As much as the adage “Never judge a book by its cover” has been uttered, an inept assumption is still one of the most common mistakes made by mankind. Take UFC 130, for example. Given the unforeseen circumstances that brought about a change to the main event, fight fans wondered if Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Matt “The Hammer” Hamill could fit the bill as the evening’s marquee match. Once upon a time I did.  Overall the card was solid.  Of course the presence of Gray Maynard vs. Frankie Edgar, version three was missed, but not so much that the cancellation disabled this card in any way.  Here’s a look back at the Memorial Day weekend event:

Brian “The All American” Stann defeats Jorge “The Sandman” Santiago via Technical Knockout- 4:29 into the Second Round

Upon touching gloves, Stann made it clear he was out to be the aggressor; dictating the pace of the fight. With aggression came composure, which beget accuracy. Santiago had his moments in this bout. After gaining a bit of composure, he caught Stann with a few strikes in the opening round, including a left head kick that would’ve given some linguini legs. Stann endured Santiago’s hardest hit and caught him with a left hook at the 1:46 mark of the opening round that sent “The Sandman” to the canvas. Stann ensued with ground-and-pound, trying to punch his way to victory, but Santiago was able to withstand the assault, surviving the opening round. Given how round one ended, it was only right to think that Santiago was reeling from Stann’s last-minute attack. Surprisingly he opened the second round with an attempted take down, but Stann warded off his effort. Further confirming he was unable to find his rhythm, Santiago found himself on the mat once again after missing another charging punch on Stann. Meanwhile, the All American continued asserting himself as the better prepared brawler. The Sandman caught Stann with a spinning back fist, but much like the head kick in the first round, the All American ate it. Santiago attempted three major blows in this bout, but the miscalculation of those (including a Superman Punch and a Flying Knee) resulted in the Sandman connecting with the canvas. Stann caught Santiago with a stiff rib kick. With :37 left in the second round, a sick right jab sent Santiago to the mat. This time he wouldn’t recover. With a mere :21 remaining, the All American finished Santiago with mounted punches.

Rick “The Horror” Story defeats Thiago “The Pitbull” Alves via Unanimous Decision

When I called for Alves to force Story into a “horror of a night”, clearly I spoke out of ignorance. I was clueless as to how much Story loved staying in the pocket and trading shots. ‘The Horror” told a Story that put everyone on notice as to who he was. He landed the first shots of the bout in the form of a two-piece punch combo. He took a leg kick from Alves, responding with a takedown attempt that resulted in the taking of the Pitbull’s back. Forcing him into the cage, he chopped away at the former number one, welterweight title contender with knee strikes to the back of his legs. As Alves tried to wiggle his way out of Story’s clutches, his face suffered a close encounter with Story’s knee.  This also granted Story a chance to switch sides while maintaining his attack. Alves spent the majority of the evening suffering from claustrophobia. Alves worked to escape his clutches. He landed some quality shots on Story and even had significant exchanges. Even with everything that the Pitbull had, it wasn’t enough to distance himself from the Horror.  This was the case for the first two rounds. In the final round, Alves fought with a sense of urgency. As pesky as Story was, the Pitbull landed some serious shots. Punches, elbows, leg kicks…you name it. Alves looked like himself! He landed a standing knee that buckled Story for a few seconds and could’ve changed the outcome of the fight. Story got to his feet and received a head kick. Story’s grit allowed him to take those blows, along with two more knees, exchange with Alves in the final seconds and see the end of the fight, ultimately taking the decision and the win.

