UFC 126 Silva vs. Belfort 2/5/11
The UFC annually tries to match the excitement surrounding the Super Bowl with a PPV card featuring premium bouts. This card was stacked with exciting fights on paper, and while some fights lacked action in the cage, the card overall did not disappoint. The UFC does a great job with promotions ever since Dana White rescued the limping organization back in 2001, and the multiple outlets for viewing this card exemplifies that. A free fight was streamed on Facebook.com, but you had to “like” the UFC page before viewing. Further, attractive undercard fights were telecast for free on Spike TV leading up the PPV telecast. Brilliant marketing!
Demetrious Johnson def. Norifumi Yamamoto (free on Facebook.com): This fight featured a Japanese legend, known for having explosive power and movement, who was making his celebrated UFC debut against a relatively unknown fighter, one who fared well in his short time in the WEC. In round 1, both fighters stay on the balls of their feet with bouncy footwork and seem capable of throwing punches and kicks from a very far distance as they fight in the center of the cage. Johnson shoots for a takedown and Kid Yamamoto stuffs it. More dancing in the center of the cage reveals that Johnson might be the quicker of the two. Another explosive takedown attempt by Johnson leaves Yamamoto on his back in half guard. Yamamoto uses an under hook to leverage himself back to his feet. Both continue to strike from a far distance and have little difficulty bridging the gap. After landing a counter left cross, Yamamoto is taken down again, Johnson tries to trap an arm with his legs, but Yamamoto is back to his feet after bucking Johnson off. Yamamoto gets rocked with a knee and nearly eats a follow up punch as he scrambles backwards. Confidence grows with Johnson as his third double leg takedown shocked everyone, including Yamamoto who had no reaction. Round 1 to Johnson. In round 2, Yamamoto completes a hip toss and as Johnson gets back to his feet, he falls again after retreating against a kick. Yamamoto is kicked in the groin and needs a few seconds to rest. Both fighters touch gloves to resume. Yamamoto looks very confused against the level changes and explosiveness of Johnson and gets taken down again. Yamamoto flips to get back up and lands a counter left cross as the two exchange strikes. Johnson changes levels so quickly and shoots in from way out as Yamamoto sprawls. Another takedown attempt by Johnson is successful this time. Both are back to their feet. In the center of the cage, all punches are thrown with power, even misses make a point. Johnson scores 2 more double leg takedowns, although Yamamoto does land one of his own and follows with what appeared to be an illegal knee to the head as Johnson was getting back to his feet. This action does not draw attention from the referee, but Yamamoto acknowledges the mistake and retreats. Johnson accepts the mistake and the two continue to fight until the bell sounds to end round 2. Round 2 goes to Johnson. In round 3, Johnson is still very aggressive with his footwork and while Yamamoto doesn’t give up, he is clearly confused and hoping for a classic come-from-behind TKO. Johnson shoots from way out to a frozen Yamamoto who lands in half guard. As Yamamoto gets to his feet, he eats a left hook. Johnson lands a big right hand and misses on a double leg, but gets back to his feet just as quickly as he drops down. Johnson is still bouncy and active. While Yamamoto remains aggressive, the level changes of Johnson keep him off balance. 3 more takedowns later, mixed in with impressive hand and feet combos, and Johnson finishes the fight as pure as MMA gets. Round 3 goes to Johnson. Official scorecard: 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 for Johnson. That last score was puzzling as there is no way Kid Yamamoto won a single round from Johnson.
