The constantly revolving doors of the UFC talent pool is a necessary evil. It seems like every time a UFC takes place a handful of fighters are handed their walking papers from the promotion, and that’s exactly why I’m going to kick this edition of “The Aftermath” off with a list of….
Those that appear to run the highest risk of being released from the organization following UFC 109:
Frank Trigg – It’s not that losing back to back fights to welterweights like Josh Koscheck and former champion Matt Serra is an unforgivable offense as far as his future with the UFC was concerned, but it’s the fashion of the way Trigg has gone out in the previously mentioned bouts. It hasn’t been pretty.
Phillipe Nover – It was a victory for Nover to come back and complete this bout in the UFC following the syncopal spell that forced his last minute removal from an anticipated UFC Fight Night 19 showdown with Sam Stout, but three consecutive defeats in the Octagon at the hands of guys like Efrain Escudero, Kyle Bradley and Rob Emerson make it hard for the UFC to justify Nover’s place with the promotion.
Justin Buchholz – Much like Nover, the fact that we are even discussing a possible vacation from the UFC for Justin is an absolute testament to the promotion’s increasingly stacked and talent filled 155 pound weight class. However, with that being said, back-to-back… to back defeats at the hands of Terry Etim, Jeremy Stephens and Mac Danzig are going to make the case for Buchholz to stay in the UFC a hard one to make.
Raw Talent. “Mr. Wonderful” making it look easy. Finally, Phil Davis has arrived. I’ve been telling anyone that would listen for the last year about this ridiculously talented former NCAA Champion wrestler out of Penn State that was poised to have a tremendous impact on the future of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, and Davis’ performance at UFC 109 solidified my belief that the undefeated twenty-five year old has all of the tools necessary to go as far as he chooses to in the sport in due time. Davis is one of the few wrestlers with the unique ability to convert a series of takedowns combined with technical top control throughout the course of a bout into of the most fascinating aspects of the game to watch. Top notch wrestling at it’s finest combined with what appears to be an unlimited level of raw fighting talent for the still developing Davis have officially merged to put the ENTIRE light heavyweight division on notice.
Smile Now, Cry Later. Mike Swick looked way too happy going into the beating he caught from Paulo Thiago, even going as far as to exclaim that he was “back” during his trip to the Octagon. It was almost as if Swick was trying to convince himself that he was “back”. It appeared obvious that “Quick” meant to stay as relaxed and upbeat as possible going into his match-up with the dangerous Brazilian, and it also appeared obvious that Thiago meant to stay clear headed and…. well , a little bit pissed to be honest. Kind of the way Swick normally has looked prior to running through his opponents in the past.
Unnecessary Weight Loss. I have felt, and still absolutely feel that Mike Swick should move back up to what appears to be a healthier and more natural 185 pound weight class. It seems like the former light heavyweight from The Ultimate Fighter loses quite a bit from his level of explosiveness and power from the drop. So much attention is centered around cutting down to the lowest weight possible in this sport but one could look directly at a fighter such as Fedor Emelianenko to understand that every athlete should approach their specific situation on an individual level.
The Real Deal. Paulo Thiago just keeps getting better and better. Of course there’s that nasty decision loss at the hands of the constant grinder Jon Fitch on his resume, but Thiago has shown the type of promise in his first four bouts in the UFC with victories over the likes of Josh Koscheck, Jacob Volkmann, and now Mike Swick, that future champions are made of.
Back To The Drawing Board. So now that Chael Sonnen has pulled the rabbit out of his hat in the form of a three round pummeling of “The Great” , where does this loss leave Nate Marquardt? I still feel like Marquardt is without a doubt one of the most dangerous middleweights in the world, but the defeat suffered at the hands of Chael Sonnen during UFC 109 highlighted two previously unnoticed chinks in the Greg Jackson trained fighter’s armor. The first being his inability to deal with the type of top level wrestling that an opponent such as Sonnen will offer up. The second being any type of answer off his back in the form of a submission. Sonnen was staying extremely busy on top, but he was enabled to stay busy through a lack of a serious submission threat from the opponent beneath him. A loss in this fashion is exactly the type of loss can make a fighter reconsider some of the training methods that had gotten him there; Much like Yushin Okami before him.
Unlikely Challenger. Could Chael Sonnen be the guy to beat Anderson Silva? I’m just saying… it’s definitely a question that deserves to be asked at this point. I would have slapped myself right in the face if I had caught myself even considering the possibility at any point before last night, but now… well I’m not going to slap myself; I’ll put it that way. I have no doubt that Chael possesses the type of wrestling pedigree that it would take to deposit “The Spider” directly on his bottom, but how long can he keep him there without being submitted. If it was a three round fight I could actually see a situation where Sonnen could manage to come out with a victory, but a potential bout with Anderson would most likely be of the five round variety. Based on what I saw at the end of the bout between Sonnen and Marquardt last night I would have to believe that Silva would catch him in the fourth or fifth rounds if he doesn’t catch him in the first three; But who knows, crazier things have happened.
Not main event worthy? Is anyone complaining about having Randy Couture vs. Mark Coleman as a main event now? I think as fans of the sport that sometimes we can get a little too caught up in the lack of a major championship match-up in every UFC that we can lose track of the big picture. The bottom line is that Randy Couture earned his position as a headlining draw a long time ago for exactly the same reasons that he showcased at UFC 109. The saying goes that you’re only as good as your last performance and unfortunately it is an expression widely embraced by a huge majority of the casual fans today. Couture vs. Vera was not an exciting fight; I’m not going to argue that for one moment; But go ahead and tell me the last time “Captain America” took part in anything less than a memorable battle…… go ahead, I’ll give you time to search it. The fact of the matter is that you would have to go all the way back to 2001 to fight a bout that could even be argued as being lackluster on the part of Couture. Couture delivered on Saturday night just as he has throughout his decorated career, and just as he will when he faces off with the winner of Machida vs. Rua II.
Randy Couture earned it. Saturday night’s performance absolutely justified Randy Couture as the next challenger to the light heavyweight title following the inevitable 205 pound championship rematch between Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Sure, “The Natural” looked as good as he could have in dismantling Coleman in Las Vegas, and I completely understand that beating “The Hammer” doesn’t exactly justify an immediate title shot, but this is a business. A business that’s in the business of making money, and Randy Couture looking to become a UFC champion for the sixth time at what will be forty-seven years of age is an extremely good look for the promotion in the sense that dollars always seem to make sense.