If you are a fan of fights with finishes, then there is almost a 100% chance you enjoyed UFC 146. The all heavyweight main card delivered better than most people expected. The entire main card ended before the second round ended, and on the whole card there were only three decisions. We got an exciting night of submissions, knock outs, and even an upset or two. Below are three stars for UFC 146:Heavyweights.
First Star: Jamie Varner
I have to be honest and upfront about my pick for this fight, as I chose Edson Barboza to win at UFC 146. With how dynamic Barboza has been, and Jamie coming in on short notice for his first UFC fight since UFC 53, I thought the cards were stacked against him. They were stacked against him, but that didn’t stop Varner from making me eat my words. I had a “heart” pick in this fight, which was for Varner, and a “money” pick for Edson. It’s hard to not be a fan of certain fighters in mixed martial arts when you are covering it, and Varner won me over a long time ago. I say this because it is important to separate the two when breaking down fights, and picking winners.
Varner, who has admitted this himself, has done things that made it hard for people to be a fan of his. However, a few years ago he released a video saying he was trying to change all that, and many people thought it as a PR stunt to adjust his image. I was skeptical at first, but now you can’t ignore that he has made those changes. It’s silly to speculate on what ‘the old Varner would have done,” but he should be commended for making those changes and sticking to them. While Varner was outside the WEC/UFC, it could have been very easy for the former WEC Lightweight Champion to revert to his old ways to get more attention, but thats not what he did. He put together wins, and fought his way back into the UFC.
Varner went into the octagon on Saturday in Las Vegas, with a win or go out on my shield attitude, and I always have a lot of respect for that. He had to have known that it would have been very easy for the UFC to say thanks, but you need to fight your way back into the UFC again. He could have tried to “out-wrestle” Barboza and grind his way his way to a decision. This was another turning point in the career of Jamie Varner, and when you realize that the top of the lightweight division is now crowded with “those WEC guys who could never compete with the UFC lightweights,” Varner is where he belongs. This was a watershed moment in his career, and I am excited to see what he does next.
Second Star: Junior dos Santos
I have an old axiom that I keep repeating that “Great fighters, make good fighters, look like mediocre fighters.” Thats exactly whay Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos did at UFC 146 against Frank Mir. Frank Mir, although not always the most exciting fighter, is an accomplished fighter and former UFC champion himself. He has knocked out elite strikes, and he has submitted top level jiu jitsu fighters. Mir has come back from horrible situations in his career, and has consistently risen to the top of the heavyweight division. He is a good UFC heavyweight fighter.
JDS made Frank Mir look slow in the octagon at 146. There were at least 4 times in that fight where Mir was winding up to throw a strike, and dos Santos slipped in a jab completely negating the incoming strike. At moments it looked like the Anderson Silva Vs Forrest Griffin fight, where Forrest literally had no answer for what Silva was doing. On Saturday night, dos Santos out struck Mir 58 to 17 in eight minutes and four seconds. Dos Santos out landed him 3 to one, and I bet if you went and looked at the entire fight history of Frank Mir that that has probably never happened to him before.
Despite Joe Rogan’s insistence that dos Santos was trying to get revenge for his mentor and training partner Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, dos Santos was there to defend his belt for the first time. He did it with skill, style, and a mountain of class. This was a huge win for him, and it sounds like we will see him fight Velasquez again, which will likely be as epic as their first bout.
Third Star: Cain Velasquez
For a long time reporters asked American Kickboxing Academy fighters who was the next “great fighter” to come out of AKA. Over and over again from fighters and trainers in the gym I heard one name: Cain Velasquez. I heard his name mentioned so many times, it was no surprise to me that he was given his first UFC bout with only 2 previous fights. He certainly had the wrestling pedigree to warrant such an opportunity, but when solid fighters like Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch repeat his name like a broken record, there is usually something to it. They were right.
After his technical knockout loss to current champion Junior dos Santos, no one knew how we going to respond. It was as high profile as a fight has ever gotten in the UFC. More than 10 million people watched in the US alone. We knew he was going to rise to the occasion after his first pro loss, but no one knew how he was going to react if he found himself in trouble, or something not going his way. The good news for him was that he was never in any trouble.
After Anotnio Silva threw an ill advised leg kick, within seconds he was on his back losing pints of blood. This was as one side as it gets. Velasquez outstruck Silva 51 to 4, and Silva only landed 1 significant strike. Silva was one of 2 people to finish Fedor Emelianenko, and Velasquez beat him like a drum for three minutes and thirty-six seconds.
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