UFC 103: Big Finishes, Big Futures?

(Belfort staggers Franklin at UFC 103.)
(Belfort staggers Franklin at UFC 103.)

The last time Vitor Belfort won a fight in the Octagon was against Marvin Eastman in 2003—until Saturday night. “The Phenom” returned to the blitzing form that earned him his nickname 12 years ago by blasting former middleweight champion Rich Franklin two ticks past the three-minute mark of the first round at UFC 103 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Tex.

Belfort will likely face fellow Brazilian and 185-pound champion Anderson Silva in a middleweight match after the 195-pound catch weight victory. Should he lose that title fight he can still parlay his name into super-fights and non-title main event duties like the man he defeated, Rich Franklin. The fact that the UFC made him a headliner suggests a strong faith in a fighter known to disappoint. Something’s changed. And being the third person to finish Franklin in 31 bouts proved it.

Franklin’s loss freed him to make a serious run at the 205-pound division, taking time to adjust to the increased weight and parlay his name recognition into a quicker go at the belt. Win or lose at UFC 105, Randy Couture would be a major test and payday for “Ace.”

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic continued to frustrate fans, losing to Junior dos Santos. Filipovic lost just four times over a five-year stretch while competing in Japan. He’s lost three times in five fights in the UFC.

“Cro Cop” needs real guidance and a game plan. Verbally submitting in round three displayed a lack of desire, a disturbing indicator for Filipovic’s future prospects. There are no fluff flghts left for him in the heavyweight division. Throw him in with the new the loser of Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin and force him to fight or flee before his reputation is tarnished permanently.

For dos Santos, defeating a legend is a nice ‘W’ on the ledger. He’s young but seems ready to contend. A fight to test his ground game would be welcome although a fight with Gabriel Gonzaga would be a favorable style matchup to increase their value.

In welterweight action, late replacement Paul Daley beat one-half of the original number one contender fight between Martin Kampmann and Mike Swick. UFC President Dana White told the media post-fight that Daley vs. Swick is a possibility. It only took two and a half minutes for Daley to become a top contender in the UFC, and as I wrote when he signed with the UFC, he’s a promoter’s dream and definitely ready for big fight like Swick.

Kampmann can revisit Carlos Condit and their April Fight of the Year Candidate or test Johny Hendricks.

More 170-pound action saw Josh Koscheck wreck Frank Trigg in 85 seconds and once Mike Swick’s title future is decided, his skill set and athleticism may be the only real threat to Georges St-Pierre in a rematch. He wants to fight soon, and he asked for Matt Hughes. In the words of Inglorious Basterds‘ Lt. Aldo Raine, “Oblige him!”

Trigg accepted a sprint in his first UFC bout since 2005 and he likely won’t slow down. His ability to sell a fight and desire to find the welterweight respect should bring Brock Larson up to television.

In the night’s opening bout, Tyson Griffin stopped former lightweight title challenger Hermes Franca with strikes and ground-and-pound in the second round, perhaps fast tracking himself past teammate Gray Maynard to a title shot because finishes speak louder than decisions. His affinity for exciting fights also puts him ahead of his less-experienced training partner, but losing to Sean Sherk at UFC 90 keeps him one or two fights away. With Frankie Edgar-Kurt Pellegrino on tap and his refusal to fight Maynard, Joe Silva has to do some digging to find Griffin a suitable opponent unless Griffin is granted a shot and waits out BJ Penn-Diego Sanchez’s December bout.

Comments are closed.