Last night the UFC went back to some old Strikeforce stomping grounds in San Jose, and brought some of the promotion’s biggest names with it. Josh Thomson and Clay Guida were both champions in that organization, while Robbie Lawler and Jorge Masvidal had solid runs under the banner. Those fighters saw mixed success on Saturday night, going 2-2 with the former champions dropping their bouts to a pair of rising contenders. In the main event Robbie Lawler continued his UFC resurgence with a solid five-round win over Matt Brown. The fight was hyped up as a guaranteed ‘Fight of the Year’ contender, so naturally it wasn’t, but it was certainly a solid scrap. The fight started quickly, with Lawler looking like he had Brown completely outgunned in the opening moments. The hard-nosed Brown battled back and stunned Lawler later in the round, and the fight was on. The pace slowed in the middle rounds, with Lawler taking almost the entire second round off, but he was still the more effective striker when he decided to throw. Things ramped back up in the fifth round, and it was the best of the fight although most once again thought Lawler did the best work. In the end, the judges awarded him the decision by scores of 49-46 twice, and 48-47. With the win, Lawler earned another title shot against Johny Hendricks as soon as the champion is ready to go. While Brown’s winning streak was snapped, he finally faced a top opponent and was competitive, which likely earned him more respect than any of his victories in the UFC. In his next outing, I think he deserves another top opponent, and given their styles either Nick Diaz (although he’s probably got it written in his contract that he’ll only fight a cyborg-dinosaur with the fighting skills of Fedor, GSP and Anderson Silva) or Carlos Condit — once he returns from injury — would be phenomenal bouts.
The co-main event solidified Anthony Johnson as a top light heavyweight, as he moved to 6-0 in the division (2-0 in the UFC at 205lbs) with a brutal knockout of Rogerio Nogueira. It took just 44 seconds for Herb Dean to step in and save Nogueira, and that was about five massive uppercuts too late. Johnson’s speed and power advantages were very apparent from the opening bell. He seems like one of the most intriguing challenges for champion Jon Jones (or Daniel Cormier) at this point but Alexander Gustafsson is in line ahead of him, so he’ll need another bout. The issue with light heavyweight at this point is that the division gets very weak after the top five, so every available fighter seems like a step down for Johnson. The winner of the next UFC Fight Night headliner between Ryan Bader and Ovince St. Preux seems like the best option moving forward. Featherweight Dennis Bermudez was as dominant over Clay Guida as #1 contender Chad Mendes. That is extremely impressive, and it was only the second-fastest finish of Guida in his UFC career (Kenny Florian was 38 seconds quicker back in 2009). Bermudez was faster and more powerful on the feet, faster and more powerful in the wrestling, and a step ahead on the ground. While his calls for a title shot will certainly go unanswered, there’s no question that his seven-fight winning streak has earned him some notoriety in the division. Bermudez deserves an opponent that would push him into the title equation. A bout against former title challenger Ricardo Lamas would check that box. If Bermudez can look impressive against a fighter in Lamas who held his own with the champion that would go a long way to earning him that title shot.
The opening bout of the main card was by far the dullest (and strangest), but in the end Bobby Green curried a bit more favor with the judges with his forward pressure and higher volume and earned the split decision. Josh Thomson seemed content to sit back, counter and hope that the judges would see things his way, but in the end he suffered his third consecutive loss by split decision. While the in-fight conversations and antics from Green seemed to garner most of the attention, his striking was crisp and his takedown defense and scrambling abilities looked excellent, which may him an interesting test moving forward. Green mentioned that he wants to take some time off to mourn the death of his brother, but the UFC may come calling for him to step in and face Donald Cerrone, which would be another fantastic lightweight tilt. The undercard featured some solid performances as well, with Jorge Masvidal proving the better fighter in all areas than Daron Cruickshank despite nearly having his head taken off with a massive right hand in the first round. Patrick Cummins faced no such adversity in his complete domination of Kyle Kingsbury, earning some of the most lopsided scores in UFC history on the judges’ scorecards. UFC newcomer Brian Ortega also showed off the grappling prowess that had people so excited to see him in the Octagon. He tapped Mike de la Torre in 99 seconds, which is made all the more impressive due to the fact that de la Torre completely shut down Mark Bocek’s grappling in their bout. The UFC will be taking its longest break for the remainder of the year leading up to UFC Fight Night 47, headlined by Ryan Bader and Ovince St. Preux. That event will kick off a marathon of MMA which will see ten UFC events over the following eight weeks. As for the entire MMA world, the cancellation postponement of UFC 176 leaves us without a major event, so enjoy a rare weekend to explore the great outdoors, or even socialize with other human beings.