Locked in the Guillotine MMA News Report 01.05.13: New Year Edition
Posted by Robert Winfree on 01.05.2013
Thoughts on the heavyweight title change at UFC 155, the road forward for the heavyweight title scene, plus analysis of every fight from the PPV. Also thoughts on the UFC planning to run Madison Square Garden this year, an MMA legend retires, and my personal predictions for MMA in 2013.
Hello and welcome to 2013! This year is going to be a banner one for everyone here at 411mania, I can just feel it. We all get to start this wonderful new year off by looking back at the last card of 2012, where the prelims shined much more than most of the main card. Plus there was plenty of news coming out of that event, and you all know I love news. Also, despite being a little late to the party, I'm listing my big predictions for MMA this year. You know you want to see them, just as I want to hear yours. You've got the get the first Friday of 2013 going in one way or another, and I think being Locked in the Guillotine is a good way to start off.
Comeback to start things off: John Moraga submitted Chris Cariaso in the third round with a slightly modified guillotine choke. Cariaso was controlling the majority of the striking exchanges and was landing good kicks and knees to the leg and body. Moraga capitalized on a clinch opportunity to grab up the neck. Moraga started with a traditional arm in guillotine, but switched his grip to more of a power guillotine to force the tap from Cariaso.
Role reversal: Leonard Garcia lost a split decision to Max Holloway in a fight that I actually scored for Garcia. The action was fun from start to finish, and Garcia didn't resort to his wild brawling until the third round. While Garcia technically lost, I doubt he gets cut seeing as plenty of people think he won this fight and he's Leonard Garcia.
Gimme fight#1: Todd Duffee defeated Phil de Fries by TKO in the first round, pretty much as expected. Duffee managed some decent grappling as he wall walked up after a takedown, but at the end of the day his boxing was just much better than what de Fries could deal with. Hopefully Duffee keeps his act together this time.
Jury steps up: Myles Jury defeated Michael Johnson by unanimous decision. The story of the fight was the grappling of Myles Jury, he'd get Johnson down and Johnson was just unable to get up or do anything significant off of his back. Jury could use another step up in competition I think, because he totally dominated the grappling exchanges and wasn't lost on his feet. For Johnson, the guy seems to rely too much on his athleticism as opposed to technique and he really needs to get better off of his back.
Varner wins: Jamie Varner defeated Melvin Guillard by split decision in a fight that realistically had no reason to be split, especially 30-27 for Guillard. What won the fight for Varner were his successful takedowns. While the striking went slightly to Guillard, Varner wasn't completely outclassed there and his wrestling takedowns and control were superior. For Melvin, the guy just doesn't seem capable of turning the corner from exciting fighter into a real contender, and I'm also not sure what would help him the most at this point.
Perez impresses: Erik Perez defeated Byron Bloodworth by TKO in the first round with punches from the top after he landed a beautiful knee to the body in the clinch against the cage. Perez looked impressive here, and could use a step up in competition. Bantamweight isn't exactly stacked with talent and Perez has looked good enough to warrant someone a little further up the ladder.
Bantamweight action: Eddie Wineland defeated Brad Pickett by split decision in a fun bantamweight fight. I'm not sure how much of that deserved to be a split decision, but at least it makes more sense than 30-27 for Guillard. Wineland looked sharp tonight with his strikes, but his head movement still needs a lot of work.
Well that kind of sucked: Derek Brunson defeated Chris Leben by unanimous decision in what was pretty easily the worst fight of the night. Both men got tired after the first round, and neither guy was terribly impressive. Leben couldn't stop the takedowns and his movement was slow and he tended to be following Brunson instead of trying to cut him off. Brunson gets his UFC win, but man oh man was it anything but impressive. Hopefully the rest of the card doesn't let this low point slow them down. Really Guillard and Varner or Wineland and Pickett should have been in this spot instead of Brunson and Leben.
Well that kind of sucked too: Yushin Okami defeated Alan Belcher by unanimous decision in a pretty lack luster fight. Belcher seemed to have no ability to stop the takedowns of Yushin Okami, and for some ill-advised reason he kept trying to secure a guillotine choke that was never all that close to being finished properly. Belcher just never got started and Okami constantly applied pressure on the ground and earned the win. Two less than stellar fights after an undercard full of awesome action makes me question the placement of fights here.
Costa with the upset: Costa Philippou defeated Tim Boetsch by TKO in the third round in what was actually a pretty entertaining fight. Tim looked pretty good in the first round, but sustained some kind of injury and it clearly effected his performance in the last two rounds. Costa was landing some good combinations on the feet, and even showed some good ground and pound when Boetsch was pulling guard in the third round. This was a big win for Costa, and while he's certainly not in line for a title shot in the immediate future this should get his name out there. For Boetsch, this is a set back but hopefully one he can overcome.
