It was a wild and dangerous night to be a high-level MMA fighter in Broomfield, Colorado this past Sunday at UFC on Vs. 1: Jones Vs. Vera-- as you can see from this photo of Duane "Bang" Ludwig (19-11)'s backward-facing ankle, in a fight which failed to make the broadcast. The carnage didn't stop there, though, as the night featured (T)KO's in every single televised fight and finishes to nine of eleven fights. Interestingly, it was just the first two fights of the night's preliminary card that went the distance. From a fan's perspective, the night was pretty odd with some unusual stoppages and strange goings on during the televised broadcast, which made this card highly memorable if nothing else.
Sakara vs. Irvin
The night's festivities, broadcast across Canada on Sportsnet (HD), began with a middleweight scrap between noted strikers Alessio Sakara and James Irvin. The streak of odd occurances began right off the bat when Irvin removed his shirt and we got a look at his emaciated physique in his debut fight at 185lbs. He looked dangerously skeletal, and appeared to be one skipped calorie away from major organ failure. It's not clear why Irvin, who was never considered a small 205lb'er, decided to attempt this cut, but UFC President Dana White has publically stated that we won't be seeing "The Sandman's" hideously proturding middleweight cheekbones ever again in the octagon. Not that he's been cut, necessarily. The fight itself was fairly predictable given Irvin's condition: he was sluggish, kept up a meagre work-rate, and generally looked like a shadow of his usual self while eating numerous clean shots from a sharp, on-point Alessio Sakara. That basic pattern eventually resulted in the night's second strange televised moment when Irvin succumbed to a clean punch directly to the eyeball. I can only assume that, had the normal amount of skin tissue been present on Irvin's disturbingly gaunt face, he might usually have been able to take that punch without risk to his eye.
Kongo vs. Buentello
The wackiness continued in the Cheick Kongo fight, which was, in fact, barely a fight at all. As always, Buentello looked dangerous when he was able to get off with some of his strikes, but Kongo simply used his superior strength to haul Paul to the ground whenever Cheick felt threatened. The real story to emerge here was the unprecidented moment when a ring-side physician took it upon himself to reset Buentello's dislocated finger. Many have since pointed out that, as the unified rules of MMA are curently written, the fight should probably have been considered a TKO if Buentello could not compete, but, at the same time, I have few qualms about making an exception in the case of dislocated small joints that can so quickly be made as good as new. If a fighter can have a time-out for an eye poke or a groin shot, why not provide similar considerations for small joint dislocations, which are similarly outlawed if done on purpose? Ultimately, injuries of that nature are so rarely seen in MMA that we won't have to worry too much about it, but it was definitely a classic moment. However, it might not prove quite so memorable as "The Headhunter" tapping out to elbows-to-the-thigh in the third. I am not trying to criticize Buentello too much, but I had never seen anything like it before and it is pretty clear to me that this clip will be played in the run-up to every single Kongo fight in the UFC from now until he is fired or reitred.
Dos Santos vs. Gonzaga
Alright, so there wasn't a lot that was unusual about this fight, but it did feature a pair of fighters who were pretty clearly headed in polar opposite directons in their careers. For Junior Dos Santos, it was his fifth consecutive (T)KO in the UFC, while for Gonzaga it was his fourth loss in his last seven fights since "Napao's" career-defining victory, which, out of sympathy to the reader, I won't mention with specifics to save you the boredom of reading about it yet again. I thought Gonzaga looked in pretty poor shape and seemed about as listless as I've seen him since his TKO loss to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 80. More to the point, all that really needs saying here is that JDS hit Gonzaga with a crackling counter-left hook at about four-minutes of the first round that put Gabe to sleep and likely would have ended the night of nearly any other UFC heavyweight as well. There's talk that JDS will face Cain Velasquez in the near future, which is an idea I can heartily support.
BONUS FIGHT: Howard vs. Roberts
This fight is worth mentioning because it adds to the zany factor of the night's proceedings. It stands out in the UFC's pantheon of grizzly moments because for containing perhaps the two hardest, most brutal head shots, from Howard, ever inclicted upon an opponent, in Roberts, who was so clearly already knocked clean out. Really though, there's no sense in blaming Howard here, and the UFC rightly awarded him one of the night's three "KO of the Night Awards"-- an unorthadox move in itself. No, the real blame should be on the referee who was clearly not paying attention and could be seen casually, standing flat-footed in the background, directly behing Howard where he could not see the action. He was still hanging out there well after Roberts had taken the quick-boat to La La Land.
Jones vs. Vera
Alright people, I asked nicely when I predicted Couture to defeat "The Truth" and I am pleading again right now-- can we please finally put to rest the common myth that Vera is some sort of dormant volcano of ass-kickery that is somehow all coiled up in anticipation of his "big chance," at which point he'll undoubtedly start smashing every fool in his way en route to a title shot? It is not going to happen, and Jon Jones showed us why: Vera, despite his very best efforts, simply can't get his body into the type of condition necessary to be a physical match for the genetic freaks that populate the UFC roster at light heavyweight. He was out-muscled by a near-fifty-year-old in November, and by a near-minor just now, with close to equal ease in his last two fights and I just don't think there's much he can do about it. He also isn't nearly aggressive enough, especially against top-competition. Realistically, the only meaningful blow Vera landed in the whole fight was an illegal upkick from guard. Upon a reset in that same position, Jones quickly answered with a fight-ending, wide-sweeping elbow that instantly fractured Vera's skull in three places. Yipes. It was a rather poigniant moment, really, given the way Jones "lost" his last fight for illegal elbows. Instead of thrashing away wildly as he did in the past, the more-seasoned Jones simply lined up a finishing-shot and carried on with his evening. Great stuff.
Jones explaines the moves effectiveness here:
"That elbow is all Greg Jackson. He has a very distinct ground and pound system. If you realize that Georges St. Pierre does the same style elbow, it's a Team Jackson thing. I found my home. Everything is working"Yipes again.
Clay Guida def. Shanon Gugerty by Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Rd. 2
Vladimir Matyushenko def. Eliot Marshall by Split Decision
Brendan Schaub def. Chase Gormley by TKO (Strikes), Rd. 1
Darren Elkins def. Duane Ludwig by TKO (Leg Injury), Rd. 1
Mike Pierce def. Julio Paulino by Unanimous Decision
Jason Brilz def. Eric Schafer by Unanimous Decision