Posted on: January 12, 2010 12:21 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2010 4:16 pm
By beating Nate Diaz at UFC Fight Night 20, Gray Maynard was supposed to control his own destiny. While the fight wasn't explicitly for the No. 1 contendership to BJ Penn's lightweight title (there certainly was no pre-fight indication that Nate Diaz would have entered the title picture, even with a win), the consensus was that Gray Maynard could convince the UFC brass to give him the next crack at the 155-pound title with a strong victory.
The good news, for Maynard, is that he won the fight. The bad news is that by most early indications, the UFC is now leaning toward Frank Edgar for a lightweight title bout vs. Penn.
Maynard hasn't lost an MMA fight yet. He even beat Edgar via unanimous decision way back at UFC Fight Night 13 in 2008, which remains Edgar's only professional loss. UFC president Dana White has said in the past that while the promotion encourages exciting fights (and rewards fighters financially for them, via an assortment of fight night and "locker room" bonuses), the single most important statistic in deciding who gets a title shot is victories.
Edgar's got six UFC wins. Maynard has seven. If they were tied, as they were prior to this fight, Maynard might earn the title shot due to beating Edgar in 2008. But while Maynard's win over Edgar matters, there are a number of other issues at play when considering Edgar for the title shot.
Lightweight parity. While there are a number of skilled, hard-working fighters at 155, they have all struggled to separate themselves from the pack as a true championship-caliber fighter. Nobody will dispute the ability of Maynard, Edgar, Diaz, Clay Guida, Diego Sanchez, Joe Stevenson, Kenny Florian, or about a half dozen other UFC lightweights that could, on their best day, probably score a victory over the rest of the contenders. Some have more victories than others, of course. But for the most part, there isn't a lightweight in the UFC right now that has been smashing opponents with so much authority that they're on a clear collision course with Penn. The closest we've come to that in the past two years is probably Kenny Florian, who already gave Penn his best shot in 2009.
Penn's dominance. In the lightweight division, there is simply nobody close to the level of BJ Penn in terms of overall ability. The UFC lines them up, and Penn knocks them down with ease. Past challengers like Stevenson, Florian and Sanchez have looked impressive in earning their title shots, but when they fought Penn, he made them look like comparative amateurs. And these guys all had a legit claim to being the top contender when they fought Penn. Part of the problem with choosing the best challenger for BJ Penn is that right now, nobody looks like a challenge at all, let alone a serious threat to "The Prodigy."
Marketability. It's the elephant in the room that nobody wants to mention. Especially since in the pure sporting sense, a fighter's Q rating should have nothing to do with whether he deserves a title shot. But fight promotion is a business. If nobody wants to watch a certain fighter, the promoter is basically conceding to a poor gate, a subpar PPV buyrate or a weak TV rating by putting that fighter in a main event.
Here is where Edgar begins to look like a better choice than Maynard, despite his loss to Maynard two years ago. Despite being unbeaten in the Octagon, Maynard is a relatively bland interview and not a particularly exciting guy to watch. Edgar is a little more exciting and a little more "sellable" in terms of putting him on a countdown show or sending him on media junkets. Edgar is likable. Maynard isn't exceptionally likeable, nor is he overtly easy to hate (which arguably sells more PPVs than likeability does -- think Tito Ortiz or Brock Lesnar). In terms of connecting with viewers, in comparison to Edgar, Maynard is just sort of... there.
There are also considerations for things like fighter availability (Penn will fight when he's ready and if a middling title contender can't go at the time, that contender is probably out of luck), fight location (not an issue for this particular situation), contract status (one fight left on your deal = no title shot until you renew) or a bigger-money fight trumping a title shot (think Rampage vs. Rashad).
Does Maynard deserve a title shot? In comparison to the rest of the 155-pound field, yes. He's as worthy as the rest of them, and moreso in most cases.
But as Fight Night 20 showed, sometimes gutting out a win via decision just doesn't cut it when there are so many other factors casting a shadow over the matchmaking process.