Chad Mendes def. Michihiro Omigawa (free first bout on Spike TV): Omigawa has crafty footwork, head and body movement. While both fighters are aggressive, Mendes tends to be a bit more wild with his punches at times and everything is thrown heavy handed. Out of range, Mendes shoots in, misses, regathers himself, and quickly goes in for another takedown attempt. Both are avoided by Omigawa. After a huge leg kick from Mendes, he goes for another double leg takedown, but Omigawa shows great base during his takedown defenses. Mendes lands some big jab-straigh rights and continues to counter punch well. At 1:50, finally Mendes completes a takedown and is met with an arm bar attempt and good ground defense from Omigawa, while on his back. Omigawa avoids significant damage while on his back and manages to stand back up with 30 seconds remaining in the round. Round 1 goes to Mendes. In round 2, while Omigawa lands a big left hook, Mendes reacts aggressively with a big straight right to left hook which drops Omigawa. Mendes jumps on Omigawa for active ground and pound. Omigawa continues to attempt submissions while on the ground with an omaplata and leg lock attempt. Great action and the crowd approves with applause as both fighters stand back up on their feet at 3:52. Mendes is now teeing off with his heavy hands and tries to surprise Omigawa with a double leg takedown attempt which is defended impressively. The crowd applauds again. Against the fence, Mendes throws a standing elbow. While both fighters continue to press in the center of the cage, Mendes lands a jumping knee against the stalking Omigawa. Another single legged takedown attempt by Mendes is stuffed. Mendes ducks under an attack and dips Omigawa to the mat with a double leg takedown. A clean elbow lands from the top by Mendes. Round 2 goes to Mendes. In round 3, Omigawa comes out of his corner with a huge glob of vaseline masking the large cut over his eye. While stalking, Omigawa defends a takedown attempt and tries to lock on a guillotine choke. While on top in Omigawa’s guard, Mendes starts palming the area where the cut is, but he also tries to pass. The strong guard of Omigawa keeps him out of danger. Back to their feet, Omigawa continues to stalk, knowing he is behind on the score cards. Both fighters are in range and both land clean punches. With 1:00 remaining, a takedown from Mendes steals the close round. I score the fight 30-27 for Mendes. Official judges score: 30-27.
Kyle Kingsbury def. Ricardo Romero: In round 1, Kingsbury presses in a mauling style from the outset to trap Romero against the fence. There, Kingsbury clinches and attacks with knees to the midsection and head. A left hook drops Romero and the ref steps in shortly after to spare any further damage. At 4:38 in round 1, the contest is stopped.
Donald Cerrone def. Paul Kelly: In round 1, Cerrone puts his left hand out to greet his opponent, and Kelly responds by faking a handshake, and coming over the top with a cheap-shot, straight right hand. Cerrone ducks down and dips Kelly with a hip toss. Kelly falls down and wrenches on the exposed neck of Cerrone. Cerrone is in very little danger as the grip loosens and he passes from half guard to side control to full mount. Cerrone is unable to inflict any damage from the top. Both fighters get back to their feet and Kelly lands a knee from the clinch. Kelly is very comfortable in his standup, while Cerrone looks out of sorts compared to prior recent performances, although not hurt. Kelly fakes a jumping knee and scores with a left hook punch, followed by what appears to be a few words out of his mouth directed toward Cerrone. Every attack from Cerrone gets countered by Kelly with heavier fists. A leg kick from Cerrone is countered by an uppercut, straight right, left hook combo. A head kick to elbow is missed by Cerrone, but he follows with a single leg takedown. Kelly attempts a guillotine. Cerrone finishes the round on top and lands a few punches and an elbow. Despite the poor sportsmanship from Kelly to start the fight, Cerrone extends his hand and helps Kelly back to his feet. Round 1 goes to Kelly. in round 2, both fighters start the round by touching gloves. Cerrone lands a leg kick. Kelly looks comfortable punching in range, throwing hard shots and willing to take a punch to deliver a harder one back. Cerrone throws the hardest strike of the fight, a leg kick from his rear side. At 2:50, Cerrone ducks, clinches and trips Kelly to the mat. Cerrone passes to half and a a high full guard. Kelly is unable to buck Cerrone off. Cerrone gets the back and locks in a body triangle before a loose rear naked choke. Cerrone breaks the body triangle to get better leverage on the choke, and expertly grabs his own wrist to synch in the choke even deeper, resulting in a tapout victory at 1:12 of round 2. Kelly claims in the post fight interview that he unintentionally gave a cheap shot to begin the fight.
