, but Velasquez was immensely impressive tonight in what may have been his best career performance. The cut he opened on Silva's forehead was nasty, and led to one of the bloodiest fights in UFC history.
--Roy Nelson's definitely got a ceiling in the heavyweight division, but he's only going to be beat in the UFC by fighters who have immense cardio and can keep up a high pace of attack for an entire fight. Otherwise, anyone else is someone he's likely going to knock out or beat up himself for three rounds. Dave Herman tried to use his height and reach as an advantage, but Nelson quickly found the range and landed the overhand right. This was an impressive performance that will keep him around and relevant, and the fight that has to be made next is Nelson against Mark Hunt. That's just an immensely fun fight to think about.
--Stipe Miocic put forth a good performance against fellow unbeaten prospect Shane Del Rosario. He stood with him for a round, then utilized his wrestling advantage in the second to put on a ground and pound beating. That was impressive on short notice, and he has looked better in each of his fights in the Octagon thus far.
--Not much to analyze from Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson, as it was an immensely predictable bout. Struve had such a massive advantage on the ground that as soon as it got there the fight was all but over. Johnson's first mistake was trying to work so close in the clinch without separation for strikes. Had he backed off intermittently with his attack he may have been able to land a few damaging blows. Instead, he stayed in close, Struve pulled guard, and got the armbar in just over a minute. Want a crazy stat that was posted on Twitter tonight? Struve now has more wins in the UFC's heavyweight division (8), than former multi-time division Champion and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. He's only 24, he's won five of his last six, and he can definitely compete with most in the division. He also may have a ceiling at heavyweight, but he can continue to have a lot of success in the UFC.
--Diego Brandao became the latest Ultimate Fighter winner failing to take the UFC by storm in his decision loss to Darren Elkins. Brandao is a solid talent, and he's definitely a skilled fighter, but he's got issues with his cardio and defensive grappling that made him a perfect foil for Elkins. Elkins is incredibly tough, and after surviving a great onslaught from Brandao in the first round, he took over and controlled the fight from there (Funny note from this fight: after seeing Brandao throwing strikes on the ground in the first round, my two and a half year old daughter felt it was time to start practicing some ground and pound on her favorite stuffed giraffe; just tossed the thing down, postured up and wailed down on strikes, she's a natural).
--The most surprising outcome of the night had to be Jamie Varner's first round TKO of Edson Barboza. Varner hadn't been in Zuffa since the WEC was folded in at the outset of last year, and while he was 3-1 outside of the organization last year, the loss came against Dakota Cochrane, who was eliminated in the opening round of "The Ultimate Fighter: Live" earlier this year. He was even close to retiring around that loss. However, he bounced back, and got a call to take this fight on short notice. Remember, Barboza was undefeated heading in, and had scored a "KO of the Year" candidate in his last bout. For Varner to just pick him completely apart the way he did and score that first round TKO was fascinating. It was wholly unexpected, but a great win for him anyway.
--Speaking of fighters needing a win, I couldn't help but feel great for Dan Hardy after that win. He's not always made himself the most likable fighter, but he's dealt with a lot of negatives in the UFC in the last two years. That knockout win was a small amount of redemption after the downfall he's taken, but it was still great to see his reaction after failing to taste victory for so long. It was a genuine combination of elation and relief, and was just a good moment on the undercard.
--On the opposite end of that spectrum, the night was anything but "feel good" for Jason "Mayhem" Miller. After an awful performance against Michael Bisping in December that nearly led to his release, he assured it with a weird follow up against C.B. Dollaway. Miller appeared to be nursing an injury with his knee wrapped up heavily, and indeed the knee went out on him in the first round. He tried to fight through it, but offered very little in the way of takedown or ground defense, allowing Dollaway to control him for most of the fight. Dollaway himself didn't do much of anything in the bout besides holding control, and that led to a really bad fight. Add in an incident backstage from Miller, and he's out of the UFC. It was a short lived stint, but Miller continues to be his own worst enemy.
--On the Facebook prelims, there were two flashy performances and perhaps the final fight of a former Champion. First up, Paul Sass' ability to lock on a triangle choke at will is uncanny. Jacob Volkmann is an immensely tough fighter, and he knew Sass would be trying to catch him in something; still, he couldn't defend it when the time came, and Sass now has nine wins by triangle choke.
--Glover Teixeira made about as good an impression as any fighter could make in their UFC debut. He destroyed Kyle Kingsbury - who himself is not a bad fighter - and then showed he's not just about brute force with an arm triangle choke, all in under two minutes. It was a fantastic display, and though it's coming perhaps a few years too late, his presence in the UFC will definitely be felt.
--Mike Brown was overheard on camera saying something to his cornerman about retirement following a win over Daniel Pineda to open the show. If it's his final fight, he put on another solid performance against a talented featherweight in Pineda, and it made for a really exciting fight. He got the show off to a hot start, and it didn't end there.
All in all it was just a really entertaining night of MMA action. The "all-heavyweight" main card lived up to its billing for excitement, and the UFC left fans more than satisfied after an excellent night of action.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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Frank Hyden - Rich Hansen
Chris Park - Matt Pelkey
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