The Greatest MMA News Column 09.03.13: Showtime
Posted by Dan Plunkett on 09.03.2013
News and thoughts on Carlos Condit beating Martin Kampmann at UFC Fight Night 27, Anthony Pettis' lightweight title win and what's next for him, Sean Sherk's retirement, Attila Vegh's alleged injury and more!
UFC 164: Henderson vs. Pettis Thoughts
Overall, UFC 164 was a very good show. The main event wasn't what many had hoped it'd be, but it still provided a memorable moment. The show drew $907,116 at the gate and 9,178 fans to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, which is a disappointing number with Anthony Pettis being the hometown fighter challenging for the title in the main event. That's a very low number for a pay-per-view event, and the lowest since last year's UFC 150 in Denver (also with Benson Henderson in the main event) drew $619,955. Search trends were surprisingly strong and on par with May's UFC 160, which was last reported at 380,000 buys. If the show passed 300,000 buys, it's a big success. Henderson's last pay-per-view match, the aforementioned UFC 150 against Frankie Edgar, drew a measly 190,000 buys (it would have been a bit higher if not for a DirecTV outage that night). Since, he headlined two Fox shows that did well, and if this show did well it may be taken as evidence of Fox shows helping PPV buys. Fox certainly helped Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos become biggest stars and draw on PPV, but outside of that there hasn't been much clear evidence. Last week I wrote if the show as a success it would be due to the Countdown show finding an audience (it didn't, drawing 153,000 viewers on FS1, though that's far more than it would've drawn on Fuel/FS2), promotion on Wednesday's show (there was a lot), and coverage on SportsCenter (there some some). There was also intrigue of the rematch stemming from the "Showtime Kick" and Pettis looking great in his last bout.
It wasn't the classic the first match was, but Anthony Pettis submitting Ben Henderson in the first round was still a great moment. Henderson, who is notably tough to submit (watch his first fight with Donald Cerrone), took Pettis down after a series of hard kicks to the body. Pettis then locked in an armbar. After defending the hold all he could, Henderson verbally submitted, which made the finish slightly confusing at first. After the bout Pettis gave a perfect post-fight promo, talking about his journey, losing his father, sitting in the nosebleeds of the very arena he won the title in, and then calling out featherweight champ Jose Aldo.
Pettis was slated to fight Aldo for the featherweight title in early August, but a knee injury forced him out. Now with Pettis becoming the lightweight champion, the match once again became a big topic of discussion. Aldo's coach wants Pettis to move down to 145-pounds for the match, which isn't happening at this point. If Aldo wants to move to lightweight, where he would rightly walk into an immediate title shot, then it could be the next fight for both fighters. Otherwise, it'll have to be on hold, and that's fine. One of the major obstacles in the way of the Silva vs. St-Pierre and Silva vs. Jones was risking the losing fighter's drawing power for a one-off fight. That problem isn't present here, with Pettis and Aldo not being big draws. Pettis certainly has the potential to become a real draw, but he won't be drawing big money right away.
On the other hand, since there isn't major money to be made by putting the fight together, there's no reason to rush the match. Holding the fight off would either make the eventual match bigger or it would fall apart with one fighter's loss. Business-wise, it makes more sense to hold the fight off for the time being. Pettis has drawing potential, and Aldo is a fighter I think he'd be more likely to lose to than TJ Grant, who is the top lightweight contender. Holding the match even, even just for another fighter or two, would help the business that fight does. At this point, 400,000 buys would be a big success for Pettis vs. Aldo. (Had it happened in on August 3 as planned, it would have done around the same 175,000 buys that show ended up doing anyway.) A year from now, perhaps that ceiling is raised.
After the fight Pettis revealed he felt his knee pop during the fight and he limped his way into the post-fight press conference. There hasn't been an update on his condition since that point. It should be noted it wasn't the same knee that forced him out of the Aldo fight.
Josh Barnett beat Frank Mir via a controversial stoppage. For a two minute fight it was very good, with both men in close throwing leather. Barnett took the positional advantage and had Mir clinched against the cage throwing uppercuts, which is a spot that has never been kind to Frank. A Barnett knee dropped Mir and the referee immediately halted the bout. The stoppage was certainly quick, and Mir protested immediately, but Mir has taken so much punishment over the years I think the stoppage only served to save him from more. Mir, 34, has 7 (T)KO losses in his career. After three consecutive losses and noticeably fading (or faded) chin and cardio, his days as a contender are behind him. Barnett proved his place in the division with the win and another "W" will put him in the title discussion. A match with Travis Browne makes sense for both and would put the winner at or near a title shot. Some called for Barnett vs. Fabricio Werdum, which would be a great fight, but I think Barnett's loss to Daniel Cormier is too close in the rear view mirror to put him in a certain #1 contender fight.
