What did we learn from UFC 162? Easy…if you want to be a clown, join the circus. Actually, everyone already knew that (except for Anderson). Here are 10 REAL things we learned. MMA School is in session.
#10. And the New UFC Middleweight Champion Is…
Chris Weidman was sold as “The Perfect Opponent,” and he said all along that he was going to be the man to end Anderson Silva’s reign atop the UFC middleweight division. Saturday night at UFC 162, the Long Island native did just that, shocking the MMA world by knocking out “The Spider” in the second round.
Midway through the first round, Silva started working his patented bob-and-weave, egg-you-on routine with Weidman, inviting him to engage, ripping off strikes of his own here and there, but never really pressing the action.
It was more of the same to start the second, but then the challenger did what no one else who’s been in the same position had been able to do in the past: he landed, and Silva crumpled to the ground.
And just like that, the confident challenger became the unbeaten champion, bringing an end to the most dominant title reign in UFC history.
#9. Live by the Shimmy, Die by the Shimmy
When Silva looked like Neo dodging bullets against Forrest Griffin, we praised his next-level talent. When he stood on the fence and offered Stephan Bonnar a Pat Benatar challenge before finishing him off, it was further evidence that he was in a league of his own.
Silva tried the same tactics Saturday night against Weidman, and it backfired, horribly. While we can’t realistically say how things would have played out had the mercurial Brazilian legend not dropped his hands and paid the price, to say Silva was doing anything differently than he had in previous outings is simply not true.
The difference at UFC 162 was that where Silva had previously been able to simply avoid the incoming strikes and return fire in greater force, Weidman didn’t give him that opportunity. His confidence certainly caught up with him, but it’s not as if this was the first time Silva mocked his opponents inside the Octagon—it just happened to be the first time anyone made him pay.
#8. So Long Super-Fights
Silva’s loss cost him the belt, but it also cost the UFC a pair of potential super-fights.
Without Silva lording over the middleweight division and standing as the unbeatable icon between two other dominant champions, the possibility of fights with Georges St-Pierre and/or Jon Jones no longer remain realistic targets. His standing as the unbeaten best between the welterweight and light heavyweight divisions made him a perfect dance partner for either man, but now those fights are off the table.
While I don’t think a pairing with St-Pierre was ever going to come together, everything seemed to be falling into place for a showdown with Jones—both were running out of fresh challengers and seemed open to the idea, but Weidman stepped in and ruined the potential match-up, just as he said he would.
Right when we were starting to get our hopes up, too.
#7. This Is Frankie Edgar
The former UFC Lightweight Champion brought his three-fight losing streak to an end with a very good performance against Charles Oliveira in the co-main event, but as good as Edgar looked, there was a familiarity to the performance that has to be acknowledged.
Edgar is simply the type of fighter who is always going to be in close, hard-fought battles that usually go to the scorecards.
Saturday night, “The Pride of Toms River, New Jersey” was in vintage form, bouncing around the cage in unpredictable patterns, connecting with combinations, and dumping Oliveira to the mat when the situation called for it. He also, however, took his fair share of solid shots, had a few instances where it looked like the tide was turning, and ended up going to a decision for the 12th time in 15 trips inside the Octagon.
Edgar is a tremendous talent, and remains one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, but without fight-ending power or submission proficiency, these are the kinds of fights you have to expect. He’s going to continue using his full allotment of time, and because he’s fighting elite competition, his fights are always going to be close contests.
That’s not a bad thing, by any means. That’s just how it goes with “The Answer.”
#6. Cub Swanson Wins…Twice
Not only did FIGHT!’s May cover boy extend his winning streak to five with a third-round TKO win over Dennis Siver, but Swanson should also get a little extra shine after Edgar was unable to put Oliveira away in the penultimate fight of the night.
Against Siver, “Killer Cub” continued to show that he’s a legitimate threat in the featherweight division, using his standard blend of technique and power to put away the talented German kickboxer in impressive fashion. Three fights later, an opponent he put away in under three minutes had a strong performance in defeat against a former title contender.
While every fight is different and MMA math is an inexact science, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Swanson flattened Oliveira with a couple clean, crisp punches last September. It was something the Palm Springs native brought up in advance of Saturday’s event, and when you combine his performance with how the co-main event played out, it’s hard not to see Swanson as a serious contender in the 145-pound ranks going forward.