Travis “Hapa” Browne defeats Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve via Knockout- 4:12 into the First Round

While it is common knowledge that big things fall hard, Browne provided a new experiment at UFC 130, showing everyone how hard a tall something, or in this case a fighter, falls. At a combined height of 13 feet, six inches (Browne at 6’7″ and Struve, 6’11”), the towering heavyweights open the bout at a rare rate for the heavyweight division. The speed in which these two struck each other was nothing short of impressive. The impact can’t be overlooked, as each punch, kick or elbow echoed throughout the MGM Grand Garden Arena. At the 2:21 mark of the opening round, Browne took Struve to the ground, sending the fight into another direction.  Both fighters tried to show dominance on the ground, but neither would give way to the other’s advances.  Struve worked Browne back to the ground and followed up with an anaconda choke, but he was unable to secure the hold, even with an 84-inch wingspan. The fighters got back to their feet and Browne caught him with a right jab that sent Struve into the cage. Struve came back with a few punches, but connected with air. Browne met Struve at the center of the octagon and with :51 left, Hapa connected with a Superman punch that ended The Skyscraper’s night early. The only thing missing was Smokey’s classic line from the movie Friday to remind every one of what happened.

Frank Mir defeats Roy “Big Country” Nelson via Unanimous Decision (Co-Main Event)

It is awe-inspiring as to how Nelson made it to the end of this fight. Yes, Nelson landed some legitimate shots in the opening round. In addition to that, he has a brand of toughness and a chin that can only be rivaled by few in the sport. If this battle of buddies offered no other lesson, here’s one that should’ve been taken away from it…conditioning is a vital part of Mixed Martial Arts. Mir owned every aspect of this bout. Even when Nelson was fresh, he was unable to stop Mir from doing what he wanted. Mir landed every strike possible. He threw Big Country from pillar to post…to and fro. The only thing Mir didn’t do was submit him. Then again, he took what Nelson gave him, which was a lot. In terms of toughness, Nelson has that mastered. If he wants to be taken seriously as a legitimate contender for the heavyweight title, he’s going to have to show more dedication towards conditioning. Will he even make it to another UFC fight to redeem himself? According to ESPN, Nelson’s UFC future is in jeopardy; and he’s set to meet with president Dana White, who deemed Nelson’s performance “embarrassing” and “terrible”.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson defeats Matt “The Hammer” Hamill via Unanimous Decision (Main Event)

Light Heavyweight champion hopeful Matt Hamill decided to wake a sleeping wolf, asking UFC’s front office for a fight with former champion and future hall of famer Quinton Jackson.  Hamill asked and he received, but the Hammer got a little more than he bargained for. The two started out sizing each other up. Hamill took a few shots at Jackson with punches, but found air. He landed a chin kick and quickly went into his area of expertise, wrestling. Once upon a time, Jackson was a wrestler, so he knows how to respond to shots. Every time Hamill went for a takedown, Jackson would stuff him, stand him up and proceed with punches in the clinch. He even hit Hammill with a few knee shots for his troubles. Hamill successfully landed leg and chin kicks, but came up empty almost every time he threw punches or shot in for takedowns. He learned another harsh lesson…Jackson’s ability to counter punch. For every punch the Hammer threw, Rampage had a few in return. Going back to Hamill’s area of success, he landed a head kick to open the second that would’ve rattled most. That shot might’ve tickled Jackson at best, as he returned with a three-punch, which included an uppercut that sent the Hammer stumbling into the cage. If grades could be given on opening rounds, Hamill would get an “A+”. He broke in the last round with a Superman Punch, but again a major blow has no effect on Jackson as he countered with a solid right hook. As the fight progressed, the Hammer grew tired while Rampage became loose. The former Light Heavyweight champion did not revert back to the wrestler/brawler that he was in his heyday, but he was the clear cut winner in this bout. Now the question is if Rampage’s performance helped him close in on another shot at the title.

As far as expectations are concerned, mine were meaningless. I went 1-4 for the night. Such a shortcoming is easy to get over considering the excitement this card offered. On behalf of MMA Nation, I wish the original main event combatants Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard speedy and successful recoveries. Part three will be nothing short of explosive! As always fight fans, thank you for checking in with TNPS for fight previews and recaps and I’ll be back at it soon for UFC 131, where behemoths Junior Dos Santos and Shane Carwin will headline the card.

By Antoine Hoffman

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