The Fight For The Troops 2 event is in the books...Michael DiSanto checks in to survey the lay of the land after Saturday's bouts.
SPEED KILLS, BUT THE THANKS SHOULD GO TO FLORIAN
Melvin Guillard has always been an underachiever in my eyes. Few other lightweights possess the same combination of speed, power, experience, technical prowess on the feet and general wrestling ability. His glaring weaknesses have always been his submission defense and his inability fight big in big fights.
Guillard erased the big fight element of that equation with a career-best performance in the biggest fight of his career. It was evident right from Jump Street that Guillard’s speed was too much for Evan Dunham. It was just a matter of time, therefore, before the New Orleans native scored a knockout, unless Dunham was able to take the fight to the ground and keep it there.
Stepping up under the bright lights of a major main event fight is as much about preparation as it is talent. Guillard has always had the talent, but it seemed that his preparation always left something to be desired—maybe not in terms of his effort, rather in terms of the quality. Training guru Greg Jackson finally filled that void for the ultra-talented lightweight, and the results showed.
It was evident from the first minute that Dunham was in for a short, painful night if he wasn’t able to take the fight to the ground and keep it there. Despite his perceived advantage in overall skill level, he had no answer for Guillard’s elite hand speed. Guys can prepare all they want, but if they cannot fight behind a dominant jab or take the fight to the ground, then speed typically kills. It certainly did on Saturday night.
The win puts Guillard squarely into the 155-pound title mix. There is no question about that. Guillard should send Kenny Florian a nice “thank you” present because he almost didn’t get this opportunity. Guillard was originally slated to face Yves Edwards on the non-televised undercard, while Florian was scheduled to face Dunham in the main event. Florian suffered an injury in training a month ago, opening the door for Guillard to get his second opportunity in a headlining matchup.
From a style perspective, I actually think Edwards is a tougher matchup for Guillard, and a win over the veteran definitely doesn’t carry the same weight as a win over Dunham. Like I said, Guillard should spend some of that win bonus on a nice shiny gift for Mr. Florian.
MITRIONE KEEPS ON KEEPIN’ ON
I don’t think many people viewed Matt Mitrione as a serious fighter after watching the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. The former NFL player came off as an arrogant, half-focused (albeit gifted) athlete who thought it might be fun to try his hand at mixed martial arts. He didn’t seem committed to the sport and definitely did not seem like the kind of guy who had fighting ingrained in his DNA.
Mitrione is rapidly developing into a very good heavyweight and remains the division’s most promising prospect. He has the size, athleticism, power and natural boxing ability to really do some damage in the UFC. The big question for Mitrione, however, continues to be his ability to stop takedowns against top wrestlers and survive on the ground against Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belts.
Tim Hague could not force him to answer either of those questions on Saturday night, as he fell prey to Mitrione’s fast hands and excellent footwork. After the bout, Mitrione made it clear that he wants to continue upping the level of his opposition, but he noted that he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself just yet.
It is easy to forget that he only has four professional fights under his belt after watching him dominate a veteran like Hague. But this isn’t boxing. Mitrione won’t have the luxury of 15 to 20 fights against weekend warriors, career opponents and fading former contenders as he builds his skills, confidence and general fighting IQ. The UFC doesn’t work that way. UFC President Dana White doesn’t own a pair of kid gloves, so he will likely get his wish for stepped-up competition, though White won’t likely worry about whether he is tossing the former footballer into the deep end too soon.
HOMINICK SENDS ALDO A MESSAGE
Lots of guys clam up when fighting under the pressure of a title eliminator. Not Mark Hominick. Knowing that a shot at reigning featherweight champion and pound-for-pound list occupant Jose Aldo was on the line, the Canadian delivered a dominant performance, knocking out George Roop in a mere 88 seconds.
