Las Vegas - There has been some obligatory postfight griping about UFC 130. Going in, we knew there would be. The general consensus about the UFC’s latest offering, which emanated from the MGM Grand last Saturday night, seems to be that it was a disappointment.
I’m afraid I have to be the dissenting opinion on that. Maybe it was my own low expectations coming in, but I was pretty satisfied by what UFC 130 brought to the table. Even after watching Quinton “Rampage” Jackson dismantle Matt Hamill in the tepid main event, I thought this pay-per-view delivered on whatever limited promise it had left after losing its intended main event to injury just a few weeks ago.
As always, there were lessons to be learned. Here are the five most important storylines to emerge from UFC 130 …
1. Rampage proves doubters wrong … sort of.
I was pleasantly surprised with how Jackson looked in the cage. He came to his fight with Hamill in great shape and reportedly fought through a broken hand to craft his unanimous decision victory. It was clear from the opening bell that Hamill didn’t have a chance, going oh-fer on his takedown attempts and pretty much getting beaten from pillar to post on the feet. The victory will allegedly earn “Rampage” the next shot at UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, so long as that hand injury can be put to rest in time.
For Jackson, most of trouble spots came outside of the cage. Specifically, in interviews. After sort of jokingly threatening to fight, slap and choke our own Ariel Helwani in two separate conversations, Jackson cut an even weirder (and far more harassing) interview with MMA Heat’s Karyn Bryant. The whole thing was unseemly and really made it feel like the “Rampage” act is wearing thin. That might be something the UFC will want to monitor moving forward.
2. The real truth about Roy Nelson fighting fat.
If Nelson is going to market himself largely (no pun intended) as a fat guy who knocks people out, well, that clearly puts more emphasis on his level of fitness. In order for his “everyman” gimmick to function correctly in the marketplace, his cardio needs to be off the charts. Otherwise, he’s just a fat guy who gets tired quickly. Nobody wants to pay to watch that. Unfortunately, Nelson looked pretty out-of-shape against Frank Mir on Saturday night and now the growing tide of public sentiment is that he should drop to light heavyweight. He has a meeting scheduled at the end of this week with UFC President Dana White and noted fighter-turned- nutritionist Mike Dolce has publicly said he believes he could help Nelson cut to 205-pounds … or even middleweight.
Is that the right move? Or is this just post-loss hysteria? It’s probably a little of both, actually. Between the years 2004-08, Nelson amassed a 13-2 record fighting as a rotund heavyweight, even winning the IFL heavyweight title. In 2009, he won the “Ultimate Fighter” reality show to the surprise of absolutely no one, after coming into the tournament as the heavy favorite. I guess what I’m trying to say is, Nelson has made a pretty good career out of being a fat guy. However, he’s just 2-4 in his last six fights and White is already on the record saying, “the fat thing isn’t funny anymore.”
Can Nelson really make 205? Is he even willing to try? Doing so would change pretty much everything we think we know about him as an athlete. After this week’s meeting however, maybe he won’t have a choice.
3. Story separates from the pack.
Story said after the bout that he’d like to face another former top contender -- Jon Fitch – next. While that shapes up as an interesting fight between two good wrestlers (and it’s certainly the shortest distance between Story and No. 1 contender status), I think it might be too much, too soon for him. It’d be good to see the UFC give him one more fight to let fans get acquainted with him. How about a meeting with Martin Kampmann or Diego Sanchez?
4. Stann on the verge.
Brian Stann was not picked to be a coach on season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter” – the company passed him over for the more colorful duo of “Mayhem” Miller and Michael Bisping – but maybe he should’ve been. At this point I’m about one more quality win away from proclaiming Stann a legit contender at 185-pounds and it would have been great to see the UFC harness the power of its popular reality show to promote him into a high-profile bout with one of the aforementioned. Then again, maybe Stann doesn’t need it. With impressive wins over Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago in his last two fights, I’m hard pressed to think of a more interesting up-and-comer at middleweight at the moment. Would love to see Stann get tested against the winner of Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz from the upcoming UFC 131.
5. As far as MMA has come, you still can’t win a decision from the bottom.
That’s just the sad truth. Miguel Torres might have been deserving last weekend, after controlling much of their 15-minute affair from underneath Demetrious Johnson. Johnson outwrestled Torres to get the fight to the mat, but once he established dominant position spent most of the fight trying to keep his various limbs out of the former bantamweight champion’s clutches. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t see it that way, not even on their spiffy new 7-inch TV monitors. Johnson won the decision and – with his previous victory over Kid Yamamoto – is approaching the 135-pound top five. Still, I hope Torres doesn’t get downgraded too much for this latest official loss. Both guys fought well and put on a great show. Kudos to them.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
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