What happened in UFC Fight Night 36? Did it meet our expectations and what are the consequences for the future?
I will discuss only the four fights here which I was looking forward to.
Charles Oliveira vs. Andy Ogle
Charles Oiveira was considered an exciting prospect in the featherweight division after dropping from lightweight, showing high level submission skills and decent striking to complement it. So much so that he even got a fight against Frankie Edgar despite a loss to Cub Swanson in his previous fight. But after two straight losses he was sent to the back of the division to show he is still worthy of being considered a potential prospect, taking a match against Andy Ogle – a relative unknown who has lost 2 of his 3 UFC fights, and was ranked at the lowly #125 FW accordingly.
To show he should still be considered as good as his reputation, Oliveira should have demolished Ogle. Quite frankly anything else would have been a disappointment. And something else happened: Oliveira did look better than Ogle, but he wasn’t able to control him for extended periods of time or hurt him. It looked like it was going to end in a not-too-impressive decision win for Oliveira when he was able to secure the triangle choke in the third round.
This was not an impressive enough performance out of Oliveira against such a mediocre fighter to prove he belongs in the top of the division yet, and the rankings reflect that, elevating him only 6 spots from FW #38 to #32.
Erick Silva vs. Takenori Sato
Like Charles Oliveira, Erick Silva too was considered an exciting prospect, being a very fast, very explosive, and flashy all-around fighter whose wins came in spectacular fashion and very quickly – until he came across the more solid wrestlers of the division, namely, Jon Fitch and Dong Hyun Kim. Like Oliveira he was sent back in the division to face the simpler challenge of Takenori Sato, who was undefeated in his last 10 fights.
In this short fight Silva made quick work of Sato, leaving no doubt who is the better fighter. Unfortunately, Sato didn’t show he is a worthy opponent. The first kick Silva threw hurt him and he went for a desperate single leg when Silva drew closer, and lost through hammer-fist strikes to his head while he was holding that single, which might be the first knock out of its kind. This performance was less indicative of Silva’s prowess than of Sato’s lack thereof. If we can learn anything about Silva from this fight is that in spite of Sato’s incompetence he was still able to take Silva down, if only for a second, through that sloppy single he was holding for dear life. Therefore this fight also doesn’t put Silva back in any interesting position. This is evident in the rankings as well, awarding Silva just 3 more spots and placing him at #27 WW.
Ronaldo Souza vs. Francis Carmont
This was supposed to be an interesting fight, testing the skills of both men against high level-opponents. Carmont won his last 11 fights, 6 of them in the UFC. He is strong and well-rounded and knows how to fight safe, as any student of Tri-Star Gym should. He would have to show that he can handle a powerhouse, high-level submission specialist like Ronaldo Souza. Souza on the other hand had to show that he can use his skills to beat an even bigger powerhouse, who is long and has good takedown defense, in Carmont.
It had the making of an exciting, high action fight, which could be interesting both on the feet as well as on the ground. Unfortunately both parties chose very conservative approaches. While the fight was on the feet both fighters would send only one strike at a time, and this was usually a punch. There were very few combinations or other kinds of striking. There was almost no attempt to use the striking to set up take downs, and vice-versa, and the whole feel of the fight was like it was stuck. When they went to the ground, Souza took Carmont’s back but was not able to do a whole lot with it, and was content to just maintain control, riding out the win. This win didn’t push him forward in the rankings and rightfully so. He is still ranked at MW #5 which is high enough as it is.
There is a discussion going on about who should get the next title shot, and Souza is trying to claim he deserves it. In my opinion there is no doubt that based on this fight he shouldn’t get a title shot.
Carmont, on the other hand, suffered quite badly from this fight in the rankings, dropping from MW #7 to # 13, which I have no problem with since I didn’t think he deserved that #7 spot to begin with.
Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi
As the main event this was the most anticipated fight of the night. Mousasi being a bit like the Joker, a new face in the UFC who hasn’t fought the best in the world yet, but looked like he belongs with them. Machida on the hand had just recently dropped to middleweight, and while he looked very good against Munoz, the fight was very short and there still remained the question of how he would fare in a full 5 round fight, and would he be impressive enough to get a title shot.
And we certainly got our answers. As it turned out Machida gave one of his best performances, being faster than ever he slipped in and out, unloading a quick barrage before sliding out of the way to avoid Mousasi’s counter and beating him to the punch every time. Machida showed a great variety of striking, great movement, perpetual faints and a smart gameplan. Even when Mousasi was able to drag him to the ground, Lyoto immediately went on the attack or just sprang right up.
Mousasi, on the other hand, just couldn’t keep up. He looked slow and one dimensional compared with Machida. His striking was basically just moving forward and boxing, and he just could not find the quicker, elusive and versatile Machida. The only point in the fight where he looked good was with an impressive sweep which put him in top position – but he wasn’t able to do anything with it.
The only knock on Machida’s performance is that he didn’t finish the fight. Not only did he not finish the fight, he didn’t even hurt Mousasi or put him in any danger, so that’s a big knock. The way I see it, Machida won – impressively – a sparring match, but he didn’t win a fight. But under the current conditions that is enough.
With that win Machida rose to MW #2. Personally I don’t think he deserves it after wins over Munoz and Mousasi in the Middleweight division. Belfort still deserves to be ranked before him, after his 3 spectacular knock outs against the best of the best, as well Anderson Silva who only lost to only one person, and even those losses were controversial.
Mousasi drops to MW #16, the lowest he has been ranked in a long time, but he might deserve it. He needs a few more fights against some of the best to know exactly what his rightful ranking is.
Regarding the title shot question there is a definitive answer: Vitor Belfort, and he is already getting his title shot in May. There is no reason to decide now who will be the next one to get a title shot after that. It would be a long time from now and a million things could change until then. A fight between Machida and Souza first wouldn’t be a bad idea too, depending on how long after the Weidman/Belfort fight the winner would be able to compete again. If he would have to sit out for 6 months or more, than this means the next title shot would be in almost a year from now, and there is no reason for either Machida or Souza to not be active that long. But right now, out of Machida and Souza, there is no doubt who deserves the title shot more – Machida.