The thousands of fans have left the Mandalay Bay Event Center and fighters have returned home to nurse their injuries and plan for their next bouts following a night of solid competitive fights at UFC 137. “Diablo” Nick Diaz (25-8) took the win over “The Prodigy” BJ Penn (16-7-2) in his main event return to the UFC. Cheick Kongo (17-6-2) showed how superior technical abilities are a perfect foil for raw athletic ability when he dismantled “Meathead” Matt Mitrione (5-1). The MMA world witnessed the end of one of the most storied careers in MMA as “Cro Cop” Mirko Filipovic (27-11-2) came out on the losing side of a three-round fire fight with “Big Country” Roy Nelson (16-6). “Big Frog” Jeff Curran (35-14-1) had his UFC return spoiled by WEC stand-out “Young Guns” Scott Jorgensen (12-3) and Hatsu Hioki (22-4-2) broke the curse of JMMA fighters with a solid win over George Roop (12-7-1). With the fights in the books, everyone knows which man recorded the victory in each fight, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect how each man’s career will be affected and for that, MMA Gospel has the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Nick Diaz: Though BJ Penn clearly ran the show in the first round, speaking volumes about how Diaz would fair against UFC Welterweight Champion “Rush” Georges St.Pierre (22-2), the Stockton native took advantage of Penn’s poor conditioning at 170lbs. and dominated the final two rounds of their three-round tilt. Nick used a slapping jab and good work to the body to dismantle “The Prodigy” and showed a strong chin, taking several heavy blows from Penn and recovering nicely. He also called out GSP in his typical unsportsmanlike fashion, implying he faked his injury, after the bout. Diaz’s mouth earned him a ticket to pass “Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (27-5) on the road to a title shot, but it has yet to be determined if he is jiving the wrong bull in the pen.
Cheick Kongo: Kongo showed clearly why work ethic and athletic ability cannot stand even against a lifetime of training. Mitrione has tremendous power, soaks up technical training like a sponge, and is a phenomenal athlete, but Kongo’s decades of kickboxing proved the superior. Sharp, straight counterstrikes, solid footwork, and in the end a more well-rounded skill set allowed Kongo to upset the hot prospect who simply didn’t have the experience to deal with an elite level of kickboxing. The bout brings Kongo one step closer to the top.
Roy Nelson: UFC President Dana White has criticized “Big Country’s” conditioning on several occasions, especially following two straight losses. In response, Nelson dropped a good 30lbs. of dead weight and entered his bout against Mirko “Cro Cop” looking far more fit and trim than he ever has in his career. The result was Nelson being able to take several solid blows from the feared Croatian striker, including his world renowned left head kick. Nelson scored a late TKO and got his name right back into the title contention conversation.
Mirko Cro Cop: The Croatian fighter lost again. He was stopped in the third round after struggling with “Big Country’s” takedown abilities and eating a few big shots. Following the loss, “Cro Cop” officially retired saying that he wished he could have gone out on a win but was thankful to the fans and the UFC for all the love and respect he was given. The good part? He finally looked like vintage “Cro Cop”. He may have lost and that may have been at least in part to his seriously lacking ground game against an ADCC championship-level grappler like Nelson, but for the first time in a long time, Mirko didn’t look listless and lost in the Octagon. He came out, moved well, looked hungry, and gave “Big Country” all he had, out-landing the former IFL champ in every striking category on the feet. While he is going out on a loss, at the very least it is a loss that everyone can be proud of.
Scott Jorgensen: Jorgensen has been a fighter that for some reason is rarely brought up in discussions about the bantamweight division. Despite now holding a 9-3 record in the division and having never been finished even by one of the best pound-for-pound fighters alive, “Young Guns” rarely gets drafted for big name bouts. In fact, it took a two-year, five-fight win streak for him to get a title shot in the WEC. That may change a little now that Jorgensen has secured a solid PPV main card win in the UFC. Over the course of the fight, the young bantamweight maintained a steady pace, landed 75 of his 176 strikes, secured all six of his attempted takedowns, and held the only dominant ground position in the entire fight, earning himself a Unanimous Decision win that showcased his ability to fight effectively anywhere the bout takes him.
