Michael DiSanto looks back at last Saturday's action from East Rutherford, New Jersey...
DIAZ IS MUST-SEE TV, TITLE SHOT NEXT
For purists, a fight is a fight, regardless of who is competing. I’m not a purist. I enjoy watching some guys compete more than others, and for the moment, at least, the Diaz brothers are at the very top of my list. Nate Diaz reminded me of that on Saturday night.
His thrilling win over Jim Miller not only earned the Stockton slugger his first shot at UFC gold, it brought the third consecutive post-fight bonus check. This time, he won “Submission of the Night” honors for his slick tap out of a man who had never before been stopped in his professional career.
Diaz now has nine post-fight bonuses in 16 UFC fights. In other words, more often than not, Diaz thrills the crowd with the “Fight of the Night,” “Knockout of the Night,” or “Submission of the Night.” Maybe that isn’t such a big deal when a fighter only has a handful of UFC bouts under his belt. It is amazingly impressive when a fighter has competed 16 times.
The nine post-fight bonus awards means Diaz is only a single bonus check shy of Chris Lytle’s record of 10. Because styles make fights, and Diaz’s style almost always forces an opponent to fight in entertaining fashion, it seems likely that his next bout will bring a record-tying performance.
As mentioned, Diaz’s next bout will be for the UFC lightweight championship. That means he will either face reigning champion Benson Henderson or the man Bendo snatched the title from, Frankie Edgar, probably sometime this fall. I guess that opportunity could get delayed if Bendo and Edgar fight to an ultra-close decision, with Edgar getting the nod. A rubber match would almost certainly be appropriate in that situation.
Barring that outcome or an injury, Diaz will likely face the winner of Bendo-Edgar this winter. Both Bendo and Edgar are all-action fighters who love to get down and dirty. That makes for a beautiful dance partner for Diaz, who I predict will set a new record for UFC post-fight bonuses before the end of 2013.
REMEMBER DANA’S WORDS
I know Josh Koscheck is frustrated right now. I’m sure his fans are equally frustrated. From my vantage point, he received the wrong end of the split decision on Saturday night. I scored the fight 29-28 for the reality show alumnus, giving him what I viewed as fairly comfortable 10-9 scores for the first and third rounds. Hendricks easily won the second round, in my opinion. Two of the three judges in New Jersey disagreed with me, scoring it 29-28 the other way.
Whether you agree with me or the two judges who scored the fight in favor of Hendricks, there is no denying the fact that the fight was close. It was an entertaining back-and-forth affair. One that I’m sure UFC President Dana White would point to when preaching his mantra to his army of competitors – never allow the judges to decide a fight.
The reality is it’s tough to really try and force a stoppage at any point in a fight because overaggressiveness leaves the attacker wide open to be knocked out or submitted with a counter move. It’s even tougher to convince a guy to take those risks when he believes the fight is even heading into the last round. Yet, that is apparently what Kos needed to do heading into the third round on Saturday night.
Who do you think won the fight?
THE GREAT BEARD DEBATE
Do bushy beards provide some level of protection from punches? I have no idea, to be honest. It seems likely that they help to some degree. Sort of like an organic pad, right? Again, I don’t know.
The question has been raised more than once in 2012, as mountain man look-alikes, such as Roy Nelson and, more recently, Johny Hendricks brushed off monstrous shots to the jaw like they were jabs. I guarantee that more than a few fans of The Ultimate Fighter are probably wondering whether the cheek fur sported by quarterfinalist Michael Chiesa will play any role in his journey to capture the vaunted “six-figure contract.”
I did a bit of Internet research on the subject, expecting to find some sort of guidance. I assumed that some sports scientist would have allowed curiosity to get the better of him. Well, if there is a learned piece out there on the topic, I certainly couldn’t find it.
There is no arguing that both Nelson and Hendricks have tremendous chins. The world has known that about Nelson his entire career. We learned that for sure about Hendricks on Saturday night. It remains to be seen whether Chiesa belongs in that iron-jawed club.
