Sunday, December 13, 2009

UFC 107: 10 Things We Learned Last Night

1. Best. Lightweight. Ever.

If there was ever any doubt (and there shouldn't have been in all honesty), BJ Penn made it abundantly clear within the first 45 seconds of his fight with Diego Sanchez that he is simply on another level than everyone else at 155 pounds.

In each of his last two title defenses, we've heard the build up of the challenger being a great test for the champion, and each time, said challenger was thoroughly dismantled by Penn. There isn't a lightweight in the world who can hang with Penn, and there hasn't been one better in the history of the sport.

Not Aoki, not Pulver, not Gomi, not anybody. BJ Penn is the best lightweight ever and one of the greatest fighters of all-time.

2. Now What?

Each of his last two opponents were supposed to have the skills to be a challenge and potentially end the reign of the kid from Hilo. Both those men were sent home with their tails between their legs.

After dominating Diego Sanchez last night, there isn't a sole lightweight who could honestly challenge BJ Penn remaining in the UFC. Not because there aren't some talented fighters in the division, but because Penn is a transcendent talent.

Where things go from here is anybody's guess.

Personally, I have no interest in seeing BJ Penn move up to welterweight, as Dana White recently said the lightweight champion would have to start at the bottom and work his way to another title shot.

Joe Rogan tossed out Shinya Aoki's name last night, but that isn't going to happen. In addition to being contracted to DREAM, if "The Tobikan Judan" is fighting in the United States, it will be with Strikeforce. And let's be honest: Penn would smash Aoki.

Keep dominating and defending the belt; a year from now, Kenny Florian will be due for another title shot and then we'll see if the third time is the charm.

3. Even in a Bloody Defeat, Diego Sanchez Impresses

For all the jokes and ribbing aside - from the YES! routine to the greatest mean face in the history of mean faces - Diego Sanchez is one tough kid.

Less than a minute into the biggest fight of his life, he was rocked and made painfully aware of what a long and painful night it was going to be. But he just kept coming and coming and coming and coming.

His unbreakable spirit looked broken at the start of each of the championship rounds, yet Sanchez kept walking out to the center of the Octagon. We've seen fighters, including Penn himself, call it quits and give up, but that just isn't a part of Diego Sanchez' makeup.

While he was completely dominated and left beaten and bloody, Diego Sanchez showed the heart of a champion and deserves some recognition today.

4. "Water is Wet"

Yes, Frank Mir quickly disposed of Cheick Kongo, connecting with a big punch before putting the French kickboxer to sleep with a guillotine inside of 90 seconds.

But going into that fight, who didn't know that Frank Mir was going to submit Cheick Kongo pretty damn quickly? Mir is a great submission fighter and Kongo has a pretty horrible ground game, so Mir earning a win by submission is about as shocking as learning that water is wet.

Now, what was impressive and a new development stemming from this bout was the recreated Frank Mir. Holy weight training, Batman!

While I would still pick a 100% healthy Brock Lesnar in their eventual trilogy fight, Mir looks to be a bigger, stronger version of the guy who submitted the current champ in his UFC debut and that could prove problematic, not only for Lesnar, but for everyone else in the division as well.

5. Jon Fitch Needs to Evolve

While partial credit certainly goes to Mike Pierce for putting up a great effort and nearly ending things in the final minute of the third round, Fitch came away with another Jon Fitch victory, earning two-of-three rounds on all three scorecards to move his record to 11-1 in the UFC and 21-3 (1 No Contest) overall.

That said, I don't know if there is a more frustrating 21-3 fighter in all of Mixed Martial Arts. Though his blue collar, Purdue Boilermaker, grind-it-out style makes him an easy-to-appreciate every man, Jon Fitch needs to evolve.

The guy who won last night wouldn't get passed Thiago Alves and his original opponent, Ricardo Almeida, would surely have been a stiff test as well. His boxing needs improvement, from both an offensive and defensive standpoint, as does his overall strength and power.

Interestingly enough, the blueprint has been laid by his teammate, Josh Koscheck. An equally gifted wrestler, though a better overall athlete than Fitch, Koscheck has developed a solid striking game and more power under the watchful eyes of Bob Cook and Dave Camarillo, and Fitch needs to do the same.

