The Monday Aftermath; Takeaways from WSOF 11, UFC 175 and TUF 19 Finale

ufc174weidmanmachida

Three events, twenty-nine fights, two Ultimate Fighter titles, one fan expo and three title fights made this past weekend the biggest in the MMA calender of 2014. Names like Rousey, Penn, Edgar, Weidman and Machida were all on show in a weekend which didn’t disappoint. Here are my main takeaways.

The Elephant in the room.

It would be remiss of me to write about UFC 175 and not mention the whole Sonnen/Silva/Belfort saga. If you were living under a rock for the last month what basically happened was all a fallout from random drug tests done at the initial press conference to announce the fights a few months ago. On that day, Wanderlei Silva ended up (literally) running out on a drug test which lead to him being pulled from the card. Chael, being Chael, went on UFC tonight to berate him for doing such a thing (turns out Chael was on drugs at the time, we’ll get to that soon). Then, Sonnen was scheduled to fight Vitor Belfort. The Brazilian was also subject to an out of competition drug test at the world MMA awards months earlier; the result of which was kept quite until Belfort finally had to release it before this fight. Of course, he failed that test but the UFC persisted to look for a license in Nevada with the results being debated amongst doctors (according to Dana White). If that wasn’t bad enough, Sonnen then failed not one but two drug tests. Firstly, for estrogen inhibitors (which he blamed on the TRT ban) and secondly for a cocktail of HGH and EPO – the worst of the worst in performance enhancing drugs. The fight was cancelled before Belfort had to go in front of the commission for licensing (the great tragedy in all of this). Sonnen immediately announced his retirement from fighting after the first test. After the second he was relieved of his broadcasting duties by both Fox and the UFC.

The whole situation was just an utter mess for everyone involved. Three men were scheduled to be randomly tested: One ran away (and later admitted to being on drugs), one failed a test and another failed two tests. It shows just how rampant performance enhancing drugs could be (and probably are) in this sport. Test a guy with no warning and it seems the failure rate exponentially increases. The thing is, we really don’t know how widespread the problem is until more stringent random blood testing is introduced. The issue with that is the price (thought to be around $45,000) and the potential damage it could do to fight cards. For the good of the sport, though, it needs to be done. When two people put everything on the line to battle, the least that should be done is to have a level playing field without the help of steroids. Chael Sonnen was made an example of, let’s hope the other fighters take notice and realise, in the long run, it will catch up on you.

Three title fight night.

The first belt on the line this weekend was the World Series Of Fighting lightweight strap. Champion Justin Gaethje (11-0) took on one-armed fighter Nick Newell (11-0) in a fight with caused much debate. Newell started well as he caught Gaethje early with a couple of right hands and kicks to the body. But it wasn’t long before Gaethje took over and laid a ferocious beating as Newell tired hugely. Newell was cut in the first round and it was opened further in the second before he was finished with a right hand. The debate after circled around how “hard to watch” it was. The fact of the matter is that Nick Newell doesn’t have the same ability to defend himself as somebody with two arms. We know that. The fact also is that 1. he won 11 fights in a row before this and 2. he was allowed to fight by the commission. The reason he lost, more than having one arm, is that Justin Gaethje is simply a better fighter. And that’s ok. MMA has all different levels. Newell showed he is a real force at the level he fought before Gaethje; but the step up was too much for him. It’s as simple as that. If you know Nick Newell and you still chose to watch him fight then you must realise he can get knocked out cold, he can get submitted but he can also win – just like every other fighter.

The two UFC title fights were about as different as possible at UFC 175. Ronda Rousey, firstly, produced a sixteen second massacre of Alexis Davis. The champion smashed Davis with a right hand, rocking her to her very core before judo tossing Davis to the mat and putting her out with a barrage of short punches. For Rousey it was a culmination of all the work she has been doing on her striking. She produced, by far, the most hurtful display of power ever seen in the UFC’s female bantamweight division. UFC 176 is a possibility for her next fight but after sustaining a nasty looking hand cut; a break could be on the cards before an outing at the end of the year. She has proven beyond doubt that she is better than any woman in the UFC. If Saturday night showed anything it’s that the UFC will need to sign Cris Cyborg to find a worthy opponent for Rousey.

The main even then had the middleweight belt up for grabs as champion Chris Weidman battled Lyoto Machida in a thrilling affair. Weidman was quick to start and pushed the pace early; clearly winning the first and third rounds while probably sealing the judges verdict in the second after a late takedown followed a close round. Machida, though, made a marvelous comeback and had Weidman badly hurt in the fourth after a barrage of kicks to the body and punches to the head. The final round, again, was close but, again, Weidman got an all important late takedown which the judges usually appreciate. The decision went to Weidman but both men showed unbelievable heart and grit. For Weidman it was the win he needed to come out of the rather sizable shadow of Anderson Silva following two hotly debated wins. Some said Weidman wasn’t the real champion but now there is no debate to be had. He has emerged as a star and the UFC will hope that will translate into pay-per-view numbers.

TUF 19 finale

Following a disappointing season of The Ultimate Fighter (featuring Ireland’s Chris Fields and Cathal Pendred) team coaches Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn fought for the third time in the show’s finale. Earlier in the night the TUF finales both ended quickly as, firstly, Eddie Gordon brutalized fellow team Edgar middleweight Dhiego Lima and stopped him in the opening round to win the first TUF plaque of the night. The second went to Corey Anderson who attacked Matt Van Buren from the opening bell and forced referee Mario Yamasaki to stop the fight when MVB was badly hurt.

The most important action, though, was between the mentors. Having lost twice to Frankie Edgar for the UFC lightweight title previously, BJ Penn was desperate to get revenge here. But it wasn’t to be. Edgar was dominant from the start. Penn came out with an unusually upright boxing stance but it didn’t work. Frankie boxed him apart in the first two, carbon copy, rounds with his rapid combinations before getting the takedown with ease. In the third, Penn was visibly tired and Edgar opened up with strikes on the ground – cutting him badly. Mercifully, referee Herb Dean stepped in and stopped the fight with Penn producing no offense whatsoever and taking a barrage of blows. Having come into the fight with only four fights and one win since losing to Edgar four years ago, Penn was on the verge of retirement and confirmed his decision in the Octagon post fight. One of the greatest lightweights on the planet for years, Penn is a certainty to be inducted into the UFC hall of fame having been one of only two men to win UFC titles in different divisions. For Edgar, a possible fight with Chad Mendes to save UFC 176 could be next after ending his trilogy with BJ Penn unbeaten.

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