So, there you have it. Nelson and Hendricks are definitive proof that a beard helps, right? Opponents of that theory will quickly point out that Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson and Alessio Sakara both donned remarkably full beards when they got brutally knocked out by Seth Petruzelli and Brian Stann, respectively.
Is that definitive proof that a beard doesn’t help? No. Four is not a big enough representative sample to be statistically relevant. It is just enough to give anyone a little support for whichever side of the debate fence he or she sits on.
For the record, I think has to help to some degree, even if only a miniscule amount. What do you think?
IS JOHNSON THE NEXT HEAVYWEIGHT STAR? LET’S NOT GET AHEAD OF OURSELVES JUST YET
Lavar Johnson is one bad dude – a seriously bad dude.
Anyone who can basically bully, beat up and then knock out Pat Barry is a scary human being. Johnson did just that on Saturday night.
That makes it two spectacular knockout wins in his first two UFC bouts. Both came against extremely durable guys. The most recent, as mentioned, came against one of the most dangerous strikers in the game.
Those performances definitely demand attention in the UFC heavyweight division. They have to make even the roughest, toughest strikers take a bit of a pause when thinking about slugging it out with Johnson. Yet, before we anoint this guy as the next great heavyweight, we have to remember that final two Strikeforce fights resulted in submission losses, and not from particularly accomplished heavyweight grapplers.
We need to see Johnson demonstrate great takedown and/or submission defense before we get the hype train running too fast. Let’s not forget that, despite knocking Barry out, he got taken down and easily mounted by a guy with a relatively modest ground game, as far as UFC heavyweights go. Yes, I know Barry is working hard on his wrestling and submissions, but nobody is going to confuse him for Frank Mir any time soon.
The win should be enough to earn Johnson a marquee matchup on an upcoming main card. A bout with former interim champion Shane Carwin would be a tremendously fun fight. A matchup with former TUF winner Roy Nelson is another one that instantly comes to mind as a great next bout for Johnson. The former would be another crazy bombing exhibition. The latter would be a stiff test of Johnson’s takedown defense and ground game, assuming Nelson decided to focus on getting the action to the mat.
BELCHER TAKES HIS CAREER TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Alan Belcher has always had a ton of potential. The Arkansas native has been a mainstay in the UFC middleweight division since debuting nearly six years ago, but he has never been universally viewed as a legitimate title contender. The one thing that has eluded him all along was a career-defining win to propel him to admission into the 185-pound Preferiti.
That is no longer the case. Belcher’s TKO win over Rousimar Palhares instantly inserts him into the title mix. Not because Palhares was close to a title shot. I doubt he was anywhere near the top of the UFC’s short list of possible opponents for Anderson Silva, assuming the champ can survive a second bout with Chael Sonnen, which is not a guarantee by any stretch of the imagination.
Belcher’s win propels him toward the top of the division because of the way he beat Palhares. “Toquinho” is one of the best ground fighters in the sport and certainly the best leg lock artist. Most would have assumed that it would be MMA suicide for Belcher to play the submission and ground position game with Palhares, particularly if he got a hold of one of Belcher’s legs.
That is precisely what happened. Palhares had a good grasp of Belcher’s right leg early in the fight and was in good position to sink in a knee bar or heel hook. Belcher would have none of it. He defended expertly and even attempted to attack with submissions of his own from the tenuous position.
After moving to the top position, commentator extraordinaire Joe Rogan, who is one of the most knowledgeable MMA minds on the planet, was imploring Belcher to retreat back to his feet. Again, spending time in Pahlares’ guard is precisely what the Brazilian wanted. Belcher didn’t care. He not only stayed in his foe’s guard. He pounded him out from that position.
The win was a vivid display of just how talented and well rounded Belcher really is. The win should have been his seventh in a row. Most, including me, believe that he was robbed in his split decision loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama back in July 2009. Correct that outcome and Belcher can make a tremendous argument for the number one contender spot. He is probably one more win away from truly earning the spot, but he is definitely in the discussion after the way he beat Palhares.