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UFC 144: The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly

(This punch-face that Bendo gave Frankie Edgar? Good *and* ugly.)

By Mark Dorsey

Inspired by the 1966 Spaghetti Western film about three gunmen who set out to find a hidden fortune during the American Civil War, this post-event wrap-up is dedicated to the moments that may have slipped through the cracks or deserve a little bit more analysis. Before we bid adieu to the resounding success that was UFC 144, join us for a look back at the event with a solid, squinty-eyed gaze that would make a macho legend like Clint Eastwood proud.

The Good
The Japanese crowd. As expected, the Japanese crowd was politely engaged in the fights throughout the entire event. There were long periods of respectful silence during most of the action, prompting Joe Rogan to urge Mike Goldberg to take off his headphones in order to soak in the eerie quiet in the arena. Rogan is a stand-up comic who doesn’t often get the opportunity to crack jokes during the fights but it was funny when he said that event was akin to watching “a cagefight in a church.” Despite the reverent atmosphere, the crowd also had its moments of vocal fervor, erupting into chants of Hioki’s name and random “UFC” chants, while also scolding Ryan Bader with boos when he tried to tie-up Rampage from the bottom. The Japanese fans showed a lot of support to non-native fighters such as Vaughan Lee after his impressive armbar victory over Kid Yamamoto, and Tim Boetsch after his shocking comeback win over Yushin Okami. The vibe in Japan was markedly different from the UFC’s amazing shows in Toronto and Rio, but anytime there’s an event when the fans become one of the main talking points, it speaks to their passion.

Referees. Referees usually only get the spotlight if they make a mistake or controversial decision, but sometimes they should get mentioned simply because they did a solid job. That was certainly the case at UFC 144 which saw some great stoppages. Particularly noteworthy was Herb Dean’s reaction time, jumping in to stop Mark Hunt and Issei Tamura from inflicting more damage after their devastating knockouts of Cheick Kongo and Zhang Tiequan, respectively. In a similar vein, during the Lauzon/Pettis fight, referee Marc Goddard was right on top of the action, quickly stepping in to prevent follow-up damage after Lauzon was KO’d.

Rampage Jackson. There were many disappointing aspects of Rampage’s performance at UFC 144, but he should also get some credit for providing a lot of interest in this card. Although he couldn’t pull off a win, Rampage did his best to entertain with a great entrance in which he came out to the Pride FC opening theme song and provided the crowd with a couple of his signature howls. His Japanese homecoming clearly meant a lot to an emotional Rampage who fought through a knee injury and showed a lot of maturity in many of the interviews he gave before and after the event. Also, the slam/spike on Bader was thrilling and a reminder of the potentially fight-ending techniques that Rampage still possesses.

The Bad
Late fights and timing issues. As the UFC continues to expand into different overseas markets, there will be some growing pains regarding how to satisfy both the live crowds and the North American television audience. Let’s be honest, it’s nice that we can watch the UFC at its regular time slot here in North America, but I’m not sure that catering to the PPV numbers is the best way to build a strong UFC following in Japan, especially when it means starting the fights at 10AM on a Sunday. Also, it may seem like a strange thing to complain about, but a 4-hour PPV is just way too long. The average major league sporting event is only 2.5 to 3 hours long; this was a 4-hour PPV with 2 hours of preliminary fights. It’s great that there are so many fights being shown but hopefully it’s not at the expense of waning interest by the time the main event rolls around.

The state of Japanese MMA. Japanese fighters did not fare very well on this card as a whole. When it came down to all of the high-profile matches of Japanese versus foreign fighters, the Japanese contingent didn’t do well, with Yushin Okami, Kid Yamamoto and Yoshihiro Akiyama each suffering definitive losses. Yushin Okami dominated Tim Boetsch for two rounds, but for a guy constantly hyped as the best Japanese fighter in the UFC, he quickly fell apart after getting stormed in the third round. Aside from Hatsu Hioki‘s impressive win over rising contender Bart Palaszewski, the Japanese fighters who did secure victories (Riki Fukuda, Takanori Gomi, and Issei Tamura) did so against less-than-stellar opposition (Steve Cantwell, Eiji Mitsuoka, and Tiequan Zhang).

