The UFC usually stacks their Super Bowl weekend card to the max, and this year was no exception. On paper, UFC 126 was an unbelievable card that had almost otherworldly expectations. And for once, there was no question it absolutely lived up to the hype!
Miguel Torres vs. Antonio Banuelos (Bantamweight) The reach advantage for Torres was a staggering 13". That has to be some kind of record! Torres utilized it well, constantly tagging Banuelos while making sure nothing dangerous serious came within a feet of his face. Unanimous decision for Torres, a no-brainer. His game-plan, expertly devised by his corner consisting of Greg Jackson et al., was to stick and move, and coast to victory without taking any chances. He executed it to perfection.
Sidebar: The better-safe-than-sorry attitude often displayed by fighters from Jackson's camp is not always thrilling to watch. I see the necessity to sometimes play it safe in sports, especially one like this where one small mistake could lead to defeat in a heartbeat. It's hard to argue against success, and Jackson's fighters are much more often than not winners. It just rubs wrong against the nature of fighting, which is to have a clear-cut winner through some means of submission (not being conscious being one form of it).
Jake Ellenberger vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha (Welterweight) A lot of wrestlers use his opponents kicks to get the takedowns, but Rocha didn't really have to worry about that since he was so dominant on the ground. That's why Rocha kept throwing those wild kicks, since he was comfortable either standing or on the ground. I loved his kicks, especially that jumping head kick that connected towards the end of the fight! Split decision win for Ellenberger, which I guess was OK under the circumstances. Great showing by Rocha, though. I can't wait to see more of this guy's ground game. It was super-exciting to constantly watch him go for submissions, transitions and reversals during the first round!
Ryan Bader vs. Jon Jones (Light heavyweight) Jones is another of Greg Jackson's fighters, and the game plan immediately seemed to be "take him down and submit him" when Jones almost succeeded in doing just that in the first minute of the fight. This was never really a competitive fight, as Jones pretty much controlled his opponent all the time. Bader got a few shots in, but nothing that seemed to do any damage. Jon Jones has been touted as the future of this sport, and he definitely proved that sentiment with force today. In the post-fight interview, Joe Rogan revealed that the number one contender to the light heavyweight title Rashad Evans had blown out his knee recently, and that the UFC wanted Jon Jones to step in as his replacement in the title fight against champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. You had to love the expression on Jones' face when Joe told him, he had just come off another dominating performance against the strongest competition he had faced so far, and was - surprisingly to everyone, including himself - rewarded with a title fight as early as March. Not that he isn't worthy, it just came a lot earlier than anyone thought it would. Great stuff!
Rich Franklin vs. Forrest Griffin (Light heavyweight) Two former champions and seemingly very nice guys facing off in a fight that will move the winner a lot closer to the title picture. The talk before was about how similar their fighting styles were, and that the only thing separating them was the weight - Griffin typically cuts down from 220-225, whereas Franklin apparently is closer to the 200lbs mark. This proved to be accurate, as Forrest used his weight to hold Rich down for most of the first round. His takedowns really were the difference in the fight, and ended up getting the decision much to the surprise of Rich Franklin, who apparently believed himself the victor.
Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort (Middleweight championship) Unbelievable! Anderson Silva knocked out Vitor Belfort with a front kick. I am at a loss for words. Silva has taken a lot of criticism over the past couple of fights, but I never really joined in that chorus. His toying with Demian Maia at UFC 112 last year upset UFC president Dana White and most of the MMA world immensely, but I enjoyed watching the fight despite (or maybe because of?) its weirdness.
Anderson is on another level than everyone else in this sport. It’s just that simple. Eight UFC title defenses in a row certainly makes that claim. But it’s not just records, it's the way this Brazilian fights. Anderson Silva's head and upper body movement is out of this world, his stand-up is extremely creative, fluid and effortless, ask Rich Franklin what getting caught in his Thai-clinch feels like, and we don't have to go any further than Chael Sonnen or Travis Lutter to see his submissions are world class. But what impresses me the most is his ability to make it look so easy. He is smiling a lot before his fights, like this is another day at the most fun job in the world (which, I'm sure, to him it is). He is always super loose and relaxed in the Octagon, seemingly approaching each fight like it's a sparring session with a training partner (which quickly becomes very, very clear that it's not!). And it more often than not ends in spectacular fashion with him as the winner.
If Anderson's native language would be English, he would be the most recognized fighter in America, bigger and more famous than both Chuck Liddell and any of the current boxers combined. Anderson Silva is that special, that dominating, that damned good, and I feel privileged to be watching him every time he fights.
Final verdict: I enjoyed this event thoroughly, as it had a little bit of everything that makes MMA so great and such an entertaining sport. And for once, all my picks for the main card came through, which was a bonus. Too bad I didn't have any real bets riding on this one. An early best PPV of-the-Year candidate, and it will take an positively stellar effort to top it. But I have no doubt they will.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 1 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 2 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 3 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 4 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 5 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 6 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 7 by clicking here.
** HammerFall's new album, Infected, is out June 7th, 2011 on Nuclear Blast Records.