The Sunday Aftermath – UFC 174

ufc174

In a packed weekend of sport UFC 174 might not have been top of the agenda for a lot of people but the hardcore fans knew exactly how well matched it was (on paper at least) with pick ’em fights throughout. Headlined by a flyweight world title bout, the main card was filled with ranking implications and, although it didn’t have a huge name, the pay-per-view was one of the strongest in recent times. Here are my main takeaways from the night.

Flyweight title

Dagestani fighters have taken the UFC by storm in the last few years. Rustam Khabilov and Khabib Nurmagomedov have been stand-outs in the lightweight division; the latter fancied by many to be that division’s next champion. But it’s flyweight Ali Bagautinov who made it to a title fight first when he took on the only 125 lbs UFC ever, Demetrious Johnson last night.

It was a tentative start for the usual mad paced flyweights with the first two rounds being close enough to debate despite Johnson being favoured by most. In the third, Johnson really got going as he visibly upped the pace and began landing at will. As we’ve become so accustomed to, Mighty Mouse hurried in, struck and floated away leaving Bagautinov bewildered. The Russian had no answer – some early brief transition success from the clinch was his only real offense. By the time the final bell sounded Johnson had beaten Bagautinov decisively in every area without too much effort – taking him down, out-striking him and beating him up in the clinch – taking the decision on all three judges’ cards.

What was learned from this fight is that Johnson is by far and away the best in the world at the weight. A rematch with John Dodson looks set to be next up for Mighty Mouse as he continues to build a division where rematches will likely be a regular occurrence for some time to come yet. To be the man you have to beat the man and in the 125 lbs UFC class there is no doubt Demetrious Johnson is the man.

MacDonald renaissance

When Rory MacDonald first broke into the upper echelon of the welterweight division he was seen as a well rounded and hugely aggressive future champion. The Montreal native was nicknamed the Canadian psycho due to his killer style and stone-faced personality – a moniker which was vindicated by his gruesome destruction of BJ Penn. Then it all changed. Tentative displays against Jake Ellenberger and Robbie Lawler followed which switched his reputation amongst fans. In just six months he went from dominant monster who went for the kill to boring tactician happy to jab his way to a decision; whether fair or unfair.

Last night was a magnificent return to the Rory MacDonald of old. The Canadian came out fast, taking the middle of the cage as he stalked his dangerous opponent. Woodley had no answer as Rory kicked and stuck hard while constantly moving forward. A couple of leg kicks from Woodley in the second didn’t stop the avalanche as MacDonald laid on a barrage of combinations to the head and body. In the third, Woodley came out extra aggressively but had no success as MacDonald effortlessly took him down – which not many people expected.

The judges had an easy job giving MacDonald every round in, by far, the most impressive outing of his career. After the fight MacDonald told Joe Rogan; ” I’m ready. One day soon the belt will be mine”. Judging by the level of that display it’s hard to disagree with him.

World cup clash

The UFC may give the impression that it concentrates on it’s product alone but the executives don’t look past events as big as the world cup and certainly won’t have last night. UFC174 clashing with England vs. Italy and the Ivory Coast vs. Japan at the football world cup will have both positives and negatives. On the down side, a portion of the prelims went directly up against one of the biggest opening games of the tournament as the English and Italians battled it out. Viewing figures for those fights will be significantly down all around the world – even in America where the popularity of soccer is ever growing.

Another possible negative is the fact Saturday had four world cup games in row which could have discouraged people from spending another few hours in front of the TV for the UFC (skipping some of the soccer in the process). On the other hand, those same people were already at home in front of the TV and might have decided to make a night of it by watching the UFC instead of Japan vs. Ivory Coast, the lowest standard of Saturday’s footballing quartet. I’m sure the UFC will be hoping the latter is the case and if it is, the likely low prelim numbers could paradoxically lead to a bigger PPV number.

By the time UFC175 comes around (an event held on the same day as two of the world cup quarter finals but doesn’t clash) the UFC will know exactly where they stand and can plan any additional promotion accordingly.

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma