File Photo: Sherdog.com
In what was arguably the UFC’s strongest pay-per-view effort so far this year, 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight grand prix winner Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s career came full circle. Having recovered from two reconstructive knee surgeries, the Brazilian knocked out Lyoto Machida in emphatic fashion on Saturday, as he captured the light heavyweight title in the UFC 113 headliner at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Meanwhile, top welterweight contender Josh Koscheck grinded out a three-round decision over English heavy hitter Paul Daley, lightweights Sam Stout and Jeremy Stephens stood toe-to-toe for 15 minutes and former NFL player Matt Mitrione handed Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson his first UFC defeat. In addition, Alan Belcher spoiled the comeback of former middleweight title contender Patrick Cote.
Analysis follows for the five main card bouts at UFC 113.
Alan Belcher def. Patrick Cote -- Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 3:25 R2
What happened: The turning point in an intriguing matchup came midway through the second round, when Belcher hit a modified piledriver on Cote, stunned the Canadian and cinched the fight-ending rear-naked choke. Earlier in the bout, Cote threatened with a first-round kimura and deployed his fast and heavy hands in response to Belcher’s powerful and precise kicks. “The Talent” controlled brief portions in the clinch and cut Cote with an elbow strike late in the round. The ending proved controversial, as attempting the piledriver remains illegal under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. However, since Cote landed on his face and not the top of his head, referee Mario Yamasaki let the action continue.
Forecast for Belcher: He openly asked for a fight against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva during his post-fight interview. However, it appears the 26-year-old muay Thai specialist probably needs at least two more solid wins before he can rightfully challenge for the title. Style-wise, Tomasz Drwal, Chris Leben and Alessio Sakara would guarantee the best fights, but he needs to take on the likes of Demian Maia, Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami to earn the shot at the belt.
Forecast for Cote: The Canadian was unlucky to lose for the first time on home soil. Despite two knee surgeries that kept him out of action for a total of 18 months, he showed no excessive ring rust. The 30-year-old fan favorite remains in the upper third of the UFC’s middleweight division, and Tim Credeur, C.B. Dollaway or Ed Herman could serve as solid opponents for his next trip into the Octagon.
Matt Mitrione def. Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson -- TKO (Punches) 4:24 R2
What happened: Slice may have reached the end of the road in his North American fighting career following a disheartening loss to Mitrione, a fellow “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 alum. The street-fighting legend started well with three big slams but expended too much against Mitrione, who outweighed him by 30 pounds. With 1:30 to go in the first round, both fighters appeared gassed. In the second, Mitrione punished Slice’s legs with brutal kicks. Slice worked hard for a takedown, only to collapse from exhaustion. Mitrione mounted and rained down more than 60 unanswered blows before referee Dan Miragliotta put Slice out of his misery.
Forecast for Mitrione: It will be interesting to see if the UFC really wants to build and groom the 31-year-old’s career. If so, pairings with fellow “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 cast members Justin Wren, Jon Madsen and Brendan Schaub might work well. A rematch with Englishman James McSweeney also does not seem out of the question. If the UFC elects to throw him to the wolves, fights against Todd Duffee or Roy Nelson could be around the corner.
Forecast for Kimbo: Released from the UFC roster, it seems highly doubtful that another North American promotion like Strikeforce or Bellator Fighting Championships will touch the 36-year-old slugger. Thus, Slice seems most likely destined for Japan, an avenue he should have pursued 18 months ago.
Jeremy Stephens def. Sam Stout -- Split Decision
What happened: In a fight between power (Stephens) and technique (Stout), power prevailed. Stout threw the better combinations, but they did not match the impact Stephens had in his fists. “Lil’ Heathen” had two knockdowns in the first round but could not finish the fight. Ultimately, that became the only criticism levied at both fighters. At times, it seemed as if they were content on fighting just for the sake of doing so, without making a clear commitment to end it.
