It isn’t fair for me to be disappointed in the result of the Ultimate Fighter 22 main event as Frankie Edgar went out and did what he is supposed to do, but I was really anticipating a five round war between two of the elite at 145 lbs. Instead Edgar short-circuited my hopes with a first round KO and cementing his claim to be the next #1 contender. Well damn…. At least it was a badass KO.
The lightweight fight between Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza was easily the highlight of the night with Ferguson walking out with an impressive victory, as did Evan Dunham over Joe Lauzon. The rest of the card was pretty nondescript, with the TUF final leaving a sour taste in my mouth, as it had no business being the co-main event ahead of Ferguson and Barboza. I do rant about that a little further down, though, so I’ll shut up and get down to business.
Frankie Edgar defeated Chad Mendes via KO at 2:28 of the first round
Ever since this fight was announced, most believed that if Edgar were to win it would be by decision, while if Mendes were to win it would be thanks to his heavy hands. Not exactly how things played out. Mendes landed some hard leg kicks early while Edgar circled looking for his opening. Upon the first big exchange between the two elite featherweights, Edgar landed a huge left right on the button to send Mendes to the ground, out cold, giving Edgar his long awaited second chance at the Featherweight Title.
With Edgar now 34, the talk has been that he inevitably has to slow down at some point. While that is true, there doesn’t appear to be any signs of it happening any time soon, as he actually seems to be getting better with every subsequent appearance. The only thing that would have impressed me more would have been to see him take Mendes down at least once, as no one has been able to do that. Alas, I really can’t ask for more than the one-punch KO that he delivered. I had initially believed that his title shot would be delayed if McGregor were to win, as I’d believe Aldo would get the rematch, but I’m not so sure about that now given Aldo’s injury history and rocky relationship with the UFC brass. Edgar, on the other hand, has a relatively injury free history, and has demolished all the obstacles put in front of him. I’ll confidently predict that he’ll be the next to challenge for the belt regardless of what happens with Aldo and McGregor.
Mendes is in a tough spot. His only losses have been to the elite of the division in Aldo, McGregor, and Edgar, but he is clearly a step above anyone else in the division. Perhaps he’ll get a rematch with McGregor soon enough, but that also depends on whether or not McGregor decides he wants to hang around at featherweight. I see fights with him and either Max Holloway or Charles Oliveira being fun, but does the UFC really want him derailing the best prospects for future title contenders? With much left to play out still, I would venture to guess he’ll get Jeremy Stephens next regardless if Stephens wins or loses against Holloway.
Ryan Hall defeated Artem Lobov via unanimous decision
I don’t want to crap on Ryan Hall’s parade, but this fight had no business being the co-main event over Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza. When will the UFC realize fans don’t give a damn about The Ultimate Fighter anymore!? The tournament served its purpose, but can they please kill it off while we still have a few pleasant memories left?
The action in the cage wasn’t what most people expected, as Lobov had marched down each of his opponents in the TUF tournament while Hall was a much smaller opponent as a natural featherweight. But Hall kept Lobov on his heels. Hall went for the leglock takedowns early, and controlled the entirety of the first round after a supremely slick back take, though he couldn’t finish off the choke from there. Lobov was scared to commit to any strikes from there for fear of being taken down again. Even when Hall couldn’t get the takedown, he’d pull guard as Lobov would sit atop him without action.
Hall does present an interesting matchup for opponents due to his unique brand of BJJ, with its heavy emphasis on leg locks. He should steal a victory or two he wouldn’t get based on natural talents alone, but his effectiveness will drop the more opponents see footage of him. Lobov will be brought back, but I don’t think his hands down walking forward style is going to be all that effective in the UFC as opponents will now be able to sufficiently game plan against him whereas that was more difficult to do on TUF. Notice a pattern here?