Now that was an awesome fight: Jim Miller defeated Joe Lauzon by unanimous decision in a really awesome fight. Jim Miller clearly came looking to finish Joe Lauzon in this fight, because in the first round he threw an almost astonishing volume of strikes at Lauzon. Miller used punches, elbows, kicks, knees, the clinch, distance, anything and everything that he could throw at Lauzon he did. Despite a couple of cuts, one nasty one above Lauzon's right eye, Joe Lauzon refused to be stopped. He didn't have the striking skills to match Miller, but every time they were on the ground he was looking for a submission. His flying leg scissor takedown at the end of the third round was reminiscent of what Ryo Chonan did to Anderson Silva in PRIDE years ago, but Miller wasn't about to be finished either. This was hands down the fight of the night for my money, kudos to both guys for a great fight.
Cain is back: In the main event of the evening new UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez battered Junior dos Santos for five rounds en route to winning a unanimous decision and becoming a two time heavyweight champion. Let me just say that when breaking down this fight I couldn't have been more wrong about how it would go. While the start of the fight had me thinking Junior would retain his title with his takedown defense and quick return to his feet, his hands being down caused problems, especially when Cain landed a very nice straight right hand that dropped JDS. It was all Cain from there until the end of the fight, his relentless pace, his volume of strikes, his clinch work, his ground and pound, everything was about Cain regaining the title. I think everyone knew that there was a very legitimate chance that Cain would regain the heavyweight title here, but this was so much more one sided than anything I had envisioned. I actually have no desire right now to see a third fight between the two men, Junior would have to win at least twice in impressive fashion to get me excited to see him square off with Cain Velasquez again. Congratulations to Cain Velasquez, he went five rounds with JDS and came out with hardly a scratch on him.
Dana White is an optimist: News came out that Dana White and company are planning to hold the twentieth anniversary fight card in Madison Square Garden. Well you can't fault them for aiming big I suppose. Dana White also said they have a date booked with MSG officials and that they plan to have a "big fight" lined up. It's no secret that the officials at MSG have wanted to have MMA legalized so they could host UFC events, sadly that desire hasn't been able to get the law changed. The notion of a "big fight" is a tricky one coming from Dana White, because really the only two BIG fights they have involve Anderson Silva fighting either GSP or Jon Jones. Since neither of those seem to be all that possible right now, GSP doesn't seem eager to fight Silva and while Jones has the tools to beat Anderson he's said that he doesn't have an interest in it, one has to imagine Dana White has some way of making one of those fights happen or his idea of a "big fight" doesn't really translate as well as it should. Personally I think all of this is irrelevant anyway, the law wont change this year, or likely next year. One can certainly hope and plan for it to, but I have serious doubts that anything will happen differently than last year.
The Beast retires: Former UFC champion and MMA legend Dan Severn announced his retirement from MMA competition this week. His final record stands at 101-19-7 and he indicated that while he hoped for a final fight with Mark Coleman, Royce Gracie, or Ken Shamrock none of those were happening. Severn is a former UFC Superfight champion and does plan to remain active in the MMA community outside of fighting. I wish Severn all the best.
No one wants Pat Healy: This week Pat Healy received his fourth different opponent for the final Strikeforce card. Originally he was scheduled to face Gilbert Melendez for the lightweight title, but Gil pulled out citing injuries and was replaced with Jorge Masvidal and Conor Heun, both of whom also pulled out with injuries. Healy is now set to face Kurt Holobaugh, who is undefeated at 4-0 fighting out of Louisiana. Props to Healy for still wanting to fight on this card despite now facing a glorified can.
JDS not too banged up: Despite being on the receiving end of a twenty five minute ass kicking, apparently former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos sustained no significant injuries during the fight. There had been speculation about a broken jaw, but it seems to have been unfounded. While he's still not to have any contact until the end of the month, assuming he doesn't sustain an injury training he could be back in action in June or July at the latest. This is a good thing, because if Alistair Overeem loses to Bigfoot Silva, or gets busted for steroids or something similar, the UFC could well have to have JDS fight Cain again. The heavyweight division is just that shallow folks, unless Daniel Cormier decides to fight Cain, or the UFC decides to bring over Josh Barnett and give him an immediate title shot. I mean really, Silva was massacred by Cain, Frank Mir got dismantled by JDS, Fabricio Werdum is coaching this season of Brazilian TUF opposite Big Nog, and after those guys were into the Roy Nelson's of the world.