Chad Mendes handed Clay Guida the first TKO loss of his 44-fight career. Mendes hit an uppercut in the third round that stunned Guida and then took his time before eventually finishing the fight. Mendes, who lost decisively in the first round to Jose Aldo in January 2012, is very close to another title shot after four consecutive (T)KO finishes. It was Guida's third loss in four fights, and easily could have been his fourth had one judge gone the other way in his January match against Hatsu Hioki. It's been a strange UFC career for Guida. He's been in some of the best fights in company history (with Tyson Griffin, Roger Huerta, Diego Sanchez, and Ben Henderson) and yet he's considered by many to be boring.
Ben Rothwell beat Brandon Vera in a not awful fight when he suddenly came alive in the third round. Rothwell, who was on TRT for the fight, attributed the victory to better conditioning. Vera, 35, has just one win in four years.
Dustin Poirier beat Erik Koch in the best fight of the night (though it didn't win the post-fight bonus). For the most part, the fight was dominated by Poirier. He dropped Koch early, nearly choked him out at the end of the first round, and mounted him in the second. To his credit, Koch battled back to take the third round. The first round was really great.
UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Kampmann 2 Thoughts
UFC's second live event on Fox Sports 1 drew a 0.69 rating and 824,000 viewers, well below the 1.78 million viewers that watched the debut and lower than any similar event on FX or Spike. In some ways the number is disappointing because the August 17 event showed that a lot of fans knew where the channel was and stayed in on a Saturday night to watch. This show was on a Wednesday, which is less familiar to MMA fans but overall a better televisio night. On the other hand, the card was far weaker than the debut, had significantly less promotion, and no other Fox Sports 1 program has come anywhere in the same atmosphere as the debut show either. The number isn't cause for concern because it's actually in the range of what many expected the first show to do, but it shows FS1 has a long way to go. Live, the show did a gate of $355,290, which is low.
Carlos Condit looked excellent in the main event, bloodying and battering Martin Kampmann before a fourth round TKO stoppage. Kampmann's plan was to grapple, which worked to some extent in the first round when he was able to keep Condit on his back and keep him there for much of the round, but he wasn't able to do much with him once there. On the feet, Condit was clearly better than Kampmann, who is best known for his striking. The performance showed Condit has the ability to beat anybody in the division with the possible exception of Georges St-Pierre (who, with the exception of one kick, dominated Condit in November). With most of the division's top fighters tied up, it's not clear who Condit will face next. If Nick Diaz returns that's a possibility, or perhaps Demian Maia if he beats Jake Shields in their upcoming fight.
Rafael dos Anjos won a decision over Donald Cerrone. Dos Anjos rocked Cerrone early and that set the tone. Cerrone, 30, was once a win away from a title shot but lost a one-sided decision to Nate Diaz after using a terrible strategy. He's since gone 3-2, including a quick loss to Anthony Pettis. At one point, Cerrone was the equal of Ben Henderson, taking him to a razor close decision in one of the best fights of 2009. Six months later, he was quickly submitted by Henderson. At his age, it's now or never for Cerrone to put it all together and make a run at the title. As for dos Anjos, he is the winner of five in a row, the sixth fight was a close split decision loss to Gleison Tibau, and his 2010 loss to Clay Guida was the result of a jaw injury in a fight he was ahead of on the scorecards. So dos Anjos is two lucky breaks away from being unbeaten in four years. A fight against Josh Thomson, potentially for a top contender spot, would make sense for RDA.
Ultimate Fighter 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum looked awesome against Brian Melancon. Gastelum knocked Melancon down and pounced on his back to secure a rear naked choke. Perhaps his opponent was overmatched, but the 7-0 21-year-old showed a lot of potential in the quick win.
In the second best fight of the night, Court McGee won a split decision over Robert Whittaker. The difference seemed to be McGee's excellent cardio which allowed him to to continue to throw strikes in high volume throughout the fight. Takeya Mizugaki won a split decision over Erik Perez, though I'm not sure how one judge scored it for "Goyito." Perez, the 23-year-old Mexican UFC is hoping will develop into a star, was very sloppy at times. At middleweight, Brad Tavares won his fourth straight fight, winning a decision over Bubba McDaniel. On the prelims, Dylan Andrews KO'd Papy Abedi after a rough couple of rounds, Brandon Thatch destroyed Justin Edwards, Darren Elkins beat Hatsu Hioki, and Jason High scored his first UFC win with a submission over James Head.
