UFC 130 received mixed reviews from the fans. A card with ten fights and seven decisions and no super hyped match-ups, Rampage vs. Hamill showed what happens when an organization puts all their eggs in one basket. The fights were, as a whole, excellent, but the UFC had the fans salivating over the conclusion of “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1-1) and “The Bully” Gray Maynard’s (10-0-1) New Year’s title fight. Once that bout was scrapped due to injuries to both men, the UFC needed a card that was stuffed with “Fight of the Year” candidates to make up for the disappointment, especially among the casual fans. UFC 130 may be getting an unfair bad wrap from many fans and media for not living up to the hype of its cancelled previous incarnation, but the beauty of MMA is that the lackluster reception of the card itself doesn’t reflect too heavily on the fighters involved with it. Some fighters, however, managed to squander that blessing by putting on poor performances that are only magnified by the poor light in which UFC 130 has been cast. To explore who came out ahead and who fell behind, MMA Gospel has The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
“Rampage” Quinton Jackson (30-8): “Rampage” needed an impressive win over “The Hammer” Matt Hamill (9-3) to rebuild his reputation following several lackluster performances in his recent fights. While he didn’t get the KO that he really needed, he nevertheless showed improvement in every area of his game by defending every takedown the noted wrestler threw at him and landing several impressive leg kicks throughout the fight. The one time he truly hurt Hamill, he jumped in and tried to finish. Overall, his bout was less than entertaining but he won practically every exchange in the fight and that is impressive.
Frank Mir (15-5): Mir last met “Big Country” Roy Nelson (15-6) in a submission grappling match in 2003, which he lost. He more than repaid the debt last night at UFC 130. Mir absolutely dominated Nelson in every aspect of the game from blasting him with big shots standing to landing repeated takedowns, to easily transitioning to dominant positions from the first bell to the last. It was an excellent showing for Mir that lands him within two or three wins of regaining his title.
Travis Browne (8-0-1): The night was a short one for Travis Browne. The undefeated young up-and-comer took just over four minutes to erase all doubt over his prior tepid UFC showings by knocking “The Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (18-5) halfway into next year with a well-timed flying right hand. The blow landed Browne a $70,000 “Knockout of the Night” bonus as well as a highlight reel that will keep him in the minds of fans for months to come.
“Horror” Rick Story (11-2): Rick Story put a clinic against “The Pitbull” Thiago Alves (17-8). It wasn’t that Story was a striker on par with Alves; he’s not. It was that Story established early that his wrestling was such a threat that Thiago could do nothing to stop it if he attempted anything resembling an offense. He punched at the Brazilian with reckless abandon and clinched him down whenever his foe tried to respond. By the third round, Story had completely sapped the bigger fighter’s stamina and took a lopsided decision win that puts him in the mix for a shot at the UFC welterweight belt.
“All-American” Brian Stann (11-3): A USMC war hero took an elite level fighter completely apart on Memorial Day weekend in front of members of the Usama Bin Laden-killing SEAL Team 6. What else needs to be said? Brian Stann showed an almost impudent disregard for Jorge Santiago’s (22-9) striking as he walked unflinchingly through his best punches and proceeded to lay waste to the internationally renowned fighter. He beat Santiago into the mat in the first round before putting him out completely in the second in a match that saw Stann dismantle the submission ace with leg kicks, heavy right hands, and good ole corn-fed brute force. The effort earned both men a $70,000 dollar “Fight of the Night” check, but it was certainly a title contention-worthy showing for the Marine Corps Captain.
“Mighty Mouse” Demetrious Johnson (11-1): The natural flyweight that continues to surprise nearly everyone by dismantling fighters he’s supposed to lose to did it again at UFC 130. “Mighty Mouse” Johnson stepped up against Miguel Torres (38-4) as a heavy underdog and proceeded to control the pace of the entire fight. It was far from a dominant performance, in fact, the bout was so close that many Torres fans cried foul of the decision, but in the end Johnson’s takedowns, escapes, and ability to shut down Torres’ submission game earned him a win that implies he would be more than just a champion at 125lbs. and may be able to achieve the title even at bantamweight.