#5. Mark Munoz: Middleweight X-Factor
On Saturday night, Munoz made a lot of people re-think where he fits in the middleweight division.
Prior to UFC 162, the former Division I National Champion wrestler was stuck in the “good, but not great” category—a guy who could hang around the top 10 of the 185-pound weight class, but he wasn’t really a serious threat. After all, Chris Weidman made him look horrible, and that guy isn’t as good as…
Not only did Weidman go out and prove he’s every bit as good as his advanced billing, but Munoz absolutely brutalized Tim Boetsch, dominating the final two frames en route to a one-sided decision win. Entering in the best physical shape of his career, “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” delivered his best performance to date, turning himself into an X-factor in the middleweight division in the process.
With his wrestling pedigree, heavy hands, and tremendous heart, the 35-year-old is a tough out for anybody in the top tier moving forward.
#4. The Ubiquitous Point About Judging
UFC 162 didn’t have any “Are you kidding me?” outcomes, although there were, as always, a couple scorecards that made no sense.
In the final fight of the preliminary card, Andrew Craig earned a split-decision win over veteran Chris Leben, with scores of 29-28, 28-29, and 30-27. You could have honestly made a case for a 30-26 in Craig’s favor, as the rangy Texan dominated the final frame, and yet one judge still awarded the bout to “The Crippler” based on his ability to continually plod forward in the opening two frames.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst scorecard of the evening. Somehow, judges Adelaide Byrd and Glen Trowbridge scored Tim Kennedy’s win over Roger Gracie 30-27 for the two-time Strikeforce title challenger—this after Gracie worked from back mount for more than half of the first round. Ugh.
Listen , judging is hard, but it’s not that hard, and until the Nevada State Athletic Commission (and all athletic commissions) start holding these officials accountable for these ridiculous scores, the problem is never going to be resolved.
#3. No Hollywood Ending for Leben
In the stylized movie-version of Chris Leben’s career, “The Crippler” wins his battles with substance abuse and addiction outside of the cage before returning to the Octagon to earn the biggest victory of his career, maybe even a UFC championship.
Unfortunately for the TUF 1 cast member, the Hollywood ending doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.
Leben dropped his second consecutive decision since returning to action last December, getting out-worked by up-and-coming middleweight prospect Andrew Craig. It wasn’t as flat of an effort as Leben turned in against Derek Brunson, but he was clearly a step behind throughout, and you have to wonder where his fighting career goes from here.
He’s relocated to San Diego and Alliance MMA while his wife attends law school, and had hoped to start one last good run at UFC 162, but with a second straight defeat, it could be the end of the line for the charismatic Leben.
Sorry, it was too easy to pass up.
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga needed just 17 seconds to dispatch Dave Herman in the lone heavyweight fight on the card Saturday evening in Las Vegas. While the loss will surely mark the end of Herman’s time in the UFC, it brings up a lot of questions about where the big Brazilian fits in the division going forward.
The 34-year-old is 3-1 since returning to the UFC in January 2012. With some of the recent results in the heavyweight ranks, there appears to be an opening at gatekeeper, and Gonzaga seems to be an ideal candidate to fill the role.
There is always going to be a place at the table for well-rounded heavyweights, and as long as Gonzaga can avoid an extended run of bad results, he should continually find himself in the cage with opponents we need to find out a little more about in the future.
#1. Edson Barboza Will Kick Your Leg Off
Rafaello Oliveira is likely going to have trouble walking for the next couple of days— maybe even a week.
Saturday night, Barboza brutalized Oliveira’s lead leg, earning his second UFC stoppage win as a result of leg kicks, and further reminding observers that he is very much still a prospect to watch in the lightweight division. He also gave us reason to once again mock Cecil Peoples for his ridiculous “leg kicks don’t win fights” comment, which is always fun.
Back at UFC 146, Jamie Varner interrupted Barboza’s climb up the lightweight ladder, but the Brazilian has sine rebounded with consecutive dominant performances. He’s also moved his training to New Jersey, where he’s working with Ricardo Almeida, Mark Henry, and the rest of the team behind former UFC Lightweight Champ Frankie Edgar.
With some of the fastest, nastiest striking in the division and improved takedown defense, the 27-year-old Barboza looks to be on his way to becoming a contender in the deep and talented 155-pound ranks.