Antonio Silva is every bit the monster the UFC’s hype machine have promoted him as but champion Cain Velasquez once more proved to be too quick for “Bigfoot.” Just as he did one year ago in their first meeting, Cain wasted little time in stopping Silva in the first round, via ground strikes.
“Pezao” absolutely earned the title shot he received Saturday night – he has a list of victims that include two former UFC heavyweight champions, former long-time pound for pound kingpin Fedor Emelianenko and, most recently, Alistair Overeem – but Velasquez once more proved that the combination of his quickness, relentless pace and striking power are very hard to beat. In the post fight press conference, Silva objected to the stoppage by referee Mario Yamasaki, saying it was premature and that he allowed Velasquez to hit him to the back of the head illegally.
“I do agree the fight was stopped too early,” the Brazilian said.
“It’s clear watching it that I took several illegal blows to the back of my neck.”
It was also clear that Silva was out of the fight altogether before he hit the ground, after Velasquez clipped him with a left and hammered him with a right. Strikes to the back of the head being illegal is one of the least clearly defined, hard to enforce and altogether counterproductive to realistic sport fighting rules that exists in MMA, besides. At the least, fighters should not be allowed to hide behind the rule while laying prone, face down.
Yamasaki did his job and protected Silva from taking more damage by stopping the bout after it was clear Antonio could not move himself out of danger but before the brave fighter was beaten senseless.
Grant vs. Maynard Goes On Too Long
The referee officiating TJ Grant and Gray Maynard’s lightweight contender’s bout can’t say he did the same. Grant dropped Maynard with flush punches and knees to the chin multiple times and delivered more clean punishment to a defenseless Maynard while on the ground before the referee stepped in all too late and called a halt to the bout.
Maynard was out of the fight from the first nasty jaw shot that he took and did nothing to avoid or mount his own offense during many, many shots afterwards from Grant. It all happened quickly but when a fighter does nothing but fall over and over again, he’s been done for awhile and the referee should have recognized this earlier than he did.
The “stakes” of a fight, whether it is a number one contender’s fight like Maynard’s and Grants, or a title bout, shouldn’t matter when it comes to deciding how long a fighter should be allowed to take a beating. Many of these guys and girls are too brave, too well trained to stop moving, even if only flailing, even when their brains have already been shut down by strikes.
They need corners and ref who understand in the moment far better than they themselves do when they are done. Reffing is a hard job – one that I’m not qualified to do – but it needs to be said that Maynard took too much damage for too long last night.
The Tyson Effect
None of that is a poor reflection on either fighter’s performance. Grant has come out of nowhere to make a great case for himself as the most dangerous challenger to Benson Henderson’s lightweight title reign. Grant proved that he could hang with the best at welterweight (including number one contender Johny Hendricks) before dropping down to lightweight. Now, he’s got five fight win streak and just finished the perennial #1 lightweight contender in Maynard, and he’s even got Mike Tyson’s stamp of approval.
After last night’s event, UFC President Dana White told the media that he was set to give Junior Dos Santos the KO of the night bonus but Mike Tyson, who was UFC 160’s guest of honor, it seemed, told him that it should go to Grant. White went with “Iron Mike” and Grant is $50,000 less poor now.
White also said that Grant may get to fight for Henderson’s belt as early as August in Boston at the first Fox Sports 1 card. With his size and power, he may be the man to push Henderson to the limit.
Dos Santos Prevails Over K-1 Level Striking
Two-time heavyweight champion Velasquez now has his first successful title defense out of the way and looks towards a rubber match with Junior Dos Santos. “Cigano” earned another shot at the belt he once took from Cain by knocking Mark Hunt out in the UFC 160 co-main event.
Early in the first round, television analyst Joe Rogan remarked at how Hunt’s striking abilities were on a whole other level compared to Dos Santos. Moments later, Dos Santos sent the former K-1 World Grand Prix kickboxing champion careening to the canvas, face-first with an over hand right.
