Any show would have had trouble following the incredible card that was UFC 117: Silva vs. Sonnen. It was an action packed event that played right into the interests of almost every breed of fan; in short, it was the people’s card. At UFC 118, Dana White and the Zuffa crew followed the same elephant in the living room theme they did at UFC 117. The card was filled with loose ends that needed to be tied up. Unfortunately for Dana and the boys, UFC 118, while a solid and entertaining card, has a lame duck follow up to the bonanza that was UFC 117. The night started on Spike TV with a fight that functioned very well as a sedative between Andre Winner (12-4-1) and “The Canary” Nik Lentz (16-3-2). Lentz took lay and pray to a whole new level in his decision victory over Winner and served to set a less that enthusiastic outlook for the rest of the night. The main card started with the one sided drumming that earned Nate Diaz (12-6) and “The Irish Hand Grenade” Marcus Davis (17-7) fight of the night honors, followed by another of “The Bully” Gray Maynard’s (10-0) classic lead blanket NCAA wrestling matches against “KenFlo” Kenny Florian (13-5) and an active but uneventful ground battle between Demian Maia (12-2) and Mario Miranda (10-2). The co-main event resulted in the expected “I told you so” first round obliteration of “Lights Out” James Toney (0-1) by “The Natural” Randy Couture (19-10) and provided a brief moment of entertainment before “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1) defended his belt in a relatively dull five round tilt with “The Prodigy” BJ Penn (15-7-1). Like all cards, several fighters came out ahead, some came out behind, and some came out looking like they didn’t belong in the cage.
Frankie Edgar: Frankie Edgar came into this bout as both champion and underdog. He won the belt in a controversial decision against the man who was supposed to be an invincible killing machine at 155 lbs. and had to make lightning strike twice in order to keep it. Edgar did just that. He uses footwork and solid combinations to frustrate the former champ to the point he had given up halfway through the second. For Edgar, this fight was more than just the validation of his place as champion; it was proof that new knows how to defeat BJ Penn at lightweight.
Nate Diaz: Diaz had a few rough spots in the first round against Marcus Davis, but he soon found his range and dominated “The Irish Hand Grenade” from that point forward. Diaz used his jab and a series of well timed straight left hands to open at least two deep cuts over Davis’ right eye. These cuts and the resulting swelling had all but closed Davis’ eye by the start of the third where Diaz continued to use his reach and speed to punish his opponent before securing a fight ending guillotine choke near the end of the third. Diaz needed to announce his arrival to the 170 lbs division loud and clear, and that’s just what he did.
Demian Maia: There was little doubt about who was in control during Maia’s middleweight tune up bout against Mario Miranda. The Brazilian grappling ace moved seamlessly from submission attempt to submission attempt and from position to position in a brilliant display of technical submission fighting. While Maia failed to finish his foe, he clearly displayed just how superior his ground game is to the rest of his division and more than likely has set himself up for a second meeting with one time title challenger Chael Sonnen (24-11-1).
Mario Miranda: It’s a very rare thing indeed to find a fighter who just lost his second fight in three in “the Good.” It’s even rarer to find a fighter who’s only UFC win is over a sub par opponent listed here, but Mario Miranda showed a glimmer of excellence in his loss against Demian Maia that proves he truly belongs in the UFC. Miranda was clearly out classed by the BJJ master, of that there is no doubt, but he did manage to do something that only one other Maia victim has managed to do. He made it to the final bell. Mario diligently fought submission attempts from every position and even countered the dangerous Maia on several occasions. Hopefully, Mario gets his due from the UFC and faces an opponent more his level next.
Randy Couture: Captain America came forward to defend the honor of MMA against loud mouthed boxer James Toney and showed us all again why he is still considered one of the best in the world at age 47. Randy launched himself at least six feet for an ankle pick within the first 30 seconds of the fight and easily snatched the WBO heavyweight champ to the floor. Everyone expected Couture to take Toney down, but to do so in such an insulting fashion as to use an easily defended low single simply proved to hammer home the point that Toney would soon pay the piper for his trash talk. The piper came at 3:19 of the first when Randy sealed the deal with an arm triangle from the mount.
Gray Maynard: Gray Maynard has finally earned the title shot he has sought for years and he did so by defeating one of the most respected lightweights in the game, Kenny Florian. So how is it that he’s listed in the bad? It’s simple: Gray Maynard is not and never has been a fighter. In fact, Gray has only finished two opponents in his MMA career, amateur or professional, outside of the exhibitions he fought on TUF. With the heat the UFC has been taking over “Rush” George St. Pierre (20-2) stalling to defend his belt and “The Spider” Anderson Silva (27-4) boring fans with childish displays of offensive indifference, Maynard’s take no risk, extremely boring style of turning MMA fights into NCAA Div. 1 wrestling matches will ensure that the first time he stumbles, he’ll never see a belt across the ring again. Dana White will only watch his fans go for a bathroom break en masse when his champion comes out so many times before he starts pushing them into fights designed to get the belts away from them.
Marcus Davis: Davis took an almost criminal beating at the hands of Nate Diaz. Despite his boxing credentials that should have given him the edge standing, Marcus had absolutely no answer for Diaz’s overwhelming reach advantage. By the end of the first he had two cuts over his right eye. Following the second, Davis looked like the elephant man as a result of the excessive swelling. Davis has now dropped three of his last four bouts and is staring a pink slip in the face if he didn’t find one in his locker after he woke up from the guillotine that ended his night.
Kenny Florian: Kenny’s fight against Maynard was one of the worst of his career. For the second time in his career, Kenny allowed a wrestler to control the pace of the fight and set up his takedowns for fear of the very same thing. Kenny can beat just about any fighter in the world when he presses the action. The problem is when you put him against a top level wrestler, he shuts down. He is so wary of the takedown he fails to pressure his opponent into the mistakes that allow him to shine. Florian is a far more skilled fighter than Maynard and should have easily put him away; instead, he tip-toed around the cage and let Gray pick his shots…literally.
BJ Penn: BJ Penn is the most talented lightweight in the world without question. He is inhumanly flexible, has prodigious grappling abilities, and has remarkable striking power and accuracy. The problem is he knows this and has known it his entire life. The result is essentially a spoiled child. Penn is supposed to win. He is supposed to be the untouchable lightweight god figure. Mortals can’t touch him. So when one does, Penn comes out angry. Then when coming out angry in the second doesn’t work, he shuts down from the rest of the fight. Look at the comparison. Spoiled kid wants something, he doesn’t get it so he throws a tantrum, that doesn’t work so he pouts and looks foolish. BJ Penn is supposed to be unstoppable, he gets out boxed in the first by Frankie Edgar so he gets pissed and comes out swinging, Edgar keeps cool and controls Penn even more thoroughly so Penn pouts the rest of the match, drops the decision and looks foolish. I’m sensing a pattern.
James Toney: James Toney combined a boxer’s unbridled arrogance and sense of superiority with a pro-wrestling heel’s offensive brand of personally insulting trash talk and a dangerous lack of foresight and intellect to become the only boxer to successfully coax both a big pay day and a vicious ass beating out of the UFC brass. In UFC 1, Art Jimmerson (0-1) faced Royce Gracie (14-3-3) and tapped out when he realized that his career as a cruiser weight boxing champion provided him no means to escape the mount. Sadly, the second boxer to try his hand against the MMA elite ended in the same position. Toney is a step down from Jimmerson for two reasons: he didn’t have the intelligence to tap when he realized he didn’t have an answer for Couture’s ground skills and unlike Jimmerson, he had plenty of film and history to study before stepping in the cage.