The Five Count: Top Storylines from UFC on Fox 13 Fallout

tuf-16-finaleJay Primetown takes a look at the five biggest storylines to develop from UFC on Fox 13 in Phoenix, Arizona. #5 Time to Say Goodbye – On Saturday’s preliminary card, Jamie Varner took to the Octagon for a fight with Drew Dober. What MMA fans didn’t know at the time was it would be the last time Varner would compete in the sport. As a former WEC Lightweight Champion, Varner was one of the pioneers of the sport in the lighter weight classes. Varner is a well-rounded fighter with collegiate accolades in boxing and wrestling. The highlight of his UFC career was a shocking knockout over then undefeated Edson Barboza as a massive underdog. It was one of the biggest upsets in all of 2012. Unfortunately, injuries began to plague Varner in nearly every time he entered the Octagon. In his loss to Joe Lauzon, a fight many considered the fight of the year in 2012, Varner broke one of his hands turning the tide in the fight. In 2014, he broke his ankle in the first round against James Krause. Varner continued to fight with the broken ankle for several minutes in the first round before he was deemed unable to continue prior to the start of Round 2. In his final bout, Varner fell awkwardly on a takedown attempt by Dober and had a concussion. Before Varner came to his full senses, Dober had already latched on a submission attempt to earn the victory. At only 30 years old, it was time for Varner to call it a career. He had the opportunity to start his own gym and fight in front of his hometown fans in Phoenix for the first time in 10 years. While the result wasn’t what he wanted, it was the right time to hang up the gloves. No matter the situation, Varner always put on entertaining fights. For that, he will be long remembered by MMA fans. #4 Strawweight Bout Marred in Controversy – The top fight on the UFC on Fox 13 preliminary card featured a strawweight showdown between undefeated Brazilian Claudia Gadelha and undefeated Polish strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk. In a brutal contest, the Polish fighter scored a knockdown late in the first round to secure the round. As the fight progressed, Gadelha had more success with her grappling scoring six takedowns over the final ten minutes of the fight. In a very close fight with each strike to the end having an impact on the final result, Gadelha landed a strike after the bell. In the past, this has had significant consequences. Most notably in a fight between Paul Daley and Josh Koscheck, Daly landed a strike after the bell and was later banished / cut from the UFC for it. Some clamored for Gadelha to get the same punishment for the late strike. Dana White quickly made the correct call in my eyes in that Gadelha apologized for the late strike and in a close fight it’s tough to stop so fast. At only 26 years of age, Gadelha has a long career ahead as one of the world’s top strawweights and Brazil’s best hope in the division. It would be rash to banish her from the organization for something like this. #3 Time for Silence – Everyone has an opinion on the Diaz brothers. They play the classic role of the man against the corporation. While some may still believe that to be the case, the ability to defend them, especially Nate, lessens day after day. Nate Diaz was out for a full year before returning to the Octagon on Saturday night against Rafael dos Anjos. Diaz once again missed a scheduled appearance. It’s one thing to complain about money constantly, but when you do have the opportunity to make money, don’t miss the required events leading up to the fight. In the Octagon, Diaz had a terrible performance getting beat by dos Anjos in every facet of the fight. It was as dominant a decision win as one will ever see in the Octagon. It didn’t take long for Diaz to make excuses claiming he was injured heading into this fight. Those that have watched Diaz fight for the last several years know that he is flawed fighter. Decent boxer with some good submissions, but has failed to adjust to a changing sport with more skilled fighters. The reality is other fighters have passed Nate Diaz in the pecking order: Those that offer more varied striking attacks or those that can stifle him with a suffocating grappling game.  If Diaz ever wants to be a needle mover again, he will need to evolve just like his competitors. #2 Star in the Making – In one of the most anticipated debuts in recent time, Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo made his promotion debut against bantamweight Dustin Kimura. It only took a couple of minutes, but Cejudo impressed me as much as any debutant in a long time in the Octagon. In terms of talent and ability, it appeared that Cejudo and Kimura were on different planets. Cejudo showed off his boxing attributes landing at a far superior clip than Kimura who struggled to land any punches at all. Cejudo didn’t even attempt to utilize wrestling in this bout. On paper, Cejudo is a top five wrestler in MMA today and his ability to dominate veteran fighters using only boxing is pretty remarkable. At bantamweight, I think based on one performance that he’s a top 15 fighter. Assuming a successful weight cut to 125 pounds, I believe he’s a top 5 fighter in the weight class stepping into the cage at 125 pounds. Some would be surprised to hear that, but at flyweight he has very good punching power combined with the best wrestling in the division. It’s a dangerous combination and one that could pose a serious challenge to Demetrious Johnson’s title reign. Only time will tell… #1 State of the Heavyweight Division – With three heavyweight title fights on Saturday, the dust has settled a bit in the division. Barring any further injuries, it’s clear that Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum will square off in 2015 for the heavyweight title. After that, Travis Browne still stands a fight away from title contention. Despite a loss, Stipe Miocic’s stock rose in a close decision loss to Junior dos Santos. Most believed Miocic had no chance to beat the former heavyweight champion, but Miocic rose to the occasion inflicting significant damage on dos Santos. If judges ruled on appearance after the bout, Miocic would have been the clear winner. Despite losing, Miocic’s confidence has to be high at this point realizing he can compete with the best in the world. As for dos Santos, look for him to take another long break to recover from the amount of damage he took. Also on the upward track is Alistair Overeem who returned to the winner’s circle fighting smart and getting a knockout win over Stefan Struve without taking any damage. It’s clear Overeem is afraid to get hit as he doesn’t trust that his chin will hold up. Unfortunately for him, he will likely need to fight a striker in his next matchup with possible opponents like Andrei Arlovski or Mark Hunt on the horizon. In the third heavyweight fight on the card, Matt Mitrione earned his third win of 2014. This year alone he’s collected wins over Shawn Jordan, Derrick Lewis, and most recently over Gabriel Gonzaga. At 36 years old, Mitrione appears to be peaking and deserves the opportunity at a top 10 fighter. A fight with either the aforementioned Overeem or #10 ranked Ben Rothwell makes the most sense for Mitrione. At 36 years old, he doesn’t have a lot of years left, but with a win in early 2015 he could find himself in title contention. Given where he was after the loss to Brendan Schaub in 2013, Mitrione has had as good a year as anyone in the heavyweight division of the UFC in 2014.

Written by Jay Primetown

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