Going into UFC 126, I had great expectations. Looking at the triple header main event lineup, you couldn’t tell me this would not be an instant nominee for “Card of the Year”. As mentioned in my preview, the triple header carried major implications. I won’t scoff at it as if it was a total wash, but more was expected. Given the circumstances, some good was found in it. Here’s what went down, in case you missed it:
Jon “Bones Jones def. Ryan “Darth” Bader via Submission (Guillotine Choke) 4:20 of Round Two
The question going into this fight was, “Which will be the more superior style, Bader’s strength or Jones’ flash and speed?” The bout opened up with Bader throwing a two-piece, hook combo 18 seconds into the opening round. Bader only landed the first shot of it, a left hook to Jones’s right cheek. Jones was revived by Bader’s wake-up call. He missed a jumping knee, but made up for it with a takedown that quickly sent Bader to the mat, yet simultaneously trapping himself into a guillotine choke. The irony of this bout was Bader, the All-American wrestler out of Arizona State University, ended up being the more inferior of the two combatants in the wrestling/takedown game. Jones, a product of Morrisville State College, proved to be the superior wrestler on this fateful night. Jones imposed his will on the mat, making it oh so clear that Bader was not used to being on the vulnerable end of a wrestling/takedown exchange. As if that wasn’t enough, Jones wowed the audience in the opening round with a backwards, leapfrog over Bader to gain control of his back. Jones continued his superiority in the aforementioned department, tripping Bader to the mat. From there, Jones secured a guillotine choke and Bader tapped out 4:20 into the second round. In addition to what was already a solid night for Jones, it was learned in the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan that Rashad Evans was forced to pull out of his UFC Light Heavyweight title fight with champion Mauricio Rua due to a knee injury. Thus, opening the door for Evans’s training partner, Jones, to get a shot at UFC’s most talked about championship. What’s even more interesting is that Jones only has six weeks to train because Jones’ first title shot will take place at UFC 128 on Saturday, March 19th.
Forrest Griffin def. Rich “Ace” Franklin via Unanimous Decision
Desperation will take you places unimaginable. Given Griffin’s recent slump, losing two out of his last three fights, the former Light Heavyweight Champion needed something to keep him from taking another fall. Maybe it was UFC President Dana White’s tendency to rid the company of fighters on downward spirals. Maybe it was the fact that Griffin had not won a fight since November 2009, which was also a 14-month layoff. Whatever the motive was, Griffin operated on sheer dominance in his bout against the former Middleweight Champion. Griffin gave Franklin the rag doll treatment in the opening round. Dragging him down, roughing him up, controlling the ground, you name it…Griffin did it. In the second round, he reminded UFC nation that the ground/mats not the only area of the octagon he knew how to work. Griffin went back to his identity and beat Franklin standing up. Franklin put up an effort that can’t be frowned upon, but Griffin tee’d on “Ace” with some crucial shots to the head. In the last round, Franklin fought with a greater sense of urgency. He tried pushing the pace against the fence, but came up short. Griffin landed another takedown. The two scrambled for position, but time expired. Griffin found himself back in the win column.
Anderson Silva def. Vitor Belfort via TKO (Front kick and punches) 3:25 of Round One
I betted against Anderson Silva and got torched. I’ll take my loss over the way Belfort loss any day. The two took an entire minute of time figuring each other out before the first strike was thrown. Sixty seconds in any sport, especially combat, is valuable. After a missed kick, Silva landed a knee in the clinch, a low kick and a right jab. We saw in the promos that Belfort had the most dangerous hands in UFC. Silva finally met his match, according to experts. And yes, I drank the Kool-Aid. One X-Factor in the equation is Belfort’s ability to take kicks. At the 2:00 mark, it was learned that the number-one contender does not take them well. Silva landed a front kick to Belfort’s face that sent him crashing to the mat. Silva closed him out with 1:35 left in the opening round with mounted punches, ultimately retaining his Middleweight championship.
Silva now sits on a 13-fight winning streak, which includes eight title defenses. What’s next for one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in MMA? Will this be counted as the cleansing of the division, freeing him up for the “Superfight” with Welterweight champion George St. Pierre that MMA Nation is gah-gah over? Should Silva give Chael Sonnen another shot at the title, if the former number one contender can get over his legal issues (steroid use and money laundering via real estate)? Should he accept a challenge from Yushin “Thunder” Okami (Who Silva beat back in 2006), who earned number one contendership back at UFC 122 over Nate Marquardt? Should he give upcoming middleweight contender, Britain’s villain Michael Bisping a shot at the prize? Or, should he consider a “Superfight” possibility against Jon “Bones” Jones, if he becomes Light Heavyweight Champion in six weeks? Yes, the MMA world has already got the scuttlebutt on that one up and running. Whatever he does, the options are there and endless. If nothing else, know that Silva is money and he’s not the fighter to be missed.
Up next…UFC 127, featuring BJ Penn and Jon Fitch as the main event.
By Antoine Hoffman