The Five Count: Top Storylines from the UFC 178 Fallout

conor-mcgregor-2The MMA-Analysis co-host Jay Primetown takes a look at the five biggest storylines to develop from UFC 178. Look for his series of “Five Count” articles after each UFC card. #5 Referendum on Bellator – It’s not often we see the best in Bellator make the jump to the UFC. In 2012, Cuban born Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard signed a lucrative contract with the UFC. Many people expected big things from the Olympic judoka, but he dropped a very close split decision to Tim Boetsch. At the time, many felt it was an indicator that the best in Bellator couldn’t compete with the best in the UFC, but eventually Lombard dropped to welterweight and now is experiencing a high level of success as he is a contender for the championship. On Saturday night, the longtime face of Bellator Eddie Alvarez made his much anticipated UFC debut against Donald Cerrone. It was again an opportunity to make a statement about the quality of Bellator. While Alvarez fared much better than Lombard did in his debut, nearly finishing Cerrone in the first round, he dropped a clear decision and is now stuck towards the end of the top 10 in the UFC’s deep lightweight division. Moving forward, it’s going to be difficult for Bellator fighters to command big contracts as none of their top fighters have been able to make an immediate splash in the UFC. Don’t expect to see the likes of Michael Chandler, Vitaly Minakov, and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in the UFC anytime soon. #4 Stoolgate – Despite winning fight of the night, the middleweight tilt between Tim Kennedy and Yoel Romero was marred in controversy. The fight itself was outstanding with Romero controlling the first round and a half, before Kennedy made a comeback nearly knocking Romero out on his feet at the end of round two. It was at this point were controversy set in as Romero did not leave his stool at the beginning of the third round. It appeared that Romero’s camp was stalling to give their fighter ample time to recover from the damage he suffered in round two. Nevada State Athletic Commission rule 467.728 states: “If a combatant fails or refuses to resume competing when the bell sounds…the referee shall award a decision of TKO.” Referee John McCarthy could have by state regulation stopped the bout, but said that there was too much Vaseline on Romero’s face and therefore gave additional time to remove it to continue the fight. In the final round, Romero came out like a man possessed, staggering Kennedy on the feet before landing heavy ground and pound as McCarthy was forced to stop the bout due to the heavy punches landed on the American Army Ranger. In the highly controversial decision to continue the fight, the fate of two fighters changed significantly. Romero will likely now get a title eliminator bout, while Kennedy took the biggest beating of his career and has to start again from scratch. #3 The Pound for Pound Discussion – After the loss of Anderson Silva to Chris Weidman and Georges St. Pierre taking a break from the sport, the pound for pound best fighter discussion saw an injection of new blood. Jose Aldo’s and Jon Jones’ lengthy title reigns have seen them jump to the top of list. After last night’s victory, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson deserves to be listed with those two names. Like Aldo, Johnson is the only champion in the history of his division in the UFC. Since winning the flyweight title in September 2012, “Mighty Mouse” has defended his title five times, winning each of his matches decisively with three of his victories inside the distance. Furthermore, he continues to show solid improvements in each fight utilizing different approaches to take advantage of his opponent’s weaknesses. Saturday night, he utilized a heavy wrestling approach with aggressive grappling to earn himself a submission win. There are still worthy challengers to Johnson’s title, but with each passing fight, it seems more difficult to see him being defeated. #2 McGregor Legitimacy – The Irish Sensation turned hype into legitimacy at UFC 178 with his knockout win over Dustin Poirier. In McGregor’s own words, “I don’t just knock ’em out, I pick the round,” and that’s what he did in his victory which lasted just over a minute. It was the first time McGregor squared off with a top 10 opponent and he passed the test with flying colors. It was a competitive striking exchange until McGregor landed the decisive blow on the feet following it up with a couple heavy blows before referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the bout. McGregor’s larger than life personality has made him one of the biggest stories in MMA this year. A win over a contender gives him that legitimacy to back up his words. It’s undetermined who McGregor will face next, but the fact that 10 percent of the ticket sales for UFC 178 were from Ireland shows that he does move the needle. And in a sport looking for new stars, moving the needle presents real opportunities (e.g. Chael Sonnen). #1 Memorable Returns – The two best moments of the night fit into the same theme: memorable returns. Starting with the last fight on the undercard, former UFC bantamweight champion had suffered multiple knee injuries and hadn’t fought in over 1000 days. The Alliance MMA product picked apart Japanese contender Takeya Mizugaki pouring on the pressure and landing multiple big punches as referee Chris Tognini was forced to stop the bout. The next bout on the card saw women’s bantamweight number one contender Cat Zingano return from 1.5 year absence. Like Cruz, Zingano returned from a long term knee injury. Zingano faced a major challenge in Amanda Nunez who was very strong in the first round. The bantamweight contender turned it on in the second round dominating the remainder of the bout until she delivered heavy strikes in ground and pound for a TKO victory in round three. The victories were bittersweet for both Cruz and Zingano. Both fighters overcame major obstacles to not only return the octagon, but they then finished their first bouts back in spectacular fashion. In divisions that are in desperate need of title contenders, in a matter of 30 minutes the UFC developed two interesting title fights in early 2014. For Zingano, a chance at the best female fighter in the world. For Cruz, a chance to reclaim the championship he never lost. For fight fans, compelling title fights and that’s all we can ask for.

Written by Jay Primetown

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