THE BARON AND THE CALI KID
Did Urijah Faber get a quick hook in his UFC bantamweight title fight against Renan Barao Saturday night? Yes. Does it take away from the performance of the champion? Absolutely not. I was one of many who believed Faber was on the kind of hot streak that would allow him to catch Barao napping and pull off the upset, but the Brazilian was on from the start, even in the face of a spirited effort from “The California Kid.” And while Herb Dean stepped in a bit early, you got the impression that whether it was the first round or the fifth, “The Baron” was eventually going to get his finish. He’s that good. And more than ever, I want to see Dominick Cruz heal up and get back into the Octagon to face Barao. That fight will be epic.
Jose Aldo is a scary fighter, and that’s meant in the most complimentary of terms. Saturday night, he showed once again why he is the greatest 145-pound fighter of all-time, with a complete dismantling of a quality contender in Ricardo Lamas. Aldo has been unstoppable for a long, long time, with only Frankie Edgar putting him in danger of losing his crown. That’s quite a run for anyone, and while Cub Swanson and previous victim Chad Mendes are legit future challengers for the belt, Aldo has his sights on bigger game, namely UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Both fighters want the bout, the UFC does as well, and if it goes down later this year, it’s another one of those fights, like Barao-Cruz, that’s a can’t miss. Keep your fingers crossed.
THE REEM IS BACK IN BUSINESS
Although he played it cool in the lead-up to his UFC 169 fight with Frank Mir, Alistair Overeem admitted after his three round unanimous decision win that he played it safe against the former two-time heavyweight champ. Regardless, it was still a dominant performance that revives Overeem’s title hopes after back-to-back losses against Bigfoot Silva and Travis Browne. The same can’t be said for Mir, who has now lost four straight and will have to start looking closely at where he’s at in his storied career. What may have been the most bizarre part of the whole night was Overeem calling out Brock Lesnar after the fight. First off, Lesnar isn’t under contract to the UFC or even fighting in MMA; secondly, why call out someone you stopped in a one-sided fashion the first time around? Very odd.
KILLA PERFORMANCE FROM TRUJILLO
For the most part, the UFC 169 undercard was rough. All decisions, several three round grinders, and just a general feeling that a spark was needed to kick off the main card. Abel Trujillo and Jamie Varner provided that spark, and more. Both lightweights threw each punch with the intent of scoring a knockout, and there were plenty punches thrown. When it was over, Trujillo bounced back from nearly being finished to score a one punch knockout of Varner. It was without question the Knockout and Fight of the Night, and an early 2014 Fight of the Year candidate, and for Trujillo, the kind of performance that will not only move him up the lightweight ranks but make him must-see TV for UFC fans.
One of the prelim fights that delivered in terms of high-quality action was the lightweight bout between Al Iaquinta and Kevin Lee. Many wondered if the unbeaten Lee was ready for Iaquinta in his UFC debut, but the Michigan native proved that he belonged, bouncing back from a rough opening round to nearly submit Iaquinta in the second. The third, and the fight, belonged to the New Yorker, but it was one of those fights in which both men’s stock rose. Iaquinta continues to get better, and I’m curious to see what’s next for Lee.
THIS AND THAT
Yes, it wasn’t the fight of the year, and it was a close bout, but I feel beyond the shadow of a doubt that the judges got the decision in the Alan Patrick-John Makdessi match wrong…Ali Bagautinov kept the UFC out of an interesting dilemma by defeating the weight-challenged John Lineker, but is the Dagestan product ready for flyweight king Demetrious Johnson? Like Kevin Lee, Andy Enz lost his unbeaten record and his Octagon debut, but he showed enough that his progress in 2014 and beyond will be interesting to watch…Clint Hester is a dangerous middleweight prospect, and after three straight UFC wins, he’s ready for a move up…I expected a Fight of the Night candidate between Nick Catone and Tom Watson. We didn’t get it, but after Catone revealed that he tore his ACL in the fight, that may explain things a little better…Solid wins for Chris Cariaso, Rashid Magomedov, and Neil Magny in prelim action.