This Week in MMA History
9/1/12 - UFC 151: Cancelled. On August 23, 2012, UFC officially cancelled UFC 151, which was slated September 1. Dan Henderson, slated to main event the show, pulled out with an injury. The main event title shot against Jon Jones was offered to Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua, who both declined. Chael Sonnen, little more than a month removed from his second loss to Anderson Silva, was offered and accepted the fight. Jon Jones did not accept the fight, and thus the show as cancelled. UFC placed the blame on the shoulders of Jones and his trainer Greg Jackson, but a situation like this was bound to happen when the cards are so top heavy. The card, as it was scheduled to take place before Henderson pulled out, is below. It should be noted that Jay Hieron replaced Josh Koscheck in the co-main event, though the card would have been cancelled with Koscheck as well.
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship Bout: Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson*
Welterweight Bout: Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron
Featherweight Bout: Dennis Siver vs. Eddie Yagin*
Lightweight Bout: Dennis Hallman vs. Thiago Tavares**
Flyweight Bout: John Lineker vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani
Lightweight Bout: Michael Johnson vs. Danny Castillo
Bantamweight Bout: Takeya Mizugaki vs. Jeff Hougland
Lightweight Bout: Tim Means vs. Abel Trujillo*
Lightweight Bout: Daron Cruickshank vs. Henry Martinez
Lightweight Bout: Shane Roller vs. Jacob Volkmann
Welterweight Bout: Kyle Noke vs. Charlie Brenneman
* - Fight never took place at a later date.
** - Fight was rescheduled for UFC on FX 5 in October. Hallman missed weight by 7 pounds and fight was scrapped. Hallman was released due to missing weight twice in a row.
9/6/08 - UFC 88: Liddell vs. Evans. Also known as the worst day of Jeremy Lambert's life. Rashad Evans scored a brutal KO of Liddell in the main event. Had Liddell won, he would have been in line for a title shot against Forrest Griffin. Had he been on the better end of the knockout, the match with Griffin almost certainly would have been the biggest fight in UFC history to that point. Evans got the shot and that show did a million buys anyway. In the co-main event, Rich Franklin finished Matt Hamill with a body kick. Dan Henderson beat Rousimar Palhares via decision. Nate Marquardt sent Martin Kampmann down to welterweight with a quick knockout. Dong Hyun Kim won a controversial decision over Matt Brown in the main card opener. The show did an estimated 480,000 buys on PPV.
'Fight Night 28' leads in 'The Ultimate Fighter' Wednesday. The abandoned strategy of leading into a new season of The Ultimate Fighter with a live fight card is making a comeback on Wednesday. The Glover Teixeira vs. Ryan Bader headlined card from Brazil will lead directly into the Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate season of TUF, which will feature both male and female competitors. Unfortunately, with a weaker headliner and being the third show in seven days, UFC Fight Night 28 probably won't match the audience of UFC Fight Night 27. Considering the channel is weak, the TUF season will be a success if it can beat the ratings of season 16, which aired on Fridays on FX and ranged from 624,000 viewers to 1.1 million. Word is the dynamic between Rousey and Tate is strong and there should be some intrigue with the 'men and women living in the same house' angle, which makes falling in that range or bettering a possibility.
A win on Wednesday for Teixeira, which has been par for the course since 2006, should earn him a crack at the winner of Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson. For Bader, a win means a return to title contention just a year after being knocked out by Lyoto Machida. In the co-main event, Yushin Okami battles Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. This is the most interesting fight on the card. Jacare, 33, has looked excellent in his past three outings against mid-level competition. Okami has remained one of the best middleweights in the world over the past six years and if Jacare can beat him impressively, he would deserve a title shot. Jacare is a world class grappler with quickly improving striking, power in his hands, and is a great athlete. Okami has very good wrestling, good striking, is very good on top, and is very strong for the division. In the other notable fight on the card, Joseph Benavidez may earn another shot at the flyweight title with a win over Jussier Formiga. Benavidez has won two in a row since losing a decision to current champ Demetrious Johnson in the inaugural flyweight title fight. Formiga won his last fight after being knocked out by John Dodson in his UFC debut.
Sean Sherk retires. Nearly three years removed from his most recent fight, former lightweight champion Sean Sherk, 40, announced his retirement Monday.
Sherk captured the vacant UFC lightweight title in 2006, beating Kenny Florian via decision in a memorably bloody bout. He would defend the title just once - a five round decision victory over Hermes Franca - before being stripped of the belt due to a positive pre-fight drug test for the steroid Nandrolone. In a rare occurance, his opponent also tested positive for steroids. Unlike Franca, Sherk strongly contested his test result, and reportedly passed a lie detector test to help his case. His one-year suspension was reduced to six months, but with the way the California State Athletic Commission was run Sherk could have presented the Chewbacca Defense and had the same result.
After Sherk was stripped of the title, it was put up for grabs in a match between BJ Penn and Joe Stevenson. Penn won the bout and called out Sherk afterwards, setting up what to that point was the biggest fight in UFC lightweight history. At UFC 84, Penn decisively beat Sherk, finishing him after a knee strike and series of punches at the end of the third round. The show, bolstered by an undercard featuring Tito Ortiz and Wanderlei Silva, drew an estimated 475,000 buys. The previous high mark for a lightweight title main event was just 225,000 for Penn's bout with Stevenson.
