UFC 172 was in a strange place prior to the fight card actually taking place on Saturday. The main event of Jon Jones attempting to defend his light heavyweight title for the seventh consecutive time was sold as his biggest test ever, despite being far from it. Likewise, the event itself was deemed to be the most stacked in UFC history even though it had no business being sold in such a manner. However, after the performances put on Saturday night it’s hard to claim that UFC 172 wasn’t one of the most exciting events of the year, if not longer. With six finishes among ten fights — including three submissions on the main card, all of them spectacular in one way or another — and some interesting bouts in the four that went the distance the card was certainly able to hold the attention of most fans from start to finish. The end of the card saw Jones (20-1) defend his title in dominant fashion by battering Glover Teixeira (22-3) for most of the 25 minutes that the men spent in the cage together. Try as he might to fight back, Teixeira simply had no answer for the outside game of Jones when the two were at distance, or the inside work the champion was able to do with his elbows. The challenger actually surprised many by showing some improved cardio and hanging in the fight for duration despite the bludgeoning he took at the hands (and elbows) of Jones.
Next for Jones should be the fight everyone wants to see; the rematch with Alexander Gustafsson. Teixeira could easily step into a matchup with another highly ranked light heavyweight who lost on Saturday night in Phil Davis. Speaking of Davis (12-2), he was unable to get anything going in the co-main event against the returning Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson (17-4). After being cut from the UFC following multiple weight mishaps, Johnson has reinvented himself 35lbs heavier than he was during his initial stint in the octagon, and has looked fantastic. His takedown defense was phenomenal and his striking was on point. Perhaps the biggest change in Johnson’s game is that his conditioning is no longer a liability, he was as fresh — if not more so — than Davis late in the fight. It’s hard to pick out a next step for ‘Rumble’ since few in the light heavyweight division will pose more of a threat to him than Davis, but I suppose the winner between Ryan Bader and Rafael Cavalcante will be the only available 205er in the top 10 over the next little while. The first three fights on the PPV card all provided spectacular finishes, but none were more impressive than Luke Rockhold (12-2) rolling Tim Boetsch (17-7) around like a soccer ball before locking up an inverted triangle and proceeding to use that to isolate Boetsch’s right arm and finish with a kimura. Take the Vitor Belfort blemish away, and Rockhold looks like a fighter who should be contending for the middleweight title sooner rather than later, but there’s a long list of fighters in that line at the moment. After Lyoto Machida fights for the belt at UFC 175, the spectre of Vitor Belfort still hangs over the division, while ‘Jacare’ Souza is also very deserving of a shot at the belt.
Jim Miller (24-4, 1 NC) continued to prove the doubters (like me) wrong about his decline, as he snatched up a guillotine in almost the same instant that he and Yancy Medeiros (9-2, 1 NC) hit the mat. At this point, Miller has to be considered one of the most dangerous submission artists in the UFC and he shows no signs of slowing down on the mat. In this bout, he even hurt Medeiros with a hard left to the body which opened up the opportunity for the takedown. The AMA Fight Club product, who had dropped three of five bouts from August 2011 to April 2013 has bounced back in wonderful fashion, and I think a great bout for him would be against TJ Grant, if the Canadian is able to return this fall as planned. Opening up the main card was a bout that many pegged for fight of the night, between Max Holloway (9-3) and Andre Fili (13-2). Early on the fight was delivering, with back and forth striking exchanges throughout the first round. Fili tired after that stanza however, and Holloway started to take over in the second. The third round saw the Hawaiian hurt Fili with a flurry of punches before locking up a nasty guillotine and forcing the tap. No only was the victory extremely impressive, showing great fight-ending instincts, it was also the first submission of Holloway’s career. I would enjoy pretty much any Max Holloway fight moving forward, but a bout against either Charles Oliveira or Cole Miller would be an interesting test to see who can jump up to the next level at featherweight. The finishes weren’t just limited to the main card at UFC 172. In fact, all four post-fight bonuses from the event went to fighters from the preliminary portion. Joseph Benavidez (20-4) took home one performance bonus with his relentless guillotine attack on a very game Tim Elliott (10-5-1). Benavidez extended his record to 20 wins, Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson in spite of a very game challenge by Elliott, who seemed to take the second-ranked flyweight by surprise early. In the opening bout of the evening, Chris Beal (9-0) stayed undefeated by scoring an amazing flying knee KO against Patrick Williams (7-4) in a wild bout that saw both men hurt each other at times but eventually went Beal’s way. Fans of PRIDE had something to cheer about on Saturday night as well, with Takanori Gomi (35-9, 1 NC) putting on the type of haymaker heavy performance we’ve come to expect from him over the years. Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-5-1) was extremely game and made the bout a treat to watch with his constant forward movement, but he simply didn’t have the skills to deal with Gomi. The UFC has next weekend off, but will return on May 10th for UFC Fight Night 40 headlined by Erick Silva and Matt Brown. The odds for that bout were released on MMA OddsBreaker just yesterday, and as always, we’ll have full coverage of the event in the days leading up to it. Prior to the return of the UFC fans will also have Bellator 119 and Cage Warriors 68 this coming weekend, both of which will have coverage on MMA OddsBreaker.