The beginning of my masters program took a large chunk of my time the past two weeks, which made writing about the abundance of UFC fights that have taken place very difficult. This is my analysis of those fights, and my opinion of how effective a strategy was employed in producing these events. UFC Fight Night 41 Munoz vs. Mousasi, and the Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 Finale, ran back to back on May 31st with only a couple of hours between the two long cards. There were 22 fights and about 13 hours of fight programming over the course of the day, and while I love to watch fighting there is a fine line between enough to be exciting, and oversaturation. It is difficult to argue that the UFC didn't cross that line.
The arrangement of the fights on the cards was odd, especially the first card of the day. The order of fights at UFC FN 41 was questionable at best. Iuri Alcantra, a ranked bantamweight fighter, who lost a decision to Urijah Faber less than a year ago, was in the middle of the prelims, while the first 2 prelim fights featured no ranked fighters. Local fighters were also delegated to the prelims, even though having local "heroes" on the fight card is a major selling point for events in foreign markets such as Berlin. Germany’s own Peter Sobotta and Nick Hein were both featured on the preliminary card and both won their respective fights, but neither made a statement and no one will likely be talking about the decisions that may have saved their jobs. Hein was making his début and Sobotta was cut from the UFC before when he suffered 2 straight losses, and is attempting to come back after getting regional wins.
The only name that stuck out distinctly until the co-main event came up was Iuri Alcantra, who fought unranked Vaughan Lee, and knocked him unconscious in just 25 seconds. It was debatable whether Lee had a chance in this fight based on his track record of coming up short in big fights, and he didn’t offer anything to offset this notion. Alcantra proved this bout was a mismatch of epic proportions and he needs a fight against someone ranked in the top 15 in his next outing. Alcantra has a split decision against Wilson Reis who is ranked at the 15th spot, and someone slightly above Reis would be a chance for Alcantra to prove he is capable of maintaining his ranking or falling down on the list. Adding to the questionable nature of Alcantra’s place on the card and largely overmatched opponent, his 25 second knockout didn’t receive a performance of the night bonus. The bonus went to Magnus Cedenblad for his second round guillotine choke over fellow seldom-known fighter Krzysztof Jotko.
The main card started off with a rare submission, as Niklas Backstrom finished Tom Niinimaki with a bulldog choke, also known as a rear naked choke without back control. While a rear naked choke is a common submission found with back control after winning a grappling exchange or capitalizing on a compromised opponent, it has only been done a handful of times without back control and that makes it a noteworthy achievement, and deserving of the performance of the night bonus that Backstrom received. Backstrom should be given a slow and controlled uprising in the company, as a rare submission such as a bulldog choke shows some untapped potential, and he may be able to use that potential to become a solid, marketable fighter, especially in foreign markets. The next fight on the main card saw two formerly undefeated fighters face off to see who’s 0 had to go. Former King of the Cage middleweight champion Sean Strickland faced Ultimate Fighter Alum Luke Barnatt. Strickland beat Barnatt by split decision, and while only 1 judge saw the fight for Barnatt, 11 of 11 media members saw Barnatt winning according to mmadecisions.com. With a close, controversial decision following a largely forgettable fight, both fighters need to prove themselves in their next bouts as neither Strickland nor Barnatt made a statement that will entice the UFC brass from putting them on the chopping block in the near future.
The next two fights were undoubtably the highlights of the card, and the winners rightfully earned performance of the night bonuses. No fight of the night bonus was awarded, which was not surprising after an afternoon of drawn out decisions, and quick finishes. The co-main event saw CB Dollaway face Francis Carmont, the first bout on the card with both fighters ranked in the top 15 with the potential to considerably change the landscape of the middleweight division. Dollaway did just that, making seemingly easy work of Carmont over the course of 15 minutes with his superior striking, wrestling and grappling. Dollaway had a solid showing in the first round, but went on to dominate in the next 2 with his wrestling and fight IQ to prove that he deserves a move up the rankings, while Carmont will take a dip down the middleweight ladder until he secures another win over a closely ranked opponent.
