BRING ON BROCK
Cain Velasquez is ready for a title shot—now.
No heavyweight, not even current champion Brock Lesnar, has ever entered the UFC with more hype than Velasquez. He was proclaimed by his trainers as the heir apparent to the division before he ever stepped foot in the division. It is next to impossible to live up to that sort of hype, so Velasquez must win the title in order to fully fulfill his stated destiny. Nevertheless, there is no question that he has climbed to the front of the list of heavyweight contenders during his six-fight UFC run. Watch UFC 110 replay
Obviously we have to wait and see what happens between Frank Mir and Shane Carwin next month, but Velasquez is definitely at the top of the list for a shot at Lesnar when the champion is ready to return from his medical absence. We will break that fight down in great detail if and when it is signed, but the thumbnail analysis is the one who controls the position will win the fight. Lesnar may be the most dominant heavyweight wrestler in the history of the sport. If Velasquez can defend the takedown or, in the alternative, take down the champion, he should win. His standup is far and away superior to that of the champion. We have no idea, however, whether Velasquez can survive on his back against the division’s most savage ground-and-pound attack.
SILVA WINS A CLOSE ONE…WHY DID HE WAIT SO LONG?
Wanderlei Silva looked tremendous in his drop from 205 lbs to the division that far better suits his frame, 185 lbs. Reuniting with his former coach at Chute Boxe, Rafael Cordero, Silva looked as technically proficient as he has at any point in his career. He used straight, crisp jabs, good straight right hands and excellent leg kicks. Michael Bisping, who remains a 185-lb star, was 100 percent accurate in his post-fight analysis of the results. Silva won the bout as a result of the late knockdown. No doubt about it.
The question, though, is why did “The Axe Murderer” wait so long to unleash his trademark reckless abandon attack? As color commentator Joe Rogan so appropriately stated during the broadcast, Silva is the King of Chaos. He is at his best when a fight devolves into a wolverine-like skirmish with fists and feet flying with little regard for self preservation.
Yet, he opted to fight Bisping for two-plus rounds in a very controlled, calculated fashion. That is all fine and good, but Silva is not that type of fighter. He proved in the final seconds that he is a berserker who conquers opponents during pandemonium. He bludgeons his way to victory during bedlam. He is indeed the King of Chaos.
The win was huge for Silva, since he had lost four of his previous five UFC bouts. He can now forget about those setbacks and proclaim that he is undefeated at 1-0 in his new home—the UFC middleweight division. I’ll admit it. I did not believe that Silva could comfortably make the 185-lb division limit because he had struggled so badly to get down to 195 lbs in his last fight against Rich Franklin. Silva proved me wrong, which isn’t surprising because he has been proving his critics wrong for the better part of a decade.
MY HAT IS OFF TO ROGAN
Sometimes I wonder if fans really appreciate the announcing brilliance of Joe Rogan. The Hollywood funny guy is better known for his stints as the host of “Fear Factor” and the star of “NewsRadio,” so fans often criticize him because he is neither a sports announcer by formal training nor a professional mixed martial artist. What fans fail to realize is this guy may be the single biggest fan of the sport on the planet, and his background in martial arts (Rogan is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Eddie Bravo) gives him the technical knowledge to break down subtleties of a fight that the average fan wouldn’t otherwise grasp.
Case in point: As the second round of Silva-Bisping wound down, Silva locked on a vice-like guillotine choke. Rogan expertly noticed that Silva was applying the technique improperly, which prevented him from finishing the fight, and described in detail what the former champion was doing wrong. Fans rarely receive that level of granular expertise mixed with instant comedy from color commentators in any sport. The UFC is far better off because it has an expert like Rogan on the microphone.
POSSIBLY THE BIGGEST WIN OF HIS CAREER
Winning the 2006 Pride Open Weight Grand Prix was huge. No doubt about it. But those were different days, and the guy who won that tournament was a different fighter, at least in terms of his aura, than the one who currently competes in the UFC.
The 2006 version of Mirko Cro Cop was a stone-cold killer. His standup skills instilled fear in the hearts of his opponents. This was a guy who literally defeated opponents with literally nothing but kicks—an unheard of strategy for even the best kickboxers.
Today’s version isn’t so scary after getting thoroughly dominated in three of his last four UFC bouts. He seemed almost lost in those three fights. For whatever reason, he no longer threw kicks—his most fearsome weapon. And he no longer stalked his opponents like a hungry Bengal tiger. In other words, he needed to find himself coming into UFC 110 because the ship had certainly hit a serious patch of rough water.
I’m still not ready to announce that Cro Cop is all the way back to his old form, but Saturday night was a giant leap in that direction. Let’s face it: a loss to Anthony Perosh would have at worst slammed the door shut on his UFC future and at best placed him so far down the ladder that he would have been an afterthought as a title contender, which made the bout arguably the most important of his career. Cro Cop rose to the occasion with a complete thrashing of his opponent.
Cro Cop’s confidence was apparent from the moment he began the long walk to the Octagon. His demeanor during those few dozen yards more closely resembled that of an accountant walking to his office than a man about to be locked in an eight-sided cage with someone whose sole purpose is to hurt him in front of millions of viewers. The Croatian was known for that sort of calm before the storm in PRIDE; it is nice to see him back to that mindset in the UFC.
Of course, a win against a contender is necessary before he finds himself in the championship mix. He should get that chance the next time he competes.
BADER CAN’T BE IGNORED MUCH LONGER
Ryan Bader is not to be taken lightly in the UFC light heavyweight division. Anyone who beats Keith Jardine, particularly by knockout, deserves to be talked about in the same breath as the 205-lb contenders. The most impressive part of the win is the fact that Bader had enough gas in the third round to score a knockout, which eliminates for all intents and purposes the questions that surrounded his cardio heading into the fight. The knockout also eliminates any questions about his standup ability. This guy is no longer a wrestler focusing on mixed martial arts. He is a fighter—period.
Bader’s career is progressing with serious hockey-stick trajectory. A few more big wins and it will be tough to deny him a shot at UFC gold. And if he keeps knocking guys out in spectacular fashion, he will quickly become a major fan favorite.
SOTIROPOULOS PUTS ON A GROUND CLINIC
Joe Stevenson has one of the most revered ground games in the UFC lightweight division. Yet, he was given a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clinic by George Sotiropoulos. From top control to oma plata sweeps to a stifling defensive guard, the Aussie put on a masterful display of ground prowess. Stevenson looked a bit surprised by the decision, which is shocking because he had to know that he lost the fight. No matter, Sotiropoulos really made a statement with the win. I’d love to see him test his ground skills against another submission master in Nate Diaz (who, unlike Stevenson, is probably equally dangerous from his back as he is from the top position) if he returns to 155 after his upcoming March bout with Rory Markham, or see if he can handle the dominant wrestling of someone like Gray Maynard.