Miguel Torres def. Antonio Banuelos (first bout on PPV): I was really excited for this fight as Torres recently went from pound for pound top fighter in the world, to losing 2 consecutive fights and relinquishing his bantamweight title, and most recently looking sharp and back to his old form against Charlie Valencia, since finally having a real coach in Greg Jackson. In round 1, Torres shows NO aggression and this continues for the duration of the fight. Banuelos has been a WEC veteran since 2002 and is clearly the much shorter fighter as is usually the case for opponents against Torres. Side note: Great new look for Banuelos with his punk rock hairdo and handlebar-ish mustache. Torres lands a few combos, leg kicks, and stiff jabs, and looks rather deliberate and robotic in his striking. Banuelos can’t find his range against the lengthy jabs of Torres. Banuelos attempts desperation techniques of a head high kick and a spin back kick; both miss. Crowd boos at the end of the round and is even louder this time than while booing during the middle of the round. Torres wins round 1. In round 2, Banuelos still struggles to find his range past the lengthy jabbing attack of Torres. The fight is stopped by the referee for 10 seconds to allow Banuelos to recover from an inadvertent groin kick. More stiff jabs from long range by Torres. A hopping round kick misses from Torres, but he continues to land jabs at will while dancing around the cage. Banuelos continues his fruitless pursuit of the dancing Torres and gets countered with most of his attack attempts. Banuelos’ face is now a bloody mess. Torres lands a head kick, but so far this fight is very boring. Torres wins round 2. In round 3, Banuelos knows he has nothing to lose, so he bull rushes with ineffective haymakers. At 3:30, the crowd boos again. Torres is now in range and lands a jab, hook, straight right and then more jabs. Jabs and a head kick land from Torres. At 0:15, both fighters tee off in the center of the cage…the most action of the entire fight. Torres wins 30-27, but we saw a more calculated Torres, who was very subdued with a boring style, much different from the once hyper-aggressive, stalking, dynamic fighter from before. Official scorecard: 30-27.
Jake Ellenberger def. Carlos Rocha: In round 1, surprisingly, Ellenberger follows his jab with a chest high tackle which is reversed by the highly decorated BJJ black belt, Rocha. Ellenberger scores a leg sweep from the clinch and gets into side control. Both fighters are back up on their feet. Rocha shoots in for a takedown and Rocha sprawls, but trips and ends up on his back. Rocha is very active on the groundand this is why I was surprised Ellenberger initiated the takdown earlier to encourage ground fighting; playing in Rocha’s backyard. Rocha goes from side control, north south, side control on the other half, and north south ground positions. Ellenberger spins out, but gives up his back. From there Rocha goes to mount, but is unsatisfied with his options so he continues to pass to side control, north south, and finally to half guard where Ellenberger attempts a guillotine choke. Both fighters are back to their feet. Rocha grazes with a spin back fist before trying for another takedown to a sprawling Ellenberger. Still on the ground, Rocha spins from an arm bar attempt to an americana. Ellenberger is saved by the bell and Rocha is dominant in round 1. In round 2, the action slows. Ellenberger lands a knee from the clinch. Rocha goes for a takedown and is stuffed. A spin hook kick misses by Rocha. Ellenberger misses with a jump knee and both fighters look fatigued during their stand up exchanges. At 0:18, Ellenberger steals the close round 2 with a takedown. In round 3, lands a leg kick and Rocha comes back with a short left hook. Rocha tries to take Ellenberger down, but is a bit slower with his explosiveness at this point in the fight. Ellenberger shoves Rocha to the ground a charges forward with a winging right. A spin hook kick badly misses from the fatiguing Rocha and his striking is getting more predictable. At 2:00, Ellenberger attempts a takedown, but they end in a clinch. Ellenberger finishes the fight with better exchanges with his hands and a scored takedown. Ellenberger wins round 3. My score: 29-28 Ellenberger. Official scorecard: 29-28, 29-28, 30-27. The last score by the judges is ridiculous as Rocha clearly dominated round 1 and was close to finishing the fight then.
