Jim Miller file photo | Sherdog.com
The final UFC event of 2010 is in the books. UFC 124 practically did everything to preserve the current power balance in the organization: Georges St. Pierre is still the welterweight champion; Thiago Alves remains within the upper echelon of the 170-pound division; and Jim Miller and Stefan Struve kept their runs going en route to becoming legit contenders in the new year.
Below, an in-depth look at the five main card matches from Saturday.
Thiago Alves def. John Howard -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: “Pitbull” did everything right this time. Not only did the 27-year-old Brazilian make the weight effortlessly this time -- one thing he needed to prove that he was capable of -- but Alves also showed that he is head and tails above a credible mid-card opponent like Howard. Alves was the much more active fighter standing up, throwing his kicks and punches with much more power and technique than Howard. He also proved to be more versatile, as he shifted from an attacking (first and second rounds) to a more counterattacking approach in the final round.
To mix things up, Alves used excellent throws and takedowns to keep Howard off balance. On the ground, the American Top Team standout went for a crucifix in the opening round, but got countered with a leg lock attempt. Subsequently, he stayed in Howard’s guard and half guard, punishing him with cracking shots. When the dust settled after 15 minutes of top-class fighting, Alves simply proved to be the quicker, stronger and better conditioned athlete of the two.
Forecast for Alves: Keep feeding this man strikers to guarantee exciting fights. Matching him up with the likes of Dan Hardy, Amir Sadollah or Duane Ludwig will do the trick.
Forecast for Howard: Going 0-2 in his last two UFC fights and only standing 5-foot-7, a cut down to lightweight may be necessary for the Bostonian to counterbalance his size and strength disadvantage. At 155 pounds, bouts against Edson Mendes Barboza Jr., Rafael dos Anjos or Alves’ teammate, Gleison Tibau, would be fun. If he decides to stay at 170 pounds, possible future opponents include Paulo Thiago, Matt Brown and Claude Patrick.
Mac Danzig def. Joe Stevenson -- KO (Punch) 1:54 R1
What happened: Midway through the opening round, Stevenson came forward without knowing whether to throw a left hook or left uppercut. Danzig perfectly timed his counter shot, knocking the “Ultimate Fighter” Season 2 winner out cold.
Forecast for Danzig: The emphatic knockout must have felt like finally being able to breathe again after being underwater for far too long. The win puts MMA’s favorite vegan photographer back at .500 in his UFC run. A fight against Kenny Florian or Joe Lauzon, or a rematch with Kurt Pellegrino would be interesting challenges for Danzig at this point in his career.
Forecast for Stevenson: It was only the second time that “Daddy” has been knocked out in his entire career, and the first time in fourteen UFC fights. However, this makes the third time that the likeable Californian has suffered back-to-back defeats. The last two times, he came back strong, beating Toby Imada and Nate Diaz by decision. Who is left for him to fight in the UFC lightweight division? Try Mark Bocek,
Rafael dos Anjos or Thiago Tavares.
Jim Miller def. Charles Oliveira -- Submission (Kneebar) 1:59 R1
What happened: Miller just walked through Oliveira’s kicks and punches to take him down. Once on the ground, the 27-year-old Sparta, N.J., native had to defend an Oliveira guillotine and armbar attempt, before finishing the Brazilian with a kneebar of his own.
Forecast for Miller: Following the win, Miller asked the UFC for a title shot, and rightfully so: he’s reeled off six straight wins in the Octagon, with his only career defeats coming against title-holder Frankie Edgar and top contender Gray Maynard. However, to get that coveted shot at the title, he will have to get in line, as Evan Dunham, George Sotiropoulos, and the winner of Benson Henderson-Anthony Pettis are all neck-and-neck, if not a little ahead of him at this time. Miller may need another big win over a former title contender like Kenny Florian or Sean Sherk to drive his point of a title challenge home.
Forecast for Oliveira: Weighing in at his everyday weight of 153.5 pounds, it is clear that the 21-year-old Brazilian will either have to bulk up, or drop down a weight division. At lightweight, the chances of having Charles “do Bronx” fight other exciting young guns like Jonathan Brookins, Terry Etim or Paul Sass will make grappling fans’ mouths water.
Stefan Struve def. Sean McCorkle -- TKO (Punches) 3:55 R1
What happened: Big Dutchman Struve -- who is probably trailing just Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira and Frank Mir in the UFC heavyweight division as far as the ground game goes -- had a little trouble putting away McCorkle. The Hoosier took Struve down and worked on a deep kimura, before settling for some ground-and-pound. Eventually, the Bob Schrijber disciple swept McCorkle and moved directly into mount, from where he fired away until Yves Lavigne stopped the fight.
Forecast for Struve: Keep the big men coming for Struve and match him up with 6-foot-7 Travis Browne or 6-foot-2, 280-pound Rob Broughton. Experience-wise, Cheick Kongo could be a good test for the young Dutchman as well.
Forecast for McCorkle: Going from the undercard to co-headliner in one fight is as big as a promotion you can get in the UFC. Following the loss, it’s back to the drawing board for “Big Sexy,” who could take on the likes of Christian Morecraft, Mike Russow or
Chris Tuchscherer next.
Georges St. Pierre def. Josh Koscheck -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: St. Pierre had promised a surprise for his challenger, and the champion delivered. Over the course of 25 minutes, the French Canadian showed that he is one of the first fighters in MMA to fully understand what kind of damage can be done with a stiff jab. Working extensively with Manny Pacquiao’s boxing trainer, Freddie Roach, GSP utilized his newly-acquired skill to perfection, closing Koscheck’s right eye with one of the first punches he threw.
As both men’s top-class wrestling canceled each other out, the majority of the bout was fought in a vertical position. There, the champion simply had his way with “Kos” for the whole five rounds. GSP kept the challenger off balance with well-timed leg kicks, alternating between jabs, takedown attempts and clinch work against the cage. Koscheck’s best offensive moment came early in the fourth round, when St. Pierre initiated a takedown and tried to take his opponent’s back. The challenger used the opportunity to lunge for a leglock, but St. Pierre defended well and went on to beat up his foe for another two rounds. Koscheck deserves a lot of credit for staying in the fight, though.
Forecast for St. Pierre: At the post-fight press conference, the Canadian superstar expressed his desire to be part of the big card scheduled for the almost 70,000-seat Rogers Centre on April 30 of next year. A possible opponent has also been named in former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields. UFC president Dana White did not want to commit to the fight just yet, possibly waiting on the outcome of February’s Anderson Silva-Vitor Belfort tilt.
Forecast for Koscheck: Basically, the UFC needs to bring back Nick Diaz now to provide a fresh challenge for “Kos.” Another option is a rematch against Thiago Alves, or a bout against the winner of the March fight between Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez.
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