UFC on FOX 7 went down last night in San Jose, California with a solid card that tied a UFC record with 8 T/KO finishes. The main event fights however, got more strategic and were closer affairs that went the distance, as Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson won a split decision over challenger Gilbert Melendez, and Heavyweight Daniel Cormier controlled his way to a unanimous decision over Frank Mir. Two underdogs did come through on the main card, as Josh Thomson became the first person to finish Nate Diaz in the UFC, and first to finish Diaz by TKO in his career. Matt Brown also stopped Jordan Mein in vicious fashion to halt the younger fighter’s momentum, and extend his winning streak to five. Thomson used a lot of lateral movement to keep Diaz from getting off throughout the first round, but appeared to be getting baited into a Diaz style brawl as the fight wore on. Late in the second round however, he landed a vicious headkick to the top of Diaz’s head that shook Diaz and spelled the beginning of the end. The long underrated Thomson immediately shoots up the Lightweight rankings and is likely one or maximum two fights away from earning a title fight. Thomson, a long time veteran of the sport, looked terrific.
Brown came out of the gates firing, and put Mein on the back foot from the opening bell. Mein did an admirable job fighting back however, as he dropped Brown with a body shot and looked to be closing in for the finish. Brown showed tremendous resilience by surviving and threatening with a triangle choke from the bottom, which seemed to take a look out of the Canadian. In round two, Brown kept pushing forward and finished the job with punches, knees and elbows to a bloodied Mein. This was the best performance of Brown’s career, and for a fighter who was thought to be nothing more than a journeyman a few years ago, he’s steadily climbing the Welterweight ranks. In contrast, despite a winning effort, Daniel Cormier did not look spectacular. His upper body wrestling was enough to get the job done against Former champion Frank Mir, who came in to the fight in great shape. Cormier came in good shape himself, and he set the pace the entire fight, controlling Mir along the fence and doing damage with knees and body shots. Cormier at Light Heavyweight will continue to be a possibility in the future, and he will be a house at that weight if the weight cut doesn’t completely drain him. Adding him to Jon Jones’ to do list would be the best use for the rugged wrestler, as a bout with his friend and teammate Cain Velasquez remains highly unlikely. Melendez and Henderson engaged in a chess match that saw Melendez find success early before ceding the middle rounds to Henderson. Many onlookers thought Melendez came back in the fifth round to steal the victory, but the judges disagreed. Henderson has now fallen into a rut of relying on his cardio to edge opponents over the course of five rounds, without really attempting to finish the fight. Melendez was as tough as advertised, and he was in Henderson’s face the entire time, but nonetheless became the latest Cesar Gracie student to fail in their quest for a UFC title (a group that also includes Jake Shields and both Diaz brothers).
UFC President Dana White did reveal company plans for Henderson at the post-fight press conference. Apparently the winner of next month’s UFC 160 bout between TJ Grant and Gray Maynard will face Henderson for the title, in another bout that is likely to be featured on free TV rather than Pay-Per-View. In the preliminaries, Team Alpha Male members Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes and TJ Dillashaw all won their bouts in impressive fashion, with Benavidez and Mendes further tightening their grips on the number one rankings in their respective weight classes. Along with Urijah Faber’s win earlier this month, Alpha Male has three fighters positioned for title shots. Like Team Cesar Gracie, Alpha Male has failed to break through and bring UFC gold home, but none of the core members has released their grip on the number one contender spot, fighting all comers. The addition of Duane Ludwig as a coach for the team seems to be paying dividends, as all three victories by the stablemates were via T/KO. The UFC train keeps rolling this coming weekend, as Jon Jones defends his Light Heavyweight title against Chael Sonnen. Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher also try to climb their way back up the Middleweight rankings, as both are coming off losses in their last outings. MMA Oddsbreaker will have full coverage of the event throughout the week.