TYSON GRIFFIN VS. TAKANORI GOMI
This match was an excellent start for the rest of the event, and, strangely enough, slightly mirrored the main event. Takanori Gomi has been professionally competing in MMA for some time now, and he is a legend over in Japan. His UFC debut, however, was under a slightly negative banner when he lost against one of the top lightweights in the organization, Kenny Florian, at UFC Fight Night: Florian vs. Gomi. Despite that, I predicted that The Fireball Kid would take the loss as another important lesson in MMA and use his vast experience to steadily climb the ranks of the UFC.
How right I was. Tyson Griffin is known as an extraordinary striker, and by all rights, he definitely is. Some people were thinking that he might initiate a similar strategy to Kenny Florian’s, when he out-boxed Gomi during their matchup. Griffin came out swinging almost as soon as the bell rang, and Gomi answered. After only a few exchanges, Gomi landed a clean right hook and face-planted Griffin only a minute into the first round. Griffin complains to referee Jason Herzog that it was an unfair early stoppage, but he was clearly knocked out.
The Fireball Kid lives up to his nickname by finishing the fight extremely quickly and explosively, and proudly earns his first UFC win. During the post-fight interview, he explains to Joe Rogan that his loss against Florian was mostly due to fighting in the US, particularly in a cage, for the first time in his career, but now he’s sure that he’s gotten used to it. Takanori Gomi is definitely a fighter to watch out for in the UFC lightweight division.
JAKE ELLENBERGER VS. JOHN HOWARD
This fight is a classic striker vs. grappler matchup, with Ellenberger known for being an excellent wrestler, and Howard for being a mean striker with instant KO power in any of his limbs. Howard predictably comes out actively striking as much as possible, but after trading with him a bit, Ellenberger takes him down rather easily and controls him for most of the entire first round. Ellenberger stays very active, however, by constantly delivering some insane ground and pound on his opponent. “Doomsday”, however, isn’t one to give up, and stays active on the bottom, though not very aggressive. He manages to stay alive, but fails to reserve the position or deal much damage to his opponent.
At the start of the second round, one could clearly see the damage that Ellenberger has wreaked upon Howard’s face. Howard’s left eye is extremely swollen that it looks almost completely deformed. He definitely cannot see with that eye, and the amount of swelling is most probably affecting the other eye as well.
The second round continues very similarly as the first. Howard strikes very aggressively and even rocks Ellenberger once or twice, but Ellenberger sticks to his wise game plan and takes Howard down and controls him on the ground with his superior wrestling abilities. Referee Herb Dean, at one point, stands them up and has the doctor check Howard’s eye. After the doctor determines that Howard cannot see because of the immense swelling, the referee stops the fight.
Not the most exciting finish (or fight, for that matter) of the evening, but it did show that Ellenberger had the best game plan against Howard and that he executed it perfectly. Though the fight isn’t one of the most exciting in UFC history, you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at John Howard’s face. Probably not winning the fight as he originally intended, Ellenberger still proudly accepts the victory against a very tough opponent.
MARK MUNOZ VS. YUSHIN OKAMI
I picked Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz to win this fight since I thought his bread and butter, taking opponents down and performing vicious ground and pound, would work well against Okami, who is known primarily as a striker. Okami, apparently, thought the same as I did and trained extremely diligently at defending takedowns and combatting elite wrestlers. To this end, he apparently trained with one of the top wrestlers in the middleweight division; a man who had defeated him 10 months prior: Chael Sonnen, as mentioned by color commentator Joe Rogan.
The training was apparently extremely effective, as Okami managed to defend nearly all of Munoz’s takedowns, and when he did get taken down, he would immediately be able to get back to his feet. Okami would then manage to outstrike Munoz, using his range and crisp boxing. This occurred throughout the entire first round and clearly frustrated Munoz, who was never really able to implement his game plan properly.
In the second round, Munoz becomes more aggressive and creatively fakes several of his takedowns. Okami’s sprawls, however, were pretty impenetrable, and are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen out of any UFC fighter. Munoz did manage to drop Okami with a left hook, but was still unable to follow up with any significant advantage.
The fight goes to a third round and, after all those takedown attempts, Munoz is clearly tired. Okami manages to drop him with a right hook, but Munoz’s tenacity allows him to survive. The match comes to an end with neither fighter able to finish, and Yushin “Thunder” Okami comes out the victor via a split decision.
I was honestly very blown away by how impenetrable Okami’s takedown defenses were, how quickly he managed to get back to his feet and gather distance all the time, and manage to have a full tank of gas until the very end of the fight, which is very surprising, seeing how he was resisting against an elite wrestler of Munoz’s caliber much of the time. As Joe Rogan mentioned, Okami became incredibly serious about training to fight against wrestlers after his loss to Sonnen, and the increase in his abilities is very apparent. Stuffing practically all of Mark Munoz’s takedowns is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but Okami pulled it off beautifully. If he continues to impress in his future fights, I’d love to see him get a title shot.
DARREN ELKINS VS. CHARLES OLIVEIRA
Elkins manages to grab hold of Oliveira almost immediately and viciously slams him onto the ground. Oliveira, however, actually appreciates this by instantly locking a triangle choke on his opponent, and finishes him after only 41 seconds. See, told you it was pretty short.
But, man, those are some really serious BJJ skills right there! To be able to lock on a choke that quickly and tightly? That is really deadly. Charles Oliveira shows that his 12-0 record prior to this fight isn’t just for show, and that he is indeed a factor in the UFC lightweight division.
The main event, Jones vs. Matyushenko, for me, was the true crowning glory of the night, though Gomi’s finish comes in at a very close second. Check out my thoughts on the main event!
Now on to UFC 117! After all that talking, Sonnen better deliver on the action and give us the exciting Anderson Silva fight we’ve all been wanting!
Check out more great pictures of UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko over at the official UFC website!