(Props: Getty Images/UFC.com)
Admit it: When Mark Hunt first caught Cheick Kongo with a counter left, you were excited. When Hunt chased Kongo down and dropped him with a series of fight-ending straight rights, you cheered. No matter how much money you bet on Kongo to win, you couldn’t help but buy into the feel-good story that has been Mark Hunt’s UFC run. To see the same Mark Hunt who only earned a shot in the UFC due to the PRIDE buyout- the guy who Dana White offered to pay to just walk away from the UFC before being submitted by Sean McCorkle- thoroughly outclass one of the heavyweight division’s best kickboxers is a testament to his newfound dedication to the sport. The fact that he’s thirty seven years old only makes it all the more remarkable.
Mark Hunt improves to 8-7, marking the first time he’s had a winning record in the sport since his record was 5-4 in 2008. Although his hopes for either a title shot or a fight on next week’s Australia card are both pretty optimistic (to put it mildly), Hunt clearly demonstrated that he’s ready for stiffer competition. As for Cheick Kongo, this loss shouldn’t hurt his standing with the UFC- he was already a gatekeeper to begin with. We already knew that he wasn’t a serious contender for the heavyweight championship- the way he was outclassed by Mark Hunt’s striking and his inability to get Hunt on the ground proved it.
It’s disappointing to say this, but I think we can all agree that the “Sexyama in the UFC” experiment is officially a bust. Jake Shields, with his subpar striking and inclination to grapple, was about as handpicked of an opponent as Yoshihiro Akiyama could get for his welterweight debut. Yet for three rounds last night, Shields outpointed Akiyama on his way to a unanimous decision victory. While Akiyama did manage to stuff Shields’ takedown attempts throughout the fight, he offered nothing in return. Save for a beautiful throw in the second round, Akiyama never had Jake Shields out of his element in this fight- let alone actually in danger. And even though Jake Shields didn’t come close to finishing Akiyama until the final minute of the fight, he was clearly in control throughout the bout. Yoshihiro Akiyama has now lost four straight fights (or five, depending on how you feel about the Alan Belcher decision), and although he has shown flashes of greatness, the thirty six year old’s UFC run has been overwhelmingly unremarkable.
There may not have been a bigger surprise from last night than Tim Boetsch’s victory over Yushin Okami. Not only because Boetsch was such a heavy underdog, but also because of how he won. “The Barbarian” failed to live up to his nickname for most of their fight, being outgunned by Yushin Okami’s jab heavy offense in the first round and nearly punched out by Okami’s ground and pound after a failed guillotine in the second. When Tim Boetsch realized that nothing short of a finish would get him a victory, he threw caution to the wind and put everything behind his strikes. And it actually worked, as Okami found himself out cold fifty four seconds into the third round. While Okami seemed to be back to normal throughout the fight, once he got caught by “The Barbarian” he resorted to the same gunshy ”Thunder” we watched get picked apart by Anderson Silva. Okami needs to shake his fear of getting caught- something much easier said than done after back-to-back knockout losses.
As for the evening’s end of the night bonuses, which were all worth $65k, Submission of the Night went to Vaughan Lee for his armbar against Kid Yamamoto. Lee survived Yamamoto’s early onslaught and transitioned to the armbar after a failed triangle choke during the prelims on FX. Knockout of the Night went to Anthony Pettis for his brutal head kick against Joe Lauzon. It’s being rumored that Pettis has earned a rematch with Benson Henderson for the title. Don’t ask me how knocking out a gatekeeper like Lauzon earns a guy a title shot, but we’ll keep you posted if the rumor turns out to be true. As we mentioned earlier, Fight of the Night went to Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson for their five round main event title fight.
Also of note, the UFC has decided to give Takeya Mizugaki his win bonus, even though he lost a unanimous decision to Chris Cariaso. Mizugaki earned takedowns and stayed on top of Cariaso for the entire fight, but Cariaso’s submission attempts, elbows from the bottom and sweeps earned him the victory in the eyes of the judges. Admittedly, I thought Mizugaki was going to be the victor while watching the fight, but only because top control usually wins, regardless of whether the guy on top is actually attacking or not.
MAIN CARD (PPV)
Ben Henderson def. Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision- UFC Lightweight Championship
Ryan Bader def. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson via unanimous decision
Mark Hunt def. Cheick Kongo via TKO (strikes) at 2:11 of Round One
Jake Shields defeats Yoshihiro Akiyama via unanimous decision
Tim Boetsch def. Yushin Okami via TKO (strikes) at :54 of Round Three
Hatsu Hioki defeats Bart Palaszewski via unanimous decision
Anthony Pettis def. Joe Lauzon via KO (head kick) at 1:21 of Round One
Takanori Gomi def. Eiji Mitsuoka via TKO (strikes) at 2:21 of Round Two
Vaughn Lee def. Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto via submission (armbar) at 4:29 of Round One
Riki Fukuda def. Steve Cantwell via unanimous decision
Chris Cariaso def. Takeya Mizugaki via unanimous decision
Issei Tamura def. Tiequan Zhang via KO (punch) at 0:32 of Round Two