The moment, and much of the rest of the fight – Hunt survived until the third round when a spinning heel kick from JDS floored him and a right hand taken to the jaw while on his back knocked him out – demonstrated once more what a bad idea basing MMA match up assessments on resumes in different fight sports instead of using actual analysis of skills, tendencies and mechanics can be.
There was no particular reason to believe that Hunt was a “better” striker than Dos Santos, leading into their fight simply because he was a former kickboxing champion anymore than there was reason to assume that JDS was the “better athlete” because he has a six pack. I would argue that Hunt’s success as a fighter, and striker in particular, are not due to being far more slick and technical than his opponents, but rather to his incredible athletic gifts and mental toughness.
Anyone with eyes and a memory knows that Hunt doesn’t knock people out with technical combinations. He throws one strike at a time but when you pack the natural power he does, one strike at a time can be enough. Hunt doesn’t avoid getting knocked out by using great head movement or tight footwork – he simply absorbs ungodly amounts of punishment without going down, giving his power shots a chance to do their magic.
The former UFC champ took advantage of predictable technical mistakes that Hunt always makes, not in wrestling or ground work, but in the stand-up striking department.
Hunt often shoulder rolls and turns his head away with his lead hand down to avoid punches. His sense of distance and durable block head allowed him to do this without devastating consequences until last night. Dos Santos continually hammered away at Hunt’s exposed jaw and back of the head with the punch that won him the UFC heavyweight belt – his over hand right. All of Hunt’s big punches, even those that landed, left him out of position to follow up.
The best strikers are not the ones in boxing rings, where referees break fighters up if they grab one another. The best strikers are not in kickboxing rings, where they can kick without fear of being taken down and put on their backs.
The best strikers are in the Octagon – where more realistic fighting takes place. The value of a punch, kick, knee or elbow isn’t in it’s prettiness – fighting isn’t a Wu Shu Kung Fu forms demonstration or Capoeira dance – it is in its efficacy. The guys that manage to land strikes on opponents who are not only also striking, but trying to take them down, choke them out or tear a limb a up, are the ones I want to learn from.
Hunt’s rise through the MMA ranks has been amazing, considering all this. He began fighting the very best MMA fighters nearly a decade ago with virtually no other skills other than his limited kickboxing ones yet managed to win early and often.
After his career took a downturn and the UFC bought his employer, Pride, they offered to let the New Zealander cash out and walk away with hundreds of thousands of dollars without having to fight any longer. He rejected the offer, saying he wanted to fight for his money.
He proved everyone wrong by beating some of the best heavyweights in the world and coming one fight away from a shot at the title. Heck, he came within a breath a number of times against Dos Santos.
There is no objective reason why some of the leaping left hooks that Hunt hit Dos Santos with flush on the jaw, shouldn’t have knocked out the former champion. They didn’t, but that is no fault of Hunt.
He came in and fought as advertised – violently, effectively and with valor. After the fight the rest of the world discovered that Hunt suffered a nausea-inducing toe break in his right foot in the first round. Yet, he fought on and went out on his shield like the soldier he is.
Dos Santos and Hunt earned fight of the night honors for their brutal clash. They earned it. Hunt has also more than earned that Pride money that he insisted on fighting for instead of being given.
“Mini-IceMan” Lives Up To The Hype
Glover Teixeira nabbed his 19th consecutive win and submission of the night honors with a first round guillotine choke win over James Te Huna. The Chuck Liddell protégé is one well-rounded light heavyweight and even if he falls into the same category as every other 205 pound contender out there (not having much of a chance against champion Jon Jones) Glover has already done something nearly as difficult as beating “Bones” – living up his pre-UFC hype.
Glover had a ton of expectations placed on him when he entered the UFC a year ago. Others, like Hector Lombard, have had similar pushes and not been able to justify them in the Octagon.
Teixeira, however, has taken the light heavyweight division by storm, winning four times in a year, including multiple finishes and a win over former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Who knows how far he can go but Glover has already accomplished a lot.