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UFC 182 Musings: Part One

Looking back at UFC 182...

Yes, “Cowboy” Cerrone, there will be days like this, days when you can’t pick up a Fight of the Night bonus or a finish. Not that you’ll want to tell the Colorado native this to his face, because the way he sees it, every fight is meant to be finished or to have a bonus attached to it. That’s why everybody loves Cerrone, and why he got a huge response from the crowd for his UFC 182 co-main event bout against Myles Jury. And while he didn’t get the finish or the war he wanted, he did take a shutout win over a talented and previously unbeaten opponent. That counts for a lot, and with six wins in a row and a near-finish in the first round, which is typically the slow-starter’s worst frame, he may just be ready for his first shot at UFC gold.

I have made no secret of my feeling that Kyoji Horiguchi is the biggest talent to emerge from Japan in recent years. Going even further, I believe he’s got the personality to become a star outside of his native country as well, a big deal considering so few of his countrymen have been able to do that, especially here in the United States. So was his win over Louis Gaudinot the ticket to the next level? Not exactly. Given the UFC 182 main card spotlight, Horiguchi did introduce himself to a wider audience, but getting the tough New Jersey product out of there would have helped raise his profile. Some may then see his decision win as a bad thing, but it’s not, because it gives Horiguchi time to develop his skill set and get to an even greater comfort level in the Octagon before he gets thrown into a title fight before he’s ready. Late 2015, early 2016, watch out.

Hector Lombard’s decision win over Josh Burkman was clear-cut, but it wasn’t the statement-making victory many were expecting. Credit must be given to Burkman for taking some hellacious shots and not backing down, but blame must also go in the direction of “Showeather” for not pushing the pace more in the second and third rounds. More importantly, Lombard has world-class judo but he seems intent on making nearly every bout a boxing match if his opponent so pleases. A Lombard who mixes striking and grappling and adds a full gas tank could beat anyone in the division. Until then, he’s just another talent in a stacked division.

I’m sure a guy nicknamed “The Irish Dragon” would have liked to compete on next week’s Boston card headlined by Conor McGregor like he was scheduled to, but things worked out for Paul Felder anyway in Las Vegas. Well, that’s an understatement, because the unbeaten Philadelphian didn’t just keep his perfect record intact, he did so with a win over a fighter in Danny Castillo who was coming off a UFC 177 co-main event. Oh yeah, did I mention the spinning backfist that ended it and earned Felder a Performance of the Night bonus? This was the prime example of a fighter taking an opportunity and seizing it in a big way. Great stuff.

People have been talking about Cody Garbrandt for a while now, but you always have to reserve judgment on a hot prospect until he does his thing in the Octagon. Even then, the first-time UFC jitters have a way of getting to up and comers, especially on a big stage like the one set up for UFC 182. But “No Love” delivered on his promise in his first bout, scoring a late knockout of veteran Marcus Brimage. With five knockouts in five previous pro fights, it was obvious that Garbrandt had power, but to do it in the UFC against an opponent in Brimage who had just been in with featherweight star Conor McGregor a few fights ago says a lot. Looks like Team Alpha Male has another contender on the way.

Brad Tavares vs. Nate Marquardt was a rough fight to watch, but for Tavares, it was a good night, as he got back in the win column against a veteran foe and a big name after back-to-back losses to Yoel Romero and Tim Boetsch. Once the recently-injured Costa Philippou comes off the DL, a fight with Tavares could be a good one…No one knows better what it’s like to be on the right end and wrong end of a heavyweight punch more than Shawn Jordan, but win or lose, he’s always compelling to watch, and not just because of his post-win flips. If he can put together a couple more wins in a row, the end of 2015 may become very interesting for the former LSU fullback…Evan Dunham returned to winning ways against Rodrigo Damm, but the story of the fight may have been the game showing from the Brazilian veteran, who didn’t have his coaches in Las Vegas due to visa issues. Stepping up to help Damm were members of the Team Alpha Male squad, and kudos to them for doing so…Don’t know if it showed up through the UFC FIGHT PASS broadcast, but man, Omari Akhmedov was throwing some bombs at Mats Nilsson early in their welterweight bout. Nilsson survived the onslaught and the two engaged in an interesting bout that was won by Akhmedov but still raised the stock of the Sweden native, who was making his first start at 170 pounds…speaking of stock rising, Marion Reneau is an exciting addition to the UFC women’s bantamweight division. And despite having a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, it was her striking that got the job done against fellow grappling ace Alexis Dufresne, particularly a laser-like right hand that Dufresne couldn’t get out of the way of. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of “The Belizean Bruiser” in there against the 135-pound division’s best.

Tune in to Tuesday for a look back at the UFC 182 main event between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier