After several months of anticipation, the UFC made its network debut on FOX TV last Saturday, November 12, 2011. The historic event brought a star studded red carpet, an amazing under card with the strength to carry on its own pay per view, and a main event that will echo for years to come. Much kudos to the UFC to have brought back prize fighting to free TV, to a larger main stream audience, and for helping the sport we love grow into what it is today. Since the event took place so close to Hollywood, it was only fitting that several fighters took advantage of their opportunity to make this the evening for their breakout performance. Although only one of the performances were show on national TV, each fighter proved that they deserved to be.
Junior Dos Santos
Junior did what he said he was going to do during the pre-fight press conference. He defeated Cain Velasquez by KO quickly at 1:04 of Round 1. To have the confidence to walk in to a fight against a dominating, undefeated heavyweight champion like Velasquez is an amazing feat in itself, never mind defeating him in such quick fashion. On top of all that, it was later revealed in the post-fight interviews that he did all this with a tear in his meniscus in his knee, which was filled up with a shot of cortisone to numb the pain. It will be amazing to see what Junior will do at 100% capacity, with the swagger of the belt around his waist.
Up next for Junior will be the winner of Brock Lesnar versus Alistair Overeem. For Junior, he specifically stated he would prefer Lesnar because it would make the biggest show as Lesnar is considered one of the UFC’s biggest pay per view draws. Junior has also fought a similar fighter in Shane Carwin, a skilled wrestler with lots of power in his punches. The match up with Overeem brings a different set of challenges that Junior has never faced. Overeem brings a more diverse striking arsenal any one else in the heavyweight division with a true heavyweight size at a weight of 274lbs. The next fight for Junior will be a true test for a champion as it is always harder to keep the belt than it is to win it (just ask Cain).
During the lead up to this event, many believed that the Ben Henderson and Clay Guida fight should have been broadcasted on television along side the heavyweight championship. This fight would have been a perfect example for a person new to MMA to see how each facet of the game can come into play. The whole canvas was used to paint a perfect picture of MMA from striking, wrestling, and submissions during this fast paced affair. Henderson won by decision against Guida by just being a little better in all aspects. Bendo had the better striking, better wrestling and even the better hair (as admitted by Guida).
Up next for Henderson is a light weight title shot against Frankie Edgar in Japan, February 2012. Since both fighters have been unstoppable as Frankie has never been KO’d or submitted and Henderson has had only one submission loss on his record early in his career (back in 2007), it will be easy to say that this fight will go all five rounds. However, within those 25 minutes, it is easy to say that it will be a most exhausting and exciting to watch fight as both fighters have a full throttle pace with a variety of attacks to launch at each other.
Alex Caceres defeated Cole Escovedo by Unanimous Decision in the best performance of Caceres’ UFC career. Caceres had been on the UFC’s proverbial Chopping blcok as he had lost his previous two fights, and he was pitted against the former WEC featherweight champion in Escovedo. Caceres channeled his inner Bruce Lee-roy and put on a dynamic striking clinic including flying switch kicks and side kicks that would have made the father of Jeet Kune Do proud. On the ground where Escovedo was the strongest, Caceres pushed the action by threatening multiple submissions including Escovedo’s bread and butter triangle chokes.
Caceres can be rest assured that he will be fighting again in the UFC. A fight against another excellent striker like Brad Pickett would be a great show. Although Pickett had lost his last fight against Renan Barao, a fight against Caceres would be a showcase of fan favorites pitting power versus techniques.
Dustin Poirier defeated Pablo Garza by a sneaky D’arce choke at 1:32 of Round 2. The match up was to see which top prospect would be moving on to fight the next higher tier of UFC featherweights and up until the choke, the fight was fairly even. The choke came about as Garza was applying an under hook to regain position on the ground, and Poirier exploited his decision for the submission. Well done.
Up next for Poirier will likely be a tough match of against an established featherweight to further test the young prospect’s development. Erik Koch would be a great fight as he is currently on a 4-0 streak, most notably defeating Ultimate fighter winner Jonathan Brookins. Poirier also had shown interest in this fight during his post fight interview with Ariel Helwani.
DaMarques Johnson had defeated Clay Harvison by a vicious TKO at 1:34 of Round 1. As Joe Rogan pointed out at the beginning of the fight, Johnson’s stance looked like he was not looking to throw any kicks or go for any take downs, but only go in for the punching KO. That is exactly what Johnson did when he connected with a solid left uppercut to Harvison’s chin. The KO would have been worthy of the KO of the night but Junior Dos Santos had to make his statement on the ending to a historic night.
Johnson has had mixed results in the UFC so far with a 4-3 record. Now after a quick KO win, a fight against another quick KO winner like Che Mills from UFC 138 would be an exciting matchup.
Ricardo Lamas had come into this fight inspired to dedicate his performance to his grandmother whom he recently lost due to breast cancer. Sporting a breast cancer ribbon shaved into the side of his head, Lamas defeated Cub Swanson via arm triangle choke at 2:16 of Round 2. Lamas had set the choke up pefectly as Swanson had attempted several guilotine chokes prior. Lamas had taken advantage of one of the attempts to reverse the submission into his favor earning himself the submission of the night honors.
Up next for Lamas should be a top ten featherweight as he had defeated a former title contender in Swanson. George Roop is coming off a loss but would give a great test for Lamas to see if he would belong with the featherweight elite.