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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
UFC 125 from Las Vegas on Saturday night was an excellent start to 2011 for the UFC. The main event provided what could remain the 2011 "Fight of the Year" the rest of the way, as the bar was set incredibly high by Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, but that was only one of the many stories to come from this night of action on pay-per-view.
Edgar-Maynard put on a classic
It wasn't just a "Fight of the Year" candidate. The five round battle between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard was one of the UFC's best ever fights. It had everything fans could possibly ask for from a fight. The stakes were the highest they could possibly be with the title on the line in the pay-per-view main event; it had a vicious beating delivered from Maynard in the first round; Edgar displayed the improved footwork and technical kickboxing and boxing attributes to pop in and out to out-work Maynard on the feet from then on out; it had a gigantic slam from Edgar onto Maynard. It was just an incredible, drama-filled bout that, at the end of the night, deserved to be called a draw. And they're going to have a chance to do it again later in the year in front of what will hopefully be a much bigger audience.
Brian Stann's coming out party
Brian Stann's first round knockout of Chris Leben was incredible. Leben's only ever been finished like that by Anderson Silva, and he's shown an insane amount of ability to take punishment in the past. Stann's power was simply overlooked heading into this fight. Because he had three straight fights go to decision in the light heavyweight division, it was easy to overlook what he did in the WEC, but he announced to the rest of the middleweight division on Saturday night that he can and will hurt you. This was his shot, in a fight he asked for, in the co-main event of a pay-per-view, and he took that shot and made the most of it. That was such a brutal beating, and he stayed patient and picked his spots to make sure Leben was done. It was just excellent.
Thiago Silva dominates Brandon Vera
It seems like with every fight Brandon Vera has say that he's "back." Maybe he was never there to begin with. Vera came out with aggression in the striking department early in his fight with Thiago Silva, but as soon as the fight hit the ground he had zero answer for anything Silva did to him. By the third round, when Vera got his nose smashed badly, Silva just toyed with him, embarrassing him with a series of slaps and drumming on his back. Vera has just been more than underwhelming throughout his UFC career. He set himself up with high expectations with his early heavyweight success, but he's just looked average at best since then, and like he didn't belong in the Octagon at worst. It's also got to be very discouraging to have your face broken in two separate fights.
Dong Hyun Kim can implement a game-plan
Nate Diaz had a lot of chances to win a very entertaining fight with Dong Hyun Kim, but it came down to the size and grappling ability of the larger Kim in this one. Diaz's work from the bottom was very good, and he kept Kim busy defending a number of submission attempts and sweeps, but Kim was able to control the position of the fight through the first two rounds to get the nod. Kim's chin also allowed him to take Diaz's best shot on the feet, and slowed down Diaz's momentum at 170 lbs. Diaz has got to find a way to start either finishing fights from the bottom or keeping himself standing against wrestlers and grapplers that can bring him to the ground, as his three of his last four losses have all looked very similar. For Kim, he began fading in the third, and really needs to fix his gas tank to keep his grappling pace from the opening rounds all the way through or someone will be able to take advantage of that to take him out in the third.
Pride Never Die! - Takanori Gomi disappoints
Takanori Gomi at one time was considered the best lightweight in the world. The former Pride Champion has had more than his fair share of exciting fights and excellent performances, and after a vicious knockout of Tyson Griffin - who had never been finished like that before - the hype was back behind "The Fireball Kid." Clay Guida snuffed the flame on Saturday night and choked out Gomi in the second round. While Guida's spastic head movement and dancing in the first and second round was at times irritating to watch, it was extremely effective in throwing Gomi off his game and making him seem entirely disinterested with the entire affair. Guida's guillotine choke setup and roll through in the second was perfect, and after developing a reputation as a grinder, Guida has now finished three straight fights. For Gomi, the hopes of a future shot at the UFC Lightweight Champion has been all but dashed.
Featherweight upsets abound as Poirier, Nunes score victories over Grispi and Brown
The featherweight division made its pay-per-view event debut on the preliminary card on Saturday, but it was the unheralded underdogs that stepped up to the opportunity. On the unaired portion of the card, Diego Nunes earned a split decision victory over former division champion Mike Brown; but it was Dustin Poirier's upset of Josh Grispi on the Ion Television portion of the card that stood out. Grispi was initially slated to meet Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Championship on this card, but Poirier's performance on Saturday leads to the belief that it would have been another one-sided beating from the Champ. Grispi showed a ton of heart in surviving a vicious beating from Poirier through all three rounds of the fight, and continued to stay dangerous by threatening submissions on the ground, but Poirier blasted him throughout the fight in his most impressive career fight. He brought the fight to a very good Grispi, and with the win immediately established himself as a major player in one of the UFC's newest divisions.
Preliminary card notes and observations
* Phil Baroni and Marcus Davis have seen their last of the UFC's Octagon. A crushing defeat for Baroni against Brad Tavares had him emotional after the fight, and his second straight loss will see the New York Badass compete elsewhere if he's going to continue his career. For Davis, he might be done altogether. Dropping down to the lightweight division in an attempt to resurrect his career, Davis looked good for the first two and a half rounds of his fight against Jeremy Stephens. And then he got knocked out cold. Again. It was a battering blow, and physically and mentally Davis may find it's time to move on.
* Daniel Roberts pulled off another impressive first round submission, defeating Greg Soto by kimura on the preliminary card. Once again he found his bout make the broadcast following the main event, and he might be getting a move up the card his next time out.
* Antonio McKee may be one and done in the UFC. The 40-year-old made his debut against Jacob Volkmann riding a 15 fight unbeaten streak dating back to 2003. Then the oft-described "most boring fighter in the world" proceeded to lose for the first time in what, by all accounts, was a boring fight. It's a big win for Volkmann, making him 3-0 since dropping to the lightweight division. But McKee likely won't be kept around with a losing performance in a bad fight with how much talking he did prior to this one. The UFC may give him another shot, but a McKee release wouldn't be surprising in the least.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
STAFF COLUMNISTS: Shawn Ennis - Jason Amadi
Frank Hyden - Rich Hansen
Chris Park - Matt Pelkey
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