Hominick seemed like a man possessed right from the opening bell. He stalked Roop with a purpose, firing punches dripping with bad intentions at every opportunity in his quest to earn his first shot at UFC gold. When he finally found pay dirt just over a minute into the bout with a clean left hook that dropped Roop like a sack of potatoes, he finished with the efficiency of a highly trained assassin, leaving nothing to chance as he secured his bout with Aldo.
There are many pundits in the sport who consider Aldo to be the baddest man on the planet, pound for pound. They might be correct. But he will be tested like he has never before been tested before in the standup realm. Hominick is the real deal, and has a very real chance at unseating the champion, if the battle remains on the feet.
I’m already excited about this matchup.
OUTGUNNED BELTRAN AS TOUGH AS THEY COME
I will never know how Joey Beltran survived for three full rounds against Pat Barry. Imagine allowing Albert Pujols to take full swings with a baseball bat at your left leg. That is what Beltran experienced on Saturday night courtesy of the most fearsome lower body striker in the heavyweight division, bar none. The severity of the lower body attacks was evident when Beltran collapsed immediately after the bell, unable to hold himself up any longer.
If we are being honest with ourselves, Beltran didn’t have much of a chance to win. He does not have good takedowns, and the standup disparity between the two is like pitting a chess-playing teenager wielding a stick against a Green Beret carrying an M-16.
The fact that Beltran survived for three full rounds is a testament to his fighting spirit and iron chin. He had plenty of opportunities to quit, most notably when he took a finger to the eye late in the third round. He could barely walk and knew he had absolutely no shot at winning. Beltran could have escaped the beating at that point by admitting that his vision was blurred from the inadvertent eye poke.
Not “The Mexicutioner.” There is no quit in that guy, which is why I will tune in to watch him fight anybody, anytime, anywhere.
WIMAN NO LONGER AN ALSO RAN
With seven wins in his last nine UFC bouts, Matt Wiman has officially established himself as a contender in the lightweight division. The win over Cole Miller was arguably his most complete performance to date. He showed excellent striking, unyielding tenacity, solid top control and brutal ground and pound. The former TUF star did all of that against a well rounded, well prepared opponent in Miller.
With that said, all fighters, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre included, are constantly on a journey toward perfection—a goal that cannot possibly be reached by mortal men. Wiman is no different, and when he looks back at the tape of the fight, he will notice that he covers up far too often during exchanges on the feet.
Covering up is a completely passive move, and, more importantly, it takes a fighter’s hands and arms completely out of the equation for anything, other than serving as punching bags. A fighter is far better served to keep his hands in an attacking position and use slight upper body movements up, down and side to side to defend incoming strikes. That way he remains in a good position to counter.
To be fair to Wiman, I’m really being nitpicky with that piece of constructive criticism. He was firing on all cylinders on Saturday night. In fact, I think he was so dominant that I’m having trouble justifying the decision of the lone judge who scored a round for Miller. I had it 30-27 and didn’t think any of the rounds were close.
Wiman may be only another win or two away from putting himself in position to fight in a title eliminator. He appears to have really taken his confidence and game to a new level over his last two bouts. It is now time to take it up one more notch to see whether he really belongs among the 155-pound elite.
BIG NIGHT FOR EDWARDS
I remember talking with Yves Edwards several years ago before his fight with Josh Thomson. The bout should have been for the UFC Lightweight Championship, but the UFC had made the decision to take the division in another direction for the time being. Edwards mentioned during our conversation that he was sick of eating ham sandwiches for every meal because the economic realities for UFC lightweights back then didn’t really allow for much more money in the food budget.
Well, Saturday night certainly went a long way toward getting the affable lightweight a steady diet of USDA PRIME dry-aged steaks (or whatever else he prefers to eat). Edwards’ thrilling second-round submission win over Cody McKenzie earned him both Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night honors, which resulted in an extra $60,000 in his pocket, something he could not have possibly expected.
Not bad for nine minutes, 33 seconds worth of work. Not bad at all.