I wouldn’t call yesterday’s UFC Fight Night event a great card, necessarily — the headlining bout was predictably slow, and the main card broadcast dragged in the middle thanks to the light-heavyweights. Still, there were enough violent, surprising, and awful moments at UFC Fight Night 29 to make it worth discussing. So let’s talk about the interesting stuff first, and work our way down to the crap.
Rousimar Palhares may look a little different at welterweight*, but his gameplan hasn’t changed one iota. From the opening bell, Palhares aggressively dove for the legs of Mike Pierce, in an attempt to sink one of his infamous leg-locks. It worked…maybe a little too well. In just 31 seconds, an agonized Mike Pierce was tapping from a heel-hook. As is custom in MMA, the winning fighter is supposed to release his grip and jump up on the cage to do some flexing. But not Rousimar. As he’s done so many times before, Palhares continued to hold the submission for a moment after the referee intervened — which must have seemed like an eternity to poor Mike Pierce.
Rousimar’s heel-hook was the only submission on the card, and would be worthy of a $50,000 Submission of the Night bonus even if there were other subs to compete with. Instead, the UFC decided to withhold the SOTN bonus due to Palhares’s “unsportsmanlike conduct,” and UFC President Dana White claimed that Palhares would receive an additional punishment for his actions. Palhares previously received a 90-day slap on the wrist** for holding a heel-hook against Tomasz Drwal at UFC 111. Maybe the next punishment will be severe enough for him to actually pay attention.
* By the way, when Palhares showed up in the cage, he almost looked like the old Palhares again. Ah, the miracle of rehydration.
While Palhares’s victory was the most savage stoppage on the card, it certainly wasn’t the most surprising. That honor goes to Dong Hyun Kim, who was getting soundly lit up by Erick Silva until Kim ended the fight with a blazing overhand left in round two. Of course, this fight wasn’t without controversy either. Earlier in the round, Kim blatantly grabbed the fence to avoid being taken to the mat by Silva. The ref warned him about it — but didn’t pause the action or deduct a point — and the next thing you know, DHK uncorked a one-hitter quitter. Basically, it was the greatest use of an illegal fence grab since Jose Aldo did the exact same thing against Chad Mendes at UFC 142. All together, now…”YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CHEAT IN AN MMA FIGHT.” Kim is now on a three-fight win streak in the welterweight division, and earned the first Knockout of the Night bonus of his UFC career.
So let’s talk about those light-heavyweights, huh? Thiago Silva managed to save his job by beating Matt Hamill via decision, but it wasn’t pretty. Hamill started aggressively (as he often does), before fading later in the fight (as he often does). To a large extent, you can credit that to Silva’s relentless leg kicks, which jolted Hamill around the cage and stole much of his mobility. By the end of round three, Hamill was just looking to be put out of his misery. Every leg kick from Silva had him stumbling around in a circle, and Hamill was too exhausted to even stay upright, leaning over at the waist several times with his head completely exposed to further abuse. Silva landed strikes at will, but couldn’t find the strength to deliver a merciful death-blow, which suggested that Silva might have been pretty gassed himself. When the final bell sounded, Thiago Silva had staved off the reaper of unemployment, and Hamill proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he should have stayed retired.
Speaking of fighters who faded deep into the fight, Raphael Assuncao and T.J. Dillashaw earned UFC Fight Night 29′s Fight of the Night bonuses, despite the fact that the third round was eerily quiet, with both fighters (but especially Dillashaw) seemingly losing interest in attacking. Dillashaw started off as the aggressor both on the feet and on the mat, and managed to take the Brazilian’s back for a portion of the round. But Assuncao shifted the momentum in the second frame, landing more of his shots and bloodying the face of Dillashaw.
Just when Dillashaw should have picked up the pace in the decisive final round, he took his foot off the gas, steadily walking toward Assuncao but not really doing anything productive. Outside of a few counter-punches, Assuncao seemed to be cool with riding the clock out as well, which he did en route to a split-decision win. The crowd booed the lack of activity during round three, and yet this was officially the best fight on the card. Hmm. Personally, I would have given that honor to Kim vs. Silva — who doesn’t love a comeback knockout? — but maybe the UFC wanted to spread the bonus money around a little more.
Jake Shields‘s split-decision win over Demian Maia was impressive in theory, but not particularly fun to watch. We have to give Shields props for going into enemy territory and out-grappling a grappler who was supposed to be better than him. And he absolutely did that, securing more dominant positions against Maia and abusing the Brazilian with punches and elbows from the top whenever the opportunities presented themselves. The question is, will a methodical 25-minute ground battle do anything to raise Jake’s stock in the welterweight division? Short answer: Hell no. There are too many exciting contenders currently clogging up the top of the 170-pound ladder, and once again, Shields proved that his fights are not required viewing. Seven bouts into his UFC career, he’s still looking for his first stoppage victory, and he’s never been worthy of a Fight of the Night bonus. Being a great fighter means nothing if the fans and the promotion don’t care.
As for Fabio Maldonado vs. Joey Beltran…ugh, what can you say, really? Some ugly brawls are fun to watch, some are just ugly. Maldonado proved that even in victory, he can’t avoid getting his face torn to shit, and that he’ll make it a close fight even when he doesn’t have to. Beltran proved that he might not even be a Bellator-caliber fighter, although we’ll leave that to Viacom to decide.
Full UFC Fight Night 29 results
Jake Shields def. Demian Maia via split decision (48-47 x 2, 47-48)
Dong Hyun Kim def. Erick Silva via KO, 3:01 of round 2
Thiago Silva def. Mat Hamill via unanimous decision (30-27 x 2, 29-28)
Fabio Maldonado def. Joey Beltran via split decision (29-28 x 2, 28-29)
Rousimar Palhares def. Mike Pierce via submission (heel hook), 0:31 of round 1
Raphael Assuncao def. T.J. Dillashaw via split decision (29-28 x 2, 28-29)
Igor Araujo def. Ildemar Alcantara via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)
Yan Cabral def. David Mitchell via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Chris Cariaso def. Iliarde Santos via TKO, 4:31 of round 2
Alan Patrick def. Garett Whiteley via TKO, 3:54 of round 1