The UFC had another double-header last Saturday, the third double-header of this year. Critics of the UFC’s oversaturation consistently point to the lackluster fights or unknown fighters on these cards, and with only 5 fighters on the entire UFC Fight Night 48 card in Macao, China who owned more than 2 UFC wins coming into their bouts. There were many more well-known fighters on the UFC Fight Night 49 card in Oklahoma, but there were still many fighters making their debut as well. The fights on the Oklahoma card were considerably more exciting, action packed and contained more finishes.
In response to the lackluster fights on the Macao card, Dana White gave out 4 performance of the night bonuses instead of the normal 2, and did not award a fight of the night bonus. Michael Bisping and Tyron Woodley were the 2 fighters on the main card who earned performance of the night bonuses, and from the prelims Alberto Mina who earned a first round TKO over Shinsho Anzi, and Yuka Sasaki who locked up a rear naked choke in the first round against Roland Delorme also picked up a bonus. The same trend was continued on the Oklahoma card, which was rather questionable since the fights were far more exciting, and it can be argued that the barnburner between Max Holloway and Clay Collard that ended by way of third round TKO in favor of Holloway was robbed of this bonus. Instead, the performance of the night bonuses went to main card fighters Rafeal dos Anjos, Jordan Mein and Thales Leites, as well as prelim fighter and returning UFC veteran Ben Saunders, who earned the first ever omoplata victory in the UFC in the first round of his fight against Chris Heatherly.
I would question whether this decision is to further promote finishes at any cost, rather than encouraging fighters to do their best and treating them well as long as they fight hard. This as well as the firing of a judge by Dana White after 2 fights took place in Macao is alarming, as it appears that the UFC is trying way to hard, and doing potentially unethical things to promote finishes and the proper scoring of fights, which in itself isn’t a bad goal, but this is no way to go about that.
The first fight that I made a prediction for was the main event of Macao card, Cung Le vs. Michael Bisping. I was very wrong in my prediction, as while Le came out with some powerful and unorthodox striking, he was met by the cardio and volume of Bisping, and after a legal punch landed to the eye of Le in the second round, it was downhill from there. Bisping continued to do what he does best, throw hard and accurate punches square to the head of Le over and over, with some strikes mixed in to the body and legs in order to find his openings. Bisping lacks knockout power, but after taking 66 hard shots to the head, the last few coming by way of knee in the clinch, Le was knocked down, and a couple more blows on the ground finished the job. Le is a huge name, reportedly pulling in over $150000 per fight for his first 2 fights, and will continue to have big fights until he loses several in a row or decides to retire in favor of his successful movie career. Le is a force to be reckoned with against anyone in the lower end of the top 10 or 15 at middleweight, and it can be argued that if Le’s eye didn’t swell almost shut early in the fight, the outcome could have been different, because many of his unorthodox strikes require a high level of accuracy. Bisping looked to have won a clear, but competitive first round, but after that he pulled ahead considerably until finishing Le in the fourth. Bisping may never fight for a title, but he is one of the bigger draws left in the promotion that has been consistent for a long period of time, and a fight towards the direction of a title is a great next step.
In the co-main event of the Macao card, Tyron Woodley faced Dong Hyun Kim in a bout important to the welterweight division, that went as many analysts predicted. Woodley has a ton of power in his punches, and good wrestling to combat the judo of Kim, and while Kim looked to continue his aggressive striking that he displayed in his 2 most recent outings with success, the same success was not met against Woodley. Kim went for a spinning attack less than a minute into the round, Woodley saw it telegraphed and landed a hard right hand to the back of Kim’s head as he was spinning around, dropping him to his knees. Woodley landed 2 more shots clean while Kim was on all fours, dropping him onto his back, and after a short flurry while Kim was on his back, the ref pulled Woodley off, giving him the TKO victory in just over a minute. Woodley is in no man’s land until the title picture is cleared up, as out of the 4 fighters ranked above him he’s lost to Rory MacDonald, beat Carlos Condit, and Johny Hendricks will be facing Robbie Lawler later this year. Kim will have to face someone else near the bottom of the top 10, as his berserker tactics work well against lower ranked fighters, but they don’t have the same success against top level opposition.