Posted on: December 5, 2009 11:41 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2009 11:57 pm
Roy "Big Country" Nelson fights Brendan Schaub in the heavyweight final of the TUF tournament.
Winner gets a UFC contract, but history tells us that the loser will most likely be back, too. Although probably at a far different pay scale than the winner.
Roy Nelson walks to the cage to the Michael Jackson parody song "Fat" by Weird Al Yankovic. I am not making that up.
Round 1: They both tag each other with jabs to start. Nelson tries for a takedown but Schaub stuffs it, separates, and unloads with strikes, but nothing that seriously damages Nelson. Nelson with a takedown and Schaub takes half guard. Nelson works for an Americana. He passes to side control, and here is where he usually applies the crucifix. Schaub escapes to his feet. They both throw haymakers, with Nelson missing and Schaub grazing Nelson with one of them. Nelson misses, Schaub connects with a right. Nelson again with a combo, and Schaub's hands are just that much faster. Nelson cracks Schaub in the jaw with a big right hand, but Schaub answers with counterstrikes. Schaub throws a right jab that misses, and Nelson absolutely smashes him with a right counterpunch that knocks Schaub out cold. Nelson hops up onto the cage wall and caresses his gigantic potbelly in celebration.
Winner: Roy Nelson defeats Brendan Schaub via KO due to strikes at 3:45 of Round 1.
Posted on: December 5, 2009 11:00 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2009 11:14 pm
Up next is the non-TUF main event, pitting Jon "Bones" Jones against Matt Hamill at light heavyweight. So they're saving the TUF tournament final for last.
Round 1: Jones misses on a teep kick to the jaw. Interesting placement. Jones with an overhand right, but Hamill blocks and connects on a counter. Inside leg kick by Jones. Jones with a right hand. Kick to the body by Jones. Outside leg kick by Jones. Hamill working for a single leg takedown and Jones stuffs it. Jones fakes and goes for a spinning back elbow, but it misses. Leg kick by Jones, head kick follows, and then a leg trip takedown with authority. Jones gets full mount and goes absolutely nuts with a flurry of fists and elbows. Jones throwing an incredible number of strikes right now. Hamill can't do anything to escape because he's busy trying to block strikes. Jones throwing cross elbows to Hamill's brow, but referee Steve Mazzagatti stops the flurry and deducts a point from Jones for a downward, 12-to-6 elbow strike, which is illegal. Mazzagatti asks Hamill if he's done, and he is, so the fight is over. Hamill's face is a bloody mess.
Winner: Matt Hamill defeats Jon Jones via disqualification due to illegal elbow strikes in Round 1.
What basically happened there is even though Jones manhandled Hamill and was well on his way to a very impressive win, the illegal strikes were the final strikes before the stoppage, and the rules state that a fighter can't win via stoppage on illegal strikes. Hamill couldn't continue, so Jones loses via DQ.
Posted on: December 5, 2009 10:26 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2009 10:49 pm
Up next is Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson vs. Houston Alexander in a 215-pound catchweight bout.
Food for thought: One year ago, Dana White referred to Kimbo Slice as a fraud and considered it an embarrassment that he was in a main event of a major televised MMA show.
Round 1: Alexander looked amped for this one. Alexander misses a leg kick. He's circling on the outside very quickly. He keeps circling and the fans are now booing. Alexander might be trying to draw Kimbo into lunging in and getting countered, but so far, Alexander is circling too fast for that to even become a possibility. Alexander is throwing the occasional leg kick, some connecting and some not. If Alexander were crab-walking right now, it would be Antonio Inoki vs. Muhammad Ali all over again. Three minutes in and Kimbo finally finds his range and throws some strikes. Alexander takes a Muay Thai clinch but misses on his strikes. Neither guy does much damage from the exchange. Alexander uses good head movement to avoid Kimbo's strikes but misses another knee attempt from a clinch. Alexander isn't circling anymore. Inside leg kick by Alexander. And a few more. Kimbo with a pair of jabs. Kimbo needs to open up here, because those kicks are going to do some damage eventually. The round ends. 10-9 Alexander based on more strikes that connected (pretty much all leg kicks).