The main event saw Gegard Mousasi fight Mark Munoz, and for Mousasi it was only his second fight at middleweight after dropping down from light heavyweight. He spent time in both weight classes early in his career, and in his first fight at middleweight he lost a dominant decision to the puzzle that is Lyoto Machida. Munoz was near a title fight at middleweight before being derailed by Chris Weidman, and after that devastating knockout loss he beat Tim Boetsch in a grinding fight before being knocked out by Machida. Mousasi had to prove that he could get a win over a top UFC middleweight, and Munoz had to prove that he still deserved to hold the title of being a top UFC middleweight, and it was Mousasi who lived up to expectations and beyond. Mousasi came out calm as always. Based on his expressions it is up in the air whether he actually feels emotions, and his uninterested gaze rarely leaves his stoic face. After springing up immediately following a strong takedown from Munoz, Mousasi used his range and craftiness to secure back control and batter Munoz with multiple blows to create an opening. Mousasi wasted no time in sinking in a deep rear naked choke and forcing Munoz to tap to remain conscious. Mousasi takes a big step forward with a win this dominant, the last fighters to dominate Munoz as handily as Mousasi did were Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida, and they both received a title shot in either their next fight or 1 fight following their respective wins over Munoz. I expect Mousasi will be in a title eliminator match-up in his next fight, and Munoz will likely fight to keep his spot in the top 15 intact after his contract dispute is settled.
The 10 fights in Berlin were followed by 12 fights in Brazil that started a mere couple of hours after the fight between Mousasi and Munoz ended. The first 3 fights were quick finishes on the UFC fight pass, lasting a combined time of just over 9 minutes. After these 3 fights the TV broadcast was underway. There was not much notable action on any of the prelims with the exception of Paulo Thiago and Rodrigo Damm losing to new, and relatively untested, opponents Gasan Umalatov and Rashid Magomedov, respectively, and Kevin Souza beating Mark Eddiva by second round TKO in an exciting fight that earned fight of the night honors. Despite those notable moments, none of the rankings were affected, but the main card changed that.
The main card started with a close and controversial fight between Rony Jason and Robbie Peralta, a fight many expected Jason to win quickly after his most recent performance, but Peralta was the victor by a split decision that many people thought could have gone either way. This fight doesn't signify a big step up or down for either fighter, and both Jason and Peralta need to look more exciting in their next bouts to avoid the chopping block. The next bout saw Demian Maia face promotional newcomer Alexander Yakovlev, and while Yakovlev fared better than many experts projected, he was still no match for Maia. Maia may need to sharpen up his ability to lock up a definitive submission, which hasn't been a problem in the past, but his grappling and top game was still too much for Yakovlev. Maia is back to his winning ways and needs to face a fighter ranked below him to reestablish his spot in the rankings, and Yakovlev needs to face someone else who is nearing the chopping block. If he drops his first 2 UFC bouts, it is unlikely he will remain on the roster.
The next two bouts served as the finals for the Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 3, and while neither fight was a barn burner, the middleweight final saw Warlley Alves find a third round guillotine choke to beat Marcio Alexandre Jr. and the “heavyweight” final saw Antonio Carlos Jr. earn a unanimous decision victory over Vitor Miranda. I put heavyweight in quotes because with both opponents weighing in below 220 lbs., they will likely look to drop down to light heavyweight, or maybe even middleweight after this fight. In a division that so badly needs new talent, the heavyweight division might not have found any from the TUF Brazil 3 finalists, but between the other contestants and some recent signee's that the UFC has brought in, the landscape at heavyweight will hopefully become more competitive in the future. There is currently a big gap between Cain Velazquez, a few top contenders and the rest of the division, and while the TUF finalists on this card have promise at middleweight or light heavyweight the UFC will need to go back to the drawing board to build more heavyweight contenders.
The main event after a few changes, saw Stipe Miocic face Fabio Maldonado in a heavyweight bout. The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 3 coaches, Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva were originally supposed to fight on this card, but it was postponed to UFC 175 and ultimately canceled due to mutual problems with drug testing. The main event was then supposed to be Stipe Miocic versus Junior dos Santos to potentially determine the next contender for the heavyweight belt because dos Santos' only losses in the UFC have come against current champion Velazquez. An injury to dos Santos prevented him from being on this card, and in fell Fabio Maldonado as a late replacement to keep Miocic's spot in the main event intact. A fight against either Anthony Johnson or Vitor Belfort, may have been more competitive, but Maldonado requested to be on the card. He had a three fight winning streak at light heavyweight, which took precedence over a middling career, and his wish was granted. It turned into the old adage "be careful what you wish for", when 35 seconds into the fight it turned into a nightmare. Maldonado was caught twice when he was striking recklessly, and the second attack saw Miocic earn a TKO because Maldonado was not intelligently defending himself. Miocic had a lot to lose, proved this fight was mismatch and needs to fight a real heavyweight who is a top contender. Maldonado needs to cut the weight and stay at light heavyweight, as Miocic was way too much for him to handle.
This was a rather uneventful end to a long day of fights, and it bears the question is the UFC over-saturating the market? Many of these fights featured unknown fighters in unexciting fights, or massive mismatches where a mainstay dominated a newcomer or massive underdog.
What did you think of the UFC marathon that ran two weekends ago? Please comment below with any ideas and feedback.