The main event of the Oklahoma card saw Benson Henderson fight in another main event fight, this time against Rafael dos Anjos. Henderson and dos Anjos both came out early and displayed some striking on the feet, and while neither man is particularly known for their striking this wound up being the story of the fight. Dos Anjos looked to have Henderson figured out but hadn’t done anything with it yet when Henderson looked to go for a takedown, and from there everything changed. Dos Anjos threw a perfectly timed double flying knee, the first knee only to serve as a distraction and a set up for the second knee, which connected clean with Henderson’s chin, dropping him from his hunched over takedown position down to all fours. Dos Anjos sprawled on Henderson as he reached to grab the legs of dos Anjos to complete the takedown but was easily avoided. Dos Anjos backed up off of Henderson allowing him to stand back up, and immediately upon standing up dos Anjos cracked Henderson with a hard left hook straight to the chin once again, putting Henderson’s legs out from under him and sending him flying to his back, where dos Anjos followed him and when Henderson looked to have his arms up in a somewhat limp position and dos Anjos showed no signs of letting up, the ref quickly stopped the fight, despite the disapproval of the audience, and eventually Henderson when he came to and fully realized what happened. Upon watching the replay, it was rather keen of the ref to see that Henderson was not able to defend himself so early, because although the “what if” argument will always stand, dos Anjos was above him ready to throw heavy leather and Henderson was very out of it.
This outcome places quite the fog on the rankings at the top of the lightweight division, as Henderson has suffered his second loss in the UFC, and his only loss in a non-title fight to dos Anjos, who was recently beaten by Khabib Nurmagomedov who is undefeated, Gilbert Melendez will face the champion Anthony Pettis later this year and Donald Cerrone has lost to both Henderson and dos Anjos and will be facing a debuting Eddie Alvarez who can fall into the rankings anywhere depending on how his debut goes. Any fight with those top 6 guys makes sense for the most part unless its a rematch, and several high profile fights are inevitable to pop up in the next year.
Jordan Mein faced Mike Pyle, and while Mein had every right to be distracted or feel the pressure, being in his first main event and cornerman and father, Le Mein, arrested for sexual assault the day before the fight, effectively banning him from the event. Pyle is always known for his excellent game planning, but his occasional inability to carry those gameplans out, especially at the age of 38. Mein is younger by 14 years, although they both had a similar, almost identical record entering into this bout, Mein previously being 28-9 and Pyle 26-9-1. The opening minute of the bout was rather insignificant, some sizing up and feeler strikes could sum it up well, but around a minute into the bout Mein moved forward and hit Pyle with a left hook, right hook, left hook combo that stiffened up Pyle and dropped him flat on his back, and after a short flurry on top Mein earned the knockout win in just 1:12. Mein is not elite yet at welterweight, but he deserves a spot at the bottom of the top 15 rankings and a fight with a fighter who is ranked above him by a few spots. Pyle should consider retiring, as at 38 years old and a 1-2 record in his last 3 fights with both of those losses coming by knockout, he has likely seen better days in the sport. Pyle’s age and degenerating chin in combination with his amazing ability to coach and the potential either own or coach at a widely successful gym should be enough reason to consider stepping away from the cage, as his options extend far beyond the octagon
Thales Leites faced Francis Carmont in a bout to determine if Leites could add to his 4 fight winning streak since coming back to the UFC after being cut, or if Carmont could end his 2 fight losing streak. The first round was largely uneventful, with the former middleweight title challenger Leites dominating some clinch work against the cage. Leites has the clear grappling advantage and is known for that, but he is not known for his knockout prowess that he recently displayed against Trevor Smith. Early in the second round, Leites put Carmont’s back toward the cage and landed a hard overhand right that stunned him and put his back against the cage. Leites hit Carmont with another single overhand, followed by an overhand right left hook combo that separated Carmont from his consciousness and dropped him like a sack of potatoes. Leites began to swarm a laid out Carmont, but the ref quickly stepped in to stop the fight. Leites needs a fight with a guy in the bottom half of the top 10, he starched his first ranked opponent in his current UFC run and is 4-0 since returning. Carmont needs to reconsider his career, and so does the UFC, as he has lost 3 straight fights, once the magic number in cutting fighters from the roster, and he needs to either find himself at middleweight or change weight classes if he expects to survive with the killers in the UFC’s middleweight division.
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