A look back at Saturday night's Fight Night San Jose card...
So how do you top the frontrunner for 2014 Fight of the Year? You do it again. Often, rematches never live up to the first fight, but I’m not expecting that to be the case with the return bout between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler. Despite the furious pace of their first bout in March, neither welterweight knows how to fight any other way. So while the action level should remain high, it will be the fighter who adjusts better who will win the second time around. For Hendricks, he has to try and use his wrestling better in the rematch, as that will dilute some of Lawler’s danger, especially if “Ruthless” is on his back. As for Lawler, he may have left the first fight’s result on the table by getting into flurrying matches with Hendricks too often. If Lawler focuses on quality, not quantity, the second time around, the Iowan may walk out of the Octagon as the new champion.
Matt Brown is a bad man. Yeah, we knew that before his five-rounder with Robbie Lawler, but 25 minutes with “Ruthless” confirmed it for all eternity. We’ve all heard his tale of redemption, but unlike folks in similar situations, he has never lost his edge on fight night. From bell to bell, Brown keeps his mean, and his ability to take and give punishment is more remarkable every time you see it. UFC president Dana White was spot on with his assessment of Brown after the fight when he said he expects the stock of “The Immortal” to rise, not drop. I agree.
Scary. That’s the only word that comes to mind after Anthony Johnson’s 44-second finish of Rogerio Nogueira. “Rumble” has power on a different level than most fighters, and if you give him the opportunity to put his hands on you, things will go south in a hurry. Nogueira may be 38 and coming off a long layoff, but in a career that has seen him fight the likes of Shogun Rua, Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, and Alistair Overeem, he had only been stopped once previously. And Johnson made it look easy. I know the post-fight euphoria always elevates fighter potential, but man, who wouldn’t love to see him and champion Jon Jones throw hands one day. Of course, Jones has business to tend to with Daniel Cormier first, and Johnson will fight again before moving up in the title picture, so a fight against the upcoming Ovince Saint Preux-Ryan Bader winner sounds pretty good at this point.
How Dennis Bermudez has remained in the lower reaches of the featherweight top 15 for so long is baffling, but I’m guessing that once the new rankings come out on Monday afternoon, New York’s “Menace” will get his just due. You simply can’t ignore him anymore, not after seven straight wins, the latest of which being a one-sided Performance of the Night win over Clay Guida, a guy you don’t blow out. With each passing fight, Bermudez is seemingly getting better, and now that he’s finished his last two foes, he’s getting more dangerous as well.
The entertaining lightweight bout between Bobby Green and Josh Thomson that opened the FOX main card was a horrific fight to score, and the split opinions on the internet and among the media prove it. For the record, I had Thomson winning, but it was so close that I can’t cry about Green getting the nod. And after everything Green has been through thus far in 2014 with the death of his brother and a bout with an ankle injury, it was good to see him get the win and some light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, that’s no consolation to Thomson, who has now lost back-to-back controversial decisions, first to Benson Henderson and now to Green. Where that puts him in the lightweight mix is debatable, as he is still one of the top 155-pounders in the world, but one who is also 0-2 in his last two. That’s not a great place to be in if you’re a 35-year-old veteran trying to make a title run. A big win in his next bout is a must.
It didn’t look good for Jorge Masvidal in the first round against Daron Cruickshank Saturday night when he took a huge right hand and hit the deck hard. If not for his elbow breaking his fall, we might be talking about Cruickshank’s huge upset win. But Masvidal recovered and used all his veteran tricks to arguably win the rest of that round and the next two. It was the second straight win for “Gamebred,” and while most fighters ask for fights they’ll never get, Masvidal’s request for fellow old-schooler Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is a great matchup that makes a lot of sense. Cerrone needs a fight after Khabin Nurmagomedov got injured, and Masvidal will provide the kind of challenge and fight that will keep casual and diehard fans happy. Are you getting the impression I want to see this one?
THIS AND THAT
Folks have been talking about Brian Ortega for a long time. Now we know why. His 99-second submission win over fellow prospect Mike De La Torre wasn’t just impressive in and of itself; consider that De La Torre just went three hard rounds with top-level BJJ black belt Mark Bocek and didn’t just avoid a submission, but arguably beat the Canadian. I know, styles make fights and MMA math usually doesn’t pan out in reality, but Ortega’s seemingly effortless win speaks volume for his skill level and potential…Welterweight Tim Means told me before his fight with Hernani Perpetuo that he was going to focus on his wrestling in this one. Well, he did get a couple takedowns, but it was the busy yet disciplined striking of “The Dirty Bird” that got him the win over the tough Brazilian. If Means keeps this mix, even if it’s 80-20 in terms of a striking / wrestling ratio, he’s going to be a threat to anyone at 170…Pat Cummins continues to put his debut loss to Daniel Cormier in the rearview mirror, making it two straight with his blowout win over Kyle Kingsbury. Now we’ll see if he can get another bout before the end of the year, doubling his pro MMA fight experience in the space of one year. Now that’s an even better tale than the worn out barista to brawler storyline…Kingsbury wasn’t getting an easy assignment in his first fight in nearly two years, and when it was over, he was smart enough to know that his best days were behind him, calling it quits at the age of 32. As far as his career goes, Kingsbury always gave it his all in the Octagon, he was fun to watch when he was on his game, and he was a compelling and unique personality in a world that could use more of them. But the best thing you can say about “Kingsbu” is that he was a better fighter at the end than he was when he started.
He evolved in his sport and outside of it as well. That’s a career well fought…Maybe she’ll read this and it will catch on, but I need to start calling Joanna Jedrzejczyk “JJ” from now on. And considering that I expect to be writing about her a lot in the coming years, I hope she’ll help out here. All spelling jokes aside, JJ is the latest addition to the new women’s strawweight division, and man, is she fun to watch. In beating Juliana Lima Saturday, she showed crisp striking, fast hands and feet, and a nice mean streak. She showed that getting in her face on weigh-in day is a deed that won’t go unpunished…No matter what your take on the Israel-Palestine situation is, as human beings we have to hope for a peaceful resolution to the conflict and a safe return home for all those involved, including UFC featherweight Noad Lahat, who won a hard-fought bout over Steven Siler on Saturday, the night before he returns to his native Israel to rejoin the Israeli Defense Forces…It’s always cool to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ frontman Anthony Kiedis at Octagonside. It never gets old…