Tony Ferguson defeated Edson Barboza via submission at 2:54 of the second round
What a hell of a fight! Ferguson executed his pressure-heavy strategy to perfection while Barboza responded to the pressure just as well to make the fight about as entertaining as fans could have hoped. Both ended up bloody as the punches and kicks flew without abandon with both eating shots that left me amazed that they weren’t rocked much less KO’d by a few of the blows landed. Barboza in particular landed what appeared to be either lights out or cringing shots as he worked over Ferguson’s body with punches and kicks. Ferguson’s gas tank seemed to be the difference as his pressure wore Barboza out, allowing Ferguson to get a hold of Barboza’s neck in a scramble and sink in a deep D’arce choke, to which Barboza tapped out soon after.
Ferguson asked to fight for the title next in his post-fight interview, and he very well could get that. He has won seven in a row, with a 10-1 overall record in the UFC, his lone loss coming three and a half years ago to Michael Johnson. Perhaps even more impressive is only two of those seven wins came by decision, with all the other coming by submission. My opinion is that he deserves the next shot, but I don’t get paid to make these decisions. I have a feeling the UFC would favor Anthony Pettis for the title fight due to his flash and marketability, but Pettis has only fought seven times in his five years in the UFC. Can the UFC trust Pettis to fight consistently? So far the answer is no. Even though Barboza lost, I like the adjustments that he made compared to his loss to Michael Johnson as he countered much more effectively. He landed shots that would put out a number of other fighters, but Ferguson’s chin held strong. If he continues to make adjustments like he has recently, he could eventually challenge for the title. Do I think he will? No, but I’m not eliminating it as a possibility. Look for him to get the loser of Pettis and Eddie Alvarez next.
Evan Dunham defeated Joe Lauzon via unanimous decision
I don’t want to rip on the action that was presented, as Dunham was aggressive and put on a hell of a show, but it wasn’t the barnburner that we all expected to come from these two bonus machines. Dunham’s previous problem had been his tendency to get into firefights with little regard to defending the return fire from his opponents. Not this time, as he timed his entries extremely well, landing combination after combination and not allowing Lauzon to return with any consistency to take a dominating win over a quality opponent.
When you combine this victory with Dunham’s previous victory over Ross Pearson (where he used a wrestling heavy attack against the British striker), it appears Dunham has put it all together in terms of his physical skills and the mental game. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t get a ranked opponent next. He needs to hurry if he wants to make a move though as he turns 34 next week. Lauzon just didn’t look like he was mentally there. There was zero of the aggression and risk taking that usually comes with a Lauzon performance. Even worse is this isn’t the first time he has had a performance where he appears to be sleepwalking. He has taken a lot of damage in his career and it seems as though it is beginning to take its toll. I don’t doubt he can still win fights in the UFC, but against opponents with names that fans even vaguely recognize? Those days seem over.
Tatsuya Kawajiri defeated Jason Knight via unanimous decision
I’ll give Knight points for being ballsy as hell, but that is about all I can give him. Kawajiri looked like he was at least one weight class above Knight while fighting like it too, taking the youngster to the ground time and again while staying top heavy on Knight. Knight defended well off of his back to prevent Kawajiri from landing much of his patented ground strikes (including tying up Kawajiri’s arm with his legs at one point), but couldn’t do anything else as he relied on referee Big John McCarthy to stand the fight up multiple times. I don’t expect Knight to hang around the UFC for very long as he can’t stop a takedown and doesn’t have a lot of power in his strikes to make opponents hesitate to go for the takedown. Toughness only gets you so far. The win doesn’t really do anything for Kawajiri as he was supposed to dominate his short notice opponent. He did that, but his inability to get a finish doesn’t reflect very well on him. Hopefully he can have his original opponent remain healthy for his next fight as this was the second time facing an inexperienced short notice opponent making their UFC debut.
Julian Erosa defated Marcin Wrzosek via split decision
Not a bad way to open up the main card even if things got sloppy at times. Both fighters had their moments and had looks at submissions in what was a very competitive fight that could have gone to either fighter without any raised eyebrows questioning the decision as the first round proved to be the round in question. Wrzosek applied pressure and controlled the cage with big shots while Erosa landed more volume, and had a near finish with a guillotine into a D’arce choke. Wrzosek took the second with a number of takedowns while Erosa came out strong in the third with aggression and a few takedowns of his own to take that round. In the end, I agreed with the judges call, and Erosa lives to ply his trade another day in the UFC. If Erosa can fight like he did in the third round at all times, I’ll be more excited about his future. Problem is that round has been the exception rather than the rule. I’ll admit his wrestling looked better than ever too, so perhaps he can surprise me and have an extended run in the UFC. Wrzosek is probably out of the UFC, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in short measure.