Stefan Struve: Losing just when he gets a little momentum seems to be the hallmark of Struve’s career. He won six straight before coming to the UFC where he lost his debut. He rebounded with three very impressive wins and talks of fighting for title contention arose, then he got flattened by Roy Nelson. Now, after stopping his last two opponents in violent fashion, Struve got KO’d in a very big way by fellow young blood Travis Browne. Struve has shown before that he is more than able to recover from the loss but one has to wonder just how many times he will kiss the feet of greatness only to be kicked back down to gatekeeper status before it becomes his permanent job in the heavyweight division.
Miguel Torres: Miguel Torres could easily have won his bout with “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Scores ranging from 30-27 Torres to 30-27 Johnson were spread across every forum board and MMA news site on the web in near equal proportions. Torres fired off his back with elbows, sweeps, and submissions and fought a very close and entertaining bout. The only issue is that the fight was one in which he was a clear favorite and came on the heels of a very poor performance in his last bout. Torres needs to get the UFC fans in his corner with an exciting finish before the memory of his WEC accomplishments fades forever.
Jorge Santiago (22-9): Another big name star from Japan with multiple international titles comes to the UFC; another fighter proves why the “hardcore” MMA crowd needs to admit that the Japanese promotions for the most part can’t hold a candle to the UFC. Santiago is a legitimate contender, but, like all JMMA superstars, has faced an average talent level far below that of the UFC roster in his opponents and that was obvious after the thrashing he took from Brian Stann. The only reason it didn’t hurt Santiago more was because unlike “Kid” Norifumi Yamamoto (15-4-1), “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi (29-8), Shinya Aoki (21-5), or any number of other less than successful crossovers, Jorge didn’t have a ton of marketing behind him.
Matt Hamill: Matt Hamill has always been overrated in regards to his stand-up abilities and actually receives a good deal more credit than he is due as a wrestler. This was evident when Hamill failed miserably where other wrestlers have had great success in taking down “Rampage” Jackson. All 17 of his takedown attempts where shrugged off without even coming close to completion and Hamill looked like a deer in the headlights standing after just a few exchanges. The result was arguably a very boring fight. “Rampage” was waiting to counter-punch and Hamill was simply lost in how to attack him…so he just stared blankly at “Rampage” between infrequent jabs, a failed head kick, and telegraphed takedowns a freshman high school wrestler would be ashamed of. This was Hamill’s chance to silence his naysayers. All he did was prove them right. At this point, he’s simply an inspirational gatekeeper.
Roy Nelson: Nelson is overweight. As Joe Rogan said, he could easily make 205 if he decided to put down the hamburgers and get into shape. This has always been something that was kind of endearing about Roy Nelson who often made light of the fact. Now, his conditioning is becoming a problem. Nelson has no fuel to mount a comeback once his opponent applies a little pressure, his gas tank drains like a dragster at full throttle and leaves him sloppy and impotent for the rest of the fight. His chin kept him alive for three rounds against both Mir and “Cigano” Junior Dos Santos (12-1), but let’s face it – the fans don’t pay $50 per Pay-Per-View to watch fighters hit a heavy bag for fifteen minutes.
Thiago Alves: Alves needs to find himself quickly. Whether it’s a change in diet and training to better make welterweight or a move to middleweight, what he is currently doing with his massive weight cuts will likely only lead him to the Zuffa chopping block. The former title contender squared off against Rick Story and appeared to be sluggish from the opening bell. After defending a few takedowns, he was almost zombie-like. He is now 1-3 in his last four bouts and hasn’t finished an opponent since 2008. Changes need to be made and Alves better make them before the UFC fixes the problem by changing their roster to no longer include Thiago Alves.