Article

UFC Fight Night Musings

Michael DiSanto, UFC - Amazing. Superhuman. Unbeatable.

After watching Anderson Silva decimate a very tough James Irvin in a mere 61 seconds, the superlatives just don’t do him justice anymore. The UFC Middleweight Champion’s debut at light heavyweight was so dominant that he may have cleared the way for more speculation about possible fights against the much bigger warriors in the 205 lb world than for those in his native division.
By Michael DiSanto

SILVA’S LEGEND AND LEGACY CONTINUE TO GROW

Amazing. Superhuman. Unbeatable.

After watching Anderson Silva decimate a very tough James Irvin in a mere 61 seconds, the superlatives just don’t do him justice anymore. The UFC Middleweight Champion’s debut at light heavyweight was so dominant that he may have cleared the way for more speculation about possible fights against the much bigger warriors in the 205 lb world than for those in his native division.

Think about potential matchups between the “Spider” and Chuck Liddell, “Rampage” Jackson, Wanderlei Silva, and “Shogun” Rua. Any of those would leave fans salivating with anticipation the minute they were announced. But none of those fights make sense for Silva as his next bout based on a risk-reward analysis. He could very well lose to any of those guys, and that would erase his mystique as the best fighter on the planet, pound for pound. And, while a win over a top five light heavyweight is certainly nothing to sneeze at, it would not impact his legacy 10 or 20 years from now.

In my opinion, the only fight that makes sense for Silva at this juncture in his career is challenging reigning UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Forrest Griffin.

Think about it. Anything can happen once the cage door closes. There are no guarantees that Silva won’t suffer an upset in his next middleweight title defense. So, if he wants to attempt to become the first UFC champion to rule two divisions simultaneously, now is the time to roll the dice.

The timing is perfect for Griffin, too. He took the 205-lb title from Rampage two weeks ago, so he will be looking for an opponent for his first title defense in 3-4 months. That is the perfect amount of time to begin building a ground swell of hype around a potential history-setting bout.

Moreover, Griffin presents the best opportunity, based on matchups, of any of the aforementioned light heavyweights for Silva to win his second championship. That is by no means a slight at Griffin, who is an unbelievably talented champion. He might be the bigger, stronger man. But he isn’t more skilled on the feet or on the ground than Silva. And, most importantly, he lacks both dominant wrestling skills, something that may give Silva trouble, if coupled with great submission defense, and true one-punch knockout power, which can bring any fight to an end in the blink of an eye.

After putting the Sandman to sleep, Team Silva needs to begin lobbying UFC president Dana White for an opportunity to fight Griffin next. It is a good fight for Silva based on the matchup, and it is the best possible bout to secure both his legend and legacy as the greatest fighter on the planet, pound for pound.

VERA WINS, BUT LOSES SOME MOMENTUM IN THE PROCESS

When the UFC first announced that Brandon Vera was dropping from heavyweight to light heavyweight, the division’s elite undoubtedly took notice. Vera was a legitimate title contender as a heavyweight, despite barely weighing 225 lbs and often competing against guys 20 to 40 lbs heavier. It made perfect sense, therefore, that he would instantly shake up the list of light heavyweight title contenders the moment he stepped into the Octagon weighing 205 lbs.

Vera successfully debuted in the light heavyweight division last Saturday, but he did so with less than the deafening boom that most predicted, scoring a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Reese Andy. Any win inside the Octagon is impressive, but failing to blow out Andy took some of the steam out of the Vera express. There is no doubt about that.

After the fight, Vera admitted that the cut from heavyweight to light heavyweight left him feeling tired once the action got underway, which explained why he appeared to lack his trademark explosiveness after the first round. That had to be unnerving for a guy like Vera, who normally has cardio for days. But it should not deter him from continuing to campaign in the 205-lb division.

Cutting weight is as much an art as it is science. Vera needs to learn how much weight his body can comfortably cut in the 24- to 36-hour period leading up to a fight without forcing himself to run, bike or jump rope to the point where he begins to deplete his cardio reserve for the next day. He also needs to learn how much weight he can comfortably put back on after the weigh-ins so that his body doesn’t have to work harder during the fight than it did during training, which will cause him to burn through his cardio during the fight much more quickly than he did during training.

It takes time for a fighter to learn his body. Just because Vera struggled with it for this fight doesn’t mean that he will struggle in the future. He just needs to adjust his methodology after talking with experts in the subject, and he will be just fine going forward, just ask former middleweight champion Rich Franklin.

Franklin, who had never cut weight, looked tired and lethargic when he made his middleweight debut in late 2004. But he adjusted his approach slightly and quickly rediscovered the bottomless gas tank that he was known for as a light heavy.