6. Lovable? Yes. A Legitimate Contender? No.

Such is life for Clay Guida.

The fans love him and rightfully so; he puts on an exciting fight 99 times out of 100, has crazy hair and energy, let's out monster burps when they're checking his cuts and sings his walkout song on the way to the cage.

That said, he's a gatekepper and nothing more.

Ten fights into his UFC career, he's 5-5 and never beaten a top ranked guy. He's tested them, challenged them and given them fits, but in the end, he's come out on the losing end.

Entertaining the crowd is one thing, but to be considered a contender, you have to beat other contenders and that's not been the case for Clay Guida thus far.

7. Kenny Florian Should Face Diego Sanchez Again

Now that they're both fighting in the weight class they belong in and have grown as fighters, let's get the rematch from The Ultimate Fighter Season One on a card in 2010.

This just makes sense on so many levels.

Sanchez certainly won't want to drop too far down the ladder in terms of his next opponent, and Florian needs to keep beating top level competition if he hopes to earn a third title shot. Mix in their rivalry from TUF 1, and the improvement both have made since their time on the show and you have everything you need to sell this fight.

Besides, I want to see another Florian fight before I officially gush about the improvements that were already noticeable last night. Better boxing, better gameplan, and better execution.

In my opinion, that was the best Kenny Florian we've seen yet.

8. With Time, Stefan Struve Could Be a Handful

While some will certainly speculate about the outcome (I'm not fussed either way...), last night's win over Paul Buentello showed me that with more development and a little added meat on them bones, Stefan Struve will eventually be a very difficult opponent for his fellow UFC heavyweights.

Just because of his height alone, Struve is already a tough test. For starters, it's not like there are a ton of nearly 7-foot MMA fighters with good kickboxing and submission skills to train with in preparation.

What struck me the most was that it has taken this long for Struve to begin utilizing his kickboxing in the UFC, as his barrage of leg kicks in the third round clearly hurt Buentello and could be a very useful tool in not only weakening his opponents, but keeping distance.

Now, he certainly needs to clean up his striking, as a blind man looking the other way would have seen that flying knee coming and it almost got him knocked out. Though he survived, we've seen him (a) get cut up a couple times, (b) be prone to leaving his chin out there to get belted despite having a ridiculous height advantage on everyone and (c) straying from his strengths to stand-and-trade.

He's got room to add 20 pounds before reaching the 265 pound limit, and given that he's just 21-years-old, he's sure to fill out in the future. If he does, and he cleans up his all-around game, "The Skyscraper" could have a very bright future.

9. Dear Alan Belcher...

White boy's with cornrows barely works on Urijah Faber, and "The California Kid" you are not.

Pink shorts don't work on anybody. Period. End of Sentence.

So what makes you think that combining the two is a good look?

You looked like the scrawny, pasty white kid in Take the Lead who put his red-headed afro into 'rows for the big dance competition.

Yes - I've seen Take the Lead and can remember way too many of the details. Tell me something I don't already know...

"The Talent" looked okay in his win over a clearly out of shape, ten-pounds-over-the-limit Wilson Gouveia, but not good enough to warrant declaring he wants that belt with Joe Rogan post-fight.

He gets punched in the face far too much for my liking right now and isn't that far removed from losses to both Jason Day and Kendall Grove for me to take him seriously as a contender.

Personally, I'd love to see Belcher hook up with Mark DellaGrotte and Team Sityodtong. Belcher has a great deal of potential and is just 25, so there is time and room to grow as a fighter. Sometimes all a guy needs is the help of a great teacher, and DellaGrotte would be the right match in my opinion.

10. 5-0 on the Main Card, 2-4 in the Prelims

Clearly, I need to invest more time and energy into picking the preliminary bouts.

Though some will certainly point out that the pay-per-view portion pretty much ended up going down as many believed it would, I'd like to point out my string of three consecutive "dead-on predictions" in the Florian / Fitch / Mir bouts that would have turned into a four-pack had BJ Penn's shin not tore Diego Sanchez' forehead apart.

Yes, this is my Barry Horowitz moment where I pat myself on the back.

Now that it's over - man did my prelim picks suck!

