It's been a while since I recapped a fight night, and this past weekend was one of the biggest on record. Instead of trying to start this weekend and backtrack across everything I've missed. I've decided to go weight class by weight class and give my opinions.. These are only that, opinions.. feel free to have your own.
265: Starting big and getting smaller. This is a difficult weight class to handicap as anytime you put 4oz gloves on 230-290 lb athletes things change rather readily.
Junior Dos Santos (for now)
Ups: good pop, technical striking and the ability to get up off his back.
Downs: hasn't fought a heavyweight wrestler who wanted to wrestle him yet.
On his tail:
Lesner: See above. We know he CAN take a punch, but he doesn't. That has to improve.
Velasquez: looked very rusty in the JDS fight. Could be rust, could be a talent gap.. we will find out.
Daniel Cormier: seems hard to call a 32 year old a 'prospect' but Cormier is just that. Looked good in his fights, but is still very damn green. The only thing that might save him is that heavyweights tend to mature later. Well see where he's at when he takes on Barnett.
Josh Barnett: Hard to count out the baby faced assassin. He has all the tools, but tends to fight up or down to his competition. I'd like to see him get into the deeper water of the UFC and see if that will raise his level.
Once again big guys with small gloves make keeping a clean sheet pretty difficult, combine that with a weight cut that keeps the doughy guys to a minimum and this weight class is a mess.. well except for...
Ups: Dangerous in all areas. Crazy reach, crazy fast. Great greco style that gives dirty boxers fits. Great corner that breaks down his opponents into simple puzzles that Jones can pick apart.
Downs: Chin is untested (which says a lot for his elusiveness). Guard game is untested (because no one can put him on his back). Maybe there is a sword that can cut through the Gordian knot that is Jon Jones, but I don't see it.
On his tail:
Rashad: They haven't fought, but Greg Jackson and Jon Jones know every chink and hole in Rashad's armor. I can't see him getting inside, and I can't see him taking Jones down. Looks to me like Rashad should talk to Rich Franklin about the merits of gatekeepership.
Machida: Lyoto has a shot at beating Jones only because he's so unorthodox he has a shot at beating anyone who hasn't personally figured him out. That said Jones' reach is a real problem for Machida.
Phil Davis: not very imaginative, but this is a tough weight class. Guys run in streaks all the time (just ask Ryan Bader). Phil has great wrestling, everything else is coming along, and he genuinely seems to enjoy working on his game.
Hendo: I don't know why he gassed, but he gassed. There are reports that he was sick as a dog going into Saturday's fight against Shogun, but then there's the Jake Shields fight. He damn near finished Shogun a couple times early in the fight, and really cemented him as a dangerous roll of the dice for anyone on fight night.
Finally some sanity.
Ups: Probably the best striking in MMA. A very effective triangle from the guard.
Downs: no wrestling. Crazy, seriously watch the Maia fight. No interest in working on his weakness.
On his tail:
Chael Sonnen: Sonnen is everything Silva is not. He's a grinder, he has great wrestling. He has been tested in deep water. He's sane(ish) but he acts crazy (flip that for Silva). So the question is has he figured out how to get out of a triangle? I've trained at Team Quest. Fabiano Sherner is a good instructor. I don't understand where the disconnect is.
Mark Munoz: could happen. At this point I'd take even money on any wrestler to beat Anderson. The blueprint is out there, it's a matter of execution (which is often the sticky wicket).
Luke Rockhold: only fought a collection of 'Who-dats' before being thrown into the cage with Jacare, but finished the six previous fighters.
This is a tough weight class for prospects as most prospects for middleweight will either cut down from Light heavy, or grow into the class from welter.
Hector Lombard: I have no idea if Hector can take down Anderson without getting his face kneed in, but I'd love to find out. Who knows if this fight will be interesting by the time it becomes possible. Intriguing match, probably never happen.
Vitor: Vitor is a terrible match-up for any middleweight not named Anderson.
Jacare: Coming late to the game, but very talented. The Rockhold fight does call into question his wrestling in a wrestling heavy weight class. Still not someone to be counted out.
Ups: beyond good everywhere. Great wrestling for MMA. Fast hands, good kicks, great tactical acumen. He's a wrecking machine.
Downs: durability. Small joints, and has a history of muscle tears. He seems to end up at the hospital or orthopedist after every fight. This is why he should NOT go up to middleweight. When you put on mass your joints do not get bigger with your muscles.
On his tail:
Nick Diaz: If Diaz can get his head out he is an interesting style match for GSP. The question is can he get his mind right and not sabotage himself on the way there?