The loss to Penn was the third of four in his career. Incredibly, Sherk's four losses all came against then or future UFC titleholders and perhaps the four best fighters ever in the welterweight and lightweight divisions. In 2003, he challenged Matt Hughes for the welterweight title. The then undefeated Sherk was able to take two rounds on two judges scorecards, but ultimately lost a decision. Two years later, Sherk was matched with Georges St-Pierre who went on to become the greatest welterweight the sport has ever seen and by many accounts the #2 fighter of all time. St-Pierre overpowered Sherk, bloodied him, and finished him with ground and pound in the second round. In 2009, he was defeated by Frankie Edgar, who would go on to defeat Penn twice and make three lightweight title defenses.
The retirement is actually Sherk's second from MMA. After winning all eight of his matches in 2004, including his sole fight in Pride, Sherk walked away from the sport due to the lack of money in the sport at the time. Ten months later, following the success of The Ultimate Fighter, Sherk returned to the local circuit before getting the call back to the UFC to face St-Pierre.
Sherk's list of notable wins includes Karo Parisyan, Nick Diaz, Florian, Franca, Tyson Griffin, and Evan Dunham. The Dunham bout, ending in a split decision, was derided by many as a bad judges' decision. In the three years since that fight at UFC 119, Sherk made multiple attempts to return only to be sidelined with a wide array of injuries. As recently as last October, "The Muscle Shark" was adamant he would return.
Quick news. With Fox Sports 1's ratings clearly being weaker than expected, UFC live events initially marked for Fox Sports 2, including October's Michael Bisping vs. Mark Munoz fight, will air on FS1. More prelims will air on the channel as well... Wanderlei Silva is out of action until January... Chael Sonnen has been linked to possible bouts with Phil Davis and Rashad Evans recently. The latter would draw more and is probably the better option. I don't think Sonnen needs to be held off for Wanderlei because fight will draw due to their feud and star power, not their records... UFC will debut in Singapore on January 4... UFC Tonight moves to Fox Sports 1 on September 11.
Attila Vegh probably not actually injured. Bellator's often self-touted "real sports" format took a credibility hit when it turned out light heavyweight champion Attila Vegh probably isn't actually injured. The company claimed Vegh was stricken with a shoulder injury, keeping him out of a scheduled title defense with either Mo Lawal or Emmanuel Newton. Lawal, one of the promotion's top stars and best fighters, was then matched with Newton for the interim title on Bellator's PPV debut card in November. Newton defeated Lawal in the semifinals of the season eight tournament and went on to win the whole thing to earn a title shot. With Lawal winning a shortened ‘Summer Series' tournament, he was due a title shot as well. By matching Lawal with Newton, it creates the best drawing match possible for the card (though it won't ultimately make much of a difference in the PPV number) and fulfills both of their earned titles hots.
There's nothing wrong with putting together Newton vs. Lawal 2 for the PPV card. It really is the match that's best for business, and there's generally nothing wrong with that because those matches are the ones fans want to see. If Bellator was dishonest about their reasoning behind the matchup though, it's just another bad PR move to add to the list.
In a video interview conducted with and translated by mmarocks.pl, Vegh was translated as saying he was healthy and it was a business decision on Bellator's side that kept him out in favor of Newton vs. Lawal 2.
Bellator released a statement Sunday claiming the Vegh had confirmed the interview, conducted with a Polish reporter through a Slovakian reporter, was mistranslated. Wojslaw Rysiewski, editor of mmarocks.pl fired back that the interview was correctly translated and "anyone who speaks Polish or Slovakian can attest he says he is not injured."
Additionally, Bellator released a medical report to back up their claims of Vegh's injury. Unfortunately, that document doesn't appear to help their case either. The document, dated April 15, 2013, states Vegh is suffering from a hematoma under his left pectoral, which is not the same body part as the shoulder. It goes on to state it would require 6-8 weeks of treatment, a time period that at worst would have ended on June 10. Rysiewski also notes he watched Vegh spar with top Polish fighters, which isn't something injured fighters do when the injury is preventing them from fighting more than two months later.
Quick news. Pat Curran vs. Daniel Strauss for the featherweight title was added to the November 2 PPV card... Cheick Kongo signed a deal. David Rickels, in his first fight since his quick loss to Michael Chandler, will face JJ Ambrose on the main card of the October 11 show.
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed it. Once again due to time constraints, I wasn't able to write up my top 25 fights list as promised. I'll keep putting that in this space until I actually do it because I'll look stupid if I end up blowing off both features. Feel free to leave any feedback in the comment box or at the e-mail address below.Follow @Dan_Plunkett