UFC 126 Recap & Results

It wasn’t until after UFC 126 that I noticed the parallels between this and another recent memorable show: WEC 53, that promotion’s curtain call show just two months ago.

Both shows had featured some imaginative babyface match-ups (Donald Cerrone x Chris Horodecki, Forrest Griffin x Rich Franklin), a string of quick finishes in the undercard (four first-round finishes at WEC 53, three at UFC 126), a few anticipated main card matches that fell short of crowd expectations (Dominic Cruz x Scott Jorgensen, Antonio Banuelos x Miguel Angel Torres, even Griffin-Franklin), and of course an iconic kick in each main event (Anthony Pettis’ ‘Showtime Kick’ to Anderson Silva’s Steven Segal front kick) that is sure to be the subject of water cooler talk for at least the next week.

But in a sport like MMA, that’s just coincidence. Instead, the big themes were the continued debut of WEC veterans on the UFC stage (Cerrone, Chad Mendes, Demetrious Johnson), the ‘What If?’ dream match of Griffin-Franklin, Vitor Belfort as the latest challenge to the seemingly unbeatable Anderson Silva, and probably the most resonant outcome – rising star Jon Jones’ unexpected shot at historic greatness.

One of the biggest recurring themes that struck me most (no pun intended) were the size difference in several matches. Kyle Kingsbury’s reach and power stunned Ricardo Romero, giving Kingsbury the opening to finish. Likewise, the big factor in the Banuelos-Torres match seemed to be Banuelos’ inability to get Torres’ timing or penetrate his range to connect, either inside the pocket or from around him. Fans seemed to crap on this match more than any other, though I found Torres’ strategy and footwork entertaining and effective. Cerrone-Kelly and Jones-Bader played out much like many thought it would, but when the bell rang for these respective matches, the disparity was beyond noticeable.

Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson and Carlos Eduardo Rocha continued to make impressions with fans, Johnson for his speed and effortless takedowns on Kid Yamamoto, a nationally-celebrated Japanese wrestler, and Rocha for his constant pressure, particularly in the first round, on Jake Ellenberger, a seasoned wrestler and fighter. Japanese fighters always seem to have a difficult time adjusting to the octagon (not that that’s the explanation, but it’s a trend), and going against a protégé of Matt Hume, who’s been involved in the Japanese MMA scene since the mid-90’s, is almost always going to make a bad day worse. As for Rocha, if anyone took his credentials of having beaten .500-level European fighters lightly, they probably should reconsider that perspective.

In Jon Jones’ case, most had already pegged him as a superstar of tomorrow, and his masterful handling of Ryan Bader, whose previous undefeated streak and wrestling credentials are not to be taken lightly, should have squashed any doubt that there was a title shot in his future. But opportunity shows up on its own time, and for Jones, it literally had a front row ticket, because when announcer Joe Rogan said in the post-fight interview that #1 light heavyweight contender (and Jones’ teammate) Rashad Evans had withdrawn from his March 19th title shot due to injury, UFC champ Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua stepped into the cage and welcomed Jones as his replacement. Challenges in post-fight interviews are nothing new to MMA, but to spring a fighter’s next date like this, especially a title fight, gave the fans something more to discuss than just a spectacular finish.

Speaking of spectacular finishes, to say that Anderson Silva did it again would be an understatement. Almost demonstrating a kicking version of his own ‘throwaway jab’ KO of Forrest Griffin from 18 months ago, Silva stunned the world again with a front kick to Vitor Belfort’s chin that had Belfort knocked out on his feet. It was a few more seconds and two more punches before referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the match, but by that point, the damage was done with the foot to the face.

Like with the Griffin jab, nobody would have thought anything of a front kick, which Silva sold as aiming for the body. But as he demonstrated once again, Silva’s balance, speed, power, and targeting control clearly are such that anybody really needs to be careful if the Spider so much as flings a booger at them.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for UFC 126:

170 lbs. – Mike Pierce vs. Kenny Robertson
Prediction: Robertson via submission (round two or three)
Result: Pierce via TKO (round two)

205 lbs. – Ricardo Romero vs. Kyle Kingsbury
Prediction: Romero via submission (round three)
Result: Kingsbury via TKO (round one)

155 lbs. – Gabe Ruediger vs. Paul Taylor
Prediction: Taylor via TKO (round one)
Result: Taylor via KO (round two)

135 lbs. – Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto vs. Demetrious Johnson
Prediction: Johnson by unanimous decision
Result: Johnson by unanimous decision

145 lbs. – Chad Mendes vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Prediction: Mendes via TKO (round one), though I did say that conventionally, this fight would go to decision
Result: Mendes by unanimous decision.

155 lbs. – Paul Kelly vs. Donald Cerrone
Prediction: Cerrone via submission (round three)
Result: Cerrone via submission (round two)

135 lbs. – Antonio Banuelos vs. Miguel Angel Torres
Prediction: Torres via submission (round two)
Result: Torres via unanimous decision

170 lbs. – Carlos Eduardo Rocha vs. Jake Ellenberger
Prediction: Ellenberger by TKO (round one)
Result: Ellenberger by split decision

205 lbs. – Ryan Bader vs. Jon Jones
Prediction: Jones by unanimous decision
Result: Jones by submission (round two)

205 lbs. – Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin
Prediction: Franklin by TKO (round two or three) or Griffin via split decision
Result: Griffin by unanimous decision

185 lbs. (UFC Middleweight Title) – Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort:
Prediction: Silva by TKO (round three)
Result: Silva by TKO (round one)

The Finish

I’ve already heard feedback from casual fans that this show fell flat, but between the performances of Silva, Jones, Griffin’s ground-and-pound, and the competitiveness of Rocha-Ellenberger, I thought this show delivered. Silva’s kick was an ‘I was there’ moment, as was Rogan’s news to Jones that he was being offered a title shot. To me, that’s part of what makes a live event special. Granted, the crowd did seem surprisingly unresponsive for a lot of the post-fight interviews, and the Torres-Banuelos and Griffin-Franklin matches weren’t the Pier Six brawls that fans hoped for, but neither fight was lackluster enough to blemish an otherwise fun and memorable show past the point of no return.

Moreover, fans only have six weeks, not six months, for one of tonight’s angle to continue. Mark your calendars for March 19th, because if Jones x Rua does indeed come to fruition, as it looks like it will, the challenger’s chase will still be fresh in people’s minds, and MMA fans always love a good storyli – er, title chase.

This entry originally posted at Fightinggeek.com


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