By Michael DiSanto
LESNAR HAMMERS HIS WAY TO CREDIBILITY
Beating Randy Couture to win UFC heavyweight gold was the most significant moment in his still nascent UFC career. Yet, Brock Lesnar knew that he wouldn’t really be accepted as the best heavyweight in the game until he avenged his loss to former champion Frank Mir.
Lesnar did that and much more at UFC 100.
Mir, who openly criticized Lesnar’s ground-and-pound technique heading into the fight, was so dominated in the Saturday night main event that he looked like he had just been jumped by a gang of baseball bat-wielding thugs. It was an emphatic victory by the champion, erasing any doubt as to who is the true champion.
It is scary to think that Lesnar is only five fights into his MMA career. If he continues with his unbelievable work ethic in the gym, then he may be in the early stages of the most dominant heavyweight run in history. He’s going to continue to improve by leaps and bounds each time out—beginners typically do—and that doesn’t bode well for future title hopefuls Cain Velasquez, Shane Carwin, Cheick Kongo and others.
Despite the one-sided beating, Mir remains among the best of the best. The 30-year-old fighter remains relatively young for a heavyweight, so he will almost certainly have additional title opportunities in the future. In fact, the score between the pair is now 1-1, leaving the door open for an eventual rubber match should Mir work his way back up the ranks.
NOTE TO YOUNG STARS: DON’T TALK TRASH TO LEGENDS
Well, don’t do it until you are convinced that they are over the hill.
Why? Because it might come back to bite you in the backside.
Dan Henderson is one of the best fighters to ever lace up a pair of gloves—period. Michael Bisping is one of the best young fighters in the game, though his accomplishments in the sport don’t merit discussion in the same breath as Henderson’s accomplishments.
Yet, the pair was set to fight at UFC 100. It should have been a perfect situation for Bisping to catapult his career into the stratosphere. After all, a win over Hendo would place him at the top of the list of 185-lb contenders. Such a result seemed possible because Hendo, who is long in the tooth for a mixed martial artist at 38, seemed to be ripe for an upset.
That was before Bisping got under Hendo’s skin and focused the former US Olympian like never before for a UFC fight. The end result was the best Dan Henderson that UFC fans have ever seen. Mix that with an inexcusable mistake by the Brit—circling to his own left, right into Hendo’s most devastating weapon—and the world got to see why the Team Quest superstar will someday grace the wall of the UFC Hall of Fame.
Henderson’s knockout victory was his most impressive effort since stopping Wanderlei Silva to win the PRIDE 205-lb title in February 2007, and it puts Hendo at or near the front of the line of challengers for Anderson Silva’s 185-lb crown.
The loss certainly doesn’t cause Bisping’s career a ton of harm. He is still young, so losing to a legend isn’t that big of a deal. But losing by knockout can have lingering effects on any fighter. It is important for Bisping to get back on the horse as soon as he is completely recovered, take a shot on the chin and shake it off so that the knockout doesn’t derail his career going forward because “The Count” remains one of the best, most exciting fighters in the middleweight division, though one who isn’t quite ready to take on the role of legend killer just yet.
GSP IS HALF MAN, HALF AMAZING
A diehard UFC fan sent me a simple, one-sentence email on Friday:
I can’t believe people have yet to realize that GSP is half man, half amazing.
My response was that the fan had been watching too much NBA on TNT with Kenny “The Jet” Smith. My response should have been, “Amen.”
GSP’s systematic destruction of Thiago Alves was beautiful to watch. He completely neutralized Alves’ destructive Muay Thai skills by seamlessly transitioning between striking and wrestling, something he does better than anyone in the sport, across all weight classes.
With the win, GSP now owns a win over every top welterweight, except for one: Mike Swick.
Swick has competed in the welterweight shadow of high-profile teammates Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck for the past 18 months. Assuming that GSP isn’t interested in a rematch against one of his previously vanquished challengers, that leaves Swick as the logical next in line.
Or, maybe the time has finally come for the champion to begin frequenting the local steakhouse and pounding the weights in preparation for a pound-for-pound showdown with UFC apex predator Anderson Silva.
Prior to UFC 100, I gave GSP absolutely no chance in a much ballyhooed future fight with the middleweight champion. Now, I’m not so sure.
