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Surprises and Disappointments From UFC on FOX 8: Johnson vs. Moraga

(A triumphant loss for Trevor Smith, and an awe-inspiring punch-face for Ed Herman. / Photo via Getty. Click to enlarge.)

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, 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.

Cagepotato Comments

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Australian Mantis- July 30, 2013 at 3:52 am
I still feel shit for Mac Danzig, thats a bad KO he went through and i hope he recovers and comes back soon.
Mr_Misanthropy- July 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm
@ MMA Noob

Footwork is great and all but if all you want to see is fancy footwork you can watch an ISKA kata competition or some ballroom dancing. Part of the entertainment value of watching a fight is watching people fight. While a sloppy bar brawl-esque brawl might frustrate some people who are focusing on the technical aspects of proper form, two guys relying on technique alone or evasive movement (backpedaling) and counter punching to carry them through a decision do not make for what a vast majority of fight fans would consider a good fight. It is even more frustrating when it is fairly apparent that one participant is offering virtually no offense (no technique) and the other one is clearly coasting on points and not taking risks to try to finish the fight. one of the appealing aspects of MMA is that it is the closest any mainstream regulated sporting contest is to a real fight. In a real fight your goal should be to stop your opponent as quickly as possible by either making him unable to continue or breaking his will and making him quit, however it is that you should accomplish that. I enjoy watching all aspects of combat sports from the grappling to submissions, boxing, and kickboxing but I detest stalling of any kind. I have been watching combat sports for twenty years and I can barely stomach boxing these days because it seems like it is oftentimes 90% stalling and re-starts. Actually, the more fights I see the less I want to watch fights like Ellenberger/ MacDonald. I can live through them because I know that not every fight is a barn burner and actually having some bad fights can be a good counterpoint to good fights to remind just what defines a good fight but I certainly don't enjoy watching fights were the participants seem to have momentarily forgotten what it means to fight.
MMAExpertNewb- July 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm
I thought the Herman vs Smith fight was FUN. I never said it wasn't fun. It was more fun than the MacDonald fight for sure. What I'm upset with is the idea that it's a "Fight of the Year". Watching 2 drunk dudes wail away at each other on youtube is "fun". I'm just saying that the skill level displayed in the Herman fight was not very high by UFC standards. The toughness and heart was through the roof though. I just think that a "great fight" should be based on skill, excitement, heart, toughness, guys coming back after being behind...etc. Not on pure offense and a lack of finishing ability.
Mr_Misanthropy- July 29, 2013 at 8:46 pm
I wouldn't call it fight of the year. A high point on a slightly below average card maybe. Sadly, we probably won't be able to call Ellenberger/ MacDonald worst fight of the year either.
MMAExpertNewb- July 29, 2013 at 11:46 am
It bugs me that you call the Herman v Smith a "Fight of the Year" candidate. Herman had some of the worst footwork I've ever seen in that fight. Chris Leben was shaking his head at Ed's plodding style. Smith didn't do much better. These guys just basically walked into each others slow bombs and then couldn't finish each other while the other was hurt. Is that a great fight just because 2 guys have no defense, no speed, and no finishing ability? Granted that on the other end of the spectrum Macdonald was super technical with amazing footwork and his fight was boring, but that doesn't mean two slow dudes wailing away at each other makes for a fight we should all go gaga over.
Onan- July 29, 2013 at 10:09 am
I would call it a sign of weakness as well as disrespectful to his opponent. Part of respectful sportsmanship is the handshake, "good fight" bro hug, whatever, after the results announcement. He even apologized on his Twitter for being a poor sport.
Kintamachikara- July 29, 2013 at 9:15 am
Chiesa after his loss, running out of the cage was hugely disrespectful to his opponent... How do you figure?
Spitting at your opponent, continuing to crank a hold after he's tapped out, illegal blows, etc. are all hugely disrespectful.
Running out of the cage due to frustration, embarrassment and sense of failure - a sign of weakness sure but "hugely disrespectful"? Hardly
Dial back a notch on the hyperbole.
As Good As Anyone- July 29, 2013 at 9:01 am
I was so disappointed in Albert, however if you look to his twitter, he injured his leg on the triangle attempt. Although he still absolutely lacks cardio and heart, he still is one of my favorite fighters. Hopefully he gets his shit together in the minor leagues and doesn't waste his talent when he eventually comes back to the UFC.