The Ugly
Rampage Jackson. As a fan of Rampage, it’s easy to want to give him some leeway for fighting through a knee injury, but the truth is, this was an ugly event for him in the context of his entire career. After missing weight and giving up some of his purse, Rampage appeared to be mentally checked out. It seems he was looking past Bader and didn’t really take him seriously. During the fight, Rampage didn’t throw his hands much, and other than his slam, he showed very little of the dynamism that has marked some of his more famous fights. For a guy who has expressed a desire to fight Jon Jones again, this was a big setback.

Rogan and Goldie. There were a couple head-smacking moments from the commentary during the Cheick Kongo and Mark Hunt fight. First, during the walk-in, Mike Goldberg stated that Hunt “brutalized” Fedor for eight minutes in their fight at Pride Shockwave 2006. While it’s true that Hunt had Fedor in some legitimate trouble, stating that Fedor was “brutalized” is disingenuous and reeks of Zuffa-inspired revisionist history. Second, during the fight itself, Joe Rogan talked about Kongo’s improved grappling, especially in the Ben Rothwell fight. After Goldie chimed in with “He even attempted an armbar” Rogan got confused and began talking about Hunt’s grappling instead of Kongo’s, saying of the armbar, “Well, he also did that in the Fedor fight. He almost caught Fedor in an Americana, or was it a Kimura, at some point.” Unlike Goldie’s misnomer, Rogan’s was obviously an accident. Plus, did Rogan really describe Tim Boetsch’s win over Okami as the greatest comeback win he’s ever seen in MMA?

Mangled limbs. Yushin Okami’s left leg collapsed after he got KO’d by Tim Boetsch and it was reminiscent of Cro Cop’s mangled-looking leg after his loss to Gonzaga. On a similar note, during his fight against Rampage, Bader stupidly put his arm down to try and stop from being slammed. Luckily, it didn’t cause any major damage to his arm.

Cagepotato Comments

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LoneWolf- February 28, 2012 at 6:36 pm
What are you retarded? It was awesome that the ppv was so long, after all that BS on this site about how awesome all the fights were, you clowns are complaining about how long the PPV was?? I thought it was on of the few times where I got more than my moneys worth. Awesome PPV. In any-case, if it was some other PPV and some of the fights sucked, I would still be happy with it.
J-Dog- February 28, 2012 at 6:53 am
UGLY: FX's use of the football game broadcast theme music throughout the undercard broadcast. They need to can that shit like right now. What's next? Some country music star opening the show singing "Are you ready for some fighting? A Saturday night brawl! We got Rogan and Goldie and Buffer, it's time to get the party started.. yeah!" I like football and I like my MMA. I don't want them mixed, not even if it's a distant relationship like using the same intro music. No mixing. Then againt... I might like football a lot more if they would make a point of regularly throwing their helmets off and throwing down like they do in hockey. Hmmm...
J-Dog- February 28, 2012 at 6:30 am
Rogan: Mike, you are getting a lot of gray in your hair these days
Goldie: When 47 years old YOU reach, look as good you will not

