By Adam Martin
UFC on FOX 8 not only provided a number of awesome moments from some unexpected heroes, but it also saw a few fighters who were expected to do big things disappoint in a big way. In the first of a new post-event column only on CagePotato.com, here are three fighters who surprised us at UFC on FOX 8 and three fighters who let us down.
Demetrious Johnson: Many expected UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to successfully defend his title against John Moraga in the main event of UFC on FOX 8, but I don’t think anyone predicted him to win the fight via armbar with just one minute and 17 seconds left in the fight.
But that’s exactly what Johnson did as he earned his first stoppage victory in eight UFC fights, en route to shutting up the critics who called him boring and said he didn’t have what it takes to finish a tough guy like Moraga.
Johnson had all four rounds in his pocket and was ahead in the fifth, but instead of coasting to a win he tried desperately to get the finish and put an exclamation point on his performance, and that’s exactly what he did with his first submission win in the Octagon, a victory that earned him the $50,000 “Submission of the Night” award.
“Mighty Mouse” is always going to have his detractors because of his wrestling-heavy style, and I think his finish of Moraga is a bit of an anomaly, but on Saturday night he deserved all the praise in the world for a brilliant performance, one that has truly earned him his spot amongst the pound-for-pound best fighters in MMA. And hopefully, it’s just a sign of things to come.
Melvin Guillard: It had been over two years since Melvin Guillard last stopped an opponent inside the Octagon, but with his brutal second-round KO of Mac Danzig on the UFC on FOX 8 preliminary card, it’s safe to say that “The Young Assassin” is back.
Training with boxing coach Trevor Wittman at Grudge in preparation for Danzig, Guillard really got back to what made him such a successful lightweight in the first place, and that’s his hands, which are some of the heaviest in the UFC’s entire 155-pound division.
Danzig found out that out the hard way on Saturday night after Guillard knocked him down with a punch and then followed it up with some exceptionally brutal hammerfists, blows that were so deadly that poor Danzig could be seen weeping once he awoke from his nightmare. (GIF here, explanation here.)
Guillard is a bit of a headcase but there’s no denying the talent is there, and after getting a big win over Danzig that snapped his two-fight losing streak and earned him some bonus money for “Knockout of the Night,” look for Guillard to be more confident in his next fight. Who knows, maybe we’ll finally see him unlock the potential that we all know he has.
Trevor Smith: Perhaps the biggest throwaway fight on the entire card heading into UFC on FOX 8 was the middleweight matchup between Ed Herman and Strikeforce vet Trevor Smith, a fight that no one was talking about heading into the weekend’s event.
But that’s why you should never judge a fight on paper before it’s been fought because, man, Herman vs. Smith is my early frontrunner for “Fight of the Year” in 2013 and that’s not hyperbole.
This was such an awesome fight that any words I use to describe it won’t do it justice, as anyone who saw it will agree with — just go and watch it if you haven’t yet, it really was amazing — and it was the surprisingly good performance by Smith which was made it so memorable.
I knew Smith had good grappling, but he hit Herman with some massive punches and he also showed that he has a solid chin as he ate a number of bombs from “Short Fuse” but never went out. For three rounds he fought valiantly and, even though he ended up losing a split decision, Smith put on a memorable performance and definitely earned himself another fight inside the Octagon.
Sometimes a fighter can lose and still emerge with their stock going up and Smith’s performance at UFC on FOX 8 is the best example of this that I can think of in recent memory. Smith is well deserving of his “Fight of the Night” award, as well as all of the new fans he made on Saturday night.
Jake Ellenberger: The most disappointing performance by any fighter on the entire UFC on FOX 8 card came courtesy of Jake Ellenberger, who laid an egg in his co-main event bout against fellow welterweight contender Rory MacDonald.
Ellenberger literally did nothing for three rounds outside of one takedown on MacDonald in the third round, and both fighters were booed by the crowd and then chewed out by UFC president Dana White on both Twitter and at the post-fight presser for their bad fight.
But while some are blaming MacDonald’s low-risk, jab-centric strategy for the fight being boring, I believe it had a lot more to do with Ellenberger freezing in the biggest moment of his career, a fight that would have likely garnered him a title shot had he emerged victorious.
Instead, Ellenberger’s stock dropped dramatically because the fight didn’t live up to expectations at all, and much of that can be blamed on the hesitation of “The Juggernaut,” who was uncharacteristically cautious throughout the bout.
I like Ellenberger and believe he can still beat a lot of welterweights in the UFC, but the fight with MacDonald proved once again he’s essentially a 170-pound version of Michael Bisping, a fighter that can get to that title eliminator position but not win the big fight to put themselves over the hump.
But unlike Bisping, don’t expect Ellenberger to get any more title eliminator fights anytime soon. At least Bisping tried to fight Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson. Ellenberger, though? I wouldn’t call what he was doing with MacDonald “fighting,” and I bet UFC matchmaker Joe Silva feels similarly.
Michael Chiesa: One of the most disappointing performances by a fighter on the undercard took place during the FX prelims, where Michael Chiesa suffered the first-ever loss of his career after tapping out to a Jorge Masvidal D’arce choke with just one second left in the second round.
Chiesa fought very well in the first round and even hurt Masvidal with his underrated striking, but after failing on a power guillotine attempt and letting Masvidal recover from being rocked, Chiesa’s performance went downhill from there as Masvidal thoroughly dominated the second round until he managed to sink the choke, drawing a tap from “Maverick” literally right before the bell sounded to end round two.
I’m surprised that Chiesa, who is known for his heart and will, wasn’t able to hang on just a half second longer and take the fight to the third round, where he might have had the edge over Masvidal because of his superior cardio. Instead, he tapped out and lost for the first time in his career and, to make matters even worse, he ran out of the cage a la Forrest Griffin, which was hugely disrespectful to his opponent.
I’ve been a Chiesa supporter ever since he won TUF Live despite the death of his father, but this loss is a setback for him and I really hope it’s not a defeat that will ruin his career. Chiesa is only 25 years old and this wouldn’t be the first time an undefeated MMA prospect suffered a loss that made them fall off the rails.
John Albert: One last disappointment that has to be mentioned is John Albert, who was submitted by Yaotzin Meza in round two of the first Facebook fight of the night. It’s Albert’s fourth loss in a row in the UFC — all by submission — and there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be getting a pink slip from UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby sometime this week.
Albert is such a talented fighter but his lack of cardio has always been his problem and yet he didn’t bother fixing it for this fight with Meza, a guy who trains with UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, the fighter with arguably the best cardio in the UFC. After Albert gassed following an armbar attempt, Meza took advantage and won the fight with a rear-naked choke, an embarrassing result for Albert considering he was winning the fight until his poor conditioning cost him the fight — and likely his job, too.
I knew it was a bad omen when Albert walked into the cage with Dennis Hallman by his side. Hallman, after all, was always known for his bad cardio and even though he always had a slick submission game – just like his pupil Albert — if his opponent was able to survive it he usually lost. Sadly, Albert never learned anything from watching his mentor fight, as he’s basically a 135-pound version of Hallman, and no, that’s not a compliment.