Wand again turns in a violent display
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Over the past 13 years, I'm certain I've been desensitized by the controlled mayhem of mixed martial arts. That's to say mangled noses, shredded joints, sauteed cauliflower ears, excavated eye sockets and whatever else you can conjure simply don't faze me. I can't tell you how many fights I've seen. Or which portion of those featured concussions, contusions and who knows what else. Truthfully, by the time a portion of Alex Karalexis' tongue landed on my thigh in 2006 I'd experienced more than enough carnage not to get shaken by anything two people might do to each other in a cage.
Wanderlei Silva deserves some credit (or blame) here because of his stubborn refusal to pursue anything but the most violent finishes. The head stomp was made for him. "The Axe Murderer" is as well-conceived a nom de guerre as any in MMA, and on Saturday we again witnessed why when Silva returned to Japan and laid waste to yet another human being. I suppose it could be difficult not to revel in this sort of thing, so I'm trying not to do so here.
The violence aroused by MMA is unavoidable, some say a necessary evil.
Perhaps it's just plain necessary. No one has done more to live up to his end of the bargain than Silva, but boy have they tried. Saturday's event in Saitama, Japan, wasn't particularly violent until the final two fights. Yet that's how the card will be remembered because that's how entertainment is measured in MMA.
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The Axe Murderer. In a vintage effort, Silva, 36, ran roughshod over Brian Stann, punctuating a violent spectacle with a monster combination that felled the American for good. Where does that leave him? Wanderlei Silva should remain at 205 and ride it out rather than try his hand at middleweight again. As for talk of Silva's retirement (or the idea that he should pick this moment to hang up his gloves), forget it. The man is a born fighter. He loves this too much, and he won't be separated from his fans unless all other options are exhausted. Silva's power at 205 is substantial and so long as he can throw a punch that's capable of concussing an opponent, that's what he'll do for work. And you know you can't stop watching.
Don't punch with Mark Hunt. There should be bumper stickers made. Fighters in the UFC's heavyweight division need to learn this and make it a mantra. The heavyset yet light-footed New Zealander picked his strikes carefully until unloading on Struve early in the third round. Prior to that point, Hunt survived his share of ground attacks. He's athletic and explosive enough to have survived many dangerous positions. He was swept to his back and put in disadvantageous positions, yet Hunt, 38, fought with the poise of an experienced mixed martial artist. This was Hunt's fourth straight win in the UFC (4-1 since joining Zuffa), and he has done enough to earn a spot against a ranked opponent. How about Roy Nelson?
Dong Hyun Kim
Dong Hyun Kim, 31, is the wrong guy to fight if you can't wrestle. It turns out Siyar Bahadurzada isn't so good at staying off his back, which is why he was basically embarrassed on the canvas during the 15-minute fight. Kim pressured Bahadurzada, dictated the course of the fight, and retained complete control most of the way. Kim's only losses at 170 came against Carlos Condit and Demian Maia. Not bad, especially considering the circumstances of his injury versus Maia. "The Stun Gun" is methodical, tactical and technical enough to make it a one-sided stinker every time. That also means he's good enough at what he does to compete with any fighter at 170.
Rani Yahya poses a threat when he fights to his strengths, which has been obvious during his past two fights in the UFC. Saturday's decision over a larger Mizuto Hirota suggests that Yahya really has turned himself into a competent takedown artist to make the most of his tremendous Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess. Though the 28-year-old featherweight isn't quite that dominant, Yahya is reminding me somewhat of Demian Maia right now.
Yushin Okami has a knack for carving out a lead after two rounds, then doing everything possible to squander it away. He gave it his best shot against Hector Lombard, and very nearly succeeded in losing what looked like a sure win after 10 minutes. Cue the clock, fortunately. Okami hung on, got the split decision win, and has put together another winning streak. I tend to think Okami isn't noticeably better now than he was during earlier tries at reaching the top of the middleweight division. So, I doubt he gets to the top of the mountain. Others will need to cope with the 31-year-old Japanese veteran. The best should beat him. The rest won't.
Returning to 155 pounds didn't do a whole lot to upgrade Diego Sanchez's in-cage performance. The consensus: He should have lost to Takanori Gomi because he wasn't aggressive or active enough. To be fair, Sanchez had his moments. He kicked to the body well, and finished several takedowns. But the 31-year-old fighter is a far cry from the ground- and-pound mauler who first stepped into the UFC in 2005. As for his idea of fighting Nate Diaz next, I love that match because I can still vividly recall Sanchez's fight at 170 against Nick Diaz and it would be a stylistic repeat. A lot will depend on Diaz's result against Josh Thomson in April.
If you care to listen to the media, the fans or for that matter Dana White, then Takanori Gomi, 34, should have defeated Diego Sanchez on points. That didn't happen, of course, and the former Pride champion dropped a split decision to the dismay of many. He can still punch, but as he ages, technical glitches are harder to overcome and that trademark explosiveness continues to dissipate. Judging by the postfight reaction, Gomi appears safe from being released. That, I'd venture to say, is a temporary stay because he's clearly on the downside of his career.
Brian Stann could have played a tactical game against Wanderlei Silva; instead, he indulged the blood-lusting Brazilian and thusly sated ravenous fans who don't care about wins and losses so long as someone's getting smashed. Credit the 32-year-old American with having the guts (not that he needed validating in that department) to trade with Silva. Then again, feel free to criticize the Marine for the same thing. Stann went out on his shield, 20 pounds above his normal fighting weight, after taking everything Silva had. For that he earned the appreciation of fight fans everywhere. And for that he was knocked senseless in the second round. He's a good fighter, game if nothing else, but far from top shelf.
After four straight wins, the 7-footer fell back to earth when Hunt clubbed him with a jaw-shattering left hook. Stefan Struve said he wasn't prepared as he should have been, and will have more on that in the coming weeks. For now, he's nursing a busted jaw, a "face like a ballon [sic]," and is tweeting about the whole thing like crazy. The 25-year-old Dutchman was on the cusp of contendership in the UFC heavyweight division. Because of his youth and experience, chances are Struve will put together another run or two. There's still plenty of maturing left to do.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney trumpeted Hector Lombard's arrival in the UFC, even after a shaky start in the Octagon, as the dawning of a new middleweight champion. After Saturday's inconsistent effort against Yushin Okami, Rebney and anyone else who supports Lombard will have a difficult time arguing the 35-year-old is capable of competing for a title in the Octagon. Expect a chorus wishing for Lombard to head to welterweight. Killing himself to lose 15 pounds the day before a fight is not the answer to his problems. Lombard isn't the guy you want to be hit by; but save that, he hardly looks like a significant threat these days. Fighters should hope Zuffa doesn't view his big-money signing as a cautionary tale.
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