Jon Jones def. Ryan Bader: Jones is known for never staring directly at the eyes of his opponent, but both fighters touch gloves to begin the round. In round 1, Bader misses with a thunderous left hook and gets taken down. Bader lets go of the guillotine attempt. Jones lands elbows to the body from side control and advances to north south. Jones head-butts Bader in the abs, something I have never seen before (pretty funny looking technique resulting in no damage, but I still don’t think it’s legal). From north south, Jones is very close to choking out Bader. Both get to their feet and trade punches in the center of the cage. A shot from Bader is stuffed, but Jones ends up in side control and throws some elbows from different angles. The best elbows in the sport come from Jones. From side control, Jones attempts a darce choke. Jones wins round 1. In round 2, Jones leads off with a stiff jab, then misses on a jump round kick and also missing on a superman elbow. Bader counters with a straight right and jab. Both start getting wild with striking and miss badly. Jones lands a superman jab, leg kick, and is stuffed with a takedown attempt. Bader has tippy-toe style footwork and looks awkward when dancing around. Bader shoots, but is stuffed. Jones lands a leg kick and straight right. Jones plays around with his stance and switches before both get tangled up and fall to the mat. Jones attempts a darce choke and switches to a variation of a guillotine. Tap out at 0:45 in round 2. Jones is clearly in the Jose Aldo category of being not only a complete fighter, but super dynamic with his striking and will be fighting for the title next against Shogun Rua. Although Rua got robbed in his first fight against Lyoto Machida, but then won the rematch convincingly, I expect Jones to come out on top of that fight with the better wrestling and brutal elbows from ground and pound.
Forrest Griffin def. Rich Franklin: I was not looking forward to this fight and it definitely disappointed in lack of skilled action and aggression. In round 1, Griffin looks physique is impressive and throws a head kick which glances off Franklin’s hands to start the fight. Franklin slips and Griffin is on top. Griffin passes to half guard, but Franklin gets full guard. Griffin is active in ground and pound but mostly misses. The fight is boring and the announcers are trying their best to fluff up the action and the reputations of both fighters in this co-main event. Franklin has good defense on the ground, but neither attempt any submissions, passes, or escapes. Griffin wins round 1. In round 2, Griffin scores a couple of leg kicks and short uppercut. Most of Franklin’s striking misses. Griffin catches Franklin’s leg and drags him down. Griffin takes the back and Franklin avoids the leg hooks. While Franklin tries to stand, Griffin holds on and drags him down again. Franklin stands up. Again, a very boring fight and the announcers continue to hype up the nonexistent action. Both fighters finish the round standing on their feet and landing occasional strikes. Griffin takes round 2. In round 3, Franklin tries for a takedown from the clinch and Griffin should shrugs him off. Franklin falls, but is back up quickly. Both fighters attempt head high kicks, but the action is slow. Side note: at this point, watching Malachi’s dog and Bob’s dog fight for a bone was literally more action packed. Griffin scores a takedown and attempts a darce choke. Franklin reverses his positioning on the mat. Both are scrambling and Griffin reverses his postion. Both finish the fight on their feet. Griffin wins round 3. My score Griffin 30-27. Official scorecard: 30-27 Griffin.
Anderson Silva def. Vitor Belfort: The announcer mention that Steven Seagal (yes! That guy.) had been working with Silva and was included as part of his entourage walking out to the cage. That’s silly! In round 1, the fighters don’t touch gloves as there was a dramatic buildup at the weigh ins when Belfort had claimed that Silva fronts and hides behind a mask, so Silva showed up wearing a Jabbawockeez white mask while getting a little too close to Belfort, adding to the friction. Up until about 3:30, not a single strike was thrown. Belfort lands a leg kick. At 2:15, Belfort catches a leg for a takedown. Both are back on their feet. Silva lands a knee and now both fighters are opening up. Out of nowhere, Silva stands in his aggressive fighting stance with his body leaning forward and throws a back leg front kick with his left leg and catches Belfort in the face. The ball of the foot connected perfectly to drop Belfort. 2 ground and pound punches later and the referee stops the fight at 0:35 in round 1. I have been involved in Tae Kwon Do for 25 years and I have never seen someone get dropped from a back leg front kick to the face. Steven Seagal? That technique is rarely thrown in MMA for many reasons, but mainly due to the potential for slipping and falling down for attempting such a risky kick. Silva retains his title as best fighter in the world pound for pound.