UFC 112, many will likely agree, is a very odd affair. I did honestly like it, though, but not for the usual reasons a good UFC event presents me. The event is actually history – making for the UFC as it’s the first to be held in Abu Dhabi and outdoors. To mark this occasion, the UFC has set up two title defense matches in the main card. The co – main event being a lightweight title fight featuring defending champion BJ Penn versus top contender Frankie Edgar, while the main event is a middleweight title match with defending champion Anderson Silva against contender Demian Maia. Two MMA legends also resurface for this historic occasion. The most dominant welterweight champion in UFC history, Matt Hughes, takes on the world famous Renzo Gracie.
The first fight is Kendall Grove vs. Mark Munoz. I really like both of these fighters, but I was personally rooting for Kendall here, Munoz being Filipino notwithstanding. Both fighters have their strengths: Grove with his incredibly long reach which gives him a sizeable advantage standing up, and Munoz with his explosive wrestling, which easily makes way for his ground and pound game, which Joe Rogan has said to be one of the best in the UFC. The fight was very good, as I expected. Grove used his reach the best he could, and even almost managed to submit Munoz at one point, but Munoz’s incredible wrestling ability prevailed, allowing him to unleash his ground and pound and finish Kendall 2:50 into the second round.
Next up, we have a Lightweight bout featuring Terry Etim and Rafael dos Anjos, neither of which I’m much a fan of. Don’t get me wrong, though. I recognize that both of these fighters are very good athletes and truly deserve to be on the main card, but neither of them ever stood out for me. In any case, the fight was also very good to behold as it was back and forth throughout, but true to form, dos Anjos manages to submit Etim 4:30 into the second round.
Alright, warm up’s over, now on to the juicier matches. No offense to the first four fighters, two of which I’ve admitted to liking very much, but going into the event, I was really hyped for the last three matches. So when the second match ended, I was on the edge of my seat. Matt Hughes versus Renzo Gracie in a welterweight bout. Two legends in the octagon. Wow. Hughes defeated Renzo’s cousin, Royce, at UFC 60 four years ago. Now, the Gracies are back for revenge. It’s like some 80’s blockbuster action movie! Okay, Matt Hughes looks to get Gracie on his back using wrestling and ground and pound the hell out of him, similar to what he did against Royce. Gracie, on the other hand, looks to submit Hughes in any way he can. Who will prevail?
The first round starts off with a lot of feeling out and distance finding on the feet. In the second round, Hughes finds a home for a very effective technique that has brought down many a great fighter in the sport of MMA: the leg kick. Hughes throws and lands it consistently and with explosiveness on Gracie’s lead leg, until, 2:03 into the third round, Gracie’s leg buckles and he falls flat onto the mat. Hughes doesn’t engage, though, wary of his opponent’s menacing ground game, and backs off. In an almost comical fashion, the referee, Herb Dean, asks Gracie to stand up and continue, but Gracie holds his hand out for help. Hughes reciprocates and helps the legend onto his feet; odd, but entertaining. There’s obviously not much bad blood between these two. Gracie standing up won’t last too long, though, as Hughes immediately fires off another leg kick that sends him crashing back down. This proves to be a constant trend throughout the remainder of the fight, until Hughes knocks Gracie down with a devastating uppercut after a flurry of punches, causing the referee to stop the match 4:40 into the final round.
Okay, I’ll repeat myself: wow. The fight wasn’t the blood gushing Griffin – Bonnar of years past that bought the UFC a new generation of fans, but it was very exciting for me nonetheless. Hughes dominated Gracie, no doubt, which surprised me because I honestly thought the fight would be close all throughout. Matt proves me wrong and TKO’s a fellow legend. Great match.
Now, here’s where things start to enter Wonderland.
Current lightweight champion BJ “The Prodigy” Penn versus top contender Frankie “The Answer” Edgar. Pretty much everyone, including me, thought this bout was going to be horribly one – sided. Weeks leading up to the fight, I would tell my friends that I was tired of the UFC giving champion fights against contenders who I thought had no chance of winning. I thought this of welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre’s last fight against Dan Hardy, and I was right. The fight wasn’t boring by any means, and I was truly impressed by Hardy’s will to survive in the cage, but the outcome was still predictable.
See, I like buying into the hype when it works. I buy into with movie trailers, and I buy into it with the MMA. I’m totally hyped right now for Iron Man 2, and I’m really hyped for the Shogun and The Dragon’s rematch at UFC 113. For this event, I was really only hyped for Hughes vs. Gracie. Two legends resurfacing to do battle in the octagon! The two main events that would follow offered no such excitement to me. I knew both champions would defend their belts, no problem. This was only compounded when BJ recently destroyed one of my favorite fighters, Diego Sanchez. Diego is a beast in the octagon, and he was completely dominated. I never though that was possible, and I was sure Penn would do the same thing to Edgar.
Boy, was I wrong.
When I hear the phrase “shocked the world”, it’s connected to something actually uninteresting most of the time. That’s what I thought when they attached it to Seth Petruzelli’s knockout of Kimbo Slice, and many other supposedly shocking turn of events in MMA. But Frank Edgar truly did shock the world on April 10, 2010. And you know what? BJ Penn did as well. “The Answer” executed his game plan perfectly during his bout with the former champion. His footwork, accurate boxing, and head movement were amazing. He would move in and out and outstrike his opponent magnificently. BJ was still aggressive, though, catching Edgar with hooks on occasion, but he could never quite match his opponent’s speed and agility.
