Monday, May 20, 2013
Belfort's kick; Rockhold's flop, more
By Josh Gross ESPN.com
You probably expect this intro to be about Vitor Belfort and testosterone replacement therapy. I could go there, for sure. But that stuff isn't going away, there will be more to say. So for now (meaning the next few paragraphs) let's shelve Belfort in favor of the flyweights and the best fight of the night, all of which were relegated to Saturday's online stream.
Headed up by a terrific champion, Demetrious Johnson, we're just now witnessing the larger impact of UFC's decision to include flyweights on their roster.
Jussier Formiga did well to get past Chris Cariaso. He showed flashes why he was once considered the top flyweight in the world. The issues that knocked him from that perch, however, haven't gone away. Formiga isn't much for striking, and when momentum swings against him he has a difficult time recovering. Still, his top game and guard passing represent a serious threat to anyone at 125, especially when he fights with confidence.
If Formiga was good, another Brazilian, John Lineker, registered off the charts for his effort. Lineker's heavy-fisted attack is so great to watch, especially when he works over the body, which is how he got to Azamat Gashimov a minute into the second round.
People seem to think there's no power to be found at 125. They should take closer looks at Lineker or current top contender John Moraga.
Also, lightweights Lucas Martins and Jeremy Larsen opened the card with a bout that held up as fight of the night. It was a terrific clash, which Martins won 13 seconds into the third round by knockout.
Just a reminder that from time to time, it's worth catching the online undercard. Saturday certainly was one of those nights.
UFC on FX 8 grades
Souza tore through Chris Camozzi, exposing the late replacement in several areas prior to snatching a submission of the night bonus. Not that he needed one, but the 33-year-old Brazilian's UFC debut was essentially an Octagon dress rehearsal. Far more difficult tests await, which should get you excited. Jacare can become the champion of this division.
Look, the kick was incredible. Everything about it screams perfect marks. But this is my column on grades, and in my column on grades I reserve the right to make up the rules. Such as: an automatic full grade deduction if a fighter refuses to answer media questions about his testosterone replacement therapy treatments. So, there you go. (I'm not pretending like anyone should care, but you get where I'm coming from.)
Nik Lentz improved to 3-0 at 145 pounds with a decision win against Hacran Dias. The American was forced to hold on at the end, and did, but the short-notice effort was nonetheless impressive. Lentz damaged Dias standing and maintained dominant positions on the floor. His pressure and wrestling were too much for Dias, and they will determine his success moving forward. He'll get a big fight in 2013.
Rafael dos Anjos
Some people, including UFC president Dana White, went nuts Saturday after judges ruled that Rafael dos Anjos defeated Evan Dunham. I actually thought the proper decision was rendered, and had dos Anjos winning 29-28 after a closely contested bout. The Brazilian mixes up his game well, but most important to his recent success is his spirit. I like the way he competes. He's due for a step up in competition.
Evan Dunham is a quality fighter, but in a crowded field at 155 pounds it's becoming difficult to see how he'll emerge as something more than a potential contender. Whether or not you had Dunham winning, there's no denying his effort was mixed.
This was a worst-case scenario for Luke Rockhold. He irritated Belfort, then made the mistake of showing a hint of weakness in the cage. That was all Belfort needed to attack, leading to the massive spinning heel kick. Rockhold said he wants to move forward and fast. I get it, this isn't something to dwell on. He remains athletic and talented, and has only 12 fights under his belt. Don't give up on Rockhold -- that would be foolish.