The Five Count: Top Storylines from UFC 180 Fallout

Fabricio WerdumJay Primetown takes a look at the five biggest storylines to develop from UFC 180  in Mexico City, Mexico. #5 Not in the Spotlight– Over the past couple months, perhaps the most prominent UFC personality has, for lack of a better term, been not so prominent. UFC President Dana White had attended and oversaw nearly every UFC event for years. With the UFC’s busy schedule in 2014, it was to be expected that White would let regional executives handle more of the international operations. One event White was expected to appear significantly at was UFC 180. Nobody in the organization wanted to host an event in Mexico more than White. The UFC President has been adamant the last couple years of the success MMA would have once the UFC targeted Mexico. Furthermore, White raved about the first season of TUF Latin America in how much he enjoyed the fighters and fights of the season. For a major PPV, White typically arrives in the city days before the fight card occurs. For UFC 180, White arrived less than 24 hours before the card. In fact, he didn’t he even arrive in time for the weigh-ins. After the PPV, White typically hosts a press conference where he fields questions from the media. On Saturday, he only answered a couple questions and another UFC employee filled in for White for the remainder of it. One has to wonder why the UFC President has been less involved the last couple months. It’s something to keep an eye on as the UFC ramps up its push for the remainder of the calendar with a big two title fight PPV in December. #4 Don’t Bet Against Mexico– Mexico may not have the history of Brazil in mixed martial arts, but its fighters certainly have a lot of success on home soil. In the four bouts at UFC 180 that featured a Mexican fighter vs. a non-Mexican fighter, the Mexican fighters went a combined 4-0 including three of those wins by stoppage. In the other non-finish, Marco Beltran defeated Marlon Vera by decision in a bout he entered as a +205 underdog (according to Several Bookmakers). The crowd heavily backed the Mexican fighters and that certainly seemed to give the Mexicans the extra drive to win in impressive fashion. As the UFC looks to have more events in Mexico, it will be important to see if this trend continues. #3 He’s Ready – Ultimate Fighter 17 Champion Kelvin Gastelum continues to make his case as the best young fighter in the sport. The 23 year old has been on a meteoric rise. He was a complete unknown entering TUF 17 and came out champion beating highly regarded Uriah Hall in the finale. After the show, Gastelum dropped to welterweight and has stringed together a nice set of wins. On Saturday night, he had the biggest test of his career facing longtime welterweight mainstay Jake Ellenberger. The Nebraska born and raised welterweight holds wins over the likes of Nate Marquardt and Jake Shields. This was a real test for Gastelum just to see how he would handle a top 10 fighter in the division. Gastelum did what no other fighter has been able to do: finish Ellenberger inside the first round. Not even top 5 welterweights Robbie Lawler and Rory Macdonald were able to do that. Gastelum’s pace and athleticism in the grappling exchanges created all sorts of problems for Ellenberger. Even when “The Juggernaut” was able to take Gastelum to the mat, the Yuma, Arizona based fighter transitioned quickly to a back mount to sync in a rear naked choke. At this point, Gastelum has vaulted himself onto the cusp of title contention. Look for him to face another top 10 welterweight in early 2015. If he earns another win, he could very well earn a chance at the championship by the end of next year. #2 Brazil Now Has Two  – After the loss of Renan Barao to TJ Dillashaw as well as the significant drop off in ability from stalwarts Antonio Noguiera and Mauricio Rua, the mood around Brazilian MMA was at an all-time low. UFC 180 presented a significant opportunity. A few months ago, Fabricio Werdum was slated to fight long time champion Cain Velasquez; a fight that Werdum would have entered as a significant underdog. When the champion went down with an injury and was replaced by Mark Hunt, a major opportunity was created for the Brazilian. Instead of the odds being stacked against him, they were in fact in his favor heading into UFC 180. After struggling to find his range in the opening round, Werdum was able to surprise the Kiwi fighter with a knee leading to Herb Dean stopping the fight and Werdum receiving the interim heavyweight title. For a country’s fans that have not had a lot to cheer about in the past couple years, Werdum winning perhaps the most prestigious title in MMA gives a morale boost towards the sport in the country. With the return of Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort’s title fight with Chris Weidman, and a Velasquez vs. Werdum title fight on the horizon, 2015 will be an important year for Brazilian MMA. #1 State of El Tri– On the surface, this was the UFC’s most successful event in 2014. The original allotment of tickets were sold in less than 24 hours. The UFC had its biggest attendance of the year at over 20,000 people. While the actual gate of the card was not released, it has been stated that UFC 180 was the largest gate ever at the arena in Mexico City. Financially, it makes all the sense in the world for the UFC to increase the amount of visits they make to Mexico in 2015. It seems like a second event will be added for 2015 and hopefully the UFC looks to also increase their visibility within the country by heading to Guadalajara or another large city. Like Brazil, Mexico is a very large country with diverse regions. It’s not a country where the population is all congregated around one city (albeit Mexico City being one of the largest cities in the world). Moving past the financial positives, the crowd / fans were also excellent. The crowd was loud throughout the night and seemed knowledgeable on the different aspects of MMA such as advancing position on the ground or when momentum shifted on the feet. Sometimes the UFC enters markets where the knowledge base is poor which makes for lackluster crowds on fight night. This was not the case in Mexico. As for the fighter talent pool in Mexico, that is something that needs to improve. The UFC had previously helped developing training programs for Mexican fighters (specifically with Jackson-Winklejohn MMA) to provide training / opportunities for some of the talent that we saw at UFC 180. For the most part the fights that included Mexican fighters at the event were entertaining, however there are some areas where these fighters as a whole need to improve. In order for Mexico to have a steady crop of fighters that can challenge for UFC titles, they will need to increase their training in the grappling techniques; both offensively and defensively. As these fighters begin to take on higher level competition, they will need to improve their ability to keep their fights standing. Takedown defense is an area that the Mexican fighters proved vulnerable both on TUF Latin America and at UFC 180. Until defensive wrestling becomes a big priority area, the growth in both potential and results of Mexican fighters will be limited.

Written by Jay Primetown

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