Perhaps it was due to the fight inexplicably airing until 1am ET, or the fact that most relevant bout on the card took place approximately three hours earlier, but the end of the UFC’s first trip to Maine seemed like a downpoint. Ryan Bader controlled Ovince St. Preux for the majority of their 25 minutes in the Octagon together and picked up a decision victory.
Following stoppages by Ross Pearson, Tim Boetsch, Shawn Jordan, Alan Jouban and Thiago Tavares earlier on the main card there simply wasn’t much sizzle to the main event. That could be an indictment of the UFC’s light heavyweight division in 2014. Aside from the emergence of Anthony Johnson, the cast of characters at 205 is a diminished version of what it was when Jon Jones captured the division’s title almost three and a half years ago. Neither Bader nor St. Preux were — or are — going to legitimately challenge for the UFC title, regardless of the cardio improvements exhibited by Bader or the misguided prospect label attached to St. Preux. Bader still lacks great defensive skills and looks awkward when he gets hit. He’ll remain at the top of the light heavyweight division’s second-tier for a few years to come, but that’s his well-established ceiling at this point. As for St. Preux, despite all of his physical gifts he is seriously lacking as a technical fighter. His striking and grappling fundamentals are simply non-existent in many cases, and Bader exploited the grappling side of things by consistently getting easy takedowns that instantly had him in side control. The next matchup here is a bit tricky, as I normally look for winnable fights moving forward. For Bader, the only fighter in the top eight at light heavyweight that I can see him really having a shot against is Phil Davis, since Davis lacks the power to put Bader out. Davis is tied up fighting Glover Teixeira however. Rashad Evans might be the next option, since the former champion said he would be ready to go in February, which gives Bader a six-month break after competing twice in a two-month span. The other available light heavyweights are Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson, both of which are nightmare matchups for Bader, and the latter isn’t interested in any fights without a title on the line. To find a fight where Bader would be favored, you’d have to go down the list at light heavyweight to Jimi Manuwa or Fabio Maldonado, and those simply don’t make sense given Bader’s recent success. To co-main event was a bit easier on the eyes, unless you’re a Gray Maynard fan. Ross Pearson overcame a bit of a slow start to catch Maynard coming in during the second round. Once he sensed he had Maynard hurt, Pearson put together solid combinations that quickly finished things off. The win snapped a two-fight winless streak for Pearson, which consisted of the robbery decision against Diego Sanchez and a no-contest versus Melvin Guillard. Maynard was also coming in off of two losses, and added a third consecutive knockout defeat to his recent slump. Many called for Maynard’s retirement, as it seems his chin just can’t hold up anymore. I’ve invoked his name a couple times in these articles recently, but those opponents keep getting booked, so pending health, Pearson taking on Michael Johnson would be an excellent striking battle. Many (myself included) had written off Tim Boetsch at some point during his last five fights. After being dominated by Brad Tavares for approximately eight minutes of their eight minute and 13 second bout, this performance probably didn’t change many minds despite the Maine native getting his hand raised. It was likely the best moment of the card, as Boetsch picked up the victory in front of his home crowd in comeback fashion reminiscent of his fight with Yushin Okami. If Francis Carmont can pick up the win over Thales Leites next weekend, that would present a matchup between two veterans who just came off of losing streaks, and be a tightly contested bout.
Ben Stiller should break out his Derek Zoolander character for a sequel based on the life of Alan Jouban. In his UFC debut, Jouban was on the ropes early against Seth Baczynski but answered back with a crushing left hand that brought an abrupt halt to the bout. It was a somewhat impressive debut for Jouban as he showed off his toughness and punching power, but he’ll need to prove that he has more than one look moving forward. A bout with Yan Cabral or Lance Benoist would provide a test of his grappling skills, and further establish how effective his overall game truly is. Say what you will about Shawn Jordan’s chin, but the man is resilient unless he gets put out cold. Against Mike Russow he was on the brink, but battled back to earn a TKO victory, and he repeated that kind of performance against Jack May last night. May had Jordan badly hurt in the second round, unloading punches against the cage, but the former LSU Tiger (as we were reminded ad nauseum), managed to get a takedown to survive the onslaught. May ended up putting a bit too much into the flurry,as he was left out of gas and Jordan took over for the TKO victory in the third round. Perhaps Jordan can provide a bit more of a stern test to Jared Rosholt in a battle of two bowling-ball heavyweights down the road. Thiago Tavares opened up the main card with the lone submission of the night, as he quickly took Robbie Peralta to the mat, and worked his obvious advantage from that point. Tavares mixed his guard passing and ground-and-pound extremely well, eventually distracting Peralta enough that he left his neck exposed for the rear-naked choke. It was a good debut at featherweight for Tavares, who still has questions surrounding his chin, but it seems his wrestling will be more effective at the lighter weight, which should mitigate those concerns slightly. Depending on how high the UFC wants to place Tavares on the 145 ladder, a bout with Hacran Dias in Brazil would be a stiffer test of Tavares’ wrestling, while Dias’ improved striking could give him issues on the feet as well. Arguably the most important bout on the card found itself hidden away on Fox Sports 2, as Jussier Formiga notched the biggest upset of the night, defeating Zach Makovsky as a +290 underdog at Several Bookmakers. The scrambling style which has earned Makovsky many of his 18 career victories proved to be his undoing in this matchup as Formiga’s unparalleled ability to take — and retain — back control had him up 20-18 after ten minutes. Makovsky put forth a spirited effort in the third, but was never in danger of stopping the fight and Formiga earned the decision. Formiga has already dropped bouts against John Dodson, Joseph Benavidez, and Ian McCall, which doesn’t leave many options for him to face higher ranked opponents, so perhaps he’ll get matched with John Lineker in a potential title eliminator. The UFC won’t have much turnaround time, as their latest doubleheader takes place next Saturday. Proceedings will start in the wee hours of the morning over in Macau, for the card headlined by Michael Bisping and Cung Le before coming back to the US for Benson Henderson vs. Rafael dos Anjos at night. MMA OddsBreaker will have coverage of both events in the coming week, including releasing the full betting odds for the Macau event.