UFC 183 concluded the biggest month for the promotion in over a year. The card saw the return of former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, as well as former welterweight title challenger Nick Diaz in a main event that seemed delightfully offbeat heading into the fight, and played out exactly that way. The fight wasn’t exactly exciting, but it was fairly enthralling due to the characters at play. Diaz came out of the gate taunting Anderson like nobody has dared to before, and it may have thrown ‘The Spider’ off — or he may have just been off all night — as this wasn’t the dominant striking display we’ve come to expect from the former champion. Beyond the theatrics, Diaz was uncharacteristically inactive in the bout, throwing just over 220 strikes across the five rounds, a far cry from the nearly 100 strikes per round he has thrown in several of his past contests. It came to light after the fight that Diaz has injured his left arm in training, which was telling looking back on the fight. The talk about Silva fighting for the middleweight title should be shelved following his performance at UFC 183. He didn’t look bad, but he seemed far off from a fighter who should be in contention in 2015. Perhaps he puts on a better performance in his next outing, and this will be attributed to his layoff, but there’s only so much time for a fighter who will be 40 in a little more than two months.
Picking a next opponent for either guy seems foolish at this point, since Diaz may disappear for another two years, while talk of retirement still surrounds Anderson at every turn. Assuming they each fight again in a normal timeline, I’d like to see Anderson take on either Gegard Mousasi or Michael Bisping. As for Diaz, a bout with Thiago Alves seems pretty appealing after Alves’ comeback victory last night. The co-main event was the type of fight you know is a possibility whenever Tyron Woodley steps into the cage. Woodley and Gastelum exchanged single strikes for the better part of 15 minutes, with the harder shots being landed by the veteran. Gastelum missed weight by nine pounds after being hospitalized on Friday, and certainly didn’t seem to have the spring in his step that he normally does. Gastelum was still able to turn up the volume in the third round and take it on most onlookers score cards, but that speaks more to Woodley’s performance than anything. If Woodley refuses to fight Hector Lombard, he could face the winner of Johny Hendricks/Matt Brown, although if Hendricks wins he’ll likely move on to a title shot instead. Perhaps if Benson Henderson can make a big impact against Brandon Thatch in his UFC welterweight debut in two weeks, that would be the type of high-profile fight suitable for Woodley. Al Iaquinta put on another impressive performance, stopping Joe Lauzon in the second round of their lightweight bout, after a surprisingly competitive first. Lauzon came out and didn’t go to his grappling, instead choosing to walk Iaquinta down and strike with him. The strategy proved effective early on, as Lauzon landed some good shots early. Iaquinta began to find his rhythm towards the end of the first round however, stringing together excellent combinations. In the second round, a right hand snuck through Lauzon’s guard and Iaquinta pursued the finish expertly, battering his foe around the cage until the referee finally jumped in to stop things.
I still have questions about Iaquinta’s grappling, and it was perplexing that Lauzon didn’t try to exploit the submission defense which has proven to be the New Yorker’s only real weakness. For that reason, I would’ve liked to see Iaquinta take on Jim Miller if he weren’t already booked. Instead, should Rustam Khabilov get past Adriano Martins in a couple weeks, I think that would be an interesting test for Iaquinta. Thales Leites survived a surprisingly game Tim Boetsch to earn a second round stoppage of his own, moving to 5-0 in the UFC since his return. Boetsch landed some big shots early in the fight that had Leites rocked, but the Brazilian managed to survive. The second round seemed to be on the same path, until Leites was able to get a takedown, at which point he dominated until the finish. After trying the patented Nova Uniao arm-triangle from one side only to see Boetsch slip out, Leites switched to the other side and was able to coax a tap. This fight did show some flaws in Leites’ game moving forward. His striking is improved, but not enough that he can hang with the best at 185, and if he’s unable to outwrestle the guys at the top of the division, he’s going to struggle. A good test of whether he’s already hit that ceiling would be a bout with Tim Kennedy, who might not have the power of Boetsch, but is a better wrestler, in better condition, and a cleaner striker. Opening up the pay-per-view was what looked like Jordan Mein’s coming out party. Unfortunately for him, following up on big rounds that he’s had against the best fighters he’s faced has proven difficult. Against Matt Brown, he was TKO’d in the second round after almost stopping Brown in the first. The same happened against Thiago Alves, who came out after getting battered in the first round and smashed a kick into Mein’s gut. The Canadian dropped into a squat and Alves closed in for the kill.
Once again, Alves looked defensively deficient on the feet, but his offense was able to overcome and let him walk away with the victory. As long as ‘Pitbull’ continues to face strikers, he’s going to be in fun fights, so I would be completely on board with him against Lorenz Larkin next. The undercard saw some impressive performances too: Miesha Tate survived some big shots in the opening moments of her bout with Sara McMann to pull out a majority decision victory. After getting dominated for the first eight minutes of the fight, Tate landed a few shots of her own, and then locked on a guillotine as McMann shot in. McMann managed to survive the choke, but it was enough to earn Tate the round. Buoyed by that success, she came out in the third and turned a McMann throw into her own top position, proceeding to dominate for the entire round. It’s hard to picture Tate getting another shot against Rousey (although beyond Cat Zingano there are no challengers), so I guess she should fight the next highest ranked woman, Alexis Davis.
Derek Brunson dispatched Ed Herman before the TUF 3 winner could even get started in their bout, landing a flurry of punches that pushed Herman back to the cage. Once there, another couple shots saw Herman fall, and Brunson pounced for the finish. It was surprising given Herman’s historical durability, and Brunson showed good improvement in his striking. I’d be interested to see if Brunson could have the same sort of success against someone like Brad Tavares. John Lineker pulled one over on a lot of people, myself included. Lineker missed weight by 4lbs on Friday, but it was later revealed that he simply stopped cutting weight once he hit 130lbs, rather than struggling to make the limit. It proved a wise decision, as he showed excellent cardio against Ian McCall, stuffing every takedown from ‘Uncle Creepy’ and landing a variety of punches to the head and body in rounds two and three after dropping the first frame. Had he struggled to make the weight, it’s unlikely he would have been able to put on the same performance. Of course, his punishment will now be moving up to 135lbs, where he’ll often be at massive height, reach, and overall size disadvantages. It will be interesting to see how one of the shortest “flyweights” in the UFC handles jumping up in weight. I don’t think it will go particularly well, and perhaps we’ll see Lineker attempt to drop back to 125 after a few fights. Next up for the UFC is Fight Night 60 on Valentine’s Day. The main event was just re-booked for the card following Stephen Thompson dropping out of his bout with Brandon Thatch. In his place, former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson will be moving up to 170 to fill the spot, and give the card far more interest than it had with the Thatch/Thompson headliner. Most of the odds have been released for the card already, but keep an eye on MMAOddsBreaker.com for the Thatch/Henderson line in the coming days.