Forecast for Stephens: The adopted Californian, who turns 24 years later this month, has become a gatekeeper for the UFC lightweight division. The win over Stout pushed his promotional tally above the .500 mark. Up next for the dangerous knockout artist could be Brock Lesnar’s teammate, Nik Lentz, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner Ross Pearson or the winner of the UFC 114 bout between Efrain Escudero and Dan Lauzon.
Forecast for Stout: Stout has fallen below the .500 plateau for the third time in his four-year UFC run. When added to the fact that he has gone the distance in all but one of his fights inside the organization, one has to conclude that he will have his back against the wall in his next outing. Possible opponents for the 26-year-old Canadian kickboxer include Paul Taylor, Duane Ludwig -- should he return on schedule from his lower leg injury -- or the loser between Mac Danzig and Matt Wiman at UFC 115.
Josh Koscheck def. Paul Daley -- Unanimous Decision
What happened: Koscheck fought smart and did not let ruthless ambition lure him into a standing slugfest with the cocky Brit. Instead, he took him down and out-grappled him for 15 minutes. The first controversy in an otherwise conservatively fought battle came 50 seconds before the end of the first round, when Daley spun out of a Koscheck rear-naked choke attempt and struck down his playacting foe with an illegal, albeit glancing knee. This was nothing compared to the brouhaha Daley caused after the fight. Provoked by Koscheck’s trash talking, Daley went after his opponent seconds after the final bell and retaliated with a left hand to the face.
Forecast for Koscheck: As promised by UFC President Dana White, Koscheck will receive the second coaching spot on Season 12 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, opposite of UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Taping of the lightweights-only season will begin soon, with the first episode scheduled to air on Sept. 15. St. Pierre will then defend his title against Koscheck, likely in December. Koscheck, a traditionally active fighter, will
now have to wait seven months for his shot at the belt.
Forecast for Daley: “Semtex” was released from the UFC in wake of his post-fight cheap shot. After a meteoric rise that saw him emerge as one of the world’s top 10 welterweights and knock out Martin Kampmann and Dustin Hazelett, Daley’s once-promising career seems cloudy at best. If Strikeforce and UK-based promotions fail to come to the table, he will likely be forced to promote his own fights, as he did with an Ultimate Gladiators show in March 2009.
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua def. Lyoto Machida -- KO (Punches) 3:35 R1
What happened: Never leave it in the hands of the judges. That wise axiom was burned into Shogun’s soul following his controversial five-round decision loss to Machida in October. Showing little regard for the champion’s power, Shogun picked up where he left off at UFC 104 and went right after Machida. “The Dragon” managed to slow him down briefly with two takedowns, but Shogun returned to his feet without much trouble. The deciding moment in the fight came 3:20 into the opening round. Machida landed a powerful knee to the body, and Shogun countered with an overhand right that clipped the champion and sent him to the canvas. Landing straight into mount, Rua ended it with a flurry of hard shots.
Forecast for Shogun: After two severe injuries forced him to miss all of 2008, Shogun has returned to the top of the light heavyweight division. He occupied the same spot in the summer of 2005 after he won the Pride middleweight grand prix. There are plenty of exciting options out there for the 28-year-old. He can fight the Quinton “Rampage” Jackson-Rashad Evans winner or rematch Forrest Griffin, the man who defeated him in his UFC debut. The mouths of many Brazilian fans also have to be watering at the prospect of another meeting between Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. They turned in a “Fight of the Year” contender five years ago.
Forecast for Machida: The Karate Kid had his 350 days in the limelight, which now belongs to Shogun. Machida will be left to make another run at the belt. Though it took him 28 months and six wins to earn his first title shot, he has proven himself a solid pay-per-view draw; the three events he headlined or co-headlined have all drawn 500,000 buys or better, so he should be in the mix much faster now. Machida-Rogerio Nogueira or Machida against the loser of the Jackson-Evans showdown seems to make most sense.