(Your Brazilian SWAT training is no match for the power of positive thinking, Paulo. PicProps: UFC.com)
Mostly by virtue of the hype surrounding the main event, UFC 121 succeeded in preserving the aura of a big time fight show despite the fact that many of the bouts were … what’s the nice way to say this … terribly boring. Even still, a bunch of stuff happened that we need to mention: Jake Shields pretty much proved that it’s physically fucking impossible for top fighters from other organizations to look good in their UFC debuts. Diego Sanchez defeated Paulo Thiago using the sheer supremacy of his personality. Gabriel Gonzaga showed that he’d be better off climbing to the top of a half-finished construction site and tossing barrels down at his opponents than try to strike with them. Tito Ortiz looked done like dinner, thus taking the next ironic step in his journey toward becoming – as we suggested on last week’s Bum Rush – the new Ken Shamrock.
Shields, though. WTF, playboy? Dude hasn’t lost since 2004, was coming off a solid five-rounder against Dan Henderson in his last Strikeforce outing and suddenly he shows up in the Octagon looking like an out-and-out rookie. Then he goes to the post-fight press conference and claims he had to cut 20 pounds in one day to make weight. Did he not know this fight was coming up? Was it lingering fallout from that back injury we told you about? Not to take anything away from Martin Kampmann, but it just goes to show you (whether fighters will admit it or not) there’s just something different about fighting in the UFC.
God forbid they make good on their threats to give Shields a welterweight title shot before he’s able to rebound with a better showing. Judging from what we just saw, he might otherwise stand the chance of getting literally murdered by Georges St. Pierre or Josh Koscheck in what would no doubt turn into a 25-minute wrestling clinic given by either Octagon vet. Given all the bitching that’s going on about wrestling in MMA these days, that might be the most unmarketable fight in history.
On the other hand, Ortiz and Matt Hamill gave us a good look at what happens when two grapplers try to have a boxing match and the result certainly wasn’t pretty, either. Really there’s almost nothing as frustrating as a couple of wrestlers engaging in a sloppy-punch-contest for 15 minutes while their corner men keep telling them how awesome they’re doing. Nonetheless, Hamill turned out to be just as terrible a matchup for Ortiz as most of us expected – too big, too strong, too young for the aging “Bad Boy” to contend with.
In the wake of the loss, UFC President Dana White indicated that Tito could finally be done with the company after going winless in his last five fights. Undaunted as ever, Ortiz promised during the postfight presser to get back to hard training in a couple of weeks, claiming his “hunger is there” again. "It’s not even close to the end of my career,” he said. Seriously, the Tito Ortiz show is about to get really heartbreaking, you guys. Those of you who enjoyed watching him throughout the early 2000s might want to tune out now before they do something terrible like feed him to Jon Jones or Ryan Bader or set him up with a Seniors Tour re-re-rematch with Chuck Liddell.
If you’d asked me on Saturday afternoon which two fighters would put on the most exciting display at UFC 121, I damn sure wouldn’t have said Diego Sanchez and Paulo Thiago. But there we were, watching Sanchez hulk-up and storm back to claim victory after a shaky first round, while Thiago resorted to such unorthodox tactics as a reverse spinning mule kick and a full elevator flip from his butterfly guard. Yeah, it was pretty great.
Sanchez strikes me as the kind of guy who sometimes wins just because his brain plainly doesn’t grasp the concept of losing. His barbaric yawp whilst hoisting Thiago over his head for a double leg slam was likely one of the most radical things we’ll see in the cage this year. Personally, I’m with Joe Rogan in saying Sanchez should stick it out at 170-pounds. Diego vs. Shields, anyone?
Brendan Schaub underlined the fact that he’s a comer in the heavyweight division by out-boxing Gonzaga. Schaub is easy to like, but from here on out the problem might be finding him appropriate and compelling matchups in the 265-pound class. Meanwhile, Gonzaga is essentially the heavyweight Jorge Gurgel. After all, who in their right mind would try to use his Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt when he could just make himself totally irrelevant by losing every fight instead?