Carlos Condit: taller welterweight with good pop and a scary good attacking guard. These things are a problem for GSP.. in theory. Also fighting Condit GSP loses the Greg Jackson advantage.
Gunnar Nelson: Excellent grappler out of Iceland of all places. 8-0-1 and only 23 years old. Took 4th at ADCC Absolute 2009 only losing to Xande Ribeiro and Vinny Magalhaes. Has taken the past year off to train for ADCC 2011 this year he ran into Xande and André Galvão (no shame in losing to either of those guys). Should be back on the fight scene soon.
Douglas Lima: Very young, lots of fights against who-dat opposition. Couple good wins in Bellator. It will be interesting to see how he fairs against...
Ben Askren: He looked horrible against Jay Hieron, but still won the fight, but you can't forget; styles make fights. Hieron's style was tailor made to neutralize Askren. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the near loss experience. He's in the right camp for a guy with crazy good wrestling and no stand-up.
Tyron Woodly: Great athlete, good wrestling, last three fights against very strong guys.
Rory MacDonald: he's good and stuff.. I already have too many prospects at this weight class.
Jake Ellenberger: too established to be a prospect, too green to be considered a challenger.
B.J. Penn: can't beat GSP, can beat just about anyone else. See Rich Franklin, Vitor Belfort, Ken Florian.
Ups: speed, tenacity, elusiveness. Recovers from punishment.
Downs: Tiny for the weight class. No pop. Not a finisher.
On his tail:
Ben Henderson: Bigger, faster, stronger and more powerful than the champion. Better wrestling, and a good style to beat Edgar.
Donald Cerrone: a rangy lightweight with good kickboxing and a strong guard. Really coming to his own now that his wrestling has improved.
Michael Chandler: Yes, I have prospects in two weight classes that are former Mizzou wrestlers.. I'm a homer.. get over it. Good hands, good wrestling, getting better each fight, and training at Xtreme Couture.. oh and he's only 25.
Patricky Pitbull: 25 with great jiu-jitsu and major league pop. Needs to work on his defensive wrestling, and get more seasoned fighting American fighters who are more likely to ground and pound them.
Anthony Pettis: kind of up and down needs some consistancy. Only 24, and if it weren't for the "matrix kick" he'd still be a prospect.
Joe Lauzon: surging, but inconsistent. Like able guy I hope he gets it together.
Gray Maynard: He's been focusing on fighting Edgar for so long, it'll be interesting to see him fight someone else.
Losing steam here...
Ups: kickboxing, don't need wrestling if you can drop everyone you face. Very good Jiu-jitsu particularly submissions.
Downs: He's looked pretty ragged after the weight cut a few times. Don't know how long he can stay at 145.
On his tail:
Chad Mendes: Can he get Jose down without getting clipped? we will find out soon enough.
Erik Koch: 24, 13-1. 10 wins by TKO or submission.
Pat Curran: Not a great athlete, but shows flashes of technical brilliance. I don't know if his cousin Jeff can coach him all the way to the promised land.
Dustin Poirier: 22 years old 11-1. Slick submissions and good hands.
Mark Hominick: Managed to go the distance with the champ and got an extra forehead for his troubles.
Jonathan Brookins: the TUF 12 winner is more at home at featherweight. The question is was that a weak tournament, or did he just run into a tough opponent in Koch.. chances are probably both.
Ups: Speed. Difficult style. Good hands. Good wrestling. Super duper amazing non-stop motor.
Downs: ? Uh.. if he gets tired? I don't really know. His one loss he got caught in a Guillotine buy Urijah Faber. Otherwise he's been pretty much untouchable.
On his tail:
Weight class this small everyone is a prospect.. for the weight classes above. Other than Faber and Torres all of the top 135 lb fighters are under 30.
Basically it sorts into to groups:
Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Demetrious Johnson et al who HAVE lost to Cruz
Michael McDonald, Renan Barao, et al who are very good and have not fought Cruz.
Miguel Torres: People forget the Miguel was riding a 15 fight winning streak at one point. If he can get back his mojo he has the tools to be very dangerous.
Aside: I was sorry to see Jeff Monson have such a tough time with Fedor this weekend. I had high hopes for that fight.
This is a long screed off the top of my head. I'm missing a lot of good guys. I'm including guys who may not be at the tippy top of their form, but they're either guys I think are relevant, or entertaining (probably both.) If you disagree, feel free to post a (civil) comment. If you can't be civil then get your own blog.
Have a great Monday.