It was a night filled with some bizarre scorecards and some bizarre in cage action, but the main event made up for all of that and more. Brian Stann and Wanderlei Silva engaged in a highly entertaining brawl for just under ten minutes and delivered an early candidate for Round of the Year during the first round of their Light Heavyweight tilt. Strange scorecards and Split Decisions plagued many of the other main card bouts, but overall the event has to be considered a success for the UFC and for the fans in Japan if for no other reason than seeing former PRIDE Fighting Championship heroes Mark Hunt and Wanderlei Silva emerge with emphatic victories. As usual, we’ll take a look at what happened in the fights and what’s next for the main card fighters.
Welterweight Bout: Dong Hyun Kim defeated Siyar Bahadurzada via Unanimous Decision after Three Rounds
What’s next for Kim? It depends how quickly they want to elevate Kim’s level of opposition. He’ll continue to smother and outwork anyone who can’t hang with him on the ground, so give him someone who could match him there. Mike Pierce is a tough and talented grinder who could probably challenge Kim in ways others haven’t yet. Throw him in there.
What’s next for Bahadurzada? He’s an exciting striker, which means he’ll likely get reprieve from the UFC. But he has nothing to offer anyone who can take him down to the ground. They either throw him another grappler and then send him packing if he doesn’t improve or they feed him strikers to try and rebuild him in the hopes of some entertaining slugfests. If it’s a grinder Josh Koscheck, if it’s a striker Martin Kampmann.
Featherweight Bout: Rani Yahya defeated Mizuto Hirota via Unanimous Decision after Three Rounds
Yahya is widely considered to be one of the best grapplers in the Featherweight division and he proved it in this contest. Some thought he might struggle being the smaller fighter against a larger foe, but he dominated the action on the ground for the opening two rounds. In the third, cardio became a factor and Yahya began to look slow and tired from fighting against such a large opponent, but despite controlling the final round Hirota was unable to secure a finish and complete the comeback.
What’s next for Yahya? He’s a top notch grappler, but he could struggle against wrestlers who he can’t get down to the ground easily. He’s on a roll and deserves a tough test in his division. Featherweight wrestlers like Dennis Bermudez or Nik Lentz would be good choices to test his abilities.
What’s next for Hirota? Likely unemployment, although the UFC could keep him around if they’re planning a lot of Asian cards in the next year. A fight with Brazilian grappler Rodrigo Damm on a Brazilian or Asian card would make sense if they keep him under employment.
Middleweight Bout: Yushin Okami defeated Hector Lombard via Split Decision after Three Rounds
Yushin Okami dwarfed Lombard when they stepped into the cage on Saturday night. It looked as though the two men should have been in separate weight classes. Okami did what he does best, he used his size and strength to gain takedowns and control Lombard from top position. Lombard looked tentative to let his hands go in the opening two rounds and his footwork looked stiff. His Judo was no match for the constant takedown attempts of Okami. In the third Lombard sensed urgency and tried to earn a knockout, but was unable to earn a stoppage on the feet and ended up dropping what should have been a Unanimous Decision, but somehow ended up being a split.
What’s next for Okami? The UFC has to be getting tired of Okami beating every Middleweight contender that they sign. He’s quickly turning into the Jon Fitch of the Middleweight division. His grinding style isn’t fan friendly, but he gets the job done. Rising Middleweight contenders Costa Philippou and Ronaldo Souza have an upcoming bout, the winner of that fight is going to need to prove they can beat a fighter like Okami, so let them fight Okami.
What’s next for Lombard? My guess if the UFC tells him to cut to Welterweight or hit the road. He’s expensive as hell and was a marquee signing for the UFC, but he’s too short and small for Middleweight. Okami simply manhandled him and he hasn’t been impressive. If I was the UFC I would cut my losses and let him go back to Bellator as a broken fighter.
Lightweight Bout: Diego Sanchez defeated Takanori Gomi via Split Decision after Three Rounds
What happened in this bout? Not a whole heck of a lot. Slow and somewhat sloppy kickboxing between two fighters who are probably capable of much better. Rumors are saying that Diego had an injury and started his weight cut at over 200 pounds, so shedding that much weight likely had a negative impact on his performance. As it was, I think Gomi got robbed, although it’s hard to fault judges in a fight that was so lacking in action. There really are no winners coming from this fight as both men were fairly unimpressive, but Sanchez earns an official win nonetheless.
What’s next for Sanchez? He called out Nate Diaz after the fight, but after a performance as unimpressive as his, he doesn’t deserve a former number one contender. Jamie Varner just scored an impressive victory over Melvin Guillard and he could be a tough style match up for Sanchez, especially if he looks the way he did against Gomi. Until Sanchez proves he deserves a top notch Lightweight opponent inside the cage, he shouldn’t get one.
What’s next for Gomi? I feel bad for Gomi, because I think he got hosed by the decision here. Still, he didn’t look overly impressive either and this is one of those fights where there are no real winners. He’s a shell of his former self, so depending on the price tag he carries I could see anything from a friendly stylistic match up to a pink slip. He was on a two-fight winning streak heading into this fight, so my guess is he gets another fight. Thiago Tavares or Tony Ferguson could be decent dance partners for Gomi if they want to keep him relevant. If not, throw him to a debuting fighter that you have high hopes for and see what happens.
Heavyweight Bout: Mark Hunt defeated Stefan Struve via TKO (Punches) at 1:44 of Round Three
Stefan Struve said that if he got Mark Hunt to the ground he would win. Well he got him there several times and had a number of dangerous positions, but he could never put Hunt away. In the third round that cost him big time. With both men looking visibly tired, the fight was more than likely even with a round a piece. Hunt came on strong with a couple of flurries and dropped Struve before walking away. Although it appeared Struve was okay and Herb Dean was willing to let the fight continue, Struve complained of a broken jaw and the fight was waved off.
What’s next for Hunt? He demanded a top 5 opponent, but the top 4 of the division are already locked up for bouts, as are the likely 5 and 6 fighters. If Roy Nelson can beat up Cheick Kongo in their upcoming bout I think that’s a fight that makes sense for both guys. If Nelson loses to Kongo, which I don’t think he will, but he might, then the winner of the upcoming Travis Browne vs. Gabriel Gonzaga fight would be a good choice as well.
What’s next for Struve? Back to the drawing board I guess. This fight was his for the taking but he didn’t really ever look comfortable in the fight. He’s still young and still figuring himself out, but he needs to learn how to fight to his size and his full potential. With 13 fights already in the UFC, he’s running out of fresh faces to take on. Depending on how long it takes his jaw to heal, a fight with Ben Rothwell could make sense. Or the loser of the upcoming bout between Phil de Fries and Matt Mitrione.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Wanderlei Silva defeated Brian Stann via KO (Punches) at 4:08 of Round Two
What’s next for Silva? Depends whether he wants to fight at Light Heavyweight or Middleweight. He says he’s simply fighting for the fans now, so I think he stays at Light Heavyweight for marquee match ups. If that’s the case, there is a perfect dance partner just waiting for him. Forrest Griffin is known for a reckless and brawling style, so is Silva. Let them be a featured bout on a Fox card and give the fans a brawl for the ages.
What’s next for Stann? He’s going back to Middleweight, but I’m sure the UFC was hoping that he’d be going back down with a victory. Stann remains highly marketable and very fan friendly because of his fighting style, personality and past life in the US Marines. It’s likely they give him a winnable fight in his return to Middleweight, so Ed Herman or Rousimar Palhares will likely be the suitable options for Stann.