Something didn’t look quite right, though. Penn, one of the greatest BJJ artists in the world today, never once tried to take the fight to the ground despite obviously losing the stand up war. And he became noticeably tired chasing Edgar down during the championship rounds. BJ did not at all look like the same person that dominated Diego Sanchez.
Of course, all of this can be attributed to the challenger, though. It was the perfect gameplan. In and out, in and out. Keep BJ on the balls of his feet, never let him rest, make him chase Edgar down. Lure him into an unfamiliar world. And it worked beautifully. After the fight, I was completely blown away. I attributed the loss to a drop in BJ’s motivation, health, whatever. But after a few days of thinking about, I now attribute it mostly to the challenger. Frankie “The Answer” Edgar brought the apparently best gameplan against the lightweight champion and executed it perfectly. BJ still could have had something mentally or physically wrong with him at the time, but Frankie brought it perfectly that night, so it’s all on him. Remember Rocky? Yeah, well right now, it’s “Frankie”.
In any case, BJ’s actively pursuing a rematch against Edgar as soon as possible, similar to Rua vs. Machida, so we’ll see if Edgar truly is a champion or a one time upset, like Matt Serra.
Okay, that was odd and shocking at the same time. The next fight can’t possibly be worse now, can it? That’s what I literally thought going into the main event. And, again, I was wrong.
No, Demian Maia did not upset Anderson Silva. That part I predicted correctly. What I didn’t predict was Anderson Silva’s rather … disturbing behavior. Anderson Silva is one of my favorite MMA fighters of all time and I know for a fact that he is one of the pound for pound best fighters in the world. So, given all that, his performance that night was a bit strange, to say the least.
The first round was brilliant. Anderson found his range against Maia very quickly and started hammering away with odd kicks and punches. It was clear how wide the gap was between both fighters’ stand up abilities. The second round was more of the same, except Silva began …clowning around?
If you’ve ever played any of the recent Street Fighter games, then you’d know a character named Dan Hibiki. This Street Fighter character has what is called a “Super Taunt”. I don’t know about you, but I think Silva just used that technique on Demian Maia.
He aggressively taunts and ridicules Maia most of the second round, and comes into the third round a bit, well, tired. He obviously seemed listless during the third. While he was still striking his opponent, the massive energy level he displayed in the second literally vanished. And what about the championship rounds? He ran away from Maia. Literally. He turned tail and ran circles around the octagon several times.
It was so bad that Dana White left the fight early and gave Silva’s manager, Ed Soares, the middleweight championship belt. He was so disgusted that he couldn’t watch the fight, let alone bear to get near enough to Silva to give him his belt. He then went on a rather entertaining twitter rampage. Referee Dan Miragliotta even stopped Silva during one of his jogs to warn him that he would deduct a point if this outrageous behavior continued. Silva wins a unanimous decision for basically being highly aggressive and dominant but unable to finish in the first two rounds, being relatively inactive in the third, and running away during the last two. Not too many people were impressed, to say the least.
During the interview with color commentator Joe Rogan, Silva once again apologizes for his behavior (sadly, this isn’t the first time he’s done something like this), and says that he does not know what got into him, but promises to make up for it the next time. A truly unsatisfying explanation if there ever was one. His manager, Ed Soares, gave an interview after the event explaining their side:
That’s a bit better, I suppose, but better understood, if you look at the point of view of this writer, from an article on the official UFC website. Silva does admit to getting caught and surprised by Maia’s punches during his interview with Rogan. In that sense, all the Mike Tyson-isms that he unleashed during the second were stunned completely during the third and he pretty much lost his wits for the remainder of the fight. Long story short, he got caught, was thrown off his gameplan, and ran away from his opponent so he could keep his belt. Yes, one of the pound for pound best MMA fighters in the world did just that.
So, yes, odd. Very odd indeed. Hopefully, UFC 113 will be less mentally exhausting to view than this one. One thing’s for sure, though, it feels really interesting in a way to have your predictions ruffled up while watching a big event like this. Frankie Edgar shocked the hell out of me, and while I accurately predicted the outcome of Silva’s match, he exhibited behavior that would have anyone looking stunned and scratching their heads.
So what’s next for these fighters? As mentioned, BJ Penn is actively pursuing a rematch against Frankie Edgar to reclaim his belt. Personally, I would like to see Maynard vs. Edgar first, with Penn facing Florian. Two rematches, yes, but it would at least not be as repetitive as an instant revenge fight. I still personally think that BJ is the better fighter, and that if he comes with a good enough gameplan (at least one better than the one he used here), he could easily dominate Edgar like he did so many top contenders.
Silva has talked about moving down a weight class to face Georges St-Pierre. As the weight cut would obviously be very hard for him, he doesn’t want to fight just anybody, so he’s aiming for the champion. After his performance at UFC 112, though, it might be highly doubtful if Dana White lets him do this. Hell, he’s even considering putting his next fight as a prelim! I’d personally love to see “Rush” versus “The Spider”, so I’ll be eagerly awaiting Dana’s decision on this. Of course, Silva’s original matchup against Vito Belfort would be a real treat as well.
Plus, Renzo Gracie promised to he'd be back in the octagon again soon. I'll eagerly await his next fight, no matter the opponent.
Now, on to UFC 113! I’m personally betting on Machida for this one, as I did last time, but we’ll see. Literally anything can happen in the cage, and UFC 112 is the perfect example of that.