Monday, January 30, 2012

PENICK: UFC on Fox 2 notebook - In person thoughts from the United Center

By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

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I was in attendance tonight at the United Center in Chicago, Ill. for the UFC's second event on Fox, a night which will most certainly not go down as the best night of fights on the network. The three fight main card wound up being mostly a letdown after an exciting night of undercard action, and though a title challenger was crowned, it wasn't the performance that's going to drive tons of additional interest from any non-fans that may have tuned in to the broadcast. With that said, here are some thoughts on the night's fights in Chicago:

-Rashad Evans didn't have much trouble with Phil Davis tonight. Davis stepped into this fight very early in his career, and it shows how unique Jon Jones is to come through the ranks as fast as he did. Davis is a very solid fighter, but he wasn't the better MMA wrestler and he had nothing for Evans on the feet. However, while Evans' wrestling was much better, and his striking superior throughout the five round fight, he didn't attack nearly often enough, and the fight dragged as a result. Looking at the title matchup with Jones, the Evans that showed up tonight is not capturing the title. Jones can hang with him striking, and he won't be controlled in the wrestling department by Evans. The performance won't get many talking in Evans' favor, and it certainly didn't keep fan interest for the entirety of the fight. In fact, many started leaving the arena before the fourth round began; and they didn't miss anything in doing so.

-Michael Bisping performed pretty much as well as I thought he would be able to against Chael Sonnen. His striking was on point, his takedown defense in the first two rounds was excellent, and he had some surprisingly good clinch work to go along with it. Of course, he was taken down in the third and wasn't able to get back up, but he looked good throughout the fight, and there was an argument he could have won the bout. I had it a draw with a 10-10 in the first round, but Bisping took the second, then lost the third. Sonnen didn't look as good as he did against Brian Stann or Anderson Silva, and it should go to show people that Bisping is legitimately a top middleweight contender. It's a tough loss to a tough fighter, but that doesn't mean Bisping won't be sticking around the top end. If this fight happens 10 times, Bisping might win four or five, so don't be surprised to see him still potentially in line for a title fight down the line.

-On the spectrum of fighters who won't be getting a title shot anytime soon, let's talk about Demian Maia. Since getting knocked out by Nate Marquardt, something has changed in Maia. He was a powerhouse submission specialist before that fight who could take out most fighters on the ground, and now he's trying to stay standing with fighters who are out-striking him. It was maddening to watch him try to get up from the ground when Chris Weidman took him down tonight, instead of looking to attack for submissions. He's abandoned his ground game, and he's a worse fighter because of it. That was a wholly disappointing performance, and a disappointing opening fight for the Fox broadcast that could have turned a lot of viewers away.

-Now to the positives, because the undercard was mostly fantastic. Evan Dunham and Nik Lentz had a great back and forth fight, and it deservedly won the "Fight of the Night" award. Lentz is a really tough guy, and absolutely didn't want that fight to end because of the cut, but give Dunham a lot of credit for delivering that onslaught in the second round. Lentz actually won the first, and was doing a really good job of striking with Dunham, probably better than most thought he'd be able to in this one, but unfortunately for him he didn't get a chance to get out in the third round to stake a claim for the win himself. Still, it's the type of performance that goes against the bad rap he had gotten after the Andre Winner fight, and he'll get another opportunity in the UFC despite consecutive losses.

-Ok, maybe it's not all positive. Mike Russow and John Olav Einemo had a terrible fight. Einemo's just not very good overall. He's a large fighter, and has a submission game, but Russow was able to control him and tire him out. Russow himself was exhausted midway through the second, and the fight just was the one black mark on the preliminary card.

-Cub Swanson picked up his biggest career win against George Roop with his second round knockout. It was an excellent highlight, with Roop's mouth guard bouncing off of the cage, and on any other night it may have gotten the "Knockout of the Night." Unfortunately he had to contend with a bigger, more devastating knockout earlier in the night. Still, this was a much needed win, and he did it against a very solid fighter in Roop.

-Charles Oliveira has found new life at featherweight, and he's going to be a force to be reckoned with for some time to come. Eric Wisely initially defended Oliveira's heel hook well, stepping over to try to get out. However, he left his leg there, and Oliveira smartly and impressively pulled Wisely back onto him for the calf slicer. That is one of the most painful looking moves a fighter could ever be put in, and Wisely's face told the story right before he tapped. It was a beautiful submission, and Oliveira looked fantastic at 145 lbs.

-The Michael Johnson-Shane Roller fight was alright, but there wasn't a whole lot to it. Johnson outworked Roller throughout the fight, stuffed takedowns, scored some of his own, and definitely deserved to take the decision. It could have been three rounds to none, as Roller's only winning round was a close frame, and it could mean he's on his way out after three straight losses.

-Lavar Johnson was really impressive tonight. He's got a lot of power, and though there are plenty of holes in his game to shore up, he can hit, and he can hit hard. Beltran had never been stopped by strikes in his career, and had developed a reputation for taking ridiculous amounts of punishment over several fights, but that finishing sequence by Johnson was undeniable. The four uppercuts he landed in a row were brutal, and to see Beltran crumple to the ground as he did was insane.

-Chris Camozzi's fight with Dustin Jacoby was fairly tedious before the finish, but what a finish it was. Camozzi locked on a ten finger guillotine, essentially a modified choke where he was squeezing the wind pipe and pressing Jacoby's head down with his chest, and it forced Jacoby to tap. It was a great finish to start the night of fights.

-Overall, the energy in the United Center was good, though the notorious Chicago crowd kept earning its reputation as the night wore on with a lot of booing and little patience for what was going on in the cage. It's unfortunate the main card was a letdown after the prelims, but what we had were three fairly evenly matched fights that made it hard for anyone to take full advantage. It may negatively effect how well this second Fox show drew, and they'll need to do a better job of anticipation on their fight bookings for the May 5 show, but it was still all in all a good night.

Source: http://www.mmatorch.com/artman2/publish/penickstake/article_12315.shtml

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