On Saturday night the Octagon touched down in San Jose, California for the 12th installment of the UFC on FOX. The fight card was filled with exciting matchups including a main event where the winner would be next in line for Johny Hendricks welterweight championship. Here are my lessons learned from a fun night of fights on FOX.
Robbie Lawler is the new number one contender to the UFC Welterweight Championship. That means we will get to see a rematch of the awesome fight between Johny Hendricks and Lawler from March. Since coming back to the UFC, Lawler has been simply dominant and I did not see this coming.
Lawler lost 5 of his 8 fights in Strikeforce, so there where not many expectations when he made his return to the UFC. In his five fights back, he knocked out Josh Koscheck, Bobby Voelker and Jake Ellenberger. He defeated top contender Rory MacDonald and he lost a narrow decision to Hendricks for the welterweight championship. On Saturday, Lawler defeated Matt Brown, who was on a 7-fight winning streak, to get another opportunity for UFC gold.
If I had to pinpoint one reason why Lawler has had so much success in his return, I think it’s a pretty clear. He’s where he belongs. Maturity has a lot to do with it also, but bottom line is that he’s exactly where he should be and he’s happy. He looked like a fighter who was lacking motivation when he was in Strikeforce and he lost fights against guys he would demolish right now. He is taking full advantage of his second run in the UFC and I would be very surprised if he didn’t hold the gold before his career was over.
Lesson 2: Major Threat at 205
Going into his fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira I think it was pretty clear that Anthony “Rumble” Johnson would get an easy win but no way did I think it would only take him only 44 seconds to annihilate Little Nog.
In his first fight since being released from the UFC for his weigh-in mishaps, he absolutely dominated top contender Phil Davis. That performance made it very clear that Rumble was comfortable and extremely dangerous at light heavyweight. After that victory, he shot up all the way to being ranked fifth in the division. On Saturday night, Rumble did to Little Nog what no other fighter has ever done, and if I was a fighter at 205, I’d be scared.
Most of the top fighters are tied up with fights or injuries. In an ideal situation I would love to see Johnson fight Alexander Gustafsson with the winner getting a title shot. Gustafsson was scheduled to fight Jon Jones for the title but a torn meniscus knocked him out of that fight. There’s no word on how long he will be out but that’s the fight I want to see. Daniel Cormier gets the call and will step in and fight Jones for the light heavyweight championship. Rumble and Rashad Evans are teammates so that probably won’t happen. Glover Teixeira would be an amazing matchup but it looks like he will have a fight with Phil Davis next. A matchup with the winner of the Ryan Bader-Ovince St. Preux could be interesting but I feel a fight with either of them is a step down at this point and wouldn’t be worth the risk. Rumble says he wants to fight everyone and keep active so that fight could make sense.
All I know is if I were Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier, I would be expecting a fight with Anthony Rumble Johnson in the very near future.
Lesson 3: Brown Belongs
As mentioned earlier, Matt Brown lost a title eliminator to Robbie Lawler on Saturday night. There aren’t many situations where your stock goes up in a loss but that happened against Lawler.
Personally, I did not think Brown had any chance of winning this fight, let alone survive five rounds against Lawler. Brown was on a very nice winning streak but he hadn’t been in the cage with anyone on the level of Lawler. Plus, with as much as Brown gets hit in his fights, I predicted that Lawler would put him away within 2 rounds. The fight went the distance and he proved me wrong. Even Dana White was impressed, by saying that Brown should move up in the rankings after that fight.
There are plenty of options for Brown next but I think there’s one no brainer. Matt Brown vs. Carlos Condit is the fight I want to see next. This matchup was originally scheduled for last December but Brown pulled out of the fight with a back injury. Condit fought Tyron Woodley where he lost and suffered a torn ACL. No official timetable for his return, but that should be the next fight for both of them.
After tonight’s performance, there is no question; Matt Brown proved that he belongs in the upper echelon of the welterweight division.
Other Notes from UFC on FOX:
Dennis Bermudez looked extremely impressive in his victory over Clay Guida on Saturday night. He now holds the longest winning streak in the featherweight division at 7 in a row and called for a title shot after his win. Not sure he’s there yet but he’s close. The 145-pound division is stacked right now so there will be plenty of opportunity for Bermudez to earn that shot. A fight against Ricardo Lamas would be a good start.
Considering everything Bobby Green has been through, his performance on Saturday night was simply spectacular. He lost his little brother less than two months ago and accepted a fight against the number 3 ranked lightweight in the world on short notice. He’s another guy to keep a very close eye on because he proved he’s ready to contend in the UFC’s lightweight division.
Jorge Masvidal put on a great performance in his unanimous decision victory over Daron Cruickshank. Masvidal called for a fight with Cowboy Cerrone and without question that’s fun fight to book.
Steven Grossi is a digital video producer who likes to write a little. He’s a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, hardcore MMA fan and a total wrestling nerd. He usually has a strong opinion on anything combat sports related so give him a follow on twitter @SteveOGrossi.