This past week, the Ultimate Fighting Championships put on two very quality shows one of which was free on Fox Sports 1 and the other a pay-per-view titled UFC 164. On both shows, more than a handful of fighters training out of Albuquerque’s Jackson-Winklejohn gym were in feature fights fighting for title contendership, divisional relevance and in some cases a UFC roster slot.
Headlining Wednesday’s Ultimate Fight Night 27, the “Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit would be paired up with Martin Kampmann to avenge a 2009 loss in his promotional debut for the UFC. Joining him on the main card were teammates Donald Cerrone, Bubba McDaniel and Erik Perez. On Saturday night, UFC 164 featured Frank Mir facing off with Josh Barnett and Clay Guida paired with Chad Mendes. The event was headlined by a UFC Lightweight Title fight between Champion Ben Henderson and Challenger Anthony Pettis.
- The big story of the past week undoubtedly is Carlos Condit stopping Martin Kampmann in the fourth round. Condit lost to Kampmann in his UFC debut and this fight was not only good for divisional positioning but it came with redemption for Condit as many believed he should’ve been awarded the Judge’s decision back in 2009.
- What is the biggest takeaway from the fight itself? Was it the improvement Condit made in his defensive wrestling between the first or second round or was it the rhythm Condit found when he established his range as the fight progressed? Condit remains one of the toughest chinned fighters in MMA not too mention arguably the best combination puncher at 170-pounds. His kicking arsenal is unparalleled and the way he attacks with angles is very fun to watch.
- Greg Jackson shined once again really cementing the fact he is one of MMA’s best cornermen. He told Condit between rounds that Kampmann would start the next round in desperation mode; the round started and Kampmann immediately looked to close the distance for a takedown. That kind of analysis between rounds is impressive and Condit’s elite skills combined with a coaching staff of Jackson, Mike Winklejohn and several other top coaches makes for a tough out for any welterweight.
- Side note, Condit now has a 93% finishing rate in his 29-career victories. He has finished Martin Kampmann, Dan Hardy, Rory McDonald and came very close to TKO’ing Champion Georges St. Pierre. That sort of effective offense is why opponents pursue the takedown when facing Condit and if he wants to challenge Hendricks and St. Pierre in rematches he will need to further improving his wrestling.
- Donald Cerrone is a talented MMA fighter who has challenged for the WEC title and competed against some of the most notable 155-pound fighters in the world. However, his stock took a hit Saturday night when opponent Rafael Dos Anjos once again showed the blueprint to defeat “Cowboy”. When opponents have really been aggressive and bullied Cerrone, his countering and striking acumen becomes ineffective. The win was the biggest for Dos Anjos to date and the loss is a major setback for the Lightweight mainstay Cerrone.
- Erik Perez impressed early on in his Bantamweight bout with Takeya Mizugaki but seemed to fizzle out in the second and third rounds. I thought Perez may have hurt his left hand sometime in the first round since he failed to throw that left with any commitment in the late rounds. Perez could not crack the granite chin of Mizugaki despite landing clean and with thudding impact time after time.
- The loss was a setback but at 23-years of age, Perez has a bright future still ahead. The loss was huge for the UFC who is looking to break into the Mexican market and aside from Champion Cain Velasquez really lack any big name Mexican stars.
- I was in the minority who believed Bubba McDaniel won the first round against Brad Tavares. I thought Bubba was more efficient in his footwork and landed just as many significant strikes on Tavares outside of the first two leg kicks. Bubba was solid in close range as well. I really believed we would see a split decision; instead Bubba dropped the unanimous decision.
- McDaniel really picked up the pace in the third round and you have to wonder what prevented him from doing so earlier in the fight. He did well in the first frame but seemed to fade in the second. He is a veteran of nearly 30-fights and will undoubtedly bounce back strong in his next outing.
- At the UFC 164 show, fan favorite Clay Guida ran into the steamrolling power of Chad Mendes. Under the tutelage of Duane “Bang” Ludwig, “Money” Mendes has really started his career resurgence and the latest foe unfortunately was “the Carpenter”. Clay showed his usual aggressive style however it was met with the power of Mendes. Guida never quite got into rhythm on his feet and could not get a takedown through three rounds. Guida will be back in the mix of things but he will need to show the same evolution that Mendes has shown in his last three fights.
- Frank Mir came into his bout in the best shape fans have seen in recent years and he attributed all of that to his training in Albuquerque at the Jackson-Winklejohn camp. However, Josh Barnett followed the blue print to beat Mir perfectly. Barnett pushed Mir on the fence and bullied him from close range. Brutal uppercuts and knees would spell out Mir’s demise in the bout despite the finish being arguably earlier. Mir threw solid and crisp strikes to begin the bout, however Mir has historically been very susceptible to power shots while his back was on the cage. He will need to improve on that in order to get back to his winning ways.
A common theme in these bouts over the week was the obvious notion that MMA is progressively changing all the time. You have to be talented in several facets of MMA and need to match the athleticism and innovative style that the new breed of MMA fighters possess. Heart and toughness aren’t skills that fighters can rely on anymore; the successful fighters come into their bouts improved every outing and are changing their looks inside the cage to keep it fresh. Chad Mendes used to be a powerhouse wrestler and now he has shown himself to be a devastating knockout artist. Even Rafael Dos Anjos showed in his bout with Donald Cerrone that he could be a boxer and a wrestler adding to his already dangerous Jiu Jitsu game. MMA has a very thin line drawn that deciphers between the elite fighters and really good fighters.