Lightweight log jam: As seems to be the usual story at lightweight there's something of a log jam at the top. There are two main contenders to Benson Henderson's throne, Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis. Pettis was the last man to officially beat Henderson, I think Edgar won the rematch between him and Henderson, and Gilbert Melendez is going to go down as the last Strikeforce lightweight champion. Pettis is set to face Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone later this month and with an impressive victory he could get the next crack at Henderson. Should Pettis lose to Cerrone it seems most likely Gilbert Melendez will get an immediate title shot upon entering the UFC. I'm not sure I give either guy a great chance to beat Benson given how he looked in his last fight, but either would be a very entertaining fight against someone who deserves a shot at the title.
For a variety of reasons, mostly me being lazy as well as stuff related to the holidays, I was unable to participate in the staff's top five predictions for 2013. I was sad about this because with a resounding success rate of 2 out of 5 predictions correct I won last years predictions. For the record I correctly predicted Jon Jones going undefeated and Frankie Edgar losing the lightweight belt and dropping to featherweight. I was wrong about GSP finishing an opponent, Anderson Silva retiring, and Chael Sonnen being cut by the UFC. So with that in mind, I'm putting my predictions on the record, even if only here as opposed to the official location for them.
Chael Sonnen retires: Last year I predicted the UFC would cut Sonnen after he opened his mouth one too many times and said something that deserved termination. Apparently after Renzo Gracie called him and told him he could tone it down a bit Sonnen listened. So why am I calling for his retirement now? Sonnen has said more than once that if he can't be the best he'll do something else, and there's no way he's ever going to be the best fighter in any division he can make weight for. Anderson Silva has finished him twice, and I have an incredibly difficult time seeing him beat Jon Jones. After Jones finishes him by submission, probably in the third, Sonnen will be done competing. He's a good presence on Fuel TV as a talking head, and he's likely a decent coach, but he wont ever be a champion in the UFC and when he finally realizes it he'll retire from competition.
Superfights don't happen: Yeah, all the talk of superfights is just that, talk. They wont happen. Anderson Silva and Jon Jones don't seem to be interested in fighting each other all that much, and I don't think GSP wants to fight Anderson Silva. So there will continue to be talk, we might even get close again like we were this year, but it wont happen.
New York doesn't legalize MMA: If I had to guess at a year the state of New York will legalize MMA, I'd start guessing at next year. This year, nope. The people holding up the process aren't elected, they're appointed. As much as the UFC and MMA in general deserves to be in New York, there's too much political backbiting going on to actually get it done. Next year, after the UFC runs around New York but not in New York they'll start considering legalizing it more seriously, this year it's another bust.
Jon Jones goes unbeaten again: This time it's not necessarily because I'm a huge fan of Jon Jones, it's more the logical competition. Jon Jones will pretty much steamroll Chael Sonnen, there's no legitimate reason to believe otherwise right now. After that the winner of the upcoming Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida fight is likely the next contender, and I favor Jones over either of them. Dan Henderson doesn't have the defensive wrestling to avoid landing on his back, and while I think Machida would do a little better this time than last time I still have to favor Jon Jones in a significant way. Assuming he fights three times, a last fight would likely be against Alexander Gustafsson. While from a purely physical standpoint that's an interesting fight, I haven't seen Gustafsson show the type of skills he'll need to beat Jon Jones.
Only two title changes: I'm calling for some stability in the title scene this year. I don't see Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, or Georges St-Pierre losing their titles. I'm also adding Benson Henderson to the list of guys who retain the gold all year, Henderson's is likely to face Gilbert Melendez and maybe Anthony Pettis in a rematch, and I think he can beat both of those guys. At heavyweight I think JDS is the only guy who can beat Cain Velasquez, and after the one sided beating he took at UFC 155 he'll need at least one win, maybe two, before another title shot. Since the most likely next challenger is Alistair Overeem, I think Cain beats him. Cain will have to be careful though, he can't shoot in from a mile outside like he did against JDS, and he'll need to be careful in the clinch, but more often than not I think Cain wins that one. Looking further down the ladder, Jose Aldo faces his first real challenge in a long time when he fights Frankie Edgar, but I have no reason to think Aldo will lose. Since there's an actual legitimate interim belt at bantamweight in addition to the real champion Dominick Cruz, one of them is going to lose. I also think we'll get a title change at flyweight, though I'm not sure who or how right now. Of course anything can happen in MMA, but I'm thinking there will only be two title changes in 2013.
Well congratulations to all of you, you made it through the first Guillotine of 2013 safely. If you feel inspired to leave feedback, I'd like to hear your predictions for 2013 in the MMA world. I know most of you gave your thoughts in the proper top 5 roundtable that the staff usually does, but maybe you've changed your mind since then. For the first time this year, but definitely not the last, you've escaped the Guillotine. I'll see you all next Friday.