It cracks me up how obvious it is that Goldie got his broadcast journalism degree from Dagobah University
fatbellyfrank- February 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm
I thought it was a great card, I've watched the PPV three times now and its all good fights, main thing that stood out for me was the size difference between Bendo and Frankie, frankie needs to drop to 145, he'd be even more of a beast against guys his size
cabj1905- February 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm
That picture of Benson looks like Clubber Lang punching the shit out of Rocky. On another note, I also don't get anyone who complains about getting extra fights. If you don't wanna watch for four hours, tune in an hour late. And the Japanese crowd obviously doesn't mind showing up at 10am on a Sunday. It's not like they have to go to church or something. The UFC is primarily a PPV business and you're more likely to get 20,000 Japanese fans to show up at a live event at 10am than get 1 million people to stay up all night and buy a card.
Lesnarischamp- February 27, 2012 at 2:27 pm
@FilmDrunk. You're right, "god awful" opponent would have been better
Get Off Me- February 27, 2012 at 11:05 am
Pettis had about three follow up shots after he kicked Lauzon.
The GOOD:Pettis doing what Guillard should have done vs Lauzon, following a kick to the body early on with a kick to the head a few moments later. Mark Hunt's evolution in the UFC. Hioki's ground game. Vaughan Lee's Chin/transition from triangle to armbar giving Yamamoto his first loss via submission. Tim Boestch's corner in between the 2nd and 3rd round.................The BAD:Rampage Jackson. The Ugly:Rampage Jackson.
ArmFarmer- February 27, 2012 at 10:55 am
Yeah, rampage failed miserably in every way imaginable. Maybe his walkout was good.. but I care so little about entrances I'm rarely glued to the tv during those parts so I'm sure I missed it anyway. I usually love Rogan, but he had an off night this time. He did correct himself on two separate occasions after the okami/boestch freak out.. but the other thing that really bothered me was that he kept calling headkicks leg kicks. Anyone else notice that? I forget which fight, but he kept saying "left leg kick" after a left high kick.
J. Jones- February 27, 2012 at 10:32 am
Good write up, Mark. Personally, I'm for putting as many fights on the PPV as humanly possible, if only to spare us from Goldie's ridiculous intros.
Spitting into the wind- February 27, 2012 at 10:24 am
What? Praising Rampage for anything seems absolutely ridiculous and complaining about the length of a ppv?
Really? You want to watch less fights?
Fucking hell....
padster007- February 27, 2012 at 10:12 am
rampage is like stagnent water these day. if hes gunna push forward weaving his head about, he better start throwing more bombs. hes like a fookin moving punchbag these days. i think hes lost his mean streak.
Ogre- February 27, 2012 at 9:51 am
Why would complain about a fully stacked, 7 fight main card? We should be appreciating this.
darkstarrocketship- February 27, 2012 at 9:50 am
^ An edit button, an edit button, my kingdom for an edit button.
darkstarrocketship- February 27, 2012 at 9:50 am
Yes, Rogan hastily claimed Tim Boetsch’s win over Okami to be !the greatest comeback win he’s ever seen in MMA" but he also corrected himself soon after. Why selectively omit that part?
FilmDrunk- February 27, 2012 at 9:40 am
I don't think it's quite fair to call Steve Cantwell a "less than stellar opponent" or to use Boetsch's out-of-his-ass victory as a sign of the decline of Japanese MMA.
danomite- February 27, 2012 at 9:39 am
I haven't seen anyone talking about Bendo's attempted enziguri kick the first time frankie caught his arm. Had that landed and KO'd him that's the all that anybody would be talking about right now. I hope more people try it. It almost landed.
Jason Moles- February 27, 2012 at 9:38 am
As much as I hate CagePotato joining the growing list of websites with it's own brand of 'The Good, Bad, and Ugly', your work, Mark, is more than just par for the course, you birdied. Keep it up.
KarmaAteMyCat- February 27, 2012 at 9:36 am
Hunt did DESTROY FEDOR for Minutes on end theres no buttering it up why is everyone still on Fedors sack when dude refuses to evolve and drop to a weight he can be competitive at, instead of destroying competition that isn't even on his level and yet continue to establish himself as the worlds greatest Can Crusher. I rarely disagree with writers but On that note I disagree.
Kid Clam Curtains- February 27, 2012 at 9:28 am
That was a long PPV but I don't mind. The more fights I get to see the better.
k-onda- February 27, 2012 at 9:22 am
Unlike Nick Diaz, Rogan doesn't have to worry about random drug tests after the night of bouts. Dude was pretty much flippin' out during the Okami-Boetsch fight, and when The Barbarian went into beast mode, Joe's head straight blew up - literally.
Fletch the V Stretch- February 27, 2012 at 8:44 am
haha, Kongo has no chin whatsoever. It is comical. The dude looks so damn scary but he is so easy to KO. He is like that guy from TUF heavy weights who tried to bully Mitrione on the show. Guy would get his lights shut off every time by one punch.
brownjhole- February 27, 2012 at 8:30 am
yeah kongo won
Fried Taco- February 27, 2012 at 8:22 am
I remember that Kongo/Fedor fight like it was yesterday. Much improved since then, Cheick's grappling is.