It seems these days that hardly any UFC events go by without some controversy provoking weeks of debate. UFC 143 has proved no different, with the usual mix of nonsense and valid claims swirling around. Here are the key things that emerged from the event, some of them missed by people too caught up in the argument over how Diaz-Condit was scored.
1. Diaz wouldn’t have beaten GSP, and Condit probably won’t either
Let’s be honest here. Condit, under the rules of the sport, won that fight. It really is as simple as that. Evading your opponent and preventing him from pinning you in a corner isn’t a negative if you also engage in a fight, which Condit did, out-striking Diaz in four of five rounds. But everyone arguing over this is missing the most significant part of the bout.
The entire idea of this bout was to settle who gets a crack at Georges St-Pierre once he returns from injury. Condit beat Diaz by displaying precise striking, good footwork, hard leg kicks (for those arguing that they weren’t, you only need to look at the bruising on Diaz’s leg in round 5), solid takedown defence, quick lateral movement and a few spinning attacks to keep his opponent guessing. Sound familiar? Condit beat Diaz by fighting like St-Pierre in the stand-up.
GSP brings all those tools and the threat of the takedown. Watching that fight, it’s plain that St-Pierre is a nightmare for Diaz stylistically unless he radically alters his gameplan, which he refused to do at any point during the Condit bout. Similarly, although Condit did well to stave off Diaz on the ground, he was only able to escape once Diaz scrambled for a submission – and St-Pierre’s strength on the ground is minimizing space and controlling his opponents’ movement.
Of course, a lot depends on what condition GSP comes back from his injury in – ACL tears can ruin careers, but assuming he makes a full recover and ring rust isn’t a major issue, it’s difficult to see him losing to either Condit or Diaz, given the holes in each others’ games they exposed last weekend.
2. Let’s not write off Josh Koscheck just yet
Yes, I know, Koscheck isn’t a likeable guy and people tend to want to see him fail. But there’s a few reasons that I don’t think people should read too much into his poor performance on Saturday. He scraped out a win while looking very unimpressive, for sure, but there’s a couple of factors at play.
Koscheck has had one fight since Georges St-Pierre shattered his orbital bone and left him with permanent nerve damage in his face. That fight was against Matt Hughes, who is at this stage, a spent force in the UFC. Even in that, Koscheck didn’t look impressive. It’s possible that the severity of his injury has caused him to become a lot less confident and comfortable in a fight. This is something he needs to show that he can overcome, because if it continues it is going to be to the detriment of his performances and results.
The second factor is that nobody looks good against Mike Pierce. Ever. Pierce’s style creates ugly, scrappy fights because that’s how he beats people. It might not be pretty but it is effective. Pierce might not beat top 10 fighters but they’re the only ones he’s lost to in the UFC. He’s underrated and poses problems for most fighters – even in his two prior losses, he nearly finished Jon Fitch and lost a very close split decision to Johny Hendricks. People should be less surprised at Koscheck looking bad and give Pierce a little more credit.
However, another lacklustre display and Kos might find himself getting a bump down the rankings, even if he does keep squeezing out wins.
3. Renan Barao is for real
There’s only so long you can keep testing someone’s hype. I’m sure one could argue that Barao’s incredible undefeated streak – the longest active streak in MMA – was built on underwhelming opposition in Brazil. You could say that his WEC opponents weren’t exactly world beaters. You could even claim that he got a relatively soft landing in his UFC debut. But his last two fights have utterly dispelled that notion. Barao has comprehensively battered two consensus top 10 bantamweights in his last two fights, following up an extremely impressive finish of Brad Pickett by easily out-striking and out-grappling Scott Jorgensen for three rounds.
There really can’t be anyone else who can justifiably question Barao’s legitimacy at this stage. Once Urijah Faber has had his questionably-earned second shot at Dominic Cruz’s belt, let Barao take on the winner and let the world find out if the 135lb division really has found its Jose Aldo.
4. Werdum is back
The Overeem fight was, as we had all hoped, an aberration. Fabricio Werdum made an emphatic statement by beating up Roy Nelson worse than anyone – Junior Dos Santos and Frank Mir included – has ever beaten up Roy Nelson. Werdum demonstrated that his Muay Thai is on a high level to complement his more-famous BJJ skills, and that when he decides to fight, he can actually be exciting. This is, of course, no secret to those who have followed his fights from the start, but especially to those who are newer to watching him, “Vai Cavalo” went a long way on Saturday night towards rebuilding some of the cachet he gained with his victory over Fedor.
5. Herb Dean really is losing his touch
It was not so long ago that Dean was the consensus best referee around. His reputation has since then been tarnished by several controversial decisions and allegedly early stoppages – as exemplified by the Fedor-Henderson fight – but they have all been defensible and technically correct decisions, although they did make people wonder if his judgement and focus were beginning to wane.
The decision to dock Alex Caceres two points for an accidental low blow on Saturday night not only highlighted that decline in judgement, but was also an egregiously incorrect decision to make that cost Caceres the decision. It’s not easy being a referee, for sure, but Dean does need to go back to basics and remember why people rated him so highly in the first place – for his ability to manage fights well – lest his reputation suffer further damage and the outcome of other fights be changed by errors of judgement on his behalf.