The Zuffa brass must be very pleased with the showings at UFC 150. Following an electrifying UFC on FOX card and featuring a rematch of one of the most exciting title fights in UFC history, UFC 150 had a lot to live up to and it seems to have done so with ease. The card opened with a striking war between “Blessed” Max Holloway (6-1) and “The American Kid” Justin Lawrence (4-1). The TUF alum started strong but much like in his losing effort in the reality show, his stamina became an issue and Holloway put him away late in the bout. “Thunder” Yushin Okami (27-7) returned to his roots by dragging hot prospect Buddy Roberts (12-3) to the mat and pummeling him with ground-and-pound until the referee saved him. Jake Shields (28-6-1) fought his fight against an over-matched “Short Fuse” Ed Herman (20-9) in a grueling ground battle. The Shields/Herman fight may have slowed things down, but it may have been good for fans to have a reprieve in their excitement prior to the 76-second affair between “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (19-4) and “The Young Assassin” Melvin Guillard (30-11-2). The fight was brief, but it delivered in a huge way as is evidenced by Cerrone’s matching $60,000 “Fight of the Night” and “Knockout of the Night” checks. The main event was every bit as even as “Smooth” Ben Henderson (17-2) and “The Answer” Frankie Edgar’s (14-3-1) first bout. The champion and former champion went toe-to-toe for five rounds with Henderson retaining the title. The fans and the UFC came out as big winners at UFC 150, but the just like the bouts in the cage, there are always losers too.
Ben Henderson: The champion retained in an extremely close Split Decision after a five-round fight that never slowed down. A new tactic of attacking the lower leg of Frankie Edgar proved a very wise decision on the part of “The Smooth One’s” camp as the amount of damage it did to Edgar’s mobility and speed provided the edge that Henderson needed to emerge victorious. With Edgar now firmly in the rear view mirror and any controversy firmly squashed by UFC president Dana White, Henderson is now free to establish his reign as a dominant UFC Lightweight Champion.
Donald Cerrone: “Cowboy” did almost everything right with his first major bout in front of a Denver crowd. The hometown kid came out with the utmost respect and sportsmanship regarding his former training partner turned opponent, winning the respect of fans worldwide for his character. He did come out a little aggressive and almost paid the price when Melvin Guillard blasted him to the canvas for the first time in his career, but Cerrone adjusted and retaliated. It took a head kick and one straight right hand for “Cowboy” to completely turn the tables and rectify his mistake with a “Knockout of the Night” winning finish.
Jake Shields: The former Strikeforce champ belongs at middleweight. His lack of strength and stamina at 170 has always kept him from competing against the truly elite welterweights. At 185, with more muscle and less drain on him from the weight cut, Shields is a truly dangerous top control fighter as he proved by derailing Ed Herman’s win streak and handing the Oregon wrestler his first loss since a return from injuries. A stiffer test will be needed to see if Shields can hang with the UFC 185 king pins, but a dominant decision against Herman is a good start.
Yushin Okami: Okami was in bad need of an impressive win to get his UFC career back on track. Against a prospect making his second Octagon appearance, just winning wouldn’t be enough and losing would be devastating. “Thunder” managed to make the best of his situation by returning to his roots as a wrestler and Judoka, taking complete control of the fight in the clinch and on the mat before beating Roberts from back mount en route to a TKO stoppage. The win could set up an interesting rematch with Jake Shields.
Max Holloway: Max Holloway truly is “Blessed” when it comes to his featherweight MMA career. For the first time in his career he was faced with a truly superior stand-up fighter and it showed in the first frame. However, despite his more well-rounded game and superior striking skills, Lawrence lacked something absolutely critical in the high altitude environment of Denver, Colorado. He didn’t have solid cardio. Holloway handled himself well to get out of the first and made it past the midpoint of the second where he took over and blasted “The American Kid” to the mat with a punch to the liver to earn his second straight UFC win.
Frankie Edgar: No one in their right mind doubts Frankie Edgar’s ability to compete at the highest level in the lightweight division. However, he would be an absolute monster at 145lbs. where he would not only have all the tools he possesses as a lightweight, but would also have the power to finish the majority of his bouts. Edgar is an elite lightweight, he has proven that, but at 145 he won’t constantly be fighting an uphill battle. He fought to a razor thin decision loss against Ben Henderson in a bout many thought he won, but had Henderson not been a far larger, stronger fighter, Edgar likely would have finished him.
Melvin Guillard: Melvin Guillard would be the greatest fighter in UFC history if fights had a one-minute time limit. He always comes out strong and does damage early and then almost always makes a critical mistake and blows it all. This time, “The Young Assassin” was just a few solid blows away from being the first person to finish “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone with strikes. Instead, he got a little too eager and was sent crashing to the canvas with a head kick and a right hand that saw him finished for the third time in four fights. Guillard now has his back against the wall again.
Ed Herman: Ed Herman saw his win streak brought to an end by former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields. He was out-wrestled and spent the majority of the last two rounds fighting to survive from his back. What is truly puzzling, however, was Herman’s decision to fight in the clinch rather than trade from the outside with Shields. “Short Fuse” had an undeniable advantage in the stand-up but chose to grapple instead, perhaps hoping the thin mountain air would drain Shields’ stamina for a third-round finish. Either way, Herman’s gameplan was obviously flawed and he failed to adjust it.
Buddy Roberts: Roberts tasted both defeat and elite middleweight talent for the first time at UFC 150. He fared well in the opening striking exchanges but was totally outclassed in the clinch and on the ground by Yushin Okami and lacked either the skill or the training to prevent Okami from closing with him. He was saved by the bell in the first, but Yushin took his back again in the second and this time had several minutes to seal the deal.
Justin Lawrence: Justin Lawrence was a favorite to win The Ultimate Fighter with his stellar kickboxing and balanced ground game. Unfortunately, he hasn’t got the stamina to push through the final frame. He has made strides in his cardio but The Mile High City proved too much for him and he went from clearly controlling the stand-up against Max Holloway to breathing heavy and eating leather in the second. If Lawrence thinks he can survive in the wrestler-heavy featherweight division with weak stamina, he is sorely mistaken.
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