Gabriel Gonzaga defeated Konstantin Erokhin via unanimous decision
Boooooooooo!!!!!!! Horrible, terrible, no good, very bad fight. Both were extremely cautious after they had lost their previous fights, knowing that they were fighting for their jobs and ensuring that the loser would be cut in the process, as it turned into a torturous visual affair. Gonzaga scoring a takedown in the first and third is what gave him the victory, but if it were possible to award both fighters a loss, I guarantee you it would have happened. Don’t expect Gonzaga to receive any favors with his next opponent, while I’m sure Uncle Dana will have no problem cutting him loose if he loses his next one. Erokhin entered the UFC as someone many expected to provide some new blood into the geriatric heavyweight division, and he’ll leave as one of the biggest recent flameouts. I expect he’ll have a hard time making his way back into the UFC even if he reels off an impressive string of victories as the stink of this fight will remain strong.
Ryan LaFlare defeated Mike Pierce via unanimous decision
Holy Hematoma Batman! I was waiting for a leprechaun to leap out of Pierce’s head as the lump continued to grow throughout the third round. Though it was a clear decision for LaFlare, and I acknowledge he is the better fighter, I walked away more impressed with Pierce than I did with LaFlare. Pierce made the fight competitive and came the closest to having the fight stopped when he rocked LaFlare in the second and third rounds. Considering he hadn’t fought in over two years, as he recovered from a devastating knee injury, fighting LaFlare was a monstrous task and he acquitted himself well. Unfortunately his stocky frame worked against him as LaFlare used his length and reach to outpoint the Oregon native with a variety of kicks and punches as Pierce struggled to find his range. LaFlare will probably get another chance at a ranked opponent with the win. I don’t see him breaking into the top ten though as his lack of power and defensive lapses came into play. He should settle into a role as a gatekeeper into the rankings for the next few years. With consecutive losses for the first time in his career, Pierce could be cut. I hope not as he showed he is still a threat even if he isn’t the same fighter he was pre-injury. With plenty of fights he can still win in the division, I think he’ll be back.
Geane Herrera defeated Joby Sanchez via KO at 4:28 of the second round
Very entertaining scrap put on by the flyweights with neither wanting to back down. Sanchez landed more punches with his effective combinations while Herrera was looking for the single big strike, using both counters and high-risk moves like flying knees. Even though Sanchez was landing more, it was also clear that he was taking more damage as Herrera had more behind his strikes and it was soon showing on Sanchez’s face. Sanchez ended up being floored by a counter left hook from Herrera who then rushed in to finish Sanchez with punches. Herrera likely would have been cut with a loss, but now buys himself more time to develop his extensive athletic skills. While he looked much improved from his UFC debut, he still doesn’t look like he knows how to blend all phases of his tool set together. His development will be worth watching as he could flame out or develop into an under-the-radar contender. Sanchez seems to be in a similar boat, just with a lower ceiling. He was clearly the inferior athlete and was limited to his boxing. He has plenty of time at 24, but a loss in his next fight will probably send him out of the UFC.
Chris Gruetzemacher defeated Abner Lloveras via unanimous decision
This wasn’t a bad way to open up the night, but was overall a nondescript match between a pair of TUF quarterfinalists. Gruetzemacher kept Lloveras’ back against the fence for the majority of the fight with both trading hard shots with one another. What seemed to be the difference was the effectiveness of the shots as Gruetzemacher did a better job of no-selling the hard body shots Lloveras landed while Lloveras was reacting to a large percentage of Gruetzemacher’s strikes to the legs and head. Look for Gruetzemacher to drop down to featherweight as he is an undersized lightweight who struggles to implement his grappling on the larger lightweights, eliminating one of his better skills. Lloveras is probably out of the UFC with the loss.