Round 2: Kimbo is almost stationary, and Alexander is back to circling quickly. The fans boo, and the referee asks for action. Inside leg kick by Alexander. Kimbo lunges and catches Alexander with a left hand as he circles. Kimbo manages to clinch Alexander and takes him down with a body lock. Full mount by Kimbo Slice. Alexander escapes to his feet and gets decked with a right. Alexander slips on a leg kick attempt and Kimbo pounces with fists. The tie up at the fence and Kimbo crushes him with a body shot. Alexander actually goes for a leg and Kimbo stuffs him. Kimbo achieves full mount again. If he had any jiu-jitsu he would have submitted him with a guillotine 30 seconds ago. Alexander gets to his stomach and Kimbo puts the hooks in. Kimbo is going for a rear naked choke but he's at a bad angle. Kimbo takes full mount again. Kimbo trying to neutralize Alexander's arms to open up striking opportunities. Alexander escapes to his feet. Alexander with a leg kick and Kimbo with an uppercut as the round ends. 10-9 Kimbo.
Round 3: Alexander still looking for leg kicks. They duke it out with both guys landing straight shots and jabs. Alexander is bleeding from the nose and looking the worse for wear. Kimbo waves Houston in to engage. Alexander misses with a right and Kimbo's counter connects squarely on his jaw. They're both taking it slow. Alexander sweeps Kimbo off his feet with an outside leg kick and Kimbo gets back up. Kimbo takes Alexander down and works from half guard. Fans are cheering Kimbo's name. Alexander looks totally gassed out, hanging on to that leg to avoid getting mounted. The ref stands them up due to inactivity. Alexander's weak leg kicks are fewer and farther between. Kimbo engages with 14 seconds left and probably got the worst of the echage, with Alexander landing an elbow. I give the final round to Alexander 10-9, because as inactive as he was, Kimbo could have had his way with him, and simply didn't. At least Alexander threw a weak kick here and there.
Winner: Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson defeats Houston Alexander via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) after three rounds.
Posted on: December 5, 2009 9:40 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2009 9:53 pm
Up next is Frankie "The Answer" Edgar vs. Matt Veach at 155. Edgar was originally slated to face Kurt Pellegrino. In a way, this is a more dangerous fight in that a loss to Veach is a much greater professional setback for Edgar than a loss to Pellegrino would have been.
Round 1: Veach throws a right to the gut and uses it to shoot in for a takedown. Edgar stuffs it. Veach takes a single leg but Edgar shakes that off, too. Edgar with a head kick. Veach lifts Edgar up onto his shoulder and slams him on his back for a big takedown. Rather than pull guard, Edgar actually fights to his knees to attempt an escape. Veach slams him back to the mat, and Edgar is still fighting to get vertical again. Edgar gets free and lands a right jab. Veach ties up the arm afterward but misses a counterstrike. Edgar with a body punch. Veach connects with a left hook and Edgar lands a countering right to the ribs. They both connect on jabs, with Veach's packing a little more power. Veach misses a left, Edgar connects with the countering jab. Veach whiffs on a Superman punch. Edgar blocks a left hook and throws a kick to the body as the round ends. Very close round. Slight edge to Edgar in standup, slight edge to Veach on takedowns. Since takedowns don't finish fights, I'll score it 10-9 Edgar.
Round 2: They resume the standup duel for a bit, then Veach shootsin for a single leg. Edgar stuffs it but Veach tries to use his power to force it. Edgar breaks free. Edgar fakes left and connects with a nice straight right. Veach moves in and Edgar smacks him with a right hook, and Veach falls to his knees. Edgar hammers away on the ground as Veach tries to get his bearings. Veach rolls to his belly, and Edgar slaps on a rear naked choke for the submission.
Winner: Frankie Edgar defeats Matt Veach via submission to a rear naked choke at 2:22 of Round 2.
Posted on: December 5, 2009 9:15 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2009 9:30 pm
Up first is the grudge match between former NFL players, as Marcus "Big Baby" Jones takes on Matt Mitrione.