SOME OLD DOGS CAN BE TAUGHT NEW TRICKS
Mark Coleman is old, as far as athletes are concerned. The former UFC and PRIDE champion turns 45 in on December 20. That means his fighting candle is rapidly dimming. There is no hiding from that fact.
Maybe that is what inspired “The Godfather of Ground and Pound” to finally accept the fact that he needed to change up his stale pre-fight preparations if he wanted to get the most out of his aging body, opting to train for UFC 100 among world class fighters at Xtreme Couture, instead of his usual efforts in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
The decision paid huge dividends as Coleman ground out a workmanlike three round decision win over tough veteran Stephan Bonnar last Saturday night.
The win is Coleman’s first since February 26, 2006, the night he beat Mauricio “Shogun” Rua due to injury in PRIDE.
More importantly, it gives the former champion some much needed credibility in the light heavyweight division. Coleman made his debut at 205 in a rematch against Rua back in January. He put up a valiant effort in that fight, despite finally succumbing to strikes with less than 30 seconds remaining in the bout. Still, most thought that the aging warrior was finished as a legitimate contender, pointing to his lack of cardiovascular conditioning as evidence that his career-extending move to 205 lbs from heavyweight wouldn’t work out.
Coleman’s move to the land of the light heavies was the second best fighting decision that he has made in the last half dozen years—second only to his decision to properly prepare for the Bonnar fight. The win makes him truly relevant in the sport again, something he hasn’t been since defeating Don Frye back in 2003.
JONES CONTINUES QUIET ASSAULT ON THE 205-LB DIVISION
Jon Jones might be the most exciting prospect in UFC. The undefeated light heavyweight prospect continued the perfect start to his MMA career by tapping out rugged wrestler Jake O’Brien at 2:43 of the second round with a guillotine choke.
Jones, who turns 22 this weekend, is only three fights into his UFC career. No matter, I’m going to go out on a limb with what many may think is a crazy prediction: at some point in his career, Jones will wear UFC gold.
I’m not a new addition to the Jon Jones support bus. In my light heavyweight survey earlier in the year, I wrote:
This kid is the type of athlete that leaves most fighters green with envy. You know the type. He is the guy you grew up with who was good at every sport he played, whether or not he practiced much. Think I’m being a bit hyperbolic? Chew on this for a moment: Jones is a former junior college national champion wrestler who hired his first striking coach prior to his fight with Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94, yet he outclassed the former golden gloves champion on the feet with crisp, straight punches, flashy spinning elbows and solid kicks. Think about that for a moment. Bonnar is one heck of a striker, and he was undressed on the feet by Jones, not to mention getting thrown around in the wrestling realm. At 21 years young, Jones has limitless potential. The only criticism of the undefeated fighter’s UFC career to date is that he appeared to fade a bit in the final round. That raises questions about the effectiveness of his training regimen, something that can be corrected very easily. If Jones continues working hard, then this kid has a scary future, one that could see him competing in the Octagon for the next 10-15 years. A proposed summertime bout with former wrestling standout Jake O’Brien, who recently dropped from heavyweight to light heavy, will be an excellent next step in the career progression of a future superstar.
My major support of Jones in the divisional breakdown drew a lot of email heat from the readers. Granted, he still has a long way to go, but those words don’t seem quite so farfetched now.
A few more wins in the Octagon and I won’t be the only one singing this kid’s praises. I guarantee it.
A FINAL NOTE
The fight world needs to take a moment of silence in honor of one of the fistic world’s most exciting combatants, Arturo Gatti, who was found dead in his hotel room in Brazil early Saturday.
No, Gatti wasn’t a mixed martial artist. He was a boxer. I know. MMA isn’t boxing, In fact, he was boxing’s modern day blood-and-guts champion, thrilling fans in New Jersey and around the world with countless displays of the human spirit as he found the courage to fight on in the midst of extreme adversity time and time again, often pulling out shocking come-from-behind wins. In other words, he was boxing’s Forrest Griffin long before Griffin became famous with his amazing display of heart in the inaugural finale of The Ultimate Fighter.
Actually, it is unfair to call Gatti boxing’s version Forrest Griffin. The former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion is MMA’s version of Arturo Gatti.
Rest in peace, champ. You will be sadly missed but never forgotten.
UFC 100 Musings
Lesnar did that and much more at UFC 100.
By Michael DiSanto