MONTREAL – An octagon's worth of observations after the UFC closed 2010 with an eventful UFC 124:
1. The Streak: For those arguing that Anderson Silva is better than Georges St. Pierre: Get back to me when Silva wins 30 consecutive rounds, a statistic that will one day be looked back at as the mixed martial arts equivalent to Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Since losing the first round of his first fight against Josh Koscheck in 2007, St. Pierre has swept Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, B.J. Penn, Dan Hardy, and Koscheck in the rematch. Silva has not consistently faced the same level of opposition and has had to rally in several fights. St. Pierre has rarely even had a close round during his stretch and has also gotten at least one 10-8 score in eight rounds out of the 30. All this adds up to a level of dominance that more than offsets the lack of spectacular knockouts along the way.
2. Back it up: Talking trash can be the quickest way to drum up attention and make yourself a bigger star – just ask Chael Sonnen. But it only works in the long run if you can back it up when the cage door is locked. Heavyweight Sean McCorkle unleashed a stream of over-the-top sound bites heading into his semi-main event match Saturday against Stefan Struve. And then he went out and looked like a fighter not yet ready for prime time. McCorkle got off to a fast start and scored a takedown, but couldn't do anything with it, and as soon as Struve found an escape, it didn't take long for him to finish McCorkle. An off-television fight or two, minus the yapping, would serve McCorkle well.
3. Pit Bull with bite: It has been difficult watching Thiago Alves' travails over the past couple years. Alves seemed on the cusp of greatness after shutting down Koscheck at UFC 90 in October 2008. But he's since had one issue after another, from a one-sided loss in his title shot against St. Pierre, to needing minor brain surgery, to ongoing issues with weight cutting. But Alves changed up his dietary approach and training methods and looked like a man possessed in his win over John Howard on Saturday. Alves' trademark Muay Thai looked sharp, he added takedowns to his offensive arsenal, and he never appeared to tire while going toe-to-toe with the hard-hitting Howard for 15 minutes. Alves is going to have to show he can make 170 pounds consistently before he's entirely off the hook, but UFC 124 was a solid step in the right direction.
4. Miller's time: Lightweight Jim Miller has made it clear that he's a little sick of being overlooked in the 155-pound picture. And I'll be the first to raise my hand and admit to being one of those who did so. Miller's impressive first-round submission victory over much-hyped hotshot Charles Oliveira on Saturday night raised his UFC record to 8-1, and his only two career losses are to the two guys fighting for the UFC lightweight title on Jan. 1, champion Frank Edgar and Gray Maynard. So yes, Jim, you were right, and I and others like me were wrong. You're one of the UFC's elite lightweights.
5. Don’t count him out: In the fast-moving MMA world, yesterday's next big thing becomes today's has-been in the blink of an eye. But let's not write off Oliveira just yet. Oliveira is barely 21 – St. Pierre was fighting on local shows in Quebec at that age – and his seeming lack of urgency when Miller caught him in what turned into the fight-ending kneebar seemed borne of overconfidence. If Oliveira learns the right lessons from such a preventable loss, Saturday night's setback could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to his career.
6. Stepping up I feel like every time I write about Mark Bocek, I say something to the effect of "I'd love to see him get a chance to step up in competition." So be it. Bocek's victory over Dustin Hazelett featured some of the sweetest jiu-jitsu you'll see in an MMA setting, particularly the triangle that finished Hazelett. Bocek has won four of five, with the only loss in that span a decision loss to Miller. The Toronto native has earned a crack at a top-name lightweight and there would seem to be no better date for this than the big April 30 card in his hometown.
7. End of the line?: Only two "Ultimate Fighter" champions have ever been cut from the UFC: Travis Lutter and Efrain Escudero. Is Season 2 winner Joe Stevenson next? It can't be easy to cut a guy who gives his all every time he steps into the cage, but Stevenson has struggled since losing to B.J. Penn in a lightweight title fight three years ago. Stevenson was knocked cold by a backpedaling Mac Danzig on Saturday. If you're UFC president Dana White, where do you go with Stevenson? He's had ample chance against the top of the lightweight division and has lost four of his past six fights. White wouldn't say for sure whether Stevenson will be cut, but bringing him back would only seem to postpone the inevitable.
8. Fight of the night: The UFC's Fight of the Night, Submission of the Night and Knockout of the Night bonuses are used as motivators to help ensure fighters give the fans the best fights possible for their money. So taking that idea one step further and giving the fans themselves the chance to vote on the UFC 124 Fight of the Night winner, along with the $100,000 per fighter that went with it, seemed like a thought worth exploring. Unfortunately, an idea that sounded good on paper didn't work out so well in practice. Fans overwhelmingly voted for St. Pierre's one-sided win over Koscheck. The consensus among reporters and UFC staffers was that the honor belonged to the back-and-forth undercard slugfest between Sean Pierson and Matt Riddle, two guys who can use the extra dough more than the guys at the top. The ballot result shows that the vote is likely to simply become a popularity contest, so the UFC is right to put a halt to the experiment.
- Thiago Alves
- Anderson Silva