St-Pierre still unstoppable at 170
All in all it, was a great weekend for fans of the welterweight division, which has established itself, I think, as the UFC's most interesting and competitive class at the moment.
St-Pierre deserves as much praise as you're willing to heap on the guy. After 19 months away from the cage, after ACL surgery and recovery, after being asked to fight an extremely dangerous challenger, the popular French-Canadian champion affirmed his status as one of the three best fighters on the planet. He was as fast as ever, as powerful as ever, as technical and smart as ever.
So the question lingers, who can stop St-Pierre?
For now, let's focus on the immediate aftermath of UFC 154 (and Friday's Bellator).
UFC 154 and Bellator 81 grades
Johny Hendricks, 29, tore through Martin Kampmann, solidifying his status as a true contender in the welterweight division. Power, speed, and most notably, confidence, have pushed Hendricks to the top of the 170-pound contender list. He's a threat to Georges St-Pierre in ways Carlos Condit wasn't -- he's much stronger, his wrestling is far superior. Hendricks (14-1) deserves a chance to fight St-Pierre, but he may have to wait for a bit, which says to me he'll probably fight one more time. A showdown between "Big Rig" and Nick Diaz would draw plenty of interest.
Quite an effort from the champion. The knee didn't bother him. Neither did ring rust. And while Condit pressured St-Pierre (23-2) as much as he could, there wasn't a whole lot the challenger could do in the end. St-Pierre's timing on everything from jabs to takedowns was perfect. He made sure to put Condit down on the floor when the opportunity was there, but he also mixed it up during standing exchanges. St-Pierre, 31, was aggressive when he needed to be, and, most importantly, showed he's not going to wilt at the first sign of adversity. He was hurt by Condit in the third, no question about that, yet that was a mere speed bump on his way to reminding everyone just how good he really is.
Held has a thing for leg locks, which made his toe-hold finish against Rich Clementi (45-22-1) both dramatic and not so surprising. If Marcin Held (15-2) defeats Dave Jansen in mid-December, the 20-year-old Pole will have done all he could to earn a rematch with Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler (presuming Chandler beats Rick Hawn). Held's style is exciting, but leaves him open to a rude awakening.
Marlon Sandro (23-4) can go about beating fighters like Dustin Neace (23-19-1) as much as he wants, but it won't help him get back to the upper rungs of the featherweight division. The 35-year-old Brazilian dominated Neace before strangling the American unconscious midway through the opening round. I'd like to see if Sandro has it in him to be as offensive-minded against a higher class of opponent. Probably not.
Rafael dos Anjos
Rafael dos Anjos, 28, is on a nice run now, taking his third straight victory without any debate over Mark Bocek (11-5). There's a lot to like about dos Anjos, whose name will get tossed into top 10 lists and earn mentions as a potential contender in the lightweight division. He's relentless standing or grappling. His submission game is always a threat, and dos Anjos (18-6) isn't afraid to mix things up with strikes, either. He'll need to take a step up in competition soon.
Condit (28-6) did everything he set out to do -- other than win. The would-be champion showed up to fight St-Pierre, and he pushed "Rush" as he should have. Condit may have fallen short, but he offered a solid account of his skills and determination throughout the 25-minute title contest. In the end, the one thing Condit could not adequately prepare for (St-Pierre's athleticism) proved to be his undoing. Condit, 28, earned much respect on Saturday, but that's not what he was shooting for.
Once Pablo Garza (12-3) got his ground game going, he looked like a quality mixed martial artist. Rebounding from consecutive losses to Dustin Poirier and Dennis Bermudez, the aptly dubbed "Scarecrow" pretty much handled Mark Hominick en route to a unanimous decision win, guaranteeing his status as a UFC fighter for at least a little while longer.
Dave Jansen (18-2) is fortunate scoring went his way on Friday, because Brazilian Ricardo Tirloni (15-3) just as easily could be the one advancing to meet Held on Dec. 14. (I had Tirloni winning 29-28.) Still, it's Jansen's shot and the 33-year-old hard-nosed wrestler will make Held work.
When the highlight of a fighter's weekend revolves around what one wore during weigh-ins or out to the cage, that should tell you what you need to know. Tom Lawlor (8-5) probably deserved the win over Francis Carmont, but he really doesn't have much to complain about. The fight was boring, and not enough happened to feel too strongly about the outcome. This makes four losses in six fights for the 29-year-old "Filthy" one.
Carmont's momentum has been halted some following a pedestrian split decision win against Lawlor, but he'll gladly take the W and move on. He's a physical specimen, but it doesn't take a keen eye to see his limitations. Carmont (20-7) needs a fast start; that's when he's at his best. That didn't happen versus the American, and the 31-year-old Frenchman was forced to muddle his way through a 15-minute contest.
Jim Miller, Benson Henderson and now Rafael dos Anjos. The trend is clear for Mark Bocek: When he can't establish himself as the more physical fighter, he loses. The 31-year-old Canadian's grind-'em-out style is limiting, even if it has provided him the best chance to win in the past.
Safe to say Hominick, 30, has been exposed and his chances of fighting for a UFC title at 145 are over? I'd say so. Hominick (20-12, loser of four straight) had no answer on the floor for Garza, which essentially meant he couldn't defend himself. Don't expect Hominick to be released from the UFC just yet, though.
Getting knocked out 46 seconds into an immensely important fight warrants a failing grade. Kampmann (20-6) never got started against Hendricks, who came out slinging. The 30-year-old Dane had his chances to rise to the top of the welterweight division, and each time he's fallen short. This time, in a bad way.
MORE MMA HEADLINES
- Ex-UFC champ Cruz suffers 2nd ACL injury
- UFC says 'Rampage' re-signed; Bellator denies
- UFC: Machida demolishes Dollaway in Round 1
- Evans to return in Feb. 22 bout vs. Teixeira
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
- Bellator MMA retweeted
- chad mendes retweeted
- chad mendes retweeted
- Lorenzo Fertitta retweeted
- Joe Lauzon retweeted
- Wanderlei Silva retweeted