Wilson Gouveia came in fat and got dropped, Matt Wiman dominated Shane Nelson (who needs to drop to '45 immediately), "Toquinho" submitted Lucio Linhares and DaMarquis Johnson fought off a submission attempt to choke out Edgar Garcia.

Still, 7-4 isn't all that bad.


  1. Can you expand your recommendation for Belcher to join DellaGrotte versus another camp, pls?

  2. Both Belcher and DellaGrotte have backgrounds in Muay Thai, so the foundation is already there.

    Peter Welch (and Marcus Davis for that matter) could help with tighting up Belcher's boxing, and he wouldn't get lost in the shuffle of being in one of the larger camps like Jackson's or ATT.

  3. I wouldn't be going as far to say that BJ Penn is off away in another league like Anderson Silva.

    The lightweight division in the UFC has the most fighters, always welcoming new talent and other fighters cutting weight to make it, and in my opinion the hardest to hang in the standings. No matter how good or how much they want to hype Diego Sanchez, BJ will have much sterner tests in 2010. At the moment they're lacking a new number one contender, but look for that to change quickly.

    My prediction is no matter how good BJ is (And yes, I'll admit he is carving quite a legend for himself.) he will lose the title in 2010.

    After watching John Fitch and Guida fight, I'm a little baffled at how they've managed to stick around the top as long as they have. Guida looked transparent and you could tell that in the battle of shitty nicknames that "Kenflo" had figured him out by the end of the first round. His takedowns showed signs of tells, and although his striking looked improved he got outpointed and beat up all night.

    John Fitch wasn't impressive to me. Period. Any sort of rematch with the champ would be a slaughter.

    Lastly, I was entertained and a little surprised to see Mir come out the way he did; beefed up and throwing big shots. I'm calling the rubber match now, September 2010. Assuming Lesnar doesn't die from whatever it is that's ailing him.

  4. Obviously a guy like DellaGrotte or Welch could help to fill holes in Belcher's game, but I don't see either of them as a factor in moving Belcher up the 185 ladder.

    Belcher is already known for his stand-up, so, for example, in a fight against Nate The Great, Damian Maia, or Sonnen the smart game plan would be to take Belcher to the ground. Consequently, I'd see a greater ROI for Belcher were he to focus on his ground game (wrestling and bjj).

    Another important consideration is the level of talent within Sityodtong. I don't think Belcher would get enough quality sparring, and even various styles within sparring, that would allow him to make improvements that would match his post-fight comments. Ultimately, I think DellaGrotte is a great coach, but Sityodtong isn't a great camp.

  5. Jesus - I respectfully disagree with your thoughts on Penn losing his title in 2010.

    There is no one in the 155 pound weight class with the talents to beat BJ Penn. His last two opponents have been the best possible contenders and he dismantled them both.

    The fate awaits Gray Maynard, Frankie Edgar or anyone else.

    Guida was never top of the charts to me or most; he's a huge fan favorite, but those in the know know he's a solid wrestler with lots of energy, but that's about it.

    Fitch looks like he's regressing to me. Not sure why, but he doesn't have the killer instinct of the past, where he just kept taking you down over and over and dominated people.

    Anonymous One - good points all around, and I agree with the theory of most of them.

    For me, Belcher is at a point right now where he needs to make one part of his game top-notch; while he's known for his striking, there is still room for improvement and that is why I like DellaGrotte / Sityodtong.

    After that, get somewhere to build your ground game. To me there is no point in focusing on your deficiencies when you don't have one standout power to work with.

    Hone the striking, make it top notch, then focus on the ground game.

    Thanks for all the comments!

  6. Mr. Popular these days, hmm? Don't let the fame go to your head!

    I say we put Mac Danzig in there, he's lookin' good...(Cough.)

    In all seriousness though, a Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard would be a good start in establishing a new top contender. I think BJ would have a tough time with the bully, we've seen BJ have some troubles with bigger guys and I think Gray is the right guy for it. Although he's not very tall at 5'8, I think his wrestling would prove to be problematic if he could take BJ down. The real irony would be that BJ coached him in TUF 6, which would add some flavour to the fight.

    As well, I think it's only a short matter of time before we see a breakout of a new star in the Lightweight division.


Tell us what you think - good, bad or indifferent - and get ready for a counterpunch.