There is no reason why Vera can’t have the same experience with weight cutting as Franklin. One or two minor adjustments plus his body growing accustomed to the cut are all he needs to return to the Vera of old. He might not like cutting weight. He might want to return to the heavyweight division where he doesn’t have to concern himself with the scales. But Vera, who is a very small heavyweight but an absolutely huge light heavyweight, should fight that urge. He should give it one or two more fights and see what happens. If he does that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vera challenging for the 205-lb title in the next nine to 12 months.

VELASQUEZ CONTINUES TO LIVE UP TO THE HYPE

When Cain Velasquez debuted in the UFC back in April, he did so amidst unbelievable hype. The former All American collegiate wrestler from Arizona State University had a mere two professional fights under his belt at the time (both of them first round technical knockout victories), yet he was already being talked about as the future of the division.

Two fights later, those words are starting to look like more than just hype.

Velasquez completely dominated Jake O’Brien last Saturday night en route to yet another first round stoppage. He did it with a mix of elite wrestling, ground positioning and vicious ground and pound. That combination is intimidating enough. Fold in the fact that he has shown savage striking skills, including a high kick reminiscent of Mirko Cro Cop, during his training sessions at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, and it becomes obvious why the hype machine is working overtime.

Velasquez and his handlers must be careful not to get ahead of themselves because he is still a very raw fighter in need of a lot more cage time and polishing before competing against the division’s top dogs. They should try to keep him fighting as often as possible against second-level UFC heavyweights in an effort to get him the seasoning he needs to be able to survive against crafty veterans in all-out wars.

MARKHAM EXPLODES ONTO THE UFC SCENE

After two very successful years competing in the International Fight League, Rory Markham finally earned the opportunity to test his skills in the ultimate proving ground – the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Boy did he take full advantage of that opportunity, scoring the knockout of the night with a devastating head kick that instantly separated a tough Brodie Farber from consciousness. It was one of the more impressive UFC debuts in recent memory.

The win last Saturday night raises Markham’s career record to 16-4 and undoubtedly earned him another opportunity or two to compete in the UFC welterweight division.

JOHNSON CLASSY IN UNDESERVED LOSS

When Anthony Johnson viciously knocked out Tommy Speer at Ultimate Fight Night 13 back in April, he announced during his post-fight interview that the fans in Denver just had the “privilege” of watching him fight. The comment made him seem immature and arrogant.

Johnson permanently erased those misconceptions on Saturday night. Late in the final round of a fight he was clearly winning, Johnson suffered a very obvious poke in his right eye by opponent Kevin Burns. Johnson immediately dove backward, grabbing his eye with his right hand as he hit the canvas. The problem, however, is that referee Steve Mazzagatti failed to recognize that Johnson’s flailing dive was caused by something other than a punch. Burns did exactly what he was supposed to do at that moment and jumped on his fallen foe, prompting Mazzagatti to call a halt to the action and declaring Burns the winner by technical knockout.

Johnson had every reason to be upset at that moment because Mazzagatti’s missed call cost Johnson a well-earned victory in his third UFC bout. Everyone would have understood if Johnson had complained about that mistake after the fight, blaming Mazzagatti for his loss. He could have claimed that Burns poked him intentionally. He could have demanded an immediate rematch. He could have done all sorts of things to make himself feel better.

But Johnson did none of those things.

Instead, the talented young fighter merely said that he was poked in the eye and that “anything can happen in a fight” and complimenting his opponent by stating that “he fought hard” rather than claiming Burns to be a dirty fighter. It was an extremely classy move for Johnson, erasing any harm he did to his reputation as a result of his silly comment in Denver.

Johnson certainly doesn’t need my nod of approval as far as his character is concerned, but he certainly has it after the way he handled that loss, and fans should applaud him for such a tremendous display of sportsmanship.
Sunday, September 28
3AM
BST
Las Vegas, Nevada

Media

Recent
Megan Olivi catches Kyoji Horiguchi backstage after his win over Jon Delos Reyes at Fight Night Japan. Re-watch Horiguchi's fight only on UFC FIGHT PASS!
Sep 20, 2014
UFC Fight Night event inside the Saitama Arena on September 20, 2014 in Saitama, Japan. (Photos by Mitch Viquez/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Sep 20, 2014
Before his bout at UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs. Nelson, get familiar with rising star Kyoji Horiguchi.
Sep 19, 2014
Myles "Fury" Jury takes on former Pride Champion, Takanori Gomi in his backyard, Tokyo, Japan.
Sep 19, 2014