A Look Back, A Look Ahead: UFC in Macau Thoughts, UFC 154 Queries

We’ll tackle the statements first.

1. Thiago Silva is, at best, an average mixed martial artist.

Silva appears to be a fighter that frustrates quite easily, and I think it’s fair to say that it impedes him severely. There were numerous red flags that Silva was waving in that fight with Stanislav Nedkov, and they all bear mentioning, because I think this guy is a B-minus level fighter at his best and a UFC dropout at his worst.

Nedkov is only dangerous on his feet if you stand right in front of him. If you’re in front of him, he’ll keep punching until he rocks you, or he’ll use the opportunity to clinch up. All Silva (an all around better athlete) had to do was step to the side and use basic circling tactics or even a couple of feints and he would have been able to counter with those nice leg kicks and Thai knees all day.

Then, there were the tie-ups. Silva had an openly annoyed look on his face when Nedkov would tie up, as though he didn’t do this to himself. Again, just circle away instead of conceding position by backpedaling. Nedkov was just barreling forward throwing wild combinations; this wasn’t rocket science.

Silva escaped with the win.

The guy just fights with stupid emotion. Stanislav Nedkov isn’t anything to write home about, but he did show that he could compete and even win rounds (I had him up 2-0, and to be fair, that was a nice overhand right that he dropped Silva with) against UFC caliber opponents. He simply ran out of gas. But the “Thiago Silva will work his way back into relevancy” bandwagon also officially ran out of gas, and might have careened into a utility pole.

2. Takanori Gomi, for the first time in a long while, was caught doing Takanori Gomi things.

The Gomi-Danzig fight was a fun one, and it was one that Gomi dictated. He did so many of the things that brought him success in his PRIDE heyday that I started asking myself questions like “Do I have a job delivering pizzas? Did I just get kicked out of my parents house? Is it 2006? What year is this?”

Jokes aside, Gomi really came after Danzig with a newfound vigor. He kept pumping his jab in Danzig’s face, which set up some nice body punches that have simply been absent during his Zuffa tenure. In retrospect, Danzig was a great style matchup for Gomi because of his conservative nature, but still, he forced Gomi to take that fight from him. And take it he did.

Gomi jabbed well and fought with confidence.

The win brought Gomi to the .500 mark in the UFC, and he’s won two straight. Does this mean anything? Probably not, since the lightweight division is stacked with a nutty amount of talent. But if he fights like that, he could at least give solid fighters a good fight before he goes down in flames, instead of skipping the “solid fight” part and just going down in flames. Long live Gomi.

3. Dong Hyun Kim is a top ten welterweight.

As far as I can tell, Kim’s big flaw is that he has trouble transitioning from one aspect of fighting to another. He was clearly tentative on his feet against Carlos Condit,  and he paid dearly. In his next fight, he soundly outstruck Sean Pierson, who, while not a world beater in the striking department, has decent boxing and nice power. Was this the sign of a new, more well rounded Dong Hyun Kim?

No. It was just a sign that he thought he could beat up Sean Pierson on the feet. From the outset, Kim wanted no part of Paulo Thiago’s stand up game. And why should he have? He completely dominated Thiago on the floor. This was a drubbing, and it was a drubbing of a solid grappler.

Kim thoroughly dominated Thiago.

It’s not like Kim just scored takedowns and grounded and pounded from guard. He scored takedowns at will, advanced position whenever he wanted, beat on his opponent’s face from every position he got to, and nearly finished Thiago numerous times with submissions.

The guy just sticks to you, and his length and experience makes it difficult to counter his grappling. His transitions from striking to grappling are still a concern, but holy Toledo, when this guy wants to grapple with you, you’re in for a dressing down. This is a good welterweight that would beat alot of guys ranked above him.

Here are my queries:

1. Why do I believe that Francis Carmont is on the path to being a contender at middleweight?

Am I really saying this about someone who has a TKO loss to Ross Pointon on their resume? Why am I publicly supporting a fighter whose best UFC win is Karlos Vemola?

Because the UFC has tons of guys like this. Guys that have been fighting awhile, doing their thing on whatever regional circuit they happen to be a part of, with mixed results. Then they get a UFC deal and make the most of it, for a variety of potential reasons. Maybe they’re finally making enough coin to get higher quality training. Maybe being a Zuffa employee helps them stay more active. Maybe they just have a fire lit under their ass.

The easiest counter to this argument would be “The UFC has so many guys that ANYONE could go on a mini-run with the right matchmaking and a bit of good fortune.”

I was going to run a straightforward picture of Carmont, but this one got me.

We’re currently in a UFC climate that recently saw Igor Pokrajac and ANTHONY PEROSH go on 3 fight winning streaks. Mark Hunt was on a run before he got hurt. It’s not like these guys are just now hitting their stride; they’ve been around forever.

Carmont DOES seem to be hitting his stride, though. He’s a long, nasty striker with clubbing ground and pound and an improved submission game. He’s demolished his opponents in a way that’s made me a fan of his fighting style. With a division like middleweight, where you have your top-tier guys and then everyone else sort of clumped together, I think Carmont is primed to make a run. Tom Lawlor is a perfect next step for him, a guy that can hurt you bad early and then blow it late.

2. What’s the best thing about this UFC 154 fight lineup? The worst?

No heavyweight fights! It’s so tiring looking at these heavyweight matchups and trying to figure out which guy will go down in a pudgy heap of embarrassment. Though I suppose the appearance of Chad Griggs offsets this dynamic just a skosh. How was Griggs not involved in YAMMA Pit Fighting? Doesn’t it seem like he was? Can’t you see him going tit for tat with Chris Tuchscherer?

Do you really need a caption here?

One more thought about this fight lineup: the UFC better hope GSP or Condit don’t get hurt. There’s no way I could see GSP fighting an opponent on short notice. What’s crazy is that, if he declined to fight and the card was cancelled (though I suppose they could main event a PPV with Hendricks vs. Kampmann … at least it’s a title elimination bout), he wouldn’t receive 1/10th the vitriol that Jon Jones did. Ah, MMA fans, how fickle you can be.

3. How will Georges St-Pierre look?

19 months without a fight. 23 months without a good performance. A grueling series of knee problems. Years and years of mental fragility. Will any of this matter when he fights Carlos Condit on Saturday? Or will it be business as usual?

I’m uncertain, but there’s also an intriguing question that no one seems to be asking, for obvious reasons: How will Carlos Condit look on Saturday?

Think about it. This is a guy that has shown massive improvements over the past few years. He made a few cameos as a gruesome knockout artist, completely killing Dan Hardy with a left hook and Dong Hyun Kim with a flying knee. Then, in a tricky style matchup against Nick Diaz, he implemented a great strategy, using footwork and movement to dive in and out with single strikes. He fought in an entirely different manner in the Diaz fight than he did in his previous Zuffa bouts, so that shows that he knows how to properly prepare for a unique style of fighter.

The big question is, what strategy could he employ against GSP that would give him the best chance to win? Should he try out the Diaz strategy, where he moves around, throws single strikes and does everything in his power to avoid being taken down? Or does he try to killshot GSP and follow up, knowing that A) it’s been done before and B) he’s going to be taken down at some point in the fight, so why sacrifice potential effectiveness to avoid something that’s pretty much pre-ordained anyway?

To avoid concluding my thoughts with a question, I’ll say this: GSP will probably win on Saturday, but more than anything else, it’ll be great to have him back in a new-look welterweight division ripe with fresh contenders. That is all.

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