Jones has officially adopted "Big Baby" as his nickname. For those that did not follow TUF this season, his fighting nickname had been "The Darkness," but the rest of the TUF cast members christened him "Big Baby" due to his being highly sensitive and emotional, for such a physically imposing dude.
Also for the benefit of those that didn't follow this season: The grudge here is that Mitrione inadvertantly caused an eye injury to Scott Junk during their fight on the show. Junk was initially told by doctors that his fighting career was over, and that he was in jeopardy of losing his eye. Marcus Jones flipped out when he heard the news and nearly came to blows with Mitrione (who had no idea why he was angry) outside the cage.
Incidentally, Scott Junk is said to be fine now. He had eye surgery, and while doctors still told him he probably shouldn't fight anymore, he at least has the option.
Round 1: Jones with a leg kick and he quickly takes Mitrione in a body lock and takes him to the canvas. Jones is already looking to tie up Mitrione's arms and begin ground and pound, which was his specialty on TUF. Mitrione wisely traps his leg in half guard and fights his way back to his feet. They separate and Mitrione swings with a pair of fists. Jones answers with a pair of wild swings. Jones takes a single leg but Mitrione whizzers his left arm to neutralize the takedown attempt. Jones can't get the takedown so they separate. Jones with an inside leg kick. Mitrione stumbles forward as Jones tries for a Muay Thai clinch and Jones slaps on a guillotine choke. Mitrione escapes and Jones tries for an arm, but Mitrione shakes that off too. Mitrione throws kicks as Jones' legs while he lays on his back, hoping to bait Mitrione back to the mat. Mitrione lets him up and Jones scores a takedown. Mitrione once again powers to his feet. Mitrione swings and nails Jones with a couple of haymakers. Jones looks wobbly, but it may also be fatigue. The round ends, and it's probably 10-9 Jones based on aggression and Octagon control.
Round 2: They touch gloves at the start of the round, and Jones looks really tired. Jones swings and misses, and Mitrione nails him with a left hand that puts Jones face-first on the canvas. Both guys looked very green here, and both would have a long way to go to hang with a decent mid-level UFC fighter. But for whatever it's worth, Mitrione gets the victory.
Winner: Matt Mitrione defeats Marcus Jones via KO due to strikes at 10 seconds of Round 2.
Mitrione actually just referred to his and Marcus's power as "retard strength" on live television. Not the most appropriate way to call yourself a strong athlete. Maybe they didn't go over acceptable phraseology at the UFC fighter summits a few weeks ago.
Posted on: December 5, 2009 8:52 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2009 9:04 pm
Here are the quick undercard results from the Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale at The Palms in Las Vegas:
Back in a few minutes with the live round-by-round coverage of the main card.
(Updated with result of McSweeney vs. Schoonover.)
Posted on: December 5, 2009 11:56 am
Edited on: December 5, 2009 11:56 am
I'll have a live round-by-round blog of the main fights from tonight's finale of The Ultimate Fighter 10, beginning at roughly 8:45 p.m. ET.
Here's the main card:
Undercard bouts not scheduled to air on Spike (unless the main fights end quickly and they need broadcast filler):
-- This is the first time Kimbo has ever had to cut weight for a fight. He successfully did so, but apparently was so miserable doing it that it may not become a regular thing for him.
-- MMA Fanhouse recently reported that Schoonover has been called back to service in the military for another year-plus tour. Schoonover said in the Fanhouse story that he suspects he's headed to Afghanistan. Win or lose, this will probably be the last we see of Schoonover in MMA for a very long time. Here's hoping he goes out with a bang, and returns home safely from wherever he is deployed.
-- Jones is one of the UFC's fastest rising stars and is also one of the more exciting guys to watch lately. He's still a little green, but he's got crazy athleticism to make up for it. Either way, a healthy Matt Hamill is no joke, and will definitely test Jones's MMA progress.
Incidentally, Jones is from Endicott, N.Y., the home of one of the most delicious foods ever invented: The spiedie .