So that was without a doubt the card of the year right? We got a couple of upsets, a lot of highlight finishes, spectacular performances and then arguably the most competitive title fight of Jon Jones' career (I'd give it to Gus but Santos is the first fighter to win one of the judges' scorecards and force a split decision). Lemme go in on a few of these fights fam, let's talk about these performances. Who do yall wanna see these heads fight next (my personal picks in italics)?
Chiesa vs Diego was kinda weak. Just looked like a bigger, younger guy out-grappling an older fighter but unable to put him away. Chiesa is a threat though and fought smart...and made me money too. Anyway, Chiesa was a top ten lightweight and deserves a shot at ranked competition imo. Neil Magny is similarly a grappler with solid but not great striking who has had mixed results. Watching those two roll would be awesome. I don't think Diego should be fighting UFC caliber guys any more. He can beat some tbh, but I'd rather see less opportunities to take serious head trauma by fighting lesser competition.
Jan Blachowicz taught Luke Rockhold the age old lesson not to look past an opponent. Rockhold at 205 was surprisingly plodding, he looked every bit the 20 lbs. heavier that he was. It's also incredible that Luke's not better at takedowns having spent so much time training with DC and Cain. He's aggressive and strong but limited. So Jan kept it standing and Luke's age old issue of not keeping his hands up came back to bite him. Blachowicz is in that sweet spot where there's no one else deserving of Jones and he's got a career full of fighting quality opponents. So while Reyes and Walker build their resumes, he may have lucked into a title shot. Rockhold is another one who might want to retire, too many KO's in a short span is seriously unhealthy.
Masvidal vs Askren was five seconds of magic. There was the trash talk build up, the epic KO and then the aftermath of memes, reaction videos and a clip of Masvidal practicing the flying knee (right down to stepping a couple of feet off center before running in). Look, Ben has bad stand up and ducking for the takedown is par for the course. That Masvidal caught him perfectly is still a feat. The drama now is that people think Masvidal was classless. The punches after the knee might not be necessary but that's on the ref imo. Askren is coming off a win where he took absurd punishment and Masvidal went for the kill. The taunting afterwards is also something I didn't mind, not after the disrespect Askren threw at Gamebred. This is come uppance without the diving into the crowd that soured Khabib's version of silencing a trash talker. Masvidal needs to get the next title shot period. Take advantage of the stardom he's built by being himself and get him to the show. Ben...Ben should fight Demain Maia. I know wrestler vs Maia has been a disaster before, but Ben's style is not like Kamaru and Colby. Plus it's another chance for Maia to figure out how to beat a wrestler (honestly, he almost had Kamaru).
Nunes beating Holm wasn't unexpected by most, but the head kick finish probably was. Honestly I liked Holm's work throughout the first round but you could see the headkick was not something she prepared for when the first kick almost caught her. The second one was just a perfect reaction to Holly pausing with that leg cocked back to fire. For the brief while it lasted, I really enjoyed watching the exchanges between these two and I'd have loved to see it last a bit longer. But whatever, enough Nunes vs strikers. She's dodged any new gen grapplers so far. I'm not half as interested in a fight with GDR as I would be a match up with Ketlen Vieira who is tough as all hell and just finds ways to drag fights to the ground. Then again, if Aspen Ladd gets the upset over GDR she'll probably get the nod and stylistically she's kinda like a younger Cat Zingano (who slammed and stopped Nunes but long before Nunes made so many improvements). I felt Ladd looked green last time out though. Gimme Holm vs McMann. Two vets who've struggled recently and a big style clash.
Then there was Jon Jones vs Thiago Santos and Santos managed to implement a better gameplan than damn near anyone Jones has ever fought. Part of that was his agility, part was his power and the last bit was pure toughness. Santos' ability to throw killer leg kicks kept Jones defending even at his bread and butter range. The other issue for Jon was that he'd throw those low kicks and if Santos could even partially parry or step in, he'd lunge forward with power strikes that put Jones in danger. They didn't land well but they kept Jones from throwing the volume he typically does. He had to be cautious or he'd get countered. Of course then Thiago's knee gives out partially through the second round...and Santos keeps throwing leg kicks with the bum leg. He even tried to plant off that bum knee to mix things up but he'd buckle and get in trouble. Either way, the next 3 and half rounds were Santos trying to both protect his leg and do enough to win and he damn near pulled it off. I had it scored 3-2 for Jones. 2,3,4 for Jones while Santos gets 1,5.
To his credit, Jones was elusive and almost never got hit clean even when he was off balance. He still managed to land more strikes pretty much each round even outside of his comfort zone. But it was odd that he didn't wrestle a guy with no base and who was more or less keeping things even on the feet. Santos has been taken down and submitted before, it's the best option for most guys against that elite striking. Jones left the door open to lose a decision instead and also gave us a lot of footage to consider for weaknesses. Obviously leg kicks will be something he has to prepare for from any future opponent and I wouldn't be surprised if fighters take note that parrying the low kicks opens up counter opportunities. I've been saying for a while that Reyes is an intriguing opponent for Jones base on his skillset and power, but Reyes still needs a little more experience before he's ready. That goes doubly for Walker who's fought less competition. Since they're not ready, process of elimination lands at Jan Blachowicz. Rockhold was almost guaranteed the next shot with a win, why not Blachowicz? I'd like to see Reyes vs Weidman for the next shot in the meantime and that gives Walker time to get another couple of tests under his belt...hopefully someone gives us a whole round to evaluate.
That's enough typing about fights for now. But this weeks UFC Fight Night is surprisingly loaded with talent and solid match-ups so I'll probably punch something in about that later. Plus I might need to vent about just how lame UFC 240's under card is which sucks for Max and Cyborg...but that can come in a couple of weeks.
PG - Morris/Caruso
SG - Booker/Z.Smith/Brown
SF - Culver/Thabo
PF - Saric/Justin Jackson/ Niang
C - Vonleh/Hartenstein
Reserve - Alize
IR - Gobert
Ex A. Kaba J. Obiesie, Gafford
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