The Five Count: Top Storylines from UFC Fight Night 55 Fallout

Luke RockholdTheMMA-Analysis co-host Jay Primetown takes a look at the five biggest storylines to develop from UFC Fight Night 55 in Sydney, Australia. #5 The Step Up – My favorite type of fight is the one where a “prospect” takes a significant step up in competition. It’s an opportunity to see whether the prospect can compete at a higher level or if the hype will be silenced. In Sydney, Long Island’s Al Iaquinta was in a “step up” fight against long time UFC fighter Ross Pearson. The Englishman was coming off perhaps the biggest win of his career over former champion Gray Maynard. Iaquinta is a fighter many criticized for poor fight IQ and getting caught in submissions in his only losses. While Pearson doesn’t present much of a submission threat, he was certainly the highest ranked fighter Iaquinta had ever fought in his career. It was a pretty competitive first round, but as the bell rang it was clear by looking at the two fighters that Pearson had taken the worst of the exchanges. In the second round, Iaquinta continued to push forward and wore out Pearson with accuracy and volume. “Raging” Iaquinta became only the second fighter to finish Pearson with strikes when Leon Roberts had to step in to end it. It was a statement win for the 27 year old Iaquinta and puts him in good position for a top 20 opponent. More importantly, Iaquinta earned himself respect with the fans and UFC management with his performance. #4 Sweet Chin Music – Anderson Silva’s front kick to knockout Vitor Belfort and Edson Barboza’s spinning wheel kick are perhaps the two most well-known knockouts in the UFC this decade. They are the type of knockouts that inspire other fighters to learn these techniques and implement them in the octagon. Louis Smolka’s side kick deserves to be added to that list. The Hawaiian born and bred fighter was down 20 to 18 on the scorecards when he opened the 3rd round with what one would expect to see only on an old WWE PPV. Louis Smolka’s side kick knockout of Richie Vaculik was eerily similar to WWE superstar Shawn Michaels trademark “Sweet Chin Music.” It was the type of kick that makes one jump out of their chair and scream in excitement. Expect to see some copycat knockouts in 2015. #3 Prospect to Build Around – The southern Pacific region has been in desperate need of a noteworthy prospect for a long time. Heavyweight Mark Hunt is someone the region can root for at a high level and veterans Kyle Noke and Anthony Perosh are solid veterans, but one thing all of these guys have in common is age; they are all near the end of their careers. The emergence of 20 year old Jake Matthews is critical for the UFC’s growth in the region. The undefeated Australian is 2-0 in his UFC career after he defeated Vagner Rocha by submission. Matthews has a pretty good all-around game with solid grappling, excellent conditioning, and decent submission skills. He’s physically very large for the weight class and has the composure of veteran fighters. He’s the perfect type of fighter for the UFC to build slowly (in the model of Max Holloway). He has some things he needs to improve upon, but the talent is certainly there for him to be a factor in the division down the road. Australians have somebody to really look forward to watching for years to come. #2 Nobody Likes Fighting for 15 Minutes – Since the adoption of the unified rules, every single UFC event had featured at least one decision until UFC Fight Night 55. In Sydney, all 11 bouts featured a knockout or a submission finish. As the UFC added weight classes over the years, the likelihood for a decision in each bout has increased due to lighter weightclasses having lower finishing rates. Was this a freak occurrence or a pattern? Two interesting things to note were that a smaller cage was used for this card (bigger cage utilized for the event in Brazil). Finishing rates are typically higher in the smaller cage as there is less room for fighters to move and it forces action. More action suggests more time striking and engaging thus a higher chance to finish. While this may not play a factor, the fights took place at a much earlier time in the day than UFC events typically do. The fight card began prior to noon local time and finished prior to 5 PM local time.  Fighters are used to their fights taking place in the evening / night as is the custom in most locations across the globe. Whether the early start time had any effect is anybody’s guess, but it is something worth noting for future events that take place at a similar start time. #1 The Look of a Champion – It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the story of the night is the breathtaking performance of former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold. For months, a feud had brewed between Bisping and Rockhold. It was no secret heading into fight day that this was a grudge match. Bisping entered the bout off a great finish of crafty veteran Cung Le, while Luke Rockhold had ran through his last couple of opponents (Tim Boetsch and Costas Philipou). Rockhold faced the best of what Strikeforce offered and passed every test including the likes of Tim Kennedy and Jacare Souza. Bisping was Rockhold’s opportunity to really stamp his name in the title discussion. In an aging division with only 3 of the top 10 fighters 30 years or younger, Luke Rockhold is poised to be in title contention for the next 5+ years. It’s not if Rockhold will have a chance at Chris Weidman’s belt, but when will Rockhold get a chance at Weidman. A potential rivalry / series of bouts between these two middleweights could be among the best we have ever seen in this sport.

Written by Jay Primetown

Leave a Reply

UFC Weekend Recap: Australian Card Breaks Finish Record

Post-UFC Fight Night 55: On the Chopping Block