Hatsu Hioki: The curse has been lifted. The Chicago White Sox were cursed by a 1919 scandal when they threw the World Series, a curse they broke in 2005. The Boston Red Sox were cursed when they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees after winning the 1918 World Series, never to win it all again until 2004. The Chicago Cubs last won the World Series in 1908…and it seems that Hioki has broken yet another sports curse before them. Japanese fighters, no matter how successful in their native country, have fallen short as a whole in the UFC, especially in terms of their debuts. In fact, since the 2007 acquisition of PRIDE, Japanese fighters have gone 17-29-1 overall, 9-22-1 if “Thunder” Yushin Okami (26-6) and Takeya Mizugaki (14-6-2) who each had substantial stateside experience prior to their UFC debuts are excluded. A total of seven highly touted and ranked Japanese fighters have lost their UFC debuts since the PRIDE merger and since UFC 100, only one Japanese fighter has won his debut. That man is Hatsu Hioki who clearly out-worked and controlled Geroge Roop to become the curse breaker, the first Japanese import, highly ranked big name or otherwise, to win his debut in the UFC since “Sexyama” Yoshihiro Akiyama (14-5) did it at UFC 100. If he manages to make a solid winning UFC career for himself, Hioki will officially be the foil for the curse of futility plaguing the Japanese in the UFC.
Jeff Curran: Jeff Curran has been a staple part of the MMA underground. He is the crème of the crop in terms of sub-mainstream gatekeepers, those guys fighters have to beat to get noticed by Bellator or the UFC. However, Scott Jorgensen’s statistically one-sided drumming of Curran only serves to re-affirm what his 2-4 WEC, 0-1 Bellator, 0-1 PRIDE and now 0-2 UFC records have clearly stated for years; Curran is a “Big Frog” in the pond of organizations like the XFO, which he owns and promotes, but he is only shark bait in the oceans of the MMA elite.
Matt Mitrione: Matt Mitrione is a fast rising star in the UFC heavyweight division. He has tremendous power and work ethic, he has an ability to absorb the knowledge more skilled fighters impart on him in training at an almost alarming rate, and he has the athletic ability to shame many light heavy and middleweights. All of this tends to blind fans and pundits alike to the fact that he is still very green and has a very basic and amateur-level skill set. This was exposed against Cheick Kongo who completely outclassed Mitrione on the feet with his world class kickboxing before making him pay for being one-dimensional with solid wrestling and top control for which the former NFL lineman had no answer. The loss may be a blessing in disguise as it prevents Mitrione from jumping too soon into the upper echelons, but it is still a loss and it still derails the “Meathead” Express hype train for the time being.
BJ Penn: BJ Penn looked excellent in the first round of his fight against Nick Diaz. The blows he landed were far more telling; he secured a clean takedown and held two clearly dominant positions on the ground. Then, as is seemingly always the case when Penn fights at welterweight, he came out in the second looking like a zombie because he was so gassed. His power was gone, his head and foot movement were non-existent, and his will to fight seemed a thing of the past. BJ Penn needs to fight at lightweight if he wants to continue to have a viable career, not because he can’t fight at 170lbs. but because unless he has to make a lower weight, he doesn’t bother to condition himself properly.
George Roop: After a miserably failed first stint in the UFC that saw Roop go 1-2 with his only win a debatable Split Decision, Roop dropped from lightweight to featherweight and earned a place in the WEC where he went 1-1-1 before getting back into the UFC only because the smaller organization and its lighter weight classes were absorbed into the larger promotion. With a second chance to shine in the UFC, Roop wasted no time losing his first match before scoring an unaired upset win on the TUF 13 Finale show. Now, after being neatly and soundly beaten by Japanese transplant Hatsu Hioki, Roop is again 1-2, prompting many fans to ask why Dana White has continued his employment with the UFC.