The Five Count: Top Storylines from UFC Fight Night 63

UFC Fighter PortraitsJay Primetown takes a look at the five biggest storylines to develop from UFC Fight Night 63 in Fairfax, Virginia #1 Mendes is Money– Headed into Saturday’s main event against Ricardo Lamas, Chad Mendes really had nothing to gain and everything to lose. After a close, yet fair decision loss to Jose Aldo, most people in the MMA community still considered Mendes the rightful top contender for Aldo’s featherweight title. Considering the situation, Mendes didn’t have anything to gain from a fight with Lamas. It was simply a fight to stay busy against a fringe top 5 opponent. In a fight that Mendes had nothing to gain, he fully delivered and made himself look to be one of the best in the sport. Aldo dominated Lamas in their meeting in 2014, but was unable to finish the Miami native. Mendes on the other hand was able to stagger Lamas in less than a round and brutalized him until the referee finally stepped in to finish the fight. It was decisive a win as one has had in some time against top 5 opposition. It’s clear at this point that Mendes is the best fighter to never hold a championship in a major MMA organization. With wins over the likes of Clay Guida, Ricardo Lamas, and Cub Swanson combined with only two career losses (both to Jose Aldo), there really is no competition for the distinction of best MMA Fighter without a championship. #2 A Great Return – Very few fighters in the women’s bantamweight division have gotten as positive of a reaction as that of Julianna Pena. The season winner of TUF 18 has long been expected to be a title contender to Ronda Rousey’s hold atop the division. After winning TUF, Pena tore all the ligaments in her knee during training and many wondered if she would ever get back into the octagon. She was sidelined for well over a year before she returned to the cage at Fight Night 63 in Fairfax. In her matchup with Milana Dudieva, Pena quickly showed that there was no ring rust as she got into full mount within a couple minutes. Pena showered her opponent with volume forcing the referee to step in and end the fight in the first round. She showed that she’s one of the best in the division at not only getting dominant positions, but also finishing fights. At only 25 years old, Pena is still developing and should be in title contention by the end of this year. #3 The End of Gray – It seems like we are forced to have this conversation too often in the sport of mixed martial arts, but it’s a necessary one. Fighters that had long challenged for titles are seeing the wear and tear of the sport. When the body begins to go, it’s a rapid downfall. Gray Maynard had long been a contender at lightweight beating the likes of Nate Diaz, Kenny Florian, and Jim Miller. After a couple of wars with Frankie Edgar earlier in the decade, he simply hasn’t been the same fighter. Similar to Josh Koscheck, Maynard is hesitant in the cage and over protective of being hit in the face. In the sport of MMA, it’s difficult to fight under hesitation. Maynard was knocked out badly against Nate Diaz and Ross Pearson in his last two outings. He was given a chance against lower level competition against Alexander Yakovlev at UFN 63. While Maynard looked decent early on in what appeared to be an even contest, the thought was always in the back of my mind of what happens when Yakovlev connects on a clean strike. Then it happened; a clean jab by Yakovlev that floored Maynard in the second round. He tried desperately to recover and managed to get to the scorecards. While it was an accomplishment in itself to make it past fifteen minutes, he clearly lost the fight and never fully recovered from the punch in the second round. While Maynard’s skill set is still solid, his ability to take a punch is beyond worrisome and it’s difficult to watch him fight moving forward. He will never challenge for a world title again and any fight he has moving forward it will be matter of when, not if, he gets dropped by a punch. I just hope for his own health he moves out of the octagon and begins a career coaching sooner rather than later. #4 The Al Burst – The matchup between Al Iaquinta and Jorge Masvidal was, in my opinion, the most interesting matchup on paper at Fight Night 63. They are two fighters on the rise in a compelling lightweight division fighting for inclusion in the division’s top 15 ranking. While the matchup itself was marred in controversy due to a close decision, that isn’t the reason why this fight should be remembered.  The more interesting development is Al Iaquinta’s outburst in the post-fight interview. The Long Island native was upset with the crowd booing after the reading of the scorecards. Iaquinta took the approach that the crowd was booing him, when in reality they were booing the decision of the judges to award Iaquinta with a split decision win. Iaquinta’s inability to understand the fans’ reaction is troublesome. He’s doing himself no favors by cursing to people in the audience on national television. Sometimes fans are going to react negatively to a decision by the judges. The key is reacting to it in a way that the fans can respect instead of sounding like a sore winner. #5 Moving on Up– In the sport of MMA, most fighters at some point in their career decide to drop a weight class to have a more significant physical advantage in the cage. Rarely are we witness to top fighters deciding to go up in weight. Sixth ranked featherweight Dustin Poirier is one of those rare exceptions. Citing that the sizable weight cut was taking too much energy out of his performances, the Louisiana born and bred Poirier made his way up to lightweight for a fight with Carlos Diego Ferreira at Fight Night 63. Poirier appeared much bigger by fight time than he normally does with added muscle in his upper body. The Diamond was excellent in his jump to lightweight punishing the Brazilian with a varied striking attack. He was able to finish a very durable fighter inside the first round and by extension showing that one can have increased success even when moving up in weight.

Written by Jay Primetown

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